Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding Jewelry

best time of year wedding jewelry purchase

It happened right before Thanksgiving.  I got a card in the mail from a jeweler that had somehow found out I was getting married.  Come in to the store and we’ll give you some free earrings, no purchase necessary.  All I had to do was come in between Black Friday and Christmas.

So I did.  Of course.  While I was there, I figured I might as well look at wedding bands as I hadn’t yet gotten one for the fiance.  He hadn’t gotten his ring size yet, but the jeweler showed me the selection and told me I should definitely buy before Christmas.

She told me during the holidays jewelers freeze their prices, regardless of how gold or silver performs in the stock market, and then they put on all these fabulous sales.  After the holidays the sales stop, and they resume pricing their products based on the current value of gold/silver, etc.

I walked out with a coupon, but ended up not going back because the prices were far outside of my budget.  This is my second go around with the whole marriage thing.  The last time I got married was before the housing bubble burst and the price of precious metals comparatively skyrocketed.  So what I had been expecting to spend versus the reality I had just been confronted with had really hit home.

About halfway through the crazy holiday shopping season, we were out as a family at the mall buying the gifts that we still needed to fill in.  We stopped at a different jeweler to get him sized.  He saw some rings he liked, and the prices here were a lot more affordable.

I asked the woman waiting on us if what the other jeweler had told me was true:  would prices go up after Christmas?  Was this really the best time of year to buy?

She told me yes, and confessed that they would continue to have 40% off sales, but that it wouldn’t be on as wide of an array of products and that they would resume following the stock market when pricing their products.

We looked around the mall a bit, and found that the jeweler we had started with had the best prices for their selection.  So we headed back.  I handed the girl at the counter the business card of the woman I had been talking to before; I wanted to talk to her again so she could get the sale she had earned.

She took the card from me, put it under the desk, and started to show me Tungsten rings.  She was talking the fiance into it, too, despite my vocal protests that I didn’t want to spend that much money on a ring that (in my opinion, which may be completely wrong,) is a fad.  On top of that you can’t resize it.  I wanted gold or silver, and I wanted it in my price range.

She refused to show us the rings I asked to see, and lost a sale.

Time went on.  It was the night before Christmas Eve and I was freaking out because I was going to miss the best time of year to get these sales.  So I went on-line, fully intending to price compare and find a store that had a good selection for when I went in person on the morrow.

Of all places, I found it on Sears website.  A ring almost exactly like one he had seen and liked in a “real” metal, and in my price range.  And it was a comfort-fit, which is a bonus the fiance won’t even understand, but he’ll unknowingly appreciate it.

It said it wasn’t available in store because it was shipped by the original jeweler directly.  I checked out the original jeweler, and they had the ring for less on their website. Plus I found a coupon code for 5% off (which can be huge when you’re spending hundreds,) and free shipping.

I held my breath as I pressed the “Complete Purchase” button. I had gone mad. I was purchasing jewelry on-line based off an internet picture, and then having it shipped to my house hoping the mailman wouldn’t just leave it out on the street.

But I did it anyways. I was not going to have to go out on Christmas Eve.

So a few days ago it came.  All my fears were laid to rest.  It was exactly like the pictures.  (Though I can’t take a good one.)  The post office actually left me a note requesting that I pick it up rather than leaving it in the mailbox or on the street.

I couldn’t be more surprised that I didn’t hit a snag or problem. It’s at least as beautiful as the pieces we saw at all those other stores, and so much more affordable.

If you’re comparing pictures online, it’s a good idea to look at sites like James Allen. They provide a 360 degree view of their products, so its easier to see what you’re getting than with simple 2D pictures.

Since I had already seen pretty much the same exact men’s ring before, it made it easier for me to create a mental composite from 2D. Had I not, or if I had been shopping for an engagement ring with a diamond, the 360 degree view would have been something I mandated from my online jeweler.

I did some price comparison after the holidays.  I didn’t save any money by freaking out on Christmas Eve.  I didn’t spend more, either, though.  Prices on the products I was looking at were pretty  much the same.

