Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I have to post this now, because if I don't, if I sit on it any longer, I don't know that it will get posted. At least, not with the solemnity with which it deserves. I don't think I've fully been able to articulate my feelings yet...but...well.

I have experienced some pretty deep self-loathing over the past couple of weeks. I look at my engagement ring and I love it. It takes my breath away. In certain light. When the normally gorgeous, bright, blue topaz doesn't look fazed or cloudy. And when the beautiful, matte finish yellow gold band doesn't look brassy.

And I had a plan. We had our wedding bands all picked out.

It's Aldine by Bario Neal. I was going to get the thinner version, and he was going to get the regular. I love the symbolism of my blue gem (true blue, and all that), as well as the symbolism of the braids (though our lives are entwining and tangling with each others', and we're starting a new baby family, we're still individuals, and our roots are still tangled within our own family trees). Besides, since no band would sit flush against my bezel-set topaz, the braids were a fabulous solution, because the bezel could nestle in the braid grooves.

And yet...

And yet.

I tried not to seek out pictures of other engagement rings, but inevitably, in flipping through magazines or blogs or wedsites...there they would be. And slowly I realized: though it's against much of what I believe in (practical spending, ethically and environmentally-friendly sourced materials), I wanted a diamond.

I couldn't - or rather, I can't - get a white gold diamond engagement ring out of my head. And I hate myself a little bit for this. Because it's become clear to me that it's a need*, not a want. I've been reconciling this for the past two or three weeks, at least.

Because we have an open, honest relationship, when I first suspected this was something I couldn't get past, I mentioned it to C. And he was sad, because it's what he wanted to get me in the first place; he was sad, because I told him not to; he was sad because to him, it was what I was supposed to have, what our friends and family expected him to get me (to provide me, what I deserved), and it's what he originally wanted me to have - it's what he's always wanted me to have.

And I was crushed, naturally, because I don't like being the cause of his sadness. But this is one of the many reasons why I love him: he let me speak. He let me reassure him that he did nothing wrong, and let me reiterate that he actually did everything right. He listened to me, for Pete's sake, when I said I didn't want a diamond! He heeded my preferences in light of what the WIC tells us. And he listened when I said we could proceed with however he was comfortable. We could tell everyone that I changed my mind and decided that, because now we can actually afford to buy a diamond ring, we did (I reminded him that, had he waited to afford a diamond originally, we probably still wouldn't be engaged, and as a result we wouldn't be getting married next September, and THAT's the important thing).

Or, we could tell everyone that he couldn't get a diamond engagement ring out of his head, so once he was able to afford it, he got me one and said "keep it or don't, at least now it's your choice" and I was so overwhelmingly touched by the gesture that I of course kept it.

And he's...relieved, I think. Relieved that I finally came around to what he wanted me to have (and what he knew I secretly wanted deep-down, apparently) in the first place. We ordered the diamond two weekends ago. It's a stunning .5 carat, cushion cut, sparkly little thing, and I now have to decide on a setting.

He's actually thrilled, I think.

Sometimes I wonder if we made the right decision. I'll be outside, and the light will catch my little blue topaz just so, and it will look just brilliant; just beautiful; just breathtaking. And I'll be sad that I gave in. Sad that I couldn't be satisfied with it. Sad that I will be replacing it within the next couple of months. Because it's me; it's him; it's us.

I think ultimately what I'll do is get my current engagement ring re-sized and wear it proudly on my right hand. It will absolutely be my "something blue" at our wedding. And C likes that I so desperately want to continue wearing it, in some fashion or another (we had talked about getting me a thin golden chain to wear it around my neck, but I think I like the idea of getting it re-sized better. Then I can see it all the time!).

It's been rough. But I think we're figuring it out :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wedding Wit & Wisdom: Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding

The first wedding-related book I plowed through was Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. Mostly because when someone inevitably offers their "opinion" on something, I wanted to be able to say, "Well actually, Miss Manners says this..."

Because you don't argue with Miss Manners. Period. While the book is chock-full of good advice - and as such, I highly recommend to everyone, even guests - here are some portions that really gave me pause, and made me rethink my initial perspectives.

Do not worry that you need devote a year of your life to planning a festival that will showcase your personality and squander everyone else's vacation time and resources...Do not worry about developing a "theme" for your wedding; the theme of a wedding is marriage. And nobody notices or cares whether the postage stamps on your wedding invitations pulsate with love. (pages 11-12)

This, I think, was the first time it really clicked that I don't HAVE to choose colors, or include the same pattern/symbol/font on every single bit of wedding paraphernalia. In fact, I realized I had become so stressed with trying desperately to think of a theme, that I was losing sight of the whole point. Beyond "end-of-summer-relaxed-chic" we don't have a theme. We'll include little personal touches here and there, and yes, our invitations will probably match the rsvp cards and the thank you notes, mostly because I'm neurotic like that.

