Category Archives: Wedding on a Budget

Get the Biggest Bang for Your Engagement Ring Buck

Super great savings tips from this industry expert. Showing these to my partner before they buy my engagement ring!

Engagement ring shopping isn’t something you do everyday. If you’re lucky, you do it once in your lifetime. If you’re brave enough to move on after a failed first attempt (been there,) you might do it once or twice more.

But it’s not a shopping muscle we flex on a regular basis like groceries or cell phone providers. It’s something we really have to research if we want to do it right.

Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, which allows us to access insider information like the following money-saving tips from Oded Edelman, co-founder and CEO of James Allen. James Allen is an online jeweler with a ten-year history of bringing customers beautiful, conflict-free diamonds at a fraction of the price of brick-and-mortar retailers.

Here are Edelman’s top three savings tips.

Save Money by Shopping for Your Engagement Ring Online

ways to save on engagment rings

“Typically brick and mortar retailers have entirely different cost structures thanks to holding inventory, overhead costs, etc,” says Edelman.

He notes that these cost structures may result in higher costs for the end consumer, and that by shopping at online retailers like James Allen, you can save up to 50%.

Look for Underweight Diamonds

Save money on engagement rings

Most diamonds are going to come in standard carat sizes. For example, you might find a 1.0 carat diamond or a 1.5 carat diamond.

“Look for an under-size diamond—one that’s slightly below one of the standard weights,” Edelman advises. “These diamonds cost significantly less than their standard-weight counterparts and are nearly identical to the naked eye.”

Get the Most Bang for Your Buck by Shopping Color and Clarity

Insider savings tips from jewelry expertsYou want to get a nice ring, and you can do it without breaking the bank. In fact, Edelman notes that the best way to achieve optimal value is by shooting for slightly lower than optimum color and clarity. These differences are minuscule–most of the time they’re not visible to the naked eye. But they make a huge difference to your wallet.

Which means you’ll be looking at rings in these ranges:

  • Color. Shop for rings with slightly lower colors–in the G to J range.
  • Clarity. Shop for rings with slightly lower clarity–in the SI1 to SI2 range.

“They can cost half as much of high color/high clarity options, without any visible sacrifice in beauty,” says Edelman.

Now is a great time to shop.

At least for customer-centric online retailers like James Allen, you’re going to find the most sales at this time of year—October through February. Here’s why.

 

Find any of these tips helpful? Use different methods to save on your engagement ring purchase? Leave your story in the comments!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year to Buy Wedding Jewelry

Great insider tips for the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry!

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.

Brick & Mortar vs Online Retailers

Since this article went live in January of 2014, there have been several articles floating about the web citing summer as the best time of year to buy wedding jewelry. I’d like to present some context to that argument in a 2017 update.

The first thing to note is that at brick and mortar retailers, this may be true. Shopping online, though, can save you anywhere up to 50% over these in-person retailers–no matter the time of year.

When I asked Oded Edelman, Co-Founder and CEO of James Allen, about the difference, he explained it in this way:

“We take a consumer-focused approach to our promotions in order to make the experience as positive as we can during key times throughout the year. Our research has shown that the majority of engagements happen in the four months between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.”

“Typically brick and mortar retailers have entirely different cost structures thanks to holding inventory, overhead costs, etc,” he continues. “Their operations structures as well as their marketing tactics are very different, which may lead to higher costs for the end consumer.”

This means the biggest sales at online retailers, at least at consumer-oriented businesses like Edelman’s, do indeed happen between October and February.

 

Rules for Gifting Money at a Wedding

Geez, I never would have thought of the rules for writing checks to newlyweds! Important read for all wedding guests: rules of etiquette for gifting money.

Today’s couple is less likely to want consumer goods as wedding gifts. Millennials are getting married at an older age, and have often established households prior to the wedding–whether that be on their own as individuals, or as a couple.

That means as you attend weddings, you’re more likely to catch a hint that the couple is looking for something else in lieu of that department store registry. That “something else” is cash.

Gifting money for a wedding can be a touchy subject, though.

How much do you give?

Do you make the check out to her maiden or married name?

Wait, is she even taking her fiance(e)’s last name?

How much money should I give as a wedding gift?

Many couples today have cash registries. You may get a URL in your wedding invitation. Once your on the site, there will likely be cutsie things you can “pay” for like the honeymoon suite, airline miles or dinner at a nice restaurant.

These are things the couple has likely already paid for, but it’s a polite way of asking you for cash.

These registries give you an idea of what is appropriate to spend in the couple’s eyes.

What’s the etiquette if there is no registry?

The old rule of thumb was to pay for your plate. Consider the venue, price point, and how much the couple paid to entertain you at the reception.

Generally, though, $100 is a good gift if you’re a family member or close friend. If you are bringing a large immediate family to the reception and have the means, giving up to $200 would not be inappropriate.

Co-workers can probably get away with less, but don’t dip below $50 if at all possible.

If your finances are tight, don’t overspend just to impress. If this is a good friend or family member, they’ll be grateful for the gift and understand your situation. If not, they might not be as good of a friend as you imagined.

