Why We’ll Never Go to a Jewelry Store Chain Again

I will forever wish I had been more informed about jewelry stores prior to shopping for my wedding bands so hopefully this post will help at least one other person out!

When Stephen decided it was time to start shopping for my engagement ring, he knew it was the smart thing to do to get quotes from multiple jewelry stores before deciding where he wanted to make his investment.  He knew he wanted to use a diamond that belonged to my mom and that he wanted to have my ring custom-made based on several pictures he had pulled from my Pinterest.  He went to several chains and had similar experiences at all of them, but there was one store in particular (a chain based in NC) that I had told him I would like my ring to come from.  While I won’t name the store, I’ll tell you that these stores are fabulous and shiny and there is a fancy stigma that goes along with saying your engagement ring came from one of their locations.

When Stephen went in, the associate that was working with him continuously tried to convince him that what he was asking them to create is not what I wanted and that he should trade my mom’s diamond in for a bigger one and pick a totally different style of ring that I would like better…as if they knew what I wanted better than Stephen did!

Stephen left the store feeling way more stressed out and less excited than he had felt walking in and decided to try another store — a small-town family run store in downtown Apex.


When Stephen walked into Holland’s Jewelers off Salem Street, he was immediately greeted with a bunch of smiling faces of people eager and willing to help him.  They were thrilled at the idea of using a family heirloom to create a custom ring.  They worked with him until he was completely satisfied and gave him a fair price.  The ring they created together was absolutely gorgeous!

Love this shot Krista from Six Foot Photography got of my ring during our mini-engagement session!

Here’s where I have to admit something to you: I am totally enamored by shiny, fancy things.  When it came time to shop for my wedding band, Stephen had not told me of the experience he had at the fancy popular store which shall not be named here, and I wanted the stigma of owning a piece of jewelry from that store and the ring box that went with it (totally vain, I know, but I’ve learned my lesson!).  Despite the fact that I felt guilty about not returning to the place that had created my engagement ring, I went against my instincts and grabbed one of my bridesmaids and headed into one of their popular Raleigh locations during their semi-annual sale.

I don’t want to undermine my experience there in any way that is not necessary — the staff that greeted us was friendly and an associate was with us quickly and was very patient with us as we looked at wedding rings.   When I took off my engagement ring to start trying wedding bands on, though, he picked it up and started criticizing how it was made.  He told me that since I had it made somewhere other than their store, it was flimsy and I really shouldn’t even be wearing my engagement ring regularly (“It’s like you’re wearing a lace dress while mowing the lawn,” he said).   As if that’s what every girl wants to hear about her most prized possession!  Despite the fact that our associate had made me feel bad about myself, I picked out a wedding ring and despite the fact that it was 1.5 times what we had budgeted for even with their huge sale, I purchased the ring.  They fitted it for free but I didn’t even get the fancy ring box I had been all excited about.

Stephen told me about his experience there when I got home that day and vented to him about how I had made this huge investment with the store and yet somehow left feeling like they felt like they had done me some huge favor, and that I should feel honored to have purchased something from their store.  I literally felt like “just another sale” and after spending that much money, that is not how anyone should feel!

I lost several nights’ sleep over my purchase and wished so desperately I hadn’t had the ring fitted so that I could return it (I am admittedly petty and did not want something as precious as my main wedding band to have come from what I viewed as such a negative experience).  After a lot of conversation with Stephen, we decided to go back to Holland’s and discuss the ring situation with them and see if they had any insight!

I felt right back at home when we walked back in there; I seriously cannot explain how friendly and nice the entire staff is.  Initially I wanted to trade in the ring I had already purchased and purchase a thicker band (which would have been more money for Holland’s) but they suggested if I wanted to do something different, I should consider using the ring I had already purchased and having another one custom-made to match it and then have the three welded together in a set after the wedding, which is the path I ended up taking!

I LOVE how all three rings look together! The ring on the bottom is the one I had made at Holland’s — I wanted this to be my “official” wedding band.

