I met with Becky Cardenas inside of Vagabond Coffee Co last week, in the heart of the Murray Hill neighborhood she’s called home for almost nine years. She’s long, lanky, and has an “it girl” quality that reminds me of someone between Hermione Granger studying in the library and Carrie Bradshaw asking me for a light. I get the feeling that even if this weren’t a blog interview, I’d still be taking notes. Her voice is quiet, her smile something luminous that flashes throughout conversation as she tells me about her country childhood, her crazy twenties, her marriage, her baby girl Juniper, and her business, The Wilding Collective.
“I loved growing up in the country,” she recalls of her Middleburg roots. “There was so much freedom and nature all around me,” something she contributes to her wilderness-inspired style of floristry today. It’s easy to picture Becky sprinting through her parent’s two-acre lot with a bouquet of wildflowers in hand; she has the freckles and the mischievous glint in her eye to make you feel like she does it to this day. But growing up, she always wanted to leave Jacksonville. Studying interior design at FSU, she grew the friend base she still depends on today, then moved to Atlanta for work, and then returned to Jacksonville at 25. She feels at home here, between cherished Murray Hill neighbors who leave vintage flower books on her doorstep, to the community of young business owners and creatives that thrive in this city. “I really enjoy people who are passionate and have good things to say about Jacksonville. I like people who really want to make change here.”
“It’s also a great place to start a family,” she adds. And she did just that a few years ago when she married her husband Jose and brought daughter Juniper into the world. She describes motherhood as a pivotal point in her life. She also describes it as hard, which is understandable considering she started her own floral business in her first year as a parent (She also hated the smell of flowers during her pregnancy, mother nature sure is ironic). The idea had a very organic start. She hated being at an office, behind a desk, and was looking for something that would let her creative talents shine. After spending unexpected time designing events, arranging table settings, and styling bouquets for her friends’ photo shoots, and then her DIY wedding, Becky realized that floristry was the perfect intersection of her talents.
“So it was just kind of a natural transition. For years I was trying to find something that I was passionate about. Something that I could work with my hands, work with nature…and it just all worked out.” She left her desk job and has been hustling to make her businesswoman-mother-creative-stylist guise work ever since. Her laid back attitude about the journey puts me at ease about my own improvised life path. “I guess Interior design was sort of meant to be because it lead me to this. It really wouldn’t have worked out if I started younger. I traveled, went out, partied, and I know who I am now,” (I jot this down on my legal pad with a note to tape it on my wall).
“I’m a lot classier now too,” she says laughing.
While she credits some Jax photographers for really getting her business off the ground, I can sense through her humility that her relationship with her clients is what truly launched The Wilding Collective. “I love my brides,” she tells me, “I usually feel an immediate connection to my brides, and that’s really important to me. I meet with them, and I think, ‘Oh, you could be my friend.'” The connection may be the most important part, but Cardenas also loves getting her brides to think outside of the traditional Jacksonville wedding box. Her wild style thrives on the unrefined, the different, and the memorable. It’s easy to recognize her brand across social media networks, wedding publications, and recently on the cover of Edible North East Florida. Wilding Collective, just like its remarkable owner, belongs unarguably to its own artistry.
“I struggle the most with social media,” she looks almost guilty as she says it. “I feel like it’s fake.” She has trouble connecting with people from a screen and is passionate about focusing her connections on person to person relations. “I can love someone’s work and have no idea who they are. And I want my clients to know me. My Instagram isn’t who I am.”
Her energy through our two-hour interview is constant, bubbly, and builds as she gushes over her sweet tea and many plans to grow Wilding even more. Dreams of destination weddings, professional styling, and opening a cut flower garden in Jacksonville are all ambitions that push her business forward. She stresses that the success of her business wouldn’t mean anything if she couldn’t have her family along with her.
“I don’t really feel like a stay at home Mom, but I love that I get to have this time with Juniper.” Wine, good friends, and time alone with her husband Jose keep her balanced through work weeks whose routines change every week, every wedding, every event. She doesn’t know what she would do without her family and girlfriends behind her, the people she interacts with every day.”I’ve been trying to meditate my whole life,” she sighs. “I’m still working on it.”
You can meet Becky for yourself at her Galentine’s event with Momni on February 12th (tickets available here), where she’ll be making custom hair pieces, drinking bubbly, and making more of the connections that she so cherishes.
Visit The Wilding Collective website to gawk at Becky’s impressive portfolio or better yet, to book her for your own event.
Written by Mara Strobel-Lanka. Photos by Stefanie Keeler.