Ask Heather: Engagement party and shower guests

Engagement party guests

Image courtesy of How Stuff Works

Dear Heather,

Does everyone who is invited to our engagement party have to be invited to our wedding? What about the bridal shower?

Party Etiquette

Dear Etiquette,

If someone is invited to celebrate your engagement with you, that person should also be invited to celebrate your wedding with you. This obviously doesn’t guarantee they’ll be able to attend, but they should at least be invited. The only exception to this rule is if you’re keeping your wedding very small, but want to include more people in the engagement celebration. In this instance, however, make sure that those invited know that gifts are not expected and warn folks in advance that you’re keeping the wedding invitation list to immediate family only, lest anyone think they offended you at the engagement party and therefore were not invited to the wedding. In general, though, the engagement party guest list is smaller than that for the wedding, involving the bridal party, immediate family, and very close friends.

The etiquette for showers is a bit different. For the most part, anyone who receives a shower invite should also receive a wedding invitation, which is why it’s important to coordinate with whoever is hosting your shower. The main exception are showers held at workplaces. Since not everyone has the space or the budget to invite their coworkers but said coworkers often want to celebrate a person’s upcoming nuptials, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a work-based bridal shower but not have those folks also invited to the wedding.

Did you have a work-related bridal shower? Were you able to invite your coworkers to your wedding? Let me know in the comments below!

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A-Z Guide – Wedding Angst

Wedding brain and anxiety

Image courtesy of Bridal Quince Guide

(My A-Z Guide is a resource for people planning an event, be it a wedding, birthday party, shower, etc. As long as it’s related to events, it’s fair game for this series. Please add to the usefulness of this guide by leaving your opinion, advice, or perspective in the comments below! And if you have topic suggestions, definitely mention those, as well!)

Weddings make people crazy. And by “people”, I basically mean everyone – the couple, family, friends, guests. I’m pretty sure the only ones who aren’t crazy are the couple’s pets, and even they might get caught up in the insanity. This is normal. It’s to be expected. So please don’t beat yourself up when it happens. You’re juggling a lot of things, and that can make a person a bit nuts.

If you were throwing a regular party, no one would get their panties in a bunch if their kids weren’t invited. With weddings, this all changes. With a normal party, no one freaks out if they aren’t welcome to bring a date. Welcome to weddings, where this can turn into a huge issue. And in party-land, someone not RSVPing just means they might be there or they might not. But in Wedding World, that lack of an RSVP throws off the entire seating chart and is not acceptable!!!

What am I saying here? That while many folks view a wedding to be just a bigger party, it’s not. And this causes many couples quite a bit of angst. The cure – don’t view the wedding as a party with some vows thrown in. It’s big. It’s important. And it has its own stressors. Do not judge yourself for getting a bit freaked out, and try to not judge your guests when they get all weird on you.

When it gets really bad, let yourself spend a bit of time in Angst Land, then pack your bags and get out of there. Go to the gym. Hang out with your dog. Go make out with your future spouse. Do something to bring yourself back to Normal Land. But don’t berate yourself for the time you spent freaking out. That will only make it worse, and then you’ll judge yourself for making it worse, and it’ll turn into this horrible downward spiral. Just feel the angst, revel in it a bit, and let it go.

Have you freaked out yet during wedding planning? What did you do to back away from Angst Land? Let me know in the comments below!

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A-Z Guide – Alterations

Wedding dress alterations

Image courtesy of Cool Wedding Dress

(My A-Z Guide is a resource for people planning an event, be it a wedding, birthday party, shower, etc. As long as it’s related to events, it’s fair game for this series. Please add to the usefulness of this guide by leaving your opinion, advice, or perspective in the comments below! And if you have topic suggestions, definitely mention those, as well!)

Unless you’re incredibly fortunate and manage to score some off-the-rack number that fits you perfectly, you will likely need to have your wedding dress altered to fit your beautiful figure. If nothing else, should your dress have a train, you’ll need to have a bustle put in unless you want to be dealing with that train while dancing, walking, etc. Even if you’ve dealt with tailoring garments before, do not assume your wedding dress will be of a similar vein. Thanks to the various embellishments and fabrics, altering a wedding dress is different from taking in a shirt or hemming a pair of pants.

