Big Wedding, Small Budget

Wedding Consumerism

Wedding budgets are ridiculous. There is just so much to pay for! Food, venue, rentals, photographer, and more. There is also a lot of stuff to buy: guestbook, kipot, flowers, dress, ring, shoes, jewelry, underthings….wait, what? Why am I buying all this stuff, anyway?

Some of it is necessary. Once I decided to wear a wedding dress, I needed to buy one. We don’t already have wedding rings, so we have to buy those. I guess I could make a guestbook, but that doesn’t sound fun to me at all, nor is it a realistic project for someone this un-crafty. I’ve picked out a necklace I love, and I’ve been looking around for earrings…and that’s where I stopped.

The WIC says you must buy everything new. Everything must be purchased just for your wedding. The indie blog world isn’t that different, although they do talk about family heirlooms a little more, I guess. But why does everything really need to be new?

When you delve a little deeper, the wedding industry is selling not just items, but special-ness. Weddings are marketed as a once-in-a-lifetime event. And that’s fine; I mean, I hope to have only one wedding in my lifetime. But just the fact that’s it’s a wedding makes it special. Just the fact that it’s happening once makes it once-in-a-lifetime. Spending a ton of money on a bridal-looking necklace that I can never wear again doesn’t make my wedding any more special.

I tried to mitigate this at first by making a rule for myself about accessories and beauty products. I would only buy things I would use/wear again. So my necklace doesn’t look bridal, but it is awesome! And I can think of a couple other outfits to pair it with. I’ve been looking for shoes that I can wear all spring and summer (And fall and winter; who are we kidding here? I live in Florida) long. But that wasn’t enough. The consumerism started to get to me; the shopping and buying felt almost compulsive.

I knew it had gone too far when I found myself looking for shoes, unable to find anything affordable that I liked. Suddenly, I happened upon a perfectly good pair of off-white sandals, pretty much exactly what I was looking for. In my own closet. And I’ve been trying to convince myself that it’s ok to wear them, even though they’re not new. Then, I got into an in-depth conversation with a friend about what kind of eyeliner I should buy. Until I realized that I already have an eyeliner I love.

So, my buying will become more thoughtful from now on. If I have something already that works for the weddings (like my earrings from India that I adore), I will be using it. If I need something new, I will buy it, but not because it makes my wedding more special. That comes from the day itself, from the vows, from the celebration with friends and family. What does it say about my life if I look for that special feeling from a pair of shoes, anyway?

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Non-Diamond Engagement Rings

Even though I am obviously already engaged, I’ve always loved jewelry, and I enjoy admiring other engagement rings (although I am in love with my own). Without getting too much into the politics of it, I’m really glad that non-diamond engagement rings seem to be catching on and becoming more popular. Of course, diamonds are still the default option, but there are so many choices for those of us who want something different. Besides my own, here are some of my favorites:

Turtle Love Committee

This ring is currently out of stock but I had to put it on here anyway, just because I love it so much. This was a top contender for me, for a long time.

OneGarnetGirl via Etsy

Of course, I had to give a shout out to OneGarnetGirl, which I’ve featured on this blog many times. This is the shop where we got my ring. I love all of her stuff; it was really, really hard to pick one. But this sunstone has such a beautiful color, and I think it’s great that it comes from the US.

Cold Picnic via East Side Bride

This is probably the most untraditional ring of the bunch. It’s not immediately recognizable as an engagement ring, which would be a disadvantage to me, but probably a plus to some people. Engagement ring or not, it’s just an awesome piece of jewelry.

StoweGems via Etsy

This ring is not really my style, but I think it’s very pretty, so I decided to include it. I think it would be great for a more renaissance-y bride. I would probably consider it as a band if it didn’t have the stone.

kyleannmetals via Etsy

I love engagement rings that are traditional but have a little twist. And this ring fits that perfectly. I think it looks like an engagement, but with a smooth, beautiful pearl instead of the diamond. Gorgeous.


