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The Art of Preparing a Flawless Proposal

When planning to propose, most guys will either go for the obvious (a candlelit dinner that ends with him on one knee) or rack their brains (and empty their wallets) trying to come up with something amazing that’s never been done before. The truth is, you don’t have to opt for either of these extremes. If you know the woman you love, you can easily come up with a proposal plan that will wow her without resorting to over-the-top antics (or phoning it in with a checkered tablecloth and a ridiculously long spaghetti noodle). Here are just a few ways to prepare for a flawless proposal.

1. Consider her preferences. Does she live life like she’s on a stage? Then maybe a proposal in front of her family or at a sporting event is the way to go. But if she’s like most women, she’ll want the occasion to be intimate, so think about creative ways to get her alone.

2. Listen to what she says. Women will often tell you exactly what they expect if you just open your ears and pay attention. Did she fall in love with the bedroom proposal from the movie Stepmom (the ring on a string)? Or has she told you that she always pictured herself receiving a ring at the top of the Eiffel Tower? Your lady will likely drop hints here and there, so make sure you’re listening when she does.

3. Ask for help. You might be surprised by all of the creative ideas your friends and family come up with on your behalf. And if all else fails, go to the internet. There is an absolute wealth of information on interesting ways to propose. You’re guaranteed to find at least one that is perfect.

4. Go all out. You don’t need to break the bank when you propose (since you’ll probably need that money for the ring or the wedding), but you should do everything you can to make it a special event since you only plan to do it once. This doesn’t necessarily entail added expense, but it will require you to use your imagination and come up with a plan that is as unique and memorable as the woman you’re proposing to.

5. Practice makes perfect. If you think there’s a good chance you’ll falter once you get to the starting line, practice what you’re going to say. You shouldn’t memorize it word-for-word (you don’t necessarily want it to sound rehearsed), but get down the basic gist of what you want to say before you take a knee.

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Fun-in-the-Sun Summer Proposal Ideas

While it’s true that many women prefer a summer wedding (especially those who opt for outdoor ceremonies and receptions) a proposal can come at any time of year. However, if you wait until the weather is balmy to drop to one knee, you might have a lot more options when it comes to your method of popping the big question. So if you want to use the feel-good summer sun as a prop in your marriage proposal, here are a few good ways to incorporate the great outdoors into the most important question you’ll ever ask.

1. Write it in the sand. If you’re shy about asking your question aloud, take your lady love to a secluded spot on the beach and write your question in the sand while she’s working on her tan. You don’t have to make the letters big enough to be read by a rescue plane, but it couldn’t hurt to put in the effort.

2. Do it underwater. If you and your girl like to snorkel or scuba dive, take her on an exotic island getaway and go looking for shells. Have one carved with the question, then drop it inconspicuously in her path so she can’t help but pick it up.

3. Give her an oyster. Looking for pearls in unopened oysters is always a fun summer pastime, especially in beachside cities. So make arrangements with a vendor ahead of time to open up an oyster and put the ring inside. Then buy her the oyster (have the vendor give her one from the “special” bucket) and enjoy her surprise when she opens it to find an engagement ring.

4. Find a nice sunset. Sometimes all you need for romance is a great backdrop. Pick your favorite beach spot and propose to her just as the sun sets over the water. If you’d like to add a little poetry to the occasion, tell her you never want the sun to set without her by your side.

5. Buy a bicycle built for two. Pedal the day away, stopping at a local park for a wine-and-cheese picnic. Tell her that you bought the bicycle rather than renting it because you knew you were ready to ride through life with only her. Then have her look in the basket on the handlebars to find her ring box.

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How to Stay within a Budget When Buying an Engagement Ring

We can’t all act like celebrities, buying multi-million dollar engagement rings for the women we love. And yet, you want to get the best ring you can since (hopefully) that special lady in your life will wear it for the rest of her life. But wanting something doesn’t necessarily put the money in your wallet. So what can you do to make sure that you stick to a suitable budget when buying an engagement ring, instead of letting emotion cloud your eyes? There are plenty of ways to cut costs and still get what you want. Here are a couple of tips to keep you on track.

