2020 the year of all years! Usually at this time of year I am reflecting on all of my beautiful weddings I have flowered and I am writing about how grateful I am to be lucky enough to do my job that I love. Working on wedding flowers has been the basis of my business since I went self employed nearly ten years ago. This year however, the world got shook on it’s head in a mighty way, so I will be reflecting on a lot more in my yearly round up blog post! Photos are all behind the scenes I Phone shots, to give that true representation of the year!!
January is always a quiet month for me so I tend not do do weddings, however I flowered a local small wedding at Hotel du Vin, for a friend! A Hindu ceremony we made a beautiful archway in rich ruby red and blush tones… flower arches are my favourite and it is rare that one of my weddings does not have some form of flower installation/archway. So it felt great to be starting off the year with a gorgeous wedding… a sign of things to come, I had so so many amazing weddings booked in for 2020! Valentines Day came, which was busy filled with spring bouquets and moving on to Mother’s Day this was a different story. In between I had flowered a small wedding, a bridal bouquet, bridesmaids and buttonholes, which I tend not to do usually. However I thought it was Valentines Day and I will be having flowers in so why not! I did not ever dream that this would be my last wedding for months, and the start of the most uncertain times in my business yet. Covid struck, a global pandemic, the most uncertain times that we have faced as a planet in our lifetimes, and the day after Mother’s Day we were placed in a national lockdown.
To count this year I have worked on 7 weddings, rather than my usual 60 ish. A few with just bouquets and buttonholes, I cannot tell you how emotional it is making just one bridal bouquet and one buttonhole… in some ways you think wow this is incredible, this is what it is all about….real love and getting married! Then the other side of you thinks about all the ups and downs couples have been through this year in terms of planning their weddings, loved ones who will not be able to witness this happy day, the big party that will not be happening. I have never known a more emotional year!! 2 of these weddings had booked me this year in the midst of the pandemic, a last minute decision to just go ahead and go for it… small wedding or not! I admire these couples and was so grateful to be immersed in wedding flowers during those times! Being allowed to fulfil my job and my passion meant the world… I do what we do because I love it, my job is my passion and I love working on weddings! It sounds soppy but people being in love, happiness the day brings, the hope of a new marriage, family and friends all being in one place to celebrate. Little did we know these occasions would be so few and far between this year.
As Covid thrives in social situations, weddings have been pretty much cancelled all year. I remember sitting on my parents kitchen worktop on Mothers Day having the biggest meltdown… OH My God, weddings will be cancelled… what will I do?! How will I make money? How will I pay my bills? How long will weddings be cancelled for? Logistically how will couples deal with this…? rearrange/cancel? The level of uncertainty was unreal, and I know this is the same for so many business, and we all faced uncertain times. I absolutely know the devastating effects of the pandemic, I pay a lot of detail to the news and am fully aware of the situation… I am writing this simply from my wedding florist perspective. The sheer panic made me look at this from a very intrinsic view at the time, and as the shock wore off and lockdown was announced I realised that we were all facing this. All of my couples, my supplier friends, all businesses were in the same boat of course! How were we going to deal with this kept me awake at night and I know so many other people too!
During lockdown many of my couples decided to rearrange, weddings could not go ahead, so they had no choice but to postpone. Those first few weeks were crazy, every time I looked at my emails I had another postponement. We would have never envisaged still being in this position at the end of the year. General consensus amongst the wedding industry, was if we can rearrange the spring/summer weddings to autumn/winter that would work, because surely by then we will be over this and life will be back to normal! Venues have been so amazing rescheduling dates, and suppliers have jumped through hoops to rework everyones new dates. As the summer went on, and tiers were introduced/ rates were increasing again, we realised weddings were not going to happen as we know and love them in the autumn too. Couples therefore found themselves rescheduling their big day again. I cannot tell you the disappointment, the tough decisions couples have made, the waiting, the uncertainty to find out whether their day could go ahead. Or whether we would have new restrictions/new tiers in place which would stop this from happening. When weddings got cancelled in the summer with less than 24 hours notice… it really was such a cruel and uncertain time for these couples and wedding suppliers.
Since we have realised weddings are not looking likely to be going ahead as we know them, again more couples have rearranged. I have had couples move their date 4 times. It is absolutely heartbreaking and yes ceremonies can go ahead… and that is great, but as we find ourselves dipping in and out of tiers, wedding receptions cannot. And if we head back into lockdown the wedding ceremonies can not take place at all. The fact the government even used the term, ‘death bed wedding’ is absolutely unforgivable. This is their view that yes you can get married if you absolutely have to ie on your deathbed… disgraceful terminology. Weddings are about love, celebration, family, and if you want a big white wedding with all the trimmings then yes you are well entitled to this dream, so if rearranging is the one option you have to be able to have the wedding of your dreams then this is perfectly acceptable. We will get there!!
As we head in to 2021 though, I am having my spring weddings postpone too. I have had summer 2021 couples want to move to 2022. The uncertainty continues, and when you run your own business you put your absolute heart and soul into this. Having the constant unknown linger over you can be quite unsettling. We want to be back doing what we love, working on weddings, and I seriously cannot wait until we can all celebrate in a safe way. As wedding florists we are used to blocking out our calendar, but when it comes to the constant movement of dates, couples maybe asking to hold two dates/reserve dates.. of course we have done everything we can to assist this. But when running a business this has been really hard to comes to terms with for me personally. It has been a logistical nightmare and when we are of course all trying to keep our couples feelings and weddings in mind as a priority, we have also had to realise this has had a huge affect on all suppliers involved and our sanity!
