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!

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

Part 2: Initial Contact and Narrowing the Search.


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.

Which Weekends Book First for Wedding Florists?

What a busy summer!  On top of each weekend’s wedding work, I’ve been meeting with potential 2015 clients to talk about their wedding flowers.  We’re beginning to fully book up for some weekends for next year, which got me to thinking that I could provide some insight as to which weekends typically book up first for wedding florists.  If you’re planning a wedding any of the following weekends, you’ll want to secure your florist as soon as possible.

Valentine’s Day Weekend (February 13, 14, or 15th, 2015)

This is the busiest weekend of the year for many florists.  Because of the volume of business and potential issues with both availability and quality of product, florists may be hesitant to take on wedding work on Valentine’s Day weekend.  Some retail florists do not take any wedding work that weekend, which makes it more difficult to find an available florist.  More business is directed to event florists (who do just weddings and events, not individual gift deliveries), which makes event florists book up more quickly, too.

Mother’s Day Weekend (May 8, 9, or 10th, 2015)

Just as with Valentine’s Day, this is an extremely busy weekend for retail florists, so some will intentionally not book weddings or will book fewer weddings than on a typical weekend.  This, compounded with the start of wedding season, makes Mothers’ Day weekend one that books up quickly.  We’re already fully booked that weekend.

Memorial Day Weekend (May 23, 24, or 25th, 2015)

Any long weekend will be a popular weekend for weddings.  The more popular the weekend, the more quickly all types of wedding vendors will book up.

4th of July Weekend (July 3,4, or 5th, 2015)

Same reason as Memorial Day weekend

Labor Day Weekend (September 5, 6, or 7th, 2015)

Same reason as Memorial Day & 4th of July weekends.

And any catchy number sequences.  This year we have 12/13/14.  I haven’t come across any yet for next year, but I’m sure there’s something!

And I’m seeing an increase in popularity of September weddings.  Did I miss any popular weekends???  Feel free to chime in in the comments.

How to Pin a Boutonniere

When I deliver weddings, people are often REALLY relieved when I offer to pin on the corsages and boutonnieres.  It’s become clear that people really aren’t comfortable with this task, and I’ve seen so many strangely and/or precariously pinned boutonnieres, that I’ve decided to provide some tips on how to pin a boutonniere.

First, where does the boutonniere get placed?  On the left lapel.  On a notched lapel, such as the one shown below, the boutonniere is placed below the notch.  Many suit coats have a buttonhole in the exact area where you want to pin the boutonniere.  Guess what boutonniere means in French?  You guessed it: buttonhole.  That’s why it’s there, though admittedly kind of vestigial.

Lapel showing buttonhole

So let’s get started.  First, I hold up the boutonniere to the lapel, to see where I think it looks right.  I try to center the boutonniere on the lapel from left to right, allowing for a little space from the seam leading to the notch of the lapel.  I like to angle the stems so they follow the narrowing angle of the lapel.  You can see below what my mind is targeting as I size up the lapel.  Equal distances between the left, right, and top of the lapel, stems angled toward the bottom of the lapel.

Lapel, showing target boutonniere placement.  How to Pin a Boutonniere, by Pollen.

Now for the hard part.  Bring on the pins!  Basically, you use the pins to make a stitch through the boutonniere stems.  The stitch (or pin) begins and ends on the back side of the lapel, catching the boutonniere stem on the front of the lapel.  Make sense?  By approaching the boutonniere from the back of the lapel, the pins aren’t visible.

I hold the boutonniere in place, then flip the lapel slightly so I can see the back of the lapel.  I put the pin through the back of the lapel, fairly perpendicular to the boutonniere stems.  I like to place the first pin near the top of the stems.  The stems may be wrapped with ribbon or floral tape.  I like to get that first pin through the top of whatever is holding the stems together.  I use a second pin a little lower than the first, to prevent the boutonniere from pivoting.  Or if the boutonniere has a leaf background to it, I’ll use the second pin up higher and go through the leaf.  Below is a photo of two pins behind the lapel and through the boutonniere stems.

Back of lapel pin placement for how to pin a boutonniere.  by Pollen.

And the final product:

Pinned boutonniere, by Pollen.

I’ve seen many different ways of pinning boutonnieres, but I find this technique to work best for me.

What?  Too many words to read?  Okay, okay.  See the video here!

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Thanks to the model, Matt Gassman of The Traveling Photo Booth!

Wedding Profile: Eco-Examples

Rachel and Jason’s wedding at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum reminded me that there are many little things, easy to overlook, that we at Pollen do to minimize the ecological impact of our clients’ weddings.  Some are more obvious, liking working with locally grown flowers whenever possible.  Others are less obvious.  Here are a couple of the easy-to-miss things we do to be more eco-friendly, illustrated through yesterday’s wedding.

