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Do You Know? Alisa McCorquodale

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dyk-alisa-arrangingPhotos by Kelly Sue Photography

Our field of study in college, as well as the career path we choose in early adulthood, doesn’t always determine our life’s work. A lot of times it serves as just the first step in a journey that takes us to places we could never have dreamed. That is exactly what happened to Alisa McCorquodale. Alisa lives in Montgomery, is a married mother of two, and teaches floral design at Montgomery High School. She also just recently launched a wedding floral business, Bride & Bloom.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the small east Texas town of Kirbyville, and I have been a resident of Montgomery for 11 years. While I have taught public school for 14 years, this is my 10th year teaching at Montgomery High School. I earned a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences with an emphasis in Horticulture from Sam Houston State University. I was a research assistant/teaching assistant at Kansas State University while earning my M.S. in Agronomy.

Alisa’s children Jack (10) and Cate (9) transfer broilers from the brooder to the chicken tractor

Alisa’s children Jack (10) and Cate (9) transfer broilers from the brooder
to the chicken tractor

I got married in 2004 while I was teaching at Spring High School. We have two children, a 10 year-old boy and a 9 year-old girl. My husband is landscape architect, and it works out that we both love the outdoors. We only have an acre and a half, but we have a farm. It’s something we’re proud of. We have a dairy cow, we have hens, we raise broilers and butcher our own chickens, and our kids raise meat rabbits through the Montgomery Junior FFA. We feed everything we intend to eat organic feed; that’s important to me.

How did you become a floral design teacher?

Following graduate school, I got my first teaching job at Spring High School as an Agri-science teacher. My teaching partner taught floral design. The students in her class were always so attentive; they wanted to be there and enjoyed learning. I taught at Spring for three years and then got the job in Montgomery, also teaching agriculture.

MHS students separate wedding florals by type to reassemble into arrangements for residents at a local assisted living home

MHS students separate wedding florals by type to reassemble into arrangements for residents at a local assisted living home

Montgomery did not offer floral design classes at that time. I thought, “Course selection is coming up; I’m going to lobby to get that class on the course selection guide.” They asked how I was qualified to teach the class and, of course, I didn’t have one lick of floral experience—none. But I said, “Well, I’m a certified Ag teacher with an emphasis in horticulture.” That’s how I sold it, and they put floral design in the course selection guide!

I think I had two classes that next year teaching floral design. Before the year started, I told them they were going to have to send me to get some training! I attended the Benz School of Floral Design at A & M one summer and completed the course. I loved it; it was really, really fun!

Students in the MHS Advanced Floral Design Class disassemble leftover wedding floral designs donated by Bride & Bloom

Students in the MHS Advanced Floral Design Class disassemble leftover wedding floral designs donated by Bride & Bloom

I have been teaching floral design at Montgomery for nine years now, and for the last six years, that’s all I’ve taught. It’s because so many kids want to take the class. They see other kids carrying around their floral arrangements, and they want to know how to do that. Last year, we started an advanced floral class. So, this year I teach four classes of floral design and two classes of the advanced. It’s interesting how it all evolved.

When did the idea of “Bride & Bloom” start?

It started in the Stewart Creek Elementary cafeteria last May, with the owner of Love Birds. Love Birds is a local vintage event rentals and styling company specializing in weddings. The owner said, “Alisa, we need a good floral designer; there’s just not enough around to accommodate all the brides in this area. There are so many wedding venues. You really need to consider doing wedding florals.”

I didn’t know what to think. I had done a few weddings for friends, but not professionally. It really started to make me think—I teach school during the week, but you don’t have weddings during the week. That’s how the idea started. I then started spending more time with the ladies at Love Birds, and the next thing I knew, the business just took off!

Students in the MHS Floral Design Classes create homecoming mums and garters

Students in the MHS Floral Design Classes create homecoming mums and garters

Primarily, I work out of my home. I have a floral cooler in my garage, along with all of my tools. Of course, when it is too hot for fresh flowers, I clean off my kitchen counters, and I bring it all inside. I’m just getting started and am fresh on the scene. So far, I’ve done two weddings as Bride & Bloom, one in September, one in October. I’m really working to increase my visibility and my presence in social media.

How does planning wedding florals work?

I don’t know of a bride out there that doesn’t have a Pinterest account. Pinterest has been a wonderful, time-saving tool. I’ll ask the bride-to-be during the initial phone call, even before our meeting, to add me to their wedding floral board on Pinterest. This allows me see what their style is and what flowers and colors they like. That’s where we typically start. I may even pin ideas to their board of things that I think may be their style. It’s a great way to collaborate without always having to work through the phone. We will then meet and discuss guest count and budget—what the wedding party looks like.

Budget is our next topic. If we’ve got a tight budget, I recommend her choice of flowers in the major arrangements, and similar, less expensive flowers in things like the table arrangements. With the 9 years I’ve been completely immersed in floral design at the high school, I feel it has given me an edge from a botanical standpoint. If someone shows me an arrangement, I can usually identify all the flowers and know the general cost of them, as well as suggest similar blooms that may be less expensive.

dyk-flowersI try to help the bride see their floral dollar can go much farther if they try not to spend too much money at the wedding site, because you’re only there for a few minutes. Everyone then goes to the reception, where they spend the rest of their evening. Because of this, most of a bride’s floral budget is spent in the reception hall on things like table decorations, such as centerpieces and garlands, which are becoming increasingly popular. If working within a budget, say you have 18 guest tables, I usually suggest to the bride to use six tall designs, real showstoppers—then six of medium height and six lower designs. This gets florals on all tables, but keeps costs down. I also have built an excellent relationship with my wholesaler. I use the same wholesaler for my business as I use at the high school.

What elements of flowers are in a wedding?

There is the bridal bouquet, the toss bouquet (which I usually create for free from flowers left over after all the other arrangements are complete), the bridesmaid’s bouquet, and the boutonnières for the groomsmen and fathers. Flower crowns are trending now, not just for flower girls, but also for the brides, a corsage for the grandmothers, maybe a single rose for the mothers of the bride and groom. Then there are pew designs, florals at the entry of the venue, the aisle entry, and at the front. Arches are very popular, with greenery and florals attached. We are seeing a lot of swag designs, flowers that will go on a vintage sign that might say, “Wedding of…” Chalkboard signs are really popular, so we may place some greenery on that.

Has owning a floral business changed your teaching?

I think it has made me a better teacher, particularly for my students in the advanced class. Before diving off into wedding florals, I knew only what I had read and heard about the industry. Just in the short time I’ve been in business, I am able to tell my kids so much more and teach things I wasn’t teaching them before, such as the popularity of styled shoots, staging wedding designs, and designing flower crowns. I am able to keep the students up to date on current trends and what floral shops are doing to accommodate their clients.

Alisa hand-milking her Jersey cow, Thelma

Alisa hand-milking her Jersey cow, Thelma

Where do you see you and your business in five years?

I hope to get to the point where I am doing two or three weddings a month. I would like to be working out of a building other than my garage! If you told me five years ago I’d be balancing a teaching career, a homestead, and a floral business, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m anxious to see where God leads me over the next five years.

From the expected to the not-so-expected roles of wife, mother, Ag teacher, farmer, floral design teacher, and now business owner, Alisa McCorquodale’s life so far has been an adventurous one, with some unexpected twists and turns. The one common thread through it all is her love and passion for everything she does. Alisa can be contacted at (936) 827-2071. You can also find her on Facebook at BrideAndBloomFlorals.

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