Pollen Unveils Its Flower Donation Program: ReBloom

I’ve often said that after a wedding or event, the flowers are only six hours older than they were at the start of the event, and they still have a lot of life left in them. As a florist, one of the more painful parts of the event industry is seeing all of our work go into the trash after the event. Such a waste! At Pollen, we’ve worked to minimize the waste of all aspects of our business, including these slightly used flowers. We bring the flowers back to our studio, donate what we can, and compost the rest.

Flower donation

Lightly used wedding centerpieces, lined up to be reworked into bedside arrangements for donation. Photo by Clare Britt Photo.

After years of providing regular flower donations to Ravenswood Community Services’ weekly dinners and on an as-requested basis to organizations with missions that are in line with the priorities of the business, Pollen is expanding the program to include hands-on volunteer opportunities to organizations and businesses. We’re excited to officially unveil our flower donation program, ReBloom.

Through ReBloom, small groups join Pollen’s floral designers at Pollen’s studio to rework our briefly used flowers to make floral arrangements for donation to people who could use a little lift. Participants learn some basic floral design, then work under the guidance of one of Pollen’s floral designers to create floral designs from arrangements that are returned to the studio after the weekend’s events. Once the arrangements are complete, the group delivers the flowers to a nearby assisted living facility, hospital, or similar place.

Flower donation

Volunteer/designers create new arrangements for donation. Photo by Clare Britt Photo.

Flower donation workshop

Volunteers choose from the lightly used wedding flowers to create new arrangements for donation.

Flower donation workshop

Volunteers deliver and distribute the arrangements to a nearby assisted living facility.

ReBloom flower donation program in Chicago

ReBloom gives a little lift to those who could use it!

Groups of five to thirty people can schedule a two to three hour time slot to include instruction, design, and delivery of the flowers to a donation partner.  The activity is perfect for corporate team building experiences and others interested in giving back to the community.  For more information, contact lynn@pollenfloraldesign.com or sign up for the email updates here.

Wedding Profile: Spring Wedding in Coral and Deep Teal at Salvage One

Revisiting M&M’s late June wedding from last year puts a smile on my face!  As always, Tim Tab Studios captured the wedding beautifully.

For the bride’s garden-style bouquet, coral peonies, poppies, ranunculus, and garden roses were the focal flowers in a loose yet lush style of bouquet.

Spring bridal bouquet with coral peonies, poppies, and garden roses.

Coral ranunculus boutonniere, ninebark, bowtie

Spring bridal bouquet, coral peonies, poppies, garden roses

The wedding party’s bouquets in coral, orange, fuchsia, and yellow complemented deep teal dresses.

Summer bridesmaid bouquets, coral peonies, garden roses, turquoise ribbon An eclectic mix of vintage-y containers perfectly suit Salvage One’s vintage and funky vibe.Summer wedding centerpiece, coral peonies, local zinnias, green hydrangea

Spring wedding centerpiece. Vintage glass compote, coral peonies, green hydrangea, geranium

Creative Team:

Update: Hospice Hearts Gift

12193338_1114287815247953_7760818650771858336_nPollen is so excited to present Hospice Hearts with a Valentine’s Day gift to help cover veterinary bills of the pets they bring in to their care.  For each wedding we booked between the date of my transport of Abby and Bosco up until Valentine’s Day, we put another $50 in the Hospice Hearts pool.  Eleven weddings booked in that time means $550 for Hospice Hearts!

Read here how Hospice Hearts captured my heart and moved me to support their mission.  As I’ve kept up with their efforts, I’m even more impressed with their work to rescue pets of people who can no longer care for their pets due to illness, being admitted to a nursing home, or death.

Bosco AbbyIf you have room in your heart and home for Bosco and Abby, who are currently with a foster family, please consider adopting these two cuties.  You can view all of the adoptable pets rescued through Hospice Hearts here.  Want to make a donation to Hospice Hearts?  Awesome!  You can support their work to rescue pets like Bosco and Abby, who lost their owner last month, here.

Chicago Wedding Show Round Up

A Few of Our Favorite Wedding Shows in Chicago

Booking season is underway! Many couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, leading to a jump in inquiries and consultations in late winter and early spring. Booking season for us! Planning season for you! If you got engaged over the holidays, you’ve likely started to dip your toes into wedding planning and begun your search for wedding vendors. We talked earlier about how to begin your search for wedding vendors, but I’d like to focus a bit more on wedding shows.

