MONEY Weddings

12 Money-Saving Tricks to Know Before Buying an Engagement Ring

diamond ring in box
Jeffrey Coolidge—Getty Images

Get a great ring without blowing the whole wedding budget.

Planning to pop the question? You’ll need a ring before you get down on bended knee, and when it comes to buying jewelry, it’s easy to make costly mistakes (especially if you don’t know what you’re doing). (See also: This One Wedding Trick Will Save You Thousands)

To ensure that you’re getting the best value for your budget, here are 12 engagement ring tricks from leading industry experts. Former diamond cutter and third-generation jeweler Anubh Shah of Four Mine jewelry, and Andrea Novella, creative director at Gemma Jade Jewelry, divulge their insider secrets to help you get the most brilliance for your buck.

1. Buy Diamonds Just Shy of Critical Weights

Carat weight and size are important in the ring-buying process — at least they are to your girlfriend — and jewelers know it. That’s precisely why most diamonds are cut in half and whole increments, as pricing is based on those thresholds.

“Instead of shelling out for the full 1.00 carat diamond, try to find something around 0.95 carat,” advises Shah. “Manufacturers do everything they can to cut to critical weights because the pricing is tiered on those values. If a diamond is cut to less, the value is lost and therefore price can be significantly less.”

Novella agrees, calling this “the best tip of all.”

“Diamond prices increase exponentially for each carat,” she says. “So if you want one carat, buy a .97. If you want 2, buy 1.95. It’s essentially the same thing but much cheaper.”

2. Buy Diamonds Online

We buy everything else online these days, so it only makes sense that you can find great deals on diamonds at Internet retailers.

“Buy diamonds online, even if you want to browse in store,” suggests Anubh. “Prices are significantly less and selection is far larger. You can see upwards of 20% price differences between online and in-store prices. Online jewelers are extremely price competitive and so the markups are actually very low. Jewelers make their margins on the setting, so buying the diamond loose then having it set in a ring locally is also a great idea.”

There’s another important tip that you don’t want to overlook, and it can save you hundreds of dollars.

“Also, buy one from a jeweler that’s out of state so you save on taxes,” Anubh adds, “which can be an 8%+ difference.”

3. Plan Your Purchase for the Summer

June through August is unofficially known as wedding season, so you probably assume that’s the worst time to buy an engagement ring. The exact opposite is true, in fact, because while the actual weddings are taking places during the warmer months, most engagements are established throughout the rest of the year.

“Summers are a good time to buy — summers are slow for most jewelers and wholesalers so they’ll be more price flexible to try and push inventory,” says Anubh. “Pricing is volatile around Christmas and can either go drastically up or down. Avoid the volatility and buy during the summer days. Plus it’s wedding season so people aren’t generally buying as many engagement rings at that time.”

4. Opt for a Non-Traditional Shape

Would your lady prefer a round diamond? Unfortunately for you, she’s in the majority, which drives the price up due to demand. To save some coin — if it won’t leave you single, of course — look into more non-traditional shapes.

“Fancy shapes (shapes other than traditional round) are significantly less expensive and more trendy — why?” asks Anubh. “Because round is the most popular shape so it’s most in demand — simple economics. Also, a diamond cutter’s job is to preserve the maximum amount of weight. Rounds lose much more carat weight than other shapes, so they carry a premium.”

5. Consider Alternative Stones

They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But isn’t it interesting how there’s no famous idiom that equates diamonds to a dude’s worst enemy? If you’re feeling the pinch on the prospect of buying a diamond, perhaps you can consider alternative stones, like precious gems or even a manmade, eco-friendly diamond-esque stone. (Tough sell, I know, but it’s worth a shot.)

“Non-conventional brides might want to consider alternative stones to diamonds, or use a diamond setting but another stone for the center stone,” Novella suggest. “Asian cultures highly value imperial green jadeite, for example. It’s more rare than diamonds but still more affordable.”

(P.S. If your bride is non-conventional, consider yourself an even luckier man.)

6. Go for the Gold

Yellow gold went out of fashion for a while over the past couple decades, but its back with a vengeance now that it has an enviable price tag. And Novella wants you to hone in on it for investment’s sake.

“Gold provides the best value. Prices have steadily risen over the years so it’s a good investment metal, but more affordable than platinum,” she explains.

