As we all know, there is no wedding without a proposal and an engagement period.  Though a proposal may only last minutes, it is often one of the most plan-worthy parts of your wedding journey.  As an experienced groom, I can tell you that the ring you choose is indeed an important part of your proposal.  Not because it has to be an expensive or “blingy” trinket, but because it symbolizes the proposal.  Choosing the right engagement ring for your partner is incredibly important. And you don’t have to do it alone!

We all picture it.  You have managed to surprise your future fiancee, and now you are kneeling on one knee, with a small box in your hand.  You are awaiting the expression.  Will it be surprise and shock? Or maybe tears?  Hopefully it’s ultimately one of joy.  That is our goal afterall with the whole process.  

All too often we forget that goal because of all the future planning, stress, and costs of a wedding.  So let me help break down one of the most important parts, choosing the right engagement ring. 

One Ring to Rule Them All

Well, sort of.  The first thing you should keep in mind is that many times, you actually need two rings.  The first, an engagement ring is typically used to propose with.  But you also need a wedding band, which is the ring you will use for your ceremony.  This is extremely important to keep in mind, because the better you can match them, the happier your bride will be, and the better they will accent each other, fit right on the finger, and look good. 

Typically the engagement ring is the “fancy” ring, and often has a solitaire (single) diamond by itself or surrounded by accent diamonds or other gemstones.  The wedding band itself can be as simple as white or yellow gold ring, or a ring with accented gemstones or diamonds.  

Something to keep in mind is that fancy is not always better. Which I will get further into in the gemstone selection area.  Some simple looking rings can be very expensive, and some complicated and multi-faceted (multiple gem) rings can be cheap.  

Where to Buy – Boutiques, Jewelers, Online

While going into a large chain jewelry store can be helpful to actually get some “hands on” experience with the rings, as well as be useful to help get your future fiancee’s ring finger sized (and your own sized), I typically do not recommend the large chain stores, or even custom boutiques if you are looking for a fair price.  The chain stores (Kay, Jared, etc.) and very custom boutiques will typically charge a LOT just because they have extensive advertising costs, and they place a lot of weight under designer labels such as a “Neil Lane” diamond ring.  This does not mean you absolutely should not shop there.  By all means, they can have really nice rings and even loose gem stones.  But they will typically not be cheap, and often a designer ring will cost anywhere from 30-70% more than a ring from a smaller jewelry store or online.  

So the real question is, can buying diamonds, gemstones, and wedding jewelry online be safe for you?  The answer overall is absolutely.  With our consumer economy spending more and more money online then ever before, there are many very highly rated and reputable jewelry vendors online now.  As I stated in one of my previous articles, I bought our rings online and was extremely satisfied, and I shopped around to almost every jewelry vendor available comparing rings first.  You do however need to be wary and do your due diligence.  Reading this article means you are heading in the right direction!

Gold! We’ve Struck Gold! Or Platinum, Palladium, or Silver?

That’s right, you will be making a hefty choice in what kind of metal you want your rings to be made of.  There are some big differences, but again in the end, the major deciding factor is going to also be what you like the look of best, and what your fiancee wants. 

Engagement rings and wedding bands alike are typically cast and crafted in either gold, white gold, platinum, palladium or even on silver.  This will affect not only the price of your engagement ring, but your wedding band as well.

While gold will range in Karat weight (10K, 12k, 14k, and so on), Platinum, Palladium and Silver will range in their makeup too.  The best silver for wedding jewelry is Sterling Silver, which is about 92.5% pure silver, and the remaining percent copper.  This allows the silver to be a bit stronger, as pure silver is so maleable, you can scratch it with your fingernail (The same goes for pure gold).  

If your spouse is going to be rough and tumble with his or her rings, you do want to consider avoiding high karat gold or silver rings.  18k and 24k gold or white gold rings, while very bright, are also very soft and will scratch easily, as will even sterling silver.  Not only that, but your precious gemstone has little prongs that hold them in, and those will also damage more easily the softer the metal.  

If you want strength, aim for 14k White or Yellow gold, Platinum or Palladium rings.  White gold rings are made from a mixture of yellow gold and other metals such as nickel, platinum, etc. that give it an almost platinum color.  By choosing 14k or even 12k gold instead of 18k or 24k you will not only have a stronger ring, but save a significant amount of money.  Which you can then put towards a gem stone, or other wedding costs!  

If your partner is going to be extremely care, or even use a spare ring (such as a silicone wedding band) often, Sterling silver rings can save you a boat load of cash, and still appear beautiful and very much like white gold or platinum. 

Just remember, if you are shopping around, legitimate gold, silver, and even platinum rings are all stamped or marked. (i.e 14k, or 24k for gold, typically .925 for Sterling, and Plat, PT, or 950, 850 for platinum). 

Understanding Gemstones – So Shiny!

In your journey into selecting the right ring you will be deciding upon either a “setting” which is a ring with no primary gemstone in it yet, to which you would either purchase a center gem stone to be added, or if you have a gemstone from a family heirloom or ring, that would work too.  Or, you are buying an engagement ring already ready-made.  

