Love in Bloom: Tom Sebenius Talks Weddings and Floral Design

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Left to right: Tom Sebenius and his business partners, Nicole Spector and Brian McNamara.

Left to right: Tom Sebenius and his business partners, Nicole Spector and Brian McNamara

Love is in the air, and we’re anticipating hundreds of couples hosting weddings and wedding-related events at the Garden this year.

And while brides and grooms enjoy their day of pampering, pledging, and partying, the run-up to the big day is often accompanied by pressure and panic. That’s where the wedding professional steps in with creative solutions, a willingness to compromise, and the ability to keep calm.

We sat down with New York City wedding floral design expert and NYBG instructor Tom Sebenius to learn more about designing for this most memorable day built around romance, personal preferences, and utmost attention to detail.

“Couples have so many options that being chosen to provide the flowers for their special day is a real honor,” Sebenius said.

NYBG: What are your favorite types of wedding arrangements to design?

Sebenius: I absolutely love making the bridal bouquet. It’s the most personal and usually the most photographed flower component of the wedding, so it’s important that it’s perfect and it meets the bride’s expectations.

An orchid arrangement for a Louis Vuitton event

An orchid arrangement for a Louis Vuitton event

NYBG: The wedding budget is a hot topic. According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, the average cost of a New York City wedding is $76,687. Are people spending more on florals, or are they tightening their budgets?

Sebenius: Customers looking to stay on budget find that their expectations are not always in line with what they desire.  This could be due to Pinterest and wedding blogs, which post fabulous photos of amazing events without any indication of the cost. Therefore, I always ask for a budget before we start talking about design to avoid making suggestions that are outside of a client’s expense range. There are lots of articles on ways to cut the flower budget with DIY centerpieces, but I find that most couples want to enjoy their day and recognize that making their own flowers could seriously prevent them from doing that. I do try to innovate for my clients. Some truly gorgeous blooms offer high impact, so I might recommend these florals and their “bang for the buck” factor. Vanda orchids, for example, come in such unique colors and patterns that just a few blooms popped into a lush arrangement can make a big impression.

NYBG: What are the top three things Floral Design students should remember when creating floral arrangements for weddings or other events?

Orchids make wedding floral arrangements stand out

Orchids make wedding floral arrangements stand out

Sebenius: First, this job is an honor and a privilege, and we should never allow ourselves to be jaded or overlook this fact. Second, remember to “be prepared.” Have extra flowers available and think of all the possible dilemmas that might occur. You can’t predict every scenario, but at least having your tools, product, and wits about you are vital. Last, keep smiling. When setting up an event, it’s often easy to become stressed, overwhelmed, or annoyed by some detail, but try your best not to let it show. If you appear agitated, your clients will notice, and they will worry. You never want the customer to feel any stress or unneeded angst. Keep a smile on your face and a “can do” attitude at all times, and everything will be okay. 

NYBG: As a private business owner, what’s one piece of advice you would share with someone venturing out on his or her own?

Sebenius: First and foremost, be brave. It took me a long time to decide to venture out with my own business. I was very nervous, but it has been worth every sleepless night. The feeling of accomplishment is unbelievably rewarding. Talent and experience will propel you and your work, but work ethic is what will attract customers. Give your patrons a reason to be loyal, and you’ll find success.

Tom Sebenius helped create the floral masterpieces for the Tournament of Roses Parade in his native Pasadena, California, for more than 20 years. Sebenius and his partners, Brian McNamara and Nicole Spector, recently opened The Arrangement Floral Design and Events, a studio in New York City specializing in wedding and events, and corporate arrangements. See his upcoming classes at NYBG.

Check out NYBG’s Top 10 Wedding Floral Design classes coming up this May and June.

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