Have you ever had questions about wedding flowers but didn’t know how to ask them? You’re told you need a bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouquets, boutonnières, corsages, centerpieces, ceremony decor….where do you even begin? And then they cost how much?! Can’t you just do it yourself? (P.S. please don’t do it yourself!)
Meet Brenna Reppert. She’s a local Knoxville floral designer. We connected at a wedding last spring and then she helped me with a styled shoot in March. I love how wild yet elegant her work feels - a huge thank you to Brenna for taking the time to answer these! Check out all of her incredible work here.
How did you get started in floral design? What’s your favorite part of your job?
I got started by doing my own wedding in 2010. I really enjoyed planning and designing my wedding, even though I didn't do my own flowers the day of. My mom actually did all the arranging, but I planned everything out and picked all the flowers. We bought things at yard sales and Hobby Lobby, and collected tubs of decor from my parent's house and all my aunts. After my wedding I had several people tell me how much they loved my wedding and asked if I could do theirs, and so I did my first full wedding in 2013. At the time, I thought I wanted to plan, coordinate, AND do florals. I quickly found out that this was not a good idea! I learned that planning and coordinating kept taking me away from doing flowers and decorating and I was always bummed my focus wasn't there. Over the next few years I started taking planning and coordinating out of my packages until I found I had a sustaining business with florals alone.
My favorite part about my job is that florals are a beautiful piece of art that only lasts for a short while. It constantly reminds you to stay present and appreciate what is around you.
Okay, so I think most brides want to know more about prices. Talk a little about all the work that goes on behind the scenes and why wedding flowers can seem so expensive. How can couples prepare for a realistic flower budget? How do you work with couples on a tight budget?
Pricing for flowers is challenging because there is a lot of work that the client doesn't see on the other side. Most people's reference for flower pricing is a bundle of flowers that they buy at a grocery store. For a wedding, I am typically working several weeks ahead on an event to get timelines settled, buying materials, putting the floral order in, and not to mention the hours that go into finalizing quotes and and contracts beforehand. A typical wedding starts prep about three days out, like washing buckets to ensure they are germ free. Prepping flowers typically takes 3 - 5 hours for a standard sized wedding. And then of course there is design time to make all of the floral pieces. There’s also the factor of packaging everything up to ensure it arrives safely and not damaged. Lastly, the actual wedding day typically runs 10 - 12 hours on our end.
When you start to plan your wedding, keep in mind that a larger wedding party and a larger guest count will make your floral budget go up. Many other factors can affect your budget as well, such as flower choices; peonies, garden roses, orchids, and ranunculus are going to put you into a higher priced tier. Your florist should be able to help you and tell you what floral pieces to put these higher priced items in and what areas it might be good to cut back on, and use a cheaper option that still has your look. I choose to quote each client based on their exact needs, instead of putting packages together that might over or under charge for what they need. You can always ask your potential florist if they have a minimum starting price. A lot of florists have flat fees for coming on site. You should also keep in mind that while every florist can probably do about any style, make sure what they are posting on their website and social media align with a final look you'd be happy with overall. For example, I design very organically, using foraged elements frequently. Even though I can do tight round traditional arrangements, that is not my expertise or desired look. So you may find that your look is more suited to a different designer, and you will receive pricing from a florist who is well versed in doing the designs you want.
I am happy to work with budgets as much as I possibly can. I offer a la carte options for brides who may not be in need of full service wedding florals. My advice for those brides is to have a florist do their wedding party florals (bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres), or even do the bridal bouquet and the ceremony arbor. Pick the items that are most important to you and pay a professional to do those.
Do you have a favorite underrated flower or trend that you wish couples would use more? How do you get creative with common trends that you see over and over?
My favorite flower is Foxgloves so I want to put those in everything! I really like the look of several different styles of florals mixed together and maybe one large statement flower. This creates a lot of texture and makes the design unique. It is also a good way to get a nice variation of colors and elevate a color scheme.
The most common trend I see is blush, sage, and ivory with a rustic vibe. Rustic can be great, but I've been shown the same 5 photos of the same bouquet for 4 years now when asked to do that style. With that being said, it has challenged me to put my own spin to this look and color scheme. My personal take on rustic is more of a whimsical mountain feel. I want the flowers and greenery to be elements that are foraged in the area and help bring the natural surroundings into your florals. You can still incorporate those fluffy white and pink flowers, but bring life to them by adding in local and seasonal flowers you don't see all the time. That way your wedding is unique compared to the other brides that will have your theme and colors.
