A rhapsody in music is a one-movement work with a free-flowing structure and a range of moods, colors, and tones. So it’s fitting that Robin Smith’s event design company, Rhapsody in Blooms, embraces abundant color, ambient decor, and spontaneous inspiration.
In capturing the overall look and feel of a wedding, Robin takes a collaborative approach with her clients, getting to know their styles, tastes, and family traditions and then applying her keen creative intuition. After her first stint in floral design with her mom and best friend as a teenager, Robin moved to LA and worked in florals at a series of well-known hotels and wedding planning businesses before starting her own company.
Based in Atlanta, Rhapsody in Blooms combines Robin’s passion for florals as art and her flair for curating the right elements that make for a beautiful custom wedding “look.” With her best friend as lead designer and her mom as a regular assistant, Robin plans arrangements and gives artistic direction to destination weddings coast to coast. She also teaches DIY brides how through her sister company, Academy Botanica.
In an interview with Lila Moon, Robin gave her best advice to engaged couples on choosing florals, working with designers, and current trends in the industry.
How did you get started in the event design business?
When I was 19, I was in that strange place between high school and college where you’re not sure what you want to do. At the time, my mom decided she wanted to get out of corporate work, and becoming a floral designer for Martha Stewart seemed like a creative way to do it. She did one wedding by herself and decided it was way too much effort to go it alone, so she drafted my friend and I to go to this floral arrangement class at Georgia Perimeter College to help her. It was us and six 70-year-old ladies in that class.
After that I started doing arrangements and my mom was like, “you’re really good at this.” She decided it wasn’t what she wanted to do. But when I moved to LA, I found my first job as an event florist there. I worked for the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Eventually, I wanted to get into event planning and worked for a wedding planning company in New York City. I did destination weddings on the West Coast in Napa and Sonoma areas and the Northeast in the Berkshires and the Hamptons. When I settled in Atlanta, I combined my love of florals and event design by forming my own business.
How would you describe your typical client at Rhapsody in Blooms?
A lot of couples think about food or ceremony first, but our favorite clients tend to be really design-focused. The look of the wedding is really important to them. They’re usually a little bit older than the traditional marriage age (their 30s or 40s), are self-aware and know exactly what they like and don’t like. What we love to do is make the process a collaborative one between us and our clients. They come with ideas they saw on Pinterest or elsewhere – they might not know what that looks like but they know what feeling they want to create. We tell them what’s feasible and offer additional ideas that match their tastes. That’s our ideal process – my team gets to do cool stuff and they get a wedding that is hopefully better than they could have imagined.
How much does the dress, jewelry, and other visual aspects of the wedding matter when deciding on flower arrangements and the overall event design?
We want to make sure the event feels like a cohesive, whole piece. I always want to see a client’s dress, shoes, and jewelry if he or she has them already because it gives me a really good sense of their style. It gives you a lot of insight into who they are and what they value. I also want to see design elements they’ve already pulled together, because then I can get a full picture of what they’re looking for.
In terms of color palette, a lot of couples come to us with ideas of colors in mind already.
We play around with that to see how many other shades we can incorporate, to see how far we can push that color palette until there is the exact right amount of color. Some people want to keep it in nice pastels and white and ivories, but other clients want peacock blue linens with apricot and raspberry and dark plum colors. I love color, but I try to see where people are comfortable, because it’s a reflection of them, not a reflection of me.
How does Rhapsody in Blooms stand out from other florist businesses?
One of the first things that comes to mind is the amount of time I’ve been in the business. I started really young. At the same time, I try really hard to evolve my style so I don’t get stale - we all get into these rhythms with creativity and need to shake it up sometimes. My best friend still works with me as my lead designer, and my mother still works with me sometimes. It’s very much a family affair, which I really enjoy, and it makes our work a lot better. It’s all the good stuff you want from your childhood fantasies.
I use a lot of color and texture and my clients are drawn to that. We do all-white and all-green weddings, which is beautiful, too, but that’s not our primary client. I love color so much that I’m always trying to get people to use more of it. Everything we do is custom to the client. They get what they want within a budget that’s comfortable for them – they give me their must-haves and I get to that as close as possible while still honoring their budget. I don’t want anybody to go into massive debt for their wedding if they don’t want to. I want everyone to feel like they can have something beautiful.
We also focus on sustainability. While it’s not feasible to use all organic flowers at this point – we don’t have a market that supports that – we use them as much as we can. We source our flowers from local growers, sustainable California growers, and anything from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms that don’t participate in deforesting or pesticide use and pay a living wage.
Are there are any current trends or unique looks in florals that you particularly like?
I currently am really into Australian-style florals. There are some Australian florists, like Oh Flora Studios, that are creating what looks like literal magic to me. These are incredibly cool installations with a lot of tropical blooms mixed with more traditional flowers – like orchids combined with roses and peonies. Usually in the States we use one or the other. In Australia and all along the Pacific Rim area they are really playing with texture in a way that is just mind-blowing to me. The combination of textures is like nothing I’ve ever seen - they just blow me away.
What are some of your favorite stories from working with your clients?
There are two clients that really stick out to me – not that I haven’t loved every wedding that I’ve ever done. We did one in the Berkshires at the bride’s family summer home – a mansion that’s been in the family for generations. It was a spring wedding. The grandmother was a sculptor and they had all her sculptures on the lawn mixed with local lily of the valley that we went out and harvested. We had small top tables topped with family heirloom linens. Everything about that wedding was very thoughtful and meaningful with a soft, romantic, and homey feel.
The other was just this past spring in Atlanta at St. Cecilia restaurant in Buckhead.
We made this big arbor for them that was covered in purple wisteria to embody the that place the groom took the bride when he first brought her to meet his family in Portugal.
It was very sleek and modern with lots of color.
The sentimentality behind both of these weddings was similar and really resonates with me. They wanted to incorporate family traditions not just for the sake of tradition but because it’s really meaningful. There’s a history and connection there, and you can tell that story through design.
What advice do you have for couples who are planning their big day?
First and foremost, my advice would be to come up with an overall budget that you feel comfortable with – even if you don’t know the budget specifically for florals. Whether it’s $10,000 or $100,000, you can have a beautiful wedding either way, but you have to manage your expectations. Think about what your must-have items are and then figure out how to fit that in. If you must have fresh flowers and only have $1,000 to spend, you’re not going to get a Pinterest-worthy huppa or 8-foot farm tables full of flowers top to bottom. That doesn’t mean you can’t get something pretty, but it does mean that you have to be OK with the idea of moving things around a bit. Honestly, the same thing applies if you have $100,000. Unless you have unlimited money, you have to draw the line somewhere. It’s a higher limit but it’s still a limit.
Pinterest is the best and worst thing that has happened to the wedding industry. There are amazing ideas on there but expectations have skyrocketed and expectation versus reality is very different in the wedding industry. There are a lot of expectations not just of the couple but also the family and friends and guests. How do you manage that and not lose your sanity or go into debt? The answer to that is usually to hire professionals who can guide you through the process.
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