Prior to alterations

Step one with alterations is finding a gown that fits you as well as possible, realizing that a perfect fit is unlikely. Ideally, aim to fit the biggest part of your body and count on taking in the rest of the dress. The closer the original dress is to your body size, the less expensive your alterations will be. And taking a dress in is easier than letting one out, as many dresses have only so much seam allowance. Also, if you’re purchasing a dress in velvet or satin, do not count on being able to let the dress out at all, as the original seam lines will show.

When I saw “fit the biggest part of your body”, I do not mean “buy an off-the-rack dress that’s six sizes too big”. Even if you save money on the dress, you will pay for it in alterations, since the dress will basically need to be taken apart and put back together. Have the bridal shop take your measurements and order the dress that’s as close to your size as possible, erring on the “a little too big” side. And give yourself plenty of time for delivery. When I ordered my gown, the bridal shop ordered the wrong size. Twice. Do not settle for a dress that isn’t your size. Insist they order the correct size, as it will make alterations much easier. Also, be aware that bridal sizing differs from normal sizing. You may be a street size 4 and a bridal size 10. This is normal. Go by the measurements, not the number size of the dress. The same goes for any vintage finds you may score. Verify the measurements, not the size.

Finding that perfect tailor

When it comes to gown alterations, please find someone who has experience specifically with wedding gowns, and do not automatically just go with the alteration shop at the bridal store. Look at reviews online. Get recommendations. Shop around! There’s a good chance this will be one of the most expensive pieces of clothing you’ve ever bought. Don’t let just anyone take a pair of scissors to it! And don’t automatically go with the lowest estimate; you might just get what you pay for. Ask to see previous work and speak with past clients.

Price

And now … price. Most tailors will not give an estimate over the phone, as they need to see exactly how the dress needs to be altered. On average, hemming will be $140-225, taking in the torso will cost $50-200, installing a bustle will be $55-95, and putting in cups (if you aren’t wearing a bra) will run around $20-40. For most dresses, count on spending around $250-450, with that number going up as the dress becomes more complicated (embellishments, lace, beading, etc).

The actual appointment

When you make your alterations appointment (and YES, you do need an appointment, ideally when your tailor is focused only on you), please wear whatever undergarments and shoes you intend to wear on your wedding day. You would be stunned how much those items can affect the way a garment fits or hangs. If you’re wearing heels and you don’t have your actual wedding shoes yet, wear a pair with the same heel height. Do not just plan on standing on tiptoes throughout the appointment. First, this will be exhausting on your calves and second, it almost guarantees an uneven hem.

Also, for the love of all things holy, don’t go to your fitting right after a workout. You’ll be sweaty and gross, which isn’t good for either your dress or your tailor. And if you’re planning on losing a bunch of weight, or getting breast augmentation, or are 7 months pregnant, please tell your tailor. Having a dress altered is expensive enough; you certainly don’t want to have to do it twice. And when it comes to cosmetic surgery, give your body a good six months to fully settle and heal. Otherwise, things might move around a bit from one appointment to the next.

During your appointment, when your tailor is moving around you, do not move unless specifically instructed. You don’t want to get poked by a pin, and your tailor doesn’t want to get accidentally elbowed in the face. In addition, if your tailor tells you that something cannot be done, she is either in over her head or it legitimately cannot be done. Feel free to question her and figure out which situation you are facing. If it’s the former, you might want to find a different tailor. If it’s the latter, please trust her and don’t try for the impossible.

Once your tailor is finished pinning and has given you the go ahead, move around! I’m assuming you aren’t planning on standing still with perfect posture throughout the duration of your wedding day, so make sure you can move! Walk around, dance, sit down, cross your arms, do whatever you might do on that day. If anything is too tight or too loose or sagging, now is the time to figure that out.

Timing the appointment

Most brides end up needing three appointments. The first will be when your tailor gets your measurements and sees you in the dress for the first time. The second is after the initial round of alterations have been made. Your final fitting should be around two weeks prior to your wedding, to allow for any last-minute weight changes and make sure there’s still time to fix any remaining issues. In a perfect world, if you have a complicated bustle, see if your mom or maid of honor or a bridesmaid can tag along, so she can operate the bustle on your wedding day. Some of those bad boys have a freakish number of buttons, hooks, etc, and can be intimidating to the uninitiated.

