Rodrigo Vásquez wears a vibrant green shirt, blending him into the terrarium that is his house. Greenery dominates the scenery around the living room. Hanging ferns droop from the ceiling. Frilly papyrus plants with elongated stems sprout out of slender vases. Bunches of colorful flowers grow in the back of the house.
A florist for 18 years and owner of Flowers by Flowers in the northern San José district of Tibás (flowersbyflowersmycompany.com), Vásquez knows better than most what type of flowers are ideal for a wedding in Costa Rica. He refers to his conversations with brides and grooms as psychology sessions. He probes them for up to two hours about every detail of the wedding and what the soon-to-be newlyweds want for decorations, the setting, even the smell. Then the president of Costa Rica’s wedding planners’ association gives his diagnosis. Often it involves orchids.
A country where flowers bloom year-round, Costa Rica is not only a popular wedding destination, but also a fashionable place to find all sorts of cost-efficient yet ornate flowers. Orchids, calla lilies, hydrangeas and old-fashioned roses and carnations are some of the most popular options. Wedding planners and florists all have their go-to flowers in this tropical region. Still, Vásquez stated the most important part of a florist’s philosophy is to make sure the bride is pleased.
“The bride normally has a dream – the dream is to feel like a princess,” Vásquez says. “And most of them dream about a lot of roses, a lot of nice (flowers) that smell very nice. … We try to figure out all of those dreams.”
Tropical flowers themselves are not as popular as tropical-colored flowers. Vásquez says a lot of his designs use striking colors like oranges, blues, bright greens and fuchsias, but the flowers are more traditional wedding flowers like orchids, roses and hydrangeas. The color just adds a dash more of style.
One of the downsides of using tropical flowers, says wedding planner Larissa Banting of Weddings Costa Rica (www.weddingscostarica.com), is that they don’t survive well in wedding settings. Tropical flowers bruise easily. They also attract bugs and can set off allergies with their potent scents.
Nevertheless, exotic flowers like orchids, heliconias, birds of paradise and gingers remain attractive options at weddings.
Orchids soar over other choices as the most popular floral wedding decoration here. The fragile flower is also the most expensive, though a fraction of the price in Costa Rica compared to the United States, as they are easier to grow here. Still, windstorms and heavy rains have wiped out orchid farms across the country in recent years, Banting says.
“Orchids are the most delicate flower to grow, and that’s also why they’re the most expensive to purchase of any flower anywhere,” Banting explains. “They’re very difficult and incredibly delicate. But they’re also very hardy, and that is why we love using them for the beach, because they don’t wilt.”
Orchids also work with all the latest trends. Glass vases containing submerged flowers are becoming a popular centerpiece. One in the center of Vásquez’s house has a red orchid snaking its way to the bottom of the vase.
Some flowers work great for fancier creations. Banting has arranged flower chandeliers using calla lily stems to tie the fixture together. She once did a wedding that only used blue hydrangeas. For smaller amounts of flair, Banting will place flowers in hollowed-out fruits like papayas or decorate flower vases with sprinklings of coffee beans or coffee berries.
Macha Gil, a florist with Son Soles in the western suburb of Escazú (www.sonsolescr.com), says location sets the theme for the types of flowers used.
“If it’s in a more elegant place, we’ll have more traditional, more classic flowers.” Gil says. “If it’s more relaxed, we have more modern flowers.”
Gil’s family owns a tropical flower garden in the Caribbean-slope town of Guápiles; but because most clients want some sort of traditional flower in their ceremony, she imports most of the flowers she uses for weddings from other gardens.
Florists and wedding planners want to ensure weddings are as serious or as funky as the couples want them to be. Every bride wants something different. But Vásquez always expects the same reward.
“Always we try to get a smile from the bride,” he says. “We expect to receive that at the end of our job. The smile of satisfaction.”
Hand-tied bouquets may cost between $30 and $200 per bouquet. The flowers used in the most expensive bouquets are orchids.
Prices for centerpieces and all other parts of the wedding requiring flowers may run between $2,500 and $3,500. Once again, orchids increase the cost.
Other factors that affect flower costs include transportation (will the flowers need to be maintained for journeys to the coast?), time of year (flowers are in higher demand at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day – Aug. 15 in Costa Rica – and Christmas) and the growing season for the flowers.