With this ring I thee wed

Your engagement ring will probably be the first wedding-related purchase you make as a couple, whether you or your partner choose and buy it or you do it together. The ring can be a first chance to prove how well you know each other, if you’ve particular tastes or expectations. Or it can be a haribo jelly ring, hula hoop, or ring-fashioned tin foil to fulfil the role of ‘ring’ and be all you need. The engagement ring can set the tone for the wedding to follow. Much like the invitations, your ring will give your guests an idea of what to expect from the wedding. Is it contemporary? Antique? Traditional? Restrained? Elaborate? They will be looking for clues!

The choice of engagement ring will probably have most bearing on your choice of wedding bands. Do you intend to keep wearing your engagement ring after the marriage? Will you keep it on the same finger or move it to the other hand? Will you want to wear it alongside your wedding ring on special occasions or keep it in a box to hand down to the next generation? If your partner will only wear silver coloured metals or only yellow coloured metals does this mean your wedding rings will now not match? Do you need to consider a multi coloured gold band to tie the three rings together?

Jewellery is pretty. We love the decadence of it. It is never needed. This makes it all the more desirable. Getting married gives you a great excuse to buy not one but two rings plus jewellery to wear on the day! But spare a thought for your other half. The Groom will generally get a nice new pair of cufflinks out of it – if he’s lucky. After our engagement I decided to buy my fiance a watch. Not just a functional watch, but one that was special. One that was a bit over the top., a bit ornate. One that really spoke to him and spoke to me of him. He adores it to this day and wears it every chance he gets (whenever not at work). It’s a ‘for best’ piece, and because it was frivilous, because I told him to choose whichever one he wanted, instead of weighing up pros and cons or thinking of the watch as a practical purchase, it’s basically his most prized possession. A true gift, a treat, not a concession.

When we were shopping for his wedding cufflinks we were so bored by the masses of jokey modern Groom offerings. We eventually came across a pair of cheeky vintage links. My top tip: don’t search under the Groom or Wedding category for cufflinks. Think about the kind of design or look that would work with your theme. While we’re talking about thinking outside the box, there’s no rule that you have to have wedding rings. If you’re not really a ring person why not go for something more you – jewellery or otherwise? The purpose of rings in the marriage ceremony is firstly to symbolise your first gifts to each other, so you could opt to exchange pretty much anything instead, eg. roses, garlands, tokens, coins. Secondly, rings symbolise infinity. This could mean to you your unending love, your unending support for one another through live, or your unending bond together in marriage. Rings symbolise these things because they are circles so have no end. You could replace rings with any other circular object, for example, a bracelet.

With my own wedding jewellery, I thought about what I’d like to wear every day after my wedding around my neck to remind me of the promises we had made. I had been coveting a chunky heart pendant for ages but not being able to afford a gold one, I fell in love with a Murano glass range and ordered some bespoke earrings to match. This way for very little money, I got a necklace and earrings I had designed myself, having chosen exactly the perfect beads and fittings to go with my dress and my wedding theme. I ordered brooches for the Moms and pendants for the Bridesmaids from the same jewellery maker so that everything was in Murano, but as individual as the girls I was buying for. I ended up wearing my other Nan’s pearl necklace on my wedding day instead of the pendant, but I wear my Murano wedding jewellery all the time. It was really nice to have things to keep wearing on the honeymoon that reminded me of the wedding. It was one of those things you don’t plan but then just really appreciate at the time.

As for my rings, well I wanted an old ring that resembled one I had admired on my late Nan’s finger. When she died, I inhereited the ring but discovered it was damaged and not worth repairing. We scoured Oxford for something similar or reminiscent, and finally found ‘the one’ in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, which meant a great deal to me, having a long line of ancestors from the city. Ben was very easy to please with a plain yellow gold band, but I wanted a design that symbolised our union and set about getting quotes for a bespoke ring with entwined threads of rose and yellow gold. Rose to symbolise me and the yellow to symbolise Ben. Our budget just didn’t stretch that far so I found a half diamond crossover design that would represent our differences and our joining well enough although I’d still love to get the ring of my dreams made some day. We had our rings engraved with words that meant the most to us. Ben’s ring says ‘Whole’ because he feels that our relationship has made him a whole man, ready for the rest of his life as his true self. It’s really nice that our words make sense when they are put together too. My ring says ‘Life’ because that is what I feel Ben gives me. The real start of my life, as a wife, we are a new family, setting out on a new adventure. By giving my heart and soul peace at finding him and knowing that he will always love me, Ben gives me the grounding to fully live and enjoy my life.

Jewellery and especially rings can be far more than just pretty. When it comes to your wedding, it’s up to you to take the opportunity to inject meaning into everything if you want to. There’s no reason why everything you choose to be a part of your day should not hold a special (and secret if you want) meaning to you and your beloved. How often do we get this chance? The world is your oyster. Happy shopping, and remember: the only limit to possibility is your imagination.

 

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Engagement: the long and short of it

The length of an engagement can be decided before the proposal even takes place. Indeed you might see this kind of agreement as a prerequisite. Say you’ve got your heart set on a short engagement. You might want to insist that no proposal takes place until the time is close enough to your preferred wedding date. If the proposal comes ‘too early’ for whatever reason – practical, emotional, financial; you might be stuck with a really long engagement.

The average engagement is for 18 months. This strikes me as a long time. Too long? While it’s pretty obvious that a short engagement could cause you problems in hiring all the suppliers and goods for your wedding, or mean that you have to compromise on the exact date, venue, or supplier; it’s less so why a long engagement would cause a problem.