After the appointment

The dress is altered and ready to come home with you! Yay! Please do not just shove it into a bag and assume it’ll be ready to go on your wedding day. If this is your strategy, your gown will likely be a wrinkled mess when you take it out of that bag. With my dress, I hung it up, out of the bag, and let the train flow free. This might necessitate using a guest room closet, if you’re keeping the dress a secret from your partner, or storing your dress at a family member or friend’s house. If none of these options work for you, talk to your tailor about keeping your dress until close to your wedding day and having them steam the dress before you pick it up. Or, if you’re really lucky, they might deliver your dress directly to you.

Did your dress require a bunch of alterations? Did you face any issues along the way? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ask Heather: Mother-in-law involvement

Wedding dress shopping with mom and mother in law

Dear Heather,

My future mother-in-law wants to be involved in everything related to the wedding. Do I have to include her when I go dress shopping? I really want it to be just me and my mom.

Still Mommy’s Girl

Dear Still,

Your FMIL will soon be your MIL, and therefore a part of your family. I totally understand wanting to only share the dress experience with your mom, but maybe you could schedule a couple of trips, the first with only your mom, and the second to show off the dress you and your mom chose together. Personally, I ended up going to three different dress shops, and making two trips to the one where I eventually bought my dress, so you could very well need to make more than one trip anyway. Or, perhaps you could include your FMIL using Skype or FaceTime. If you’re worried that your FMIL will be overbearing in regards to selecting the dress, you could also just invite her to your first fitting, so she has no other options except for the one you and your mom have already chosen.

As far as the rest of the wedding – are you open to your FMIL being involved in the details? If so, try to include her as much as possible. There’s definitely no harm in getting your relationship off on the right foot from the very start. On the other hand, if you need her to back off a little, give her a few things where she has total control and rein her in when it comes to everything else. For instance, if she’s gung ho about fashion, perhaps you could put her in charge of the outfits for the flower girl and ring bearer. Or if she’s passionate about music, ask for her help with your “must play” and “do not play” lists. Ideally, her preferences will lie where yours do not, which will mean that she’s essentially taking work you do not want off of your list of things to do!

Is your FMIL determined to play a big role in the wedding? Or is she content to let you run with whatever decisions you make? Let me know in the comments below!

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A-Z Guide – Age at Your Wedding

Kid views on weddings

Image courtesy of Web Kid Store

(My A-Z Guide is a resource for people planning an event, be it a wedding, birthday party, shower, etc. As long as it’s related to events, it’s fair game for this series. Please add to the usefulness of this guide by leaving your opinion, advice, or perspective in the comments below! And if you have topic suggestions, definitely mention those, as well!)

Marriage and weddings are rife with age-related judgements – “You’re too young to get married.” “Why aren’t you married yet?” “There’s such a big age difference between you and your fiancé(e).” Thankfully, there are advantages to getting married young and old, as well as just staying single. Since this is a wedding-related post, though, I’m going to leave the latter topic alone and focus on those folks who are tying the knot, regardless of how old they may be.

In the United States, the median age for a first marriage is roughly 27 for women and 29 for men, but this varies from state to state. For a good graphic of this breakdown, check out this webpage at news.mic. Unsurprisingly, folks in more urban areas tend to wait a little longer to get married, whereas the ages skew younger in the South and West. These ages are only medians, though, meaning half are younger and half are older than those ages, so don’t feel like you’re the odd man out if you aren’t close to those numbers.

If you do any research on weddings and ages, a lot of websites will mention that Americans are getting older and older at their first marriage. However, the timeline they use usually starts at 1950 or 1960. A lovely graphic at U.S. News and World Report points out that those decades were a weird trough in regards to marriage age. So, while folks are getting married a little later, the historical difference isn’t as great as many sites would have you believe. Also, this same site notes that because people are living longer, even though they are getting married later, the overall length of their marriages is longer.

With all of that background, here’s the point of this article – there are advantages to getting married both younger and older, so no matter which camp you’re in, feel free to use this information to defend yourself against the naysayers. Or just ignore the haters – that also works.

Marrying younger

Let’s start out with those folks who marry young, and by “young”, I mean in your 20s, since there was a study showing that divorce is twice as likely for a women who marries at 18 vs 22. First off – getting married earlier could make you happier, especially for those who are 22-25 at their first marriage. Now, this doesn’t mean that folks who wait are unhappy, just that waiting for the sake of being happier is not necessary. And the “happy” aspect is definitely linked to marriage, as indicated by the National Marriage Project’s “Knot Yet” report, which noted that substantially more married people in their twenties were “highly satisfied” with their lives as opposed to those who were single or cohabiting.

Those who marry young also have more sex, as documented by Dana Rotz, who stated, “a four year increase in age at marriage is associated with a couple having sex about one time less per month.” Plus, the earlier you marry, the longer time you have to get it on with your spouse! And the benefits don’t end there. People who marry early tend to drink less alcohol, which is beneficial in that it helps with weight loss, decreased blood pressure, better sleep, better skin, and more money.

Lastly, according to a study titled Later First Marriage and Marital Success, “[their] findings do suggest that most persons have little or nothing to gain in the way of marital success by deliberately postponing marriage beyond the mid twenties.” In other words, if you find that special someone when you’re still in your early twenties, there’s no advantage to waiting around just for the sake of being older.

Marrying older

And now, let’s focus on those who wait until their 30s or beyond. In general, waiting to get married especially benefits college-educated females. If you’re a woman, you’ll make more money, on average an annual premium of $18,152 for those who are college graduates. (Note: the earnings effect is the opposite for men – they benefit from marrying earlier.) Women who have gone to college also tend to wait longer to have children, which means their kids are born into the relatively more stable environment of marriage, as opposed to single parenthood. Plus, “When couples are married when their first child is born, there’s a 13 percent chance they’ll separate within the first five year’s of the child’s life. When couples are cohabitating, their chances of breaking up within that period are 39 percent.” So, waiting longer to marry but even longer to have children can decrease the odds of that couple separating.

Those who marry later are also more emotionally mature. A study done by the National Institutes of Health found that brain development may not be complete until the age of 25, so waiting to marry may result in a person better knowing what they want and being more prepared to deal with emotional conflicts. In addition, older people tend to be more financially secure, so they avoid much of the financial strife that plagues younger couples.

Getting married older can also positively impact the overall quality of your marriage. “Compared to couples who marry in their twenties, those who married significantly later report less work-related stress, less marital conflict and more couple interaction and satisfaction.” In addition, increased life experiences prior to marriage gives a person more time to learn how to recognize dangerous behavior and establish a supportive community, which can decrease the likelihood of domestic violence.

And there’s also the simple fact that, for some folks, finding the right person just takes a bit longer. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with refusing to settle and therefore marrying later in life.

Are you a younger couple getting married? Or have you waited a bit longer than most? How do you think this will impact your marriage, and have you received any judgement from others for your choice? Let me know in the comments below!

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Ask Heather: Uninvited plus ones

Image courtesy of Dyn

Dear Heather,

How do you handle guests who add a plus-one to their response card when they were not invited with an additional guest?

Not Invited!

Dear Not,

This is a definite example of a guest’s “lack of social graces” problem. Alas, their deficiency should not transfer onto you exhibiting a similar performance. With the stress that goes along with planning a wedding, I’m pretty sure my initial reaction would be to call them and be all, “What the hell?! So-and-so wasn’t invited.” Fight this impulse.

If your venue, budget, and wedding vision can accommodate the extra guest, you might just want to grin and bear it. If this guest responded with an uninvited plus-one, perhaps this is their somewhat tactless way of saying they’re uncomfortable flying solo. Or maybe their relationship with the plus-one is far more significant than you realized when you sent the invitation. Or maybe they just don’t know any better and assumed that they were welcome to bring someone.

On the flip side, if this uninvited guest just cannot fly, your best (but potentially very uncomfortable) option is to call the person who you invited and talk to them. Find out why they RSVP’d with an uninvited plus one. If they feel weird coming without a date, point out all of the other people they’ll know who will be in attendance. If their relationship with this plus-one is more significant than your realized, you might need to figure out a way to include this person. Or, if they simply didn’t know any better, this is a lovely opportunity to let them know about invitation etiquette.

One potential scenario, unfortunately, is that the guest in question will choose to not attend without their plus-one. This is something you should consider prior to placing the aforementioned phone call. If it ends up being that important to them, can you squeeze in one more?

Did any of your guests try to squeeze in an uninvited plus-one? Or were you able to include a plus-one for everyone who desired it? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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A-Z Guide – After party

Cheers at wedding after party

Image courtesy of A Practical Wedding

(My A-Z Guide is a resource for people planning an event, be it a wedding, birthday party, shower, etc. As long as it’s related to events, it’s fair game for this series. Please add to the usefulness of this guide by leaving your opinion, advice, or perspective in the comments below! And if you have topic suggestions, definitely mention those, as well!)

If you’re having a “typical” wedding, your ceremony will start around 5pm and the reception will end around 11pm or midnight, usually due to requirements from the venue. For most women, hair and makeup will start around 9 or 10am. The guys get lucky, and don’t usually have to be anywhere until around 1 or 2pm, but the ladies have a really long day. And if you’re the bride, you’ll likely be pretty tired at the end of all of this.

But, exhausted or not, you might not want the party to end! Herein comes the after party.

After parties give the couple a way to keep the party going, without impacting their budget or necessitating long discussions with the reception venue. Basically, it’s a no-host continuation of the wedding, which usually occurs at either the hotel bar or a bar within walking/stumbling distance of the reception venue.

Since it’s a no-host event (meaning the attendees are paying for whatever they eat or drink), the after party isn’t listed on the official invitations. Basically, it’s a word-of-mouth thing that spreads during the reception. The newlyweds can choose to attend, or they can opt to bow out and let their guests keep partying. It’s totally up to them, but it’s nice to at least show up for a drink or two. After all, these folks are in the area to see you, so you may as well make the rounds and hang out a little, in a less formal setting than your reception.

My husband and I had an after party at a nearby bar, and I opted to just go in my wedding dress. Wearing that dress into a dive bar was one of the most memorable parts of the night!

Do you have a spot in mind for your after party? Did you have one when you got married? Let me know in the comments below!

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A-Z Guide – Adopting other’s ideas

Pinterest wedding inspiration

Image courtesy of Someecards

(My A-Z Guide is a resource for people planning an event, be it a wedding, birthday party, shower, etc. As long as it’s related to events, it’s fair game for this series. Please add to the usefulness of this guide by leaving your opinion, advice, or perspective in the comments below! And if you have topic suggestions, definitely mention those, as well!)

Of all of the couples I’ve met, it’s universally been the women with Pinterest accounts, and their wedding pages are usually set to private. I’m not sure why more guys don’t use Pinterest – it’s incredibly useful. Obviously, Pinterest needs to rethink its marketing strategy and maybe pursue the men a bit more.

It’s also been the women who are reading the wedding-related blogs and magazines. And therefore, it’s the women who are worried that elements of their wedding will look overdone. When they mention this, the men at the meetings look at them as though they are crazy. And there’s a reason for this phenomenon!

When you are over-saturated in wedding-related media, it seems like everyone is doing [insert trend here]. (Note: Since planning my own wedding up to the present day, I am over-saturated in wedding-related media. I see nothing wrong with this, so no judgement here.) However, unlike us, the majority of wedding guests are not reading wedding blogs and pinning wedding ideas to a fairly obsessive degree (again, no judgement; I’m right there with you). To them, [insert trend] will likely be something they’ve never seen before. Or, even if they have seen it, they’ve never seen your spin on that idea.

Don’t feel bad that you weren’t the first person to think of [insert trend]. You will be the first person ever to execute it your way. There’s nothing at all wrong with adopting someone else’s idea, and I can almost guarantee that none of your guests will be thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’ve seen that at dozens of other weddings.” Mostly because, unlike your vendors, guests don’t tend to go to dozens of weddings. And if the vendors think it’s overdone … well, their opinions shouldn’t really matter to you that much. They’re there to do a job, not judge you.

And speaking of vendors – if you’re looking for an idea that will likely be novel to your guests, use those folks you’ve hired as resources! They’ve worked a bunch of weddings and have seen tons of ideas being used. There’s no one better to know what actually works and what ends up being a total train wreck.

