Posts in the 'budget friendly' Category
Upcycling and being a Broke-Ass go hand-in-hand. Add some hot color, fun designs, eco-friendliness and an Etsy seller? Looks like we’ve got a BAB match made in heaven with Topaz and Opal.
Kim, the mastermind behind Topaz and Opal, has a history of teaching, but a passion for making these super fun, bright baubles. Her decoupage skillz give bright new life to regular items (check out the jewelry trays) and add a fun pop to your bauble routine. Of her shop, Kim says this:
If Topaz and Opal is anything it’s a lesson [many lessons] in how to use, reuse, re-imagine, and create new things using old or new, but not so spectacular things, and turning them into jewelry, art, and accessories.
Doesn’t that sound like a page right out of the BAB Manual? I thought so, too. And those bangles would be a super fun, bright gift for your amazing bridesmaids, no? I’m glad we’re on the same page.
Made with PicMonkey
And because it’s Wednesday, lucky you! Kim is doling out one $150 gift certificate (including the price of shipping + handling) to Topaz and Opal.
As per usual, each option below is one entry method. The more tasks you complete, the more entries you get.
The Broke-Ass Bride is proud to partner with Brides Against Breast Cancer, turning gently used designer gowns into a beacon of hope in the worldwide fight against breast cancer. If you’d like to donate your gown, here’s how. If you’re in need of a gown, Brides Against Breast Cancer runs a nationwide tour of gowns, and you should most definitely check it out when it rolls into your town!
Daniel and I have three goals with our wedding: keep it cheap, keep it from looking cheap, and keep it unique. During these early stages of our planning, we’ve tried to come up with ways to save ourselves money without sacrificing our vision. Thus far, we’ve come up with several ideas that not only cut costs, but also make our wedding even more uniquely suited to our personal style. Take a look at our top five!
1. The Dress
This is my “marriage” dress from the ever-gorgeous Kitten D’Amour.
Even though I plan to have two dresses (one for the “marriage” and one for the “commitment ceremony”), I am still able to have them both for less than the price of one regular wedding dress. How? I want a rather “untraditional” style. I want a tea length, vintage-inspired dress, preferably all lace and preferably red. My first dress is a stunning party dress from Kitten D’Amour, an Australian company that specializes in vintage-inspired luxury clothes. My second dress is to-be-determined and is proving difficult to find. However, there are several vintage-inspired brands that allow fully customizable dresses, and the most expensive dress I like is around $800 US. In short, don’t be afraid to go untraditional and/or custom – it’s cheaper than you think!
2. The Flowers (or lack thereof)
Daniel and I aren’t really flower people. I don’t like them because they die so quickly, and Daniel just isn’t very interested in them at all. Besides, our venue has several gorgeous gardens in the springtime: flowers included! Therefore, instead of blowing the budget on floral pieces that will simply wither and fade, we’re considering replacing all the wedding flowers with material options. Boutonnieres? Try pocket squares. Centerpieces? Try candles and lanterns. Bouquets? Try vintage bro0ches or origami. Personally, I’m leaning toward book pages – perfect for me (as an English major/writer) and my potential bridesmaids, who are all English majors, writers, and/or bookworms!
3. The Favors/Gifts
I have never understood exactly why guests and attendants need favors or gifts. Yes, they all deserve gratitude for showing up, showering us with love and support (and things of monetary value), and devoting their time and energy to our wedding. However, which guests really want a container of bubbles or tulle bag of candies? And which attendants really want a necklace or cufflinks? Shouldn’t your loved ones be willing to celebrate your union without expecting gifts? And more importantly, don’t they deserve better than something disposable or generic? Daniel and I do want to provide our guests and attendants with a favor or gift, but we want it to be something they can actually keep and treasure. We’re not sure what form this will take yet – maybe printed photographs with us at the wedding or personalized poems or my pseudo-infamous “joy jars,” but whatever it is … it will be better than a plastic container of bubbles.
4. The Decorations
Two of our best friends are getting married in a few weeks, and the bride has informed me that their wedding decorations are minimal. In her words, “why spend a bunch of money on decorations that serve no purpose after the wedding?” I totally agree. One reason Daniel and I chose a “vintage” theme is so our wedding will be filled with things we love that we can use again in our vintage-styled home (you know, once we’re done with graduate school and have money for a house, yikes!). So, the picture frame with chalkboard center that lists the wedding menu will become Daniel’s board for the grocery list or dinner options. The small suitcase that holds the wedding cards will sit on our coffee table and hold magazines (by which I probably mean GQ). You get the idea.
