A new engagement is a joyous occasion filled with excitement — excitement that can quickly devolve into chaos when the realization of event planning sets in. Without some guidance wedding planning can be like sitting on an isolated raft in the middle of the ocean, and with too much guidance it’s like making your way through a erratic swarm of bees. Couples tend to feel either lost or overwhelmed.
I’ve picked up some wisdom over the years as I’ve planned and coordinated weddings for my friends and clients, and hopefully what I’ve learned will help newly engaged couples navigate the early stages of the planning process.
1. Take a minute to savor it.
I would never advise couples to sit on their laurels and wait too long before jumping into planning, and when you start planning is largely dependent on how long your engagement is going to be. That said, an engagement is a thing to celebrate! Go out to dinner with friends. Go on a weekend road trip. Do something together that represents you and spend some time enjoying each other before you jump into planning.
2. Envision your day.
Talk with your partner about what you want your wedding to look like. Do you want a loud, boisterous affair or a small, intimate gathering? Do you want your ceremony in a church or at an event venue? Do you want your colors to be bold or subtle? Discussing and settling on the overall vibe of your day will help narrow your focus.
3. Set a budget.
As difficult as it is to think about money right out of the gate, it is unfortunately the primary hurdle to get over before anything else can be done. Are you paying, or are family members contributing? How much are you willing to set aside each month from your paychecks? Are you paying for things outright or putting it on credit? Keep in mind that you may be able to get some things less expensively, but not everything can (or should) be done on the cheap. You get what you pay for and should be prepared for a certain level of sticker shock.
4. Search for a venue.
The venue determines most of the wedding day. The obvious things are the location, date, and aesthetic, but your venue also dictates how many guests you invite and the flow of your day. Certain venues have restrictions on ceremony timing, and others only work with their preferred catering and photography vendors. Venues are also often booked six months to a year in advance, so it’s definitely the first thing you’ll want to check off your list.
5. Start culling your Pinterest boards.
I strongly advise every couple I work with to scale back the inspiration. If you’re like me, you’ve been pinning wedding ideas for years and the sheer number of things you are drawn to can be more hindrance than help. Go through your boards and your magazine cut-outs and get rid of everything you aren’t absolutely certain that you want for your big day.
6. Look into hiring a wedding planner.
It might sound conceited or self-serving for a wedding planner to tell you to look into hiring a wedding planner, but wedding planners exist for a reason. They can help you manage your budget, coordinate communication with all your vendors, use their connections to save you money along the way, and make sure your planning process runs smoothly. Not everyone wants or needs another cook in the kitchen, but having a professional to take some of the load off your shoulders is certainly something to consider.
7. Think about the big stuff first.
Centerpieces an escort cards are the little details that make wedding planning fun, but they shouldn’t take priority. Venue, photographer, guest list, catering, and the dress are all far more important pieces of the puzzle, and getting them accomplished up front will make everything else feel easier.
8. Don’t follow the rule book.
There are plenty of sources that will give you a step-by-step guide of everything you need to have at your wedding. Don’t worry about it! If you don’t want a cake, have pie instead. If you don’t want a DJ, get a friend to make an awesome playlist. Don’t let societal pressure dictate your day.
9. Use your own judgement.
There are more than enough opinions online without factoring in additional unsolicited opinions from friends and family. Obviously if a family member is helping pay for your wedding they may want a say in what they are paying for, but for the most part the decision-making should be your own. Every “well at MY wedding we did it THIS way” should be taken with a grain of salt. Your wedding should be the way you want it to be.
10. Remember what it’s all about.
All the planning has a purpose — it’s preparation for the first day of your new life in marriage. At the end of the day it’s not about the flavor of the cake or the font on the invitation, it’s about sharing your love for your life partner with your favorite people. Don’t sweat the small stuff and savor every minute!
The end of award season is a great time to reflect on the fashion trends of the year, and for brides it's an opportunity to find gowns that reflect the red carpet styles they love.
Here's a look at 17 red carpet trends that have been reflected on the bridal market!
Prices have been included where available.