When your money’s tight, check out their department store or other registry if they have one. Often there are smaller ticket items on there that look better wrapped up than a small-ish check. Fifty dollars is still a good threshold, but again, do what you can afford.

How to Write a Check as a Wedding Gift

Writing checks to and from couples is an aspect of personal finance that can be pretty confusing. Nine times out of ten a bank clerk, in person or remote, will let errors slide. But if you catch that one ultra-scrupulous teller, your check is worthless.

Unless the bride and groom are incredibly close with you, it can be tremendously uncomfortable for them to ask you to rewrite the check, making your gift null and void. Here’s a list of to-dos and to-don’ts to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Writing Checks to Newlyweds

Don’t:

  • Write “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”  You need to use first names. You don’t need to write any titles such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.
  • Write “and.”  For example, you shouldn’t write: “Mary and John Smith.”  This is only appropriate if they have a joint bank account, and that’s most likely information you’re not privy to.
  • If it’s a check for a wedding, don’t write it out to the bride’s new name; she can’t change the name on her accounts until after the wedding, so this may delay or even prevent her from depositing the check. She may not even take her partners’ name at all.

Do:

  • Instead of writing “Mary and John Smith,” write “Mary or John Smith.” By writing “or,” either Mary or John can deposit it, regardless of whether they have joint or separate accounts.
  • Write checks out to the bride’s maiden name. You can include a note on the memo line to clarify the gift is for both of them if you feel it necessary.

Writing Checks from Couples

Don’t:
  • Print your name on the signature line.
  • Sign both your names on the signature line.  It’s unnecessary, and is likely to get the check turned down at the bank when they try to cash it.
Do:
  • Sign your name. In cursive. Even if it looks like a six-year-old did it.
  • Sign ONLY ONE of your names. It doesn’t matter if you share a bank account or not.  If you are trying to make it clear that the gift is from both of you, include a card with both your names on it.  If you really want to emphasize the point, put something like “From Brooke and Nina” on the memo line.

What’s My Best Path to Wedding Savings?

I got nontraditional bride which sounds about right. Great, unique savings tips for your wedding!

We have something different lined up for hump day this week.

Femme, by different do you mean amazingly fun?

YES, I DO!

We’re in the thick of wedding season, and while my three-year wedding anniversary has come and gone, I still get a lot of inquiries on my wedding posts. So many, in fact, that I’m lucky enough to create new content around it every once in a while.

Today, I thought it would be fun to put together a little quiz to see which kind of bride you are (or were,) including tips on how you, specifically, can save money on the big day and make smarter spending decisions.

I’m including all the results and resources below, giving you a way to view additional content if you’re not 100% happy with your results.

Here’s your task:

  1. Take the super fabulous awesome quiz.
  2. Read your results and get your free resources.
  3. Come back and let me know if you think your results were a good match or not by leaving a comment.

Men, you can do this, too. It’s aimed at brides because this is primarily a women’s finance blog, but there aren’t any questions about dresses or corsets. I promise you’ll be fine.

Ready….go!

Make your own quizzes here.

The Eloping Bride

Want to find out the best ways to save money as an eloping bride? Check out this quiz.

You want your big day to be about you and your partners’ lovenothing else. And we think that’s beautiful. A nice side effect is that you’ll run into a lot less planning stress. And need a lot less money.

RESOURCE: Save money on airfare by getting married quickly at the East Coast’s Vegas.

The Destination Wedding Bride

Want to find out the best ways to save money on your destination wedding? Check out this quiz.

You only plan on doing this once, and you want to do it right. You want to get married to the (wo)man of your dreams, and you want to do it at a place of your choosing.

If you have a destination wedding, you’ll have to consider your family members’ ability to travel, both through the lens of health and finances.

Get a Destination Wedding & Honeymoon for Free

Destination weddings aren’t as expensive as you’d think they might be. In fact, places like Sandals give them away for free routinely.

No, you don’t have to enter a contest.

No, you don’t have to give up your first-born.

All you have to do is book three nights at one of their resorts, and then you get a free wedding including venue, flowers, and cake. You have to pay for the officiant and the processing of paperwork, but everything else is taken care of.

Then, if you have family members coming in, you get your room for free when you bring guests. The number required is different for different times of year. September 1 through Christmas your room is free when you have at least five guest rooms booked. January 2 through August 31 you have to have eleven guest rooms booked, and then yours is free.

Free wedding. Free all-inclusive honeymoon. Pretty sweet deal.

Here’s the resorts where you can get married:

  • Jamaica
  • Bahamas
  • Antigua
  • St. Lucia
  • Grenada
  • Barbados

You can learn more about the deal here.

The Nontraditional Bride

Want to save money as a nontraditional bride? Check out this quiz.

You buck the norms at every turn, so why should your wedding day be any different? You know that the most impactful way to cut your costs is to limit your guest list, so you only invite who’s really important. Your venue choice is likely to be outside the norm, and you dress however the heck you want–even when you’re walking down the aisle.

RESOURCE: Get married without an officiant–not even a judge. Just the two of you professing your love and commitment to one another.

