Behind The Willow & Bear Brand

Behind The Willow & Bear Brand

‘Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’

Image By Clare Coleman

When you are as old as I am the expectation when leaving school was to find a career that would be a ‘calling’ and a job that you would see out your work days with. Length of service was encouraged and acknowledged as a positive thing and people stayed in jobs when they were burnt out and unmotivated but, luckily times and attitudes have changed along with expectations of a work life balance.

Image By Rachel Wardley

The Plan

I left school without the best qualifications knowing that I wanted a professional career working in health. I moved away from home where I completed a health studies degree which was perhaps fate as it was at this time that I met ‘the other one’ and my life changed forever.

After 3 years studying, I went on to study further, completing a professional degree in Occupational therapy at University in York. Again, fate that I should select York to study and where I set up home with Matthew ‘the other one’. York remains home to this day and where you will still find the W&B studio and workshop.

Image By Amy Faith

A year later after setting up home we married and a year after that our first son was born. I continued working on my plan as an Occupational therapist and juggling work and family life with the arrival of our second son. But then it changed. I lost the spark of joy for my plan and I lost a little magic in myself. Whilst being someone’s mum I sought out activities to help me find something that was ‘me’ and that’s where I fell in love with flowers all over again but the time wasn’t right and becoming a wedding florist was only a dream.

Image By Clare Coleman

It was years later, after working in senior positions in the corporate world that a series of events led me to a time in my life where I must decide ‘now or never’ and I followed my dream and Willow and Bear Floral Design was born.

Making The Jump

I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. I had so much to learn (and I continue to learn every day), It was financially a strain leaving a well-paid role and going self-employed, I made many mistakes and I struggled so much with my confidence feeling like an imposter in the floristry world. But I knew it felt right and I hung on in there with the support of my amazing family and friends. I now realise that my experience was not unusual and I was not alone with many other wedding florists coming to their roles later in life.

‘The other one’ continued to be faithfully by my side encouraging me, guiding me and helping me to keep focus on how to turn a hobby into a business. He most definitely is my better half and I owe him so much for supporting me to follow my dream. Despite him having a ‘proper job’ you may find ‘the other one’ helping me at weddings as my biggest cheerleader and he’s pretty good with a dustpan and brush too!

I must also give a shout out to my boys who are very much part of the team helping where they can and always supporting me. And also, to a group of very special friends (you know who you are) who have my back with unbelievable support, advice and with the creation of incredible floral designs.

‘Team work makes the dream work’

What is it really like running a floristry business?

It is hard work both physically and mentally. At home we talk about work pretty much ALL THE TIME; I really do love my work that much. I often ache from lugging buckets of flowers around and standing for 12 hours straight prepping ingredients, it can be cold and too hot and I so wish I could be one of those wonderfully glamourous wedding florists that look pristine all the time (I’m definitely not) but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I am so proud of what has been achieved so far and there are so many exciting things ahead for W&B.

I get to work on some incredible projects with some wonderful couples and I often can’t believe my luck. I won’t lie I’m not a fan of the admin and ‘the other one’ will tell you that I am rubbish at doing my accounts but boy, the payback is when I hear how much couples have enjoyed their wedding experience and I have a little jump for joy! 

I’ll never be rich in monetary terms but I will definitely be rich with the warmth and happiness that I can share with others by creating their dream wedding.

Here we are now

So here we are. This is a rare sight of me & ‘the other one’ being pictured together trying to be serious.

My advice best advice is … life is for living so never be afraid to follow your dreams!

Things To Consider When Booking A Wedding Florist

Things To Consider When Booking A Wedding Florist

When should you book your wedding florist?

The short answer…

If flowers and the impact that they provide to the look and feel of your wedding day is important to you then I recommend that you book your florist right away!

As soon as you have found the florist that you trust to deliver your shared vision, then secure your wedding date and sit back and relax in the safe knowledge that you have an incredible team of suppliers working with you on your big day and let everything fall into place. Ideally for weddings taking place during peak summer wedding season (May to September) then, I would recommend booking your date with W&B around 12-24 months before your date.

