Interview with Julia Miller of Julia’s Floral
How long have you been doing wedding flowers, and how did you get into the business?
From the time I was a little girl I wanted to be a florist, and grew up creating centerpieces with backyard plants & flowers. My favorite childhood memories revolve around flowers. Making May-Day Baskets and dropping them off “ring and run style,” was a highlight of each year– it was second-nature to me.
As a young adult, people started asking me to help decorate for their weddings. I made pew bows, altar flowers, centerpieces, corsages, whatever they needed.
Then in the fall of 1986, my terminally ill Mother passed away, just a couple of weeks before my sister got married. Because I had the flexibility of being a stay-at-home mom, the little ones and I spent most days with Mother, helping out around the home while Dad worked. After she died, I wondered what I was going to do with my days.
My sister ordered her bridal bouquet through a florist shop, and asked me if I could do the rest of her flowers. Before the wedding, while arranging the altar bouquets in the breezeway of the church, her photographer asked me what shop I worked for.
“I’m just a bridesmaid,” I answered.
“Well, what you’re doing is nicer than what I see coming out of some of the flower shops,” he said to my huge shock and dismay.
At the reception that evening, another wedding professional gestured at the centerpieces around the room. “You did all this? If you decide to go into business, give me your cards and I’ll refer you.”
Feeling that this feedback was like an answer to prayer, I got all my licensing together by year’s end, and have been in business now for 27 years. Since then I’ve served well over 500 couples – honestly, I’ve lost count. Wedding work never gets old to me, because each one is different, and I truly have some of the best clients on the face of the earth!
Florists are a dime-a-dozen, and also, I can get my flowers online or at a warehouse store, so why should I hire you?
I love this question! It’s brutally honest, and many think it, but are afraid to ask.
Well, first you really have to decide what you want out of your wedding day. Do you want to be able to show up and know that all the details will be taken care of, and that every photograph will look better because the flowers in it are fresh, artfully designed, and reflect your taste and personality? Do you want to know that someone will pay extra attention to detail for you? Do you want to preserve your manicure and your beauty sleep and reduce your stress? If so, then it makes sense to involve an expert who knows all the potential pitfalls of working with fresh floral products on a deadline in a variety of situations and varying seasons and temperatures.
If you care only about price, not so much about quality, artistry or individuality, then you should consider doing your own flowers, or order pre-made, boxed wedding flowers to come via FedEx. Occasionally I’m hired by a clientwho doesn’t care about anything but price, and I’ve learned, as an artist, that if I’m the only one of us who cares about beauty, they will starve me for a budget, and my hands will be tied creatively. This is a tense, yet completely avoidable situation. This kind of person should keep on looking, because we won’t be a good fit for each other.
Oh, and about that, “florists are a dime-a-dozen–” not all florists are created equal. Look for one who will listen to you, and not “tell you” what you “need.” Be sure you know enough about the quality of work the florist does before you choose him or her. Ideally a bride will carry one bridal bouquet in her lifetime. Shouldn’t it be absolutely gorgeous? And well-constructed enough that it will look great all day long? I can’t speak for other florists, just myself, and I say, “I’m picky, picky, picky, so you don’t have to be.” My pickiness about the flowers gives my clients tremendous peace.
Where can I see the most recent examples of your wedding work?
I regularly upload photos to my Julia’s Floral facebook page. You’ll find enough images there to keep you busy for hours. Oh, and if you’re interested, I also blog as The Front Porch Florist, and post photos and stories there.
What are your qualifications?
Over the years I’ve earned several certificates from Phil Rulloda’s Southern California School of Floral Design, in Anaheim, CA., including Advanced Wedding and Advanced Special Event Design, and have kept abreast of the changing floral and wedding trends through subscriptions to trade publications, and attendance at numerous professional wedding floral design shows. Photos of my designs have also appeared in magazines.
Along with earning many blue ribbons, I’m a six-time “Best in Show” winner in the Professional Fresh Floral Design competition at the Western Washington State Fair, and later judged the same competition for three years. In addition, I teach monthly floral design classes through a Meetup group, the “North Pierce Do-It-Yourself Flower Arrangers.”
With an artist’s eye, and a keen sense of “doing it right,” maintaining high quality is my constant ideal. I think those things make me very qualified to help brides have a beautiful wedding. You can read recent reviews on WeddingWire.
So, how much do wedding flowers cost?
As a guideline, you should plan for 10% of your total wedding budget to cover flower expenses. This means that if your wedding will cost $20,000, or $30,000 to $40,000, your flower budget should be about $2,000 or $3,000 to $4,000. Wedding budgets vary by geographic area, and these numbers are not a hard and fast rule, but rather a suggestion based in reality.
All the flowers we buy to create your wedding designs are used for YOUR wedding. Nothing goes to waste. The entire job will be priced with one simple formula, so that you get everything you need within one package price for value and flexibility:
Fresh Flowers + Supplies + Labor = One Price. Merchandise, rentals, delivery and sales tax are in addition.