5. The Officiant
Neither Daniel nor I are religious, so we knew we did not want to have a religious officiant. However, the idea of having a judge or justice of the peace marry us seemed a bit unromantic and impersonal. Therefore, we had the brilliant idea to ask a friend of ours to become an ordained minister and perform the ceremony. The advantages to this are: it is free, we can customize the entire ceremony (which is appealing for me as a writer), and we can be joined in matrimony by someone who truly knows us and blesses our marriage. Our officiant of choice? Our friend, Gary, who was in Las Vegas with us when we met. Gary was our first mutual friend, and he witnessed (and advised on) the first days of our connection – add in his dazzling sense of humor and teddy bear charm, and how could we do better?
Of course, nothing is set in stone until money is paid, return dates are expired, and the bride drops the “zilla” in the decoration category. However, we are feeling pretty confident that these ideas will save us some cash and add a few unique details to our wedding day. In all honesty, I think it’s just lucky that we both like “vintage” – but hey, I’ll take all the luck I can get in putting this wedding together.
Your wedding stationery is the first impression anyone will get about your wedding: it will give them cues about what to expect from the evening (or morning, or afternoon) and how to dress appropriately. No matter what your style, from traditional to modern, rustic to preppy, black and white to bold color, you’re certain to find an invitation that suits your event and your budget at FineStationery.com.
At FineStationery.com, they’ve got designs from the most sought-after brands, like Kleinfeld Paper, Crane & Co, and Vera Wang, as well as up-and-comers like Jasmine & Woo; you’ll see designs you’ve never seen before, and won’t find anywhere else! Not ready to shop for wedding invitations yet? FineStationery.com also offers a huge selection of save the dates (including magnets!), party invitations, and couples stationery so flipping cute that I’d feel hard-pressed to actually mail it to anyone else. No matter your stationery needs, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit to FineStationery.com first! Plus, this week, everyone wins: BABs can save 10% on save the dates with FineStationery.com with the code LOVE10 from now through March 31st!
This week, one lucky BAB reader will win a $125 gift card to FineStationery.com! Want it bad? You can get an easy entry by subscribing to our bi-weekly newsletter! It’s packed with BAB-exclusive deals, contests, and the best the wedding web has to offer, and we’ll never spam ya!
Photo courtesy of bridesmaiddressaleca
I need to find navy, knee-length, one-shoulder bridesmaid dresses. The catch – under $100 and something that stores carry. My maid of honor lives out of state and wants to try it on before she buys, and I totally agree! I’ve heard too many horror stories of online dresses not fitting right! Help me, please!
Bride Seeking Little Blue Dress
I will admit that this is a little outside of my bailiwick. However, I’m attempting to tackle it anyway in the hopes that my lovely readership will chime in with their suggestions.
After copious Googling, it seems like The Dessy Group might be your best bet. I’m not sure where your MOH lives, but they have an easy-to-use store finder and tons of stores. They also sell Alfred Sung, who offers a navy, knee-length, one-shoulder dress for $99.
And now, I’m going to be annoying. I know you said you wanted it to be sold in-store. However, Target now sells bridesmaid dresses. They are not sold in stores, BUT don’t stop reading! They’re affordable (most of them are around $70) and you can return them at Target stores, no questions asked. I actually purchased one a few weeks ago. It arrived super-quick, but it was a bit too small. I went to my local Target Guest Service counter, said “this doesn’t fit”, and they took it back, no further questions, full refund. Plus, if you have a Target REDcard (which is that whole “Would you like to save 5% at Target today” script you hear whenever you shop there), shipping is free. Your MOH could order a few in different sizes, see if anything fit, then return whatever she didn’t like. And they definitely have navy, knee-length, one-shoulder dresses for less than $100.
And now, valuable readers, please chime in! Do you have any recommendations for Blue? Tell us in the comments below where she should go for her ultimate bridesmaid dress!
Angela and Jay had their beautiful wedding in January of this year, incorporating meaningful locations, the support of their community, and some Arizona flair. Seriously, how cute are these cactus favors? It goes to show that you don’t need to spend $30,000 to have a beautiful, memorable wedding day…and since their family and friends were involved throughout, they were able to start their married lives feeling truly loved and blessed.
Names: Angela and Jay
Occupations: Angela- PhD Candidate, Cultural Anthropology, Jay: Video Game QA Lead, Red5 Studios
Wedding location: Phoenix, AZ (Immaculate Heart of Mary Church and the Science and Heritage Park)
Wedding date: 01-04-14
Wedding budget: Original $3000…..Actual $5000
Approximate guest count: 100
How would you describe your wedding? Laid-back, informal, with traditional aspects
What was your favorite part of your wedding? I loved getting to talk with all of my friends and family during the reception. I just wanted it to last forever.