Last but not least, the Knotted Rush ring. I think it’s so cool. Delicate, pretty, and definitely symbolic. Not traditional at all, but awesome, nonetheless.

I decided not to get a diamond engagement ring for a few reasons. I was uncomfortable with the ethics and the artificially inflated prices. I like unique jewelry. I tried on a traditional diamond and it just didn’t feel like me. I saw a picture of my ring online and it was love at first sight. None of this is to say that people who have a diamond are wrong. But for the rest of us, I’m glad that there are so many great options out there!

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Wedding Rings – Men’s

The current lull in wedding planning has enabled me to spend some serious time online window shopping. Today, I decided to look at men’s wedding rings. Who knew there were so many interesting ones out there? I used Ariel’s roundup in Offbeat Bride as my inspiration, and here’s what I found.

Spexton at Etsy

Let’s start with one of the more traditional rings. This ring has the inlay-type design that I seem to be obsessed with lately. I like the symbolism of the “bumps in the road” texture, too.

Amazon Curated Collection

I love the color in this ring. It looks like it glows! But I’m not in love with the way the inlay in set in a groove; I would like it to be more flush with the rest of the ring. I also wonder if it would just attract dirt?

Amazon Curated Collection

This inlay is more flush with the ring, although not completely smooth. I love the idea of leather—it’s so unique! This one just doesn’t “feel” quite like Steve, though.

TWG Sales at Amazon

This ring is made of Tungsten Carbide. I love how masculine it is, and how it’s pretty traditional, except for the twist of it being black.

Peora at Amazon

This ring is really interesting. I like the design; it’s fun to look it. It looks like it should spin or something, though, and it doesn’t. But it’s still a great ring, The mix of colors and textures is really appealing.

Jewelry by Johan at Etsy

This might be my favorite one so far. I’ve mentioned before that I loved wood rings, but I think having the wood as an inlay might make it more durable. And the colors of the titanium and wood together look beautiful.

Last but not least, I have to show you this ring that came up when I was searching for men’s wedding bands:


I’m just as big a Lord of the Rings fan as anyone, but why would you want the Ring of Power for your wedding ring? Simply put, it’s evil.

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Wedding Rings – Women’s

I’ve really been going back and forth about the wedding ring I want*. I was planning to get a plain palladium white gold band from the same artist who made my engagement ring, thinking that I would wear both rings on the same hand. I had a blue topaz ring I wore for about 10 years on my right hand, and I was not giving that up.

Then, heartbreakingly, I lost my blue topaz ring. And it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. I could still get the matching ring, and get another pretty ring for my right hand (I’ve been eyeing this one). Or, I could get an independent wedding ring. There are so many beautiful ones out there!

*It’s important to note that Jewish weddings require an unbroken gold band. In my family, we all get married with my great-grandmother’s ring, then wear our own afterwards. So, I don’t need to worry about that. Also, while I appreciate the sentiment of an unbroken eternal circle of love, I also like the symbolism of an imperfect ring, because love, and relationships, are imperfect.

source                        source

These rings are both from Turtle Love Committee. I grouped them together because aesthetically, they’re pretty similar. I like the shape and texture of both; like I noted above, I appreciate the symbolism of a handmade, imperfect, textured ring. Life is not always smooth, perfect, and easy, and I think these rings reflect that. Plus, they’re really pretty.


I had to include this ring; it’s so fun! I love that it has a sense of humor. But, it’s a little too flat for me; I tend to like rounded bands better. Also, I don’t know that it would be instantly recognizable as a wedding ring, and if I’m wearing a ring on its own, I’d like it to have that quality.


I think this ring is elegant and simple while still being interesting and different. It comes in different metals; I would definitely get white gold or sterling silver.


This ring also has that imperfect thing going on. I like the rose gold more than I expected, even though it does come in yellow and white. It might be too flat, but the width is about right.