Romantic Champagne Tulle
City of Stars
Off-the- Shoulder Lace
Simple and Structured
Tea Length Ballerina
Sleek with Slits
Photo Credits: BHLDN, David’s Bridal, The Knot, and Vogue.
If you want some quick-and-dirty advice about rings, watch this video!
If you need more details, keep on reading. There's a lot to discuss when it comes to rings, and you don't want to be the person who makes an impulsive decision that ends badly down the road.
Questions to ask if you’re the buyer:
1. Is the stone conflict free?
The simple definition of a conflict diamond (also called blood diamonds, red diamonds, or hot diamonds, depending on the context,) are diamonds that are sold to finance civil wars in undeveloped countries. To complicate the diamond industry further, the diamond mining industry is filled with unethical practices that often lead to violence.
Looking for diamonds that were mined according to strict labor and environmental standards is an ethical decision that is often overlooked when ring shopping. A jeweler should be able to show you a specific diamond’s System of Warranties to guarantee its origin.
In addition, ask your jeweler if they are KPCS certified and make sure they provide you with proof of their certification. KPCS is the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which (while not a perfect system) is designed to eliminate the flow of conflict diamonds. The requirements of the KPCS should be the bare minimum to look for, and if your jeweler goes above and beyond those requirements, even better!
A nearly guaranteed way to not pay into a corrupt system is to purchase an antique diamond or use an heirloom stone. Many antique diamonds pre-date diamond-related violence, and passing down a stone through the generations is always a more ethical practice than buying a new stone.
The Scoop on Conflict-Free Diamonds
Beyond Conflict Free Diamond Buying Guide
2. What is the resale value?
This might be a weird thing to think about when you’re purchasing a ring, but what you pay for a ring is not what the true value will be forever and always.
The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) spells out a variety of systems that determine diamond value. Remember the 4 Cs: Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat.
Color doesn’t just mean is it white or yellow or blue or pink. The GIA color scale ranges from colorless to near colorless to faint to light color, and that’s just for white diamonds. On the D-Z scale, you’ll want to look for something between a D-J, D being completely colorless and the most expensive to J, being near colorless and average priced. The most common diamonds are around an H.
Clarity refers to how clean and pure the diamond is. A Flawless diamond is going to be very expensive and very rare, but the closer you can get to flawless, the better. The scale goes Flawless, Internally Flawless, Very Very Slightly Included, Very Slightly Included, Slightly Included, and so on. Most diamonds on the market are going to be SI1 or SI2, which means you can see inclusions in the diamonds under 10x magnification. That’s just fine for resale, but obviously the more flawless, the better.
Cut has to do with, you guessed it, how well the diamond is cut, and it also is about diamond shape. Diamond shape is entirely up to personal taste, but it’s good to keep in mind that you can see inclusions more easily in diamonds with an open cut (like emerald) opposed to a diamond with an intricate cut, (round, princess, etc.) so clarity and cut are intertwined in that way. The cut of the diamond also has to do with the actual diamond facets and how they interact with the light. It's not terribly important to understand all the ins and outs, but the artistry and skill of the person cutting with the diamond will determine how much a diamond costs.
Carat is weight and SIZE. Pretty easy to understand, the bigger the diamond, the more expensive. I rarely would ever recommend going above 1 carat, and it is much more important in terms of resale to get a smaller diamond with better color and clarity.
And all that is just for the rock! Resale value is determined by setting as well. A pear or marquise shaped diamond need to either be set in a bezel setting or they need have caps on the pointed tips to keep them from breaking off. If they don’t have that, it’s a cheap setting and is essentially worthless. Same goes for prong settings that look either short/nubby or long/claw-like – they’re cheaply made and won’t hold the stone as well.
In addition, the metal that is used in the setting determines the value. Precious metals in the gold, silver and platinum family are going to demand a higher resale price due to their rarity and value on the market.
