Destination Designing - Flowers for a Black-tie, Backyard, Charleston Wedding

Crystal chandelier hung from stately oak trees over the black-tie, backyard wedding reception.

Some brides dream of getting married in the spaces they grew up in.

Kelly and Aaron exchanged wedding vows in her childhood church. Their reception was hosted in her family’s backyard. Both events were celebrated with beautiful flowers.

How do destination designers make these flower dreams come true?

black tie wedding
Photo: Tim Willoughby

Designing wedding flowers in another city can be a real challenge.

Logistics. Procurement. Weather. Travel. Design. Installation. Removal. It’s a lot to do in a short space of time.

What’s the secret to successfully designing a gorgeous wedding from a distance?

We asked destination designer Emily Wynn Wildes whose team designs wedding flowers in distant locations to share some travel tips.

EM Creative Floral

“I don’t know anything different than to travel. It’s what I love and what I hope I’ve perfected over the years. Planning is key,” advises Emily.

black tie wedding | OASIS Floral Products
Photo: Tim Willoughby

EM Creative Floral is based in Statesboro, Georgia. This wedding took place outside of Charleston, 2 hours and 15 minutes away. The team often travels farther.

“A good team, and a sufficient plan ahead of time are essential,” suggests Emily.

Each person on the EM Creative Floral team, has an assigned task. Then, everyone pitches in where needed to get the job done.

EM events require a minimum of four team members, but depending on the size of the job can require eight to twelve.

The wedding ceremony

This wedding ceremony took place at St. Andrews Church of Mt. Pleasant in South Carolina.

Kelly, her bridesmaids, and the wedding flowers were all dressed in white.

black tie wedding | OASIS Floral Products
Photo: Tim Willoughby

 “As a destination designer I find it’s very difficult to travel with large installations,” explains Emily. “Having enough time and a game plan for creating those designs on-site is essential.”

The team sets up a design space at each location. Sometimes in the corner of a ballroom, hotel room, or in this case on a table at the back of the reception tent. Ceremony flowers were then transported to the church.

A backyard reception

For the cocktail reception, the entire tennis court was tented. Making an excellent platform for the band, a large bar, and some guest tables.

black tie wedding | OASIS Floral Products

An extensive faux boxwood wall formed a green foliage backdrop for the largest bar. Out on the lawn, crystal chandelier drew attention to a second, round bar.

Chandelier decor

Hanging chandelier inside the tent became decorative elements when the fabric-sleeved wires were encircled with fresh Italian ruscus.

“Pinning the ruscus into the fabric is very time consuming, so plan ahead to allow enough time,” advises Emily.

A large centerpiece of Oriental lilies, delphinium, roses, lisianthus, hydrangea, and phalaenopsis orchids and Italian ruscus was the focal point of the reception.

Photo: Tim Willoughby

Emily uses designer blocks as the floral foam base of her large arrangements.

Each singular designer block is equal in size to six standard-size bricks. This makes a stronger design foundation than taping individual bricks of floral foam together. Designer blocks now come in the new Midnight (black) floral foam, as well.

EM utilizes a variety of floral foam cages in their wedding work. The style of cage depends the size and purpose of each design.

black tie weddings | OASIS Floral Products
Photo: Tim Willoughby

Smaller coordinating arrangements were scattered throughout the reception area. The bride’s cake was accented by white roses and Italian ruscus.

How does Emily pull it all together?

“Logistics and procurement are a big deal,” shares Emily.


Planning starts with logistics - coordination with new vendors, on-site prep, hauling materials, short installation times, late night striking of the event, etc. must all be scheduled.

“Each event is different,” explains Emily. I go through each step and make a line item list for a packing sheet of each job. This sheet is given to a packer who specializes in getting me ready to travel to an event.”

Large items are packed carefully in boxes for transport in a big box truck.  Multiple fresh flower designs can be loaded onto rolling carts and shrink-wrapped before being loaded into a refrigerated truck, if needed.

A written organizational plan is also needed for work times and on-site tasks. Staying on schedule is imperative.


Destination designers often have to use a combination of suppliers to get the flowers they need. Local suppliers, shippers, and regional flower farms are among the options.

For this event, Emily purchases from local suppliers, Cut Flower Wholesale and Mayesh - who drop-ships flowers to local airports.

“I’m only as good and successful as my team allows me to be,” says Emily.  

Teamwork is essential

“An efficient team and vendor network are essential for a beautiful wedding,” says Emily.

A Charleston Bride was the wedding planner and Crush Event Rentals provided all the rentals.

“We worked with them on pre-planning and installation,” continues Emily, “working with good people makes the job easier.”

Fresh flower challenges

Emily takes it all in stride. “I typically don’t freak out or sweat over the flowers, but I do on occasion,” she confides.

“When I did John Carter Cash’s wedding, the Lily of the Valley was of poor quality. I freaked,” she admitted.

“I called Mayesh who overnighted fresh Lily of the Valley from Norway to the Charleston airport. I have a lot of confidence in their customer care!”

Every wedding has its own drama. On this day it was unexpected rain.

Last-minute drama

“There was a 1% chance of rain that day,” says Emily.

“It began pouring rain. The tent was set up on the very edge of the tennis court. The run-off rain hit the hard surface and created huge puddles that we had to deal with just before guests arrived.”

black tie wedding | OASIS Floral Products
Photo: Tim Willoughby

Being a ‘dreams come true’ kind of wedding the rain stopped before the reception.

How did Emily’s dream wedding catch my eye?

Wedding designers always have special brides they remember fondly.

I saw the beautiful wedding on Charleston Wedding and realized the floral designer was my own bride from twenty years ago.

I remembered Emily as fun, decisive, and passionate about her wedding flowers. I reached out to her online.

“If you recall,” replied Emily “on my wedding day I didn’t spend time with my friends. I sat in the church with you and watched every detail as you designed my flowers. I wanted to be you – creating the designs myself.”

“I still love my wedding flowers, twenty years later!” she exclaims.

How did Emily get started designing wedding flowers herself?

In love with flowers

“My best friend asked me to do her wedding and I loved it. After that it snowballed.” Emily shares. “I paired up with a wedding planner in Buford and our businesses took off.” That was fifteen years ago.

“Not every designer is built for this,” Emily says of destination designing. “You have to be really prepared on the front end.

“I don’t want my name on anything that’s not pretty!”

What organizational tips can you suggest for going on location to design wedding flowers?


Thank you for commenting, Carvill. Yes, wedding traditions can vary regionally. For that reason, we try to provide different types of weddings. This year we’ve featured weddings on a horse farm, in a museum, on a school campus, in a backyard, and by a lake. Early in the year, we shared a wedding on the central coast of California – Popular Pretty Pampas Grass Ceremony Circles Made Easier.

Next week’s wedding blog took place on a tropical beach. Watch for it! Let me know what you think. It’s so much fun to see the variety of fresh flower designs based on the location of the event.

Sharon McGukin December 18, 2019

Thank you forSharing the beautiful wedding flowers and for the description of the work required to do such beautiful work over long distances.
If I were married in the South I would have such a wedding

In Southern California it’s a rarity to see weddings like this

Carvill December 18, 2019

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