Diamonds 101

Time to get down to business. Most first-time grooms don’t understand enough about diamonds and rings to make a good selection. That’s understandable…they’ve never done this before and typically this isn’t a father-son sharing moment.

There are four basic components that make up a diamond: carat, cut, color, and clarity.

Carat is the size of the stone. The cut is the shape of the stone. Clarity relates to the number of imperfections in the stone.

While size can be important, clarity is more important because clarity is the primary thing that affects brightness and determines value. A large diamond with a lot of imperfections won’t shine as brightly and it could have a lower assessed value than a smaller diamond with only one imperfection.

You determine clarity by looking at the diamond through a special magnifier, which are available at all jewelers. When you look at the diamond, imperfections will show as a dark spot or a string like flaw within the diamond. They are not hard to spot, even for the novice.

Color is self-explanatory. You want a diamond to be white. A stone that is more yellow or dusty white is less valuable.

The cut can be complicated because there are so many these days. Grooms should remember that complicated cuts cost more. That’s because a diamond cutter must start with a bigger stone and because every cut could create a flaw so it requires the best workman to keep the value of the diamond.

The more cuts there are, the more the diamond will catch the light and shine brilliantly.

Typically, the round stone has the least cuts. Stone shapes that have more cuts are marques diamonds and specialty cuts like heart-shaped.

Grooms need to also learn about styles of rings. There are three general styles: classic, vintage and modern.

Classic is a style that will stand the test of time. Generally, it’s a standard cut stone in a fairly simple setting and band. There are variations within the classic style including diamond bands and multiple diamonds in the engagement ring. Jessica Simpson and, surprisingly, Fergie, have classic style rings.

Vintage is usually a ring that is from an estate or heirloom and dates back before 1950, although some of the newer styles hail back to that era in style. Generally, it includes multiple smaller stones, perhaps a non-diamond stone like a sapphire, and lots of impact. Princess Diana, and now Prince William’s bride, Kate, has such a ring.

Modern rings are simple, clean cuts but are wonderful in their understatement and unusual design. They focus more on the band and often use twisted gold or silver in the band. They are more likely to make a personal statement or hold some secret meaning than any other ring. Think Jennifer Anniston and Carrie Underwood. Both have contemporary rings.

There are four big trends in rings right now and it’s a good bet most brides are into at least one. They are: pave stones, which are very small diamond groups in the ring set so tightly that you can’t see metal, vintage ring styles – like the halo ring which has diamonds encircling the center stone, colored stones in the set either as a center stone or somewhere in the band, and stacked rings which are several bands put together to create a tower on her finger with the center stone in the middle.

Whatever your decision, make sure you buy from a reputable jeweler and make sure it matches your girlfriend’s personality. After all, she must love it for the rest of her life because she will love you for the rest of your life.





Picking out an engagement ring

I think we need to take a moment and backtrack a bit from wedding planning to talk about the proposal. Naturally, the ring is a major part in that so it is worthy of discussion.

Many grooms-to-be begin this journey clueless of how to buy a ring. After all, many have never done it before and, hopefully, will never do it again. And this is one area where fathers don’t seem to be able to pass on their knowledge.

There was a television news story last year talking about the fact that many modern brides want – no expect – huge diamond engagement rings. The young men featured in the story were perplexed and discouraged because they didn’t have the money for that type of ring.

I indeed felt sorry for them and wanted to scream at the television that they should run very quickly away from that girl.

It is sad that girls today do, in fact, insist on a celebrity diamond ring. The reason for this is simple: they want to show it to their friends and make them jealous. It’s a way to tell everyone they are better than you and, I think, is a sign of insecurity and immaturity.

With that said, a man should strive to get the love of their life a ring that will make her happy. They should put some thought into it and, yes, sacrifice a bit of hard-earned cash.

The idea is that a man is thoughtful enough to give a token of love that matches his bride. Women want a man who knows what they want without them needing to tell them.

Practically, such traditions have always proven to the woman the intended groom could afford a secure life for her. A bit old-fashioned, true, but somehow it is built into our psyche.

The first known recorded engagement jewelry is in Genesis 24. In the story, a servant of Abraham swore to him that he would find a proper bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac. The man traveled back to Abraham’s home country and found Rebekah. He gave her a nose ring and two bracelets, all gold, and asked about her parents.