Regardless of which route you choose, there are some things you want to be thinking about.  If you are dead set on a diamond in your fiancee’s engagement ring, then you will get to learn about the 4 C’s (Carat, Color, Clarity, and Cut).  These also apply to other gemstones too, but are more important in diamond selection.  An average engagement ring cost in the U.S is about $5,500 for a 1 Carat diamond.  

A diamond’s Cut affects the shape and number of facets it has.  Facets being the faces (sides) of a gem, and which can affect the “bling” of the gem.  There are many different cuts that a diamond can have.  Some of the classic cuts we usually see are the Princess Cut (a perfect square with lots of facets), Oval Cut (You guessed it, the gem is oval in shape and facets), Emerald Cut (a tall rectangle shape), and Round Cut (perfectly round with facets).  There are other cuts as well, and there is a lot of debate about which cut is best.  Ultimately, you should choose the cut that you think your fiancee will like the most, or that you feel makes your gem look best. 

Example:  I wouldn’t want to choose an Oval or Tear drop cut for my main gemstone, if the ring has a lot of rectangle or odd shaped accent stones along the engagement ring band, or even if the wedding band that will accompany it has rectangles, squares, etc.  

Clarity is a gemstone’s clearness.  How well can you see straight through the gem stone, and does it have any inclusions (mineral deposits within the gem that obstruct light from passing through or refracting properly).  Perfectly clear, natural diamonds cost thousands of dollars more than an “average” diamond would.  

Many times, the level of clarity isn’t even noticeable to the naked eye, or at least without very close inspection.  Diamonds are ranked in clarity levels and range from FL (Flawless and the best possible) to I1-I3 which have lots of inclusions (a I1 will have less than an I3). 


Color is a feature that really only affects diamonds and other gemstones that are supposed to be colorless or “clear”.  A perfectly clear diamond is graded as a “D” and this ranges all the way to S-Z for diamonds that have a strong yellow tint to them.  There are also Yellow Diamonds which are considered a separate stone really, and are often sought after because of their pure yellow color.  These can sometimes be as expensive as colorless diamonds. 

Carat weight is the way a gem stone is measured for size/weight.  This will tell us how “big” of a gem we have. Some gems are also measured in mm (milimeters).  Typically people think “Bigger is better.” But this doesn’t necessarly hold true if you are looking for quality in a gem, regardless of whether it’s a diamond.  

So what do you do with all of this information?  My recommendation is look for balance. Choose what gemstone you would like to have in your future wife’s ring.  A diamond is nice, but their value is heavily influenced by media hype, marketing, and supply and demand.  There are many beautiful gems such as topaz, sapphire, and emerald which are valuable, unique, and even meaningful that can be beautiful stones in an engagement ring for far less than a diamond.  If you are looking for a ring on a budget, you could also choose a diamond alternative.  Cubic Zirconia, Lab created diamonds, and Moissanite are all very reasonably priced diamond alternatives.  Moisannite, CZ, and Lab created diamonds, as well as sapphires all have almost the same hardness level of a natural diamond, and can have perfect or close to perfect color, clarity, and cut at a fraction of the cost.   

Don’t Get Duped – Buying the Right Gemstones

Sadly, while I love Amazon and Ebay, and even Etsy for ring and jewelry shopping you have to be extra careful on sites like these as they have many different sellers and a wide variety of jewelry and gems that range from reputable and quality, to fraudulent, misrepresented or even dangerous.  Diamonds and rare gem stones can often be from areas of the world that are known to produce “conflict” stones or diamonds.  These are gems that are mined illegally, and often in war-stricken countries, with the money financing insurgency and terrorism. 

If you do decide to buy a diamond ring, look for gems or rings that state they are Conflict Free, and that come with some kind of certification of quality and vetting.  The most common diamond certifications are:

  • GIA (Gemological Institute of America)
  • AGS (American Gemological Society)
  • EGL (European Gemological Laboratory)
  • IGI (International Gemological Institute)

Though these certifications are not all equal and typically GIA or AGS are given more merit due to their higher standards, some kind of certification is better than none at all.  If your seeing gemstones or diamond rings with no mention of whether they are conflict free, or whether they have been certified, guaranteed, and graded, think twice.  This is especially true if you are paying top dollar for it.

Reasons to Consider Diamond Alternatives

I try to urge people to consider diamond alternatives for their rings. I ended up using my grandmother’s diamond for my wife’s setting, but that was solely because it was being passed down and was very sentimental.  Since that ring, I have not bought my wife another diamond, and instead turn towards gems like Alexandrite, Mystic Topaz, Sapphire, etc.  She likes those better anyways!

Why do I say this?  Diamonds as a gem stone are just usually overpriced and they are usually overpriced because of the wedding industry.  You can see a great example of this in jewelry stores or even online.  A “Engagement Ring” section of a store may start off at $1,500 for a 1/4 Carot diamong engagement ring of average quality, where as a diamond ring not labeled “engagement” may be as much as 50% less than that for the same Carot and quality.  

