“A rose by any name would surely smell as sweet,” goes the famous quote. And it’s true not only of roses, but of most of their floral brethren. There’s something so very evocative about a beautiful floral arrangement, and it’s no surprise that many couples engage a skilled florist when styling their wedding. We caught up with highly regarded Melbourne floral designer Virginia Chorley to get some insight into what’s involved in planning a standout floral arrangement.
On the Chorley background
Virginia is a well-known name in floral design, with a career stretching over more than a decade. But flowers and the Chorley name have been linked for the better part of a century, with Virginia’s family having grown and sold flowers for over seventy years. As such, Virginia has seen plenty of floral trends come and go, and has a keen eye for keeping ahead of the industry. She points out, for example, that the traditional is back in vogue, and that vintage is about as modern as can be.
“My family used to grow very traditional flowers like delphiniums, gladioli, and carnations. These flowers were unfashionable for such a long time, but have recently made a huge comeback–they’re so in vogue now!”
On weddings and creativity
Given her background, it’s little surprise that Virginia took up an occupation that saw her spending her days among the flowers that she’s always loved. But while her family has traditionally remained on the wholesale side of the industry, Virginia wanted a role that would allow her to stretch her creative wings. “I knew I always wanted to do something creative, and to work with different materials. After completing Year 12, I began searching for a suitable apprenticeship, and eventually found one at a florist in Melbourne CBD.”
Virginia’s yen for design then saw her turn her eye towards floral design for weddings. “I love being a part of a couple’s special day,” she says, noting that there are so many elements that make her work so very rewarding. “I love styling the tables and the venue. And the look on my bride’s face when I arrive with the bridal flowers is simply priceless.”
On trying new things
Part of what makes Virginia’s work so invariably eye-catching is her willingness to challenge herself when it comes to design, and her emphasis on ensuring that her work is suited to her clients’ personalities. “I am definitely not afraid of trying something new!” She frequently shares her ideas with her brides to ensure that their wedding flowers are unique to them, and that their tastes and ideas are accommodated as best as possible. “I design specifically for each couple, their personality, and their style,” she says. Virginia is also adamant about the importance of getting to know her couples. “This ensures that their wedding flowers reflect them, and aren’t something chosen from a magazine, or a replica from somewhere else.”
On getting to know her couples
Virginia always takes the time to meet with her couples either at their home or at the wedding venue, and gets a feel for the couple’s tastes by looking over elements such as theming, styling, and even the bride’s dress. “The wedding flowers are one of the last things to be arranged when organising a wedding, so a theme is generally set by the time I’m consulted.” Virginia often finds that she has to work within particular constraints, but does her best to accommodate her couples. “Sometimes the ideas are there, but the budgets are small, so I will sit with them and work out how we can obtain the look they are after while adhering to their budget.”
But while a bigger budget often means bigger bouquets, Virginia notes that sometimes less is more. “The bouquet should never be bigger than the size of the bride’s waist, as otherwise they overtake the dress. Everything should be in proportion.” In fact, often the only time when more is more in when it comes to scheduling. “One of the biggest challenges is having enough time to set up at a function. Sometimes we’re running out the door just as the bride and groom arrive. Fortunately, while we’ve had a few close calls, no one’s ever caught us!”
This is part one of our three-part interview with Virginia Chorley. Click here to read part two, in which Virginia discusses seasonal flowers and her personal favourites.