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Wedding bells on a budget

By: Art Garcia
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Angie Zimmerman, meet Dr. Lewis Meltz. The two El Dorado Hills entrepreneurs one day may be doing business. She’s owner/designer of Heavenly Flowers & Events and provides flowers for weddings, parties and corporate events. The doc and wife Kathy are prime prospects: they have four daughters, none of them married. Dr. Meltz of the Chiropractic Orthopedic Group in Governor Village better get cracking; cracking bones, that is. Meltz, who’s been practicing at the same location since 1992, has been working and saving not only for retirement but for 15 years, he and his wife Kathy have been pumping money into a combined college/wedding savings account. The oldest Meltz daughter is 23, a recent graduate in business administration from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles who’s looking for a career start and is still single; the next is 20 and a junior at California State University at Chico; she’s followed by a 15-year-old sophomore at Oak Ridge High School; and the youngest, 13, is an eighth-grader at Rolling Hills Middle School. Dr. Meltz said the older daughter “nearly tapped out” the special savings account by attending private Loyola Marymount. “Since she graduated from a pedigreed institution maybe she can get a job that pays well enough to chip in for her sisters,” he said. Not a bad idea, believes Zimmerman who has provided floral arrangements for weddings of all sizes and prices. She noted statistics show the national average age for brides is 24 to 27, the average cost of a wedding is $28,704 and the price tag for wedding flowers is $2,033. “Many weddings cost much more than that,” she added. Zimmerman, who launched her business in 2001, tells of working with a couple who lived in Chicago and were married at a Sonoma winery. Cost just for use of the facility: $15,000. Until the current economic recession hit, about $35,000 was the average cost for a wedding she serviced, rising to $60,000 and above, the latter “not that unusual.” But that was earlier this year, before the economy went into the tank, companies downsized or closed and millions of jobs were lost. Now weddings are postponed or reduced in size and glamour to hold down costs. Seeing and seizing a new opportunity Zimmerman is wrapping up final production details on a 100-page, self-published “Do it Yourself Wedding Flower Guide Workbook” that comes with four hours of DVDs. She’s already picked up scheduled dates to guest on a New York City radio show in January and a live, national TV show from Atlanta. Several magazines and other TV shows have indicated an interested in the workbook, Zimmerman said. “The workbook offers step-by-step instructions on how to do everything from the bouquets the bride and her bridesmaid carry to corsages and boutonnieres, ceremony and reception décor and a bonus section on how and where to buy your flowers, process your flowers, what tools you need. It is jammed with everything someone would need to know to do their own wedding flowers,” she said. Meanwhile, Zimmerman has outlined ways to take the recession head-on and move ahead with wedding floral plans without robbing a bank: • Do it yourself and save up to 50 percent to 75 percent of the cost of wedding flowers. (Hint: read her book.) • Don’t schedule your wedding close to major holidays. The week prior, the price of all flowers jumps 10 percent to 20 percent; for Valentine’s Day, prices begin creeping up, especially red roses. The week before Valentine’s Day the cost of roses of any color can go up as much as 50 percent. The price of any red, white or pink flower will rise at least 10 percent. • Cut back on the ceremony décor. Typically, this is where you spend the least amount of time. Use the money for reception décor, this being where most of the time is spent. • Choose flowers that are in season. Imported flowers are very expensive. • Opt for slightly smaller carry bouquets. The fewer the flowers, the lower the cost. • If you plan to use rose petals as part of the décor, don’t buy No. 1 fresh roses. Ask for roses that have opened too much to be sold. You can buy roses that are overly opened for a fraction of the cost of tight, fresh roses. • If you want a tall cake with pillars separating the tiers and flowers in between, ask your baker to use 2-inch pillars instead of 4-inch. It will take half as many flowers to get the same look. • Choose smaller corsages, what Zimmerman calls “mini-corsages,” usually only a single flower with filler, greenery and ribbon accent, rather than three to five flowers. • Get double duty out of as many of your flowers as possible. Use the bridal party bouquets to decorate the head table at the reception. If no head table, put the hand-tied bouquets into vases and use them as table centerpieces. Lew Meltz is neither surprised nor anxious about the potential costs of four weddings. Kathy Meltz has been the wedding coordinator at Holy Trinity Catholic church in El Dorado Hills for nearly a dozen years and has learned a few tips and tricks herself. “I just take it in stride,” said the prospective aisle-waltzing, give-away dad, who’s learned “the reception is often what puts you in the poorhouse. Smaller ones often are more intimate, quaint and personal.” While he tries that on his daughters, the Dr. Meltz continues living by the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. What’s going to happen will happen.” One wonders, though. Has he had a chat yet with his daughters about another fine wedding tradition? It’s called “eloping.” Art Garcia is a career journalist who lives in El Dorado Hills and is editorial director of Media Mark, a professional writing firm.