But some people love diamonds, and rightfully so. They are beautiful, strong, and they power lasers and stuff!  Doing your homework can help you make an informed decision, and save you tons of cash. Making small compromises on clarity (for instance choosing an SI1 Clarity diamond instead of a VS1 or VS2) can get you a beautiful diamond for substantially less money, and often cannot be differentiated by the naked eye.  This is especially true for certain diamond Cuts that can help hide inclusions and improve the perceived clarity and “shine” of a gem. 

There Is No Wrong Decision

If you don’t know what you want yet, or are not yet sure of what your future fiancee will like that is A-Okay! This kind of decision takes time, planning, and research.  You will also eventually need your significant other’s ring size which can be difficult if you are trying to surprise them!  You can purchase ring sizers for $10-20 or visit a jeweler who will usually do it for free.  Start thinking of your excuses now, such as “I bet you I can guess your ring size” or “I need your ring size because I am going to get us matching rings”.   Or you can always just ask.  

Ultimately, make your decision based off of what you know will make you both happy.  Remember, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  The media will tell you a husband should spend “2-3 months salary” on a ring.  This is garbage.  Think about who tells you that.  Magazines, jewelers, and the diamond industry.  

Set a budget for your ring, and find out what your “must haves” are. If you must have a diamond, and you know your budget is $2,500 for the ring and wedding band, then you have a starting point.  If this article has piqued your interest about alternative gem stones, GREAT! 

I will be writing more about alternative gem stones, ring sizing, and then men’s wedding bands in the near future.

I hope this has helped someone out there beginning or traversing this journey!

As always, please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, ask for help, or just say hi!

Thank you,

The Savvy Groom

Ken

Lets face it. All wedding planning starts with one thing. A proposal.  In our society today it is possible that the roles can be reversed, and a woman can propose to man instead of the traditional manner.  It can be hard to choose the right time to pop the question.  For those grooms to be who are choosing the traditional route and want to ask their girlfriend or partner for their hand in marriage, I will be exploring some important factors to consider before popping the question, and then creative, unique and yet romantic marriage proposal ideas to woo your future bride (or groom)-to-be.

Are You Prepared? Take a Moment and Think

There is a lot more that goes into preparing a marriage proposal for your partner than just having a ring and asking “Will you marry me?”.  These next steps and topics assume that the relationship is headed in the direction of marriage, and that a proposal will be reciprocated.

What you will definitely need to stop and consider before proposing however are several important factors:

  • Have you found which ring you want to propose with? And, do you have a matching wedding band for the ceremony.
  • How long do you want to be engaged for?
  • Are you ready to start planning for a wedding and what will your wedding budget be?
  • Do you need to ask their parents or family for permission?
  • What kind of setting would your partner love for the proposal to take place in?
  • Who do you want to be at the proposal (i.e. family, friends, in public, or privately)

Once It Starts the Clock Is On

It is very typical for a couple to be engaged for approximately 1-2 years before marrying in the United States.  In fact according to an article at The Knot the average couple remains engaged for about 14 months.  It’s going to depend upon many factors such as how long you will need to have to be able to plan your wedding, finance the wedding, and prepare family and friends (guests) so that they may attend the wedding.  If you want a small guest count, low-cost, and local wedding, than you may be planning an engagement as short as a few months.

Some things to think about that will require time and possibly prolong the engagement are going to be finding your contractors (Catering, DJ/Entertanment, Officiant, Bartender, Florist, Baker).  Another big time sink can be the bride’s wedding dress.  Specialty boutiques and even larger known bridal salons will need time to get the wedding dress made once it’s selected.  Not to mention, the bride finding that “perfect” wedding dress may take weeks if not months to do.  It is not uncommon for bridal salons or boutiques to require 6 weeks or even 3 months or more to tailor the wedding dress to specifications.  Then there may be additional time needed for extra alterations once it is fitted.  Rushing a salon to create a wedding dress in say, 2-3 weeks can often cost 2-3 times the standard price!

Make sure that when you do propose that you are ready to begin the wedding planning process or at least prepare to have a conversation with your partner about what your timelines, needs, and budgets are.

That Special Day – What Really Matters In A Marriage Proposal

All too often we are swept up in the media driven, fantastic or fairytale movie laden concept of proposing to our partner.  We see from movies and media that to propose, we must first buy out an entire sports stadium, flash “WILL YOU MARRY ME” on the Jumbo-Tron and then spell their name out in fireworks for thousands to see.

But is this even what your partner would want?? Likely not.  So ask yourself, ‘What would mean the most to my partner’.  Don’t be afraid to make a list, ask your mutual friends, or their family for feedback.

This would even be a great time to seek permission, consent, or notify family and friends that you seek approval from! Though this isn’t a necessary part of a proposal, it can add to the meaning of a proposal for your partner if their family has not only approved, but has contributed to the idea.  It shows how much thought you have put into the proposal when you spend the time, mental energy and effort to seek out guidance from those your partner feels closest to.

What you will likely find is that it doesn’t have to be some huge and extravagent wedding proposal to really impress your partner.  Nor does it have to be the largest diamond ring.  Let’s face it, if your partner cares more about the ring and the publicity or dollar amount of your engagement versus the fact it’s meaningful, creative and romantic, then you probably aren’t interested in this article in the first place.