I’m really interested in the idea of a wood wedding ring. First, I love mahogany. Second, all of the rings from this shop come from salvaged or found wood, so it’s eco-friendly. It’s the perfect shape and I think it would look beautiful next to my skin. It’s warm and organic. The only thing I’m worried about it the durability. I don’t want to have to worry about a ring I’m going to wear every single day; I’m just not that careful.

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Jewelry Ideas – Stud Earrings

Sigh. I love window shopping. Even online. It’s amazing how satisfied I feel just to look at pretty things. Of course, it helps that I will be buying some of those things eventually.

I’ve talked before about how much I love jewelry, and how excited I am to buy new jewelry for the wedding. So far, my window shopping has been mostly focused on necklaces; I think that a necklace will probably be my statement piece.

But! I will still be wearing earrings. Most likely, they will be smaller and simpler so as not to compete with my necklace. But I would still like them to be pretty, and it would be great if I could find earrings that I will be happy to wear again.

Looking around for studs led me to these:

Twisted Designs

I think these are pretty, and definitely wearable again, but a little too small for my taste (the Etsy page has more pictures). With so much hair, I like my earrings to be on the large size.


I love these earrings. But I don’t think they are quite right for the wedding. Maybe they would work in another color, but I feel like the black would blend in too much with my hair.


These earrings are really cute, and probably around the right size, although it’s hard to tell for sure. I think they’re fun, and they would probably be just sparkly enough to show under my hair.

Juicy Lucy’s

I think these are so fun! And they are such a good play on the fact that I won’t be wearing diamonds for the wedding (even my engagement ring is not a diamond). Just a little inside joke for myself. It would make me smile on the wedding day for sure.

Noya Silver Jewelry

I’ve always loved butterflies, and so does Steve. These earrings would be a nice nod to his entomology. And pretty; I love brushed silver.

Garnet Girl Designs

These are my absolute favorite, although they cost more than I will probably want to spend. I. Love. Them. They are made by the same artist as my engagement ring (go check her out; her stuff is AWESOME) and they match it exactly. Same stone, same shape, same setting (except these are silver and my ring is palladium white gold). Sigh. These slay me. I will have to own them eventually, whether they’re for the wedding or not.

There are a ton of other earrings out there; I’ve barely scratched the surface. This is one of my favorite wedding-related internet surfing topics, so don’t worry, I’ll be posting plenty more!

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Jewelry Ideas – Necklaces

I love jewelry. I definitely get way more excited about shopping for necklaces and earrings than I do for clothes. Jewelry is just so pretty! And you can get so much use out of it.

So, of course I have been really excited about buying jewelry for the wedding. This is one area where I am planning on “splurging” (within budget, of course). What should be surprising to no one is that I’m not planning on going with traditional “bridal jewelry.” I’m looking for colorful, interesting, hopefully handmade jewelry, at least for my statement piece (not sure yet if that will be the necklace or earrings). I can rationalize spending extra money when that money goes to artisans and the jewelry will be worn again. I really look forward to wearing my bridal jewelry, enjoying it and remembering the wedding for years to come whenever I put it on.

Let’s start with necklaces. I’ve been looking around and I’ve definitely found some contenders:


I really like this necklace. It has different shades of blue, which is one of the colors I’m considering for the bridal party. It’s a little industrial looking, which I like. Also, it’s made of tagua, which is my new obsession. Tagua is known as “Amazonian ivory;” it’s a palm seed from the amazon which can be dyed with vegetable dyes and carved. It’s sustainable and helps support local artisans.


This necklace goes in a totally different direction. Steve loves dragonflies and we have lots of dragonfly stuff in our house, so it has meaning that way. And I just think it’s really pretty. It’s not really bold enough for wedding, though, if I decide to make the necklace my statement piece. But I could pair it with big earrings and it wouldn’t be too much, so it’s a good option for that kind of look.


