Robert Van Helden – The Art of Floristry By Antonia Peck

The florist Rob Van Helden is a man with an eye for beauty. A world traveller with a 25 year reputation for impeccable floral displays, he is the one to go to for jaw-dropping flowers and creative props that will transform your event from the everyday to the extraordinary. International clients range from heads of state to Hollywood stars. Elton John declared Van Helden’s work to be ‘‘magnificent, incredible, beautiful….genius.’’

Robert van Helden

How many weddings do you work on a year?

It varies and depends on the season. April up to September gets busy and we can do one or two weddings per weekend. Later, around Christmas, you have the winter weddings. In a year, I would easily say between 30 and 40 weddings.

How are flowers for a wedding different to any other event?

With a wedding, the bride comes in and it is her big, big day. Brides have dreamed of this day for years and we try to make their dreams a reality. I always tell a bride to start a scrapbook; it is a nice souvenir for afterwards. Get magazines and start cutting out what you like and what you don’t like. At our initial meeting, I ask my brides to come here to the studio so that I can show them the props that we own (as part of the RVH prop hire company) and to get a feel for what she likes – is it silver, crystal, or provincial? There are so many different tastes and I like to listen to them and give them a proposal of what I suggest based on our meeting. Then I normally take the bride to the flower market and show her exactly what I have suggested. This also gives the bride the opportunity to make her own suggestions. We then revise the proposal and invite the bride to see the tables set up as they will look on the day.

What is your aesthetic?

I am a big believer in natural beauty. I hate anything too contrived. I like to show the beauty of each flower and their perfect simplicity. I will often use just peonies or all white hydrangeas as table centers and another table with just white roses. It is not just about putting an arrangement on a table.

Do you always do a site visit beforehand?

We always do a site visit whether it is a stately home or abroad. We do a lot of weddings abroad. I have just come back from doing my twelfth wedding in India! We use as much local produce as we can and the rest gets flown in from Holland. We have done some amazing parties in the Maldives!

What is the importance of the prop?

The props often set a theme. Having built up a whole warehouse full of props I have learned that you can use a prop in many creative ways! They should compliment the surroundings and play an important part. I travel abroad to fairs in order to see the latest props and will buy samples for my showroom to see what the reactions are. My head florist Jason and I then come up with new ideas of how to work with our new props!

What are the most popular props?

Crystal-wear and crystal candelabras are very popular. I love the distressed mirror – it always works and is timeless. It can be very classical but if you do individual posies in it of one type of flower, it is very much the modern eclectic look that I love.

What impact does a venue have on the flower and prop display?

If someone has a wedding at a prestigious venue but they do not like the colour of the walls, you have to get creative. With my own wedding, there were yellow walls and so I had all the walls covered and a new carpet rolled down for the occasion! I created an empty shell and started again.

Robert van Helden

Some trends for the bouquet?

The simpler the bouquet, the better! You spend an absolute fortune on a wedding dress and then end up with a bouquet which hides half the dress! The wedding bouquet should compliment the dress. It should not take over; it should be something beautiful, delicate and elegant. My favourite is lily of the valley for its purity. I also always remind brides that they do not know how nervous they are going to be. If you have a big trailing bouquet, all you will see is shaking leaves!

What is next for RVH?

To carry on as we have for the past 25 years and expand the prop range even further. We have a new candle range launching and are becoming more and more about a RVH lifestyle consultancy. I will be creating a vase with David Linley to celebrate 25 years in the business.


Rob Van Helden Floral Design and Prop Hire
8 Tunyard, Peardon Street
London SW8

Tel: 020 7720 6774