Ask yourself, what would be meaningful to you? Then ask, would this mean something special to my partner?  If the answer is yes to both of those questions, then you are on the right track!

These Proposals Are ADORABLE – Fair Warning

So now you either know you want a public or private proposal.  You will hopefully know what is meaningful in your partner’s eyes.   As a young man, I spent a LOT of time thinking about how I would one day propose to my wife.  Not all grooms are like that, but one thing that binds us all together is the fact that we want a way to show our partner, the one we are ready to marry, just how special they are to us.

Depending on your idea for your proposal, there is an easy step that is often overlooked or never even thought about. Let’s call it “pre-gaming”.  Here you are ready to propose to your future wife and have likely spent hours researching, planning and spending to make it so.  One way to make sure that your proposal has the best chance to woo your partner is to make sure that she is already in a great mood!  Send your partner to a spa day the day of, or even the day prior.  Treat her to a facial, massage or manicure/pedicure.  This may not be an option that all can afford, but a typical salon will sell intensive manicure/pedicure package starting at around $50.

Lets think about some of the factors we all want in our propposal.  Proposing to someone you love and asking them to spend thier life with you is an intense experience.  This will likely be somewhat of a surprise (even if you have discussed it beforehand), but don’t bank just on that.  Find a way to make it especially surprising.  If your partner values her family above all else, get her family to invite you both to dinner where you can then surprise your partner when they aren’t expecting it.

Everyone has seen the movies where “Will You Marry Me” is written in the sky, on a billboard, JumboTron, or some other public facet.  This can be a great choice, but can often be expensive and may not be possible for you.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t get the message across in a surprising and outstanding manner.  Think about getting your question inscribed somewhere public.  Often museums, parks, zoos, etc. allow for purchasing of plaques, boards, benches, etc.  This makes a great option that is usually very affordable ($50-$150 on average) and can again allow for you to either take a romantic walk, date, etc or even a special family occassion to surprise your partner with.

Here are some great ideas and ways to surpirse your parter with a proposal that won’t cost you an arm and a leg and will allow you to put that money towards your future wedding:

  • Buy a public spot to have your proposal written (boardwalk planks, plaques, murals)
  • Surprise her with her closest family and friends at the end of a special outing.
  • Write your porposal on paper, place it in a bottle with a cork, and “find” it at the beach together
  • Have a scavenger hunt with the proposal written as the last clue found
  • Have a custom Jigsaw Puzzle made (as little as $30)
  • Use sidewalk chalk (and possible get permission) and write your proposal somewhere meaningful
  • Take her on a romantic date to your first date location and propose there

Be Prepared, Be Genuine, and Be Ready

The proposal is an incredibly important starting point to what can be a amazing yet often strenuous journey into marriage.  This is due to the hype, costs, and overcomplcations we have fallen prey to surrounding weddings.  It doesn’t have to be that way, and the proposal being sweet, genuine, and authentic can start you off on your wedding planning journey on the right foot.

Don’t be afraid to dedicate time and effort into planning the proposal.  In fact, you should be putting a lot of effort into it because it will show in spades. Finding a proposal scenario that your partner will appreciate, that means something to them, and that includes any of their favorite family, friends, or items can be key.

Get creative, don’t get costly.  It doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars to impress.  Think about what would make you happy, a thousand dollar piece of junk, or a $50 meaningful experience or momento?  Chances are, we all would choose something that was meaningful and romantic versus something costly, easy, or uncreative.

Pamper your partner first.  Get them in the right frame of mind.  We all have to deal with stressors through work, finances, and normal every day chaos.  Set yourself up for success by getting your parnter in the best of possible moods by sending them for a spa day first.

Remember, the more of a surprise the better! (Disclaimer: Don’t put the ring in the mouth of a Great White Shark or something).  Placing the proposal, ring, or both in a place that your partner is never expecting can be a powerful way to increase the meaning of the event, as it shows them how much thought you had to put into it.

I’d love to hear your experiences in regards to proposals, and I hope that this article provides helpful ideas to those looking to propose!

Best wishes,

TheSavvyGroom

Ken Lieberman

Ken@thesavvygroom.com

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Today I would like to hit on some road blocks that grooms may face in creating that perfect dream wedding for yourself and your bride-to-be.  Planning a wedding is stressful in many ways, there is no doubt about it.  If it isn’t the pressure of pleasing your partner, your family, or friends, then it’s other pressures like financial costs, where the time will come from, and even the pressure of possibility.

Overcome the Stereotype Hype

For many men and women, the stereotypes and even fantasies that have surrounded weddings and wedding planning are significant.  Many cultures and many countries have traditions that have been followed for centuries.  Whether that is a tradition that says the man must pay for the wedding, or pay a dowry, or that the woman makes all of the decisions or even that the “big day” is all about the bride, these concepts can make it difficult for a bride and groom to make all the different pieces of a wedding puzzle come together.