The wedding shows of the past have a pretty rough reputation as a cattle call of potential clients, shuffling through cheesy displays and pushy sales people. Thankfully, a few wedding shows have popped up in Chicago to defy that stereotype. Each of these shows is taking place in very cool, non-traditional wedding venues, so there’s the bonus of checking out a few of Chicago’s most interesting venues while at the shows. Here are our favorite foils to the traditional wedding show, in chronological order of when they are scheduled in 2016:

Indie Wed. Saturday, February 6th, 2016. Ravenswood Event Center, 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago.
Indie Wed has a young and hip vibe, with many up-and-coming wedding vendors, as well as more seasoned, but still small and independently owned, wedding peeps. Held at Ravenswood Event Center, Indie Wed is three floors of displays from wedding vendors. Pollen has been there more years than not, though a booked wedding prevented us from applying to display this year.

Dose Trousseau. Sunday, February 14th, 2016. Morgan Manufacturing, 401 N. Morgan St., Chicago.
This is the first year for Dose Trousseau, which is being held in conjunction with Dose Love at Morgan Manufacturing. If you’re familiar with Dose Market, you know the vibe: a curated selection of hip, tasteful, high-quality, hand-made goods from small, local businesses. Dose Trousseau offers the wedding version of these qualities, with a hand-picked roster of wedding vendors who share the Dose aesthetic. Yes, we’ll be there!

Committed. Sunday, March 13th, 2016. Greenhouse Loft, 2545 W. Diversey Ave, Chicago.
Organized by the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance, Committed is a more intimate show of wedding vendors who are members of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance. This means all the vendors are doing their best to be environmentally and socially responsible. For couples who share those priorities and want their wedding to reflect their values, the GWA has done the work for you to vet these wedding vendors. Of course, Pollen will be there!

A few other wedding shows are on my radar that I’ll want to check out this year. Feel free to leave suggestions for wedding shows worth checking out in the comments!

A Valentine’s Day Gift to Hospice Hearts

On Sunday afternoon, I was getting ready to head to Ottawa, IL to stay the night with my mom and drive her early Monday morning to get cataract surgery. While putzing around at home and getting my things together, I popped on Facebook and saw a post from Hospice Hearts, a pet rescue group, that struck a chord with me.* Two dogs whose owner had passed away needed to be picked up from the northern suburbs and transported to a foster home in Champaign, IL. That very day. Like right now.  Sooo…dog rescue transport of bonded senior dogs

I picked up these two on Sunday afternoon and brought them to my mom’s, where we stayed the night.  After dropping off my mom at the cataract clinic in Bloomington, IL on Monday morning, I took them to their foster home in Champaign.

But back to Sunday afternoon.  When I picked up Bosco and Abby from their home, their owner’s adult son, who drove in to settle his dad’s affairs, said the pound just wasn’t an option for these two. When he handed the dogs over to me, he said that knowing they would be saved was the first good thing to happen all week. Surely a rough week for everyone involved.

I was so focused on the dogs’ loss that I wasn’t even thinking of the comfort that this rescue effort was providing to the humans involved.

I wasn’t familiar with Hospice Hearts until that day, but as I’ve looked into their work, I am simply amazed by what they do. And all their work is done by volunteers.

Hospice Hearts rescues dogs and cats whose owners can no longer care for them due to illness, admission to a nursing home, or death. They coordinate the pick-up of these pets at their homes or pull them from shelters and place them in foster homes. They provide vet services for the pets to get them ready for adoption and find them new forever homes.

Many of these pets are elderly, so they would not have a good chance at a shelter. I can’t imagine if Bosco and Abby had ended up at a shelter. They surely would have been separated, if not worse.

To support their mission, Pollen is donating $50 to Hospice Hearts for every full-service wedding that we book from now until Valentine’s Day. Veterinary bills for the dogs and cats entering their care are the largest part of Hospice Hearts’ expenses and our support will help with that cost as well as the organization’s other needs.  If you would like to directly support Hospice Hearts, please visit their website to support their mission.

*A little backstory and a personal note:

Buddy the Australian shepherd and flowers20131225_154211I helped transport a senior Australian shepherd named Buddy a couple of years ago. Buddy had been in the pound in southern Illinois for over a month and was deemed “urgent,” meaning they were out of room at the pound and he was going to be put down if he wasn’t pulled that weekend. I was one of many people who took him on a leg of his trip to freedom, coordinated by Australian Shepherd Rescue Midwest.

After some time spent with his foster family being evaluated and getting healthy, that old dog became my old dog. I had no idea how much volunteering for that transport would change my life and how hard I would fall for Buddy.

Now I’m a dog person, just like my dad was.  My dad passed away last year after prolonged illness, and having experienced the decline and loss of a parent, I can only imagine what a relief it must be to families to be able to place their loved ones’ pets in the care of Hospice Hearts.  Thank you, Hospice Hearts!

UPDATE (2/18):  Pollen just sent our gift of $550 to Hospice Hearts to help pay for veterinary bills for the pets that come into their care.

Your Guide to Wedding Flowers. Part 2: Initial Contact.