Ways an engagement can be too long:

Wedding planning doesn’t necessarily become less stressful or less complicated the longer you allow for it. Quite the contrary. When you’re planning a wedding, you have to hold lots of information in your head at the same time to retain an overall picture of the event as well as every individual detail. I can tell you from first hand experience that this is remarkably similar to how a PhD student feels throughout their three or more years of project management and thesis writing.

The experience can be intense and can take over your world. You might find it hard to think of much else besides the wedding. you can fail to see the wood for the trees, with details multiplying with the time your brain is given to imagine the infinite possibilities of what could be. If you put the wedding planning to one side for a number of days or weeks, when you try to pick it up again, it can take you ages to become reacquainted with where you are with the different strands of planning. It can soon become overwhelming, even with elite organisational skills, folders, lists and multi coloured page markers and post its. 🙂

You can end up spending more money. Chances are if you limit the planning time, you’ll limit the options you allow yourself to consider. The more options you expose yourself to, the more you will stretch the budget to acheive your dream day. If you are bargain hunting online, don’t be fooled into buying things you don’t actually need or have budgeted for, just because they are a bargain. This is easily done when you have wedding shopping fever. You see it on house building shows all the time. In an attempt to save money, online bargain hunting goes mad and impractical purchases end up costing much more because they have to be somehow blended into the scheme by yet more purchases, or adjusted to fit. You might not want to return items that aren’t quite right if the postage costs as much as they did.

Indecision sets in. If you’ve got loads of time, you can put off making decisions. Confronted with so many ways to go, you may find yourself unable to make decisions. This loss of momentum or sense of urgency can get you down, you can lose connection with your wedding, it can seem so far off it becomes ethereal, unreal. Ever watched paint dry? That’s what it would be like for me, as I just like to get on with things. I’m very impatient. If you are this way inclined, why put yourself through the wait? List your reasons and think about whether it adds up. Or are you putting it off to give yourself time to do all those things you think you’ll lose once married? Are you giving yourself time to get used to the idea of marriage? Are you giving yourself time to get to know your partner better, or to see if any cracks appear? It’s a good time to ask yourself the hard questions, and to be honest with yourself.

Your ideas can change. I found that I wanted to combine a few different styles in my eclectically vintage wedding. However, even within my fairly short 9 month engagement my ideas evolved so much that I wish I had had even less time so that I would be more likely to pick my theme and stick with it. When you are conceptualising the wedding at the beginning of your engagement you might be onto a fairly unusual theme or look, and by the time your wedding rolls around, you could have been to 10 weddings with the same theme as yours, and the mags could be proclaiming it the ‘in’ theme. Wedding trends come and go. If your engagement and wedding span more than one fashion season, you could end up oh-so-last-season. What may have been widely stocked a year ago might now be near impossible to find. The wedding industry is fickle.

Your life changes! Take any 18 months of your adult life and consider the changes that occured from the start to the end of that time period. Will your guest list be the same? Will your tastes? Will your priorities? Will your location? Will your family have seen new additions, or sad losses? Think about changes that might occur in other people’s lives. In the lives of your suppliers and the businesses you are depending on. They may go out of business, see a change in management, or direction. Their standards may change.

When you’re thinking about the length of your engagement, think about what would work best for you and your partner. Forget about the norm, the average and what your parents expect. While an engagement of 9 months is perfectly adequate, the benefit of a 12 month engagement is that you will get to see things at the same time of year as your wedding date. This can give you a much more accurate picture of how things will look and what will be on offer when your big day comes. Having said that, if you just cant wait to tie the knot, I’d advise no less than 3 months to plan your wedding. It can be done, but I’d stick to these rules to see you through.

Rules for a successful short engagement:

  1. Choose a theme/style/look/concept and stick with it. Do not hesitate. Things will jump out at you. Go with your gut instinct.
  2. Draw up a battle plan. You will need a schedule so that you don’t leave vital jobs too late. Pin down deadlines for EVERYTHING.
  3. Delegate. You can be Head Planner AND have as many little helpers as you like! Give your nearest and dearest specific tasks. Whether it’s sourcing a good band, doing a price comparison of florists, or picking up the invitations. Give your assistants a brief, so that they know what you expect.
  4. Prioritise. With a short engagement you might have to trim down the list of to dos. Think about what matters to you both. What can your day do without? Simply strike things off that list rather than stressing over compromises, and you’ll feel relieved and empowered.
  5. Enlist the help of professionals. I don’t mean a wedding planner. Your team of suppliers need to be professional, trustworthy and helpful. You may find an indispensable venue coordinator, celebrant (me!), or caterer who goes above and beyond to help see you through the planning process. If you can leave them to it in the run up to the wedding and on the day, great. If you are finding yourself chasing them, and picking up their slack, replace them.
  6. Be prepared to compromise. I mean really compromise. If you can take a more laid back attitude to the specifics, you can still get exactly what you want. It’s all about the overall effect, the essence of the day, the feel of it. Keep these things in mind rather than brand names, bestsellers, or expense as a guide to what’s right for you.
  7. Keep calm and carry on. If you get super-stressed you’ll become indecisive and snappy. Take time out from the planning to relax, and reconnect with your partner about why you are getting married. Keep perspective, take a deep breath, eat some cake, and get on with it. It’ll all be worth it.

And finally… Don’t be a slave to must have and must do lists, budget sheets, or timelines set by wedding companies. Every wedding is different so draw up your own lists and charts. If it seems overwhelming, change it, until it no longer does.