Avoiding Floral Foam:
This is a biggie.  We have nearly entirely eliminated our use of floral foam, and yesterday’s wedding was another step toward foam-freedom.  Why avoid floral foam?  It’s a petroleum product, and we don’t need more reasons to be digging around for oil, do we?  Floral foam doesn’t biodegrade.  And it contains formaldehyde.  When cut while dry, it creates a dust that the person cutting it can’t help but inhale.  My fellow florists can attest to the evidence of this inhalation, seen when one blows his or her nose after cutting dry floral foam.  Gross, yes, but illustrative, no?

There are just a few applications left that I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to avoid using floral foam.  One of those was to decorate structures, such as chuppahs.  What to do?  I went old school: chicken wire.  I bundled up some chicken wire, secured it to the chuppah, and added the foliage and flowers on site.

Another application requiring some trial and error in order to avoid floral foam was in designing tall centerpieces.  Usually those are designed in floral foam that is taped to a tray, then the tray then is set on top of the tall vase.  Instead of going this route, I’ve been using a tall vase and designing directly in the vase, with the stems in water.  Getting a perfect sphere of flowers is tricky with this technique, but most of my clients are looking for a looser outline, which works out perfectly!

And yet another challenge is when designing in low bowls.   In this case, I went old school again and used floral frogs in the containers.  Floral frogs come in a few different forms, including glass ones with holes in them and metal ones that look like a bunch of pins sticking up.  I used the latter in these low glass bowls, then put in some small rocks to camouflage the frog.

Below you can see a low centerpiece, as well as the tall centerpieces in the background.

On the table, we provided soy wax candles to provide soft light once the sun set.  We also lined the window ledges with votive candles.  Speaking of our candles…

Thoughtful Candles
The clients chose Pollen to provide the candles because we offer soy wax votive candles, which we have refilled by Bright Endeavors.  Most candles are made from paraffin wax.  You guessed it: another petroleum product.   Soy wax votives burn cleaner and are plant-derived.

Many times after weddings and events, the votive candles simply get thrown out.  It’s cheaper to buy new ones than the cost of having someone remove the stubborn paraffin wax from spent candles.  Soy wax, on the other hand, is quite easy to remove.   Pollen partners with Bright Endeavors, a social enterprise that provides job skills training to women at risk for poverty while producing eco-friendly bath and candle products.  Bright Endeavors offers a votive refill program that allows us to bring back our spent votives again and again to be refilled with soy wax.

Even for our clients that don’t prioritize sustainability in their wedding planning, we’re working in ways that minimize waste in our business, and therefore at their weddings.  For those who place value on sustainability, Pollen is the perfect florist to work with to host a greener wedding.



Indie Wed Recap v2

Pollen was lucky enough to be selected to display at Indie Wed not just once, but twice!  I have described last year’s display as “showing off.”  I created a bouquet, centerpiece, and boutonniere for three different looks, showing the range of styles Pollen can do.  Intimidated by a sophomore effort, and no longer feeling the need to be all things to all people, I took a different approach this time around.

This year, I kept it simple, and focused on the direction Pollen is heading, both in style and philosophy.  The style we’re honing is one that is naturalistic, a little gardeny, and seasonal.  And we’re making the transition to working only on weddings where sustainability is a focus, which was the original idea behind Pollen.

When I tell people that I started Pollen to be an eco-friendly option for couples planning weddings, I’m often asked, “What does that mean?”  This year, Pollen’s Indie Wed display answered that question.

Sustainable floral design means…

Designing in water, not floral foam. Floral foam (that green spongy stuff) is a petroleum-based product that is not biodegradable.  And it contains formaldehyde.

Working with sustainably grown flowers. Locally grown flowers are Pollen’s first choice, but in winter, we need to look to warmer climates for our flower supply.  We seek out flowers that have been certified as sustainably grown by a third-party certification program, such as Veriflora.  Or flowers that have been grown in the Netherlands, which leads the way in the cut flower industry with technology, conservation, and labor rights.  Our sourcing decisions are based on a thoughtful hierarchy of the least harmful impact of the cut flower options available, while fitting the budget and color scheme of the wedding.

Working with the seasons. What is seasonally available typically also is more affordable.  A display of forced spring bulbs (in recycled glass containers with vintage marbles) as a centerpiece demonstrated a seasonal option.

Considering the life of the centerpiece after the event. By using plants (such as the forced bulbs) as centerpieces, guests can take them home to enjoy for long after the wedding.  Alternatively, flowers can be donated to a retirement home or shelter.  Pollen can arrange to have your wedding flowers reused after the big day.

Supporting the community. Our display featured votive candles from Bright Endeavors, a local social enterprise working to break the cycle of poverty.

