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From simple birthday bouquets to lavish wedding arrangements, floral designers define a sentiment, a mood, or make an impression, using flowers as their medium of expression. Along with live flowers, designers may use silk flowers or foliage, fresh fruit, and twigs or incorporate decorative items such as candles, balloons, ribbons, and stuffed animals to their arrangements. Good equipment—foam, wire, wooden or plastic picks, shears, florist's knife, tape, and a variety of containers—is essential. Techniques such as wiring flower stems or shading the tips of blooms with paint or glitter are often used to give floral arrangements a finished look. Familiarity with different species of flowers and plants, as well as creativity and knowledge of the elements of design are what distinguish a good floral designer.
Floral designers are fortunate to have a number of employment paths from which to choose. Some designers are employed at flower shops, while some opt to work independently. Those who work independently can enjoy the perk of working from home, which can be especially convenient for someone juggling a career and family.
Independent floral designers tackle a variety of floral requests, including weddings. A typical wedding day lasts a few hours, but the planning can take months. A contract between the bride and groom and the designer is usually signed several months before the wedding day. Soon after, designs are made, keeping the budget in mind. Many brides wish for orchids on a carnation budget, and it is the job of the floral designer to accommodate what type of flower or color the customer wants, or make alternate suggestions if price is an issue or if the flower is especially hard to obtain. Independent florists order necessary supplies weeks in advance and scout for upcoming sales. They may notify their floral wholesalers in advance of any flowers that are seasonal or difficult to obtain. Also, florists visit the church and reception hall to check on details such as size, location, and any restrictions. The quickest route to both destinations is also mapped out to ensure prompt delivery of the flowers.
Florists periodically check in with the bride about any last-minute changes. Oftentimes, more corsages or more banquet table centerpieces are needed to accommodate extra guests. Bows are tied and secured with wire about two weeks before the wedding. Three days before the wedding, flowers are picked and kept fresh in buckets of water treated with floral preservatives. The actual arranging is begun the night before the wedding—bricks of floral foam, treated with water and preservatives, keep the flowers in place. Bouquets and corsages are delivered to the bride's home on the morning of the wedding; and ribbons, flower arrangements, and corsages for the groom's party, are brought to the location of the ceremony. The florist then goes to the hall to set up for the reception. Final touch-ups are given to table centerpieces, the head table is decorated, and the last details are tackled.
Independent florists hire additional help for large contracts, especially to assist with the final arrangements. Most retail floral businesses keep a relatively small staff. Sales workers help customers place their orders; they also take care of phone orders. Drivers are hired to make deliveries. Sometimes assistant designers are employed.