Helena Brown is an award winning wedding florist creating wedding flowers from her studio in Northamptonshire
I’m delighted to introduce you to Northamptonshire florist Helena Brown, owner of By Arrangement Flowers. I have known Helena for over four years now as a regular exhibitor at our wedding fairs and during that time I’ve seen her decorate more than a few fireplaces and top tables, always creating something truly stunning to inspire our brides.
Based in Barton Seagrave, Helena offers her floristry services across the East Midlands region and into Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire.
How long have you been doing what you do now? By Arrangement was founded in 1986 but I’ve been involved in solely weddings and events since 2013
Tell us something about your background and how you got into this business I had a passion for flowers and all things creative – floristry was a hobby since my early 20’s. After working in computing and IT both in the food manufacturing industry and as a Lecturer in Further Education I wanted a change. More specifically I wanted to do something that tapped into my creative passion. I have created bouquets and decor for weddings for close friends over the years and this brought such joy that it seemed the obvious sector to look at. I have a large collection of botanical drawings and books – all started from a visit to Chatsworth House when I was 19 where I saw some fabulous examples. So alongside my love of watercolour painting, embroidery – my floristry completes the circle of flowery creativity! This is what I am meant to be doing and I don’t think I will ever stop!
What range of services do you offer? Wedding party flowers, venue and church decor, gift flowers, new baby flowers, sympathy and funeral flowers, business reception area flowers. Hire of some wedding hardware such as easels, post box, large mechanics for creating bespoke and unique decor. Consultation and advice regarding all things wedding.
How did you choose the name for your business? I love the play on words – it fits in so many ways!! Plus, I want to convey the quality of my product – quality and bespoke does not have to mean expensive!! Whilst I haven’t supplied florals to any member of the Royal family, “By Arrangement” conveys quality.
How would you describe your style? Eclectic. English country garden – whether a cottage or a stately home with a contemporary edge. Whether it’s a barn, garden, stately home or modern converted industrial building I love matching the flowers to a huge variety of styles.
What do you love most about your job? Meeting the couples and getting to know them and being able to see their faces when they see their flowers. I of course adore working with the blooms and the creative part of my job but the joy and happiness couples express when they see their wedding flowers makes my day!
What do you like least about your job? There isn’t a great deal that I don’t like to be honest, but if I had to choose something it would be the heavy lifting and carrying. This can be on delivery day of the flowers or on set up day at a venue. Sometimes the reception room is a long way from the car – and with 12 tables with mirror plates, tealights, candelabra, candles and of course flowers – there is a lot of walking and lifting!! But I am lucky – I have a fabulous team to help with that bit of the job!!
Does the responsibility of your job ever scare you and why? Strangely no!! So many people say “gosh the responsibility of doing the bridal flowers…….. I couldn’t do that”. But I have never felt that – I am always excited to get started. I am confident I can interpret ideas and wishes expressed, and once I have handled and seen the blooms during the conditioning process my fingers are tingling and I am excited to get started.
What’s the most stressful moment of your job? The thing I find most stressful is the thought of being in the church say, armed with my snippers and wearing my apron whilst guests start to arrive!!! It’s irrational – but the thought of that stresses me out!!! So in order to prevent it happening I plan set up day meticulously and and so much contingency that I always aim to be long gone and all finished at least 2 hours before the ceremony. That’s the only way to deal with the bits that stress you – eliminate!
What’s the most rewarding moment of your job? There are several. Looking back over my shoulder as we finish setting up a reception room – it’s a breathtaking moment! But delivery of the bouquet to the bride is up there – a tearful bride when she sees her bouquet for the first time makes me fill up too!! Often there is a make up artist shoving a tissue into the brides’ hand – but happy tears are lovely to witness! At the end of the whole process, receiving thank you cards and reviews is obviously rewarding too.
What preparation do you have to do before a wedding? There is of course the consultation, quote and booking process which takes a few weeks working closely with couples. Then based on what has been agreed I contact members of my team and “book” them for set up or preparation of flowers. But in terms of the day itself a typical Saturday wedding begins on a Monday for me. I make detailed plans – flower counts; hardware lists; sundry lists.
Then on Tuesday I am cleaning and polishing hardware and packing these sparkly items ready for transport to the venue. Wednesday is ordering day and I am on the auction on the dot of 2pm when it opens, armed with my spreadsheet and order the flowers. The following day they arrive in huge crates.
So flower buckets are bleached and cleaned and filled with flower food and water and every single stem is cut and conditioned and placed carefully in the buckets. Once they have had at least 24 hours to drink the creative bit can start – this takes 1 or 2 days in total. Wedding day is then set up day so the car(s) is packed with hardware, flowers and team and off we go.
The day after the wedding we go back to pick the hardware up and bring it home for cleaning and return to storage. And then it is Monday again!!! During a busy summer this is my life and I love it!
How do you start your day when you’re working a wedding? Tea!!! As a Yorkshire lass it has to be tea!
