Brief note from Sheen(MTS):
I met Carla (from Capital Florist) a few years ago when we both took part in a Halloween-themed styled-shoot. At the time, Carla was a part-time florist who was eager to shed her day-job to pursue her passion full-time. By the time I met her, she already had years of experience as a florist and exuded the warmth and earnestness that she has come to be known by her clients and peers. Yes, her floral designs are to-die-for, but she is also just super fun to have around! Fast forward several years later to now, Carla has become one of Ottawa's most popular florists. She leads a team of talented floral designers who are all over Ottawa on weekends installing or delivering beautiful floral arrangements. This lady boss is a master-florist, a brand-savvy entrepreneur, and an overall amazing person. Get in touch with her for your wedding decor and floral needs:
Without further ado, here is a transcript of our fireside chat over copious amounts of wine and cheese!
**This has been edited for length and clarity. Any alterations are noted with brackets and ellipses and approved by Carla. All accompanying photos were taken by Mocha Tree Studios.
MTS: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your business!
Carla: Okay, I am Carla, I own Capital Florist. We are a wedding and event exclusive studio in Ottawa. We have been around for two and a half years as Capital Florist. Myself as a designer, I have been around for 10 going on 11 years this year. We have a team of five designers including myself plus a dozen of extra helpers.
MTS: Do you do corporate events on downtime?
Carla: We do, we actually work with some of the major corporate venues here in Ottawa from time to time, mostly in the winter when we’re not busy with weddings. But the demand for it is not like with weddings yet, so we are going to be putting a lot of hours into growing that side of the business a little bit more this year.
MTS: Why are florals and décor so important to have in a wedding?
Carla: They help couples tell their story. I don’t know if you have ever been to weddings where there are no flowers, it just feels like a corporate function. Florals and décor in general are just important to bring people’s love story to life. If you think about it, a lot of people will have a “theme”, whether it’s coming from a cultural background or a movie, like a Harry Potter theme, or to showcase a certain lifestyle with a travelers theme, there is always an underlying”theme” to the wedding which tells you who the couple is. So choosing the right venue along with the right décor company and florist is super important to be able to bring that vision to life and to be able to tell that story as a couple.
MTS: As with photography, there are so many florists out there, what makes Capital Florist unique? What separates your services from other Ottawa florists?
Carla: To be honest, I have really thought of this question long and hard because the answer is in front of you but most of the time people can’t see it! It is me, what makes my business different from other businesses is me, my personality, my style, the way that I see flowers, the way that I think of flowers.
Lately, more and more couples hire me because of me and not just because we fit their aesthetics or budget. Of course, they fall in love with the styles and the designs. But they have come to understand that they can't expect someone else to deliver their vision the way that myself and my team would.
They want to do it with me/us, they want to have their experience with me/our team! They fall in love with the personality behind the brand. A brand and a team that reflects who I am and reflects my love and passion for flowers...effortless, romantic, fun, young and, you know, colorful – very colorful (gestures to her colorful shirt). I'm not really afraid of anything when it comes to floral design, I don't say no to things that ‘scare me’. So, I think that's what attracts people to me and another layer to what sets me apart from everybody else.
MTS: Do you find it difficult to offload work to others – is it just you that does consultation mostly and do you ever get anyone to do it?
Carla: For consultations, yes. Because again like I said, people like to work with me and I want to give them that opportunity to get to know me better and for me to get to know them better so I can translate that energy and connection into a proposal and then to my team and then work our magic for their wedding day! The bottom line is we can't “click” or connect, chances are they're probably not going to click with any members of my team because they are basically the other half of my brain! So we’re basically the same person!
MTS: We talked a lot in the past about what goes in before the wedding. Can tell us a little bit about what happens before the wedding day and then what happens on the wedding day specifically for you guys.
Carla: There's a lot of pre-wedding day work…a lot of prep. We receive flowers about three days before the wedding depending on when the wedding is. We have to cut them, literally clean each one at a time to make sure that all the flowers are in good condition.
Then a couple of days before the wedding, we start designing. If we only have one wedding that week or two weddings that week then can manage to do everything on the day before the wedding. But if we have multiple weddings we can start working on things like the bouquets up to three days before, just because you can put them in a cooler and keep them in water. They'll be nice and just as beautiful.