Working to reduce, reuse, and recycle.  We try not to buy more stuff if we don’t have to.

  • Pollen participates in Bright Endeavors’ votive refill program, in which they refill votive holders with soy wax for reuse.
  • Pollen will rent out containers for larger weddings, and otherwise offers a vase return program, in which clients (with prior agreement) can return unwanted vases from their wedding for a partial refund.
  • Pollen looks for alternatives to buying new.  The bridal bouquet in the display was wrapped with a vintage necktie, instead the usual satin ribbon.  Oh, and our table cover was upcycled from curtains and linens.

Special thanks to Kelly and Shannon for organizing Indie Wed; to Sarah (pictured below, on the right), who braved the crowds with me to be the face of Pollen; to Julie, who lent me her marbles (no joke); to Carla, who cut and folded paper for the display signage and handouts; and to Jessica and Peter of Matushek Photography, who took the photos!

FAQ’s: Can You Recommend a Green [insert wedding vendor type here]?

Sure!  I’m happy to recommend caterers, invitation designers, photographers, etc. that I’ve enjoyed working with, and share Pollen’s interest in greener weddings!  Putting together a little directory of other green wedding vendors that I know seemed like a simple idea.  After talking with the folks at Spilled Ink Press, we realized that this simple idea has a lot more potential.

And the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance was born!  The CGWA is a group of like-minded vendors who are working to encourage more mindful weddings and commitment ceremonies.  We’re putting together a directory and a website, planning a workshop on greener weddings, and planning a green wedding show/tour.

The CGWA has a core group of very involved founding members.  Our first task has been to figure out how to vet candidates for membership.  Until we finalize that procedure, let me direct you to the people who have been actively involved with founding the group.

InvitationsSpilled Ink Press, Tweedle Press

VenuesLogan Square Kitchen, West Loop Studio

CaterersCity Provisions, FIG Catering, Lula Cafe

JewelryGreen Diva Jewelry

FavorsKatherine Anne Confections

PhotographyChristina Noel Photography, Light on Life Images, Vrai

PlannersLisa Gordon Events

Gifts/RegistryUrban Worm Girl

If you’re a vendor interested in getting involved with the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance (or if you are involved and I forgot to list you here!), please contact me!  You can reach me by email at lynn (at)

Spilled Ink Press is a husband and wife team of former architects that now design custom wedding invitations, party invitations, stationery of all kinds, and greeting cards.

FAQ’s: Can we meet for a consultation?

Maybe!  Are you ready?

This question comes to mind now, because I’ve had a recent flurry of requests for consultations for weddings that are next year.  How do you know if you’re ready to meet with a florist?  Here’s one florist’s opinion…

I like to meet with clients once they have some of their planning underway.  Most importantly, you should have your wedding date selected.  You want to make certain that your florist has the date available to do your wedding flowers.  Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time (and theirs!), if they’re already booked for the date you end up selecting.  And without the date selected, you can’t count on your first-choice venue being available, either.  Having the venue secured allows the florist to make design choices that work in harmony with the space.

Also, it is most helpful if you already have an idea of the overall look you’re going for with your wedding.  Knowing the look or feel you’re trying to achieve will direct the conversation.  For example, are you trying for a romantic and traditional look, or something more modern and quirky?  The florist will be interpreting these looks through their flower selection and design.

Are you going to have a color scheme?  This is often led by the choice of the bridesmaids’ dresses.  If you are going to have a color scheme, make sure you know it before meeting with the florist, since the flower choices will likely be dictated by the color scheme.

Also, make sure your florist is best suited to provide the products and services you’re looking for.  I try to find out right away if we’ll be able to provide what the client is looking for.  Understand what a potential florist does–and does not–do well.

We’re a small company, and don’t do big over-the-top weddings.  Sure, we can do a 30 centerpiece reception, but if you’re looking for a one-stop place to create your look and transform a room, I suggest you look to an event design company such as Botanicals or Heffernan Morgan.  They can help you select linens, provide furniture, design the lighting, as well as provide beautiful flowers.  At Pollen, we don’t get into all of that.  We have just a few basic rental items, such as pedestals and larger vases.  Here, we generally stick to the flowers.

What we are best suited for is weddings in which the couple is trying to minimize their wedding’s environmental impact.  If a couple is planning a green wedding, I don’t hesitate to let them know that we are a likely good fit.  And I’m happy to provide references for other green wedding vendors as well, so if you’re looking for an eco-conscious caterer, invitation company, photographer, venue…  Let’s talk!

So, can we meet for a consultation?  If we’re available for your wedding date, if you have enough planning under your belt, and if it seems like we can do a good job providing what you’re looking for, then I’m happy to schedule the consultation!  Please give me a call at 773-387-1398 or shoot me an email at lynn (at) to schedule a consultation.