Naturally, her father was impressed and gave permission for her to marry Isaac. She left her family the next day to travel back with the man to her groom.

The moral of the story is the ring is important if you want a “yes.”

The most important aspect of the ring is to get one that matching the woman’s personality. This is where one must pay close attention because it is crucial, regardless of the size of the diamond. The one thing women want most is to think their guy understands them.

When Chef Mike and I were talking marriage, I had a set idea of the ring I wanted. It wasn’t a certain size or a special designer, but was a certain style. A unique style. Something I hadn’t really seen before.

As we were looking in jewelry stores, I tried to point out some rings I thought were close and described what I liked and what I didn’t like. Mike kept going to one particular style I had absolutely no interest in. It looked like his mother, not me.

After a few days of this, I asked if he had already gotten the ring and if it was that style. He said not really, but after some interrogating I discovered the conspiracy plan.

Mike’s mother had upgraded ring sets over the years and so she had a two or three older sets she no longer wore. His dad had suggested that Mike give me one of those sets, saving money, grief and time.

I was appalled.

My reaction was so volatile that I wasn’t sure if Mike would still want to marry me. However, he felt ashamed after I explained my feelings and apologized.

My thoughts were that to give me one of his mother’s old sets was like giving me  hand-me-down clothes. There was no sentimental attachment to those rings. They were discarded for better ones. The thought that Mike shouldn’t spend any money, time, or thought into picking out my engagement ring made me feel like his family – and ultimately him – thought I wasn’t worthy of the effort. I had waited a long time for marriage and felt I was certainly worthy of more effort than that.

Plus, the style was totally not me and wearing one of those rings would be like wearing his mother’s shoes when I’m a size five and she’s a nine. It just wouldn’t fit.

Mike ended up buying me a ring through a jewelry wholesaler connection. He designed it himself and – bonus – only paid about half of the retail value. Being a frugal person, that made me very happy.

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a ring:

  • Don’t go into debt over it. You should be able to pay for it in cash. If you need to wait to save for it then wait. Don’t put it on credit.
  • The younger the couple the smaller the ring. You are just getting started in life and need to put some money toward your life together, like a house or furniture. Don’t expect to have everything at 22 that most people get at 40.
  • Consequently, the older the bride the bigger the ring. Older couples have careers, have investments, and savings. An older bride will expect a larger ring because she knows you can afford it. They also feel they deserve it because they have waited a long time. If you chintz, she will feel like you don’t value her.
  • Understand your bride’s personality. Look at her hobbies and that will give you a clue into the style she would want. Her clothes are also an indicator. You are marrying her, you should know her well. You can also get one of her relatives, like a cousin or brother, to help pick out a ring


Picking a paid venue

This event was at the Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta. The building has an artsy warehouse feel, which some may see at unfinished, but was lovely with decor.

The third option for a ceremony and reception is renting a paid venue. Within that category, there are a multitude of choices.

Obviously, the first choice is to pick a venue geared specifically to weddings. The advantages of this is convenience and the ease of making choices because, typically, everything is included. Some may not want the stress of meeting with different florists, caterers, rental companies etc.

The disadvantages is that a wedding facility limits your choices and, typically, costs more. Sometimes, you can get a package deal with some discounts, but remember you are dealing with a preferred vendor monopoly at a wedding facility so the package is a “take it all or leave it all” option. There is very little negotiating because most owners feel if you want the place bad enough, you’ll pay it.

If you are serious about this option, make sure you like the food and the menu, make sure you like their floral choices and the wedding coordinator. Contracts with such facilities are very difficult to get out of and most require at least half down.

Some facilities will let you go off the preferred caterer, florist or other preferred professional list if you pay an additional fee. Usually that is $500. This ensures the venue owner they make their profit off such a service even though you are bringing in someone else. While most don’t see the need to spend extra money to hire someone outside the realms of the venue, there are times when it can become necessary.

An example: A few years ago, I got a call from a very upset couple. They had put down a deposit at a country club facility for their summer wedding. The facility had it set up for one particular company to do all its catering. They didn’t like this man in charge of catering. The caterer wanted them to have an expensive event (so he would make a lot of money) and they wanted something simpler that would fit into their budget and their tastes. The caterer began to treat them rudely, not returning phone calls and such.