What did you splurge on? The reception venue. We met on NYE 4 years ago at a bar owned by my husband’s friend. The venue is RIGHT behind it, so we both wanted to celebrate our marriage there, even though it was pretty expensive for our budget. It didn’t include much. It had a small catering kitchen and tables and chairs we could use. I also spent $444.00 on my wedding gown. I felt guilty for this, since Jay was wearing a suit he already owned. I REALLY wanted a simple white dress, off the rack. But I couldn’t find anything I liked. My mom made me go to a David’s Bridal one day and I found something that wasn’t too shiny and fancy for me. I hoped to sell it…but, then a friend burned a cigarette hole in it, and I spilled my beer on myself. I’m sure someone would still buy it…
What did you save on? Everything else!! The cake/cupcakes were made by my best friend from high school. I won a few bottles of champagne in an online contest. I cut out all the paper flag decorations with my mom. My brother bought decorations off Craigslist from a woman who had similar colors for her wedding (candles, cake plates, lights, lanterns). I bought all the servingware (bowls, trays, and tongs) at a dollar store. I didn’t want flowers at first, but my mom wasn’t having that. So I found 10 bouquets at Costco for $100. They doubled as bouquets for the bridespeople and table decorations. We gave small cacti as favors (only 50 of them) and my friend purchased them for me at cost ($1 per cactus) from his cousin who runs a nursery. We decided a build your own sandwich bar would be good instead of a caterer. It was very simple. We had sliced cheese, turkey and roast beef with condiments. We bought bolillo rolls from a Mexican bakery which was cheaper than the same rolls at Costco. I made three grain/pasta salads that were very very inexpensive. One was quinoa, one was a pasta salad, and one was Israeli couscous. The biggest saving was the alcohol. My husband’s friends who own the bar gave us free beer and wine! We also received free coffee due to a mixup at the coffee house. That was a nice surprise!
Was there anything you would have done differently, in retrospect? I would have done two things differently. First I would have managed time better. We were married in a church service and since my husband is not Catholic, we didn’t have the full ceremony. In fact it only took 30 minutes. We had no idea it would be that quick! This meant that our guests had to wait about 2 hours between our ceremony and the reception. Since our reception was only a block from the church, most of our guests just headed to our friends’ bar for food and drinks. We had to set up the wedding while they did this. We decided to set up our own wedding to save money (of course!). Since we were early, the young men we had hired to set up the tables hadn’t gotten started yet. Everyone was stressed out and working hard. They wouldn’t let my husband or I do much, which was nice, but also frustrating.
The second thing I would have done differently is I would have hired a day-of coordinator. I would have just asked an old friend and paid her $50 or something. That way she could have fielded the 10,000 questions everyone had for me that day. The questions freaked me out because I really wasn’t very picky about how everything looked, but of course no one believed that. Most of the questions were related to the decorations.
What was your biggest challenge in planning? We had a few challenges. The biggest challenge was money. We don’t have a lot and everything really added up. I was in Washington teaching for the Summer and Fall semesters right before the wedding. So not only did Jay and I not get to see each other, but all of my planning was done through email and phone calls. I didn’t even see the church until the rehearsal dinner. Luckily we were familiar with the reception venue.
What lessons did you learn from planning or from the wedding itself?
1.Our families really care for us. When we needed help purchasing something they always came through and just gave us money. We didn’t abuse this privilege, however.
2. I wouldn’t have bought so much food. Lots of our friends who said they were coming didn’t show, so there were too many sandwiches. Also, we had made sure to tell people that we were only serving light food, and during that 2 hr break between wedding and reception, lots of our guests ate dinner. My mom ended up donating bread to a soup kitchen which was great, but it would have been better for us not to spend the money in the first place.
3.I also learned that dancing is not as important to other people as it is to me. I spend what seemed like weeks and weeks creating our playlist. It was nuts. I went from slower dancing at the beginning to all out party music at the end when everyone would have been drunk. Well, The only dances that happened were our first dance and the father/daughter dance. Everyone else just used the wedding as a way to catch up with old friends and family, which was lovely, but not what I had envisioned. I wish I’d not cared about the music so much.
What were your top 5 favorite things about your wedding?