Can you talk about seasonal flowers and the price fluctuations? Are there times in the year where certain flowers just aren’t available? What flowers work best for certain seasons and when are they the cheapest/most expensive?
We are very lucky that we are able to import most flowers throughout the year! However, just because you can get them year round doesn't always mean they look the best if they are out of their peak season. For example, anemones are available year round but they look the best during winter and spring, which is their blooming time. May is definitely the priciest month for flowers. Not only is it one of the most popular months to get married, but you are also competing with Mother's Day, so flower prices go up all around. Even greenery goes up during May. Fall months like October and November seem to be the time where you can get the biggest bang for your buck. There are a lot of different varieties of mums and other seasonal flowers that can give you a heavy floral look with a lot of color options.
What advice do you have for newly engaged couples who are just starting this process?
Start by deciding which elements are most important to you for your wedding: photography, flowers, venue, food, attire, etc. Once you know those things you can begin to budget accordingly and spread your money around. I am obviously partial to flowers, but I know that may not be on the top of the list for everyone. If flowers aren't super important to you, I'd suggest going with a local storefront shop or somewhere that mass produces flowers, instead of a boutique style business like mine.
If you’re currently planning a wedding, I’m sure you’ve stumbled across those articles titled something like “50 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer” on Pinterest, am I right? As a wedding photographer, I always click on those articles to see exactly what kinds of questions these blogs are telling couples to ask. Most of them are actually pretty good, but others are just nonsense questions where the answers wouldn’t mean anything to most couples anyway. So I decided to compile a list of the most USEFUL questions to ask your wedding photographer, and I’m taking it a step further by explaining why these questions are important, and I’ll answer them myself! Let’s go!
How long have you been shooting weddings AND how many weddings have you shot?
WHY IT MATTERS: Even if their work is stunning, an unexperienced photographer can be hit with wedding day challenges that they just don’t know how to handle. Have they shot a wedding where it rained the whole day and they had to improvise portrait locations? Have they experienced timeline delays, dark churches, couples with different skin colors? You want to make sure they’ve shot enough weddings that they can handle any curve balls that get thrown at them!
MY ANSWER: I shot my first wedding in 2012 and as of today, April 2019, I’ve shot 112 weddings.
Can we see a few full galleries?
WHY IT MATTERS: Anyone can put their highlight reel on Instagram or their website. No photographer is going to showcase their worst photos. Ask to see several full galleries so that you can see how they handle different types of light and to make sure the quality of their work holds up!
MY ANSWER: Of course! Shoot me an email!
Do you regularly get your equipment professionally cleaned and serviced, and do you calibrate your lenses?
WHY IT MATTERS: A photographer can have the best gear around but if they don’t take care of it, it can have an effect on your wedding photos!
MY ANSWER: Yep! Once a year, right before wedding season starts, I send all of my equipment in to be professionally cleaned, calibrated, and checked for any issues.
Do you have liability insurance?
WHY IT MATTERS: What happens if grandma trips over your photographer’s light stand and breaks her hip? Or your photographer accidentally damages the venue? You want to make sure they’re covered so you aren’t left paying the price.
MY ANSWER: Yes, yes, yes. Occasionally a venue will request to be added as an additional insured on my insurance, and I can do that too.
Do you have backup equipment?
WHY IT MATTERS: Equipment can malfunction. Does your photographer bring multiple cameras, lenses, and flashes in the event that something goes wrong?
MY ANSWER: Absolutely. I wouldn’t dream of shooting a wedding without backup gear. Equipment malfunctioning at a wedding has even happened to me a few times! But it didn’t put a dent in the wedding day AT ALL because I was prepared with my backups! I also only use second shooters who shoot with the same equipment as I do so that we have even MORE backups.
How would you describe your shooting style? Do you step in and do lots of posing/set up shots or are you more of a fly on the wall?
WHY IT MATTERS: You can like their work, but their photos don’t show how hands on they are. You may not want to be asked to put your shoe on ten times to get the perfect shot, or that may be a priority! Think about if it’s more important to have a documentary photographer (one who stays in the background and shoots moments as they happen), or if you’d rather have someone step in and tell you exactly what to do for the shot. There’s no wrong answer!
MY ANSWER: I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle, leaning a bit more towards documentary. Let me explain: I’m very hands off, fly on the wall during the first part of the day (getting ready photos). I’ll guide you to the good light but I won’t make you redo things to get the perfect shot. I do some posing here and there but I also make sure to give lots of direction to get that candid look!
Many of the most important questions can be answered in their contract (P.S. - if a photographer doesn’t have a contract, RUN!). Ask to see their contract before committing. Read over it, and if it doesn’t answer these questions, just ask the photographer:
When do we get our photos back?