I love how this necklace is multicolored. It means I can choose shoes without worrying about matching exactly (you didn’t think I’d be wearing white shoes, did you?). Living in Florida means we’re never too far from the ocean and I like how this necklace connects to that (it’s made of sea glass). But it might be a little too dainty for what I’m looking for. Like the necklace above, it would probably work better with bigger earrings.


Last but not least (for now), is this unusual necklace. I love this one so much; I might have to buy it even if it’s not for the wedding. This is from an Etsy seller who made another necklace I already own (and get a ton of compliments on). I love how different it is, and I really like the colors. I’m just not sure it’s the right shape for my dress; I might be looking for something wider, more horizontally shaped. But the great thing about Etsy is that I can speak to the artist about creating a custom piece, so that’s always an option.

I don’t know that I’ll end up with any of these specific pieces. But they’ve definitely given me a ton of ideas, and window shopping for jewelry, even on the internet, is super fun. I think, just like the dress, when I find the right piece, I’ll know. For now, it’s just fun to look!


Wedding Dress Shopping – What I Learned

Wedding dress shopping was surprising in so many ways. I learned way more about myself and this wedding planning process than I had expected.

  • I never expected to have that feeling they always talk about when you find a wedding dress. I know not everyone has it. I told myself not to expect. But I totally did. I actually got a little choked up once I made the decision, although I recovered myself quickly. I am an emotional person, but I didn’t ever think I would get emotional about the traditional things. I’ll for sure be adjusting my expectations for the wedding day, planning to surprise myself, as contradictory as that sounds.
  • Sometimes the experience is more important than the cost. I hadn’t planned to buy a dress that day. I thought that if I found one I liked, I would shop online and see if I could find it cheaper. Frugality is the name of the game, after all. I knew I would be going back the next week to show it to Emily, so I’d have another chance to purchase. But when the time came, all of that went out the window. I loved finding my dress, and actually purchasing it completed the process and took a big item off of the to-do list. Also, my consultant was fabulous and she deserved the commission. So, my money-saving plan disappeared, and I went with the emotion of the moment. I should note that I was only able to do this because I stuck to my planned budget while looking. So I knew that even if I bought the dress in the store, I was able to afford it. And it was totally worth doing it this way.
  • “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I started out this wedding planning process with a few rules for myself. One was that I had to squash my perfectionist tendencies. If we found something we liked and it was within budget, than the search was over. There is no reason to waste time looking for the absolute best option in everything. All I would do was drive myself crazy. Good rule, right? But I doubted my ability to follow it. There was definitely a moment during shopping that I thought, “Well, maybe I should go to some other stores and see if I can find something better.” But I loved my dress! Why look anywhere else? Luckily, I was able to push that thought away and remember my advice to myself. Choosing the dress made me happy and relieved, and preserved the experience as a positive one. I’ll have to remember this lesson when we start looking for photographers.
  • There is a place for tradition in my heart. Even though this wedding is offbeat-lite, untraditional to most of the people reading this blog, that doesn’t mean that everything has to be untraditional. I ended up with a dress that is way more wedding-y than what I expected, and that quality was one of the reasons I chose it. In a different, casual atmosphere, it will be nice to have some touches of tradition, something to ground us and our guests to the wedding experience. It’s not just a family reunion, after all, even if that is the general vibe we’re going for. The truth is that while I may be fairly radical in my beliefs, I connect to tradition throughout my life. Getting married is traditional in and of itself. It connects us to the generations before, to the families around us. That is super meaningful to me, and it’s one of the reasons I believe in marriage equality so fervently. Having some traditional touches, including the dress, honors that part of myself that has been fairly quiet throughout this process so far.
  • The people in my life are AWESOME. My friends and my mom were so supportive at the store. The ones I told over about the dress over phone and text were just as excited and happy for me. It’s always nice to have a reminder of how lucky I am. It makes me even more excited to celebrate with those I love around me next March.
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Wedding Dress Shopping – The Recap

I hate dress shopping. Any kind of dress shopping. Having to pick out a cocktail dress for a wedding or bar mitzvah involves anxiety as well as many visits to many stores in many places. My poor friends and mother who have accompanied me on these trips have had to deal with my insane pickiness, my refusal to come out of the dressing room to show anyone the clothes, and my overall grouchy and pessimistic mood while shopping. So I have no idea why my friends Proma and Mandy, and my mom, agreed to go wedding dress shopping. Proma came all the way from Pittsburgh! And they actually seemed excited! Wow.

