For many couples, selecting floral designs can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of wedding planning. Like finally finding your dress, laying eyes on one’s dream florals brings a little frisson of excitement, a surety: this bouquet is perfection.
Perhaps this is because floral arrangements bring with them a natural perfection we don’t find anywhere else. They are beautiful and fragrant literally by nature’s design.
But there is a seriously dark underbelly to the wedding floristry industry: its environmental impact is huge.
But what’s a bride to do? Skip florals altogether? Thankfully, no, but there are ways you can help change the tides. We spoke to an expert to get her take on the industry and where we must go from here.
Wedding Floristry and the Environment
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began researching the environmental impacts of the floral industry,” says Madeline Barber, a writer from Vancouver, BC, who recently published an investigation into floristry at large with Montecristo Magazine. “The further I read and the more experts I spoke to, the more dizzying the reality became.”
“From the growers, to the wholesalers, to the individual shops, the floral industry is a tangled web of sustainability concerns. Name an environmental issue—pesticides, water usage, carbon output, waste, etc.—and you'll find it in the floral industry,” Barber adds.
How can such a beautiful industry be so ugly? The answer is right in front of us, but is often obscured by the finished product. After all, who wants to think about carbon emissions when holding a bundle of gorgeous fresh lilies?
As many of us know, not all flowers grow in all climates, and no flowers are in season year round. So if a bride holding a December wedding requests fresh peonies, the florist has no choice but to fly them in from abroad—sometimes from thousands of miles away. This is strike one.
Then, for flowers to be incorporated into a bride’s dream design, they may be chemically bleached, processed or altered to obtain a desired colour, resilience, or rigidity (and this is to say nothing of the pesticides used in the growth phase). This is strike two.
Afterwards, the flowers are arranged using floral foam, which breaks down into harmful microplastics and finds its way into our soils and waterways. And when our florals begin to wilt and fade, they’re tossed. Strike three.
The entire process is rife with irony: it is contingent upon farming, transporting, and altering a naturally occurring beauty. So what can we do to change it?
Embracing Natural, In Season Florals
If you’re worried about the environmental impacts of your wedding florals, there are three simple requests to make of your florist in the design phase. First, request in season flowers. Second, request locally grown flowers that don’t need to be flown in.
“I understand that certain flower species can be meaningful for an individual,” says Barber, “but isn't it more meaningful to reduce our impact on the natural world? Or to be holding flowers that were grown just down the road? Imagine if suddenly every bride demanded field-grown flowers—florists would be scrambling to local suppliers.”
There are still plenty of options for brides wanting to be environmentally conscious.
“From what I've learned, it seems to me that the only real way to be ethical in the Northern Hemisphere is to purchase locally grown flowers when they're in season, and opt for dried (without bleaching or dye) arrangements in the winter,” says Barber.
Say Goodbye to Bleach
That’s where this third request comes in: ask your florist to refrain from using bleach or dyes in any of your arrangements.
“[I was surprised by] how brutal the bleaching and dyeing process can be,” says Barber. “I'll admit I'm guilty of fawning over those trendy dyed bunny tails and Italian ruscus. It just didn't cross my mind that something so cute and whimsical would be harmful.”
It’s easy to forget—even a little bit intentionally—about the chemicals used in the processing of our arrangements. But we can’t shy away from the facts: these chemicals wind up in our waterways and soil, harming entire ecosystems along the way.
“I think an interesting idea that these bleached stems raise is why do we think nature needs to be altered to be beautiful? Aren't the more earthy brown and green hues astounding enough?” Barber adds.
Supporting Local, Sustainable Floristry
“Given that the bridal and floral industries go hand in hand, and that weddings tend to revolve around the bride's every whim, brides have incredible influence over a florist's practices,” says Barber, meaning your wedding florals could have a lasting impact on these harmful trends.
For so many couples, wedding florals are central to realizing their “dream wedding.” According to the Knot, couples spent an average of $2,000 (of a total average wedding cost of $28,000!) on florals alone (but we all know that number can quickly, easily double).
It’s important to put our money where our values are, and collaborate with florists to create a healthier, more sustainable floral supply chain. This idea aligns with the Lovenote ethos—we observe sustainable production and business practices because we think it’s cool to know where your dress came from. The same is true for your florals.
“I do think it's possible that a real change for the better might occur, but it will require a shift from both the florist and the consumer,” says Barber. “Florists will have to get comfortable not catering to the customer's every desire, and the consumer will have to be satisfied with fewer choices.”
“It's a cliche example now, but I keep going back to roses for Valentine's Day. You're not going to be able to grow roses in February in the Northern Hemisphere, but do we really need to?” adds Barber.
“Can we not step outside what's always been done and consider more interesting options? That's more romantic to me, anyways.” ∎
With thanks to Madeline Barber for offering her time and expertise to this article.
Photo credits, top to bottom:
Meghan Savage Photography (cover image)
Joy Lynn Photography
Madison Joue Photography
Ann Mark Photo