Are you worried that something you’re considering has been done too many times before? Did you use a “trendy” idea at your wedding? Let me know all about it in the comments below!

Categories: A-Z, DIY Decor, Pinterest, Wedding

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Recap – Pirate-themed Co-ed Baby Shower

I have a confession: I am embarrassed that I haven’t done a recap on this event yet. Other than my wedding, this is the first event I ever did. And when I say, “did”, I really mean it. I cooked the food, came up with the favors, made the “cake” … other than the invitations and cupcake toppers, purchased off Etsy, this whole thing was my creation. It was a co-ed pirate-themed baby shower, and the parents-to-be couldn’t have been happier!

One of the activities for guests was a decorate-your-own-onesie station, with clothesline to feature creations after they were completed:

Pirate baby shower bunting in Pittsburgh

The food table continued the theme, as well as providing a truly ridiculous amount of food for people to ingest:

Cupcakes at Pittsburgh pirate baby shower

Food table at Pittsburgh pirate baby shower

The favors were containers filled with chocolate “coins”, as well as mini-bottles of vodka, because nothing says baby shower like liquor :)

Vodka and chocolate favors at pirate-themed Pittsburgh baby shower

This was the first diaper cake I ever created, and I think it turned out well! The blue octopus was a dog toy for the baby-to-be’s older doggie sister, to be featured later:

Diaper cake at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

From in utero, this child was destined to be preppy:

Preppy onesie at pirate-themed Pittsburgh baby shower

And he was also destined to be a pirate:

Pirate onesie at Pittsburgh baby shower

The onesie station proved to be a great success:

Frat boy onesie at Pirate-themed Pittsburgh baby shower

Pirate onesie at Pittsburgh baby shower

This book is probably one of the best ever gifts for new parents-to-be, because they obviously deserve presents, too!

Gift at pirate-themed Pittsburgh baby shower

As far as new moms go – champagne also makes for a lovely baby shower present:

Champagne at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

And now, the aforementioned doggie sister. First, she shakes that bootie:

Dog bootie at pirate-themed Pittsburgh baby shower

Then, she gives kisses to guests:

Dog kisses at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

She’s taunted by a cookie:

Dog temptation at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

And spoiled by other guests:

Spoiled dog at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

Still, her life is exceptionally difficult:

Sad dog at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

As far as booze goes, this is what happens at a co-ed baby shower with many fraternity brothers:

Beer at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

Yet the 7-month pregnant mom still outlasted many of the menfolk:

Mom and dog at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

Many thanks to Anna, for allowing me to throw her baby shower. I love you in the face!

Mom and me at Pittsburgh pirate-themed baby shower

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Ask Heather: Engagement ring woes

Wedding engagement rings

Image courtesy of Larson Jewelers

Dear Heather,

What do I do if I hate my engagement ring?

Not Loving the Ring

Dear Not Loving,

There are a few approaches to this problem. First, I suggest you examine why you don’t like it. Does it have to do with the setting? Cut of the stone? Size of the stone? Type of stone? All of these questions will play into which approach you end up taking.

If nothing else, please realize that this ring is something given to you during the proposal, so hopefully it has at least some sentimental value. “Hate” is a really strong word. Is there a chance you can eventually learn to love (or at least tolerate) this ring? If so, that’s definitely the easiest and least confrontational option.

The next option – tell your fiancé that it just isn’t your style. Depending on why it isn’t your style, your fiancé’s feelings will likely end up hurt by this admission. The main risk here – the ring might not be returnable, meaning your fiancé will end up knowing that you don’t like the ring but unable to really do anything about it.

In an ideal world, you’ll confess to your fiancé that you don’t like the ring and will be able to exchange it for something that’s more your taste. Realize, though – this will not be the ring used during the proposal. It will be more your style, but you won’t have the knowledge that it was chosen by your fiancé specifically for you.

For those of you who have yet to receive a ring – the obvious strategy is to give a little guidance. If there’s anything about the ring that’s non-negotiable for you, the time to reveal that information is not after the proposal has already occurred.

Was your ring not 100% to your liking? How did you handle that situation? Let me know in the comments below!

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