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Wedding floral design class keeps MSU on cutting edge
By Patti Drapala
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A bride who wants her wedding flowers to symbolize her personality and taste may want to work with a graduate of Mississippi State University’s floral management program.
Trendiness does not cut it with these professors, and weddings may never look the same again as more MSU graduates enter the workforce.
“Brides want something different, but in reality, there is little variation in what they are offered when the floral designer follows the trend too closely,” said floral management professor Jim DelPrince of MSU’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “There are infinite ways to present flowers that reflect the bride’s own vision.”
For the past few seasons, hand-tied bouquets with natural stems have been in vogue for members of the wedding party. In some cases, these hand-tied bouquets have replaced the traditional corsages for mothers and grandmothers. But while this natural look is popular, it should not limit the bride’s choices.
Floral designers who venture beyond the trends to offer each customer a fresh approach often build a solid clientele base and reputation. Brides who want something unique seek these professionals. MSU’s floral management program helps students build the foundation for a successful career and become sought-after experts.
“The knowledge, experience and ability of the floral designer to pull away from the pack and create something different are what pull it all together for the bride to have a wonderful wedding experience,” DelPrince said. “Our graduates are in great demand because we build creativity and innovation into their education.”
One of the program’s building blocks is the wedding floral design course that DelPrince teaches. The four-hour class meets once a week and is open to students who complete the prerequisite course in floral design.
DelPrince opens the class with a discussion of design theory and often adds historical perspective to the picture. Students spend the rest of the time working on projects with flowers, foliage and support media, such as wire and florist tape.
“Dr. DelPrince is fantastic at motivating us to go beyond what’s expected,” said MSU senior Meryl Williams of Columbus. “He knows what each student needs, and he goes out of his way to encourage us to be the best we can be.”
Williams, a public relations major at MSU, has her eye on a career as a wedding and event planner. She is pursuing a minor in floral management to enhance her skills.
“The program pushes you to seek opportunities to develop yourself into a designer with vision,” Williams said.
The semester begins with students practicing the technique of mounting flowers and foliage in a wedding corsage. As the course progresses, students construct more complex arrangements. As a final project, students make a presentation in which they serve as the consulting florist hired by DelPrince, who assumes the role of a demanding bride. The florist must convince the “bride” that her wedding flowers are in the hands of a trusted professional.
“We have to be ready to defend our plan,” said MSU freshman Ashley Gregory, a floral management major from Olive Branch. “My family owns a floral shop and I am excited about this opportunity to show what I’ve learned from the family business and the course.”
Some students plan to open their own florist shop when they graduate and others enroll because they are interested in learning about design and plan to use these skills in a future career. Many students in the class gain practical experience by working at the University Florist on campus. Some find part-time employment with other florists or secure internships for the summer.
This experience makes them marketable to employers.
“Students need practical experience to go along with their classroom training,” said University Florist manager Lynette McDougald, a floriculture instructor in the MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “By taking the wedding floral design class and then working in the shop, they set themselves up to succeed.”