As lockdown eased after 7 weeks, we were lucky enough that our flower market could open, however I was uncertain of whether I could offer flowers. The limited movement of travel restricted delivery options potentially? It felt as if I would be maybe doing something wrong, so after a few weeks I offered weekly flowers. I needed the flowers myself, just as much as my customers needed flower deliveries! To send to themselves to cheer up this awful bleak time or to send to loved ones to say how much they are missing them. We have learnt even more so the symbolism of flowers this year, and how a pick me up bouquet can do just that. Flowers spread joy! I was delighted to be able to offer these weekly bouquets. I wanted to keep my interactions to a minimum and travel too, so once a week worked until restrictions eased off again in the summer. There was a big demand for houseplants too, so it was great to be able to offer plants for delivery too. I would have done a few plant pop up shops throughout the year so instead of this I just added to the online shop, which worked well. I embraced dried flowers, I sold about a million peonies in June, the DIY wreath kit went down an absolute storm and have never spent so much time researching cardboard box packaging and courier options… I spent a lot of time in December tracking courier orders that I had posted. Nationwide delivery is now a thing from The Rose Shed. Instagram was even more my friend than usual, and it was great to spend the year building up more of an online community here! It is amazing the have the online support of people you have never met, we can all share our experiences, our wins… our losses. Instagram is a huge source of inspiration, comfort, entertainment and encouragement.
I am so so lucky I have been able to work in some capacity this year, for my sanity and my business. The business has ticked along all year, so I am so grateful I have been able to utilise my online shop and push this, whereas some wedding and events business can simply not, which really is heartbreaking and shows how deep the effects of this pandemic will last. Viable business have gone bust, unable to work, with no plan rolled out on how and when we can potentially get back to work. So I am above all grateful to my years of working in florist shops, my skills and knowledge to be able to just crack on and extend to this delivery side of my business. The biggest of thanks to everyone who sent a bouquet, bought a plant for themselves, took part in a Zoom wreath workshop… the support for my business has meant the world and ensured me to keep going this year!
I have never been good at not being busy. Those lockdown weeks were an emotional rollercoaster. When your whole business is taken away from you, it is a huge thing to get your head round. The feeling useless, unproductive, helpless, hopeless, that you have no purpose…balanced out against the ‘whole world is completely f*&%$d’ where do we start with trying to get through this… is a minefield! This is not a self pity post at all, as I said its a round up of the year! Those emotions were also teamed with many positive ones, there are lots of good things to take from this year. Me trying to learn to do nothing because I had no choice… it is ok to sit there and watch continuous episodes of Four Rooms and not feel guilty! Trying not to try to conjure up work just because I thought I should do… to try to learn to just switch off, which is easier said than done. Above all I have learnt resilience… us florists are a resilient bunch at the best of times, we think on our feet and can readily fix lots of situations when it comes to flowers or wedding logistics and things not planning out as we had imagined. But trying to be resilient in a worldwide pandemic?! As the year has gone on, and the events unfolded… we have all been faced with ever changing situations/ restrictions… each week is a new ‘what on earth can possibly happen this week’ type scenario. This has made me stronger, and definitely tougher… when my initial reaction may have been on the more dramatic side, I believe I can react to things much more calmer and logically, because if we can get through this it is possible that we get through any situation… I hope!!!
Despite the horrendous situation Covid has brought to all of us, the prolonged forced lockdown was the first time I have had a break in forever… I have worked continuously my whole life and have been driven to do so… my business is my passion and I want to succeed and be the best that I can, but I have to admit this has flagged up certain priorities for me. I am happier than I have been personally, so going forward I am going to align this with my business. No one can work 24-7, and work allows you to enjoy the rest of your life right?! I am going to continue to provide the most incredible wedding flowers for my couples, however there will be a few changes around here which I can announce when I am ready to do so.
To all my couples out there who have endured the never-ending wedding dilemma of 2020 your day will come, and it will be the day you planned, the most amazing, wonderful love filled wedding you desire with everyone you want there! And to those of you who are going to opt for the smaller, intimate weddings then I am so on board with that too! Your wedding is going to be even more personal after this whole crazy year, so it is even more important to do it how you want!
The biggest of thanks goes to all my couples who still have the faith for me to work on their postponed big day, my couples who went ahead even if they just required a bouquet and buttonhole, my supplier friends, some of whom are my very best friends… the support is invaluable, we have constantly shared our various wedding scenarios throughout this time, and the reassurance/support/friendship has been incredible! Never underestimate the support of a WhatsApp group… my family (we are such a close family anyway) ‘Covid Soiree’ Group provided endless support and encouragement, enabling us all to share when we were down and also share those small, exciting life moments that still happen! The kids still grow up, the dogs still carry on oblivious and we will all still enjoy a vino on a Friday night which of course has to be shared! To my best school friends, there is nothing we do not know about each other.. and when your political views align in a pandemic blimey be prepared for that WhatsApp to be a very safe space… away from the premise of your social media image… this has been a saviour!!! Jack who has had to put up with the emotional rollercoaster that is myself this year, to pour me a gin and tonic as we sat ready for the latest Boris announcement, be the most amazing delivery driver and florist supporter and take me to the most beautiful places to switch off. Let’s just hope that 2021 brings healthier, happier and slightly more sociable times ahead…. or what else can we do? Just continue to evolve and adapt to whatever is thrown at us… with flowers by our side and the people we love… that is what 2020 has taught me.