This month, my personal and work life are aligning. Weddings have been on my mind, as I got married this past fall, and I was curious about how many garden centers were offering space for these very important events, and how they handle everything from catering to linens.

Think about the weddings you’ve attended in recent years. Six years ago, I attended five weddings in one summer, and all were in churches, ballrooms and country clubs. Most adorned tables with traditional flowers, and the bride and groom were married by a religious official or professional officiant.

Since 2015, I’ve witnessed weddings in unexpected venues, like an art gallery and an old warehouse, and this year, I am invited to not one but two weddings that will be hosted at zoos. Flower arrangements are taking on a fresh-picked-from-the-field feel, and many are asking their friends or family to marry them. My own wedding was in a historic building once used for stables by L. Schlather Brewing Co., and I opted to purchase my flowers from a small plant store instead of a typical florist. Queen Anne’s lace and soft ferns replaced baby’s breath, and dahlias and palm-sized mums were mixed right along with roses. Weddings were once formal, routine occasions, but people are finding that what’s expected doesn’t speak to them, and the venue is one aspect couples are personalizing.

This desire for unique wedding venues means opportunities for IGCs, though the bridal business isn’t for everyone. There are many considerations, execution can be difficult, time consuming and require a separate staff. Although it’s a joyous occasion, it can be stressful for families.

Though hosting one of the most important days of a couple’s life can be intimidating, many garden centers we spoke to for this month’s cover story on page 22 say it’s worth it. Not only has it been incredibly profitable for businesses — it now accounts for one third of sales at one company we featured — all noted how special it is to host what is often said to be the best day of a man and woman’s life. This month, we offer a wedding guide, compiled with information from three IGCs that have said “I do” to hosting nuptials. Just like parents who offer relationship advice to their sons and daughters when they get married, the garden centers share their experiences and lessons learned for those investigating this venture.

Michelle Simakis