1. Seeing friends and family that I hadn’t seen for years. I have lived in CA and WA for the last 4 years, so I’m out of touch with a lot of my Phoenix peeps. My husband is the same way. It was nice to have everyone together.
2. The cake and decorations! I really loved what I did. Yes it was simple, but it reflected us. We aren’t flashy people. I was really proud about the money I saved.
3. The help we received from friends and family. They worked so hard and the night of the reception I felt really very guilty for it. I saw my mom running around putting lunch meat on platters and making a veggie tray. My bridespeople and other friends all helped immensely with various food and decorations. It made me feel awful at the time, but everyone says it wasn’t a problem and that they had a good time. Also, it made me feel very loved.
4. Wine and beer! Not only was it free, but it helped both me and my fiance loosen up a bit.
5. Getting to celebrate our commitment to each other in front of all our friends and family. Although Jay and I have been committed to our relationship for a while, it felt good to share that with everyone else. Everyone was really happy for us, and that felt great!
Top 5 least favorite?
1. I didn’t like the music at the wedding ceremony, but it wasn’t a big deal. It was just boring church music that didn’t really fit the wedding.
2. My fiance was nervous and I didn’t know how to cheer him up. He didn’t smile once during the service and his hand was sweaty when I met him at the altar. I felt like I was failing him by not creating a happy wedding. He finally loosened up at the reception after we cut the cake….. about 3 hrs in…
3. I don’t have a picture of my parents walking me down the aisle.
4. Friends and Family who said they were coming that did not show up.
6. We only paid for a 3 hour reception. I wanted it to last at least 2 hours longer into the evening. We did all move over to the bar, but my fiance and I didn’t stay as late as our guests. I guess that was probably a good thing!
What was the worst piece of wedding advice you received? I didn’t have any bad advice, just a LOT of judgement from others. When you tell people that you are getting married, suddenly everyone has an opinion on things. (tablecloths, flowers, food, “You HAVE to have the Chicken Dance!”, etc.) That was a little annoying at first, then a lot annoying. Also, I really thought that our relationship would somehow grow deeper at a profound level after getting married. It didn’t. I still feel the same love for him that I felt before the wedding. Although there are times when I think “Wow, that was a whole fiasco, wasn’t it? Getting married in a church when neither of us are religious, having a fancy white dress, registering for gifts, etc. I can’t believe he loves me SO much that he would do it all and not complain once.”
The best? A few friends told me “Do what you want and try not to listen to other people.” and “This is about a marriage, not about a wedding.”
Any other bits of wisdom? Just have fun on your wedding day! Soak it all in and try to remember everything. Smile and say thank you as much as possible. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Venue (4 hour rental, includes a $500 refundable deposit): $1645.00
Security (We had to hire an off-duty cop for the venue.): $120
Marriage License: $107.00
City Fees (sound permit, alcohol permit): $38.00
Food,cups/napkins (Costco, regular supermarket, Mexican Bakery): $423.00
Sparkbooth (only 5-6 guests used this…I could have skipped it.): $55.00
Stereo speaker rental (we borrowed a few from friends too): $80.00
Vistaprint invitations w/postage(we emailed most people but sent out 60): $61.50
Dress (David’s Bridal): $444.99
Shoes/Veil (DSW Outlet and Claire’s Workshop ): $52.30
Church marriage prep: $350.00
Hair (The Root Salon)$65.00
Bouquet (made by a friend who does this as a small side business): $100.00
Rings (I used my grandmother’s but it needed a few prong repairs. I traded in some gold to help pay for that. We bought a stainless steel one onAmazon for Jay for the ceremony. He got a tattoo of his ring because he doesn’t like jewelry): $210.00
Hotel room for wedding night ( Sheraton Phoenix Downtown ): $112.00
Free items: Cake/cupcakes, alcohol, tables/chairs were included with rental, extra help setting up was a gift from BIL’s girlfriend, Church fees were paid by my parents (because they wanted the church wedding), Coffee (there was a mix-up at the coffeeshop, so we got it for free!), and FIL paid for the rehearsal dinner.
Brides Against Breast Cancer is an amazing charity that we’ve partnered with–they accept new and used gown donations, which they then send on roadshows across the country to sell to brides like you for an average price of $600! They also do “Run and Renew” 5K events as fundraisers, and every year, they raise around a million dollars for those impacted by cancer. Incredible, no? If they’ve got an upcoming event in your area, you should definitely check it out! PLUS, our very own Christen will be volunteering at the Jacksonville show, so definitely come and say hi!
