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In The Bloom with Maria: With an expansion in services, florists need to develop agreements and communicate them clearly

In The Bloom with MarinaA recent high-profile wedding filled with controversy and litigation once again demonstrates how those involved in wedding planning—including florists—need to have best practices, procedures, and contracts in place to help protect their work and reputation.

An expensive wedding hangover

Washington power couple Joan and Bernard Carl decided to foot the bill for their daughter’s extravagant wedding. This meant a designer label wedding gown, thousands of white roses, a five-course dinner, specialty cocktails, beachfront rehearsals, and costs that rose into seven figures. The event was big enough to be featured in Brides magazine. Everything sounds great, right? Well, the Carls feel the wedding planner, Mindy Weiss, spent freely on the ceremony and reception and never consulted with the Carls as to the costs. The fallout from the wedding is the Carls aren’t paying Weiss her full invoice amount, and in turn, Weiss is seeking $340,000 in unpaid fees and another $1.4 million in damages. You can read all about the dispute courtesy of the Washington Post. In case you were wondering how the Carls and Weiss got connected in the first place, according to the Society of American Florists article “Mega wedding gets messy after miscommunication between family, planner,” the family’s longtime florist, Jeff Leatham, recommended Weiss.

A lesson learned

Miscommunication—or no communication—between the bride’s family and their wedding planner have led to countering lawsuits post-wedding. In this case, the florist was paid directly by the family and is not part of the lawsuit. However, as many florists now extend their services to include wedding and other event coordination services, this type of scenario could easily name the florist as the main party in the lawsuit. If you’re a florist and act as a general contractor subbing out vendors, such as the photographer, caterer, DJ, etc., contractual agreements need to require that vendors provide evidence of coverage naming you an additional insured. You should also check your own policy for professional liability coverage commonly known as Errors & Omissions. This coverage will protect you from errors, mistakes in rendering, or failure to render services not covered under general liability policies. If you have any questions regarding best practices for your florist business, contact a Hortica agent. Read more wedding-related topics from Hortica.  

Key partner: Through education and its design school, CFA gives back to the green industry

Connecticut Florists AssociationThe floral industry certainly has a long history, with many associations established for decades. It’s been a focus for generations of people, paying special attention to good practices, growth, and education. One of those associations that has been a fixture is the Connecticut Florists Association (CFA). Founded in 1933, the CFA is a professional trade association for all branches of the floral industry, including retailers, wholesalers, growers, manufacturers of floral products and supplies, brokers, shippers, importers, and others who service the floral industry. Their membership also includes students, retired florists, university professors, and researchers—bridging together young and experienced professionals with differing viewpoints for the betterment of the industry. The CFA aims to support Connecticut florists and the floral industry through education, consumer information, business networking, and related opportunities to strengthen the industry and contribute to the local economy. Updates on trends and numerous training programs are all part of the CFA’s mission. The association’s resource directory includes membership lists for quick contact to network, share best practices, and work together to solve issues. Resources and advice The CFA aims to keeps its members in the loop and offers help in a variety of ways, including:

  • Bi-weekly newsletters: An email newsletter, CFA Today, is distributed every two weeks.
  • On-call advice: ?CFA members may contact Connecticut’s top labor attorney for quick answers on employee problems—for free.
  • Florist Federal Credit Union membership: CFA members are eligible to join and take advantage of special rates on loans, merchant card services, online banking, and more.
  • Tire discounts: CFA members also enjoy a group discount on tires for personal and business use.
The CFA Floral Design School The education doesn’t stop with newsletters, online resources, and networking. CFA’s Floral Design School is Connecticut’s only licensed florist trade school, located within CFA’s Northeast Floral Education Center. Members receive exclusive discounted rates on all educational programs. Learn how you can be a part of Connecticut’s floral industry, which accounts for more than $100 million in annual sales. There are three courses in this program: introduction and basic floral design, beyond the basics, and an advanced session focused on weddings and events. Graduates have been successful in becoming floral designers, managers, and flower shop owners. The Northeast Floral Expo The CFA also produces an education-based trade show—the Northeast Floral Expo. Members receive exclusive discounts and a free admission with the payment of annual dues. The expo, held March 4–5, 2017, in Springfield, Mass., is the ideal setting where you and your staff can learn new ideas, see new products, and refresh your creativity. We’ll be exhibiting at The Northeast Floral Expo, setting up shop at booth No. 11. Stop by and say hello to Hortica representatives Stan Pettiford and Ron Long. Get more information on the expo at

