Cynthia Baranski, founder and owner of Marylu’s Flowers and Gifts and Thee Wedding Center is often asked what her secret is when it comes to her stunning floral arrangements and her successful wedding consultation businesses.
According to her, from the time she was a child she had a love of beautiful things, including interior décor and floral design. That love of beautiful things was nurtured when she moved to New York as a young adult and was able to attend the many art and design museums there. Many of her ideas, even today, go back to the great works of art she studied. Once she returned to the Rio Grande, she attended every floral workshop she could and after that she studied floral design with Ralph Newell of Oklahoma University. Even then, her education was not complete, and she worked with an international award-winning designer on the West Coast, who introduced her to floral design styles and materials rarely seen here in the Valley. She still keeps in touch with him to this day. When pressed to give the identity of this designer, she jokes that this is a “trade secret”, but the certificates and diplomas found on her shop walls might lend some clues.
Her business acumen, she says, comes from her father. He was a broker for a major produce company here in the Rio Grande Valley, and would often bring home surplus produce. Cynthia would attractively package the produce and then sell it to her neighbors. She credits her dad’s early sales advice with many strategies that she still uses to provide win-win solutions to her customers today.
When it comes to floral design, Cynthia personally trains each of her associate designers in the same way she was trained. As a result they can produce any style of arrangement, from traditional, to natural, to highly innovative and contemporary. Her favorite style is Ikebana, an Asian design approach that combines exotic tropical flowers with accessories made from natural organic materials, such as decorative birds created from palm leaves.
In 1996 Cynthia took the plunge and started selling floral arrangements out of her one-bedroom apartment. In 1997 she took over a friend’s shop on Pecan and 12th in McAllen, named Marylu’s. The name Marylu’s is short for Maria Guadalupe, the virgin mother who appeared in Mexico in 1531. With its rising popularity, Marylu’s moved one more time in 2000 to its current location at the corner of Hackberry and 10th in McAllen.
Recently, the wildly successfully Thee Wedding Center was opened on the same corner. Thee Wedding Center is a full service wedding consultation center where brides and their families can access all the services they need for their wedding, including a small wedding chapel.
Knowing that planning a wedding is fraught with anxiety, Cynthia has a few tips for those who getting ready to marry:
1. Locate and book your church and reception venue before consulting your floral designer. To properly advise you, your floral designer will need to know the size and shape of the hall, height of the ceilings, the size and shape of the tables and other details, if they are not already familiar with it.
2. Develop a vision of your wedding, including the theme, style and colors you desire. Remember to take into account the season when thinking of color schemes.
3. Be ready to give your floral designer as much information as possible, for the best possible recommendations.
4. Estimate how much you can reasonably spend on floral décor.
5. Consider how you can get more for your money with “double-duty” arrangements. As an example, a bouquet can be designed to also serve as a centerpiece.
6. Remember not every florist is a floral designer! You will be investing a good bit of money, so do your homework. Ensure that the professional you choose is capable of creating the look you dream of and a décor your guests will absolutely love.
7. Make sure to book your wedding early with the designer of your choice. The best designers have full schedules and may already have a full slate for your wedding day if you wait too long.
8. Establish a good relationship with your floral designer. Listen to their advice, for they are professionals with much experience and your best interests in mind. But in the end remember that it is your wedding.