How do you end the day when you’ve worked a wedding? A lovely bubble bath with a glass of something bubbly and snuggling in bed with either a book or my cross stitch.
What’s your ‘must pack’ essential item in your wedding kit? Scissors. It is a well known fact that you’re not a proper florist unless you constantly lose your scissors!! I’ve thrown them in my green waste bin whilst conditioning, left them in the loos at a venue. I find them all over the place – it’s a bit like most people are with pens. But the wedding flower world is impossible without scissors!!
If you could give one piece of advice to couples for choosing a vendor in your category, what would it be? Build a relationship with the vendor. You need your vendor to be invested in your wedding dream as much as you are. Of course I need to earn a living – but I can honestly say that the investment in my couple is more important. That relationship is so important – if you can’t make that connection and feel their investment in you – move on.
What things make your job a bit easier at a wedding? Having my wonderful team around me. But also meeting fabulous staff at venues – there are some places that are truly exceptional. It is that investment again – they are well trained, highly skilled and have the same goal as myself.
What’s your favourite memory from a wedding you’ve worked? Being sought out by the father of the bride whilst I was packing up to leave a venue to help him put on his buttonhole. He was so relaxed and chatted about how thrilled he was with how I had helped his daughter and ultimately him to manage elements of the wedding – it was a particularly tricky one as his daughter and his wife and polar opposite wishes for the day and I managed to combine the two – flowers for mum and spark plugs for daughter. Yes really! But it all came together like a dream and he was chuffed. To have that quiet moment doing something for him that was quite personal and him taking the time to thank me at length. Lovely memory.
What’s the scariest moment you’ve had at a wedding? It has happened only once. When the entire set up that had to take place before I dressed the tables for a marquee wedding fell apart. Usually when a marquee is used it is erected on a Thursday before a Saturday wedding. I arrived on the morning of the wedding (which was at 12 mid day) to find that the marquee was still being erected. The floor had to go in, the large candelabra had to be constructed, the carpet needed to be laid, the tables needed to be placed and set. I was there at the crack of dawn with flowers and hardware and I couldn’t do a thing but wait. This kind of links in with my one fear you asked about earlier!! I couldn’t avoid cutting it fine this particular day. But we did it. Scary is being impacted by suppliers and organisation that isn’t like your own and being unable to do anything about it.
If you could work a celebrity’s wedding, who would it be and why? (past or present) Holly Willoughby. OK I know she’s married but she could renew her vows! I love her style and she’s girly girl and adores flowers and all things romantic. A bridal florist’s dream!
11 Fun Facts About Helena
Do you have a nickname and if so what is it? H. Short and sweet. I assume it’s short for Helena or I hope so!!
When you were small what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to have a shop like Emily in Bagpuss. Showing my age!
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing? I think I would still be teaching.
What do you do to unwind? I love reading and cross stitch.
Can you cook and if so what is your speciality? I adore cooking. Always have from being tiny. I’ve been lucky enough to attend some fabulous cookery schools too. My friends keep threatening me with Masterchef. I’d love to do it but a normal year of weddings wouldn’t allow the time!! I could have done it this year as it happens – but we didn’t expect this to go on quite so long! My speciality is anything modern British – I love fine dining and replicating things I’ve tasted.
What’s your favourite tipple? Amaretto. On the rocks. Bliss.
Favourite holiday? A two week spa break in Wales. Seriously. I don’t need sun, sea and sand!
What are you reading at the moment? I founded a facebook book club during lockdown – we are about to start 100 years of solitude by Marquez. I’ve read it before but it’s the kind of book you can read again. But I’ reading Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi at the moment.
Favourite ‘Quality Street’ Strawberry Cream
Marmite – love or hate it? Adore it!
Most famous person you’ve ever met? Princess Diana
What is the booking procedure at By Arrangement?
What’s the usual procedure for booking your services? Set up a consultation – no obligation to continue with me and it’s free. Once the consultation is done I can prepare a detailed quote. If you wish to go ahead with By Arrangement we convert that into a contract. I recognise this takes time so your date is held for you. The contract relates to the date and NOT the content – this can be tweaked and changed right up to me ordering the flowers.
Do you take a deposit and if so how much? No
How does your payment process work? Do you offer instalments or a payment plan? I usually finalise things with the couple 8-6 weeks before the wedding and send invoices out 4 weeks before for payment up to 2 weeks before the wedding date. However, if couples prefer to pay in instalments this can be arranged.
What’s the best way for couples to communicate with you – phone, text, email? All three! But text and email is good if I’m busy flowering!!
Do you have a cancellation policy and if so how does that work? If a couple cancel outside of 6 months before the wedding there is no charge. Between 6 months and 3 months there is a 25% charge of the total cost of the contract. Between 3 to 1 month there is a 50% charge and within 1 month there is 100% charge. HOWEVER, realistically I would take each case on its own merit.