Image by Amy Jordison

The long answer…

If you don’t book your florist immediately then it may not be too late. I do see couples book their weddings with 6 months or less to go before their big day leaving to fait if their date is still available. Planning florals and styling in a short amount of time is perfectly achievable as long as a couple has a clear vision on the look and feel they would like for their day, the ability to make quick decisions and of course if they have an experienced team of suppliers ready to support and guide along the way.

Why are flowers important?   

Now, obviously I may be biased about the importance of flowers but I truly believe that flowers are an integral part of a wedding day.

Image By Amy Faith

The history of flowers at weddings

The tradition of a bride carrying a bouquet of flowers stems back to Roman times when it was thought that carrying a bunch of flowers or wearing a flower garland signified new beginnings, fidelity and a hope of fertility. In the Middle Ages the smell of heavily scented flowers and herbs acted as a way to ward off and drive away evil spirits, bad luck and ill health. Nowadays the reasons for carrying flowers may be a little different but the beauty and romance that they add is nonetheless very special. 

Flowers that frame you

Flowers act as the most incredible backdrop for photographs framing a couple in a way that nothing else can match. They provide romantic styling and texture to soften areas of a venue that will benefit from a little extra detail. Flowers also provide an incredible scent to calm those wedding days nerves wrapping you in a warm floral hug.

Image By Chris Waud Photography

I also believe that using seasonal ingredients apart from better for the environment and your pocket, also helps to create incredible floral memories that will remind you of your wedding day each season as you see ‘your flowers’ appear in gardens or the shops.

Choosing seasonal ingredients

Well, in theory you could have peonies for your wedding in December – but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Image by Amy Faith

When I married ‘the other one’ many moons ago, I was desperate to have sweet peas in my bridal bouquet but unfortunately, they weren’t in season.  So, despite being a little disappointed I bowed to the experience of my wedding florist to make the right call on choosing ingredients that were readily available and which offered me the best quality.

Choosing seasonal flowers means that the flowers are fresher, often locally grown so the right environmental choice and also a better price per stem. If you were to buy peonies in December they would definitely be imported and often of a much lower quality and size as peonies are typically an early summer flower. They would also be incredibly expensive which means that you would be making an unnecessary hit on your floral budget. We have an abundance of wonderful ingredients in the UK that link you to the season that you are choosing to hold your wedding in so why wouldn’t you choose the ingredients that are in season!

A shared vision

There are many factors to consider when selecting your florist; availability, style, location, cost but when I work with couples my advice is always to ‘book the florist who really gets you’.

Obviously, I hope that is with me but I fully understand how important it is that both florist and couple share a clear vison for the day and if that isn’t me, then I get it. Some couples arrive with a clear vision of the look and feel that they want for their big day. Some couples are brought to me via wedding planners and stylists who are helping them to define their wedding scheme and others come to me with a rough idea but with no defined ideas or plans. All of these ways are absolutely fine so if you fall into the latter camp then please don’t worry, I will be there to hold your hand right up to the big day.

Image By Dani Lou

The one thing I am often told in my couple’s testimonies is that they found an instant connection with me with the confidence to put their trust in me to lead them through the array of choices and decisions that are part of planning a wedding. That is the part that is not easy to explain other than ‘you know when you know!’ and I feel forever grateful for couples who put their trust in me. 

Jen wrote ‘From the moment we first spoke it was like chatting with a friend. Helen listened to my blabbering and half formed ideas and was able to visualise them and help me sculpt them into the perfect florals and tablescapes for our wedding. Nothing was a hassle; she truly went above and beyond throughout the whole process and especially on the day.

For me this is what it’s all about; putting you at ease and putting my heart and soul into delivering more than you expect for your day so that it’s the best wedding day that you dreamt of!

Much love – Helen