They custom-made me a ring to match the one I already had using the same materials and the same carat weight.  Oh and the ring they were making me? It cost less than half of what I paid at the other store.

While I was there I decided to have my “flimsy” ring inspected; my engagement ring was fine but upon inspection of the wedding band I had already purchased, a majority of the diamonds were loose. After I had just been lectured about how flimsy my own ring was!  PLUS when I walked away from Holland’s with my brand new ring, they gave me my very own fancy ring box 🙂 It was meant to be.


I don’t mean to just spend this whole post just trashing the other store, but I am a firm believer that everyone should have nothing less than an amazing experience when purchasing engagement/wedding rings and advise everyone to be careful in what store they choose to shop at.  I desperately wish I had gotten some insight about the first store before making that huge of an investment there! Not one of my finer financial moments, I’ll admit.

Love this Mrs. box my mom got me for my birthday!

You never know though!  Maybe the store I had a negative experience at is the perfect store for you! But you won’t know until you do your research!

For us personally, we will be going to Holland’s for all of our jewelry needs for years to come! I have yet to have anything but an amazing experience with them and if you live in the Triangle area, I highly recommend you check them out!

If you have any questions about ring shopping, please let me know! Heaven knows I have a lot of experience at this point!

Thanks for stopping by!





July Goals

Happy 4th of July and happy birthday to my favorite country! 🙂 Hope everyone’s day is filled with lots of sunshine and celebration!  I’ll be spending the day in Charleston — my favorite place second only to Raleigh!

As I prepare for all the crazy stuff happening in July, I’m taking a look back at my June goals.  Here’s how I did:

  • Join a gym  (Check! Joined my local YMCA and I am loving it!)
  • Go to the gym at least three times a week (I’m going to half-check this one. I did make it to the gym 2-3 times per week all month though, so that’s definitely a start!)
  • Start working in my Write the Word Journal from the Cultivate What Matters Shop (Unfortunately I can’t check this one off; I am hoping to start on this item this month!)
  • Deposit $500 into the wedding account (Check! I was able to deposit money that would have gone towards rent into the wedding account!  Stephen and I have agreed to deposit the same amount of our own money into the wedding account each month.)
  • Send out invitations for a sweet friend’s bridal shower (Check! That shower will be happening this month and I can’t wait!)
  • Start reading The Meaning of Marriage with Stephen (This one was a ‘no’ as well.  It proved to be too difficult to coordinate our schedules. I am looking forward to completing this goal in July!)
  • Read one book for fun (Okay, I am going to check this goal off even though I am only 200 pages or so in.  That counts, right??)

I haven’t been at this for long but I am loving writing all my goals down and checking back on them at the end of the month.  I find holding myself accountable for my goals so valuable.  I think it’s so important to always find yourself working towards something; it keeps you grounded and keeps you focused on working towards growth instead of achieving total perfection (which is obviously impossible!).

With that being said, here are my goals for July:

  • Start working in my Write the Word Journal from the Cultivate What Matters Shop
  • Start reading The Meaning of Marriage with Stephen
  • Attend our first premarital counseling session with my sweet Granddaddy (SO excited for this one!)
  • Start student teaching
  • Schedule meetings with my rental company and florist for next month
  • Finish a book for fun
  • Deposit $700 of my own money into the wedding account
  • Throw an amazing bridal shower for one of my bridesmaids!

I am looking so forward to July and achieving all of these goals! I’d love to hear about your July goals while you’re here!

Thanks for stopping by!


Our Engagement Photos!

We have officially been engaged for one year as of June 30th! It has been a wild ride for sure, but we have loved every minute of it. I am always amazed at the growth Stephen and I make every day as we prepare for this wedding and our marriage!

In honor of 365 days of being engaged, I wanted to share our engagement photos on here in case you hadn’t seen them!  Our amazing wedding photographer Amber with Six Foot Photography had the SWEETEST little baby in April so she was on maternity leave when we took our pictures.  Lucky for us, this meant my Matron of Honor, Krista, got to take our photos instead!