But things like centerpieces, because they're oasis on foam and sometimes you don't even have the containers that they're going to go in because they rented them from someone else, it's really hard to put them together in advance. So, I would say like 80 percent of our contracts are prep work ahead of time and the other 20 is on-site work on wedding days. On wedding days I am so anxious to get the show on the road that I wake up really early, like four or five [in the morning] because we have to make all of the boutonnieres, corsages, flower crowns, all of the delicate items to make sure they are in the most perfect condition possible for the wedding.
Before noon, we aim to be done with all of our personal flower deliveries so that photographers can have the flowers at the getting ready location for pictures. Then we head to the venue and usually setups can take about an hour to two hours depending on how large it is. If there is a large installation, we will allocate about three-four hours for the whole set up. And then we usually enjoy a glass of wine and a long nap until we have to head to the venue for tear down at midnight.
MTS: How many weddings can you do in a day, max?
Carla: Oh, we’ve done eleven weddings – I would not recommend it and would not do it again, it’s insane! Three dates that I can think off the top of my head: August 18, August 25th and September 22nd of 2018 were our 8-11 wedding weekends. And don't ask me how. They actually came together and everybody was super happy with everything, and our team was super excited to have accomplished such beautiful set ups, especially the ones after the tornadoes on Sept 21, 2018.
MTS: Yeah, I remember August 18 last year being crazy with all the inquiries!
Carla: Every year there are a few dates that I’m always anxious to get to and see how it all unfolds! In 2019 we are looking forward to the weekend of September 19-22, we have booked our biggest wedding EVER! for that weekend plus 6 other beautiful weddings throughout the 4 days. Definitely not worried that it can be done because those days are micro-planned to the last detail over the span of several months, but certainly anxious to get there! And no, we are no longer booking for that weekend! *laughs* I think 7 weddings in 4 days is enough!
MTS: Recently, you did a guest blog for a photographer about floral trends; lets talk about that some more, what are some of trends you are seeing and trends you would rather not see?
Carla: I definitely want to see more bold colors, just more colorful flowers. Don't get me wrong, I love whites and blushes, and greenery and all of that, it really speaks to my soul, and I love working with it. But there's something so exciting about not knowing where that color palette is going take you – like, how do you mesh yellows with blues and reds and burgundy and purples all at the same time in one cohesive beautiful [bouquet]. I want more people to pick really unexpected color palettes.
On that note, I always say to my brides (when I have the chance to): don't forget that your bouquet has to reflect your personality. Your flowers have to reflect your personality. If you're really outgoing, a bold person in general and you show up with an all-white and blush bouquet, people are probably going to be looking at you and ask where [are] all the colors? Where is all the fun? And there's nothing wrong with it like there is. It just needs to be more you. Also, you're going to look at your picture later on and, be like, “I wish I had done something more fun.” So don’t be afraid of adding more personality to your flowers!
MTS: And what trends do you not want to see?
Carla: I would not want to see baby’s-breath. And there's nothing wrong with baby's breath - it's a beautiful flower, and I've seen beautiful installations made out of it, but I personally think it just smells like clothes-I-put-in-the-laundry-machine-and-I-forgot-to-take-them-out-kind-of-smell! It's so weird to describe it. If you’re going to use a touch here and there, totally fine, but don’t go back to the 80s where baby’s breath was everywhere!!
MTS: This is the one that I wish we get to ask a lot more from vendors. What's the greatest misconception about the services that you offer or wedding vendors in general that you want to dispel?
Carla: That flowers are cheap! A lot of people think that because Costco sells two-dozens of roses for 20 dollars they can expect their bouquets [from me] for 20-30 dollars. That's the biggest misconception people need to remember when they hire someone. You’re not necessarily just paying for that material item, you're paying for someone's expertise…for the convenience of not having to do it yourself and have it done in a beautiful way! Ottawa has really, really talented florists and decorators and they’re not just charging you for the physical items, they're charging you for their time it takes to prepare and arrange the flowers. We put money into educating ourselves whether that's going to school, taking courses online, taking workshops. You're paying for all of that knowing that you can expect professional quality on your wedding day.
