Winter Wedding Floral Trends With Owen Lavin of Little Lillies
Planning a last-minute winter wedding in 2023, or going all out with a lavish winter wedding next year? Whatever your winter wedding dreams, Owen Lavin - founder of Little Lillies floral sculptures and owner of Exclusively Weddings floristry, has some fantastic tips and experiences to share in today's Q&A.
Owen Lavin is a Floral Sculptor with over 20 years' experience using the artistic side of floristry to create amazing wedding displays. He is the founder of Little Lillies and has recently also acquired and runs Exclusively Weddings - two established wedding floristry businesses based in Hampshire. Owen frequently works on amazing displays for our hotel weddings at Careys Manor, often drawing inspiration from the enchanting New Forest and bringing our wedding packages to life.
Welcome to the blog Owen! First, we want to know how you got here… Have you always dream of being a florist?
Fantastic question to start with! Originally, I dreamt of being a chef, and at the ripe old age of 13 I was fortunate enough to get a job at La Poussin in Brockenhurst working under chef Alex Aiken – I was quick to learn the unsociable hours weren’t for me.
I then continued my hobby of drawing and painting, with the hope of one day becoming an artist. But, eventually I dropped out of my BA in fine art and sculpture – like most little boys, to fulfil the dream of becoming a millionaire – and made my way through a few business ideas. First, I purchased a donut business (Little O’s), then a fruit and veg shop (Little Tomato’s)… Little did I know, aged 23, that turning over a million doesn’t actually mean you’ve made it. I always found myself wanting to go back to my art and sculpture. So, six months later I bought a shop three doors down from the fruit and veg stop I ran, and Little Lillies was born.
How long have you been in the industry for now?
Although we sold flowers in the fruit and veg shop, I would say my career as a florist didn’t really start until Little Lillies opened, which was in the year 2000. So, yes, 23 years!
What do you love most about being a florist?
In the shop days, my guilty pleasure was opening the doors at 6am to the scent of Chrysanthemum. What a way to start the day! But now, it’s not about that; as shallow as it may sound, for me it is all about the responses to the work created, like the happy tears when showing a bride her bouquet, or – the one that gets me every time – the gasps you hear as people enter a room you’ve decorated.
What are your top 5 seasonal flowers for winter weddings and why?
Over the years this has changed quite a bit – a few years back, I loved Amaryllis, but at the moment Anemone takes the top spot. It’s the white variation that does it for me, with its grey/blue eye. That said, from December as we go into the frostier winter months, it’s all about those petals on the Rosa – the quality and variety of roses today is the best it’s ever been, so you really can’t leave them out. Brunia (grey ball-like flowers) look fantastic when going for an all-white winter wedding theme; Echeveria – ok, it is a plant – (and not a succulent as some call them, although they are closer to a Cactus than a succulent) and yes they are a bit over used now but the powdery grey almost looks frosted which is beautiful in a winter setting. The fact that you can pull a petal off, place it on moist soil, and have another plant growing in 3 weeks is fascinating!
Which flowers would you say survive best in central heating conditions?
Ah, there’s nothing worse than seeing a bouquet sat on a shelf above radiator that’s on at 30 degrees! Of course flowers are never going to last as long as we’d like them to, however as a general rule of thumb you should bear in mind where a flower is from and what time of year it flowers. Anything tropical that naturally likes hot temperatures i.e. Orchids and Anthurium should last well in heated rooms. But again, I come back to an old favourite – there is nothing better than an Amaryllis, with its 80cm stem; place three in a tall cylinder vase at different heights, and the flowers will enjoy opening in the heat of central heating and will look fantastic! You get a lot of flower for your money too with this one.
You mentioned some old trends are working their way back into weddings this year… What are your trend predictions for 2024 winter weddings?
Yes, I was presented with a picture of white Arum Lily staggered with folded Aspidistra a few months back, and was asked if could I make it. It was an over-arm bouquet – which I used to say you hold like a baby – and it was the same design as possibly one of my very first bridal bouquets which I made back in 2002!
I think most florists would agree, we would all like to think we would know what next year will bring to us in terms of design trends; but, I would say more often than not it will just be the reappearance of what have we haven’t seen for a while.
We’ve had years of powdery grey Eucalyptuses as foliage, which makes even the brightest flower blend into a more pastel shade. If I had to guess a trend, I do kind of feel that we may start making a move to darker, more solid green foliage like Ruscus and Aspidistras, next to bold structural white flowers like large Arum. Time will tell…
When putting together colour palettes, what are some colours or tones that you think always work well together? Which palettes can you recommend for a winter wedding?
I’ve always been a sucker for all whites for a crisp and fresh-looking winter theme. However, especially in my more creative work, it’s got to be burnt oranges as a colour, complemented by organic texture. Winter weddings are a fantastic opportunity for lots of texture, so I would say more singular colours work best over combinations for a winter pallet.
What are some of the most unique floral arrangements you’ve worked on? What would you like to see next?
My skull bouquets are usually the ones that get the most attention, and are possibly the most controversial too – I had to stop making them as I was referred to the as the dead animal designer! Not really the tag I wanted to be known by…
I’ve designed quite a few Harry Potter themed weddings, and I always feel if it’s a nod to a theme that works without becoming tacky, I’m happy to do it. They just have to be made well or it really can result in disaster. I suppose my creative head has a lot in it! I’m always thinking up ideas and themes, although this has been put on pause for the last 4 years as I’ve purchased another florist business – Exclusively Weddings, which enables me to separate my creative unusual work and more traditional wedding floristry. Exclusively Weddings is pretty much up and running now, so I finally have the chance to start and plan some creative work again. Watch this space!
You’ve also worked on some unusual buttonholes in the past (i.e. carrots!) Can you give any inspiration for winter buttonholes with a difference?
I love the buttonhole question! In most cases, when there’s a bride and groom, the bride gets the dress, the shoes, the makeup, the hair and normally the choice of venue; and the groom gets a buttonhole and a wife!! (Obviously, what more could he want or need!) So, I say to the groom: if you could have anything as you buttonhole, what would it be? If they need prompting, I’ll ask what they do for a living, their hobbies, favourite film or favourite food, and then come up with creative ideas.
I remember about 15 years ago, a groom said to me ‘What’s this? I can have anything as a buttonhole? No… it’s not like I can have a chilli!’… And the chilli buttonhole was born. Since then, there have been Marvel hammers, shot cartridges, aubergines, mini bananas, light sabers, Harry Potter wands and D20 dice… I think my sculpted X-wing is my favourite so far. But, in terms of finding inspiration for a winter wedding – I do just feel that as long as it’s made well and a lot of thought has gone into making it very personal, anything is possible!!
Generally speaking, would you say less is more, or go all in when it comes to arrangements?
My unusual work enables me to create with less flowers on large structures, which I suppose would lean more towards ‘less is more’, however, I can also, and do love creating more extravagant things like a moss tunnel leading into a venue and an aisle of 10ft pine trees for the bride to walk down, which would be considered ‘all in’!
With Exclusively Weddings, an ‘all in’ arrangement is pretty different to Little Lillies. I also need to be considerate – as an ‘all in’ flower display isn’t really cost effective and we all have different budgets when it comes to weddings. If money was no object, I would more often than not say go all in!