What It's Really Like to Be a Royal Wedding Florist
In advance of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's nuptials, Town & Country spoke with Shane Connolly, the florist behind the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding celebration back in 2011.
Below, he shares what it's really like working with the royal family, how Markle's wedding flowers could be different from Duchess Kate's, and his advice for modern brides.
You’ve had quite a long relationship with the royal family and have done a lot of official events. How did this working relationship begin?
I am very lucky to have a Royal Warrant of Appointment both to HRH The Prince of Wales and HM The Queen. I often think that it’s extraordinary that a boy who grew up in Northern Ireland could have been so lucky! But with gratitude comes discretion so I cannot really say more about the relationship except to say again how lucky I feel.
A view of the Abbey from above during Will and Kate's wedding.
"I kept on reminding myself that it didn’t matter what the world thought, if the bride and groom were happy that’s all that mattered."
Can you tell us about the royal wedding you did in 2011? What was it like doing an event of that scale, and what were some of the logistics and challenges?
It was an enormous honor and a very exciting project in every way. I think I didn’t realize how global it all was going to be until a few weeks before when the press got involved! But all I ever want is to please my client… whoever they are. And so I kept on reminding myself that it didn’t matter what the world thought, if the bride and groom were happy that’s all that mattered. They were very happy so it was all fine. The main challenge was making sure no one but me knew the details. I think social media was less common then so it would be much harder to do now!
How big was the impact on your business after the wedding?
Interestingly, I think some people think we are out of their league now. Having designed the flowers for two future Kings with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005! But for me, both events boosted my belief in seeking ever more environmentally friendly ways to design large-scale events. Both used only British-grown flowers and many growing plants.
A portrait taken after the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
What are some trends you’re seeing lately in wedding flowers, for both wedding design and bouquets?
I am really bad at trends, though I see many more things thanks to Instagram. In the U.K. generally, I lament the lack of seasonality and the variety that brings. Everything seems to include roses, whatever the time of year. But there is a movement towards looser, more naturalistic arranging without doubt. And that’s inspired by many excellent floral designers in the U.S.A. who really have led the way in using seasonal flowers with the lowest possible carbon footprint.
What is the biggest mistake brides make when choosing flowers?
The biggest mistake is not taking the advice of their floral designer! They do know what will work or not and so many brides, drunk with the beauty of Instagram images (many of which are simply styled for a photograph and wouldn’t actually make it down an aisle) feel they want to have everything they have ever seen and liked! The result can be a muddle. Let your florist/floral designer help you make the choices and design something unique for you rather than copy an image of someone else’s wedding.
In your opinion, how do you think Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s floral style will differ from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge?
I think it’s too soon to say, as Ms. Markle is still quite unknown. And theirs isn’t the massive State event the Cambridges' wedding was. I am sure the couple will bring their own character and style to every aspect of the day and that is as it should be.
Meghan Markle receiving flowers at a royal engagement.
What are your favorite, go-to flowers and why? Do each of them have a special meaning?
I love seasonality above all things. Snowdrops in January symbolizing “hope”; roses for all the different aspects of love in summer; tulips for fascination in spring; lilac in May symbolizing “first love” and “memories of love,” and so the list goes on. So I go to the season first and then work out the flowers I’d like to suggest.
What would you consider some of the unique charms of having a wedding in the U.K.?
The weather! I love that it’s so unpredictable and so everyone has to just accept whatever nature throws at them. It makes for unpredictability which is refreshing on such an organized day. I also think the scenery in England is particularly beautiful for a wedding in the country and we have some of the most elegant buildings in the world which can be hired for events. There is a great tradition of gardening in the U.K. and so flowers are part of our psyche and seasonal ones are particularly appropriate for that!
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.