The Nationwide Tour of Gowns upcoming schedule:
Run and Renew upcoming schedule:
|Wildwood, NJ||5K Run & 1 Mile Fun Run||October 4, 2014||Memoreys by Morey’s Piers|
Real Bride Kate‘s Aussie fiance Daniel Gullotta used to work in fine jewelry and was kind enough to provide our readers with insider’s tips on how to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to wedding jewelry. This guide is the next best thing to having him with you when you go shopping! And when it’s all said and done, don’t forget to get your ring insured. Often when you have an expensive piece of jewelry, you’ll need it listed separately on your insurance policy with proof of its purchase and value. For instance, your policy could cover $30,000 worth of losses, but generally only a few thousand of that can be jewelry, so if you have an expensive piece or family heirlooms, it would require a separate rider or an overall bump in your coverage. Check with your insurance provider to be certain! Although insurance money is a cold comfort in the face of the devastating emotional blow of loss/theft, it’s definitely better than starting again from scratch.
So gentlemen, you want to get engaged, huh? Well, first off congratulations! This is an exciting time in your lives and it’s something that should be celebrated. You guys are taking a big step together and getting engaged should be one of the more enjoyable things to do. Sadly, with the pressures of a century of jewellery companies and the influence of Nicholas Sparks novels and countless romantic comedies, getting engaged seems to have become a nightmare because of one little piece of jewellery: the engagement ring. In my previous life, while I was taking a break from my academic endeavours, for two years I was a jewellery salesperson for one of Australia’s leading jewellers. I worked for one of the major stores that many people used as a reference to begin their searches, so needless to say, I have suggested, designed, and sold a lot of engagement rings to a lot of different people. Some of these people came in well-prepared and very educated on what they believed was expected of them by their partners and others came in clueless and in desperate need of guidance. So if you are reading this, allow me to take you through some tricks of the trade, some tips on getting a good deal, and some advice about finding the right engagement ring for you and your partner.
As a side note, I would like to stress my use of inclusive language because I have sold plenty of engagement rings to LGBTI couples who want to formally commit to their relationship. Buying engagement rings is a practice not just for heterosexual couples. In fact, I have sold some utterly gorgeous rings to same-sex couples. And, as a man who is typing this article wearing an engagement ring given to him by his lovely partner, Kate, engagement rings are not just for women as well. Engagement and engagement rings are not just for women who are having their fairy tale dreams come true, they can be for anyone and everyone who desires to formally and symbolically pronounce their engagement.
Let Your Desires Be Known
This is the first piece of advice I always give to people whenever I hear young people expressing that they want to get their partner an engagement ring. Does your partner know your desire to get engaged? Do they have a clue that you are planning? Do they know how much you intend to spend on the ring? Are you sure they are going to say “yes” if you propose? The reason why I inquire about this is because it answers a lot of questions straight away, and it also helps with piece of mind. If you are going to get engaged, this means you are about to begin sharing your finances and financial commitments with another person – maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but eventually you are going to have to start budgeting for your wedding and other expenses. So, while you may be able to afford an $8000 ring, how much do you imagine spending on the wedding and how soon will you need that money for the wedding? Now, you do not have to let your partner know how much you are going to spend on the ring, but in my experience, partners have a way of finding this out. I think it is good to ask, “Honey, if I was going to buy you an engagement ring, how much do you think is a reasonable amount to spend?” Once I assisted a young man who thought he was going to have to spend close to $5000 on an engagement ring for his partner, but seeing how stressed and pale it made him, I advised him to discuss that with his partner. He came back a few days later very relieved and he informed me that his partner said, “If you spend that much on a ring, you are an idiot.” So, it pays (or rather saves) to communicate. Perhaps I am not being romantic about this, and I am ruining the grand and lovely surprise of it all, but honestly, if your engagement comes as a complete and utter shock, I think you two may need to start communicating a little better.
The other reason why I stress this is because of the chance of rejection and how that will affect your purchase. The worst scenario I have seen was a man who bought his partner an engagement ring which he was going to give to her on their anniversary trip to Bali, being almost two months away. He returned months later with the receipt, the box, the bag, and the ring and asked if he could get his money back because his partner was unhappy with their relationship. She had wanted to talk about it for a long time and with their tickets and hotel booked for Bali, she had wanted to wait until they got home. The engagement ring was a shock and too much and she let her true feelings be known. As sad as that was, my store had polices to follow, and the ring was long out of its return period and had even left the country. We could not give him his money back, and this created one of the biggest stresses in my career as a jewellery salesman. After weeks of back-and-forth dialogue from our legal team and him, the best we could offer him was a gift card for our store which he used to buy a luxury watch, and even then, he was still not happy at all. Yet, I have heard worse, far worse, and people have walked away with even less than that. So please, let your intentions be known and start talking to your partner about the future.