You should start by setting a reasonable budget to begin with. The standard practice is to set aside three months’ worth of salary for this major purchase. So if you work at a burger joint, you might end up with a ring that costs a couple grand (whereas a lawyer would have substantially more money to devote to the cause). Either way, you’re probably going to have to save up for a while. This is a good thing since it gives you the time to make sure the big move is really what you want. By creating a goal amount and saving, you’re a lot more likely to stay within your budget.

The next thing you should do is avoid retail stores (and salespeople, in particular). For one thing, brick-and-mortar locations have necessary markups (they are, after all, paying for employees, a lease, utilities, and everything else needed to run their business). In addition, salespeople will always try to talk you into spending more so they can get a bigger commission. Plus, the diamonds in these stores have passed through many pairs of hands, taking on a higher price tag with each transaction. You’re a lot better off shopping online, where all of these additional fees are negated so that you can get the best possible price. Just make sure to find a store that offers both certification papers and a return policy.

While you certainly want to get the woman of your dreams the ring of HER dreams, you don’t have to break the bank to do so. With a little common sense and a firm spending limit in mind, you can easily find the best possible engagement ring within a set budget.

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What to Look for in the Cut of a Diamond

When it comes to the four Cs of diamond buying (cut, color, clarity, and carat), most people seem to feel that size is the most important aspect of the selection process. However, it is the cut of the diamond that can have an effect on each of the other points of consideration. For example, a large table (the flat surface on top of the stone) can showcase even the most minute inclusions. And that’s just one way the cut is important to the overall quality of the stone. So before you settle on a diamond, think about how different cuts can affect the overall purchase.

The first thing to know is that there are various facets of a stone that will differ from cut to cut. The portions of a diamond that are important are the table, the crown (the height of the top portion of the diamond), and the pavilion (the depth of the bottom portion of the stone). The girdle (where the crown and pavilion meet) and the cutlet (the small surface on the very bottom of the stone) also play a role in both the brilliance and overall quality of the stone, but they’re not as important (unless they are badly bungled). The exact measurements of these portions of the stone are going to determine whether or not it sparkles, displays flaws, exhibits color, and so on, so you need to consider which cuts emphasize different traits.

An emerald-cut diamond, for example, tends to have the largest table, meaning it requires an exceptionally flawless stone to pull off. The same goes for an asscher cut. If the clarity or color is off, it will be more pronounced in these cuts. Round cuts, on the other hand, tend to exhibit the most brilliance, but this can be reduced if the stone is cut too shallow (as in, a small pavilion depth). Pear- and heart-shaped diamonds, while unique, may reflect light strangely because they are not entirely symmetrical. And cushion, oval, and marquise cuts simply aren’t very deep, but they tend to be less expensive because they contain fewer carats.

So regardless of the cut you choose, it will have an impact on the beauty of your stone. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should discount certain cuts because of the potential for problems, it just signifies a need to take care when choosing the cut of your stone. Just be sure to look for any flaws that may be more apparent due to a particular shape.

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What to Avoid When Buying Diamond Jewelry Online

All in all, purchasing diamond jewelry online is a great way to find the most options, save a ton of money, and avoid the ever-present upsell you’ll find in retail stores. However, not all online vendors are entirely scrupulous in their dealings. Let’s face it: the worldwide web is the wild west of the modern era, a lawless no-man’s land in which you’ll find both honest purveyors of goods along with those unsavory souls who would rob their Granny for a dime. In short, you need to use some common sense in order to protect yourself from the latter type of character. Here are just a few things to avoid when buying your diamond jewelry from an online retailer.

1. Prices that are too high or too low. If you pay too much online, you simply aren’t exercising due diligence. You need to price check if you want to find a good deal. On the other hand, you probably want to avoid prices that seem too low, as well. No one can afford to sell diamonds for less than they paid, so if the cost is too low, you’re likely being sold a bill of goods, so to speak.

2. Perfect diamonds. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Flawless diamonds are not only rare, they are impossible (unless the stones are lab-created). Some vendors may call diamonds flawless with the understanding that flaws are not visible to the human eye, but even if that is the case, it’s still a patently false statement. So avoid any site that claims to have perfect stones.

