Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wedding Thoughts Part 2

This is the post where I tell you everything we dislike about the wedding industry. I've thought a lot about how to make it not feel too negative, and how to not piss anyone off. My intention is to take an honest stab at pulling apart some of the trends, traditions and wedding industry standards that make us here at Saipua uncomfortable - and then to use those points to attempt to reinvent our part in that industry and make it so much more enjoyable for our clients. (That's going to be detailed in Wedding Thoughts Part 3)

When I started Saipua in 2006 I was not thinking about weddings at all. I hated weddings. I've never wanted to get married. I railed against the 'institution' of marriage, and all the deeply rooted associations of men owning women etc. Of course it was foolish and immature to be so polarizing. Because when I accidently started making flowers for weddings in 2007 I met some really inspired couples whose love was big and grand enough to publish to the world in this very public, very emotional way. I started witnessing really good weddings and watched my attitude toward it all slide...

I like public displays of affection and I like emotion. I like drama and I like declarations. It was not long before I was the florist crying behind the curtain or sneaking into the back row during the ceremony. Weddings are romantic and I was converted…

But you know what is not very romantic? The wedding industry. It's basically the opposite of romantic, it's full of sanitized pastel colors and perfectly plastic images of women and cake and puffy twee things that are so sterile and unreal. Ask yourself would you go to bed with that sort of imagery? It's the opposite of romantic.

A wedding photographer friend of mine told me about the frequent requests she gets to airbrush images to make arms appear thiner or cheeks smoother. I nearly fell off my chair. This is the world we operate in. And if you know me at all, you can see this sort of thing is the opposite of Saipua culture. (More on this in Part 3.)

The pressure to have a highly customized, unique wedding is really weird. My mother, having grown up in a very rural area outside Rochester, NY always wants to know what happened to the days when you just had punch and cookies in the church hall afterwards? (My parents got married at Peekskill City Hall, April Fools Day 1980. If there are any photos, I've never seen them. I love the simplicity of their wedding, the lack of collateral even.)

In the last 10 years I've seen a lot of stressed out brides feeling a lot of pressure to plan the perfect, most 'authentic' wedding. My concern with this pressure is that it takes the emphasis off the celebration of two people declaring their commitment and puts it on creating a memorable party for their guests, and one-upping all that has come before. [The shareholders of SAIPUA are getting nervous, shifting in their seats, texting their brokers from under the table…SELL YOUR SAIPUA SHARES! but lets hedge our bets here for a minute…and continue to talk about this honestly…]

There is a larger picture to consider. Before we go condemning big expensive celebrations, I'd like to remind everyone that over the course of human history those with means have fueled a lot of really incredible art and celebrations, and I believe firmly that these expressions of grandeur and celebration are worthy of the money that is invested in them. Aspiration is real and effects positive things across the socioeconomic spectrum. We all want to see images of beautiful expensive art and flowers even if we can't afford them. They inspire, and inspiration is free. I like free things.

But what I dislike is the feeling that some brides feel pressure to keep up with the jones in this respect,  going to incredible lengths to have the "perfect" wedding only to find themselves later disappointed that they weren't more present in the moment. Our greatest fear is when brides and grooms are so confused by all of the "shoulds" from magazines, mothers-in-law to be's, friends, etc that they end up at a celebration that doesn't reflect them.

Thanks to instagram and pinterest - rabbit holes of regurgitated wedding inspiration - brides get so wrapped up in a fantasy which reality can never come close to. Even worse: I've heard of brides making plans to ensure their wedding is placed in an editorial feature before it's even happened. What the hell!?

Luckily we've noticed lately that many of our clients seem more assured about what they want. Many of them want to give their friends and family a night of revelry - as a sort of thank you for supporting their relationship all the way to the alter - its been so refreshing to see people be able to let unnecessary "shoulds" fall by the wayside and just plan a truly unique celebration for themselves; be it simple OR extravagant.

A lot of the success or duress of this could be attributed to wedding and event planners and the editorial staff at large wedding magazines and websites…these are the gatekeepers of the information on 'how to get married.' Because the truth is that there is a lot of confusion about how to go about it -- most people have never done it before.

