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From Drama to Dream: One Bride's Victory

This weekend, one of my "girls" got married. I say girls quoted because I never gave birth to her; in fact, she is only a few years my junior. Nonetheless, she is my girl - someone who was gifted to me from God to share life with, to shed tears with, to literally laugh out loud with. 

On Friday, she went from a "Miss" to a "Mrs.," and I am overcome with sentiment. Sure, call it girly - it's all good. It feels right to have someone for whom you can feel all warm inside because her journey (that you know so well) and her future (that you imagine and have great expectations for) bring you exceeding joy. 

Getting to marriage is not a walk in the park, and it wasn't easy for our girl. In fact, forces from all over were coming together like Armageddon! It can be downright ugly. Just because the path isn't easy doesn't mean it wasn't destined to be! Without going into a litany of occurrences, my dear friend endured some family battles, last-minute vendor and familial reneges, disagreements on the vision for the wedding, tears, and her fair share of mind games to overcome. She came to realize that marriage - or even getting to the wedding day itself - is not about some fairy tale, but it's about journeying through life with that someone who "for better or for worse" would devotedly write the tale alongside her with unconditional love. 

The rewarding part of the drama is that she didn't have to go it alone. Her faith and encouragement from her beau and loved ones kept the ship moving forward!  Now, she stands gracefully as a "Mrs." stronger than she was, more determined, and focused.

Today, I pray a blissful, spicy, lovingly epic romance for you and the love of your life, my Whit. 

 XOXO,

Lauren

 b2ap3_thumbnail_Whit-and-her-girls.jpg  b2ap3_thumbnail_whit-and-jer.jpg  b2ap3_thumbnail_blushing-bride.jpg

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The Ultimate Wedding Checklist & Timeline - Part V (4 Months)

4 MONTHS from Your Wedding Day

Note from the Editor:  It’s time for some more fun!!  In this entry, Jeff Brown of JaiLynn Events gives us the goods on the 4-month marker from your big day.  Discover his expert advice on cakes, rehearsal dinners, and the groom’s plus his men’s gear.

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Photo Credit: Lulu Custom Cake Boutique (Westchester County)

Choose and Order Your Cake!

  1. Taste, Taste Taste!

  2. Choose your icing wisely!  Fondants have come a long way, and many are quite tasty and pretty.  Traditional icings like butter cream are still classic and beautiful.  Nowadays, many great decorators can do the most smooth, clean designs using butter cream.

  3. If choosing cupcakes, think of how they will be displayed, who delivers them, the cost of delivery, who will set them up, and if carry-out boxes can be included for those who opt to take their cupcake home.

 

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Photo credit: Kristen Alexander Photography (Piedmont Room, Atlanta)

Plan the Rehearsal Dinner

  1. If budget is a concern, see if your venue offers a package meal.  You may consider a family-style restaurant for cost-effectiveness.

  2. Out of town guest should be invited but if finances are tight it’s not really considered rude to not invite them

  3. Consider a small limited menu  backyard barbeque hosted anywhere but where you will be staying if not at the hotel

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Photo Credit: Steve's Photo Session (Power Unit - AlLFA Design - Affordable Custom-Tailored Clothing)

Choosing Groom's & Groomsmen Attire

  1. Choosing from a large rental chain allows out-of-town groomsmen to get fitted in their hometown, and tuxes can be waiting upon arrival.

  2. When picking up, TRY ON EVERYTHING!  There's always a small size mix-up somewhere. Also, the tux is not usually in the store but close-by in a warehouse, so exchanges typically take a day.

  3. If due back the day after the wedding, designate one person to collect them, inventory each suit bag, and return them all at once.  With this designee's help, any cash deposits can be collected and returned at this time as well.

 

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Photo Credit: Style Me Pretty

Mail invitations!

Note from the Editor:  While it is an acceptable practice for invitations to be mailed 2 months before the wedding, I’d recommend getting them out sooner.  Yes, you may have already sent off the save-the-dates, but earlier notice of details is always best for out-of-town guests.   Make sure to include directionals, registry specs, and any other pertinent info!