Part 2: Initial Contact and Narrowing the Search.

flowers4

photo by Katherine Salvatori Photography

In the first part of this series, I talked about how to research florists. Now, let’s say you have a handful of florists that you’re interested in working with. What next?  Give the florist a call or shoot them an email to find out a few important details.*

A few good questions to start with:

1.  Is the florist available for your wedding date?
First things first, right? Most florists can only take a limited number of weddings each weekend. For us, that’s 1-3 weddings, depending on the size of the weddings we have on the books and their logistics. If we book one big one early on, we’ll consider ourselves fully booked for that weekend. If we get interest from couples with weddings that are on the smaller side, on different days of the weekend, or have easy logistics, we can take up to three weddings. OK, sometimes four if it’s a three-day weekend.

2.  Does the florist service your wedding location?
I’ve received inquiries for Indiana and SW Michigan. We don’t go there. Don’t get me wrong… for the right price, we could make it happen. But most florists will have a service area they generally stick to. For us, that’s usually Chicago. We do travel to the suburbs, but we have a higher minimum order for suburban weddings, because it is unlikely we’ll be able to deliver two wedding on the same day if one of them is in the burbs.

3.  Does the florist have a minimum order requirement?
Some florists have a minimum order requirement (some apply only during wedding season), because they can only take a limited number of weddings each weekend or because their niche is more elaborate weddings requiring higher budgets. Your budget and the minimum order requirement may not match up.

4.  Are they the right fit for what you’re looking for?
Do a quick fit check. Describe what you’re looking for a little bit to find out if they’re be the right fit. For example, I got a call yesterday from someone who, with a little digging, I found out is looking for balls of roses for their flowers. That just isn’t our thing, so we aren’t the best fit for that person. Or you may want a florist who can serve multiple functions (more of an event designer) to help with things like lighting and linen selection, but some florists (like us) just stick to focusing on the flowers.

Once you have these answers, you might be ready for the next step, which is to set up an appointment. I say you might be ready, because you should do some prep work before meeting with a florist to get the most out of your consultation. We’ll cover that in the next post.

*Most of our inquiries come in via our website, but I totally get why some people prefer to call over email for the first inquiry.  If you want to make me really happy, if you call to get initial info, offer to send in an inquiry via the website to follow up.  This will put you into my system and make your wedding information consistent with my process.

Your Guide to Wedding Flowers. Part 1: Research.


About this series.  Your Guide to Wedding Flowers, from a Florist’s Perspective.

Most of my clients are doing this for the first time. They’ve never hired a florist for an event, so they’re figuring it out as they go along, relying on internet research as well as the experiences of friends and family. I started this with the idea of creating a quick one-sheeter with tips for working with a wedding florist, but I can see from the length of this first post that it’s going to be more than that…  A lot more than that.

In this series, I’m going to lay it all out to help you through the process, from how to find your wedding florist to how to make sure The Big Day goes as smoothly as possible, from a floral perspective. More specifically, from the perspective of this florist: an events-only florist specializing in seasonal, garden-style flowers who tries to make things as easy as possible for her clients. (Credit is due to our friend Elysia Root for the inspiration for this series. See her series on selecting a cake designer.)


 Part 1: You need wedding flowers.  Where to begin???  Research.

You’re engaged! Congratulations! Let the wedding planning begin! Where do you even start???
To begin your florist search, there are more (and better) options than Google. I’ll talk you through a few routes to go to give you some direction in your search. Most people use a combination of these resources to find the right fit for their wedding florist.

Your wedding planner (if you have one)

If you’re working with a wedding planner who is helping with your vendor search, they will have relationships with florists and will have recommendations at the ready for you, based on your wedding style and budget. Done and done! (But this doesn’t mean you can’t ask to meet with a florist outside of your planner’s network.)

Friend/family/co-worker recommendations

Once you’re engaged, you’ll find that plenty of the married people you know would love to talk about their wedding planning experience. This is a great way to start your research. Hearing about your friends’ wedding professionals offers insight to the way the wedding vendor does business, beyond the pretty pictures. Keep in mind that your co-worker’s wedding may have had a totally different look or budget than what you’re going for, so their florist may not be the right fit for your wedding.

Review websites

Websites with vendor reviews, similar to friend recommendations, offer a look at the couple’s whole experience with a company. As with all review sites, take it with a grain of salt, knowing that there are some people who can’t be pleased. My clients typically use a mix of wedding-specific and non-wedding specific review sites. Of course, Yelp is the big non-wedding specific review site. With sites like Yelp, keep in mind that storefront florists (those who have retail shops in addition to doing flowers for events) are being reviewed not only by their wedding clients, but also by their retail customers. In defense of my florist-friends who also have retail shops, the stars assigned by a walk-in customer’s $5 greeting card purchase are weighted the same as the stars of a person who had a year-long relationship with their wedding florist. So dig a little deeper when looking at those stars.  Thanks to our clients, we’re doing pretty awesome on Yelp.  We pay no money to Yelp, but have great visibility there.
The two big wedding-specific review sites are Wedding Wire and The Knot.  With both sites, vendors pay for greater visibility in their vendor directories, so be sure to look beyond the first page to see all of the vendors. As a sidenote, we don’t even show up in the Wedding Wire directory for Chicago florists, unless you search specifically for Pollen by name, despite having 24 reviews averaging 4.9 stars and getting their “Couple’s Choice” award last year for getting good reviews.  I don’t pay them any money.  Go figure.