In The Bloom with Maria: Use caution with trendy overhead floral arrangements

If you want to know one of the latest trends in the floral industry, just look up above you at one of the next weddings you attend. Whether at the ceremony itself or as part of the decorations during the reception, overhead floral arrangements are the hot ticket in wedding design. (Check out the weddings section from a recent Society of American Florists newsletter) Obviously, flowers have played an integral part in wedding decorations, but they are getting an added boost with this new trend. Flowers aren’t just for tabletops anymore. Some examples of overhead floral arrangements include floral chandeliers—suspended over the wedding party table or the dance floor—and greenery spanning the length of the head table. There is a lot more planning and preparation to hanging flowers or greenery from a ceiling rather than a loose arrangement in a vase. Overhead installments present a variety of different logistics that could go wrong with such an arrangement. Things to keep in mind In recent years, upside down Christmas trees have become very popular. Trees are typically heavy, whether upright or hung upside down, and this would presumably be an automatic concern when being secured overhead. When dealing with trees, especially those hung above the wedding party and guests, care is needed in making certain they won’t come tumbling down. But never underestimate the weight of flowers, especially if water is required to keep them looking fresh for the duration of the festivities. In addition, many overhead floral arrangements need some type of structure aside from simple wire to keep everything in place, adding to the weight of the display. The same concerns you have for hanging trees should be applied to overhead floral arrangements. Check with the staff of the building where you want to display the arrangement to make sure the structure can support such a display in the area where you want to hang it, or even if they allow such practices in the first place. Safety must be a concern for guests when planning this type of floral décor to avoid injury and liability issues. Secure, secure, and then secure the display some more. Additionally, venues that require proof of insurance may require additional insurance waivers for this type of floral installment that could impact your profit margin for the event. If you find overhead floral arrangements are becoming a bigger part of your business and have questions when it comes to your policy and if you have the right type of coverage, get in touch with your Hortica agent. We can answer your questions and get you moving in offering trend-setting designs with confidence.    

In The Bloom with Maria: Changing your insurance coverage when your business changes

MariaWe’re in the heart of summer and wedding season. As Hortica Retail Sales Specialist Maria Shepherd found out, while some floral design studios decide it’s good business to branch out into wedding planning—the reverse can also be true. But as you add flowers and other goods and services, you may need to add some more to your insurance coverage. Here’s why. In the “Shop Profile” from the May 2016 issue of “Flowers&” magazine, author Marianne Cotter checked out a Michigan wedding planner who decided to go a step further with their business. The owners of Celebration Flowers and Gifts consider themselves to be a one-stop shop where they’ll take a wedding from concept to a perfect day. At first, the business was appointment-only, working out of space in a professional park. While other wedding planners hire outside vendors for services and rentals, at Celebration, they rent their own silk flowers, bouquets and other specialty wedding items—from centerpieces and candelabras, to backdrops, glassware, and lighting. It’s something they feel sets them apart from other wedding planners. As time went on, it became clear that real flowers were again becoming popular. As the economy improved, more and more customers wanted that special touch on their special day. So, they added fresh flowers. But soon, the question arose of what to do with the leftover ones. That led to crafting created arrangements and still more growth—this time in physical size. The owners set up a storefront, increasing their space to 4,000 square feet. About half of that is used for rental storage—as well as the store’s stock of invitations, gifts for the bridal party, and tuxedo rentals. The rest was for flowers. At least at first. They’ve since expanded again, adding gifts and household décor. It’s just one example of how flower shop owners are always looking to do more to meet their customers’ needs. There are many other stories just like this. Maybe you’re one of them. If you are, there are things you need to keep in mind—especially when it comes to insurance. A change in business, can also mean changing the way you protect it. While what you’re planning may not be as drastic as what they did at Celebration Flowers and Gifts, any time you add space or other conveniences for your customers, take another look at your insurance policy. Additions may mean you need to make changes in liability, personal property, or even adjustments to your loss of business income or workers’ compensation coverages. Talk to a Hortica specialist. We’ll sit down with you and have a conversation about your business needs and explain the insurance solutions that’ll make sure you’re protected for all your expansion and growth plans.

