Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

James Allen Black Friday Deals 2023: Engagement Rings & More

Man putting a ring on a woman's finger as he proposes on one knee. set against a backdrop of windows at night with lights reflected in the window.One of my favorite ways to save money on engagement rings is by making the purchase from an online jeweler. They don’t have overhead expenses like renting real estate and paying store employees, so they’re often able to charge a much lower price.

My favorite online jeweler is James Allen. Not only do they offer lower prices year round, but they let you customize most jewelry pieces — including engagement rings. They also give you a 360 viewer, so you can see what your ring would look like from any angle before making your purchase.

On top of already lower prices, they run some pretty great Black Friday sales during the holiday season. Right now, the Cyber Monday sale is already live through November 27. But there are savings throughout the shopping season — here are the details about all the Black Friday sales, past and present.

Early Black Friday: 30% off fine jewelry, 50% off engagement ring settings in October

You don’t have to wait until November to get in on the deals!

James Allen runs an Early Black Friday sale from mid- to late-October. This year, they changed things up and are gave us 30% off select fine jewelry and 50% off engagement ring settings through October 31, 2023.

The setting discount was massive — bigger percentage-wise than the 25% off engagement ring discount we saw last year. However, it doesn’t include the diamond (or other gemstone, if you fancy.) So depending on the rock and setting you choose, it may or may not end up being a better deal in terms of real dollars.

How long does it take to get a ring from James Allen? Typically, engagement rings ship within 7 to 21 days. But that timeline can vary depending on the production schedule of your ring.

Black Friday Sale Live NOW: 30% off fine jewelry, 50% off engagement ring settings in mid-November

The James Allen Black Friday Sale ran Nov. 15 — Nov. 24, 2023. The sales were the same as the early Black Friday deal that ran in October: 30% off fine jewelry and 50% off engagement ring settings.

Now, don’t dismiss the 30% off fine jewelry sale if you’re looking for an engagement ring. If your potential fiancee fully embraces being alternative, there’s some really great options in there for wedding bands with diamonds or engagement rings with gemstones rather than diamonds. And 30% off is a bigger discount than the 25% discount on traditional engagement rings that has run in years past.

If you order from this sale, you could have your ring in time to propose over the December holidays!

PRO TIP: Sales run in Eastern time. That means if you’re in California, technically the Black Friday sale will end at 9p on Black Friday.

James Allen Cyber Monday Sale 2023

Just like every other year, the James Allen Cyber Monday sale 2023 is identical to the Black Friday and Early Black Friday sales: 30% off fine jewelry/50% off engagement ring settings.

This sale is running through Nov. 27, 2023. Don’t wait to shop! Monday will be here and gone before you know it.

Happy savings, and I hope they say ‘yes!’



Ways to Preserve Your Wedding Bouquet

A couple holding each other's hands and wedding boquets at the altar.

Your wedding day is special. It doesn’t matter whether you had a huge party or you had a COVID-safe wedding, like one via Zoom or one with a limited guest list via a self-uniting marriage.

It’s something you want to remember.

One way to remember it is by preserving your wedding bouquet. Today, we’ll go through a bunch of possible ways to keep something that’s temporarily in bloom beautiful for life.

How to preserve your wedding bouquet

There are a couple ways to preserve your wedding bouquet.

The first, and most expensive, is to have your fresh flower bouquet professionally preserved after the fact. A lot of times when you go this route, the bouquet will stay just that: A bouquet. It will probably be stored in glass, and will probably run you a pretty penny.

A more frugal route is to dry your bouquet yourself. You could opt to press each individual flower between the pages of a thick, heavy book. Or place your bouquet in an empty vase until the flowers dry.

But the best way is to use a flower and herb drying rack. Ideally you’ll store this in a dry area of your home that’s typically dark. Your flowers will be ready in about two to four weeks.

What to Do With Your Dried Wedding Bouquet.

After your bouquet is dry, there are tons of creative projects you can do to help preserve the memories of your matrimony.

Make a Shadow Box

10x10 shadow box by Studio Decor from Michael's. Pictures flower bouquet inside in addition to Studio Decor's advertising text, which is mostly illegible.

One option is to put your flowers behind glass yourself. Simply get a shadow box, like this one from Michael’s, open it up, and place your flowers inside. Depending on the size of your box, you can either keep your bouquet whole or clip the stems of each original flower, arranging them in a new display pattern.

Make a Christmas Ornament

Another cute way to remember your wedding is to take one of the roses from your bouquet before it’s dried. You want the petals to be flexible and supple.

Then, put them inside a clear Christmas ornament from a craft store. Gently slip each petal into the opening at the top. Once you’re happy with the fill, leave the ornament out and open in a dry place for a couple weeks.

