Wedding rings part deux…

I’m going to skim very quickly over the fact I haven’t posted for some time, and instead talk to you about wedding rings. Specifically, my wedding ring.

As you know, the setting of my engagement ring is rather unusual:

Marquise diamond solitaire engagement ring

My engagement ring

Since my last post about wedding rings I’ve been doing some serious research.

The bog-standard, reasonably priced ‘solution’ to my wedding ring dilemma can be supplied to me by Mad About Diamonds where my lovely fiancé got my engagement ring from:

The shaped wedding ring designed to fit my engagement ring

I can highly recommend Mad About Diamonds actually, not only do they offer excellent value for money but I’m told by my fiancé that their customer service is excellent too.

Okay, so that’s the tidy, easy and relatively cheap solution. If I were less picky and less jewellery-obsessed, my post would end here…

Why don’t I like the shaped ring? I want a ring I can wear on its own if I want to, I don’t just want a band of shaped metal for the sake of it. Fussy, yes I am.

I’m a great lover of Etsy and in my state of anxiety I contacted a seller in the US, Laurie Sarah Designs, to see what they could suggest, if anything. I have to say, they’ve been absolutely amazing. In short, they’ve offered to create me a bespoke 18ct white gold wishbone ring (that fits exactly under my engagement ring), from scratch, for around £800. That includes engraving too, and their engraving is the best I’ve seen:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/100049104/intricately-hand-engraved-mans-wedding

Engraved wedding ring by Laurie Sarah Designs

I would really love to use Laurie Sarah Designs as they’ve been amazingly patient with me, but there are logistical issues as they are based in the US. Firstly, they’ll need my engagement ring to ensure the wishbone sits as it should with it. I don’t want to post it over there so I’d probably try and make a cast of it (by making a silicone mould first and then filling it with resin to create a fake ring). Secondly, and more importantly, I am anxious about not being able to visit them easily in person to see what they are creating and to try on casts they make etc. They might be able to post them to me, but ultimately it isn’t ideal.

At the weekend I went to Hatton Garden with my equally jewellery-obsessed bridesmaid Annika. Only two shops really stood out. The first shop I visited was Anthony Gray Ltd and they came up with the following suggestions:

Twist band with diamonds from Anthony Gray Ltd, Hatton Garden

Not bad at all. The next is a similar ring but without the diamonds and I think I like it a bit more:

Twist band from Anthony Gray Ltd, Hatton Garden

Doesn’t look bad, does it? However, the cost is what got me. Both rings from Anthony Gray Ltd cost more than Laurie Sarah Designs quoted to make me a ring from scratch.

Whilst at Anthony Gray Ltd I also tried on an Ungar and Ungar floral band. A bit pricey at over £1k but beautiful I’m sure you’ll agree:

Ungar and Ungar floral band (8wr328-dd)

Unfortunately it looked completely daft with my engagement ring, unsurprisingly. Probably just as well, given £1k was considerably more than I wanted to spend.

The Wedding Ring Shop in Hatton Garden was another promising shop. They sell bespoke rings too, and have samples you can try on displayed around the shop which makes for a very nice shopping experience. They did have a couple of engraved rings I quite liked and they told me they would create a wishbone for me with engraving on for around the £800 mark, pretty reasonable I thought. Only downside is that you have to pick from one of the designs they have (you can’t get them to recreate one you’ve seen) and I have no idea how their designs would work on a wishbone. Still, I would consider returning there if my Plan A falls through.

Okay, given all this, what the hell is my current Plan A?

There is a jewellers in Ipswich (not far from me) called Carats who make bespoke wedding rings. I e-mailed them and they quoted me for a plain 18ct gold bespoke wishbone, under £600 they tell me. They have an engraver apparently who they’d need to contact separately for a quote for engraving, and of course how much the engraving costs depends on what pattern I want… So, Plan A is to go to Ipswich and see them in person, have a chat and hopefully get a better idea of cost and feasibility. I would also be interested to hear of any other ideas they have regarding a wedding ring too.

