When I set out to chat with some of my favorite wedding professionals about planning a stylish, people-centered wedding, I knew I needed to interview Kelly! Kelly is an incredibly talented florist, but she is also a profoundly artistic, intentional person. She has a gentle energy that instantly puts you at ease. She has curly hair that is often piled effortlessly on top of her head in a messy knot. She used to be a professional dancer (me too!). And she has a backyard covered fence to fence with growing flowers (it’s as enchanting as it sounds). I love her approach to floral design, working with couples, and bringing beauty into the world so dang much. If you’re looking for a Seattle wedding florist, love flowers, and want to design a thoughtful, uniquely stunning wedding, Kelly is your girl. Enjoy!
AP: What do you love most about the power of flowers?
KS: Imagine a room or venue completely void of flowers, it feels pretty bare. Imagine instead, if you walk into a room that is filled with vibrant colors, lots of yellow and hot pink, and really bright green. That’s going to feel lively and bold, and all these things that would be appropriate for a particular couple, who wanted to create a certain kind of ambiance. Alternatively, walk into the exact same room, but it’s filled with subtle shades of taupe and champagne, soft and elegant forms, flickering candles. Already, the feeling a person has just walking into that space is going be completely different; and there’s any number of wildly varying moods that you can create.
Often times, flowers are one of the only visual elements that you’re bringing in to create ambiance at your wedding. There are the things like the food, the location, and what you’re wearing, but outside of those essential elements, flowers are one of the most powerful ways to transform and enliven a space.
AP: How do you approach designing for weddings?
KS: The way that I approach design is very personal. I really take into consideration the couple, what they like and care about outside of their wedding, what kinds of styles and ideas are going to make sense for them to create an ambiance that feels authentic.
Often, my clients and I will walk through the venue together and I have a mind towards two things: firstly, what are you going to experience and see as the bride and groom? What’s going to make you feel your best, what colors do you love, what makes you feel at ease, what makes you feel excited, what sort of qualities do you want to experience for yourself on that day? And going even further, what types of memories you want to have from your wedding day? Particular flowers and colors can be a powerful trigger of memories and nostalgia, and it can be really meaningful to bring that in.
I also have a mind towards what are your guests going to experience. What do they interact with, how will the decor guide them into and through the space in a thoughtful way? Perhaps the way we position the florals is drawing them around the corner, or they see a little touch of something that they’ll visually see later on in a larger way. Whether that’s a color, or a specific ingredient: a hint of a vine they are following, then suddenly they’re in a room full of vines. It feels interactive and alive.
AP: Where do you suggest couples look for inspiration for their wedding flowers?
KS: It’s helpful for me as a designer when my clients share a little about who they actually are: what they like to do, the kinds of things that they love. It doesn’t need to be related to flowers. In fact, I like to know what they feel is their personal style, what kinds of clothes they like to wear, what kinds of colors are in their home, what kinds of art they like, if they like art at all. Do you like to spend your weekends in the woods, versus at a nice dinner, these sorts of things give me a lot of information about your aesthetic. Visuals are helpful, not necessarily visuals of flowers, but just images that you like; a beautiful landscape, a fashion magazine spread. If you have other elements of your wedding plans – your invitations, for example – bringing those to your designer is helpful. Or your photographer; if I know their work, I’m going to start to understand more about your style.
It’s also helpful of course to see pictures of flowers and arrangements that you like. You don’t need to find an image that completely captures exactly what you want, in fact, that can be more challenging and feel restrictive for both of us. Let me know why you like the inspiration you choose and what in particular drew you to that image, so we can hone in on authentic inspiration instead of trying to copy someone else’s wedding. Maybe you like the colors in one image, the shape of another, and the general mood or feeling of another arrangement. You can show your designer a wide variety of visual inspiration – both floral and nonfloral – that will help them help you come up with a visual style that feels just right.
AP: What are you loving currently?