Miss Manners hates that bridal canard about My Day - as if getting married, of all things, gave one the right to suspend normal consideration of others. Here you are contemplating using My Day as an excuse to dis-invite guests or to rate your friends and relations on whether they will be able to produce suitable facial expressions...(page 69)

I never understood the revulsion towards the My Day mentality until I became engaged. Don't get me wrong, it's not something I'd ever say to anyone ("Well, it's MY DAY, so screw your opinions and feelings!" - Incidentally, my sister used this on me once prior to her wedding, and in addition to wanting to throttle her, I've never looked at her quite the same since), but there's a definite assumption in the WIC that it's ok - encouraged, even - for the bride to completely disregard everyone's opinion, including and perhaps especially the groom's. I realized that it's not just Our Day, it's a day to celebrate both of our families and friends as we become the two common knots tying this wide circle together. It's sort of equally empowering and humbling when you think of it like this.

Exactly what I'm going for!
**This one is copied from my Pinterest Board**

It is not Miss Manners' function to save people money they want to spend. So she would happily ignore this attitude were it not for the accompanying insinuation that the driving force behind such spending is poor old etiquette. Etiquette thus becomes the villain - the handmaiden of commercialism, whose insidious ceremonial and emotional arguments always favor the spending of extravagant sums of money. It is called rude to ask prices for commercial services and incorrect to limit wedding expenditures, even when they include planting tulips in the snow and making live swans waddle across the lawn. Miss Manners is outraged. Etiquette does not practice extortion. Etiquette loves simplicity. (page 119)

Take that, WIC.

Why, instead of drawing on the power of the ritual, do officiants as well as bridal couples now use the wedding ceremony to summarize the love story, roll the credits, and supply biographical material? Why do they undercut the formality with colloquial chatter and kill the solemnity with jokes? Why do they think that ti is fitting to go public with the kind of love patter that should be whispered in private? (page 251)

**This one's from The Knot**
This really resonated with me. I am mainly responsible for crafting our ceremony, and originally there were going to be some inside jokes and some intentional levity, because I wanted to make sure our ceremony was entertaining.

Full stop.

I was confusing wanting it to be entertaining with needing it to be meaningful.

If she still doesn't sound like a fit for you, consider this: Miss Manners actually defends tattoos. She opines that unless they are utterly obscene or offensive, we have her stamp of approval to wear them out and proud.

I, for one, cannot WAIT to tell my step-mother THAT little tidbit :)

**All other pictures courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

what we accomplished this weekend

Booked our venue and set our date! Our ceremony and reception will take place at the Stone Mill Inn on September 8, 2013!

Decided to start making time for a walk together every weekend. On today's walk, we brainstormed logistics for the rehearsal and for who could potentially be responsible for getting us to the airport after the reception.

Uploaded the addresses of all my NM invitees to my guest list spread sheet.

Tweaked our budget a bit, allocating more money for the photographer, after speaking with my mother.

Applied to be part of Offbeat Bride's Tribe (YAY) and think I submitted a pretty kickass application, if I do say so myself. We'll see what happens!
*eta* WOW that was fast. The ladies at Offbeat Bride already approved my application! Woot!

Created our wedsite. Whee!


Played catch-up with a couple good friends.

Played a round of Dominion with C. I have no idea how I won. WHOMP WHOMP.

Enjoyed the weekend at large. It passed too quickly. Why does the workweek never pass as fast?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

the evolution of my engagement ring

This post has been percolating in my head for awhile now...I think since even before I was engaged. Or rather, since before the engagement was "official," since we've known for almost a year now that this is where we were headed...(well...since *I've* known for almost a year now...he's known for much, much longer).

I considered presenting pages upon pages of information. I wanted to educate myself - and you! - and indeed spent about an hour Googling every variation of the phrase "history of the engagement ring" I could think of, but I decided that sort of defeats the purpose. What I want to convey is why I went through an engagement ring evolution (revolution?). My goal here isn't to convince you that my way is the only way, or the best way; it's not to preach, judge, or even educate (there are plenty of informative sites out there that do it much better than I can!).

It's to explain why it's my way.

The diamond is the quintessential, universal symbol of love. Of all its many roles, the diamond as messenger of romantic love - beginning with the belief that Cupid's arrows were tipped with diamonds - has resonated through the centuries to emerge today as powerful as ever.

Lovely, isn't it? It's from the DeBeers web site. Ah, consumerism. How romantic. Nevermind that sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are the stones that have truly been considered precious gems over the centuries, and were the original gems in engagement rings (which, by the way, in itself is a very recent trend), and that diamonds gained popularity when DeBeers created a very successful marketing campaign.

A diamond is forever...

I digress. The characteristics I wanted in an engagement ring evolved, on average, every two weeks over the course of no less than six months. When I'm learning about something new, I throw myself into the research, trying to absorb anything and everything that I can as quickly as I can. The hunt for the perfect engagement ring was no different. I educated myself about the 4 C's - Clarity, Cut, Color, Carat - and developed an idea of the diamond I was looking for.

