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Weddings

Engagement Annual Survey

Of all milestones in life, weddings are possibly the most steeped in cultural significance. After all, the prospect of forgoing a reception — in lieu of simply a visit to a government building for a marriage license — would fill most people with disappointment. If you’re a traditionalist, then this special occasion may leave you with a slew of questions about how to fulfill those conventional expectations. Well, the XO Group Inc. (formerly The Knot) may be able to ease your concerns with its comprehensive Real Weddings Study, the results of which were released this past month.

These statistics won’t help you determine your personal cultural traditions, but they can at the very least identify some of the many factors found in an average wedding. And if you’re someone who likes to stand out from the crowd, then this report will tell you precisely what to avoid.  For example, the most popular month to get engaged is December, an engagement that lasts typically about fourteen months.

According to this same survey — as mentioned in a previous post — the average price of an engagement ring is documented at $5,855. That’s up nearly $300 from 2013’s $5,598.  Another useful fact to know when picking out your ring is that “round” the most common diamond shape used, with “princess” as the next likely option. In terms of material, you’ll find white gold far in the lead, taking over 73% of the population.

As for the bands exchanged during the ceremony itself, while last year’s final stats haven’t yet been publicized, the year before has quite a bit of information on the subject.  In 2013, more grooms wore wedding bands than brides (96% to 93%), which is an interesting and perhaps unexpected twist.  If you’re looking for most common metals, it will depend on which half of the couple you are; the most frequent choice for brides is — like the engagement ring — white gold, used by an overwhelming majority of the population (70%).  For grooms, meanwhile, the spread is much more diverse.  Only 27% of men go for a white gold band, which comes as a close second to the top metal — tungsten carbide — accounting for 32%.  Least common option?  For women it’s cobalt, at under 1%, whereas for men it’s the dainty rose gold.

The Price is Right

Engagement rings have been part of pre­-wedding tradition for quite a while now, and it certainly needs factoring ­in when considering one’s overall wedding budget.  In years past, there was a pretty simple scale for how to determine your engagement ring price range.  The unofficial rule was, rather simply, that the cost of the engagement ring would equal two months’ worth of paychecks.

Now tradition has become a bit more flexible, which ­­ for those who appreciate an easy ­to ­remember rule like that ­­ may leave you floundering for what to look for.  Well, while we may not have a magical solution to offer, here are a few facts and factors to consider: First, you can always play it safe by conforming to the national average.  According to The Knot’s annual wedding survey, the average cost of an engagement ring is about five and a half thousand dollars.  Twelve percent of couples will top that by spending more than $8,000 on their bling.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can always trick your diamond into thinking it’s bigger than it is; a shallow stone with a larger surface area may not sparkle as well, but it will appear much larger overall than its actual size.  Another good option is to look at products a hair below the next karat (for example, 1.8 instead of 2 karats), which can save as much as 20% on costs without diminishing the clarity of the gem.

Of course, your best option would be to discuss and decide on your alternatives together as a couple. It used to be commonplace for the groom ­to surprise his lady with a ring he picked himself, but the rules have changed quite a bit since then. In a recent study, it seems that that decision ­making technique accounts for only 5% of the current population.  More prevalent now, comprising an overwhelming 69% of couples,­­ is to decide on rings together.

Here’s our last major tip: If you’re still concerned about your engagement ring… don’t be! Although the ring carries large significance in matrimonial tradition, it is by no means the only bit of jewelry seen during the wedding.  Studies show that over 80% of brides will receive additional jewelry for their big day,­­ most commonly earrings, but also pendants, wristwatches, tiaras, and other hair accessories. For grooms, a lower percentage, but still considerable at 30%, ­­ will wear additional jewelry: along with the wedding band often come cuff links, watches, bracelets, money clips, and even necklaces. So don’t stress yourself out over the smaller details, and let yourself enjoy the celebration!

 

World Traditions

We’ve mentioned wedding bands a few times recently, but the ring is not the only piece of jewelry to make a name for itself in wedding tradition. The idea of incorporating jewelry into marital ceremonies spans across almost every culture, and the variety is as diverse as the cultures themselves.

In South Africa, Zulu couples share the tradition of jewelry adornment. After a match has been determined, the groom- and bride-to-be wear matching necklaces and bracelets, the equivalent of engagement rings, until their marriage begins. During the wedding itself, the bride wears jewelry so foreign to Western tradition that English terms haven’t been invented for them, like the fringed bands tied to her elbows and knees. She also wears a beaded fig-leaf veil and a fringe of goat hair as a necklace.

Overall, the culture that utilizes the most jewelry in a single ceremony is Hinduism, where a bride is clad in the Solah Shringar, the Sixteen Adornments. While the Hindi bride lacks the elbow and knee accessories of Zulu tradition, she more than makes up for it with her own plethora of gems. Not all of these “adornments” can be called jewelry per se (another prominent type is ink, and in most cases the dress itself is considered an adornment), but most of them are. Among these gems are a nose ring (nath), armbands (baajuband), toe rings (bichuas), and a gold belt (kamarband). Interestingly, although they don’t exchange rings, they have a similar custom with the mangal sultra, a black-beaded necklace. During the ceremony itself, the groom places the necklace on his bride, who then wears it for the rest of her life, much like the wedding bands of Western culture.

Hindi brides do actually wear rings (called aarsi) during the ceremony, but their function is very different from those in a traditional Western wedding. In fact, for the most part they serve a rather pragmatic purpose. Through most of the ceremony the bride’s vision is blocked by thick veils. To compensate, many aarsi are set with tiny mirrors; this clever design allows the bride, however indirectly, to gaze into the eyes of her husband-to-be.