Once everything’s all dried out, install the top of the ornament. Now every Christmas, you’ll be able to take a minute and reminisce about your beginnings as a couple.

You could do this by drying the flowers first, too, especially if you’re worried about moisture building up inside the ornament.

If you think each bud of your bouquet will be small enough to fit into the top of the ornament without crumbling, you could try putting the entire bud inside that way, too. It’s a little riskier, though. The petals could shatter.

Make Potpourri Bouquets

Dried red rose petals with yellow at the tip.

Want a daily reminder of your vows?

Make a ‘potpourri’ bouquet that you can store in a place you’ll see it everyday, like your clothes drawer or jewelry box.

After your flowers are dry, crush up the petals. Or don’t. Some might get crushed in the process whether you want them to or not.

Then, get a square of decorative gauze. You can find some at Michael’s, but if you’re being uber frugal, looking someplace like your local reuse store is also a possibility as a ‘scrap’ may be enough.

Place your crushed petals in a pile in the center. Pull the edges of the gauze together, creating a bundle full of flower petals at the bottom. Tie a ribbon around the gauze just above the top of the flowers.

Then, trim the ribbon and any excess gauze. Now you have a nice little potpourri bundle full of your wedding flowers.

Make a Japanese Herbarium

Two tall slender glass containers, one filled with flowers and mineral oil in shades of blue, the other containing mineral il and white and green flowers.

You can get pre-made herbariums from TheBloomingBottle

Maybe you don’t need your flowers to last forever. Maybe just a year would be enough.

Or maybe you’ve already done one of the ‘forever’ projects, and still have few flowers left over.

In these cases, you might want to make a Japanese Herbarium. First, you’ll dry your flowers.

Then, you’ll place them in a glass container. Traditional herbariums are on the taller and relatively skinny side, but really, you can use any container with a lid or cork.

TIP BASED ON MY OWN PAST FAILURES: On past projects like this, I’ve tried using glass baby food jars. In my experience, they do not work. They’re only really meant to be opened; the lid won’t completely fit back on. Even if you use glue, there’s a huge risk of leaks.

Your flowers are going to be fragile. Be careful putting them in, or the petals could crumble. Once they’re safely inside the glass, you can gently use tools like tweezers or wooden skewers to arrange them to your liking.

Keep layering flowers until you’re to the top. Or until they’re as high as you’d like them to be.

Then, fill the jar with baby oil or mineral oil.

Your herbarium will look beautiful in the sun. But the UV rays will degrade the colors, and eventually the flowers themselves will degrade. You usually get about six months to a year out of this display method.

Create anniversary bath bombs

Woman's eyes peeking out of bath water filled with red flowers.

Want a super sweet romantic tradition for your anniversary?

After you’ve dried your flowers, use them to make a batch or two of DIY bath bombs. You can get an all-inclusive kit to make your own from almost any major retailer.

But you could also opt to make your own from scratch. Here’s a great bath bomb recipe. She hides toy dinosaurs in her bath bombs.

You don’t need to do all that. Instead, just before your mold your bath bombs, throw some dried flower petals into the mix.

Store them in a special place, and use one or two each year for a candle-lit, rose petal bath.


6 Creative Ways to Make Your Small Wedding Feel Personal and Special

This post is in collaboration with ValuedVoice. Please practice an abundance of caution or even consider postponing the big celebration during the pandemic, paying particular heed to local public health orders.

family at wedding outside a big building

Whether you had always wanted a wedding on the smaller side or you’ve been forced to rearrange your initial plans for public health reasons, your small wedding can still feel personal and special with a little additional planning.

When many people think of weddings, they likely think of big affairs complete with hundreds of guests, elaborate decorations, full-day schedules and the works. The more people at your wedding, the more expensive the event will be.

By contrast, it can sometimes feel like a smaller wedding or mariage civil, with perhaps only ten or twenty people in attendance and usually a more toned-down venue, might not meet expectations.

However, many soon-to-be spouses have opted for smaller events for their charm, deeply personal feel and memorability. If you’re planning a small wedding, here are some creative planning tactics to start implementing right away.

Provide Wedding Welcome Boxes

When you have 200 guests on your list, it’s hard to personalize the welcome for each of them. By contrast, when you have perhaps 15 people on your guest list, you can easily provide each of them with a more tailored welcome to your wedding.

A fun idea is to create a ‘welcome box’ for each of your guests that you can have left at their hotel, or give to them on the day of depending on how socially distant your wedding is. These boxes can include small mementos from the wedding, small gifts and favors or little trinkets to make the guests’ weekend easier, like engraved bottle openers for the reception or ponchos in case of rain at an outdoor ceremony.