Gemology Institute of America
GIA 4Cs Education
Zales Guide to Jewelry Making
3. How hard is it to maintain?
The current popular ring styles are actually the worst things ever. They’re really glittery and all, but more things can catch on them, all those little side stones will need re-tipped over time (more on that later,) they’re more likely to get dirty, you knock into it and there are more little diamonds that could fall out. I’ll address the ring receivers on how to maintain the ring well, but it’s YOUR job as the buyer to get something that won’t make it too difficult for your partner.
4. Can it be re-sized?
All those rings with all the side stones all the way around? You can't re-size them. All those rings with intricate scroll-work all the way through it? You can't re-size them. All those rings in cheaper metals like tungsten? You can't re-size it. And before you say "I'll never need to re-size it," you may not, but you probably will. Your hands change as you age, and your ring isn't likely to fit the same 20 years down the line. DO NOT be the person who never, ever takes your ring off – you WILL have to get the ring cut from your finger if you don’t want to risk permanent damage to your hand. The ability to re-size is crucial.
Neither of these rings can be re-sized.
5. Does it come as a set with a matching band?
Jewelers aren't always going to willingly volunteer that an engagement ring doesn't have a matching band, because then you'll have to pay for a custom-made wedding band, which gives them more money. You have to ask. I know as the buyer you're only focused on one ring, but the second one is just as important. If you don't want to shell out more than $800 for a custom wedding band (and that's for a plain band without stones, mind you) then be sure to check if it is a matching set.
Things to consider as the receiver:
1. Don’t make the shopping experience too overwhelming.
It’s REALLY easy to get overwhelmed on Pinterest. On one hand, it’s great that we have the internet to inspire us and to easily search rings to buy, but eventually your buyer is going to have to narrow it down. Providing under 10 options at a variety of price points is beneficial.
2. Keep maintenance in mind.
I want you to all hold up your right hands and solemnly swear:
I will not wear my ring 24/7.
Just don’t. I don't care if you think it symbolizes that your love never dies or something ridiculous like that. No. Do not wear your ring when washing your hands. Do not put lotion on when you're wearing your ring. Do not wear your ring when you're doing messy things like cooking or gardening or painting or anything. If you want your ring to last, only wear it when you're leaving the house and take it off when you get home. Register for a ring dish if that helps.
Think I'm being ridiculous? I'm not. Water = scratches and erosion. Lotion = gunk collecting underneath the stone setting, which, if you have a LOT of stone settings, is bad news. Wearing your ring all the time means the prongs on your stone settings wear faster, which means having to get your prongs re-tipped, which again, is bad news.
Never heard of re-tipping? Jewelers don’t talk about it much. As your prongs wear down, stones can come loose and fall out, so they need to be built back up.
Here is a popular ring style from Kay:
20 outer halo diamonds
12 inner halo diamonds
1 center diamond
20 band diamonds, 10 each side.
53 diamonds x 4 prongs per diamond = 212 tips.
Re-tipping cost varies by jeweler, but many charge by the prong. You don’t want to have to get 212 prongs re-tipped.
Need further evidence? My mom has had her wedding ring for more than 30 years, and she has never needed re-tipping. You know why? She takes her ring off the second she gets home and puts it in a ring dish. If she's going somewhere where she knows she's going to be doing a lot of work with her hands, she wears a plain band so she doesn't mess up her good ring. Take notes.
3. Solder your bands together.
A lot of people don’t want to do this because they like to wear their band on its own instead of as a set all the time. If you think you’ll want to do this, I highly recommend getting a plain band to wear solo. If you don’t solder your bands, they rub together and cause irreparable wear. It will be better in the long haul if you solder right away.
There’s a lot more to know about rings depending on what type of ring you get, but obviously the most important thing is that you and your partner love it.
…and that you take it off when you get home. I seriously cannot stress that enough.
While traditional fashion designers release their designs during the year they will be produced and sold, bridal fashion works a year in advance. Spring 2017 Bridal Fashion Week gave us a LOT to look forward to, and I've picked out some of my favorites!
(Okay, more than some. I have a lot of favorites.)