So that’s my plan A. I will keep you posted!

P.S. I realise I sound like a complete Bridezilla here, but the truth is I worry aloud on here so that in real life I can seem composed about the wedding, honest 😉

Woodhall Manor Drool-a-thon…

Woodhall Manor, Woodbridge, Suffolk

I went with one of my bridesmaids to visit Woodhall Manor in Woodbridge (near Ipswich, Suffolk) on Sunday.

Oh. My. God.

I knew it was going to be good (their Facebook page has some fabulous pictures of the venue: https://www.facebook.com/WoodhallManorSuffolk and so does their website: http://www.woodhallmanor.co.uk/) but holy moly was it AMAZING. I swear I practically hyperventilated at the point in time I wandered into the bridal suite and spotted the biggest four-poster bed you’ve ever seen. When I turned around and spotted the enormous bath (could easily seat 4) I think I Ally and I both stopped breathing.

Grounds of Woodhall Manor

Grounds of Woodhall Manor

The grounds are absolutely stunning, they even have a dove house complete with doves just above the area where you can get married (if you wanted to get married outside). The venue and grounds are immaculately kept, which is not always the case (Braxted Park, Layer Marney Tower, more on those later). The building is amazing and I love that there are lots of rooms to get lost in so if you don’t want to spend the evening dancing you can go and spend time in the lounge-cum-bar area (I expect to find my husband there from about 7pm onwards on the day, given that he is positively phobic when it comes to dancing).

There are some lovely little touches. The room where the bride gets ready (right at the top of the house, away from everything and lavishly decorated) is beautiful and has a little balcony overlooking the grounds. There are at least two different rooms you can get married in, and you can also choose to get married outside just under the dove house.

Bridal suite

Bridal suite

According to the price list I picked up on Sunday, at time of writing you are looking (for their basic package, in May) at around £105 per person but that does include drinks, 3-course wedding breakfast and evening buffet amongst other things. Also includes exclusive hire of the venue for the day. You pay extra for accommodation, I believe there is a minimum number of rooms you must book depending on the time of year (e.g. during peak season you have to book quite a few of the rooms).

Woodhall Manor

Drive leading to Woodhall Manor

So, in summary, I think it is safe to say that Woodhall Manor is looking like a _serious_ contender…

Fennes Wedding Venue in Braintree

A couple of weeks ago I went to an Open Day for Fennes in Braintree. A colleague had recommended it to me as he had got married there and after a quick peek at the website I decided it was well worth a look.

Fennes, Braintree

Fennes in Braintree

I was impressed when I arrived. The house really is beautiful and as we walked into the house we could hear the harpist playing which really set the atmosphere. It sounded so magical I decided there and then that I needed a harpist at my wedding. I later discovered that the harpist playing at Fennes that day was Maria Beattie so I’ve sent her an e-mail to request a price.

The downstairs of the house is mostly reception rooms (and the Drawing Room which is where ceremonies are held) and upstairs is where the bride gets changed and where guests stay after the wedding.

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room where you can get married

The bedrooms upstairs were beautifully decorated, each had a gorgeous four-poster bed and en-suite. If I hadn’t known the bride and groom get their own bridal cottage (more on that later!) I would have assumed the bridal room was inside the house.

One of the bedrooms at Fennes. They are all decorated to a very high standard.

After the ceremony the bride and groom can stay in the bridal cottage which is stunning, and set away from the house so you’ve got some privacy.

The bridal cottage

The bridal cottage

Fennes appears to be very good value for money, everything you could need is included in the package. On the Open Day staff there seemed very knowledgeable and were able to answer all my questions. For larger weddings there are not one but two marquees and two dance floors at Fennes, so plenty of space if you had a lot of guests.

The downsides? Well firstly that I couldn’t have the ceremony in the beautiful Drawing Room as that only holds 35 people. So that means I would have to have the ceremony either outside (bit dangerous in May?) or in the marquee (not keen on that at all). Another albeit smaller downside is that you get kicked out the morning after at 9.30am. I thought that seemed a bit harsh, why not 10am? My final reservation about the place is that it seems a bit of a wedding factory. That’s probably unfair to say given it is only used for weddings but I did get that feeling a bit.

So, in summary, Fennes is definitely on my maybe list but I’ve got a fair few more to look at before I make up my mind!

Wedding rings – my latest obsession

As you may have gathered from my first post, I am a bit of a jewellery geek (read: obsessed). I have one of those fabulous anti-tarnish jewellery cabinet mirrors from QVC. It’s a wall-mounted shallow cabinet with a mirror on the front and I love filling it up with gorgeous, sparkly, pretty things. Anyways, I digress…

So, I have been thinking about wedding rings and to my surprise, so has V. He has never been much of a fan of jewellery, he doesn’t wear necklaces, doesn’t have an ear pierced, he doesn’t even wear a watch (although there are times when I wish he would!) I had always imagined he’d end up with a plain gold band wedding ring and that would be that. However, to my surprise he actually went online, did some research and actually found a couple of rings he really likes.

This gear ring is the first one he found, available from Kinekt Design.

Kinekt ring

Very cool I’m sure you’ll agree, but not entirely practical. The cogs turn and everything, you should check out the video on the Kinect website.

V is very into science fiction and the next ring he stumbled upon was space-related.

This ring is available from Jewelry Designs for Men. The downsides are that it is quite a fussy ring (for someone who lives in jeans and a T-shirt and never wears jewellery). It’s also quite pricey at $4,200… 😐

Then I stumbled upon another meteorite ring on Etsy by a US seller called Johan Rust (username: jewelrybyjohan):

Meteorite ring

I got geek points for finding this one as it is meteorite and titanium. It’s also fairly affordable and V seemed keen (for him) so he may well settle on this one…

For myself, well… I saw the most gorgeous white gold engraved ring on Brilliant Earth.

Downsides:

  • It’s expensive.
  • It comes from the USA (I live in the UK).
  • I have no idea what US ring size I am.
  • My engagement ring would probably look a bit odd with it to say the least…

I do, however, love it so I’ve contacted the company who did my engagement ring (they do custom orders too) to see if they’ll give me an idea of price. Hopefully they could shape the ring so it sits beneath my engagement ring, although having a shiny setting and a more matt setting will probably look really odd. And my engagement ring setting is quite rounded whereas the Brilliant Earth ring is much more square. And it’ll probably cost millions. I’m probably being ridiculous. I hadn’t imagined budgeting much for wedding rings at all and here I am looking at a custom engraved wedding ring.

I can feel myself heading into chocolate gateaux territory. Sigh.

The Proposal

Before I go off in a frisson of excitement about dresses, cakes and wedding venues I feel I should really fill you in on the details of the proposal.

The question I most frequently got asked when imparting the news of our engagement was: “Did you know it was on the cards?”

The answer? Yes and no…

Clues:

  • My Mum and Dad came to visit end of January. Mum and I buggered off shopping for the day leaving the men to chat and eat lunch. A good time to ask my Dad if ever there was one…
  • Vince was resolutely determined to go away for Valentine’s weekend despite the fact that he did his leg in and was on crutches (tore a calf muscle). Also the weather was snowy and a bit scary. I was nervous about driving but he was determined we’d get there no matter what. He is usually a little more sympathetic if I say I’m concerned about driving in the ice and snow…
  • In the heat of the moment in an argument, V implied he’d been doing some planning for our future. It was the briefest of comments in the briefest of moments but it suddenly hit me that actually he might be contemplating it more than he’d let on…

Evidence to the contrary:

  • Conversations we’d had in the run up to Valentine’s Day had basically gone something along the lines of:
    “So, erm, when do you imagine we might get married? Like, I dunno, erm, I don’t want a time or a date or anything, I just wondered if you’d given it any thought…”
    “We need to sort the kitchen out first, that’s going to cost a lot and we can’t even think about budgeting for a wedding until after that’s done.”
    In retrospect, what a ridiculous question for me to ask.