For my fellow grooms out there I want to say this.  It is perfectly okay to have an opinion and want to help with your wedding.  Think about it this way, we all want our significant other to be happy in the end, and what better way than to ensure the success of your wedding by being an integral role in planning, creating, and finding lots of money saving deals while you are at it?

Let’s overcome that stereotype that a groom’s most important role before the actual ceremony is to drink beer at a bachelor party or in the pre-wedding dressing room.  Decide on how much time you and your partner have available and divy up roles that you both feel comfortable completing.  If you don’t care for design, fashion or decorating, then maybe you can be in charge of scoping out bakery prices for wedding cakes, or researching tableware rentals.  If you both want to contribute to the design and theme ideas, then pick several things that are important to you to spearhead.

Communication is Key!

Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls for wedding planning and even on the big day is poor communication.  But it doesn’t start there.  Keep in mind that we know your stress levels will naturally be higher.  You are spending money, allocating time and resources to something that isn’t your job, or regular daily living.  Therefore, with increased stress, you and your partner are already at risk for communication failures!

Schedule times with your partner to sit down and actually discuss your ideas, interests, needs, and even problems you are encountering from the beginning of your wedding planning journey.  This may be as early as the day you propose! Don’t avoid opening communication about your interests and needs in regards to what you want with your wedding.  This includes what roles you want to play and which roles you feel you do not want to do or cannot do.

Communication Bullet Points

  • Discuss BOTH of your “must haves” for your wedding
  • Commit to scheduling time to check in with each other (i.e once a week, every 30 days, etc.)
  • Discuss your weaknesses (“I really don’t know how to find catering, I hate decorating” etc.)
  • Explore your expectations together and separately for your wedding
  • Right down and discuss your wedding features, or make a list, use a whiteboard, etc. such as How many guests do we want? Or, What kind of food do you want to have at our wedding?

Don’t Forget to ASK for Help

So many brides and grooms take on this monumental task and either do not ask, don’t know how to ask, or feel bad for asking for help.  Seek close friends or family to confide and consult in.  This can reduce the daily stress and help provide valuable input and feedback into your relationship and wedding planning needs during this stressful time.

Be open to pre-marital counseling.  Another big stereotype we all face in this day in age is feeling “weak” when it comes to going to counseling.  Many churches and even private therapists specialize in couples or pre-wedidng counseling services.  Don’t look at attending pre-marital counseling as a weakness or fall prey to “You shouldn’t need that if your relationship is good”. As a marriage therapist myself, I can tell you that a strong and healthy relationship is one that is willing to go to counseling together in hopes of bettering the relationship, and not one that believes you should “wait” until there is a problem.  EVERYONE can benefit from relationship help.  There is no such thing as a “perfect relationship.  Good relationships work, and lots of it.  This is especially necessary when confronting the challenge of having your wedding come to fruition.

Check out www.psychologytoday.com to find local premarital counseling near you.  Type in your zipcode and search.  You can then select premarital counseling under the issues section.  This is a great resource for people to find all sorts of counseling services, and will your premarital counseling may even be covered by your health insurance!

Trust in Yourself, Your Relationship, and Ultimately, Your Love

For the future groom looking to make his wife’s dream wedding come true, I hope that you can accept two concepts.  First, it is perfectly okay to have this day be as much “your” day as it is your wife’s.  It is through taking ownership of your needs and your role to fulfil your needs that you be available for your partner. By being an active and helpful factor in your wedding planning, you can provide more to your future wife than any fancy engagement ring or wedding band will ever do. Second, asking for help, or seeking support is a trait of a strong partner.  Remember, the goal is to have a happy life together.  Not a happy first year and nothing else.  It’s about the long haul and you should want help!

Remember that you both wanted to enter into marriage because you love one another.  Trust goes both ways in a relationship, and if you can both trust each other’s decision, needs, and tastes for your wedding, than you you will both be happy at the alter.

 

Overwhelmed-by-wedding-planning

In 2013, I had to go on unpaid medical leave for a job I had only been able to work for 8 months due to a car accident. So wouldn’t you know, that is the year my now wife and I were planning to have our wedding. Could we have postponed the wedding? We could have, but you know how love works, it can make us a little irrational at times. My wife and I also had some external pressures such as wanting my aging grandmother to be able to attend our wedding. So waiting wasn’t something we really wanted to do. I am the budget manager in my marriage (this was my wife’s designation not a demand of my own).

Now fortunately, I was not working and had a lot of time off which was indeed helpful in regard to planning and making a wedding happen. What we did not have a lot of was money. I had managed to save up some money from prior years of working which allowed a small cushion of about $2500 for our wedding. But as many of you know, or will be finding out, that doesn’t typically get you very far in the grand scheme of making a wedding happen.

Due to necessity, I had to act and act frugally. Yet, I couldn’t sacrifice quality. I needed a low cost wedding that was beautiful and elegant yet didn’t exceed our ability, finances, or place us into such severe debt that we started off our married life in the red. This was after all our wedding! Something that we would be making memories with, sharing with our family and friends, and honestly, as a newly engaged man, something I wanted to make my fiancee at the time happy with.