Be Extra Choosy With Your Shortened Guest List

Because small weddings inherently involve trimming the guest list, you’ll have to be extra choosy with who you invite. Now is the time to consider which people in your life you absolutely can’t picture yourself getting married without. You may have to gently break the news to those who didn’t make it by explaining that although you love them, space or health restrictions meant you had to cut back.

Consider Whether You Want To Drop Certain Traditions

A lot of the traditions that are expected as part of a big wedding become truly optional once you drop down the event in size, so now is the perfect time to consider which traditions you want to keep and which you would be ok without. For example, if you don’t want to do a first dance, a garter toss or stand-up toasts and speeches, you can easily get rid of them while still having your small group feel entertained.

Opt for an Intimate and Cozy Venue

One of the best parts of a small wedding is the cozy, intimate feel, and your venue should reflect that. If you’re having the ceremony at a town hall, for example, you could go to a local restaurant afterward and get a private room. Other cozy venues include a family member’s backyard, a small banquet room or even a rental boat.

Step It Up With Your Dinner Offerings

Another benefit of having only a small group in attendance at your wedding is that you won’t have the stress of covering food for a huge group of people! This means that you might have a little more money to allocate to each person’s meal, allowing you to choose more gourmet dinner options.

A fun way to make the after party and reception truly memorable is to provide top-notch food, so spend some time calculating your food budget and consider local vendors who can bring dishes sure to appeal to everyone.

Add Unique Personalization to Your Décor

No matter what your venue, you can still personalize it by adding a little décor. If you’re getting married in a town hall, you may need to ask permission to rent a side room and put up some decorations, but most venues will allow you to bring in your own décor upon request.

Since your space will likely be on the smaller side, you might have a little more budget wiggle room for decorations and can choose the ones that represent your wedding theme the best, or that will photograph well for the wedding album.

Just because you have a short guest list and a pared-down venue doesn’t mean you can’t still have the unique and memorable big day of your dreams. There are still several creative ways to tailor every aspect of the day and create a ceremony and after party you and your guests are sure to remember for years to come.

Free Wedding Budget Template

Today’s post is written by wedding contributor, Katie Jakub. She’s super savings-savvy and has so many great tips.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom to grab the free budgeting/planning template!

Spreadsheet with heart overlay. Text on top reads "Free Wedding Budget Template & More! by KJ of"

Several weekends ago, my fiancé, Brian, and I celebrated my mother’s birthday with a big family dinner at a hole in the wall. 

As the evening progressed and the BYOB wine loosened everyone’s lips, my sister hurled the insult:

“Ryan [her husband] and I have decided that you two are the cheapest out of everyone in the family.”

Brian and I looked at each other and laughed because each family has their own dynamic of you-can’t-take-it-with-yous and save-every-last-penny. 

My sister and her husband edge into the former while we are closer to the latter part of the spectrum. We attempted to explain the differences in our situation compared to theirs — but oops! –my wine glass was empty and we quickly moved on.

Writing a Wedding Budget Without Debt

Brian and I consider ourselves frugal by choice because we refuse to walk down the aisle in any kind of wedding related debt.  

We are willing to spend money on the wedding, but we understand that for every dollar that goes to our portion the wedding, a dollar comes from our joint fund. What this means is that both our home budget and wedding budget are akin to a holy text for us during this year of planning.

How to Talk About Your Wedding Budget

Budgets are yucky.  Luckily for me, Brian hearts macros, spreadsheet, and formulas almost as much as he loves me.

Maybe more?

But he hates hates hates following a budget. 

On the other side of the marital venture, I get a kick out of the challenge of coming in on or under goal, but talking about the budget when mathematical formulae are involved makes my eye twitch.

We have learned several techniques over the past months that have seemed to make a huge difference in discussing and following the wedding budget.


Find time between your Tiger King and Ozark binge watching sesh to talk about the budget together. 

Both people need to understand what is going on and you should never let your partner off the hook when they say, “I don’t get it.” I always hate looking at the numbers because they turn into a pile of math soup, but even something as simple as changing how we approached talking about the budget entirely shifted how I viewed the budget. 

We learned a simple trick at our Pre-Cana classes and it’s made a huge difference.  The cornfield is on the right, but try rephrasing the discussion to something similar to:

“When you’re ready to talk about the budget, I’m ready to listen.”  

It makes us giggle and breaks the tension of the topic.


To me, having pretty colors made the budget friendlier. 

To Brian, it was formulas. 

Even something as simple as having our budget on a cloud based drive has made it less painful to use. We can both access the budget at any point. It’s not stored on one person’s computer. We can both edit as needed, and even check while we’re on the go.


It’s nice to dream about your big day, but you can quickly become disappointed when reality and your budget don’t align. The earlier you can have candid and honest discussions with any parents/relatives that will be helping pay for the wedding, the sooner you can move on to the planning stage.

