Think beyond the traditional spray of roses and baby's breath. Do you want fresh flowers? High quality silk flowers are an alternative that can be preserved forever, and aren’t seasonally dependent. Non-traditional arrangements, such as ivy, ferns, fruits, branches, and succulents, are also enjoying a surge of popularity. Live plants can also be purchased or rented from nurseries and orchid brokers for blooms that last.

You can hire a basic florist who will provide you with flower arrangements, or you can hire a floral designer who will take into account every aspect of your event, from the lighting to the food being served, and construct a cohesive theme.

Even if you intend to arrange the flowers for your own wedding or event, you may still want to meet with a professional florist. They will help you think about details like which flowers are in season, which flowers stay fresh longest in arrangements, and which aren't too fragile for boutonnieres and corsages.

Don't rush in. Visit a few florists before deciding to hire one, and bring along your fiancé or anyone else involved in planning your event. Talk to the florists and get a feel for their personalities. Beyond the quality of the flowers themselves, you want to find someone who's easy to work with.

Before you sign a contract, familiarize yourself thoroughly with the florist’s work. Ask to see sample bouquets, and don't be embarrassed to look closely. Check the freshness of the flowers and ask how long they're expected to last. You can ask to see photo portfolios and contact previous clients for recommendations. Better yet, ask if anyone in your social circle has had a good experience with a florist recently. Your venue or even planner will also have recommendations for a florist with a good track record.

When you do sign a contract, be specific and make sure all important details are spelled out. How many bouquets do you need? When will the flowers be delivered? Will the florist arrange them, or will you be expected to set them up yourself?

A good florist is willing to work within your budget. They will suggest reasonably-priced flowers that meet your needs. Give as much information as possible about your plans to better help your florist suggest ideas for you. (Be sure to mention any plant allergies). Describe your event's location and décor. This will impact whether you want big, bold arrangements or delicate, subtle touches.

You can hire your florist as far in advance as you like (anywhere from a year to six months leaves plenty of time), but be sure to let them know ASAP if anything (like your wedding colors) changes.

Ask about current trends in wedding and event flowers, and if any are practical for your event. There might be unusual types of flowers that are perfect for your needs. You might also wish to preserve your bouquet after your wedding, so be sure to ask if your florist offers this service.

Bring swatches of fabric from your bridesmaids' dresses or table dressings so the florist can match the color. If you have a strong idea of what flowers you want in your bouquets and arrangements, feel free to bring in photos or magazine clippings. But keep an open mind; it's also fun to sift through catalogues of possibilities. Ask if prices vary seasonally. Roses are more expensive around Valentine's Day, for example, so you might want to choose your blooms based on season.

Be sure you and your florist agree on logistics. Will there be someone to deliver and set up the flowers? Is there an additional charge for any service? Are you buying the flowers only, or do they come with vases and other ornaments? What are the cancellation policies and guarantees? Is there a deposit required? All logistics should be spelled out in the contract to avoid confusion.

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