The facility had the buyout option so the couple brought us in. For the couple, the extra money was worth not having to deal with the preferred caterer. As it turned out, we provided them with the exact menu they wanted and our prices were so much lower than the original caterer that it more than made up the additional $500 they had to spend to get out of the deal.

Another paid venue option is having your wedding at a hotel. This is very popular in northern areas like New York because their hotels are spectacular. Again, if you do this, you will be required to use the hotel catering but some will allow you to bring in other vendors like florists. This will likely also be more expensive.

I like to urge couples to look at other facilities that allow you to choose your vendors. Options include city community centers, state parks, libraries, theaters, museums, art galleries, gardens, subdivision club houses, or gated community buildings. These come in a spectrum of costs, so many are good options for those on a budget.

Community centers and state parks are going to be the most affordable. Many communities have, in recent years, built new upscale centers that offer full commercial kitchens and beautiful lobbies. State parks have shelters (I’m talking about a building not a pavilion), which can be lovely.

This was a wedding at one of the shelters at Red Top Mountain State Park. The shelter holds up to 250 people and was $250 for this wedding.

One of our favorite venues is Red Top Mountain near Acworth. One shelter is renovated and is on the lake. The other would hold more people but isn’t renovated. Both have good fireplaces which provide for a good atmosphere for a winter or early spring event.

Depending on your location, some of these type of buildings may need some extra decor to spruce it up. Others may be new. It varies so you will  have to physically look at each building. Most cost between $250 to $1,000.

Libraries typically have private rooms they are willing to rent to small groups. Some have a historical room which is interesting as a backdrop, but they may be cautious about food and drink in there.

Theaters are typically owned by a community volunteer group, so they are always looking for ways to make money when there is not a production. Some have beautiful lobby or guest reception areas, which would be ideal for a reception. Others have only a stage, but even that could be put into use for a ceremony or a reception. This would be ideal for a couple who are into theater or the arts.

Art galleries, museums, and gardens are in the same financial boat as theaters. Most aren’t profitable on their own, so they rent out. There might be some stipulations on food and drink set up areas because of the displays, but otherwise they are easy to work with.

This wedding was at the Roselawn Museum in Cartersville. It is a beautiful 19th century estate home, but filled with expensive antiques that guests and wedding workers must be careful around.

Rents on these type of facilities range from $200 to $2,000 depending on the space. A small community venue would be less than something like the High Museum or Fox Theater in Atlanta. Also, when you go for larger venues in places like Atlanta or New York, be aware they have their own food services and will require you to use those services.

Finally, you have community club houses, country clubs, and gated facility venues. The only disadvantage for these venues is you have to be sponsored by a member. Prices for most of these venues start at $500 and can go up to $3,000.

Community club houses and some gated facility venues, like Big Canoe in Jasper, Ga., allow outside vendors. County clubs require you use their services, but they do work with you on the menu and the price a little better than a wedding facility.

This was a rehearsal dinner at the Big Canoe clubhouse. Gorgeous facility that allows outside vendors, but expensive.

I encourage couples to think outside the box to find a venue they can afford. One of our brides was quite creative. During the extreme downfall of the housing market, she worked out a deal with a realtor to pay a small rent for a day’s use of a gorgeous million-dollar house that wasn’t selling.

See the home she rented

Since there was no furniture in the house, we could easily bring in tables and chairs for a reception. The ceremony was held outside. It had a wonderful kitchen as well, which was awesome for us.

So keep looking until you find the perfect spot!

Melody Dareing Events Coordinator

Dareing Events Catering Inc.

Having a home wedding

A home wedding is lovely, but weather becomes an important issue.

This wedding was a brunch wedding at a home in Kingston Ga.

A second option people choose for a wedding venue is a convenient one…their own home or the home of a parent or relative. While this certainly relieves the stress of competition with other couples for a venue, it can produce its own unique challenges.

Most people want to have a home wedding for one of three reasons 1) sentimentality and 2) cost reduction and 3) space.