In the end, I did end up having to use a credit card for a little of the expenses, and my wife was able to buy her own dress and my wedding band using her own income. All in all, we probably spent about $5000 in total for our wedding including the rings and dress which my wife helped fund.

With a lot of work, a little luck, and a lot of wedding magic, we had our wedding planned for almost 50 guests including friends and close family come to fruition on a lovely day in Florida at the beach, with a reception, dinner, dancing and drinks, and of course, photos!

Time for a break down!

An Internet Wedding

No, I don’t mean have your wedding online. Although, that could be a future genre we are yet to see explode! What I mean is the internet and internet shopping sites have become so diverse and specialized and especially available over the past 2 decades that shopping for wedding decorations and even wedding dresses or engagement rings can be as easy as point, click, and ship!

I personally love supporting small businesses or local vendors. Now you can do that online. Many local or small businesses can be shopped online sites such as Angieslist.com or Groupon.com at competitive and often money saving prices. From the wedding photographer, to DJ’s, and even officiants!

Shop Online for Wedding Ideas

You can find quality, hand-crafted and unique wedding rings, decorations, and even floral arrangements through websites such as Etsy.com, Artfire.com, Mashable.com and even Ebay.

And then the dress… Oh and of course tuxedos. Don’t forget the men need fashion too! Websites such as Mercari.com give both grooms and brides an option to buy new or used wedding apparel for fractions of the price as a bridal boutique, Men’s Warehouse, etc.

Renting Versus Buying and Used Versus New

Surely one of the biggest expenses of a wedding can be the clothing. Should we call them outfits? Remember, I was a groom after all. In all seriousness though, both wedding dresses, after-party or reception dresses and tuxedos for a whole bridal party can be an outrageous cost for soon to be’s which leaves in-debt newlyweds.

Don’t discount used apparel. My wife found her dress which was an Allure wedding dress for $300 used which originally retailed for closer to $2500. I was able to get tuxedos for myself, my father, her father, and my best man that all matched for under $250 from Mercari. Keep in mind that tuxedo rentals are ALL used tuxedos. You typically pay $150-$250 for a tuxedo rental at Men’s Warehouse or Jos A. Bank.

After all is said and done. If you get familiar with some of the apparel websites, you can also resell your tuxedos back for a majority of what you pay for it! I actually sold 2 of the 4 back and almost recouped my money.

Tuxedo Rental

Because these sites have become so prolific and well-made, it is now easier than ever to get specific details, measurements and pictures of the suits, vests, ties, cuff links, etc. And, if they are not available for some reason, you can communicate via messaging to ask for more details.

So new or used, there are so many options for tuxedo purchases or even non-traditional suit coats, slacks, shoes that you can really save yourself some cash here. Lastly, I have been amazed with the quality of some of the sports coats, blazers, and suits, including tuxedos that are now widely available on Amazon via Prime merchants. With an Amazon Prime purchase, it is extremely simple to return and get your money back if you are in any way dissatisfied.

The Rings. Oh God the Rings.

Wedding Ring Set

In my opinion one of the most controversial and costly facets to marriage are the wedding ring sets. I was always fascinated as a young man with wedding rings. I desperately wanted to wear a wedding band and be married. And I had research many times rings that I would one day buy my bride to be throughout even my teenage years and as a young adult.

The choices appear overwhelming and pricey when you shop the chain jewelry stores or boutiques. What I found when push came to shove was that I would be dropping a significant amount of coin into rings if I wanted a diamond for my bride to be. As a groom-to-be, I learned that not only did I need to drop a hefty amount of money on an engagement ring, but that I also needed a wedding band for the marriage ceremony, and that my wife would also need to buy me a wedding band.

On average, a 1 carat engagement ring will run $5,000. That doesn’t include the wedding band, which on average will be another $1,000. Men’s wedding band’s range from $200-$1,000 and range in materials from Tungsten Carbide, Cobalt, Titanium, Steel, and various Golds (white, yellow, rose, etc.).

The hype of diamonds in the U.S (and even worldwide) is one of the largest and most misleading sales tactics that the jewelry industry has. Did you know that you can buy diamonds (yes real diamonds) for as little as $10? What is the catch? These diamonds aren’t “pretty” and are typically used in industrial manufacturing. Yet, they maintain the same chemical characteristics as any other diamond. They just have lots of imperfections.

Now, no groom wants to buy their bride an “ugly” diamond. If we are going to “put a ring on it” we want it to look good. But there are many alternatives to diamonds these days that do not cost anywhere near as much, and I am going to list a few.

Besides the traditional diamond, many jewelers can make beautiful engagement rings with non-traditional gem stones such as sapphires (which can be as clear as a diamond), emeralds, and specialty gems such as Alexandrite or Mystic Topaz.

There are also synthetic options such as Cubic Zirconia. These are not the cheap “costume jewelry” variety and in fact are very high quality, as hard or close to as hard as diamonds, have the same longevity now, and cost as much as 50-70% less than a traditional diamond. There are also newer natural gems such as Moissanite which are highly sought after as diamond alternatives due to their similar characteristics.