We got to return to our very favorite place (NC State’s campus) for these pictures and I think Krista captured us and how much we love that place perfectly 🙂 We were even featured on the Six Foot Photography Blog here!

IMG_9287IMG_9293IMG_9306IMG_9314IMG_9322IMG_9337IMG_9341IMG_9397IMG_9446IMG_9462IMG_9466IMG_9493IMG_9509IMG_9514IMG_9522IMG_9534IMG_9539IMG_9540IMG_9542IMG_9555IMG_9558IMG_9563IMG_9580IMG_9583IMG_9590IMG_9601 (1)IMG_9644IMG_9673IMG_9678IMG_9693IMG_9688IMG_9686IMG_9699IMG_9724IMG_9747IMG_9814

We had a blast taking these photos and will cherish them forever!

Thanks for stopping by!



I Said Yes to the Dress..And You Can Too!

Wedding dress shopping was such an amazing experience! Everything that could go RIGHT did, and I was surrounded by some of my favorite people in the process! For months, I had THE dress I just knew I was going to buy in mind and picked the bridal boutique we went to based on the fact that I knew they had my dress in stock!  We went to New York Bride & Groom of Raleigh and had an AMAZING experience!  I was so lucky because I was able to bring four of my bridesmaids (who didn’t know they were bridesmaids at the time!), my mom, and my Mimi with me to shop for wedding gowns.  I knew I could fully trust all six of the ladies I brought with me to be honest (without being mean!), be supportive, and be genuinely happy for me on such a fun day.  I can’t recommend making sure whoever you bring with you to try on dresses fits that exact same bill because it made a world of difference!  I loved having them there for support (soooo important) and having zero concern that any of them would hurt my feelings.


When you walk into the salon, you enter into a crisp, clean and open salon with lots of modern furniture with pearlescent white finishes — you instantly feel glamorous as soon as you walk through those doors (and let’s be honest — every bride should feel glamorous when trying on wedding dresses!).  You don’t need an appointment and I was a little worried about a wait since we were just walking in to the salon with seven people, but we were immediately greeted with smiling faces and they were able to accommodate us right away.  We got our own (massive) dressing room, put our stuff down, and started the search for my dress!  Of course, everything I read said that you should NEVER try on just one dress, so my group helped me pick out three other dresses to try on in addition to the one I had pretty much already decided on.

On our way back to the dressing room, one dress in particular caught my Matron of Honor’s eye.  She held it up for me and I took one look at it and said, “Nope!”  It was the total opposite of what I wanted in a dress and not only did not fit any of the requirements I had for potential dresses, but it had characteristics I specifically DIDN’T want! But something about that dress made my MOH push me to at least try it on and as you may have guessed, I ended up falling in love with it!

I am very much the type of person who likes to plan way ahead and then stick very strictly to that plan, so the fact that I was loving a dress that wasn’t in my plans was very stressful for me!  I so desperately wanted to want my original dress, but my mind kept returning to the new one.  It was comfortable, I felt good in it, and I didn’t ever want to take it off! I put the dress on for a second time, put my wedding shoes and veil on, and stepped back in front of the mirror and that was it! I knew for sure I had found my dress.  I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!

To make it even more amazing, when I told our consultant that I had picked my dress, she checked the tag and informed us it was 50% off! We ended up spending less than half of our original budget and my mom (who is THE BEST) surprised me and paid for the dress for me (insert many, many happy tears here)!


I don’t want to give too much about the dress away (pretty sure Stephen is one of the few people who actually reads here for the time being lol), but I CAN say it perfectly encompasses the Southern look I was looking for and looks amazing with my Matron of Honor’s (GORGEOUS) veil which I will be borrowing for my wedding day!

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 8.28.38 PM
This was our dressing room! It was so spacious and perfect for all 7 of us to hang out in!