I did some research independent of jewelry store salespeople and found that the best time of year for jewelry spans pretty wide:  October to February.  (Valentine’s Day anyone?)  So I did well.  I just didn’t need to stress quite so much about my timeline.

 

This article originally ran in January of 2014.

*This post contains affiliate links. You do not pay anymore for using these links; sometimes they even allow me to bring you exclusive sales. When you purchase through one of them, I am compensated. Thank you for supporting this blog!*

5 Engagement Rings Under $1,500

Need to show this to my man! 5 engagement rings under $1,500!

It’s here, everyone! We are now in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year to buy wedding jewelry. Deals abound. Hunnies are getting ready to propose over the holidays.

It’s the perfect storm of practicality meets savings.

If you’re shopping for an engagement ring on a budget, here are five beautiful picks under $1,500 from my favorite online retailer: James Allen. I like buying rings online because it saves you money and helps you get more bang for your buck. I like James Allen because they go above and beyond to help you view rings and diamonds at 360 degrees and they throw in all kinds of freebies like engraving, shipping and 30-day, no-questions-asked returns.

Vintage Infinity Engagement Ring

vintage-1450-1

Displayed here in 14K white gold, you can also get this band and setting in rose gold or yellow gold. The infinity symbol that encircles the band serves as a reminder that your love and promises are eternal. Paired here with a .70 carat, princess-cut diamond, the final price comes to $1,450.

View this band.
View this diamond.

Presentation Solitaire Engagement Ring

solitaire

Don’t underestimate the elegance of simplicity. This 14k gold band, also available in all three shades of gold, comes in under budget so that you can splurge on the .71 carat oval diamond with super high clarity. Total price is $1,460.

View this band.
View this diamond.

Engraved Vintage Solitaire Engagement Ring

proverbs-1430-1

This one is my favorite. As a woman, I would gladly take the smaller .53 carat size in exchange for the excellent cut, color and clarity, but the real deal breaker is the gorgeous band. It’s beautiful in all colors, but personally, I’m crushing on the 14k rose gold displayed above. Total price is $1,430.

View this band.
View this diamond.

Rope Solitaire Engagement Ring

rope-1500-2

If engraving isn’t her thing, but she does want a unique aspect to her band, check out the Rope Solitaire Engagement Ring. It’s subtly different, but still simple. This one is also displayed with a high quality .53 carat diamond. Total price is $1,500 on the nose.

View this band.
View this diamond.

2mm Comfort Fit Solitaire Engagement Ring

marquis-1440-2

Comfort Fit rings are beveled around the edges so they won’t cut into your fingers at all. This one is 2mm thick, and perfect for displaying the unique marquis cut diamond which is .70 carat. Total price is $1,440.

View this band.
View this diamond.

Which engagement ring would you pick?

I’m interested to see which way you guys lean. My favorite is the third option, but they’re all pretty dang beautiful—especially for those prices! If you’re already married, how low did you manage to keep your budget?

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. You do not pay anything additional for using these links, but they do help keep this blog afloat. Thank you for supporting Femme Frugality, and I hope you have the happiest happily ever after!*

How to Get a Non-Clergy Wedding in California

Over two years ago, I wrote an article about self-uniting marriage. Saving on clergy fees? What kind of frugal bride wouldn’t be interested?

The response to it has been huge, and has inspired many readers to successfully petition against their county clerks to get married without an officiant based on our Constitutional right to freedom of religion.

A couple of months ago, I started talking to a reader in California who wanted to get a “non-clergy” marriage in their state. (“Non-clergy” is the same thing as self-uniting—just different choice of words.) We bounced ideas off of each other, and the couple did the hard work that led to successfully obtaining the type of marriage license they wanted so they could dedicate themselves to each other in the way that best celebrated their understanding of God (or lack thereof) and Love.

As far we know, this is the first instance of a successful secular, non-clergy marriage in the state of California. The reader has been kind enough to share their experiences with us today. All involved hope that this story paves the way for other couples.

Photo via Thunderchild7 under CC by 2.0

Photo via Thunderchild7 under CC by 2.0

By way of background, the Pilgrims had scarcely arrived and established their fundamentalist, theocratic colony when they started persecuting anyone who didn’t worship the same God in the same way. The first people hanged for heresy in Massachusetts were Quakers. There’s a statue of one of them, Mary Dyer, in in front of the State House facing Boston Common.