7. Look for 14k Instead of 18k Gold

While you’re concentrating your efforts on gold, you also should know that there’s a better value between one karat weight and another. It may seem like 18k gold is the best buy given the higher number, but that’s not the case.

“Generally, you can consider 18k like a brand name; it’s purer than 14k, but adds little to no extra raw value,” says Anubh. “The longevity of 14k is high, and simple ‘servicing’ (yes, like with a car) can keep it looking brand new. Just polishing out scratches or rhodium plating restores shine as if it were new. Do this once year — it should only cost about $10 to $20.”

8. Steer Clear of the Brand Name Rings

I didn’t have to buy an engagement ring because I married a dude (we’re simple like that), so I had no idea that there were brand-name rings. Now that you are enlightened, you should stay far away too.

“Avoid brand name rings and branded designs,” Anubh warns. “Any ring can be custom made and any design created as close to the original as possible. There are huge savings when custom making a branded design so I definitely recommend that route if you like something branded outside your budget.”

9. Look for Diamonds in the H/I Color and S1 Clarity Range

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of engagement ring buying with a quick lesson on diamond color and clarity.

H/I Color is an “average color, middle of the road, greatly abundant, and consistent color in nature,” according to Jewelry Secrets. In laymen’s terms, the color is a little bit off (a bit of yellow in the mix), but hardly noticeable. The SI Clarity range on the other hand includes three levels — SI1, SI2, and SI3 — which equate to flawless to the naked eye, flawed to the naked eye, and “this is probably a diamond, but it’s definitely not the best one,” respectively.

If you want to spend less, this is where you can make some concessions, says Anubh.

“Diamonds in the H/I color and SI clarity range offer the best value,” he explains. “The imperfections are rarely visible to the naked, untrained eye and the color is hardly distracting. Round diamonds mask color much better than fancy shapes.”

This is another slippery slope, gentlemen, so proceed with caution.

10. Seek Out GIA-Certified Rings

Did you know that there’s, like, a governing body on diamonds? There are a few, actually. But the Gemological Institute of America is the only one you need to know.

“Only buy GIA-certified diamonds, if you’re truly looking for value for money,” Anubh advises. “GIA is the most consistent grading lab and has the highest grading standards. Other labs are inconsistent and carry noticeable discounts for a reason. Don’t be fooled!”

11. Put Away the Plastic and Pay Cash

Given the high cost of engagement rings, your plan probably is to pay for it with credit. That’s not the best idea for two reasons — you can easily rack up interest charges if you let the balance drag on, and you may be missing out on savings. A better bet is to hoard cash until you can afford it outright. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that you don’t have another huge bill looming over your head, it’ll give you enough time to make sure this is definitely the right relationship for you, and you’ll keep more money in the bank because of a potential kickback.

“Buy your engagement ring via bank wire or check from a wholesaler,” Anubh recommends. “There’s almost always a discount because no credit card processing fees are involved.”

While we’re on the subject of diamond wholesalers, Novella thinks you should seriously consider this route over a local jewelry store.

“Buy the diamond wholesale or through a broker, and then have it set with the jeweler,” she says. “You’ll save on the markup for the center stone, which is the main part of the cost.”

12. Stick to Your Intended Budget

It’s really easy to go over budget when you’re blinded by love — but you need to keep it together, man. Set a max amount that you’ll spend and make it your goal to find the perfect ring by coming in under that threshold.

“Unless you’re blowing out your budget, the odds of getting something significantly better for a small increase in budget are low,” Anubh imparts. “It’ll make you feel bad in the long run. Stick to a number and stay under. Everyone is happy when they find an extra dollar in their jeans pocket.”

Read more articles from Wise Bread:

-10 Awesome Sites to Shop for Affordable, Cool Jewelry
-5 Places to Get Cheaper Diapers
-This One Wedding Trick Will Save You Thousands

TIME relationships

Utah Woman Seeks World Record for Most Wedding Bouquet Catches

The irony, of course, is that Jamie Jackson is still single

If wedding bouquet-catching were an Olympic sport, a special spot would be reserved for Jamie Jackson at the top of the podium.

The 37-year-old Salt Lake City, Utah, woman has been to more than 80 weddings, catching the bridal bouquet a record 46 times, edging out other single women in the room like a defensive back intercepting a touchdown pass.

The irony, of course, is that Jackson is still single.