KS: These days, many of my clients are opting for custom installations that can take on any form. Flowers hanging in the air, trailing off of the wall, there can be a little garden that pops up unexpectedly – the options are nearly endless, and that’s fun and exciting for me. I love to figure out what’s possible in a space, what types of arrangements or installations would really sing, which places are just calling for something. Combined with my couple’s specific style and working within the season, what type of flowers are available at that time of year, it’s an incredibly fun and inspiring challenge.
The venue itself is going to make a lot of decisions for you. It is the structure under which all of this happens, whether that’s a field or a fancy hotel. It already has a vibe, and I try to encourage my clients to consider what meaning their venue holds for them, or what they like most about the location. We think about what will fit in to create a cohesive experience, flower-wise, and elevate what’s already going on. When I’m walking through a venue with my clients, even if it’s somewhere I’ve worked in numerous times before, I’ll often have different ideas, based on the clients and what they’re bringing to the table, blending their unique style with what is possible in a space. Floral design is an opportunity to enhance unique features of a building or location, or call attention to a certain space; it’s essentially creating works of art with botanical materials.
AP: Talk to us about working with seasonal flowers!
KS: I work nearly exclusively with seasonal materials. That means I’m choosing flowers and botanicals that are growing in the time and place that your wedding is taking place. A wedding in August is going to look very different that one in January, because there are different flowers growing locally, at those times of the year. Each season, even week to week within a season, has a little bit of a different flavor, in terms of what’s available in flowers that are truly local to that specific time and place.
I believe working seasonally adds so much to your wedding. If you’re choosing to get married in November, you will inevitably feel a connection to the ambiance of fall. Fall feels cozy: beautiful leaves, apples or squash, certain colors – whatever it is that makes it fall to you. I am able to integrate that feeling of fall into your floral designs by relying on the vibrant, seasonal botanicals growing at that time.
Every wedding is unique, occurring at one particular moment in time, in one location. At any given moment, certain flowers are in their prime, singing with beauty. I find that integrating those sorts of seasonal elements into the designs makes it feel really rooted. With flowers flown in from halfway across the world, the vibe is different. It’s very subtle, but if you desire that feeling of authenticity, the life you bring in is truly relevant.
Clients and their guests tell me all the time, “These flowers are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.” Or, “I’ve never seen this before!” “Is that a blueberry?” These comments let me know that people are really seeing the flowers, feeling the impact vibrant seasonal blooms create. They notice. I believe that’s because there really is a difference in a flower grown locally by a farmer within 50 miles with whom I have a personal relationship. Ultimately, these local farmers have been cultivating these particular roses for you, because they know they’re going to cut them for your wedding.
AP: Why do you choose to also grow some of your product yourself?
There’s also an emerging trend of “farmer florists.” I would consider myself to be one, a floral designer who grows flowers that I use in my designs. That’s not to say that every arrangement is only flowers from my garden, but I do grow certain flowers that are very hard to get elsewhere, flowers I find exceptionally beautiful, or subtle and unique colors that are hard to find. This practice brings your flowers even closer to home, literally grown by the designer who is arranging the flowers.
Without fail, each wedding I find myself out garden with the bride’s bouquet in hand clippers in the other. I’m looking for the special element that’s going to make it pop. Even in the winter: a unique berry, a beautifully shaped branch, a curly fern. This seasonal bounty really roots you in a time and place, and also connects you to the life force of flowers. In the largest sense, the true venue for your wedding is the season.
AP: Are locally grown flowers less expensive?
KS: There’s a fairly wide-reaching misconception that local flowers cost significantly less money, and it’s frankly it’s not true. Flowers are expensive; it’s a labor and resource intensive practice, like most agriculture. You can get cheap flowers imported from other parts of the word, but there are many hidden costs. If you consider the jet fuel and energy it takes to fly a flower from South America, Africa, or Asia to the United States, that alone is a big environmental cost. If you add transportation cost onto the fact that you are already paying less, consider what must be going on with working conditions and pay for labor.