But over the years, Quakers and their quirks — including not having clergy — have come to be accepted as “respectably” religious.

“Most states make some kind of special allowance for legalizing a Quaker wedding when there is no pastor to ‘officiate,'” according to the Friends General Conference, the main network of clergy-less Quakers in the USA.

Since the Constitution prohibits disparate treatment for different religions, or for religious and non-religious beliefs, that should mean that it is possible for any couple in any of these states to marry without clergy, as Quakers do.

Easier said than done, as I found out in California.

Befriend the Quakers

In the District of Columbia and Colorado, any couple can elect to “officiate” their own marriage, without being asked about their religion.

To see a full list of states that allows this practice, check out our list of states that allow self-uniting marriage.

In other states, the procedures for “Quaker marriage” vary. You will either need to read the law, or ask Quakers in your state. Don’t expect local officials to have a clue, especially in areas with few Quakers.

Even if you aren’t a Quaker, you could start by contacting a local meeting of the “Society of Friends” (Quakers).  Ask nicely, and they will probably be happy to help. Explain that you aren’t a Quaker, but want to marry without an officiant, as Quakers do, and ask them how Quakers register their marriages in your state. Is there a special form or procedure?

Get to Know the Law and Get Some Help

Once you find out the procedure Quakers use in your state, your next task is to get local officials to allow you to follow that procedure, even though you aren’t a Quaker. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, there have already been lawsuits over this. In other states, you may be the first person to ask. Start by asking nicely.

You might have to get a lawyer involved. But don’t assume that local officials will be hostile. They may just not understand: many people can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to pay some stranger to “officiate” over your own wedding.

Being the first in your state, county or city will take more work, may take more time and might require you to face publicity and/or postpone your wedding. But it will set a precedent that will help the next couple.

If local officials refuse to let you follow the same procedure as is followed by Quakers, you could ask civil rights groups that have been involved in this and similar issues, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, or the ACLU chapter in your state.

Femme’s note: It took about a month to hear back from them, but a reader in Pennsylvania who ran into problems with her county clerk managed to get a self-uniting marriage license in Berks County with the help of the ACLU.

We asked all three. For each, we filled out a form on their website, and an intake lawyer called us back 1-2 weeks later to get more information. All these groups get more worthy people asking for help than they can handle, so don’t be surprised if they decide not to take your case. Specialized groups such as FFRF and AU may be more likely to take on a case like this than a group with a wider focus like the ACLU.

In our case, AU offered to have one of their staff lawyers write a letter to the county clerk explaining why we should be allowed to have a “non-clergy wedding” (the term used in California law, Family Code section 307) if we state that our “religious denomination” is “atheist”.

That letter persuaded the San Francisco City and County Clerk to allow us to have a “non-clergy marriage” with 2 witnesses and no officiant, which is what Quakers do in California.  If you are in another county in California, and the clerk balks at allowing an atheist “non-clergy wedding,” see if AU will send a similar letter to your County Clerk.

Confidential Marriages in California

We had a second round of even more arcane argument, however, because we wanted our marriage to be “confidential” rather than “public”.  California is unusual (maybe unique among the states) in having two different ways that marriages can be recorded: public or confidential.

A public marriage is just that: Anyone can buy a CD for $10 with all the public marriages in
California for a given year, including parents’ birth names, dates and places of birth, etc. Who would want their mother’s maiden name and other information invaluable to identity thieves in such a public database?

A confidential California marriage is like a sealed court record: it is kept in the county clerk’s office and available only to the married couple. You can get a certified copy you can show to anyone who needs to see it, e.g. to show eligibility for health insurance as a spouse. Anyone else needs a court order to get a copy of a confidential marriage record.

So in California there are two ways to “solemnize” a marriage (by an officiant or “non-clergy”) and two ways to record a marriage (public or confidential.) That makes four possible combinations.

But the state of California, in its infinite wisdom, has prepared only three marriage license forms. Apparently they developed the forms for confidential marriage and non-clergy marriage separately, and never thought about the possibility of someone who wanted non-clergy solemnization and confidential recording. We were being foiled by poor forms design!