WHY IT MATTERS: The average wedding photographer returns wedding photos in just a couple months, but I’ve heard of photographers taking up to a year. Either is fine - just make sure you know what to expect.
MY ANSWER: My average turnaround time is 4-5 weeks.
What happens if you get sick and can’t shoot my wedding?
WHY IT MATTERS: I don’t really have to explain why this matters - you’re investing thousands of dollars into photos of a day that will never happen again. It’s easy to get anxious thinking about “what ifs”!
MY ANSWER: Luckily I’ve never even come close to missing a wedding (knock on wood). I would have to be incapacitated in the hospital or have a SERIOUS family emergency for me to miss a wedding. But I do have to think worst case scenario in this job. So first, second shooters are always included in my packages. This is an extra safety net should I get into a car accident on the way to a wedding - you still have a professional photographer planning to be at your wedding. Second, pretty much all of my friends these days are professional photographers, and I’m part of several large networks of wedding photographers in Tennessee. I could call on any of them at a moment’s notice and they would be there for me with no hesitation.
Do I get the copyright? Can I print the photos on my own?
WHY IT MATTERS: Copyright can get tricky if you don’t exactly know what it means. Every once in a while I’ll get an inquiry that asks if they get the copyright, when really what they are asking is if they can get a print release. Copyright means that the photographer owns the image. Even if you pay for the photos, you still don’t own them. The owner of a photo can do whatever they please with it - they can sell it, they can use it for advertising, they can enter it into contests - all things that photographers actually do! A print release on the other hand gives you the ability to print the photos and share them on social media. If a photographer transfers copyright to the client, the photographer can no longer use those photos for anything. So if copyright is actually what you want, most photographers charge a hefty fee.
MY ANSWER: I retain the copyright, but print releases are included with all packages!
How much editing do you do?
WHY IT MATTERS: If you know you’ll want extensive retouching done, you’ll want to know upfront if your photographer offers that or does it for a fee.
MY ANSWER: I apply my basic presets to the photos in Lightroom, do color correcting, cropping, straightening, and VERY basic retouching (i.e. edit out minor distractions in the background, you woke up with a zit on your forehead, etc.). I do NOT make anyone slimmer than they actually are or fix bad makeup or hair jobs. Requests for extensive editing are charged extra per photo.
Questions that DON’T matter:
Have you shot at my venue before?
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER: If they haven’t shot there before, most good photographers will arrive at your venue a half hour before their start time to walk the grounds and find good spots to shoot. I sometimes feel that photographers who shoot OFTEN at a venue are at a bigger disadvantage - it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and shoot in the same spots. Photographers who have never shot at a venue before see it with fresh eyes and might get more creative shots. Not saying this is always the case, but don’t knock a photographer just because they haven’t shot at your venue before!
What equipment do you shoot with?
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER: Unless you’re just a gear junkie and curious, it doesn’t matter what tools they use to create their work, as long as you like it! I know videographers that use their phones to film parts of the day and their work is INCREDIBLE. Just make sure they have backup gear!
Side note: I should mention that cheaper cameras and lenses usually can’t handle low-light very well. So if your ceremony or reception is dark, gear does matter!
Do we get the RAW files?
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER: I hesitate to put this in the “does not matter” section because some photographers WILL sell you the RAW files, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if that’s something that’s important to you. Just be prepared, they usually come at a very high price and take up a LOT of storage.
When you hire a professional you get, well, professional photos! Think of it this way - the RAW file is like all the ingredients of a chef’s specialty dish. You wouldn’t go to the chef’s restaurant and ask for his ingredients; you’d order the meal that they’re best known for! I don’t know of any photographers that give RAW files. In fact, you have to have special software to be able to open them. Just make sure you love your photographer’s editing style and this won’t even be a thought!
Wedding photographers: did I miss anything? What would you add to this list?
I secretly really love rainy wedding days. All the expectations of how the wedding should be are thrown out the window, and you’re left with what really matters.
Kyle and Kaitlyn’s December wedding was the perfect way to end the wedding season. We snuck away to the Foothills Parkway to do their First Look before the ceremony, and it was SO worth it. It took some extra time, but we adjusted the schedule and made it happen! Proof that you can do whatever you want on your wedding day. :) They’re both from Chicago, so I love that taking some photos in the mountains was a priority for them.
Some added details that I loved were the vegan dinner served by RT Lodge and Kaitlyn’s vegan and ethically made Laudae gown - did you know that was a thing?! So cool.