We're a big fan of sustainability and being kind to the environment here at Marks Hall Estate. So when we came across Emma Sousa, owner and founder of Urban Flower Farmer, Wedding & Events Florist we almost fell over ourselves to get her guide on how to be more sustainable when choosing your wedding day flowers...

Most people when they get engaged go into overdrive; visiting venues, researching photographers, caterers and florists - there’s so much to do it can be overwhelming right? It can also be a lot of fun and providing you have allowed some time from getting engaged to the 'Big Day’ then it should be something that you enjoy, and something you can do as couple.

A lot of people power through with little thought to the impact their big day has on the planet. But just thinking about it, the amount of resources we use for just one day is really quite incredible. From the four course meal you provide for your guests and that waste, to the cars you and your guests use on the day, to the flowers that will most probably be imported from halfway around the world!

My name is Emma and I am the owner and founder of Urban Flower Farmer and our business specialises in wedding and event flowers that are grown and arranged in the most sustainable way possible. Everything from our London grown flowers to the fact we ditched the highly toxic floral foam some years back, how we use traditional techniques to create your flowers for you, right down to the compostable sticky tape we use on recycled brown paper wraps.

We try to think of everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint, encouraging our clients to embrace seasonal flowers and even when we can’t supply what they want we have a great network of British flower growers that we can call upon to top up our stocks or find something that we might just not have growing. We still have a way to go and each year we get a bit better at our sustainability goals, but the most important thing is we are getting there. You see there are still a lot of florists who simply don’t think about the impact of the imported blooms, wrapped in cellophane and shipped halfway across the world, let alone the use of pesticides to keep them fresh for an unnatural length of time.

At Urban Flower Farmer we grow without the use of pesticides. If we have an attack of greenfly on our sweet peas - we manage it with natural methods, and there will always be other beautiful seasonal blooms that are thriving and that will equally do the job. To be honest, because we have built up a really biodiverse cutting patch we have little problems with pests - we have enough ladybirds, frogs and other wildlife to keep any unwanted visitors at bay. And because we grow just a few miles from our studio everything is cut and arranged so quickly there is no need for preservatives as our flowers are about as fresh as you can get.

  

But apart from buying from a florist who uses British flowers what else can you do to keep your wedding flowers green (excuse the pun)? Here are a few questions to ask your florist when deciding who to work with on your big day…

  • What flowers are in season and if your go to flower is not in season what is a good alternative? You can’t have peonies at the end of September but there are some fabulous garden roses that do the job for example.
  • Where do they source their flowers from? If they say they are imported ask about British flowers - the more people who ask for locally sourced produce the more mainstream they will become.
  • Do they use floral foam? And if they do ask if they can work foam free - floral foam is highly toxic and ends up in land fill where it never breaks down. Even the new supposedly degradable foam is toxic and doesn’t really break down, and all floral foam pollutes our waterways with tiny micro particles. It’s a definite no no from me!
  • Can guests take flowers away at the end of the evening? - recycled jam jars are a great option for tables, they can be used as favours and afterwards can easily be reused or recycled. Another great option for a rustic wedding is planted arrangements. They look great clustered on tables, especially if you use edibles and herbs which not only smell and look fantastic but are a gorgeous favour for guests to take away at the end of the evening.
  • Ask your florist what happens to everything post wedding? - do they recycle everything, compost flowers or even repurpose them. From time to time we work with a local business who produce flowers for disadvantaged people who may not be able to afford flowers, and anything that is still useable is collected and used again. Otherwise its composted and goes back onto the land where we grow.
  • And most importantly choose a florist who’s work you love and be open to their suggestions. After all they are the professionals and are there to help your vision come to fruition. They also know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to flowers. It should be a team effort and they will guide you as much as you need in making the right choices.
  • A visit to your venue with your chosen florist is always a great idea. Walking around the venue with them they will be able to advise on the best ways to decorate it and should be able to suggest flowers that perhaps can be reused throughout the day. So maybe you have some beautiful pedestal flowers in the ceremony space, why not move them post ceremony to either side of the top table, or at the marquee entrance? Can you reuse the ceremony table runners on the top table? It’s all about minimising waste and also making the most of your budget and fabulous flowers.

  

Useful links and information

There is loads of information on the internet. If you search 'how to plan a sustainable wedding' you will get blogs and information from all the big wedding directories like Hitched. Here are a couple of links that you may find useful:

  • Flowers From the Farm - A UK wide directory for flower growers and florists near you
  • The Guide to Sustainable, Zero Waste, Ethical Weddings - covers all aspects of weddings from caterers to invitations with some good top tips.
  • Use hashtags to search for eco-friendly suppliers on Instagram - words like Sustainable, Eco-friendly, British flowers will all bring up a multitude of people who may be the one’s for you!

You can find Emma on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram