Bride on A Budget: The Proposal

A post-Christmas surprise leaves Stephanie happily engaged.

Matt and I started talking seriously about getting married last summer, when I began to (very subtly) e-mail him pictures of rings I liked. After many weeks of sending him clues, we headed to Mervis Diamond Importers in October to try on rings. I felt like a kid in a candy shop: one carat, two carat, pave, side stones, solitaires, platinum—I swear I drooled through the whole appointment. We worked with Becky Hubbard and couldn’t have asked for better service. She was a mind reader and helped us find the perfect ring—a gorgeous Jeff Cooper platinum setting with diamonds in all the right places.

Around the same time that we picked the ring, Matt and I also found a great deal on a trip to Mexico for the week after Christmas. Suspecting Matt would propose while we were there, I made a mental note to schedule a manicure before we left. We booked the flight, and the next two months flew by. Before I knew it, it was December 27, the day before our trip. It was a crazy day: Having both just returned to DC after spending the holiday with our families, there were a zillion things to do, including copying passports, toiletry shopping, and packing. After a long day of errands, we took a little break around dinnertime for two of our favorite things: Trader Joe’s frozen orange chicken and Law & Order. During a commercial break, Matt mentioned he had some Christmas gifts for me. I was surprised because Mexico was supposed to be our gift to each other.Matt handed me a number of presents and instructed me to unwrap them in order. First up: a book of quotations with a lovely inscription inside describing how much he loved me. At this point, I wasn’t connecting the dots—the booked just seemed like a nice gift that’d look pretty on the shelf.

Next, I unwrapped a slightly larger gift—two bridal magazines. Matt called them “beach reading,” and I started crying. With tears rolling down my cheeks, Matt opened the last gift, slid the Jeff Cooper band onto my finger, and told me that the ring’s center stone had once belonged to his grandmother. I’d love to tell you I glowed the rest of that first evening. Looking back, “snotty mess” seems like a much more appropriate description.

After dozens of phone calls and e-mails to friends, family, and my insurance agent, we toasted to our future wedding with Champagne, finished packing, slept for three hours, and finally headed to Mexico. I showed my ring to everyone from customs agents to street vendors, and my husband-to-be and I spent the first few days of our engagement relaxing on the beach.

Lessons from the Bride
Planning a wedding is a learn-as-you-go experience. I’m no expert, but I’m gathering good ideas every step of the way. Be sure to check the end of each Budget Bride post for helpful tips and tricks I’ve picked up in the process.

Buy local. Online stores may have better prices, but you can’t beat the service you’ll receive at a store. Shopping locally prevents hassle down the road. I’ve had to visit Mervis two times for minor adjustments, and the customer service I’ve received from Becky has been amazing.

Those who can’t afford, copy. If you can afford a ring from Tiffany’s, Cartier, or DeBeers, that’s great. If that’s out of your price range, consider asking a local jeweler to make a ring similar to the designer style you love. A friend’s husband went that route, and the result was beautiful.

Celebrate family history. If you’re lucky enough to have a beautiful family diamond passed down to you, use it. I love wearing a family heirloom.

>> Come back in two weeks when I talk about starting the planning process and, gulp, figuring out the budget!

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