Layers and Lace
Modest and Bold
Tony Ward for Kleinfeld
Illusion and Texture
The Fussy Dynamic
Classic and Dramatic
The Edgy Artistic
Classic with a Twist
Shiny and Sheer
Oscar De La Renta
Soft and Subtle
Structure and Texture
The Romantic and The Bold
Ines di Santo
Photos from instyle.com and brides.com.
I was first introduced to the wonders of Alexis Russell jewelry this past May when my lovely friend Briana received an Alexis Russell engagement ring. (A preview of Briana's engagement photos can be found here.)
I have always loved unique, non-traditional bridal jewelry, and I FELL IN LOVE with everything on Alexis Russell's website.
Alexis first started her jewelry career in 2005 after She uses recycled metals and conflict free (often raw and uncut) diamonds and gemstones, and her designs are a healthy mix of organic/boho and strikingly modern.
I wish I could use a different word than "obsessed" because it's kind of a cliche word, but truly...I'm obsessed with her engagement rings. My hypothetical future husband seriously needs to take note. While Alexis has a definite distinct style, her bridal jewelry still comes in a wide variety of aesthetics, from deep colored raw diamonds like Briana's to more traditional clear stones in unique shapes. Naturally, she makes remarkable, simple wedding bands to make a perfect pair.
For something even more non-traditional (or simply for everyday jewelry) Alexis carries small, raw diamond stacking rings. And men, she hasn't forgotten about you. Her hammered unisex rings are a perfect wedding band for the bride or groom.
Then there's the OTHER jewelry options. Her hand chains are perfect right-hand compliments to her wedding rings, and all her bracelets, earrings, and necklaces are remarkable.
It would be a serious oversight not to mention her "save the date" necklaces. You can customize them to say anything, and they make excellent, understated gifts for bridesmaids, MOBs and MOGs, and anyone within a bridal party.
Perhaps the BEST news for my fellow Illinoisans is that Alexis Russell designs are now being carried in Winnetka, IL!
I'll say this: Alexis Russell is not for everyone. Her designs are unexpected and different, and not everyone likes that.
But to that, I'll say THIS: everyone should like it.
"Pay attention. See how genius creates a legend."
- Shakespeare in Love
(all photos courtesy of www.alexisrussell.com)
Three of my friends got married in three weeks this summer (in what I fondly call my Summer Wedding Trilogy) and ALL THREE of them got their dresses at David's Bridal. I did a full review of my David's Bridal Shopping experience back in August, and I've been rather fond of some of their dresses this season.
BHLDN has been one of my favorite stores in the Bridal market for ages, and they have a TON of great stuff this season. For more, visit BHLDN's website or a BHLDN salon near you!
Finding the perfect makeup look to compliment your gown, venue, and season can be a difficult task. That said, whatever look you choose can bring out the best in you and compliment your inner beauty!
These are my favorite wedding makeup looks - I hope they inspire you!!
Whether or not you've been bridal gown shopping or are well-versed in salon lingo, you know about David's Bridal. All you have to do is turn on the television and you are permeated with the "You'll Love David's Bridal" jingle. You know about the 99 dollar gown sale. If you were asked to name five bridal gown retailers, David's would probably be your number one.
I recently had the opportunity to visit two David's Bridal locations as the Maid of Honor in my best friend's wedding. Between the two trips, I developed a few pointers and tips for you if you ever plan on shopping at a David's Bridal near you!
1. David's caters to the traditional bride.
This is changing a bit as more non-traditional designers are seeking the mass market that David's offers (White by Vera Wang is a more non-traditional label, and in the fall David's will be introducing a new label by Zac Posen which looks like a promising non-traditional option) but for the most part, the David's Bridal Bride is the Princess Bride. Because of this, options without poofy skirts, options in colors other than white, and options without a lot of sparkle are somewhat limited and your consultant might have difficulty picking gowns in your style if you're not a traditional gal. Be aware of this before going in, and make sure your consultant is clear on what you want.
