By Paulette Cohn for Project Wedding
Mark Held is considered by many to be the "florist of the stars." He has created the decor for such high-profile weddings as Fergie and Josh Duhamel, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz, Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley, Heidi Klum and Seal, as well as Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale.
For the past 16 years, Mark's Garden® also has been the exclusive florist of the Academy Awards® Governors Ball. In early 2008, he published his first book, Fabulous Parties, co-written with partner Richard David and Hollywood caterer Peggy Dark of The Kitchen. Now projectwedding.com sits down with Held to get his advice on wedding flowers and more.
When you first sit down with a bride to talk about the floral arrangements for her wedding, what is the most important information you need to get?
MARK HELD: First, I get an overview. Obviously where it is, when it is, how many guests it is. I get all of those details down. Then I want to get the numbers: How many bridesmaids, how many men, anybody who would be receiving flowers. That information gives me some idea of what we are talking about in terms of the scope of the wedding. After that, I try to find out what direction the bride wants to go. Does she want it romantic? Does she want it traditional?
All those details make a big difference. For example, if the wedding is indoors, or the wedding is outdoors, what time of year or what time of the day it is. Those factors all affect the overall design and what type of flowers we will use.
What is the difference between indoor wedding and outdoor wedding flowers?
MARK HELD: If someone is getting married in September in the San Fernando Valley outdoors, and it is a 6 p.m. invitation with 3 p.m. photos, you have to be aware that it is going to be boiling hot. You need to take that into consideration. Whereas if you are indoors, you are probably air conditioned. Whether it is daytime or evening makes a big difference as to how the flowers will be lighted. The time of year makes a big difference because of the availability of certain flowers. A lot of the flowers now are grown and available pretty much year 'round, but some are not. That can affect the overall look, too.
What are some of the new trends in wedding flowers?
MARK HELD: We are doing a lot of centerpieces in glass, a little bit less in silver. We are doing a lot of all-white, very contemporary designs, which are maybe not quite as romantic as we were doing a few years ago. Although, we certainly do a lot of both, but there are a lot of clients who want a very stylized, modern look. Brides are into themes so much now. There are so many magazines and Web sites for them to look at now and they are all looking for something a little bit different.
You have done a lot of celebrity weddings. Is there any way a non-celebrity bride can get a celebrity-look on a tighter budget?
MARK HELD: Yes, of course. You can get a great look. What people have a hard time accepting sometimes -- they look at all these magazines and they see these totally over-the-top weddings -- you have to accept the fact that if you are on a limited budget, you are not going to get that wedding. You can take elements from it, and the drama from it, and create your own look. That is the direction you have got to go. I think it is best for brides to be really honest with their florist and say, "I have $5,000 to spend, I have this many guests and this is what I would like." Bring in some tearsheets -- that never hurts. Your florist can tell you, "You can do that or a version of that, or you are dreaming." I am usually pretty frank with brides. If they tell me something that I cannot deliver, I am going to let them know that upfront, because I don't want to say, "Okay, you are going to get this fabulous wedding," and the day of, it is not what she is expecting. The brides need to be straight-forward and honest as to budget. And those of us doing flowers need to say, "We can do that, or we can't do that."
Are there certain flowers that are considered romantic; or others that can be labeled as whimsical?
MARK HELD: Some of it has to do with how they are put together and designed. Romantic flowers tend to be perhaps a little bit softer looking flowers. For example, garden roses and hydrangea are considered very romantic, as are softer colors, such as pale pinks, mauves and buttery tones. You might call those romantic looks. I would say whimsical would be things like sunflowers, Gerberas or that type of playful look. Then more contemporary or high-style flowers tend to be things like calla lilies, the small calla lilies and orchids.
Can you talk about the floral arrangements you created for a few of your celebrity weddings?
MARK HELD: For Ellen's wedding, it was very interesting: the colors were very limited and unique. We used amnesia roses, which is sort of a taupe-gray color. It is a new rose that hasn't been around much. We also used a very dusty-rose garden rose -- I don't remember the name of that one offhand -- and grayish hydrangeas. The centerpieces for that were very romantic. They had a pinkish cast -- pink and gray -- it was antique looking. It was very unusual and quite nice.