Lastly, gems can be re purposed. Which, is what I ended up doing to save a whopping $3,000 on my wife’s engagement ring. My loving grandmother donated the diamond from her engagement ring, which I was ultimately able to have a jeweler remove and place into my wife’s setting. A ring that would have cost me $5,000, ended up only costing about $1,800 and has a lot of sentimental value. Keep in mind, gemstones last forever if taken care of properly (at least several lifetimes anyhow).

What about for the fellas?

What About for the Guys

For men’s wedding bands however, there is almost as much hype. While Jewelers don’t sell as many inflated men’s bands, the cost of these rings in a typical jeweler may average $400-$500 for even a Tungsten Carbide ring. What you are paying for is advertising, brand, and well, marketing.

With the new online marketplaces that offer hobbyists and professionals alike the ability to sell their goods, the men’s wedding band options have exploded and instead of buying a wedding band in a chain jewelry store, you can find the same Tungsten Carbide, Titanium, Cobalt, or even Gold rings for fractions of the price through Etsy, or even Amazon and Ebay.

I personally ended up with a ring from a company called Brook Stone, which was a Damascus stainless steel band (folded steel in a Japanese pattern) with a rose gold inlay. I love it and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

Create a Majestic and Beautiful Wedding Venue – On a Budget

Another big hit to the budget is actually creating your wedding venue. While choosing the venue can be a big expense as well, it is absolutely possible to find venues that are gorgeous and provide that surreal and “fairy tale” wedding environment without breaking the bank. Some of us grooms can’t escape the costs of a venue, and some of us won’t have to dish out exorbitant amounts of money if we are using our family church (although that can cost too!).

Beach Wedding Venue

What will cost you an arm and a leg is setting up and decorating your wedding venue, your reception and even your honeymoon suite if applicable. This doesn’t HAVE to hurt so bad. If you are able to, putting the leg work in to help set up your venues will be of significant savings. If you do have to pay for a wedding planner, which some of us either have to for time’s sake, or to save our sanity, ask friends and family to help! This can save a lot of expense as many of your hired help charge hourly or based on the amount of work needed to set up their specific area of need (i.e help setting up a catering area or wet bar can reduce the cost of catering, or of your bartender).

Look to what is free already. Many cities and counties offer free or low-cost use of public areas such as parks, beaches, and even community centers, and all you need to do is register or place a deposit.

We ended up getting permission to use a local beach, that was only walking distance away from a beautiful “beachy” community center which we were able to reserve and use for only a $250 deposit, which we got back.

Now, what about decor, chairs, wedding arches, etc.? If you choose to have a planner, or a catering company take care of all of those details it can run you thousands of extra dollars. Instead, do a Google search for rental companies. You can contract out many of the specifics and rent a lot of the items needed. I ended up renting 50 chairs, an arch, runners, table clothes, and even chair covers from a local company. It cost me $200 for the rentals, and $50 for the setup and delivery.

For our wedding my wife desperately wanted a color pallet and theme that was quite specific. Greens, blues, turquoise and purples were her preferred colors, and she loves Peacocks. With websites such as Etsy and Amazon, as well as specialty wedding decor websites you can find so much of what you need, for a fraction of what you would pay in a craft or wedding store, or in paying a planner.

For under $200, I was able to get a dozen large vases for table center pieces, our chosen color pallet in clear stones and crystals and even water beads (the tiny beads that soak up water and become clear gel-balls) which made for beautiful center pieces, filled with large peacock feathers on top of other floral arrangements. This also included streamers, balloons, and even waterproof battery powered tealight candles that illuminated our flower vases.

Using Etsy, we also got 50 beautiful pearlescent peacock wedding invitations with custom print, envelopes, and actual peacock feathers for $50 from a woman who does nothing but make custom invitations.

Finding Good Help – Don’t Dismiss the Locals

Hiring specialized wedding catering, entertainment, and even the officiant can be costly as well. Besides the dress and apparel, wedding ring sets, and decorating, this is probably the other huge cost in creating a wedding. But id doesn’t have to be as bad as you may think.

Don’t forget to check around locally for catering. We actually hired a restaurant owner, whose always been really great to my family, especially my lovely grandmother. He was willing to use his own wait staff, plates, silverware, etc. and quoted an extremely reasonable price. And we knew we could trust him! That counts for a lot when the stakes are high such as with a wedding. What is better than having a person that the family and friends all know and love there catering your wedding?

This can easily run thousands of dollars, but going locally, and expanding your horizons on who can meet these demands can save a lot of dough. We had appetizers and entrees with all staff and plate ware for only $1200 for 50 guests, and entrees included the standard steak, chicken, fish (there were even two special vegetarian dishes).

What about the other services? Don’t forget to check Angie’s list and other service review sites. Ask your chamber of commerce for recommendations as well. This allows you to get reviews and recommendations which helps ensure quality in addition to the service you need.

Since we had a blank slate for our wedding and reception, and since family and friends were my support for decorating, we had to look at options for our DJ and our Bartender (no one would have come to my wedding without a bartender, im sure). By hiring a bartender separately, we were able to provide the liquor, wine, and beer, and he provided a mobile bar, mixers, ice, cups, and the skills needed and for $300 we had an amazing open and unlimited bar for our venue. The alcohol cost us $500, which we got at Total Wine and Spirits. We ended up returning the unused, unopened alcohol which was about half of the total cost!