The guidelines and suggestions printed in magazines about how to go about planning your wedding are so bonkers. 10% of your budget to flowers? Maybe if you don't care so much about flowers, but what if flowers are the most important part for you? I have clients regularly spending 25% on flowers because the flowers are so important to them (SAIPUA stocks holding steady…)

I think a better approach is to start with a budget and then break it up according to what is really important to you. Maybe that's not flowers! It is totally legit to forgo flowers if it's not your thing (SAIPUA shares dropping…)
If the dancing is really important to you - start there. What does the best dj cost? Book him and then plan the rest from there. Who says you can't have a DJ before a venue?

If it were my party I'd put all emphasis on oysters, a flame eater, a giant rotating disco ball and wine. 

I think the key part here is really considering what's important to YOU specifically and not necessarily being so tied to all the aspects of the day being perfect. Perfection is boring.

In the last installment of this wedding series, part 3, we will reveal how we've been changing the structure of SAIPUA to attempt to make better, more honest experiences for our clients...


Hannah Muller said...

Love. Love. Love. Especially about pastels. I'm so sad that the wedding industry can't branch out and go bold, or even slightly brighter than muted tones. It makes us flower farmers and florist bored out of our minds! Thank you! A breath of fresh air coming from someone who is wedding obsessed, but not wedding industry obsessed.

FFF said...

Insert thumbs up emoji.

Laura said...

Thank you SO MUCH for writing this post. As someone who got married not even a year ago, I thought there was something wrong with me when I wasn't loosing my shit over table linens.

I will just never understand the the emphasis placed on the wedding as a goal more than a starting line to the rest of your life. The weird FOMO injected into each aspect of the day, the seemingly arbitrary etiquette, and endless expectations from people who seem to care more about those 8 hours than the rest of your lives's insane.

I'm so glad there are vendors out there keeping it real and in perspective. It's a giant party, and it should be a hella-good time celebrating something wonderful!

LPC said...

So much pressure to be UNIQUE and PERSONAL.

Getting married twice is certainly one way to learn. And, I figure I paid >$100 per guest for your flowers and it was cheap at the price. Otherworldly, never to be forgotten, emblematic. (Saipua stock, up, up, up.)

LPC said...

Oh, to say nothing of dumping into a New York Times article and a Guardian feature, but, was in no way my goal. My only goal was to honor my self and the love I feel for my husband.

Sammy Go said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I learn a lot from you, Sarah. Today, I am reminded that our wedding clients do not exist to serve us; we're there to serve them. The times I feel like my flowers contribute to their love are significant. The times I feel like my bride has contributed to the growth of my profession...that's a lot less significant. It's a joy and a privilege to give to others via my creativity. That's what I'm learning and maybe I'll write a blog post about that too. :)

John Auger said...


This is wonderful. As a newbie in the wedding/event floral industry here in Minneapolis, I, like you, get frustrated with many of the same things. I think that you touched on some very important points - ones that couples need to remember. I was especially enamored with your comment about how everything is puffy and pastel when it comes to weddings. If it were up to me, there would be a gorgeous, non-traditional gown in an industrial or outdoor setting with florals that are not the roundy-moundy ones still seen most of the time here - or, these juxtaposed in a ceremony held inside a church with very traditional architecture, then a reception in a non-traditional setting (see above). Couples need to chill about the details, need to let go of hope for perfection, need to let go of the expectations placed on them by others, and first make the day about a celebration of their love for each other. After that, would come the desire to provide their guests with an opportunity to celebrate their love as a means of offering the couple that support by their very presence. Finally, I wish midwestern sensibility could be dumped so that the emphasis on what is practical is set aside for aesthetic pleasures instead. It is difficult to find clients who want to spend their money on "impractical" flowers (well, peeps, what you eat and drink goes down the toilet in a very short time - and it doesn't smell very nice the way flowers do).

Spot said...

SSSSSSSSSAIPUA yisssssssssss.
The key words that the commercial industry force feeds brides CURATE, PERFECT, RUSTIC, VINTAGE, STAND OUT, LAVISH, INTIMATE makes me want to vom across continents of Pintrest boards. Also, why does 'the industry' choose 'this season's colors' like some sort of fascist Pantone think tank? It it's navy and coral again this year I am moving to Canada.

The wedding juggernaut takes advantage of brides with low self esteem when they say 'This is the day you will be most beautiful in your life.' 'Your perfect day.' Bullies!

