The Wedding Diaries
Part 1
2023-10-21 19:30:00 -0500

Dear Wedding Diary,

A little over a month ago, I got engaged! It’s been a whirlwind ever since, and I’ve been thrown in the business of planning a small-medium sized wedding. So for my first entry, I thought I’d make up a little list of what I think every newly engaged couple should do when they first get engaged (because it all happens so fast and became quickly overwhelming)!

Enjoy your engagement

Some couples may spend way more dedicated time in this section than we did. My fiancè and I spent the evening together. We put the phones and computers away, and went out for a nice romantic dinner at a quiet restaurant. We intentionally asked to be seated in an emptier part of the restaurant so it was more intimate. Then, we watched a movie at home. We didn’t announce our engagement to any friends or family until the next day so that we could have just our special time between us. We also don’t intend to throw a big engagement party or anything like that.

With this setup, we both feel like we got the emotional time together to enjoy the engagement, without having to literally take a long time to celebrate our engagement. We both knew that we wanted a short engagement period in general, so taking 4 months just to plan a big party… when we are going to have another party in 8 months… that just didn’t feel right to us.

Make a new email address

I highly recommend every engaged couple makes a new email address just for their wedding. Honestly, whether they have a big wedding or not, I think this is a good idea. This will become an account that both people can log into and utilize, a centralized place for all things wedding and marriage-beginning, and it will keep wedding stuff from cluttering up the couples’ personal inbox. Also, instead of hearing news and having to forward it to the other person, it’s just right there so both people can see it.

Even if the couple ends up eloping, how much would you bet that they’ll have to give the city an email address when they apply for their marriage license? I actually have no idea, because I haven’t done it yet, but I bet they’ll ask for one. This way, we can give the joint email account.

Lastly, when I began doing my planning, making new accounts right and left at different sites, making dress shopping appointments, etc, having an email address that isn’t too personal was vital. Now I know I won’t have marketing materials and spam emails sent at my personal email address for years to come.

Get your ring

My fiancè didn’t use a ring when he proposed (no worries, I told him not to buy me a ring beforehand), so it gave me the opportunity to pick one out for myself! I had ideas of what I wanted, but I knew that there was no way I could have a ring to wear for the rest of my life without trying it out on my finger first.

I recommend starting the ring shopping process now. This is because it can take a while to put your whole ring together. I learned that most jewelry stores sell the settings (the band and what the solitare diamond sits in), separately from the diamond. The stores will have examples of what you can do, but they’re by no means the only options. Many stores will let you do custom orders, that are not only sized just for your finger, but also may be a mix of different styles. If you want to do a custom order, then it can take a few weeks just to solidfy the design with the store, and then a few more weeks to be made. So if you’re interested in doing a custom ring, you’re looking at at least a 1-2 month process.

If you’re not interested in doing a custom order, then you can for sure pick a setting that they have in store. It may still take a few days to resize it to be what you need, and if you have to order it in a different gold color or a different metal, like platinum, then that could take a couple weeks.

And then, there’s the diamonds. Right off the bat, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted a diamond… it felt like such an immense cost to suddenly be asked to pay, so I was looking at other gem types like sapphires and moissonites. However, I ended up back at the trusty lab-grown diamond (and yes, lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds). These diamonds are still expensive, although not as much their earth-mined counterpart. The store will keep some diamonds in stock in the back, just enough to give you an idea of what they look like in a setting, but if you want to get picky about the Cs (clarity, cut, carat, and color), they’ll probably need to order a diamond to be brought in for you to see. Depending on the store, this could take a week or so, too. And remember the cost of the ring is the setting and the diamond. So although your setting may be an affordable $1,300, if your diamond is $2,700, you’re looking at a $4k total.

All of this is about the ring itself, too. But you also need to make sure you like the jeweler or the store. Look for things like:

  • Are the warranties an additional cost, or are they included in the price?
  • Do you need to get your ring checked at a certain frequency in certain locations, or can you just come in when something is wrong?
  • Is resizing covered free of charge for only the first year, or for the life of the ring?
  • Are there options to exchange the diamond later (such as if you want a bigger diamond in a few years when you can afford it)?
  • Is future damage covered free of charge (like that one time an ironing board fell on my hand and completely turned a ring from a circle to a mangled mess)?
  • Does the store have jewelers in house, or do they do all work elsewhere and ship the rings back and forth?
  • And of course, do you like the sales people? Do you feel pressure to buy? Could you see yourself taking your ring back there for maintainence in the future? Could you see yourself buying your wedding bands from the same location?

Ultimately, you’ll have a lot of decisions to be made as you go through the wedding process, and I knew I’d run into that situation, too. So, I had to pick and choose the pieces I wanted to spend the most time with and spend the most energy making decisions on. So, after visiting 7 jewelry stores, I decided to go back to the first one I went to, that had a full warranty coverage free of charge, and I purchased a preset ring. This means that the setting was pre-made, and the diamond went with it. I didn’t have to customize anything (and didn’t get to customize anything). I couldn’t choose a different diamond, but the one already in the ring was great quality in all C areas, and it was ready to go. I also didn’t have to pay a setting fee (a fee applied once to put the diamond in the actual setting) since it was preset. If I didn’t have to get it resized, I could’ve walked out with it the day of. Even with the resizing, I was able to pick it up on the next business day.

I ended up being super happy with my decision to get a preset ring. It meant I had the ring to show off to family/friends really soon after the announcement, and it became a core part of my internal celebration… it would’ve felt massively different if I ordered a ring and had to wait 6 weeks to see the finished product.

Book your engagement photography session

Personally, I knew I wanted professional photos of the two of us taken… after all, we’ll only be engaged for a short time of our life. However, engagement photos are optional… anything to do with your wedding is optional! But I knew that I’d want to use the photos for the save the dates, invitations, the wedding website, and of course, our own home and digital backgrounds.

If you fall into the same boat, I’d recommend booking your session photographer soon. Photographers are sometimes booked months out, and then the photos can take another month to be delivered to you, so it’s important to book fast.

When I started doing my research on photographers, I thought I’d have to have a friend do it to get a bargain. But it turns out there’s plenty of photographers in the Twin Cities that can do a session for under $800. There also photographers that cost more than that, and to an extent, I’m sure you get what you pay for. But for me, looking through a few photographers’ online galleries made me feel confident in the quality. We’ll see if that implicit trust pays off when my engagement photos are delivered!

The only other things to consider is if you’ll also need to hire a photographer for your wedding, sometimes you can get a discount by booking your engagement session with the same photographer at the same time (e.g. book your wedding with them, and then get the engagement session half off). Of course, you won’t be able to do this if you don’t know your wedding date/time/location yet, but if you know you plan to get married in the same area, you can try to arrange it with them where maybe you’ll pay full price for the engagement session now, but you’ll get part of that back if you come back and book the wedding with them later, or something like that. ALSO, while you’re thinking ahead, if you’ll need to book a videographer for the big day, then some studios will offer both photography and videography services together, so you may be able to get discounts by bundling them together that way, too. So, you could in theory book your photography and videography for the wedding day from the same studio you do your engagement photos at.

Wow. All of this actually turned out way longer and bigger than I had imagined. But there’s just so much to think about and learn. The final thing I’ve learned up until now is that although it’s an exciting time, and of course we want everything to be perfect, we need to realize that spending too much time thinking about every single detail, researching the options, and agonizing over the decision is more time and energy than it’s worth. Choose which parts are most important to you, and focus on making those everything you want them to be. And then every other parts? Just choose what feels the most right and have faith that it’ll come together.

I don’t know that for sure of course… but that’s what I’m hoping for.