Vendor recommendation lists (whether formal or not)

Maybe I’m biased, but I think one of the best ways to get recommendations is from other wedding professionals. You’ll most likely book your venue first, so ask them if they have recommendations for vendors. The venue will have seen the recommended florists’ work and the florists will be familiar with the space. Your photographer, your caterer, your DJ… they all have seen plenty of weddings and wedding flowers, so tap into those resources. I’m always happy to provide recommendations for wedding professionals whose work I admire and who I enjoy working with. Be aware that some wedding vendors have agreements with other vendors that compensate them for their recommendations. More specifically, some venues and some planners get paid by other wedding vendors to be on vendor lists or for bringing their clients in for meetings.  It doesn’t mean those recommendations aren’t good ones, but I’m all for full transparency about pricing structures. I’ll let our friends at FIG Catering get into more detail on their experience with commissions.

Social media

Social media provides plenty of visual references in your florist search. Once you have your venue, search Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook for your venue.  Click on the location and see what else pops up. Depending on your venue, you may have to sift through lots of photos to see any flowers.  Start following your photographer on Facebook and Instagram to see what florists they‘re working with. And of course, start following the florists who catch your eye to see what they’re working on.

Wedding blogs

Jump into the wedding blog rabbit hole! Search your venue or photographer on your favorite wedding blogs to see which florists have been featured. You can also look for more niche wedding websites for vendors who fit your style or values. Looking for eco-friendly wedding professionals? Use the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance directory (full disclosure: you’re talking to the president of the CGWA). Going against the grain with your wedding? Check out Offbeat Bride or A Practical Wedding and search for your venue or photographer to see which florists they’ve worked with. Looking for flowers in the Style Me Pretty vibe? Check out Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book (full disclosure: member over here!).

Wedding shows

Wedding shows? Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Wedding shows are lame. Yes, the wedding shows of the past have been lame, but they’re getting better!  There are a few wedding shows that have specific viewpoints that are worth checking out. We’ve participated in just two weddings shows (multiple years at each), and are going to add a third to the mix. Indie Wed was the very first wedding show we participated in when Pollen was just a little baby. We’ve shown there most of the years since (a wedding prevents us from being there this year) and it’s always a great mix of wedding vendors that are on the non-traditional end of the spectrum.  The other wedding show we’ve been in each year is Committed, which is a wedding show featuring members of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance. If you’re looking for vendors who are socially and environmentally conscious, this is the show for you. We’re adding Dose Trousseau to our dance card this year.  Dose Trousseau is a curated wedding show that is debuting this Valentine’s Day. An advantage of attending wedding shows is that you get to meet the people behind the business, most often the owner or lead sales person. So even though it will likely be a brief interaction, you can find out whether you “click.”

Now what?

You’ve done the research and you’ve found a handful of florists you’d like to follow up with.  Don’t get your heart set on any one florist until you get a few important details. In the next post, I’ll talk you through the first questions to ask those florists on the short list.
Did you find your florist in a way not listed above? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Wedding Profile: Spring Bridegport Art Center Skyline Loft Wedding

E & S’s beautiful wedding at Bridgeport Art Center’s Skyline loft captured spring just beautifully, with loose and gardeny floral arrangements in shades of green, dusty purple, and pink with peonies, flowering viburnum, clematis, scabiosa, olive branches, and grasses.  All photography by the very talented Kent Drake Photography.

Garden style wedding bouquet in pink and purple with peonies, viburnum, scabiosa, olive, and clematis.Spring bridesmaid's bouquet with peonies, lavender, and olive with dusty purple bridesmaid's dress. Bridgeport Art Center Skyline Loft wedding ceremony birch arch Bridgeport Art Center wedding ceremony aisle arrangements. Bridgeport Art Center Skyline Loft escort card table. Bridgeport Art Center wedding. Herb arrangements on the highboys. Bridgeport Art Center Skyline Loft farm tables. Wedding head table garland, brass candlesticks, wooden table number. Centerpiece in gold mercury glass compote.

Creative Team:

Photographer: Kent Drake Photography

Day of Coordination: An Event Less Ordinary

Venue: Bridgeport Art Center Skyline Loft

Catering: Hearty Boys