3. Unsecured ordering. If you do any online shopping at all, you should be aware that unsecured ordering means your sensitive information (credit card number, billing info, etc.) is not protected from prying eyes. So unless the website you’re ordering from has the lock icon (complete with security info), you should shop elsewhere.

4. Lack of certification. One thing that any diamond dealer on the up-and-up will offer is a certificate to verify the authenticity of your purchase. If this is missing, then you should think twice before buying from the vendor.

5. No returns. When it comes to buying diamonds online, you should always have the option to return your purchase if it isn’t what you want (since you can’t really see or touch it until it arrives). A 30-day money-back guarantee is pretty standard. This should give you plenty of time to get an independent appraisal to ensure quality.

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Wedding Guest-List Etiquette

Creating the guest list for your special day should be an occasion for joy as you contemplate surrounding yourself with those who love you most on the day when you will join your life with the one YOU love the most. And yet, for most brides-to-be, this is one of the hardest parts of planning the wedding. With a limitation on guests, an eye on the budget, and whole host of obligatory invites, penning the guest list has been the undoing of many a beleaguered bride. But if you understand the etiquette involved, you should have a much easier time finalizing your list with less stress. Here are a few tips to help you work it out.

1. Immediate family. You pretty much have to invite everyone in the immediate family (on both sides). This includes parents, siblings, and even children if you’re entering a marriage with someone who has already started a family. Even if you have a sister that you haven’t spoken to in years, now might be a good time to extend the olive branch and repair the relationship by including her in your nuptials.

2. Friends vs. family. This is always a hard decision for the couple that’s trying to limit the guest list. Do you invite extended family or opt for your friends instead? Generally, cousins who have invited you to their wedding will expect you to reciprocate. Just keep in mind that this is your day. If you feel the need, simply explain to your distant relatives that you’re trying to keep the guest list small.

3. The question of colleagues. Unless you’re friends outside the office, there’s really no reason to invite your colleagues. Everyone will probably be more comfortable that way and you won’t have to slash someone you like from the list.

4. Friends of parents. If your parents are paying, you might not be able to exclude their friends. But if you’re footing the bill, feel free to say no.

5. Be sensitive to possible conflict. If your dad and your auntie don’t get along, that doesn’t mean you can’t invite them both. Just let them know that you expect them act like adults, set their problems aside, and put you first if they’re going to show up. They need to either get along or avoid each other.

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Tips for Buying Jewelry Online

With great prices and a huge selection, the internet has provided many shoppers with a better way to purchase the jewelry they crave. However, those who have never done so may be at a loss as to how to go about leaving the familiar setting of a brick-and-mortar location in order to join the online shopping revolution. So if you’re looking at buying some jewelry via the worldwide web, but you’re not quite sure of the protocol (if any), here are a few hints to help you click the “buy” button and get the dazzling accessories you desire.

1. Get referrals. The first trick, like any type of shopping, is to ask for referrals. You likely have friends or family members who have purchased jewelry online, probably with a full slate of both horror stories and hallelujah moments. The women you trust won’t steer you wrong, so let their experience guide you in your quest for affordable jewelry from dependable online retailers.

2. Refine your search. You don’t want to make your search too broad, say for “jewelry”, or you could end up sifting through a lot of junk that has nothing to do with what you’re looking for. Over time, you will likely find dealers or even designers that you prefer, but when you’re just starting out, at least think about what type of jewelry you want (modern or traditional, diamond or gemstone, etc.) so as not to become overwhelmed with choices.

3. Shop around. Just because you find a great price at the first online retailer you visit doesn’t mean you should jump on it. Take the time to look at competing sites and consider not only price, but also the reputation of the dealer (read customer reviews) to determine if they’re the right vendor to do business with.

4. Learn about jewelry. Some websites have the forward-thinking attitude to offer education to their customers, so take advantage of it! While you can always email or call with questions, shopping online means that you have to garner at least a modicum of knowledge about what you’re buying so that you don’t end up with something you really don’t want.