Their Style, Not What’s in Style
The other reason why I say it’s good to talk to one another about this is so you can get their style and desires right. Yellow gold or white gold? Diamonds or rubies or emeralds? How many stones? What sort of cut? What sort of design? The amount of choices can be overwhelming and this is where an important choice has to be made, even before you get into the jewellery store. To look at rings together or go in solo? Both choices are right, and it really depends the couple. Going in solo will take determination and research, but it shows great initiative and allows you the element of surprise. However, bringing your partner in with you can save you a lot of stress and time; plus sometimes their expectations from magazines and movies are not the same once they try it in the store. From my own experience, I am very glad I talked to Kate about rings and took her into various jewellery stores to get a better sense of what her style was. If I had it my way, I would have gone with a single solitaire round set in white gold with six claw prongs. Simple, classic, and timeless I thought, but to Kate, it was overused, dull, and simply not her. While Kate wanted a round stone and white gold (I got that much right), she wanted a few more stones to help the ring stand out a little and be special, and thus I started look at rings I had never originally intended to look at. From Kate’s own perspective, she had always imagined getting a ruby for an engagement ring stone, but when she saw how they had very little shine and no sparkle, her mind was quickly changed.
The Six Cs: Cut, Colour, Clarity, Carat-Weight, Compromise and Cost
When it comes to the actual science and art of selecting a stone, the most important thing to know is the four Cs: cut, color, clarity, and carat-weight. Most jewelry stores, if not all, will have flyers or stands with this information and will demonstrate where the stone you are looking at fits into these categories. The fifth and sixth Cs that no one talks about are compromise and cost. Undoubtedly, these are what will define what you exit the store with. However, one of the most common questions I get is which c is the most important? What is the one that really matters? It’s a good question, but there is no universal answer – it really depends on the person, and you must remember that all of these factors work together in producing what your stone is going to be. So there is no perfect way to determine what is more important: that is up to you and your wallet.
The cut of the stone, before we get into the science of it, will determine how the stone looks, and getting this right is the most important thing because it’s what your partner will wear. If they wanted a square cut stone (a princess cut) and you present them with a round stone (a brilliant cut), that is a big mistake. However, the cut is important because it speaks to the proportions of the stone and that in turn affects the dispersion of light through the stone. Simply put, the cut determines how much sparkle and fire your stone can get on its best days in the best lights. This ranges from excellent to very good to good around the crown, girdle, and pavilion, each with its own grading. A stone with an excellent cut crown, girdle, and pavilion is the most desirable and is known as triple excellent cut or flawless cut. However, these stones are rare because in order to create a stone with a flawless cut, the stone itself must have very few flaws to work with. Thus, generally, most stones on the market are good to very good and some with excellent qualities such as just the crown or just the pavilion.
Next is colour. When it comes to diamonds, they are graded from D to Z: D for diamond being the best and colourless. The ranges differ from jeweller to jeweler, but in my experience D-F are generally considered colourless or rare-white stones, G-H are near colourless or white stones, and J-M are faintly yellow or off-white stones, and so on. However, let me stress something here: there is no exact scientific way to grade the colour of stones. Do not be fooled: all colours are graded by the eye and one person’s H grade is another’s J. The difference in colour can be subtle or striking and this depends the range you find yourself in. In my experience, due to cost, the range most people find themselves in is about the G-H range, as these are whiter stones but still relatively affordable.
The one the most people do not like knowing too much about is clarity, which is a polite way of putting how many flaws and inclusions as stone has. The reason why this matters is because these inclusions interfere with how much light passes through the stone. The fewer inclusions to mess with the dispersion of light, the more shine and sparkle you are going to get. Some cannot be seen by the naked eye, and generally these are very small inclusions, others are slight and take a trained eye to see, but some contain small spots that can be seen, and in my experience, they are known to drive people crazy. And this is where I want to stress something: do not get caught up in the clarity game. Unless you are stupidly wealthy, if you want a natural stone, whether it’s a diamond or a ruby or whatever, it is going to have flaws. Accept that fact and move on. Seriously, take a deep breath and move on. My advice to you is to go for something with small inclusions that you cannot see with the naked eye. It’s good to know where they are and how big they are, so ask the salesperson to show you with a magnifying glass. Once you look through the glass, remove it and see if you can still notice the inclusion. If you can and it’s striking, the stone is probably not good. However, if you can’t, you know the flaw is there, but you know it’s not noticeable.