With him being so resolute about our need to do the kitchen first before we contemplated anything else in our lives I was fairly certain it wasn’t going to happen, although I couldn’t help but torment myself wondering about it…

So, we left for Down Hall Country House Hotel on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day. The hotel was gorgeous, we had a fabulous meal Sunday night at the hotel and we spent Monday wandering round Bishop’s Stortford. In the evening we had the most delicious battered haloumi and chips I’d ever tasted after which we returned to the (hooooj) hotel room to watch Puss In Boots (as you do). V had mentioned he would like to go for a walk at midnight to look at the stars (the Milky Way was supposed to be visible from earth) and despite the fact that we were both tired (and his leg was killing him after walking round Bishop’s Stortford) he still seemed keen so at just after midnight we took a snowy wander in the grounds. I was a little perturbed that he insisted he didn’t need his crutches but he’s never been one to listen to sensible advice so off we went.

Vince was disappointed that there was too much cloud cover to really see anything in the sky but we kept on walking until we reached some trees where we stopped for a cuddle. It was at this point (after the cuddle) he got down on one knee, got out the ring in its box and said “Will you do me the honour of spending the rest of your life with me as my wife?” The rest is a teary blur, but I do remember feeling like I had no air in my lungs for a moment and I managed to say “Oh my God! Yes!” After this he took off my glove and put the ring on my finger. It felt utterly bizarre as obviously I’ve never worn a ring on that finger in my life, and as engagement rings aren’t the flimsiest of things it felt huge and substantial on my finger. We hugged again, I was in a complete daze, and we took a (slow) walk back to our room where I could have a proper look at the ring…

The rest, as they say, is history.

I have a confession to make…

I have a confession to make. Before I got engaged I was completely dreading the idea of planning a wedding. I’d seen others go through it and I could only liken it to childbirth – a painful, stressful, necessary evil but you get something good at the end. My friends told me how tough it was to stay on budget and when I heard how much their weddings had cost them I felt a bit sick. Why would you want to spend sooo much on just one day? I had even considered at this point just running off to the registry office and getting married.

But… What I hadn’t anticipated at all was that I would get completely seduced by wedding planning. As soon as that ring was on my finger I suddenly realised that actually I could (wedding-wise at least) have anything I wanted. Roses and peonies? Sure. White Moroccan lanterns? Why not. Beautiful dress? Of course! I went out and bought wedding magazines for the first time, that was a thrill in itself. I started looking at Rock My Wedding and Offbeat Bride and drooling over the wedding photos. Uh-oh…

I had a conversion in the office with a male colleague not long after I got engaged about the cost of weddings. I gave the usual “Why would you spend so much on one day?” argument. His answer? “You only get to do this the once!” (Okay, in theory ;-))  And there was my answer.

Now, I am a bit obsessed. I am sure my fiancée is the one for me, I feel like we’ve been waiting a long time for this. I’ve seen wedding venues I would happily maim myself for and I get completely carried away.  And so I realised that, actually, this isn’t so much like childbirth after all. It’s like going to a lovely party that has delicious, calorific food on every table and you’re on a diet. I’m terrified willpower will abandon me I’m going to face mash the triple-choc raspberry-topped gateaux…

Oh. My. God.

Oh. Em. Gee. Ohmigod. Oh. My. God.

Marquise diamond solitaire engagement ring

I said yes! Vince proposed on 14th of February 2012 and I said YES! More on the proposal later…

Okay, for you jewellery and gemstone geeks out there, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the vital statistics from the GIA Diamond Dossier.

Shape and cutting style: Marquise Brilliant
Colour: G
Clarity: VS1
Carat: 0.4
Polish and symmetry: Very Good
Setting is 18K white gold, 4 claw setting.

Close-up of engagement ring

In summary, I am a Very Lucky Girl.