The Modern Chic Bride

Want to save money as a modern chic bride? Check out this quiz.

You and your partner love and respect each other in every aspect of life: as lovers, as friends; professionally and spiritually. Your big day will represent that deep mutual admiration with class from the dress to the venue.

Class can get expensive, though. Don’t be afraid to get outside of metropolis areas when searching for your venue to save some cash, and remember that everything is negotiable.

RESOURCE: Cut your catering costs with these veteran tips.

The DIY Bride

Want to save money as a DIY bride? Check out this quiz.

You are a bride on a mission, and that mission is SAVINGS. You’re willing to craft, call in favors, and even borrow your sister’s wedding dress in order to make your big day happen. You’re smart for doing so, as you’ll be able to use all that extra money for other financial goals like buying a house or starting a family.

Just be sure to run your numbers before you start that next DIY project. Surprisingly, sometimes paying someone else ends up being cheaper than doing it yourself.

RESOURCE: Make your own free, printable place cards for the reception.

The Traditional Bride

Want to save money as a traditional bride? Check out this quiz.

Decorum and tradition are important to you. Your partner may have asked for your hand, and you plan on getting married in a church (or other place of worship.) Your reception may or may not be opulent, but there will definitely be a three-course meal and dancing.

Following tradition, your parents may be paying for some part of your wedding, though you’re likely making a big fiscal contribution. This is your big day, and a big day for them. While that may make planning a little heated at times, in the end, you’ll figure out a way to make it beautiful for everyone involved.

RESOURCE: Why You Shouldn’t Set and Forget Your Wedding Ring Insurance

The Country Club Bride

Smart ways to use your money when you're planning an expensive wedding.

You’ve been planning this day since you were a little girl, and mom and dad did not disappoint. They’re following the tradition of paying for your wedding, and you are all lucky enough that they have the means to do so in a big way.

A great way to thank them is to point out different ways they can be smart with their purchases–and assure them you won’t mind that they’re cutting dollars out of the budget.

RESOURCE: Leverage Your Honeymoon with Your Wedding Spending

 

Easy & Unique Mason Jar Centerpieces

The marble mason jar centerpiece is gorgeous--super easy and unique! Love it for a modern wedding.

When I got married the first time, we lucked out and found a novice florist who was willing to contribute centerpieces for no cost other than word-of-mouth advertising.

When I got married the second time, we went with the simple, standard candles that the venue provided.

I’m not walking down the aisle again, but I still love the thought-process behind planning gorgeous, frugal weddings. And as wedding pieces are some of our most popular content, I know Femme Frugality readers like reading about them, too.

So over the weekend Homme Frugality and I put on our creative hats and messed around with super simple and frugal ways we could made easy, unique mason jar centerpieces without dropping a ton of cash.

For materials, we obviously got some mason jars. You can get mason jars at an affordable price from Paper Mart. We raided our closets and found some marbles and candles. We hit up the reuse store and got some fabric and ribbon for super cheap. And we’ll get to the part about the candy. (I know–chocolate makes it hard to wait.)

frugal marble mason jar centerpieces

Light Up Marble Mason Jar Centerpieces

We weren’t 100% sure what we were going to do when we found the marbles, but they reminded me so much of Katie’s wedding theme with polka dots and bright colors that I knew we had to find a way to incorporate them.

You can see the end result above. We love the pattern the lights made on the wall and how the light shined through the marbles at the top. We saw room for improvement, though, so here are the instructions on how we would have liked to do this centerpiece:

  • Get a mason jar and a circular, glass tube. It should be big enough to fit your candle, but keep it as small as possible so the marbles will fit around it.
  • Put the tube with the candle into the center of the mason jar. Carefully slide marbles between the tube and the mason jar.
  • Light candle. Look at the awesome.

With the glass tube, you’d be able to make all of the marbles light up instead of just the ones at the top.

frugal mason jar centerpieces for wedding

Lacy Mason Jar Centerpieces

This one was super easy and turned out really pretty. For a more traditional wedding, just get some lace and ribbon that matches your wedding colors. Carefully use a hot glue gun or superglue to wrap the lace around the outside of the jar. Use the same method to secure your ribbon around the lip of the jar. Insert and light the candle for a quick and gorgeous centerpiece!

Personalized M&M mason jar centerpieces for wedding

Personalized M&M Mason Jar Centerpieces

While chocolate is always a good thing, the reason we picked M&Ms for this centerpiece is that I went to a wedding not long ago where they had personalized M&Ms for the centerpieces and party favors.

They were adorable.

You can get them with messages and images printed on them. They had four different “prints.” One had the bride’s face, and another had the groom’s face. The remaining two designs were the date of their wedding and their names printed together.

It was so unique and fun. You can even order them in your wedding colors exclusively. For 2017 they have a promo going on where you get 10% off all orders $50+.

For this centerpiece, we literally just filled it up with M&Ms and wrapped some lace around  the top. Simple, but different and fun.

 

How did you do centerpieces at your wedding? Were your frugal? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

This post is in partnership with Paper Mart.