For Fergie's wedding, the flowers were all white. She wanted a fantasy wedding. She wanted the look of an enchanted garden, so we created giant trees for the ceremony and filled them with roses. We did the same thing for the reception. We created these 15-20-foot-tall trees and they were placed around the tent and then the flowers were all-white roses, calla lilies and hydrangeas.
Brides with big budgets who do not live in the L.A. area can hire you, is that correct? You have traveled to do weddings?
MARK HELD: Yes. We will go anywhere. We have a wedding for 450 people in Texas the last weekend of this month. We do travel a lot. That is costly because we have to send a crew and ship in flowers and props and candelabras and things like that. It is expensive to do that, especially if it is a large-scale wedding.
Is there somewhere that brides can go and look to get ideas for their weddings from your designs?
MARK HELD: The best site for ideas on weddings is marksgarden.com
Can some of the ideas from your book Fabulous Parties be used for weddings?
MARK HELD: Oh, definitely. Fabulous Parties is basically 20 parties and it is food and flowers and design concepts for those flowers. The approach to the book, which is my approach to weddings, too, is to come up with a theme that ties everything together. That is what we have done. There is a pink party, a ladies lunch, all different types and styles of parties. Brides need to think along those lines. They need to think along the lines of: How do I want this wedding to look? Do I want it to be a daytime East Coast garden event? Think about how the pictures are going to look. How the gown is going to look. How the flowers are going to look. Do I want to have vivid color? Do I want to have a wild party? Do I want it to be hot pink and orange? I don't want to have my mother's wedding, which was a romantic, all-white wedding. I want to have maybe a very small wedding and a huge party, for example. The book is designed to put people in the frame of mind of thinking when they entertain -- and, let's face it, a wedding is entertaining, too -- to have a point of view that ties the flowers, the linens, the invitations, the dresses, and everything together, so the money you are spending actually is well spent because it helps to create an overall feeling. If you don't have an overall point of view, you can spend a lot of money for things that are not the theme.
Do the flowers that the bridal party carries have to match the flowers at the reception?
MARK HELD: Not necessarily. It is great if the whole thing ties together. That would be perfect if your wedding ceremony and reception tie together, or one is a version of the other. Usually, you are moving from one area to another. We do an awful lot of weddings that are all-white ceremonies and then very colorful receptions. When people walk into the room, it is like this whole surprise. It is not really necessary that the ceremony and reception be the same. You do have to make sure that the bridesmaids' bouquets match what you are doing for the rest of the ceremony because the bridesmaids are in so many pictures, you don't want it to clash with your overall look.
Is there any advice that you have for brides that we haven't asked you?
MARK HELD: There are a couple of rules: You want to meet with your florist. It is really great if you have seen work that your florist has done. If you have actually been to a wedding they have done. You want to work with somebody you are comfortable with that seems to get excited about your wedding. Whether it is $100,000 or a $2,500 wedding, you want to speak to somebody you think is going to deliver, has ideas and listens to you. Is not just telling you what to do, but listens to you and bases the designs on what you want. We always provide a centerpiece to look at to make sure we are on the right track with a bride. That puts a bride in a good place when she sees the centerpiece and she is happy with that. She gets the idea that this guy really understands what I am talking about. She feels comfortable. Be honest about dollars and try to work it that way.
Do you have a fantasy event -- such as a celebrity wedding, or maybe the inauguration -- that you would like to do?
MARK HELD: Nothing. I am so lucky as a florist. I get so many extremely interesting jobs to do: A birthday party for 20 ladies this weekend in Montecito for $20,000; next week, we have Valentine's Day, the week after that we have the Oscars. It is always challenging for me and it is always exciting. I am always looking forward to the next event. It is really very unusual to have that many challenges and opportunities to create great things out of flowers and I love flowers. I don't feel that there is something out there that I haven't done that I feel that I want to do, because, honestly, I get to really great things.