An interview with | Once Upon A Time Wedding Florist
Once Upon A Time wedding florist is one of my business besties! I met the owner, Tracey, at a wedding at Boughton House that we both worked on and I fell in love with her work straight away.
With her gardening background, everything she creates is a like garden in itself and just feels so ‘real’. Everything fits and looks as though it was meant to be.
Tracey herself is lovely and you can’t fail to be inspired by her crazy creative side; no idea is too wild or too big!
She’s based in Clipston, just south of Market Harborough so ideally based for weddings in Northants and Leicestershire.
I hope you enjoy this interview with her. And I really hope you’ll book her! I’d love to photograph more of her work!
How did you get started as a wedding florist?
I worked as a professional gardener for many years on private country estates, including Kelmarsh Hall and Hampton Court in Herefordshire. I was often asked by the owners to do flower displays for their private family events. People seemed to like my wild relaxed style and word of mouth spread. It seemed an obvious step to branch out and see what I could achieve…hence setting up Once Upon A Time.
I class myself as a ‘gardening florist’. I grow as many of my own flowers and foliage as possible which means I get the best of both worlds. I’m having my gardening cake and eating it! It’s environmentally-friendly (more wheelbarrow yards than air miles) and means I have more control over the varieties and quality of flowers that are available…and it also means that my arrangements are far more personal, for both myself and my client.
What’s a typical wedding day like for you?
It depends on the size of the wedding, what flowers the client has chosen and how wild and floriferous the look is. Every wedding has different challenges and timings.
If I’ve had to buy flowers in, they usually arrive at my workshop early in the morning a few days before the wedding. I condition them straight away to rehydrate them after being transported, making sure stems are cut and bottom leaves stripped. This takes hours!
It’s often a fine balance of keeping the flowers at the right temperature – somewhere cooler if I want to keep the blooms from opening or somewhere warmer if the buds are tight and I need them blousier. They have to be at exactly the right stage of opening for the wedding day and are so hard to control! Each season offers up different advantages and disadvantages. Summer weddings can mean pretty hot days, which is tricky as flowers will open almost before your very eyes, whereas winter blooms may sit and sulk for days before doing their thing.
If I’m using homegrown flowers from my garden I cut them last minute so that they’re at their freshest. Homegrown flowers require far more delicate handling and do go over quicker but the unstructured beauty and variety they offer far outweigh any issues.
With regards to timings…Churches are generally cooler and darker so the flowers will last longer and can be set up a couple of days in advance. I prefer to put things together on site so that I can make the flowers fit the location. If, for example, I’m to do a wild, asymmetrical arrangement on a pulpit, I need to be there to follow the shape exactly and see how it is working. The whole process is organic, I’m never really sure what it will look like until it is done, despite the numerous sketches and plans I will make beforehand. I always have an idea but tweak it to get it right!
Generally, the reception flowers are created next. Depending on what is required, tall table centres, hanging canopies, low urns, pedestals, archways..the actual arranging may take place off-site in my flower room, or on-site at the venue or marquee.
I liaise with all of the other suppliers that are involved with the event. I need to know the timings, table layouts, the entrances and any restrictions from the event planners. The marquee team need to know if I need to hang anything and if I need scaffolding, pulleys, tall ladders, power etc. The venue organisers need to agree and arrange access to the building for me, the caterers need me to be done and dusted before they lay all the tables and the photographers need me to done in time for them to do their stuff! It’s a lot to coordinate.
Bridal Party flowers are the last arrangements to be done. Bouquets, buttonholes, corsages and flower crowns are usually made on the morning of the wedding. I hand-deliver these, making sure the Bride is happy, the sun is shining and all is well with the world.
How does the design process work?
Once a couple has decided they like my style of work and want to find out more, we’ll meet up and chat over a cuppa. Or wine. Any excuse! It can often take a couple of hours.
We talk about flowers, colours, styles, scents, gardens, anything really that makes the bride smile. This is so much easier to do face to face because I can see for myself when the client gets animated and excited about an idea, and that normally sparks off all sorts!
After the initial consultation, I put together a quote, which, hands up, take me far too long! I love too many flowers and have too many ideas, I do have to reign myself in sometimes. My quotes are individually tailored to each couple, there is really no formula, no two bouquets are ever the same, no two weddings are ever the same.
What do you love most about your job?
Creating. Winging it. Making it work. Growing. I don’t do simple! My style is very free so the end result is always better when I’m given freedom to create as I see it and go along.
In a former life, I was a children’s book illustrator and so my floristry style has evolved from that. I used to make up my illustrations too! It’s a bit like drawing with flowers for me; using what I’ve grown. I love seeing what I can do with flowers.
I love seeing the smiles that come from beautiful flowers. And of course, I love hearing everyone’s stories!
What’s the hardest thing about being a wedding florist?
Liking too many flowers! I would have brides pushing wheelbarrows up the aisle if I could!
Getting up at 4 am after going to be bed at 2 am is hard too. Especially when it’s cold and dark. I’m working with fresh produce which has to be in the right condition. That means things need to be made as late as possible but it also takes a long time to do them so there’s no option other than working long hours at the last minute. But there is always tea!
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on a wedding day?
I’ve had no real disasters…touch wood!
The worst that has ever happened is having the wrong coloured flowers delivered; bright yellow roses instead of cream! Colour is so very important, and that just makes life so tricky!
I couldn’t use what my supplier had sent so I found something suitable growing in my own cutting garden.
You just have to take a deep breath and make it work. It always works out in the end.
Is there a wedding you’ve worked on that sticks out in your mind?
I loved it! A bouquet as big as, buttonholes for every guest and flowers on every surface… It was very wild, relaxed, lots of vintage jugs of all shapes and sizes, lots of colour, scent and loveliness.
The man wasn’t too bad either!
Whose wedding would you most like to work on? Past, present or future.
I love Impressionism. I love the complete immersion in nature that the paintings offer.
Doing flowers for an artist who absolutely loved his garden would tick just about every box I have.
I’d fill every surface: mantelpieces, massive urns, every chair…
What do you do when you get home from a wedding?
MALBEC! And sleep, generally.
If you could give a couple one piece of advice about their wedding flowers what would it be?
Have what you want. Not what you think you should have. No rules. It’s your day, your flowers. The only thing your flowers must do is make you smile.
Every Bride deserves to have her floral dream made into a reality..and that is my job. I love it!
Are you looking for a wedding florist?
Check out more of Tracey’s work …