When you get married, you are introduced to an array of new “worlds.” Hiring a band teaches you about the worlds of good music and not-so-good music. Finding bridesmaid dresses gives you a lesson in the differences between periwinkle and lavender. And when hiring a florist, you’ll learn there is more to flowers than just a dozen roses.

If you want your big day bursting with blooms, you’ll have to hire a florist. You don’t have to be a botanist to hire one, but there are certain things to look out for. Here are some things you need to know:

Just like good reporters always check their sources, so should a good bride and groom. If you’ve been to a wedding with flowers you adore, ask the couple about their florist. Ask friends and family for referrals of people who have done wedding flowers that they were pleased with.

Once you get some names, do a little research. You don’t have to know the genus types of flowers, but buy some bridal and gardening magazines to get a feel for different kinds of flowers. Cut out some images of arrangements that you like and some that you don’t like.

A few lists and photos can make the initial meeting go more smoothly. Write down the wedding participants to determine who will need flowers. Include bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers and ushers. Photograph the ceremony and reception locations so the florist can see what the rooms look like. Photos or color swatches of the wedding gown and bridesmaids dresses will also give the florist a sense of what kind of floral colors would be best for your wedding.

Know your floral budget before meeting with a florist. That way, the florist can make suggestions in your price range. A good florist can brainstorm ideas no matter how much you have to spend. And you can gauge her expertise by assessing if the florist helps you get the most for your money.

At the first meeting, don’t shy from asking the florist questions. You shouldn’t feel uneasy about asking him anything – you want a florist you feel comfortable with. Find out if the florist has been to the ceremony or reception sites. If so, he may have photos of what he’s done there and know how to work in the space. Can you see samples of his work? Real bouquets will give you the best sense of his work rather than photos. Can the florist provide decorations that the site can’t, like aisle runners, trellises or potted plants, or do you have to rent them? These are additional expenses you’ll have to consider.

Before booking, visit with a few florists to compare their prices and ideas. Reserve the florist three to six months before the ceremony, allowing more time if the florist is popular or you are marrying during “wedding season” (June through September).

Once you make your picks, get it all on paper. The contract should include items such as: date, time and location of your ceremony and reception; an itemized list of what the florist will supply, including color, type and cost; alternate blooms if the ones you want aren’t available; arrival times for setup at the ceremony and reception; total cost and payment terms plus tax, delivery and other fees and cancellation and refund policy. That way, you can prevent unwelcome surprises when it’s time for the big day – and the bill.

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