This is pretty cool---have a non-clergy marriage in California and you don't have to pay for an officiant!

San Francisco Recognizes the Inconsistencies in Marriage Law

Everyone we talked to agreed that the law allows this, but they kept saying “no” because they couldn’t figure out which forms to use. We were treated politely and pleasantly throughout. I’m not sure how it would have gone in other California counties.

For what it’s worth, the San Francisco County Clerk, San Francisco City and County Attorney, County Clerks elsewhere in the state they consulted, and the state vital records office all said they had never heard of anyone asking for an atheist non-clergy marriage or a confidential non-clergy marriage. But they all agreed that the law is unconstitutional as written, so that some accommodation needs to be made. They also agreed that the state and local websites need to explain these options better – many counties don’t mention the non-clergy option, or don’t explain it properly– and that the forms and maybe the law itself needs to be clarified.

Success! And how you can get a non-clergy marriage in California, too.

After a month of negotiation, and less than two hours before our appointment at City Hall with an officiant we didn’t want and didn’t want to pay for, state and county officials finally worked out a way to use the existing forms for non-clergy, confidential, atheist marriage.

If you have trouble with this in another California county, tell them there is a procedure that has been used for this in San Francisco. They could check with either the San Francisco County Clerk’s office or, perhaps better, the office in Sacramento that was involved.

California Department of Public Health – Vital Records
Birth and Marriage Registration Section
(916) 445-2236

Interested in a personal contact? Shoot Femme an email if you’re facing this problem as a Californian and she’ll get you connected to the appropriate people.

In the end, everything went smoothly. We filled out the application form at the County Clerk’s office at City Hall, and were given a non-clergy marriage license. We filled that out with our two witnesses — at a time and place of our convenience — and brought it back to the clerk’s office. (We could have filed it on the spot if we had brought our two witnesses with us to City Hall.)

We entered “atheist” in the box for religious denomination. Nobody could dispute that atheists don’t have clergy!

It took a day for our marriage to be recorded. The day after we turned in the signed form, we came back and paid for a couple of certified copies of the marriage certificate: one to keep at home and use for all the paperwork for changing our status with insurers, etc., and one to put in our safe deposit box. These copies were provided on the spot.

The First Atheist Marriage in California

We were told, and it seems plausible, that ours was the first officially atheist marriage in California, the first non-clergy atheist marriage, and the first confidential non-clergy marriage.

We went through a lot of hassle, but hopefully it will now be easier for others in San Francisco and maybe elsewhere in California.

 

Congratulations to our couple on their marriage! So much thanks for sharing their story, and for fighting the good fight to pave the way for others who want to get married in accordance with their theistic OR nontheistic beliefs.

Savings When Building a Candy Table

Hey, party people! I’m in the midst of planning a birthday party, myself, so I was thrilled to have Wendy Dessler write this piece up on saving while entertaining! Whether you’re using a candy table at a birthday party, a wedding or some other social event, you’re going to want to check out these tips.

Are you planning a Candy Table as a dessert table or cake alternative for your wedding or party? This is a great idea and one that is catching on everywhere. While creating a candy buffet is sometimes very costly, it does not have to be! We have compiled a list of wonderful candy buffet ideas that will allow you a unique and yummy experience and save you money.

How Much Candy? A Skillful way to save.       

The general rule of thumb when figuring how much candy you need is 4-8 ounces per guest. However, using slightly smaller favor bags or boxes seamlessly reduces the candy people will take. This is a great idea (and an unnoticed way to cut corners) if your party is mostly adults, such as a wedding reception.

Another way to reduce the candy people will take is to place smaller scoops in the jars. Also consider taller jars with smaller openings, providing tongs for your guests.

Placing a nicely worded sign on the candy buffet makes the message clear in a tasteful way. It should read, “Enjoy one bag”. Enough said.

Timing

If you intend to include perishable candy such as chocolate for a candy buffet in June, order it in March. This will ensure, you will not have to pay for rush shipping to get your chocolate before it melts.

