Every bride has her favourite flowers and every groom should know what they are. From her hand tied bouquet to the pins in the groomsmen’s jackets, floristry is a big part of every dream wedding day. One lady who knows all about this is award winning florist Jay Archer. As we sit down to talk all things floristry, Jay proves that doing what you love makes hard work, long shifts and a bridezilla or two enjoyable. It’s the middle of wedding season, but Jay is more than happy to share her amazing story with Hotcourses. If you’ve ever wanted to quit your day job and follow your dreams, have a read of this.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me Jay; I know things must be mad this time of year. To get things started, can you tell us how you got here – have you always been interested in floristry?
Sheer determination, hard graft, an amazing team and network who all, like me, believe and continue to support my flowery dream. I had always loved flowers, yes, but it took me a little while to realise that I could have a career doing something I loved and not follow a boring corporate ‘normal’ path. Essentially by chance I did a short course in floristry nearly ten years ago; whilst I didnt complete the course due to restrictive teaching, it ignited a fire in my belly and a tunnel vision to bring my dream to life. I said recently that although my business is (nearly) four years old now, I don’t think I could ever do anything else – flowers are in the very fibre of my being. They are a way of life, not a day job.
Good answer! Can you describe a typical day in your working life?
Wow, where do I start? Typically (and it does change week to week, or if we have a weekday wedding), Mondays are focused on clearing down from the weekend, catching up on admin and social media. Tuesday involves more admin, client meetings and prop sourcing. Wednesday is preparing for the weekend’s weddings and usually the roses will come in (to give them time to open), so I will need to process those and make sure I get to bed at 8pm. I’m up at 3am on Thursday to get to New Covent Garden Market and buy the weekend’s wedding flowers, I’ll take these back to the workshop and will usually have staff in to start making. Friday is usually the wedding set up and Saturday is much the same, clearing it all away at midnight. During peak wedding season I will work a minimum of 16 hours a day, 7 days a week!
I’ll never moan about my eight hour day again! What’s the best part for you?
Everything – I love the preparation, the admin (planning and design), meeting people. I love going to market every week and seeing the flowers and really ‘getting in the zone’ for the weekend’s clients, then brining their flowery dreams to life. I love the feeling that you get when your set up is complete – there’s a real satisfaction in knowing ‘I did that’. Also, seeing the bride go into the church always gets me – to be part of someone’s special day, their life history, is phenomenal and there is no greater honour.
What’s the most difficult part for you then?
I get so nervous giving the bride her bouquet – I get sick with nerves! But usually they’re happy and it’s all worth the stress. Midnight clears are pretty hard too, especially after you’ve been up since 4am. Sometimes I am awake for a straight 26 hours.
Flowers are pretty integral to a wedding, how do you ensure your bride loves what you create?
We work very closely with our brides and you learn to read body language – some say ‘yes’ when the really mean no because they feel awkward about offending your work. I take all my clients to market to ‘meet’ their flowers as well as asking for bridesmaids dress swatches, details on other suppliers and sending moodboards, so I get a really good feel for their personal taste.
And how does it feel to win awards for doing just that?
Mind-blowing. For me, all I need is to know my brides are happy and I have fulfilled my brief – this is enough. To then go on and be recognised by the industry is just incomprehensible to me – it blows my mind! We are listed as one of BRIDE’s magazine’s top ten florists in the UK in their current edition! It’s more for my brides, they love it.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I find inspiration in everything around me – my clients, the flowers themselves, my own tastes and the seasons. Things change so much in nature and with our ‘product’ it’s hard not to be inspired! I love a good mooch around a garden centre or ribbon shop, but try to avoid things like Pinterest and looking at other peoples work too much.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Be true to yourself, work out your own style and don’t try to copy others. Design and true creativity come from within. Built upon strong foundations, your style and self-belief will grow and develop into a beautiful thing, emulating someone else’s work it’s hard to really produce something genuine. Also share your dream with anyone who will listen – the more links you make and people you meet, the more opportunities you will have. Someone told me when I started out, ‘people want you to succeed and will help anyway they can – everyone loves a winner’. Saying that, learn the power of saying no – not every opportunity is the right one. Most of all, be nice – karma stings!
That’s brilliant advice! Finally then, what is your favourite flower to work with?
My favourite flower is the humble sweat pea, but my favourite to work with are foliages – they’re so pretty and rewarding and are so often overlooked.
Thanks Jay, best of luck with the rest of the season!
If you think you’ve got what it takes to work as a wedding florist, why not take a course and learn from an expert? From lilies to roses, you will be living your own flowery dream in no time.