In my mind, that’s a huge issue. I would much rather support local farms. The farmers I know are charging what they need to support a healthy life and a family, and the environment. They’re making choices that are not depleting the soil. They’re adding back in organic material and fertilizers that are not harmful to the local ecosystem. The soil, the animals, the waterway, the flowers, us: it’s all connected.
To invest in local flowers is to invest in sustainable practices, and people living real lives. That whole package is what’s going in to produce this beautiful flower, and it’s price tag.
Most people have never purchased this many flowers, and probably never will again. It’s an understandably confusing budget number to get your head around when you’re using to buying flowers from the grocery store; the leap from that to spending thousands of dollars on flowers for your wedding is a rather large one. I believe it’s helpful to have a budget number in mind, and also if possible, to be flexible with that budget.
It comes down to how much you’d like to prioritize flowers and the personal attention and artistry put into your floral design. If that’s a priority, you’re going to want to work with someone who is very intentional about how they put together your flowers. Sometimes couples will contact me and say, “I don’t really care what the flowers look like, I just want them to be there.” I know that won’t be a good match, and I’ll let them know. No approach is wrong, and there are designers at all price points; someone out there will be the best fit for you.
AP: How can couples find the right floral designer for them?
KS: Your florist, as with your other wedding vendors, is going to become a part of your wedding. It’s important to find someone who 1) you like and that 2) understands your aesthetic on a personal level. I want to be both working for you and with you, helping you pull out whatever it is that you’re wanting to do with the flowers and helping to craft the unique ambiance of your day.
Most likely you’ll find many good matches with designers. If you meet someone and you know right away – this is a good fit, it just feels right – I encourage you to go for it, you don’t need to look at many many other people. But if you haven’t found the right match yet, I would advise you to keep looking, or ask one of the designers you’ve already contacted for recommendations. As a floral designer, I refer clients to other designers all the time. If someone comes to me and it feels like we aren’t going to be the right match, I would much rather help that potential client find the perfect fit with another designer.
It’s worth pointing out that this is going to be a person that you see on your wedding day. Additionally, flowers often become – even if they don’t start that way – an emotional element for people. I can’t tell you how many times my brides cry the first time they see the bouquet. Your wedding day is emotional, there’s a lot going on, and the delivery of your bouquet signifies the beginning of this cascade that follows. It’s a beautiful piece that’s been hand-designed just for you, and it’s filled with just the most stunning flowers. You don’t necessarily have to be best friends with you designer but hopefully they’re someone you feel comfortable with, so you have this off your plate entirely and can be present. Ultimately that’s the reason you’re hiring anyone, so it takes the weight off of you. Your only job is to be in the moment, and experience your fiance turned husband/wife, your guests, and your family. It’s an amazing ride!
A huge thank you to Kelly for taking the time to talk all things thoughtful floral design! You can explore the entire series of interviews with my favorite Seattle wedding vendors, focused on planning an elegant, unique, and personal wedding day, HERE.
Kelly Sullivan is the owner and Lead Designer of Botanique, a top Seattle wedding floral design studio. She founded the company in 2012 after a successful career as a dancer and choreographer. Drawing from this history, her designs are infused with an intuitive understanding of movement, line, and gesture. She loves getting to know her clients and dreaming up the perfect visual elements for their wedding day. Her work has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Ruffled Blog, Magnolia Rouge, Seattle Magazine, GREY Magazine, Seattle Bride Magazine, Seattle Met Bride and Groom, and Green Wedding Shoes.
To learn more about working with Kelly, visit her website, and follow along on Instagram.
Anna Peters is a Portland and Seattle Wedding Photographer creating fine photographs for people-focused weddings. Anna uses traditional fine art film photography techniques to capture imagery for her couples that is both effortlessly beautiful and deeply honest.
Based in the Pacific Northwest, Anna is inspired by the rich and varied landscapes of Washington but also travels often, capturing destination wedding photography for couples worldwide, from intimate Iceland Elopements to elegant Tuscany weddings. You can view her full body of fine art wedding photography, here.