Updated: Feb 5
Celebrating a marriage soon? Please accept our congratulations!
There are so many excellent reasons to choose locally grown flowers for your wedding day, from supporting small farms to choosing an option with a lower resource expenditure than traditional imported flowers. Having local flowers for your wedding is a moving touch, a way to associate a momentous life step with the rich beauty of the natural world and lend it specificity of place.
However, special touches take a little extra effort. But that doesn’t mean the process of sourcing local flowers has to be particularly hard. It’s merely a different buying experience than wedded-to-bes may be accustomed to.
This guide will help you understand how to find locally grown flowers for your day. It’s broken down into two sections: one for those who plan to arrange the flowers themselves and another for those who want to hire a florist. However, I’d suggest reading both sections, as you’ll find plenty of helpful information for yourself or to pass along to your vendors in both. And, of course, all of this information is applicable to events other than weddings!
Before you start, find out the floral season of your wedding location
Depending on where and when you’ll be tying the knot, which flowers will be available to you will vary widely. Most areas of the United States do not have year-long growing seasons, which means locally grown flowers will not be available in certain months. Here in central Virginia, our growing season typically lasts from mid April to mid October, the months when it is warm enough to induce growth and blooming. If your chosen farm grows in structures like hoop houses or greenhouses, their season may be a bit longer, even if they are in the same area, as these methods can artificially extend the growing season.
Typically, much colder areas will have a shorter (though no less abundant) growing season, while much warmer areas can provide flowers year round. (Hence why most American grown flowers come from California.)
Note that while a huge variety of flowers may not be available come winter, there are still options to source locally. Consider relying on evergreens and dried product to deck out your venue. Magnolia leaves, pine boughs, and dried berries and textural elements are themselves enough to put on a very classy show.
For DIY Flower Arrangers
Search for flower farms by zip code through this portal maintained by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG). All farms you’ll find here belong to the ASCFG. Members of this professional organization have access to a wealth of educational resources and a network of other growers, and membership status is usually a good indicator of professionalism and knowledge.
There are several platforms that can help you find and purchase local flowers by acting as hubs for growers and buyers alike. Rooted Farmers is one such website. Farms purchase a membership to the site to list their products there. Retail customers can sign up (for free) to browse and purchase flowers from small farms in their area, either directly from individual farms or from cooperatives/collectives that offer products from many farms simultaneously.
Buying from a cooperative or collective is a great way to expand your potential selection of items. Small farms grow a huge variety of items, but not all farms grow the same thing. Some farms even specialize in a limited variety of crops. Collectives pool the products of multiple farms, potentially giving you many more options than one single farm may be able to offer. You can visit some such co-ops in person, such as the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, but many exist online for now, and many can be found via independent websites and/or platforms like Rooted Farmers.
Flowers are a hyper visual product, and every grower I personally know maintains a social media presence to show off the extraordinary beauty of their flowers. Check the popular platforms for growers in your area, or at least use them as a secondary source for researching farms you find through other avenues. This will help you get a sense of whether they’re currently active and what sort of items they grow.
Make Sure “Local” is What You Want “Local” to Be
Some caveats about finding locally grown flowers. Just because flowers are grown locally does not mean that they are free from chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or any of the other harmful things you are likely trying to avoid by purchasing from a small farm in the region of your ceremony. Make sure to read whatever information a farm volunteers about their growing practices and really scrutinize it. “Sustainable” farming is a spectrum of practices, and there’s no regulation of that label. There are a lot of nuances here. Sometimes the lack of a label like “organic” is not a bad thing, either. The safest bet is to read a farm’s policies where available or to ask the farmer. You can find our current growing practices here, where they will be updated as we implement new and better practices here at Eleusinia.
There’s no prize for “most sustainable” farm, and many of the agricultural practices employed by ecologically-minded farms like ours require research and adjustment to implement. You are already doing better by trying to pick a farm that’s doing things in a way that supports the ecosystem. Don’t fret over trying to choose the “most” eco-friendly of all! There are many things we currently do at Eleusinia that we would like to move away from because we want to push our standards ever higher. Sometimes it’s just a matter of funds or manpower. Many farms are doing the same, and it’s most important that we all do our best to educate ourselves and improve one step at a time.
For Those Working with a Florist
Local flowers don’t have to be do-it-yourself. This is a misconception we sometimes see, and we farmers may have our own selves to blame since most of us offer DIY packages. However, many of us also (or primarily) sell our products to florists.
As you shop around for a florist, ask about their experience with using local product. You can absolutely request that they use only locally grown flowers and greens where appropriate! Indeed, a growing number of florists source product exclusively or substantially from local farms. The Flowry is (at the time of writing) a relatively new website that can direct you to such vendors across the United States. However, just because a vendor doesn’t appear on the site doesn’t mean they don’t work with local goods. If your florist is unfamiliar with using local flowers, share the information within this post to help them locate suppliers.
BUT BEFORE YOU DO! There are some things that all parties should be aware of before choosing to flower their event with local product.
You may not be able to be as selective as you would like about which flowers will appear in your arrangements. The seasonality of blooms limits what is available in your region at the time of your wedding. While we can grow sweet peas here in Virginia, we cannot grow them in August no matter what tricks we employ. Whereas a traditional florist may be able to source sweet peas in August, that’s because they are receiving flowers from all over the world! However, what is sacrificed in particularity is regained in having amazingly fresh and strong flowers.
Florists may have to do some extra work to secure locally grown items, and they may not be able to at all. We happen to be fortunate enough to grow in an area of the country with quite a number of small farms and resources for buying their products. That may not be true for your region. If you are unable to find any farms in your area, it may be the case that there aren’t any or they are fewer in number. Some small farms will ship product; a few such resources can be found on The Flowry as well.
Locally grown flowers aren’t necessarily less expensive flowers. Imported flowers are often cheaply produced and cheaply sold. They are grown in industrial farm situations at huge scale which, while efficient, usually means high use of pesticides and fertilizers to maximize usable stems. Moreover, workers are not paid decent wages. By purchasing local and sustainable, you are supporting at least minimum wages, bolstering a revivified movement in agriculture, and paying back the ecosystem for the floral goodies it has nurtured.
If your florist is already familiar with working with local product, they will have experience navigating the unique processes. Hopefully it will be both fun and educational for everyone!
Smell the Flowers
There's so much to love about local. One of the many things lost in imported flowers is their smell. Locally grown flowers–they smell amazing. Smell is critical to forming memories, so remember the hallowed moment bathed in the beautiful smells, colors, textures, and movements of flowers close to your heart.