The other misconception is that adding “wedding” to things make the price go up. That just not true because we charge our corporate clients the exact same thing that I would charge if I was sending this bouquet to a wedding. 90% of the time it requires the same amount of work.
MTS: What kind of brides and grooms do you really like working with?
Carla: Thankfully, I have gotten to a point in my business where I work a lot with my ideal clients and really age has nothing to do with it, but I do end up working with a lot of younger couples. I would also say very relaxed [couples] that are willing to trust my opinion as an expert. People that get inspired by my own designs. Definitely couples who want to collaborate on their designs with me rather than tell me what to do.
MTS: It is so tough when you feel like there is no trust between you and your client, how do you build that trust?
Carla: Honestly, I always, always invite them to follow [me] on social media because I'm very open with the behind the scenes of my business and they can see how hard I work to get to the end result, they get to see the process of “wedding florals”. Sometimes I'll share things like how we make boutonnieres, how we make flower crowns or how we prepare for wedding days, from literally printing the contract with all the recipes to like picking out the flowers for the recipes and even day of setups and teardowns! I like to take people along with me!
MTS: When you get married, what do you think your approach to wedding [planning] will be?
Carla: Rob, are you reading this? I will literally hand my credit card to a planner and ask them to tell me when I need to be ready and where I need to show up! It's not that I don’t care about the process, it’s because I am so involved in the process – we’ve done over two hundred weddings and counting – that I feel like I would it enjoy it more if I was surprised by my own wedding day! Obviously, I will have a say in terms of the overall vision but you can certainly expect a very, very intimate wedding, but also very modern and colorful – I feel like I’m just rambling now because a wedding is not in the ‘near future plans’ for us, so we’ll see when the time comes, for now I’m totally happy with just my beautiful Stor by Margot ring! Oh, but I will let you in on a secret… I do want to wear a blue dress though – I’ve always seen myself getting married in a light blue dress!
MTS: Would you do your own bouquet?
Carla: Probably… I’m too much of a picky person when it comes to my stuff… if not me one of my designers for sure! That's one of those things that I would like to have control of on my wedding, at the very least I would come up with the recipe myself so I know what it’s in it!
MTS: I should have asked this earlier, but what do you mean when you say “recipe” in this context?
Carla: A recipe, is simply that, a recipe, like a cooking recipe!It’s basically figuring out how many stems of each flower you're going to put into each arrangement. It keeps you organized. Especially when you have multiple weddings on a weekend, and when we have clients with very similar color palettes, and have designs with very similar flowers, we come up with a recipe so that we know how many stems of this type of rose goes for this wedding and how many goes with that wedding.
From there, we break it down by arrangement. How many in the bridal bouquet, how many in each bridesmaids bouquet , how many in each centerpiece, and so on. So, it is literally like a recipe: three roses, three spray roses, five peonies, three stems of Italian ruscus, etc. It just helps you stay organized and not overuse or underuse your flowers.
MTS: For our final question, if there is only one advise you can give to brides and grooms, what would it be?
Carla: Really do your research of your vendors! Meet with them! Have coffee with them and if you click, there is a possibility that you’re going to be good partners for the wedding day. I find more and more people just fall in love with [a vendor] online and not meet with them and they end up disappointed on the day of wedding the because there was never a connection with the vendor.
Also, do your due diligence. You're probably spending thousands of dollars with each one of your vendors. You want to make sure you're giving your money to the right person and someone that's not in it just for the money or somebody that's not in it just because it's one more wedding. For example, I've had to find cakes for my brides on the day of their wedding because something happened to the original cake on the way there. I've had to make linen decisions the day of the wedding because the wrong color was ordered, or they were folded the wrong way, or the cutlery is in the way for the centerpieces, and I’m ‘just the florist!’. I've had to make those calls, so you have to be able to trust the people that you hire. You have to make sure that you have someone on your side that’s going to make the right decisions for you.
MTS: Well that concludes our interview, thank you so much Carla for answer all our questions candidly, your insight is really valuable especially to those in the midst of planning their wedding! For our readers, if there is any other vendor you’d like us to have a fireside chat with, lets us know by commenting below!
*We continue to consume wine and cheese*