Last comes carat-weight, which is all about the size of the stone. Stones are measured in carats, one carat being one hundred points. The bigger the stone, the bigger the price tag. Carat is probably the most difficult part of being a salesperson in jewellery, because generally this is where people get the most unrealistic or have the least amount of information. Being a fan of the single solitaire, I imagined getting Kate a one carat stone, being a nice even and holistic number, yet, when I discovered how much it was going to cost me (even with staff discount), I knew getting a one carat diamond was not going to happen. Carat weight is what can hurt the most, because, next to the cut of your stone, it’s what people and your partner notice (and sadly judge) first. Did they get a stone or a speck?
After saying all this, here is where compromise and cost come into play. Ask yourself honestly, what really matters to you the most, and how much is it going to cost you to get it? Does size really matter to you that much? Can you live with a bigger stone but with less sparkle than you would like? Can you manage a very lovely stone with very few flaws but is it about the size of a grain of rice? Is there a perfect stone across the board with just one inclusion that you can see at certain angles? What can you compromise on, and how much it is going to cost? Honesty is the best medicine. If you can only afford a $2000 ring, stop looking at the rings that cost $10000. It simply isn’t going to happen, so walk away and save yourself the grief.
Tips and Tricks for Grabbing a Bargain
Having said all that, allow me to impart a few tips and tricks for getting a great deal on your engagement ring. These aren’t guaranteed to work, but they have helped people I have served time and time again, and they come recommended from a lot of finance books such as The Total Money Makeover and The Millionaire Next Door.
- Every day is a Sale Day: Jewellery stores always seem to have a sale going on, so don’t be surprised when you go in and see lots of “sale” signs and banners and discounts of 25% – 50%. By all means, go and see what is on sale, but do not stress if what you want is not on sale. If you want it, then and there, if you make them work for your money and business, trust me, it will go on sale for you. However, this will not work for certain companies that do not negotiate on price, but if you are shopping at one of those stores, you are probably more interested in the name on the box rather than the ring inside.
- Shop on a Sunday near the End of the Month: Sunday is viewed in either two ways, the start of a new business week (a great chance to get the week off to a good start) or the end of the business week (the last chance to boost a store’s numbers). Either way, Sundays are quiet days for businesses, and malls are not nearly as busy on Sundays. They have fewer staff members, and that is the time a lot of stores use to do extra amounts of cleaning. Also, if it’s near the end of the month, most of employees will have their budgets due, and if they haven’t made their targets, stress will be high and this will only be increased by how quiet a Sunday is. They will bend backwards to get your money, and by bend backwards, I mean bend prices.
- Cash is King: Cash is the easiest way to get a deal you normally wouldn’t get with a credit card or a financing plan. Cash shows you are serious, very serious. Cash in hand moves people to make deals and get business done. I can tell you a story when a very impressive woman wanted to buy her partner an engagement ring and she had decided that was the ring she wanted, she opened her purse and flashed a lot of bills and looked me directly in the eye and said, “Now let’s talk about that price.” Cash is the best weapon you have. It gets the deal done in one transaction, saves you on interest, gets you the best discount and even makes the salesperson a profit: everyone’s a winner.
- Fight Emotion with Emotion: “Sell emotion.” That is the mantra of the salesperson in jewellery. Because jewellery items are such personal items, salespeople are trained to persuade and influence people by selling emotion in their sales in order to maximise their profit. Do not let their flattery, stories, or emotions trick you. Of course they are going to tell you this ring is very popular and it’s amazing and it’s stunning and it’s perfect. Of course they are going to tell you that someone else has been looking at it and that there are very few left in the company and that your fiancé(e) would really love this ring. Fight emotion with emotion. Ask them, “What can YOU do on the price?” Say to them, “If I brought this ring today what would YOU make the price for me?” Point out, “I see YOU have a sale on this month, let’s discuss this ring.” Be bold and blunt, “I want this ring and YOU want to sell it to me, what are deal WE going to make?” Get them involved in this deal: they want your money and you want the ring, at least everyone’s honest about it.
- “Meet me in the middle.”: This phrase has seen more business settled than you can possibly imagine, both by me and by my clever customers. For example, one day I was selling a ring that was $3000 at full price. The lady who was interested in it told me she really only wanted to spent $1000, yet she loved that ring. After speaking with my manager, I offered her $2000, and she still insisted that was too much and it wasn’t what she had in mind and we went back and forth until she drew out $1500 in cash and said to me, “How about we meet in the middle?” It’s so simple, and it’s so effective. It’s the best way to try and keep both parties happy. See what discounts they can offer you and try your best to undercut them until they really start to hold up a fight, and then, flash your cash and offer to meet them in the middle.