This also means knowing how much you can cover.

If you already have personal or couple budget in place, you’re a step ahead because you know what you can contribute.

A simple overall budget number is a perfect starting place. Here’s one for example:

  • We know that we’ve got $5,000 from your parents,
  • $2,000 from mine,
  • And we can save $3,000 by the wedding.  

From here you know you have a $10,000 total budget, and can plan accordingly.

An overall budget number can influence your first big decisions such as the venue — especially if you have Plaza dreams on a fire hall budget.

From there, you can start to narrow in on how much you spend on what with a more itemized budget.


Sometimes, keeping-up-with-the-newlyweds can feel like a three ring circus of vendors. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to have it all. 

Figure out what is absolutely essential for your wedding. Brian and I knew that we had to have cake and pie at our Pi Day Wedding.

Hilarious that we chose math as part of our wedding, right?

We also knew that making our own candy flavored liquor would be a special touch, but that a photo booth, up-lighting and a garden of flowers weren’t anywhere near the top of our list.  

It’s nice to want, but you definitely do not want to spend years paying off your wedding.


You negotiated a vendor’s price down? 


Whether it’s putting that money you saved towards a night out with your main squeeze or putting it towards a wish list item for the big day, you’ve got a little wiggle room to do something for you.  

When you’ve come in on budget, do something a bit smaller like a drinks out. You deserve it — you’ve put on your grown up BRIDE or GROOM-TO-BE plastered undies and followed your budget.

Free Wedding Budget Spreadsheet Template

To help you achieve wedding budget bliss or at least find your starting place, I’m including a copy of our free wedding budget template Excel file which includes:

  • Countdown clock.
  • Budget sheet.
  • Guest info.
  • Vendor info.
  • Seating charts.
  • Day of timeline.
  • Drop-off lists.
  • Must-have photo itinerary.
  • Songs for the DJ.  

Because this is a spreadsheet, you’ll easily be able to customize it and make the budget your own!

Easy Tricks to Save Money on Wedding Gowns

This post, which is contributed by an outside writer, is brought to you by JJs House.

Great tips! My BFF just got engaged--pinning for when she goes wedding dress shopping!

Every bride wants to make her wedding day extremely special. She tries to manage everything within her wedding budget. But there’s one thing most brides don’t like to compromise on: wedding dresses.

Fortunately, you can find beautiful wedding dresses at an affordable price. You will need to strategize ahead of time so that you have plenty of time to plan out all the small details. To make your search easy, get an idea of a budget for your wedding gown. Then sit down with these ideas that can help you in the selection of a beautiful dress within your budget.

A Beautiful Trunk Show

If you are crushing on a particular wedding dress, choose a trunk show. In trunk shows, designers highlight their new or current collection at bridal boutiques. These boutiques list their shows in advance, so you can easily shop dresses for your wedding.

While scheduling your appointment, you have to ask the greeter about purchase incentives. In this way, you can get bonus items for free while you buy a beautiful dress. Incentives can be a veil or a unique wedding accessory. You have to do your research before going shopping to make this process easy.

Try Rented Dresses

If you can’t buy an expensive wedding dress because of your tight budget, you can consider renting this dress. There are tons of sites out there that allow you to rent a dress, searching within your budget.

You can rent a wedding dress for almost eight days for $525 or even less. Many times you’ll find high-profile designers for rent on these sites. People wear the dress once and then try to recoup some of their expenses by renting out or reselling the dress.

Make sure to read the terms, conditions, and policies before you borrow a dress. Confirm any payment plans so you don’t accidentally miss a payment.

Pre-loved Wedding Gowns

If you love a designer wedding gown and it is out of your budget, you can consider alternative options. Used bridal dresses are readily available, especially with sites specialized in re-selling designer gowns. You can wear a wedding gown for only once and only for a short time–at least in a way that’s socially acceptable. Reselling is a more practical choice than paying a bunch of money to store it in your attic for some hypothetical grandchild who won’t want to wear it someday.

With you purchase a used wedding dress, you can wear a wedding gown from your favorite designer at a good discount. Or, if you purchase the dress new, you can resell the gown on the market after your wedding to recoup upwards of 70 to 75 percent of the purchase price.

Select Must-Have Items

Start shopping based on the elements on your wish list and eliminate pricey or less critical items. Select a must-have or focal point item for your wedding dress to control your budget while widening your choices. Shop your wedding dress with an open mind. Consider a sequined bodice with a beautiful skirt instead of intricate lace gowns. You can up the glitz by instead accenting with unique jewelery and shoes. You can even browse bridesmaid dresses to find a white gown for your wedding. These options can be affordable for anyone.