In The Bloom with Maria: Extra Services May Require Extra Coverages

Spring is here and along with a new crop of flowers and plants comes the season for graduations and weddings. As Hortica Retail Sales Specialist Maria Shepherd found out, it’s no longer enough for florists and event designers to provide flowers and refer other vendors for the photos, and music. Now, people are looking for a party that reflects their personalities and interests. In the article “Two-Ring Circus” from the March 2016 issue of “Floral Management” by the Society of American Florists, author Mary Westbrook checked into the trends that are now becoming popular and how florists can make sure they’re still part of the proceedings. It’s especially important since her research found the average wedding budget in 2014 ranged between $25-30,000. So, many florists have realized the more services they provide, the more they can make. The first step is networking. Many florists find getting to know wedding planners personally is key to getting in on the good jobs. Industry experts say upwards of 52 percent of couples hire a planner for their big day. Your networking can be as simple as having coffee, lunch, or partnering on a small project for free. The goal is to get a foot in the door. Weddings are no longer the traditional occasions we’re accustomed to. A personal and memorable wedding sometimes means it’ll be a weekend affair, with things like a welcome cocktail party before the ceremony and a send-off brunch the next day. Those are prime opportunities for florists to come in and help beyond flowers. Multiple events are a chance to show you can provide a different experience for guests at each. Experts say many families are relieved to learn you can do more for them than just the wedding. Since wedding details are reflective of the couple—right down to the flowers in the bride’s bouquet—some florists are going so far as to create a side business to provide for unique requests. Cut-out silhouettes, custom dance floors, and chalkboard renderings are just some of the options being offered. Then there’s artistically written menus, custom pillows, and aisle runners. There are even some florists who provide tuxedo rentals. The options can be endless. But all these changes in the wedding planning game may mean you need to change how you insure your business. As you include more services, possibly acting as a general multi service provider and add more inventory like props or rental items, you may need to include them on your policy. Talk to a Hortica specialist. We’ll sit down with you to review your business needs and discuss the insurance solutions that’ll make sure you’re protected.

In The Bloom With Maria: Bridal Contract I Do’s

MariaWhen it comes to hosting a large event such as a wedding, just about all the outside vendors involved are going to require brides to sign a contract. Whether it’s the venue, caterer or the DJ, a deposit and a signature will come before any planning or decision making takes place. Bridal contracts are extremely important because they are legal agreements that explicitly state the terms and conditions of the work to be done, keeping misunderstandings to a minimum. Florists however, are among the few businesses that don’t always require brides to complete a contract.  Hortica Retail Sales Specialist, Maria Shepherd, shares with us the importance of protecting your floral business with bridal contracts and what you may want to include in them. Client information.  This information should be as detailed as possible and of course include the client’s full name, address and contact information plus, an alternate contact that you could reach out to the day of the wedding in case there are last minute questions. Product description. Outline the type and description of the floral products and services you will be supplying for the wedding, including as many details as possible. Even consider adding a stipulation that if the client needs to make changes or acquire additional services after the original contract is signed, that a mandatory addendum be issued. Date, time and location of the event.  Requiring brides to fill out contracts will help avoid the issue of being late or lost when delivering arrangements.  With a clearly spelled out time and location, there will be no confusion the day of the event. Cancelation policy.   It’s sad to think about it, but sometimes weddings do get cancelled. And as a vendor, it’s unfair for you to not receive compensation for the work you put in so far.  That’s why it’s important to draft a clause related to cancellation and how much notice the client must give before canceling the event, how much money is non-refundable, and when you must receive notice of cancellation by. Payment Policy.  A well-crafted payment policy will prevent customers from being surprised about their financial obligation when they receive your services. It may also give your business some legal protection should a customer fail to pay what you are entitled to collect. Surprises and unforeseen events are always a possibility when it comes to weddings, but a solid bridal contract can help neutralize any potential problems that could arise. If you already regularly use bridal written agreements, great job!  If not, with the above mentioned guidelines in mind, you should now have the basics of what to include in yours! This content is provided for informational purposes only and not intended to take the place of obtaining professional legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular contractual issue or problem.