“I’ve pretty much crushed that ‘next-to-be-married’ myth,” she tells PEOPLE. “I’ve had boyfriends, sure. But I’m liking the single life. Besides, if I were married, I’d have to give up my favorite sport.”

Read the rest of the article at People.com

TIME celebrities

Johnny Depp Just Got Married to Amber Heard, Say Reports

Cast member Amber Heard and her fiance, actor Johnny Depp pose at the premiere of "3 Days to Kill" in Los Angeles
Mario Anzuoni—Reuters Actress Amber Heard and actor Johnny Depp at the premiere of 3 Days to Kill in Los Angeles on Feb. 12, 2014

The nuptials come ahead of a party to be held on Depp's private island in the Bahamas

Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp tied the knot this week with Friday Night Lights actress Amber Heard in a surprise ceremony in Depp’s Los Angeles home, PEOPLE and E! Online report, just days ahead of a planned celebration on Depp’s 45-acre private island in the Bahamas.

The couple met on the set of The Rum Diary in 2010 and began dating in 2012 after Depp broke off a 14-year partnership with French singer Vanessa Paradis, the mother of the 51-year-old’s two children, Lily-Rose Melody Depp and John Christopher “Jack” Depp III.

Heard and Depp got engaged last January. This is Depp’s second marriage. He divorced his first wife, Lori Anne Allison, in the 1980s.

Last year, Depp described his 28-year-old wife on NBC’s Today show as “a Southern belle and sweet as can be, and very good for me.”

TIME celebrities

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden Have Tied the Knot

There's something about married

After a day of rumors and reports, it has been confirmed that Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden have tied the knot.

The two “were married [Monday] evening in an intimate ceremony in their home in Los Angeles” their rep told People.

Diaz and her Good Charlotte hubby have been dating since May and reportedly got engaged just before Christmas.

“We couldn’t be happier to begin our new journey together surrounded by our closest family and friends,” the couple told People.

Read more at People.

TIME Soccer

Soccer Stars Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco Wed

Alex Morgan of the USA Women's National Team at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Oct. 26, 2013.
David Madison—Getty Images Alex Morgan of the USA Women's National Team at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Oct. 26, 2013.

Two leading footballers just scored

Soccer players Alex Morgan and Servando Carrasco sealed the deal on New Year’s Eve Wednesday, when they married in front of 180 guests in Santa Barbara, California.

Morgan, 25, led the U.S. women’s soccer team to a gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Carrasco, 26, plays midfield for the Major League Soccer team Houston Dynamo.

Read more at PEOPLE

TIME Bizarre

Obama’s Golf Game Prompts Couple to Relocate Wedding Set for Next Day

US-MALAYSIA-OBAMA-NAJIB-GOLF
Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama jokes with reporters as he plays golf with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razzak at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Dec. 24, 2014

The President called the bride to apologize

President Barack Obama’s golf game in Hawaii forced a military couple to relocate their wedding a day before their planned nuptials on Sunday.

Natalie Heimel and Edward Mallue Jr. had just finished their rehearsal at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, located on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, when they were informed they would have to move their planned ceremony at the 16th hole because the President would be playing through the holes, Bloomberg reports.

Wedding organizer Naile Brennan said anyone who plans an event there while Obama is in town is warned ahead of time about the chance of an 11th-hour rescheduling. The ceremony was moved to a “much prettier and much nicer venue,” she said. “It’s more secluded and there are no golfers yelling ‘Fore!'”

Even though the newlyweds knew Obama was in town — they invited him to their wedding but received a congratulatory no-show letter in response — their relocation still came as a shock. After Obama found out what happened, according to Jamie McCarthy, a sister of Mallue, “he apologized and congratulated them” in a “wonderful” personal call to the bride.

[Bloomberg]

TIME animals

Visionary Bride-to-Be Hopes to Rent Corgis for Her Bridesmaids to Use as Bouquets

124267265
Getty Images These corgis are very important.

Finally, a wedding we'd actually want to attend

In a traditional American wedding, a bunch of bridesmaids, usually in matching dumb dresses, clutch matching dumb bouquets. But one bride-to-be in Boston wants to change things up and task her bridesmaids with holding corgis instead.

Brilliant or beyond brilliant?

Here’s the problem, though: she needs to rent the corgis for this specific purpose — thus, she did what any of us would do. She took to Craigslist. “This next April, I will be getting married to the man of my dreams and we will be having the most wonderful storybook wedding that Boston has ever seen,” she explains in her ad. Then she goes on to explain the whole corgis-as-bouquets idea.