My final piece of advice is that ultimately the engagement ring is what you make it. It is your money, but more importantly, it’s you and your partner’s choice in what you want to symbolise your commitment to one another. Do not feel pressured to follow the masses and get a diamond ring, far from it. Diamonds as ‘the engagement’ stone are a modern invention and engagement rings as common practice by the masses (not by the super powerful and wealthy) is a modern marketing phenomenon. I have seen every stone under the sun used an engagement ring, and the people who wear them rock them with complete and utter confidence that is inspiring. I have seen engagement rings made out of sterling silver crafted in traditional Celtic styles and even gothic skulls and dragons used as an engagement ring. Everyone is different. We all have different budgets, of course, but we all have different tastes and styles too. Do not let the norm inform you what you ‘should’ spend on your partner and what will make them happy.
That’s for you to decide.
I hate to use the F-word, but I’ll admit it. I am a feminist.
I am an independent woman of the new millennium! I am a defender of equal rights! I will not be the woman behind any man; I will be the woman NEXT to him, for we are equal and balanced in every way! AND I would never take a man’s name! How about allowing MY name to last through generations! We’ll hyphenate! And FURTHERMORE… Wait…. What’s that? Is that a ring?!?! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! “I’m gonna be Mrs. Spencer! I’m gonna be Mrs. Spencer!” It’s. So. Sparkly. How does it look when I’m typing? How does look when I’m driving? How does it look when I’m drinking coffee? How does it look when I point North? How does it look when….
Engagement rings are funny, aren’t they? They’re like these “sold” tags we put on women to show the world they’re no longer sadly hanging on the sale rack. “Yes, some very nice man came along and offered to take me home, water me, and feed me. I mean, thank God for men, right?!” (Despite the sarcasm and all the feminism talk, men are cool. Just to be clear.) But really, if you delve deep into engagement ring history, rings have been used to tag, own, and legally bind women for like, thousands of years. Cavemen used to tie braided grass around the wrists and ankles of their chosen ladies to keep their spirits under the man’s control. (I get it. Even I get a little emotional when my wrists and ankles are not properly decorated.) Ancient Egyptians buried the paired deceased with silver or gold wire wrapped around their left, 4th finger because they believed it was directly connected to the heart by the Vena Amoris, or the vein of love. (Ok, so this is actually kind of sweet but ALL veins are connected to the heart and thanks for that super sweet gift after I’m dead.) Men didn’t even start wearing wedding bands to signify they’ve been bagged regularly until the 20th century. So, why are we women putting up with such a tradition? Because they’re really, really pretty. And sparkly.
Once I get used to the glare from my new symbol of ownership, I would like to find a balance between my feminism and our modern day adaptations of marriage tradition. Ultimately, these traditions are what you make of them and I certainly imagine incorporating them into my wedding day. And when I do imagine this, it is beautiful. And I really love my ring. I LOVE it.
We chose not to do the traditional diamond engagement ring. My ring is a natural aquamarine stone (I say “natural” because there are lab-created stones out there that are not as precious but are less expensive, FYI) with diamonds around and down the sides alongside deep blue sapphires in a white gold setting. It’s big and sparkly and that makes it perfect for me. The best part about not doing a traditional diamond engagement ring, is that it is usually less expensive and there are so many more unique options. Any ring will work if you and your fiance love it! (Also, it’s rather large and it’s a big hit at parties when I pretend to have a hard time lifting my left arm. Real dramatic-like. So, my ring has been good for my comedy too.)
I also thought I’d share a couple of recently engaged friends’ rings who also went the non-traditional route and they are SPECTACTULAR!
Check out Julie-Joy’s ring. She has a rectangle setting with a cluster of diamonds instead of one large diamond in the middle in a platinum setting and I must say, pictures do not do this ring justice! More diamonds = more sparkle!
And check out Caroline’s ring. She has a beautiful blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds in a yellow gold setting. It is so fun, yet so elegant!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against diamonds. They can also be very unique and if we had the cash laying around, I would’ve insisted upon this Tiffany’s spectacle:
Alas, I do not have $250,000 for that ring. So, diamond alternatives are the inexpensive and unique answer to the simple diamond for even the most feminist of brides who are looking to show a little personality on that Vena Amoris.
Here’s to feeling pretty and making as much money as our male counterparts,