Sentimental reasons are perfectly understandable. The thing to realize, though, is that feeling doesn’t mean the space will be conducive for events. Some homes are beautiful until you get 200 people in them. Then it becomes a challenge to move, serve food etc. Some questions to ask are: Is it the time of year where you can spread the party outside? What happens if it rains? Are there several bathrooms? Is the kitchen a workable area for caterers or others to set up food trays? Can it be blocked off from guests? Can some furniture be moved out of rooms to allow for more space?

Once you can answer these questions, you can sensibly start planning your wedding at home.

The second reason, cost, really isn’t a valid reason for a home wedding. Typically, home weddings end up costing more than one at a venue. Surprising, but true. The reason is because there are many details associated with a home wedding most brides don’t think of when they make that decision.

I think of the movie “Father of the Bride” when I think about home weddings. When the idea is first mentioned, Steve Martin envisions a picnic barbecue…easy..affordable. It ends up with walls being busted out, swans in the tub and people practically bursting out of the house.

Most home weddings require a tent for added party space or for weather. Tents for a typical wedding of 100 generally run around $6,000 with a lighting package. Adding sides can cost up to $1,000 more.

A home wedding also requires a lot of upkeep maintenance prior to the event. That means updating the electrical to allow for extra lighting, a band, ceremony microphones. You may need more outside lighting, particularly around walkways so people can see to come and go. You will have to smooth out paths, perhaps put in stones or bricks so ladies don’t sink in dirt or grass to get to the ceremony or reception area. Most of those having a home wedding paint their house to freshen it up for guests. You may have to clear out a garage, repaint it, fix any problems to put a reception, or part of a reception in there. Grass upkeep is essential, which may require about six months of a lawn crew maintaining it. The homeowner probably would also want to update garden areas so any flowers blooming at the time of the wedding provide for a beautiful backdrop for pictures.

Many of these things require professionals. Some, as in the case of electricity upgrades, would also require city permits as well as a licensed electrician. Any significant build-ons, like a garage or a poolhouse, would also require city permitting.

Space could be a great reason to have a wedding at home, depending on the space required.

I had a co-worker who had their reception at his father’s farm. The tent was put out in a field. It was lovely. The reason for this move: they figured they would have plenty of parking for their 200-plus guests.

Again, this can present other challenges. In the case of a field, electrical is a huge challenge. Plumbing and bathrooms is another challenge. This couple resolved both, but since I was a guest and it was before we started our business, I didn’t ask how.

One difficulty with any home wedding is parking. Most neighborhoods are not created to accommodate large parties. Sadly, that is one dilemma most people planning a home wedding forget about. However, it can be remedied.

First, you need to talk to neighbors about their feelings of parking in front of their homes. You need to do this in the initial planning stages so you have time to look into other options if some are not open to it.

Second, look for vacant lots or cul-de-sacs without any homes. Could they be used? Perhaps, if you contact the property owner.

Third, you probably would have to get a city permit. Most cities have special event permits for these type of things. Most have a limit on how many times a year a property can be used for these type of events, but for most, that wouldn’t be a problem. Also, cluing the city in will offset any problems in case someone in a nearby area calls in a complaint the day of your wedding. Believe me, that does happen.

Be sure to include parking instructions with your invitations.

One of the best things you can do, in my opinion, depending on the property, is to hire a valet service. This ensures that cars are parked only in designated areas. Even if it’s in a field, hire some professional parking attendants to guide people. Otherwise, some will be blocked in when they want to leave.

Hiring licensed and insured professionals for parking will allow alleviate any insurance problems should a car be dinged or somehow damaged while parking for an event. You don’t want your cousins to be responsible for such things.

Melody Dareing

Event Coordinator, Dareing Events Catering






The cost of a wedding coordinator


Ok. You’re on a budget. You look at the idea of a wedding coordinator thinking it’s something you can do without.

It’s not.

However, most brides are concerned only with the cost of a coordinator and how it will affect their budget. So they skip the idea to save money.

What they don’t realize is that a good wedding coordinator will not only pay for themselves but save you money. And time.

The cost of a wedding coordinator/planner can be up to 25 percent of your budget, although some offer flat rates for specific services. Many negotiate depending on the services you need.