She elaborates a bit more about the logistics of this plan:

Unfortunately, I do not have enough corgis for my bridesmaids. I require six more in order to make this dream come true. I’m looking to rent six corgis for roughly two and a half hours during the ceremony. Because this a my dream wedding, price is negotiable and I appreciate your understanding. Please reach out to me if you have six sociable corgis which you would be willing to rent out. These animals would be treated perfectly, and I would love to get us all together to familiarize ourselves with each other.

Note that she says she needs six more corgis, but fails to mention how many she already has. A reasonable number like one or two? Or does this woman already have, like, eight or nine corgis? Do all six new corgis need to come from the same family? Is she flexible in terms of size/shape/coloring/level of derpiness? And would the ASPCA and Humane Society consider holding the pups as bouquets to be treating them “perfectly?” This ad leaves several questions unanswered — but we’re still dying to attend this ceremony.

(h/t Jezebel)

TIME curiosities

Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in Turkey Feathers

Photos from a 1948 wedding in which the bride and bridesmaids rocked turkey-feather dresses of the bride's own design

If you thought most bridesmaids’ dresses were hideous, imagine having to wear one made of turkey feathers. For the 1948 wedding party of one Barbara Orr Ehrhart, Oregonian and turkey enthusiast extraordinaire, this unlikely scenario was, in fact, all-too-real. As the Feb. 9, 1948, issue of LIFE magazine made plain, in an engaging article titled “LIFE Goes to a Turkey Feather Wedding,” turkey was the theme of the evening at Ehrhart’s nuptials — not merely on the menu, but turkey on the attendants and on the happy bride herself.

Ehrhart had a longstanding fascination with turkey feathers, for years using this unconventional fabric to make hats and accessories before spotlighting it in her own wedding dress. Half a century before Lady Gaga hit the red carpet in her infamous meat dress, Ehrhart displayed her feathered creations at local poultry shows.

After obtaining permission to get married at the Far West Turkey Show in California, the bride gathered 37,500 plumes for her dress, which was constructed over the course of several months. Her bridesmaids’ dresses were also crafted out of feathers, which she dyed pink, blue, yellow and green.

Instead of throwing rice, guests showered the newlyweds with — what else? — feathers as they exited the ceremony. And after all the talk of and emphasis on turkey had whetted their appetites, guests chowed down on a turkey dinner to cap off the night.

Today we might consider Ehrhart an early pioneer of the now-trendy “nose to tail” cooking philosophy, which seeks to eliminate waste when butchering an animal. This turkey lover clearly made good use of the birds’ feathery raiment in addition to the meat. Ehrhart did not slaughter the birds specifically for her own sartorial gain — she asserted that the 300 birds she plucked feathers from were already dead or fatally wounded.

LIFE reported that the morning after the wedding, even newlywed bliss couldn’t keep Ehrhart away from her beloved birds. She traveled to a movie set for her part in a short movie, in which she would be filmed standing amid what LIFE called “a sea of turkeys.”

Finally, if today’s readers have any concerns that Ehrhart’s proclivity for the birds would somehow overshadow (or even undermine) her marriage, they need not fear. The original LIFE article points out that the groom, Fred Ehrhart, who was a lumber grader in Oregon, gamely helped his fiancée create her gown. Birds of a feather, it seems, do indeed flock together.

Allison Berry is a contributor at TIME.com. Follow her on Twitter @allisonrberry.

TIME celebrities

Solange Knowles Marries Alan Ferguson

Musician Solange Knowles (L) and her fiancee, music video director Alan Ferguson, are seen outside the Indywood Cinema in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 2014.
Josh Brasted—GC Images/Getty Images Musician Solange Knowles (L) and her fiancee, music video director Alan Ferguson, are seen outside the Indywood Cinema in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 2014.

She’s a married woman!

Solange Knowles tied the knot with video director Alan Ferguson in New Orleans on Sunday in front of about 200 family and friends, PEOPLE confirms.

The happy couple said “I do” at the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans. Around 2 p.m., the pair arrived via white-painted vintage bicycles, and it was all about the details: The bride’s basket held flowers!

“Beaming. Calm. They looked pretty calm, relaxed on their wedding day,” one onlooker tells PEOPLE. “Definitely happy.”