2. Go in with specific pictures of what you want to try on.
David's has a LOT of gowns, all of which are on the floor for you to see. If you don't have an idea of what you're looking for, it can get very overwhelming very quickly. Luckily, David's has all of their gowns available to see on their website, style numbers and all. If you do your research and come to your appointment prepared with dress styles in tow, your consultant will thank you and your day will go a lot smoother.
3. Make your appointment for later in the day.
David's is BUSY. This is only natural - they sell a high volume of gowns at affordable prices and they have an abundance of locations. There are women trying on gowns, large groups getting bridesmaids or mother of the bride dresses, people having their fittings at any given moment, and the atmosphere of David's isn't particularly private (they have a limited number of "stages" which multiple customers share.) Like any retail store, things slow down after 3pm, so if you can, make your appointment in the afternoon/evening for a calm, intimate experience.
4. If you only want to try on bridal gowns, make that clear.
This would seem like an obvious point, but at the end of the day, David's is a retail environment and they want to sell you more. This does have a lot of advantages; with your bridal gown purchase they offer you a discount on bridesmaids, flower girl, and mother of the bride dresses, which is lovely and helpful. That said, they might try and roll appointments for those dresses into your gown appointment. Your gown appointment should really be all about you, and you might have to say so up front.
5. Wealthier area = nicer store.
We went to two David's locations, one in a lower-income area and another in a Chicago suburb. The experience at the suburban David's was far better. The store itself was cleaner, the dressing rooms were in a more private location, our consultant was seemingly more experienced, and we ended up leaving with a dress. Moral of the story: a better experience is worth the drive.
I used to dismiss David's Bridal as a low-quality media ploy, and I can say now that I was wrong. If you go in having done your research and if you have the right expectations, I'm sure you'll have a successful appointment!
For more tips on shopping for a wedding dress at ANY location, check out my video on Couture Commitments' channel.
*The opinions in the post do not reflect all David's Bridal locations. I have not been sponsored by David's Bridal in any way.
I'm that girl. The one who has been planning her wedding since she was ten.
It wasn't an intentional thing, really. My mom used to subscribe to Martha Stewart's magazine, and one time when I was about ten, I found one of her old Wedding issues and got hooked. It was the one with the big floral cake on the front...Spring 1997 I think.
Once my mom figured out that I liked the issue so much, she started buying them for me. Every season. I had close to fifteen before I realized I had a problem. Then it expanded to buying The Knot magazine, then Chicago Bride. I would even pick up those random wedding publications you can get at the hairdresser. Eventually a whole shelf of my bookshelf was wedding related.
I've since ripped out the pictures from the magazines and have sorted them and put them into binders to save shelf space. I'm not quite done yet... 20 odd magazines makes for a long and arduous process.
Now, in the age of technology, I don't have to resort simply to wedding magazines (though I do pick up the occasional Martha Stewart now and then.) Now there's Pinterest. PINTEREST, guys.
Don't even get me started on wedding TV shows. I don't have a lot of nice things to say about TLC, but between Say Yes to the Dress and Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta and Bridesmaids, Four Weddings, Randy to the Rescue, Something Borrowed Something New, and I Found the Gown, my Fridays are pretty well booked. Friday is Bride Day, after all.
And because I need MORE encouragement to be wedding obsessed, I'm in my twenties, which is the age for engagements. In the past two years ten of my friends have gotten engaged - this year alone I have two weddings to attend, and I will be the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding next year.
My best friend's wedding is really what inspired me to create this sub-set of Cornfield Couture. She is not the planning-her-wedding-since-she-was-ten type of girl, and since I am, I have been put to the task of being both her maid of honor AND her wedding planner.
Her engagement has been stressful and somewhat discouraging and also crazy exciting and happy and I think it's important to talk about those experiences with people.
It can be really easy in the midst of all of the stress of the planning of ONE DAY to lose sight of what a wedding celebration is for and what will lie ahead of you at the end of that day...a marriage. Marriage, really, is why I'm so obsessed with weddings in the first place. It's a few hours celebrating something that lasts a lifetime...what's not to love?
I'm Jordan, and this is Cornfield Couture Commitments.
- Jordan -
- 4-19-13 -