When I first started researching talented Bay Area artists for my Wedding Vendor Spotlight series, Nicole Zaiss, owner and lead designer of Orange Blossoms Floral Designs immediately stood out, because of her harmonious color palettes, quality design, variety and creativity (take a look at her floral chandeliers on her instagram @oblfloral!). I was also drawn to the fact that she started working with flowers as a teenager, and I knew she would have a great story to tell. When I sat down with Nicole on a balmy March afternoon, I quickly recognized that she is a true artist, and better yet: what a lovely and joyful person she is. This shines through in our sunset photo session and the beautiful details and location she selected for it.
One of the many unique features of Orange Blossoms Floral Design, is they never steer brides towards designs they are most comfortable creating. In fact, they like to challenge themselves with new designs so that they are always learning, growing, and staying excited about what they do. They also posses the skills and flexibility to do any kind of design that a bride may want, and they hope their portfolio will always display a large variety. For her design process, Nicole tries to keep it simple and her goal is to be the easiest wedding vendor for brides to work with. After gathering information about what items the bride would like, she reviews images saved to their wedding Pinterest board. This gives Nicole a feel for the style, floral varieties, and color palette the bride prefers. Nicole begins sketching her ideas on paper and after several drawings, she has a good idea of the design. Next, she creates a proposal that provides her brides with the clearest picture of what they will receive on their wedding day. Then comes the hardest part: waiting. She says, “From the largest arrangement to the smallest boutonniere, when your day finally comes it’s months of preparation and dreaming all coming together.”
Nicole has seen a lot of exciting changes in the industry since she started working in floral design back in 2008, especially the large amount of beautiful content available on social media. She says this has raised the bar for everyone, and brides are appreciating quality design more than ever. One of her favorite floral trends is incorporating “filler” flowers such as camomile, daisies, and spray roses into arrangements for the beautiful texture they add. Another trend she enjoys is the use of greenery which a lot of brides have been requesting recently. For this style, she has used passion flower and jasmine vines for a flowy, asymmetric design. She also loves using olive branches and rosemary, but is always searching for new floral varieties for her clients. Nicole enjoys all styles and believes there is a beautiful way to make any color or floral combination successful. In addition, she says her favorite designs are whichever project she is working on at the moment, such as the jewel-toned wedding she will be working on soon.
With almost 10 years of experience designing florals, Nicole shared some great advice and recommendations with me for future brides:
Take your time to find out what you like. Nicole recommends doing research through Pinterest and saving anything that catches your eye. Even if you don’t know why you like something, it will be helpful to a floral designer.
If you think your floral designer is going in the wrong direction, you should let them know what you don’t like and they will refocus. Nicole says it often takes trying different things and seeing what you like.
Have a budget in mind and don’t be shy about telling your floral designer about it. A budget gives florists a good idea of where to start.
If you are having difficulty deciding what you like, Nicole says a good place to start is to consider your venues. The location of your ceremony or reception will often have a unique vibe or an interesting history that could give you or your floral designer ideas.
It’s a good idea to book your florist six months ahead of your wedding date.
Keep seasonal flowers in mind. Although we are used to produce being available year round, certain flowers are best or are only available at certain times of the year. Some of the flowers that are only available at certain times are dahlias and peonies, while ranunculus are best in the spring.
Nicole can trace her career back to the arts and crafts she did as a child. Although she enjoyed the process of painting and embroidery, she never felt quite happy with the finished product. It wasn’t until she began working with flowers that she felt satisfied. The summer she was fifteen, she began working at a local floral shop. This turned into a great job and learning experience for Nicole for several summers. After her graduation, she began working at the shop full-time helping to create arrangements for weddings. After a few years of employment, one of the designers recommended that she should apply to the City College of San Francisco, one of the leading floral design schools in the country.
Nicole lived and breathed flowers for the next two years while she attended the City College during the week and worked at the flower shop during the weekend. Her instructors were gifted artists and teachers, and they made a lasting impression on her career. In addition, local flower studios would often contact the school for volunteers, and Nicole took advantage of every opportunity that was available. Besides her weekday commute to San Francisco from Morgan Hill, the most challenging experience for her was competing in a national student competition. In preparation for the event, her team met several times a week the month prior to the competition for training. They were given timed challenges to create a specific floral design using only limited materials, and were judged on formal elements such as flower placement, color palette, balance, and depth. Out of fifty students competing in Las Vegas, Nicole was awarded second place in the sympathy floral design category. The points from her award contributed to her team winning the overall competition for the fifth year in a row! Although challenging, Nicole tells me this experience taught her to be very resourceful (even how to make her own containers) and how to be prepared for just about anything - perfect for a wedding florist!
After graduation, Nicole started Orange Blossoms Floral Design, named for grandmother’s orange orchard, when she was just 21. She knew she had the talent and skills for design, but she was unsure if she’d also be a good business owner. With her parents’ encouragement, Nicole pushed herself into the unknown and discovered that she had inherited their entrepreneurial spirit. Three years into her business, she says it’s been a lot of work, but that it’s also been a huge blessing to her and her husband in difficult times. Nicole encourages other people, especially women, to take the leap and share their unique experiences with the world through their businesses. Nicole often remembers Romans 4:17 which says, “Call the things that are not as though they are.” This reminds her to have faith, speak kindly to herself, and trust that her hard work will pay off. The thing that Nicole loves the most about what she does, is the sense of accomplishment she gets from a job well done, as well as knowing that she is doing what she was meant to do. The best moment for her is stepping back after her work is all done, and being pleased with what she has created for her clients.
Thank you Nicole for sharing your inspiring story, advice to brides, and a photographic look into your creative process!
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org | 1.408.427.1874 | www.obfloral.com
Floral Design: Orange Blossoms Floral Design
Photography: Ellie Honl Photography
Styling & Hair: Emilee Kastle
Location: Anderson Lake County Park, Morgan Hill, CA