What It’s Really Like to Be a Wedding Florist (& Insta Queen)

In our 9–5 series, we ask boss babes what a day on the job entails. This week, Toronto florist and Instagram queen Tellie Hunt, owner of Hunt and Gather, gives us a glimpse into her daily grind

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Tellie Hunt in a red dress

(Photo credit: TJ Tindale)

Age: 25

Education: I started working at a flower shop when I was 14, that’s how I learned to be a florist and then I refined my skills with classes from the Little Flower School in New York.

Length of time as a professional florist: 11 years

When did you realize you had an eye for what makes a great floral arrangement?

I’ve always had an eye for what is a higher-end arrangement. I could  recognize a very modern wedding and know what’s nice and not nice about it, no matter what style it was. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always looked at wedding magazines on my lunch breaks.

So what key elements actually make a floral arrangement sophisticated?

Using words like “sophisticated” or “well done” are so tricky because, for instance with my designs, I could say that I work on using negative space and making them three dimensional, but that’s not necessarily to say that florists who have a more modern, compact design style aren’t sophisticated. It’s all a matter of personal opinion and style. Something’s that not well done could look messy, I guess? It’s hard because I don’t want to insult other design styles that are great for their own reasons.

It kind of sounds like how there’s no way to describe what makes “good art.”

I look at floral designs in the same way that I would with sculptures or painting. Technically I am painting with flowers and three-dimensional form. Every flower I put in is like a brush stroke.

Photo of a flower bouquet, arranged by Toronto florist Tellie Hunt

(Photo credit: Whitney Heard)

What do people not realize about what it takes to be a florist?

All the background work that you have to do, like the quoting and emails. I’m at the computer 80 percent of the time and also, people don’t realize how taxing it is on your body—lifting 50-lb buckets of water and flowers, carrying deliveries and boxes of centrepieces through kitchens. I’ve got a lot of back problems from doing this as long as I have.

Since you’ve been doing this for more than a decade, has your style evolved or is it fairly consistent?

I think I started with more of the fad at the time, which was really tight, ball-shaped arrangements. I eventually went super wildflower, with a really fluffy look as if they had just been picked out of a field. Then I started refining it to more of a Dutch painting sort of style.

How do you make sure that your designs stand out against other florists?

I don’t try to stand out per se, I just do what I love and the design style that I’m best at. People either love it or they don’t and that’s just kind of how it is.

How do you get inspiration for your arrangements?

Mostly Instagram and Pinterest at this point, and knowing florists all over the world that inspire me.

Yeah, it seems like social media is a huge part of this industry. How big of a component is it for your business?

I’ve booked international weddings and I’ve been on TV because of Instagram. My following on Instagram (as of press time, 14,7000 followers) has booked me about 50 weddings, about the same amount I had within my first month of business at my store, Hunt and Gather (which opened in Toronto in January).

How do you set yourself apart from other florists on Instagram?

I use a professional camera so I make sure the quality is consistent. I also work on having a nice grid and making sure that everything I post is integral to my brand. I’m very selective.

What are your work hours like?

Weddings typically happen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so I’m closed on Mondays and then Tuesday I start all over again. But in wedding season, you don’t stop until the work is done. I literally worked 32 hours in two days last week.

What’s a typical day like?

Part of the reason why I love what I do is that every day is completely different. Tuesdays I usually go out and buy flowers, then we have to take all the leaves off, cut the plants and put them into buckets of water. Wednesday, we usually work on centrepieces, Thursday is usually larger-scale pieces, Friday is boutonnieres and bridal bouquets and then Saturday is delivery.

How would you describe your clientele?

My clientele is probably millennials, like 25 to 35. I’m really in the wedding market, I work with them throughout their process and once they get married, I start doing their flowers for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, housewarming, and others. Once you do somebody’s wedding, you just become their florist for life and celebrate all those occasions with them.

Related: Move Over, Peonies! The Hottest Bridal Blooms for 2017

Speaking of events, are there certain holidays that are huge for you?

I am mostly a wedding florist, but definitely the biggest floral holiday is Mother’s Day. Unlike Valentine’s Day, most people have a mother figure and a lot of them will buy something for their mom, their wife and their wife’s mom. So men are walking out with three bouquets instead of one for Valentine’s Day. So Mother’s Day is number one, then Valentine’s Day, and then wedding season from May to October is insane. It’s like Valentine’s Day every week.

Given that you’re working with flowers and plants, do your designs change from season to season?

The flowers will change, but my design style is [constant]. I always try and work with local flowers and in the summer, I have family members and friends who have properties where I can go and cut down foliage. I work with as much local stuff as I can, but it’s definitely harder in the winter.

How do you match your arrangements to different events or clients?

I think people are calling me because they want my style, it’s not really the other way around. Like I don’t change my style per arrangement. Colour wise, obviously if it’s a piece for a funeral, I’m not going to go with brighter colours or really dark colours, but that’s pretty much the only thing I can think that would change things. If clients are looking for a really compact and tight design style, I would recommend that they go with a florist that specializes in that style.

Bridal bouquets, arranged by Toronto florist Tellie Hunt

(Photo credit: Ally and Nicolas)

What’s your best advice for making an arrangement last as long as possible?

The most important thing is giving your flowers a fresh cut and changing their water every few days. Another thing is, if you’re say getting a bouquet of tulips, you need to take the leaves off the stem that’s in water. If you have leaves inside the water, that’s creating bacteria and that will make the flowers die quicker.

Are you seeing any trends with what people are asking for lately?

I think my style is the trend right now—doing garden-inspired, loose, organic, free-flowing arrangements with a lot of movement. That’s in style and that’s what I do best. The trend with colour this year is going more with a mood as opposed to a set colour palette. So instead of a bride coming in saying she wants pink and white, she’ll say she wants an ethereal feel and that could include soft pink, butter yellow and pale lilac.

What’s the most memorable event you’ve worked on?

I’ve done flowers for Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I’m also working on chic wedding in Brooklyn, New York for a bride who found me on Instagram, which is really exciting.

What is your favourite flower to work with?

Right now, my favourite spring flower is Fritillaria.

And your least?

Gerbera daisies.

What’s the best part of your day?

It’s nice when I get a good size piece to work on and I get to be creative with it and take my time. That doesn’t happen on a daily basis, but that’s my favourite part.

On the flip side, what’s the worst part of your day?

Probably cleaning out old buckets of mouldy flowers.

What advice do you have for people considering being a florist?

It takes a lot of hard work and passion. It’s not meant for someone who just wants to give it a shot. You have to eat, sleep and breath flowers to be successful in this industry. It’s not just a weekend job. It’s best to intern for a bit and make sure it’s for you. Once you’ve interned and learned some basic skills, you can take classes to refine those skills at places like Bloom School in Toronto.

What the key to taking an interest in flower arranging to a full-time business?

People actually need to have industry experience and learn the ins and outs before they just launch into being florists. I find a lot of people these days who don’t have that experience end up quoting people for flowers that aren’t available or charging a lot less than they should.

How do you unwind at the end of your work week?

Gin—and maybe a hot bath with some rose petals.

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