We did it! We really did it!

By working with a lot of our local vendors, ordering a lot of our supplies online and providing those supplies to vendors ourselves, and through a lot of support from friends and family, we were able to have an amazing wedding that was not only beautiful, but sentimental. When you put a lot of the effort in yourselves, and when you are surrounded by friendly or local vendors that are looking to help you out and make some money doing so, you experience a warm and positive social environment for an occasion that can be extremely stressful and overwhelming.

I hope that you will continue to read the following articles I post, as I will be breaking down specific avenues of the wedding industry that I was able to save significantly on and that made all the difference for me in my own wedding. Since my wedding, I have continued to learn how to be thrifty and frugal in online buying, and I will be sharing a lot of the tips and tricks I use, as well as the resources I used to navigate to that savings. My hope is that I will be able to assist someone else in having a low cost wedding with these tips, which will then in turn allow you to start off your married life on the right foot, enjoy a wonderful honeymoon, and begin that journey with your significant other on a positive and enjoyable not without pulling all of your hair out! Or worse, pulling your partner’s hair out!

Welcome all ye grooms-to-be! (And also bride-to-be’s) to The Savvy Groom.  This is a safe haven from all the stress, hassle, and difficult choices you have been working through for that sacred journey many of us choose to take that is Marriage.

A Little Bit About This Groom’s Journey

I have always been a “frugal” person when it comes to shopping. I grew up in a house hold that turned “leftovers” into “leftovers” stir fry.  I had a very fortunate childhood in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t without it’s struggles.  Many families struggle with financial stress and have to make a dollar stretch and mine was no exception to that.  I was blessed to have a grandfather who always managed to “fill in the gaps” when my father couldn’t work, or the power got turned off.  Even though he was a self-made man, and had the means to provide a little extra for his daughter (my mother) and his grandchildren, he was the kind of guy who would take me to McDonald’s and get my a happy meal, but use a coupon on top of his senior citizen discount for his own food.

It was many of these experiences throughout my teenage and young adulthood that crafted my savvy spending tactics. It didn’t hurt that I had to struggle as “hungry college student” for over 7 years.  And now, by trade I work in the healthcare field as a therapist, which is all the more reason that I am always making an effort to be thrifty.  Whether it’s buying in bulk from wholesale stores, looking for great deals online, or even shopping thrift stores.  I am always trying to save that almighty dollar.

Though I have been married 5 years now, experiencing the phenomena of becoming engaged, planning a wedding, and actually making it come to fruition was probably one of the most tenuous and financially costly experiences of my life.

The Savvy Groom is my ode to all grooms (and even brides) -to be and is an effort to help pass on the cost-saving tips and tricks that i have not only picked up throughout my life but that were especially helpful in making a beautiful, meaningful and non-bankrupting wedding come to fruition.  I have a passion for decor, and even enjoy making hand-crafted items in my spare time or as a hobby.  I hope to be able to share some of my knowledge, experiences, tips, and even skills now to those who seek to be a creative and savvy shopper.  Especially when it comes to..

A Wedding SHOULDN’T Start Your Married Life Off In the Red

Beginning with courting or engagement, the prospect of marriage can become extremely costly.  When I was ring shopping for my wife, I was astounded by the variety of different types of gem stones, rings, etc.  We all think “diamond” but there are non-traditional gems, and now, very high quality lab created diamonds to boot that rival the traditional diamond engagement ring.  It was through research about the diamond industry that I realized diamond prices are just purely inflated due to our perceived value on clarity and media-hype.

I then realized it didn’t stop there. Men’s wedding bands, tuxedo rentals, decor, wedding dresses, wedding locations, catering etc. are all so very expensive and often inflated due to the fact the wedding category is such an overwhelming and in many ways “necessary” shopping industry. While I love my wedding band, I know now that there are so many beautiful and high quality alternatives available to men for wedding bands.

And, if you are aware and savvy, there are many options to get often higher quality products such as decor, centerpieces, and even wedding invitations at fractions of the price that many of the mainstream wedding catalogs or vendors produce.

Learn From My Experiences, and SAVE

The Savvy Groom is here to help both grooms and brides – to be in saving some of that hard earned cash and at the same time find better variety, and even higher quality wedding options.  Instead of being in the “I hope we get enough wedding gifts to cover the outrageous expenses for this wedding” boat, you grab a lifeline here and put that hard earned dough into say, a fancy honeymoon to Tahiti!

It is my goal to be informative through this blog as to how you can not only save money when it comes to traditional wedding fair, but to inspire ideas and creative alternatives that many people either never think of, or may not even know exist!

If you have any questions please feel free to ask! And if you have some of your own cost-saving tips or tricks related to this multi-billion dollar industry please share!

All the best,

Ken Lieberman
https://TheSavvyGroom.com

E-mail me at Ken@thesavvygroom.com with any questions, interests, or comments!