Is this my dress? Nope!

I was a bundle of nerves in the days leading up to the big shopping trip. I was mostly anxious, but also surprisingly excited. In classic Barbra form, I had done A TON of research beforehand. I spent hours upon hours looking at wedding dresses online. Once I had narrowed the search down to David’s Bridal (dresses in my budget AND my size? Score!), I visited their website several times a week, adding dresses to my favorites, then going through them again and again. I scoured the photo reviews to see how the dresses looked on actual people. I searched Google Images with style numbers. I read countless reviews and shopping recaps on The Tribe. I took dresses off the list. I put them back on. I removed all of the taffeta dresses. At the last minute, I added a few that were totally different from the others, just on a whim.

Did I add this one? Um, no.

As we pulled up to David’s, we saw people lined up outside. I thought I had avoided the crazy crowds by making the first appointment of the day, but apparently this is a normal occurrence on weekends. Wait—maybe all of the terrible stories I heard about shopping there were going to come true? I was instantly convinced I would have a terrible consultant who wouldn’t pay any attention to me. I would try on dresses that looked and felt awful, and they would push me to buy something when I really liked NOTHING. S**t. But then, I met my consultant. She seemed really nice and already had my list of favorites printed out. I started to feel better. Deep breath.

Will I be wearing this at my wedding? Do you know me?

As soon as I came out in the first dress, all of my anxiety went away. It fit! I liked it! It was flattering! My mom cried (sorry, Mom)! Even though this wasn’t the dress, it was ok. I tried on more dresses. We liked them all. I realized that I would be finding a dress that day. This was actually going to happen.

Can you picture me in this dress? No? Good.

In the end, I found myself torn between two dresses. I switched between them a few times. Yes, I was one of those girls. I chose the dress that made me feel the prettiest and happiest. It was nothing like what I had pictured for my wedding. It was nothing like the other dresses I tried on. But I love it. And with a few days’ reflection time, I know I chose the right one.

Is this the dress I chose? Nope, that remains a mystery.

So, after years of saying I couldn’t picture myself in a dress, after a lifetime of hating dress shopping, I found a wedding dress. After visiting one store, one time. Wedding miracles really do happen, I guess.

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Hair Inspiration

I am planning on wearing my hair down at the wedding. The only time I ever wear my hair up in real life is at the gym or when I am too lazy to blow dry it, and I want to look like myself on my wedding day. I know this is another thing that goes against more traditional wedding style, but there it is. If it’s good enough for Kate Middleton, it’s good enough for me!

That said, I think it would be fun to wear a headband of some sort to dress it up a little (and anchor the veil, if I wear one). My hair is super fine and slippery, so I need a real, structured headband, not one of those fabric/ribbon things. Also, the “typical” bridal headbands don’t really appeal to me (big surprise). So, let’s see what’s out there…


I like this headband, although it is probably a little too bridal for me. I do think it’s around the right size, though.


I think this headband takes the “normal” bridal style and plays with it a bit. I’m afraid the metal would be too slippery or uncomfortable, though.


This is my favorite one so far. I love the idea of wearing color; my jewelry will probably be colorful, too. I’m just not sure I can accept the embellishment on the side of my head. It feels too much like all the headbands I wore in the 80s.


I love this, although the color of the metal is wrong. Is it too big? I guess it depends on the dress and the jewelry.

So far, I haven’t found anything that is just right, although this is a start. I know I won’t be picking anything out until I find my dress and my jewelry, but of course, it’s always fun to look!