A full-service coordinator helps from the very beginning with finding a venue, wedding dress, caterer, floral etc. They go with you to every vendor and discuss options with you for you to make the final decisions. They meet with you weekly as the wedding gets closer, go over your budget, and see where you can cut costs.

They are there at the facility days before the wedding, the day of the wedding, and sometimes the day after to make sure everything gets returned, picked up and secured.

The make sure everyone is in his or her places at the rehearsal and at the wedding. They act as producer to make sure everyone does their part at exactly the right time.

They take care of every detail

They are worth every dime.

An event planner does much of the same thing, but on a smaller scale and with less personal service. After all you are paying them a flat fee, so there is a limited amount of time they will spend with you before their time outweighs their profit.

They send you ideas for venues, help you with rentals, floral, catering, music. They answer questions, go over your budget and are there to make sure everything goes smoothly immediately prior to and at the event.

They are also money well spent.

Here’s how these professionals can save you time and money. Unlike family, who sometimes offer to help plan or coordinate, these professionals already know vendors – probably your vendors. They’ve done the research. They know the trends and the prices.

Time saved.

Most of all, they know how to negotiate prices and get you the best deal.

For instance, you may want beef for the reception dinner. The caterer will try to get you to use the best cut because, hey, that makes the meal better and is more profit for them. However, there may be a cut that is suitable for half the price. Chances are your guests won’t know the difference.

A wedding coordinator knows these things while you might not.

Same goes for wedding dresses, floral and even music. A good wedding coordinator should be able to save you 50% on costs compared to what you would have paid retail.

So consider this part of your planning not as another budgetary burden, but as an investment not only into your savings, but into your sanity.


How much should I spend on a wedding?

There is no real right or wrong answer to that, but the next step in planning your wedding is to create a budget.

Brides (or their moms) usually make a couple of mistakes in wedding budget planning 1) they don’t have one or 2) their budget is so low that it’s unrealistic and 3) they don’t plan for all of the costs associated with the event or any additional cost that may occur.

There have been brides coming to me to plan the ceremony and reception when she has already spent half of her wedding allowance on the wedding dress. Then, she has to skimp on everything else to make it work or—to her parents or fiance’s dismay—go over budget to accommodate all of the needs of the wedding. By the way, it’s been my experience that the end result has always been the latter.

There have also been brides who come to me saying they are having 300 guests but only have $1,500 to spend on the reception. Sorry, but $5 per person is a bit unrealistic.

Then, there are those fathers (sometimes fiancee’s depending on who is helping to fund the event) who start to get angry as the wedding day gets closer and more checks keep going out for all the little things, like wedding programs, bridesmaid gifts, a guest book, candles, and bubbles. I know what he is feeling. It seems like the cost never ends.

A good budget really helps keep everything on track and, really helps keep everybody sane.

Generally, it will take about $6,000 to have a nice wedding with around 100 guests. We’ve done some much lower and several much higher. The amount depends on where the event is being held, the type of reception you have, the number of guests and how “designer” you want the wedding to be. The average wedding in Atlanta is rumored to cost around $25,000. I know some weddings can certainly cost that, but feel that is a little high for an “average” wedding. I feel most could have a beautiful wedding that meets all their expectations for much less.

Everyone knows the obvious things to pay for, like the dress, the venue, music, and reception food. However, there are several not so obvious things such as renting the formal candle lighters, buying the unity candle and the separate candles for the side of the unity candle, paying the officiant, tipping your servers and bartenders, bubbles, linens, party favors at guest tables or at the door, a wedding cake platform, aisle runner, wedding programs, parking costs for guests, additional thank you notes, toasting glasses, cake cutting knife and server, gifts for groomsman and bridesmaids, gifts for parents, preserving your flowers and dress cleaning/preservation.

Some of these are optional, but most are typical wedding expenses so they should be a part of your initial planning. You can always decide later to opt out, allowing for more money in your budget. It would be much harder to find the money later should you discover you need some of these items and services.

A great budget planning tool, the best in my opinion, is found at That is what I used when we got married. The cool part about their budget program is that it instantly gives you ideas for what you can accomplish on your budget. Since it lists absolutely everything and you just plug in numbers, it is extremely user friendly so a bride or fiance doesn’t have to think about everything to include.