Julia’s Floral is a private studio, not a “storefront” floral shop, so no flowers are kept for other jobs. Your flowers are custom ordered and hand-selected for you alone, and you get them all. If there are any extra flowers, you can use them how you wish, or give them to the caterer to decorate your buffet.
That said, if a client must have their wedding priced piece by piece, I make every effort to accommodate them. It’s just a little more difficult & time consuming, because it doesn’t accurately reflect my costs.
I’m a practical woman raising a family. We have five young adults, three of whom are university graduates, and for the youngest, we still have college tuition to pay. Life can be quite expensive, so I look for value, and expect that most people are like me in that regard.
Do you help Do-It-Yourself brides? How does that work?
It’s done on a case-by-case basis, with clients who have Julia’s Floral create all the bouquets, personal flowers and items that require a high degree of proficiency. Usually my DIY brides want to make the centerpieces, so I help by coordinating the purchasing of flowers, and possibly the containers, too, and doing a model or demo, plus a little coaching so that the results are better than a true novice would get without help.
On occasion, special circumstances arise, for instance, one mother of the groom was a florist from England, coming to America for her son’s wedding. She wanted to create the bridal bouquet, so I sourced the flowers and supplies and delivered them to her, to make in the convenience of the place where she was staying.
My goal is to do what’s best for each of my clients, by treating them as a unique individual, and looking for solutions that will add to the joy of their wedding day, and sometimes that means allowing them or family & friends, to participate in arranging the flowers.
How do you refrigerate your flowers, and what about shop space?
I have a terrific, large, three-door floral cooler named “Sophie,” and a decent sized, fully-stocked “flower room,” with plenty of shop supplies, where I do much of my designing. In the heat of the summer, I deliver with air-conditioned vehicles and use coolers, to keep flowers super-fresh for my brides.
Do you have a minimum?
I recently established two minimum thresholds: $750 for “will call” orders picked up at the farmhouse in Edgewood, and $1,500 for “soup to nuts” wedding orders that need delivery and set up. This practice has resulted in wedding work that I am thrilled to “put my name on,” because my hands are not tied creatively by stringent budgets, and I am frequently busy creating flowers for several weddings each weekend during the busy season.
What’s involved in figuring out how much my flowers will cost?
Three scenarios are possible here:
1). You know exactly what you want, and would like a quote. In this case I need ALL of the information about the finished product, or as much as possible, so I can calculate the elements accurately. When you receive your quote, ideally it shouldn’t change, but I’m only as good as my information.
2). You really aren’t sure about all that you want or need, but have a clear idea of your flower budget. In this case it’s imperative that you trust me enough to tell me the budget up front, so I can keep that in mind when we start selecting flowers. If not, I’m rudderless – I really don’t know how to guide the process toward the perfect combination of blossoms and budgeting. I do understand that some folks want to keep their budgets to themselves, and will respect that, although it makes planning more difficult than it needs to be.
3). Or you may initially come to me with an unrealistic budget. Those magazine pictures, Pinterest, and stylized photo shoots on popular wedding blogs feature premium bouquets, with premium flowers, and quite often, people expect a “Beverly Hills” look, and they have a very “Pierce County” budget. Something’s got to give – either the budget needs to increase, or the expectations must adjust to reality. If this is you, it may take some time, and clear communication, to get to the place where you and I are both satisfied—you with the flower choices and look of the wedding, and me with the budget that I will have to effectively do the job.
At any time you’re free to price-shop other florists. Hundreds of happy brides and grooms will agree, though, that the quality of work provided by Julia’s Floral is worth the time it takes to clarify the budget, and definitely worth the price, whatever that price may be.
Where are you located?
My studio is in a cool old turn-of-the-last-century farmhouse just on the outskirts of Fife. The location is close to Interstate 5 between Federal Way and Tacoma. To accommodate the rest of my busy life, consultations are by appointment. Often we can meet at a mutually agreeable spot, like a coffee shop or restaurant.
How accessible are you to your clients?
If you need me, you had better call me! Or e-mail, or facebook message. I want to hear from you & answer any and all of your questions, so that you aren’t worrying about your flowers. I do promise to get back to you as soon as possible. Be forewarned, I’m not such a great texter.
How do I get started working with Julia’s Floral?
Click on the tab “Online Floral Planner” and plug in your wedding flower details. I will let you know if your wedding date is available, and contact you about setting up a time for your free, personal, no-obligation consultation. We will get acquainted, talk things over, and I will listen to you, so I can start wrapping my brain around what exactly you want for your flowers.
I take cash, money orders, personal checks, bank checks or credit card checks. I am capable of accepting payment through PayPal, and in that case will need to add a convenience charge to cover the additional expense.
Please feel free to contact Julia if you have any questions that didn’t get answered here. Use the contact link, or phone 253-922-7900.