Early last fall, my then-boyfriend and I started looking at engagement rings. I was finally ready to think semi-long term (at the time, I was ok with the idea of being engaged, but not necessarily ready to comprehend marriage). Interestingly, my boyfriend and I each had our own idea of what we wanted (expected?). Both of our expectations had been perpetuated by the WIC. His instinct was to easily spend three months' salary on what would supposedly be the most expensive and significant token of affection, ever, and I knew I wanted white gold and a brilliant cut diamond, and that it had to be at least .5 carats (what was the point of anything smaller, amirite?).

In our quest to educate ourselves, we took to the mall.

The first ring was this one, though I was going to opt for a black diamond center stone to keep costs reasonable (...ha.). We found it at Bailey Banks & Biddle.

If I am completely honest, I still swoon over this ring. It was absolutely perfect. Just the right amount of sparkle, so dainty on my slim finger and small hand. Beautiful. And I loved the kite setting. I still do. I love everything about it, and a part of me yearns for it, and I hate myself for that.

Then I started delving into more research on diamonds and mining practices, and of course came upon The Great Diamond Debate. I realized that if I was to feel good about my ring, if I was to gaze upon it without any guilt, without any taint, it needed to be ethically sourced. And, if possible, so did the gold.

So I turned to Brilliant Earth and Blue Nile. Right around this time, I realized that - while most of the jewelry I wear is sterling silver - yellow gold is much more flattering on my hands. It glows, whereas white gold just looks cold, somehow.

So I spent the next few weeks flip-flopping between these:

18K Yellow Gold Heirloom Diamond Ring (1/4, top view18K Yellow Gold True Heart Ring, top view

Slightly less expensive than the A Jaffe, because "ethical" diamonds are quite expensive. I put that in quotes not because I doubt the validity of sites like BE and BN, but because the more research I did, the more I learned that it's really, really, really hard to trust that a diamond is truly ethical. Many certification programs site it as ethical if it was ethically sourced, but don't measure how it's transported, and vice versa. It became too tricky to tell if a diamond was truly ethical and environmentally friendly; there were too many loopholes, too many corners that could be cut.

The amount my boyfriend was willing to spend on my engagement ring was also starting to make me queasy. I am not exaggerating. Here he was, saving $50 every week, frustrated with himself that it wasn't accumulating faster (because man, have we been ready to be engaged for a while) and desperate to get me what I "deserved," to prove he was a man, while I'm sitting over here writing out checks to pay for my credit card debt, college loan debt, and budgeting like crazy because car payments start in June.


And so I inevitably discovered moissanite. I still kind of dig the idea of moissanite. A stone that only exists naturally on meteors? How freaking cool is that? Most moissanite jewelry, of course, is created in a lab, but that was ok - less environmental impact, and at least I could be sure no violence tainted it's history.
Round Moissanite Petite Milgrain Wedding Set, 0.25ct
This was the set (engagement ring and wedding band) that I had decided on (truly, boyfriend, this is the last time I'll change my mind, I swear!!). In yellow gold, of course. At last! Something that wouldn't break the bank! The entire set was less than $1,000! I didn't have to feel sick at the thought of spending a stupid amount of money on a teeny tiny trinket that I was slowly coming to realize I didn't NEED.

Then one day, I was browsing the mother of WIC sites. And I found this.

And just like that, all the brainwashing broke through the barriers I had been slowly, painfully erecting. It stole my breath. I showed my boyfriend: it was perfect. It was beyond perfect. It was so beyond perfect, there was no way to articulate it. I inquired from the designer if it came in yellow gold, and oh gods be good, it did. The setting itself - not including the center stone - also starts at around $4,000.

I told my boyfriend. His face fell. It was far above and beyond what he could afford. And I was disappointed. I was crushed. This was IT. IT was PERFECT. It was me, and it should be mine. I sulked for maybe ten minutes, and then I snapped out of it.


I am not ok with being disappointed that my boyfriend can't afford a ring whose payment would nearly clear my credit card debt, whose payment would put a significant dent in my student loans, whose payment would cover almost a full year of car payments.

And if that isn't perspective, I'm not sure what is.

I wanted to spend under $100. We compromised, and I adore my ring. It's perfect, because it's utterly me.

It's a yellow gold, matte finish bezel set London Blue Topaz. Because I spent about a day and a half looking into sapphires - they are one of the original precious gems - and I loved their symbolism: Sapphire is the original "true blue," symbolizing honesty, fidelity, and the soul. When I discovered they were nearly as prohibitive as diamonds, I researched other blue gems - because why not? - and rediscovered London blue topazes. Then I went straight to Etsy, because I knew I wanted recycled gold and handmade, and wanted to support someone who was doing what they loved.

Because isn't that really what it's all about? It makes me smile every time I see it, it sparkles like crazy every time it catches the light, and I love that it's utterly personal. No one (at least, more than likely, no one I know) will have this ring, and you can't find it in stores. While it may not be right for some people, it's perfect for me. For us. Because we embody the true blue spirit, we practice honesty and fidelity every day, and shortly after I met him, I told him that I thought we were kindred spirits. I wanted to say we were soul mates, but I had a different boyfriend at the time, and the notion was too romantic. But...everything, in the end, fits snugly where it's supposed to.