02/09/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Saying "I Do" To Silk FlowersBy Patrice Doucet
Cutting cost can be a difficult job for a bride-to-be planning her wedding when everything seems to be important. According to the latest survey taken by the nation’s largest wedding industry website, The Knot, the national average cost of a wedding, as of 2017, is $35,329 – not including the honeymoon. Brides (or their family) spent an average of $2,534 on flowers. So, how do you get “Wow”-factor flowers without spending crazy money? A two-woman company in Lafayette is offering a unique solution to keep wedding flower costs low and still offering elegant arrangements that is capturing the attention of women across the country.
Cousins Lauren Bercier and Laken Swan are modernizing the way brides plan and pay for their wedding flowers since opening Something Borrowed Blooms in Lafayette the fall of 2015. As the name implies, they are in the business of renting high-quality silk flower wedding arrangements - from bouquets, headpieces and boutonnieres to corsages, aisle markers, centerpieces and garlands – even adorned dog collars for the occasional canine attendee- at unbelievably discounted prices.
The idea of renting and returning silks, one unprecedented in the country at present, came to Laken, a marketer, when she noticed at weddings that brides were trying to save on flowers by incorporating silks, and the results were not as good as they could have been. Lauren commiserated as she remembered her own wedding experience with flowers that didn’t turn out exactly as she wanted.
It was the buying habits of their target market, millennials, that convinced them renting was the way to go. Millennials participate in a “sharing economy” at a greater rate than other consumers, latching on to car services like Uber, renting homes through Airbnb, and purchasing second-hand clothes online with sites like Etsy and Rent the Runway. “So we said, why not apply that to wedding flowers?” Lauren says still in amazement. (Asking yourself yet, “Why didn’t I think of that?”)
Silk flowers have been a hard sell to brides in the past because… they didn’t look real. But, today’s designers and fabrics have silks looking so realistic that wedding guests, often caught touching the leaves at receptions, are hard pressed to know whether they really are real or not.
Most of the silk flowers from Something Borrowed Blooms originate from the Far East and are hand picked by Lauren and Laken in the floral district of New York. Beautiful Sopia roses, dahlias, ranunculus, peonies, magnolias and hydrandras, with fillers like lavender, dusty miller and succulents lay neatly in the showroom’s cubicles.
Clients can choose from nine collections on the website, with another soon to be released. Several are named after family members: “Audrey” remembering Laken’s and Lauren’s paternal great-grandmother; “Cameron” after Lauren’s sister; “Kimpton,” a student of Lauren’s back in her teaching days; and “Kinsley” inspired by Laken’s daughter. When pressed to name her favorite collection, Lauren says she may be a little more partial to the flowers in the “Charlotte” collection, but adds, “You can mix and match among collections; for instance, rent an “Audrey” bouquet but “Cameron” boutonnieres.
As lead designer, Laken takes inspiration for a new collection from the latest wedding trends in décor, arrangement shapes, colors and flowers. “Big, loosely-designed rustic bouquets with lots of greenery, succulents and garland, hung on staircases and looped on chandeliers, are all still very much in demand,” says Lauren. “This year, our wholesaler has come out with a beautiful, lush garland that normally sells for several hundred dollars that we’ll be renting for $30.”
With 957 arrangements currently available, supply as well as selection has helped make it possible to fill orders which climbed by 200 percent from May to July 2017, after the company’s new web site was launched with photos displaying amazingly realistic-looking arrangements. Last October and November alone, the cousin-team and three production assistants provided arrangements for 60-70 weddings each month, shipping to customers as far as New York and Maine, Washington, Wisconsin, Seattle and Illinois.
Lauren describes their customers as educated, with a sense of style, very often wealthy, but budget conscious. “They’ll hire a photographer costing $5,000, but they’ll use our flowers; the savings allows them to splurge on things more important to them without sacrificing quality,” she explains. One such client: Jessie Kuruc, Los Angeles-based watercolorist and fine jewelry designer, referred to as the “wedding ring whisperer.”
If the beauty of the silk flowers catches the customer’s eye as an engagement ring would, then the cost savings is the wedding band that seals the deal, with arrangements renting for 70 percent off traditional florist prices. Where a typical bridal bouquet can cost between $200-$300, or more depending on the flowers used, here a bride’s bouquet rents for $65, and a bridesmaid’s for $30.
Then there’s the process of ordering. It couldn’t be easier. Customers order their collection online – at least three months prior to the wedding - through the website SomethingBorrowedBlooms.com or using their mobile phone. Brides plan up to 80 percent of their wedding on their phones, according to The Knot. “This is a harder concept to accept for mothers of the bride,” say Lauren, “they’ll usually call with questions that we’re happy to answer.” Flowers are shipped anywhere in the U.S. and arrive two days before the wedding. “We want the bride to be excited when they get their box of beautiful flowers,” says Lauren, “so we’ve lined it with rose scented paper (optional) and included a wax-sealed letter with instructions of exactly what to do, along with a prepaid shipping label to make mailing back easy.” The large, sturdy box with custom-designed foam inserts keep the flowers firmly, yet gently, secured. After the reception, a person designated by the bride collects all the arrangements, returns them to the original box and mails them back on the following Monday; normal rental is four days. Local brides can pick up and drop off their orders at the storefront on Bendel Road in Lafayette’s Oil Center.
Harlie Nevers, a native of Ohio, was living in Lafayette when she became engaged with plans to be married back home June 2017. She liked the concept of renting silks flowers after pricing real ones and says the fact the arrangements from Something Borrowed Blooms looked so realistic sold her. “Living in Lafayette while planning a wedding in Ohio was no problem when it came to the flowers. We didn’t have to meet with a florist; I chose the ‘Charlotte’ collection online for my bouquet and the bridal party, and 20 table centerpieces for the reception. I was even allowed to take one of the centerpieces to Ohio when I met with the reception planner. The whole thing cost $800! The flowers were shipped to Ohio two days before the wedding and were just beautiful. With an outdoor wedding in June, I didn’t have to worry about them wilting. I got several compliments from guests who thought they were real!”
Helping brides like Harlie is exactly why Lauren and Laken opened Something Borrowed Blooms. “We’re motivated by the overwhelming positive feedback and compliments from our brides. Seeing their stunning pictures on social media, flaunting our silk beauties, makes our hearts so happy,” smiles Lauren.
Silk flowers lay claim to a whole host of benefits that fresh flowers don’t:
• They are always in season, so you can get magnolias in December or tulips in June.
• There’s no worries of them wilting in warm weather or freezing in cold weather.
• Silk flowers are ideal for destination weddings because they travel well.
• Delicate blooms, like tulips, don’t fall apart are sag.
• You can get precisely color-matched flowers in any shade. (Brides are able to see exactly what the arrangement will look like walking down the aisle.)