As for their arrival attire, the bride rocked a cream pantsuit with a cape and plunging V-neck (accenting her look with a red lip) by Stéphane Rolland, while the groom matched in a white suit sans tie.

Meanwhile, big sis Beyoncé pulled up about 15 minutes later in a black SUV, with husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy in tow. Mom Tina Knowles, son Daniel Julez and singer Janelle Monae also attended.

Ahead of their nuptials, the newlyweds celebrated with an intimate pre-wedding bash Friday at NOLA’s Indywood Cinema, which Hayley Sampson, the theater’s co-owner, told PEOPLE, “was pretty adorable.”

“Luckily, I dated all of the losers ages ago,” she told Harper’s Bazaar earlier this year. “My love life has been stable for a while. It’s a f–––ed up thing … without conflict it’s a lot harder to write interesting songs.”

In June, the two went on a romantic getaway to Jamaica, where the singer celebrated her 28th birthday.

Ferguson, 51, has directed videos for Katy Perry and John Legend, and won a BET Award for Best Video Director for co-directing Beyoncé’s “Party” and “Dance for You” music videos.

This is the second marriage for the private star, who had Daniel Julez, 10, with ex-husband Daniel Smith.

— With reporting by Patricia Murray

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME advice

The Thank You Note Isn’t Dead

Thank you note
Getty Images

You should break out the pens for thank you notes. So retro, right?

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Just a couple of weeks after sending out your wedding invitations, the RSVPs will start to arrive… as will the wedding gifts! (Which makes checking the mail in the month before your wedding so much fun.) And, thanking each and every guest not only for giving a gift, but also for attending your wedding, is an etiquette must. Here’s exactly how to nail your wedding thank yous.

The Basics

Purchase thank you cards before your wedding. You’ll likely be completely overcome with gratitude in the days after your wedding and will want to send thank you cards immediately, so don’t put off buying them. If you like the look of the modern thank you cards that include a wedding photo, at least choose the card you’ll send as early as possible; then you can quickly complete the order once you have then photos from your photographer. And buy notes to send for shower or engagement gifts in the meantime.

Send thank yous as gifts arrive. There’s no sense in waiting until you have dozens of presents to sort through.

Send them within a few weeks of your wedding. You do not have a year to send out thank-you cards — you have three months max. Start writing and mailing your notes when you get back from your honeymoon. (But don’t stop sending thank-you notes even if it takes you more than three months!)

(MORE: Local Stationery Line Suitor Gives Us A Lesson In Manners)

Handwrite them. We have nothing but love for e-cards, but you should break out the pens for thank you notes. So retro, right?

Send a thank you to everyone who attends your wedding. And yes, that includes people who may not have given you a gift. There’s no doubt that attending your wedding involved their time (and, most likely, some money), so let them know they helped you feel special and loved.

Send photos if you can. If you have a few early prints from your photographer, include one of your portraits or a picture of yourselves with the guest you’re thanking, or a great shot of the guest in the photo booth. You could also take a photo of yourselves using the gift and send that along.

Try not to stress about it too much though: Just because you’re following an etiquette rule by sending thank yous doesn’t mean you have to adopt an unnatural tone. Stick to conversational language that’s authentically you.

(MORE: Modern Manners: The New Rules For Real Life)

Not sure what to write? Here’s a thank you card breakdown that our friends at Sugar Paper LA shared with us. And keep in mind that many of the tips below are universal and can be applied to all types of thank-you cards.

1. The greeting. Address your guests (and be sure to spell their names right).

2. The gratitude. Note: While you should say thanks for the generous gift towards your honeymoon, or a gift card to Bed, Bath & Beyond, refrain from mentioning the amount given.

3. How you’ll use it. Guests want to know they’ve given you something you love and can use, so thank them for giving you cash towards your first home, or for the new KitchenAid mixer you plan to use to make fresh pasta.

4. Thank them for their presence. If they were at your wedding, let them know how much you appreciate it and how nice it was to spend time with them. If they weren’t at your wedding, thank them for their long-distance good wishes and let them know you hope to see them in person soon.

5. More gratitude. Finish your note with “Many thanks!” or “Thanks again!”

6. The good-bye. You can sign off with “Love” if you’re comfortable, or just use a dash and then sign your names.

(MORE: Everyone’s Getting Married; Here’s What To Buy Them)

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