As AMAZING as my experience was, there are a few things I wish I had known about wedding dress shopping before I went!

Here are a few tips for any brides planning on going wedding dress shopping soon!

  • Get a little dolled up! I wish I had put more effort into my appearance (and maybe have gotten a tan?) before I went shopping! You want to feel your absolute best when picking the most beautiful article of clothing you will ever wear! Plus, if you aren’t feeling confident (and it’s easy not to — those fluorescent lights can be harsh in a lot of salons!), it can skew the way you see yourself in the dresses!
  • Do your research and read reviews about the bridal salons you are considering shopping at.  The demeanor of our consultants made ALL the difference when I went shopping! I am generally pretty self-conscious and didn’t want to be made to feel like being there was a burden to them but everyone we interacted with was so helpful, happy, and supportive!  Plus, it was through our research that we discovered that we did not need an appointment to go shopping!
  • If you already have any accessories you know you’ll be wearing on your wedding day (I was a rule-breaker and already had both my veil and my shoes!), bring them! This way you can see how they look with your dress.
  • Wear appropriate under garments! 🙂
  • LISTEN to your consultant — they usually have lots of experience and can offer some pretty sound advice!
  • Consider going shopping on a weekday afternoon to avoid crowds — that’s what we did and I’m so glad!
  • GO WITH YOUR INSTINCTS! If your gut is telling you something, listen!

Hopefully something from that list was helpful to any brides seeking advice! Wedding dress shopping should NOT be stressful, and I hope anyone who goes has as amazing a time as I did!

Thanks for stopping by!


How We’re Cutting Wedding Costs

I debated writing this post at all because I am a firm believer (and have certainly learned through experience!) that there is no one blanket statement to explain how to cut costs on your wedding, but my goal for this post is just to explain how we are doing it, and maybe we’ll be able to help someone else out with their own budgeting process.  The fact of the matter is this: weddings. are. expensive.  Stephen and I have a running joke about this because shortly after he proposed we sat down to discuss budgeting and several minutes after I realized I had been droning on without any input from him, I looked up to find him weary-eyed and bewildered (and I’m pretty sure I could actually see his hair turning gray) and he said, “When I proposed I thought weddings only cost a couple thousand dollars at the most.”  Ha! Not that it’s not possible to have an amazing wedding for that much money, it just wasn’t possible to achieve our personal vision for that much!

I could go into all sorts of generic advice that I read on other wedding blogs (base your budget on what you can spend, not on what you want to spend; DIY as much as possible; consider a cash bar; get married on a weekday; repurpose bridesmaid bouquets for centerpieces, etc.) and while a lot of that advice is helpful, I had already considered almost all of it and was still desperate for ways to save money, so here’s what I have discovered throughout my own budgeting process:

My first piece of advice is to prioritize.  Sit down with your fiancé and determine what items are must-haves in your wedding.  Stephen and I were immediately on the same page on what we wanted to splurge on: things that would last forever.  Photography and videography are the first two things that came to our minds in that category.  Our wedding photos and video are things that we will be able to look back on for the rest of our lives and that we will be able to share with our children and eventually their children.  We also knew we wanted a breathtaking ceremony and reception space (especially because often if the backdrop of the ceremony is super pretty, less decorations are needed to spice it up!). The priorities page of the Joyful Wedding Planner from Southern Weddings helped us out a lot with this step of our budgeting process (see below!).

I also made makeup a priority for my wedding day.  I set an all-in budget for makeup and sought makeup professionals that offered airbrush foundation and had photos on their websites of looks similar to what I’m looking for on my wedding day.  Keep in mind that a lot of people on a budget probably don’t make makeup a priority on their wedding day and that I am very likely the exception rather than the rule! I’ve heard of many people saying they would rather not spend much money on makeup that they will be washing off at the end of the night, but it was important to me because 1) I wear a lot of makeup on a day-to-day basis anyway and love makeup application, and 2) Makeup makes me feel confident and every bride should feel confident on her wedding day!  A bride’s confidence on her wedding day is of utmost importance – it is your day to shine and you should be feeling your best! If you are like me and feel your best when you’re wearing smoky eyeshadow and have contoured cheeks, make that a priority for you; if you feel more confident with a more natural look, go for that, and don’t let anyone tell you that your decision is wrong!