Until next time... Happy planning!

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So Diamonds Are Not a Guy's Best Friend... There's Still Hope for the Diamond Hunt

Recently, I asked a groom-to-be about how he felt about the diamond and engagement ring hunt.  His intial response was two words:  "A headache."  After a bout of laughter and shaking his head, he continued to talk with candor, giving advice to the fellas, "But if you are gonna search, understand women don't really know what they want, and in actuality they really don't care about some of the details. They care about the fact that you are taking that step."  

That was a great note on which to start our segment today.  Women care that you desire to take that next step with them!  Still, how do we help alleviate some of the "headache" that accompanies the ring-finding expedition for so many?  Here's our what, how, and where of the treasure hunt with focus on value + affordability.  Make sure to catch the end to know where to start your search - it's not the mall!

Credit: Gemological Institute of America

Here the quick-and-dirty on something you may have heard about - the 4Cs of diamonds.  The world's foremost authority on diamond ed - the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) - coined the phrase "the 4Cs," which represent Carats, Color, Clarity, and the ever-critical Cut.  A combination of these facets (along with the metal chosen) will determine the price of the ring.  

1)  Carats are the standard for measuring the weight of a diamond - bigger the diamond, typically the higher the price tag. Don't get caught up too much in the stone size, a diamond that may be just under a carat can look bigger pending on the cut and the quality of the stone itself is enhanced beyond size when other indicators of stone quality are in play...

Credit: JewelryDays.com

2)  Color. Unless you are clearing purchasing a canary yellow or a rose diamond - or some other color-identifiable stone, the term "color" means the absence of color.  The less yellow, the higher the quality of the stone. Good news!  The slight color variance is not generally visible to the naked eye, especially when buying stones from jewelers focused on delivering quality for price.  

GIA color grading scale

3)  Clarity tells you have clear a diamond is with the emphasis on the amount of imperfections, commonly known as "inclusions" and (outer) "blemishes."  A well-cut stone will be smooth outside, but many diamonds are "included."  The less inclusions, the higher the value and cost to you.

Diamond clarity chart

Credit: Isbell Jewelers

4)  We've come to the final C: Cut.  Most people mistakenly think the cut refers to the shape into which the diamond is "cut," but it really refers to the overall layout and proportion. The great indicator of a stellar cut is how much light enters the diamond.  A great cut delivers that "bling" effect and brilliance that really makes eyes widen.  Don't overlook the least understood of the 4Cs: it's the workmanship that makes the ring sing.

Diamond cut explanation

Credit: Isbell Jewelers

Where to Go Treasure Hunting & Buy Below Retail

Advice from my hubby?  "Never pay retail!"  Try these online spots for great gems at pricing that won't cause you to miss your mortgage payment: Apples of Gold (40% off retail, the site features a satisfaction guarantee) and Amazon.  Make sure to read up on guarantees as these sites have customer return policies.  Also, look into your city's best pawn shops - for real!  Many times, these places have antique rings (vintage is all the rage right now) and tremendous finds on some really great sets!  You typically can get bigger stone size and value at these spots for a substantially lower price since it's the goal to move inventory ASAP. 

TIP:  If you can't bring along one with a trained eye for diamonds, grab a professional eye loupe to take with you to the non-run-of-the-mill diamond storefront or to use on the diamond you order.  Eye loupes are scopes for checking diamond quality, and they're literally a couple of bucks.  These are helpful for seeing the inclusions and testing absence of color.

Image: Eye Loupe

TIP #2:  Protect that Bling!

Too often, our valuable possessions become lost or stolen.  Check with your home/renter's insurance agency to find out how loss of your purchase may be covered within your policy.  Consider other proactive measures, such as appraisal and diamond laser inscription.

Feel free to deliver any other 411 you feel will be helpful for those on the diamond hunt out there.  Remember:  It's not about finding the most expensive ring; it's about the two of you being the best for each other as you resolve to "take that next step."

Until next time... happy hunting + planning!

P.S. For inquiring minds, here are the most common diamond shapes...

diamond-shapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: Deliver Me Diamonds

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