Storing chocolate

Store chocolate in a dark place with no light. Keep it tightly wrapped in an airtight container (it will absorb odors). Keep the temperature at 65-68 degrees. In these conditions, dark chocolate will last a year and milk or white chocolate will last six months. If you must freeze chocolate, wrap it tightly and place in the refrigerator for a full 24 hours before placing it in the freezer. When removing it, reverse the process.

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Creating your candy buffet

Use larger, bulkier candies to take up space on the table. Cotton candy, large gummies, taffy, candy corn, marshmallows, and gumballs are inexpensive, colorful, and require a lot of space. Speak to your favorite bulk candy provider for wonderful tips on how to have a great buffet on a budget.

Be unique and add some salt! Salty snacks are a natural with sweets. Pretzels, popcorn, and Triscuits add bulk and contrast to your buffet.

Containers

Of course, your containers should be clear. Larger, taller containers go toward the back of the table. Short, wide-mouth containers are in the middle. Trays with specialty candies are in the front. Use dishes or boxes to make the containers higher or lower. Use your bulky candy to fill in any open spaces.

Decor

Creative table coverings, ribbons, and lace can create a beautiful table. Consider hanging long ribbons of your color theme behind the table, making a backdrop.

Main focus

Make one candy your focal point. Maybe it is a chocolate fountain or a designer treat. This allows you to buy those supplies in bulk, saving even more money.

With a little planning and creativity, you will create the candy table of your dreams, and one your guests will always remember.

Eloping in DC: the East Coast’s Vegas

Eloping in DC looks way easier (and cheaper!) than making a trip to Vegas! Who knew?

When you think of eloping, odds are your brain will conjure up images of an Elvis impersonator in a white chapel surrounded by casinos and desert. In other words, you’re picturing Las Vegas.

Getting married in Vegas is easy. But for those of us on the East coast, it’s quite a haul, and we do have other options much closer to us.

The best option?

Eloping in DC.

There are quite a few reasons our nation’s capital is the perfect place to say, “I do,” without blowing your budget. Here are a few of them:

The turnaround is quick on marriage licenses.

As long as you bring all the necessary paperwork, documentation and money to pay appropriate fees, you can get your marriage license the same day you apply. Let’s say you left Pittsburgh at eight in the morning. You’d get to Washington, DC sometime between noon and 1P, fill out and submit your paperwork, and have a proper license potentially before 2P. Depending on the type of marriage you opt for, you could be legally bound minutes later.

Wondering how?

Self-uniting marriages are permitted.

Essentially, a self-uniting marriage is one where you don’t have an officiant. That means that not only do you not have to pay clergy fees, but you can also literally marry yourself, taking whatever vows to whatever God (or no god) that you prefer.

Want to learn more? Check out the US states that allow self-uniting marriages.

While many states that allow self-uniting marriage require the participation and signatures of witnesses, DC has no such mandate. It can literally be just the two of you. You can get your license, sign it and be done in minutes. (Just be sure to check the box below “Officiant Name.”)

It makes for beautiful wedding photos.

Even if you’re eloping at the last second and don’t have a fancy white dress or tux, you’re likely still going to want photos to remember your big day. There’s only one spot in the courthouse where you’re allowed to take them (and I hear it’s not that great of a backdrop,) but luckily, there are a myriad of places in the district that present memorable scenery. Think national monuments and the various parks and green spaces.

Also, you don’t HAVE to get married in the courthouse. You can take your self-uniting license and get married wherever, or meet your officiant at the location of your choice.

Eloping in DC doesn’t require a plane ticket for East coast-ers.

DC is a pretty central location for almost all the states on the East coast. While it’s true that it’s a further drive from Bangor than it is from Philly, it’s still a lot more doable of a drive than heading across the country.

Because today more people are eloping for time and convenience’s sake rather than to escape the family, it also means that your guest list won’t be as limited by airfare if you do indeed want other people there. Just arrange a carpool!

Still want to get married by a fake Elvis in polyester? More power to you! Just be sure to save while you’re in the city of sin.

This post idea was submitted by a Femme Frugality reader. Have a topic you want to see on the blog? Share in the comments below!

 

 

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