Dubbed by the press as the “Goddess of Gorgeousness,” Chicago-based floral designer Virginia Wolff handles an average of 100 weddings a year, with floral budgets in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. Here, she shares her opinions on significant trends.
Special Events Magazine: What do you see as the dominant trends in floral design for special events?
Virginia Wolff: Color blocking is one. For instance, with a low arrangement of roses, we can take three to four different shades that work together. But instead of spotting them around, we will do a block of red, hot pink and coral. Sometimes we work in concentric circles. It's very labor-intensive, but dramatic. It has to be lit just right. We did one [arrangement] with roses — peach, yellow with a peach edge, and coral — then mango calla lilies as a cuff around the edge in a low bowl. It just sings.
Q: So is the opulent, abundant look in floral over?
A: We still do that — abundance — too, cascades of gorgeousness. But I see color blocking as the trend. I love to put colors together, like red and hot pink and orange and coral. It fills the eye. Something about it is very joyous.
Q: How do you stay inspired?
A: I don't know! It's so amazing! I just have ideas. I also have a wonderful creative director — Dan Mitchell, AIFD. He and I do sit down together lots.
He is noted for special bridal bouquets. He did one the other day, showers of tiny blossoms — pale, pale pastels — on invisible filaments, fountained down from the bouquet almost to the floor. It's for the girl who really wants her bouquet to shine. Lots of girls don't care so much about the bouquet, they care more about the table centerpieces. Bouquets are very labor-intensive — and hard to transport!
Q: We hear that lighting is becoming integral to weddings.
A: It makes the biggest difference. I sometimes have to sell the bride on doing this. I have photos of a room with and without lighting; you can really see the difference.
Q: We've read that you also have a time-lapse video showing the installation of floral in a hotel ballroom, which helps your clients understand labor charges.
“I love to put colors together, like red and hot pink and orange and coral. It fills the eye. Something about it is very joyous.”
— Virginia Wolff —
A: Yes. People really get a kick out of it!
Q: You have spent more than 20 years as a floral designer for special events. How has the role of the floral designer changed?
A: In the beginning, I was the florist, just doing that. The role has expanded enormously to thinking through the entire party, making sure it all flows harmoniously together.
Q: As special events become more elaborate, is the ante going up for event designers?
A: People are spending huge amounts on those parties; we want to keep up.
Q: Some event professionals who now specialize in social affairs say they would like to take on more corporate work; the budgets are large, and there is no emotional turmoil from the bride. Do you agree?
A: I totally disagree. There is pressure [with social events]; that's true. The brides need a lot of hand holding; they want to talk. The mother of the bride will call. But we end up being friends. I don't care how many times they call. I offer lots and lots of time. I like helping them.
Q: What is the best part of this business?
A: The marvelous thing is it's the essence of teamwork. Everybody is getting together and producing this marvelous event. Everyone is dedicated to this marvelous job. For the most part, clients are really appreciative.
Virginia Wolff can be reached at 312/226-1777.