My second piece of advice is to start early.  Obviously every engagment is different and some people are engaged for six months and some people are like us and are engaged for almost two years.  Stephen and I will have had twenty-two months (story on that here) to save for our wedding and we got started saving right away!  Because we got started on wedding planning so early, there were several vendors we were able to book with their 2016 pricing and locked in a lower price than we would have gotten if we had waited (vendors often raise their prices each year).  Even though we got a lot of “Wow, you guys are getting started early,” from the vendors we talked to, it has definitely paid off in the long run!

Third: don’t be afraid to rely on friends, family, and acquaintances for certain aspects of your wedding! Stephen’s dad has a hot sauce company (which is amazing, by the way! I put it on everything!) so we are using bottles of hot sauce as our wedding favors! We are going to print custom stickers to put on the bottles and voila! Wedding favors: check.  Another area we’re saving is my veil! My amazing MOH was nice enough to agree to let me wear her gorgeous veil, which is saving us money but will also serve as my something borrowed on my big day as well! If your MOH isn’t married yet, look into wearing your mother’s, grandmother’s, or future mother-in-law’s veil, garter, dress, etc.  Stephen also has a family friend who owns his own brewery, so we’ll be getting craft beer for our wedding for a fraction of the normal price!  I personally am not a fan of DIY (because I am so not crafty!), but I have been practicing calligraphy in hopes of using my newfound skills for signage at our wedding and for addressing the envelopes for our save-the-dates.  The Southern gal in me makes me kind of a stickler for slightly more traditional/formal invitations, so I am seeking the help of a crafty friend for calligraphy on our actual invitations- again, saving a lot of money by not going with a formal calligraphy business!

We are also shopping sales and have started couponing — especially when it comes to wine!  I got my wedding dress on sale for 50% off and ended up spending less than half of the amount I had budgeted for a dress! We are also looking into Total Wine and Trader Joe’s for our wine since they often have coupons and if you buy from Total Wine and don’t chill/open all of it, you can return whatever you don’t use! I bought my ceremony shoes (discontinued but brand-new Jack Rogers) from Poshmark for $60!  We’re also using all sorts of Etsy shops (be aware though – Etsy is not always cheapest, so make sure you’re looking at all options) and an online shop for our invitation suite (again, start early so that you can wait for sales and coupon codes!).

Perhaps the number one area of saving we are utilizing (and I totally understand this doesn’t work for everyone!) is readjusting our living arrangements.  We had been spending about $1500 on rent, cable, utilities, and other living expenses which means that we were spending $1500 that could not be going into our wedding budget! My sweet mom has been kind enough to let us move in with her rent-free for the second half of our engagement and over half of our wedding budget is coming from the amount we will be able to save because of her! Obviously not every person is going to be able to do this, but consider things like cutting back on your cable and internet plan, taking shorter showers, being more mindful of turning lights off when leaving the room or the house, not turning the thermostat so low in the summer and high in the winter, etc.  You’ll be amazed how much money you can save by saving power and water in your household! Good for the environment and good for the wedding budget 🙂

Don’t forget — keep in mind when booking vendors that many of them need to be tipped 15-20% of their total price! If you are thinking of going over your budget and that you can just squeak by, don’t forget you will very likely actually be paying these people more than what their invoice says and the higher the bill, the higher the tip!  You don’t want to realize the week of your wedding that you don’t have enough money to pay and/or tip your vendors!

I definitely wish I had known some of these things before we started the budgeting process so hopefully this post helps someone out!

Thanks for stopping by!