Why is it suggested to spend 10%. It reminds me of this waiting room Cosmo article I read once that suggested ways to save money when you go out. They had two ideas that infuriated me: 1) Tip less 2) How to get a free beer at a busy bar: Pretend that your bud lite is warm. The haggard bartender will be too busy to deal with it (they're probably constantly re-stocking their bottled beers on a busy night)and they'll just give you another one. I feel like so many couples go into the wedding planning process having advised themselves as if they're going in to haggle for their first car.

I apprentice for a farmer/florist and see my mentor get put through the ringer constantly by their clients. She is so gracious and amazing when navigating these waters. We live in a remote 'destination wedding' area without a lot of access to the materials that she wants to use so she grows the things herself. You would think it'd be easier to explain this to someone who is balking at pricing.

My wish: to have the big industry take an approach to emphasize less superlatives, to give couples room to make decisions based on what really matters to them as individuals and take the care to humanize florists, designers, caterers, and service employees.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! The wedding industry is absolutely insane and I'm happy to see some recognition of that from someone in the midst of it. My mother, family, and friends were all extremely disappointed when my husband and I opted for a super small wedding. The effect was magnified due to the fact that we live on wedding island, USA. One friend even said to me "your wedding day isn't supposed to be about you, it's about everyone else". We wanted it to be about us and about the love between us, and we didn't want to go into debt just to make people we know feel validated. In hindsight it was the best decision we could have made. Planning was limited to a to do list on our coffee table five days before the event and me vaguely instructing my husband as to how it should be set up while I got ready a couple of hours before. Ironically, we still ended up in a wedding magazine. It just goes to show that it doesn't have to be meticulously planned or cost a fortune to be perfect.

Jesi said...

AMEN. It's such a struggle to build a business in this industry, to be true to yourself and honest with your clients, while wading through such a sea of crap, to put it bluntly. So thankful that you're out there, making this conversation happen.

Anonymous said...

The first time I got married, back in the day, we had the matchy-matchy pastels, pastel tuxedos ( cringe ), and pastel chrysanthemums.

The second time I got married, we wed outside, under blossoming apple trees...just my husband and me and the preacher.

The second wedding was bliss.

Unknown said...

agree agree agree

claire said...

I am so fully in sync with you here, and hope that some future brides will read this and remember to focus on what they love and not what everyone else expects. It's so damn crazy. I just wanted a big flower party with saffron infused cocktails...and so the first thing I did was make saffron syrup and contact florists (we went with some lovely friends who also farm flowers - Five Fork Farms in Mass; they grew yellow Itohs for us --Incredible. I burst into tears when I saw them--)

thanks for writing; your hard work inspires me.

Wendy said...

I work as a gardener at a seaside resort where we have several weddings every weekend. It kills me to always see the receptions set up with the "beachy" theme of shells and sand and stiff florist flowers with the prerequisite wilting hydrangeas. Gag!!
We do house arrangements with flowers from our cut flower patch and wild property which put those wedding flowers to shame!! There are so many different things to be used in arrangements, why the same old crap?
I am in total awe of your flowers and arrangements and get inspiration from your photos, especially for some different things to grow.Have you ever used wild cucumber vine?
My wedding would have lots of shellfish, old funk music but the dilemma would be wanting to get married New Year's eve but wanting lots of summer flowers, too. Hmmmmm.
Thanks for sharing, love the farm journal. too.

Kate / City House Country Mouse said...

Thanks as always, Sarah and Saipua for giving your honest perspective. I've also enjoyed reading the comments here. Those of us that feel like we're pushing up against the "norms" of the wedding industry sometimes, need these places to know it's okay and possible to succeed while doing so. :)

gathered garden and home said...

Sarah,you have nailed it. Looking forward to part 3 to hear positive change. I have done weddings on small scale for a few years and love the flower gathering and mixing from sustainable florist co op in Seattle and our own yards[ luckily have lots of gardener friends who like to share, too] The industry does love and commitment a great disservice in taking advantage of people at an emotional time.I would love to see that topple and recreated to fit the people being served. I have also done consulting for DIY folks and was happy to participate in happy outcomes!Like you, educating folks about the seasonal possibilities is such an important part of creating an 'authentic' venue...amazing how real time blooms and greens make their own magic!!! Gathered Garden and Home

Marimardepp said...

I think your opinion on this manner makes me believe again in spending the money on the flowers because I wanna offer beauty to my event and because I want to suppport the art of the florist. lovely post!

Marimardepp said...

I think your opinion on this manner makes me believe again in spending the money on the flowers because I wanna offer beauty to my event and because I want to suppport the art of the florist. lovely post!