5. Seek certification and money-back guarantees. Jewelry dealers who are on the up-and-up will offer certification papers with their jewelry (to authenticate your purchase) as well as a money-back grace period (generally 30 days) that allows you time to get an independent appraisal and return anything that doesn’t meet your standards, for a full refund.

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Romantic Ways to Spend Valentine’s Day

It’s not always easy to come up with that perfect idea to make Valentine’s Day special for the one you love, especially if you’ve already come up with some really good ones in years past. But you don’t have to top yourself year after year to make your partner feel the strength of Cupid’s arrow. By simply planning a romantic evening that’s all about the person who completes you, there will be no doubt about the way you love them (whether you count the ways or not). Here are a few ideas to get you on the right track.

1. In bed. Take a long weekend by opting out of work on Monday this year and laze the day away in the comfort of your love nest. Plan for your partner’s favorite meals (delivered to the boudoir by you), rent a couple of rom-coms, or spend the day gazing into each other’s eyes and remembering why you fell in love in the first place.

2. On holiday. Nothing will allow you to get away from it all and focus on each other more than a spur-of-the-moment vacay. So pack bags for both of you and be ready to go when your partner gets home from work on Friday. If you’re not too keen to spend half of the weekend on an airplane to an exotic locale, simply drive to the nearest remote wilderness location (ski resort, nearby lake, etc.) and rent a cabin for the weekend. Even a local hotel can provide a change of scenery and a little alone time (spring for the room with the spa tub).

3. Wine tasting. Instead of doing the restaurant thing (who can get reservations at this late date?!) check out a local tasting room to try some local vintners or get a taste of France. By the time you get home, you’ll both be in the mood for amour. If they won’t be open for Valentine’s Day, go in ahead of time, get some advice from the sommelier, and have a tasting of your own at home.

4. First date spot. Sometimes the best way to say “I love you” is with a little trip down memory lane. So take your partner to your first date spot (impressive) and order the same meal you had that night (spectacularly impressive).

5. Dinner and dancing – at home. Why fight the madding crowd on the most popular date-night of the year? Instead, set up your dining room like the restaurant your partner would love to visit, complete with his/her fave food choices. Then put on a little soft music and dance the night away.

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Great New Year’s Eve Proposal Ideas

Proposing marriage is a profound event in and of itself. But you can definitely take advantage of the heightened emotions of the holiday season to make popping the big question even more meaningful. The sentiments of love and family run high at this time of year, and the turning of the calendar has us all considering the path we will take and the changes we’ll make in the coming months, so it only makes sense to think about a future with your one and only. But if you’re going to propose on New Year’s Eve, you don’t want to phone it in just because you’ve got the nostalgia of the season and the hope of a new beginning on your side. If you still want your proposal to be memorable, make a plan that speaks to the special qualities that only the holidays can offer. Here are a few ideas to get you on the right track.

1. Stroke of midnight. Proposing just at the turning of the year is not a new idea, but the significance cannot be tarnished by its rather obvious appeal. So once the countdown begins, take your love aside and make your future intentions clear.

2. Reverse proposal. Hey ladies! If you’re ready for your life to begin, why wait for the man to get the ball rolling? Try a little role-reversal by getting to one knee as you make a resolution to devote the coming year (and indeed, the rest of your life) to the man you love.

3. Ring in the toast. Give her the ring when you ring in the New Year with your traditional champagne toast. As she lofts her stemware high, she will no doubt see the sparkling promise in the bottom of her bubbly. If she’s not terribly observant, you may want to brush up on your Heimlich Maneuver, just in case.

4. Have waiter bring it on the dessert tray. If you’re out for a romantic dinner, order dessert at the end, but prearrange to have the waiter bring out the ring box on a covered tray so you can reveal your sweet treat.

5. Coat check. Many couples opt to attend large, public gatherings on New Year’s Eve, most of which have a coat check service to ensure that everyone goes home with their own belongings. Entrust your ring box to the coat-check girl and when you hand in your claim checks at the end of the night, have her bring out the ring box instead of your coats.

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Engagement Ring Shopping Advice for Men: Why Not Shop Together?

If you’re like most men, you don’t have the faintest idea of where to start when it comes to shopping for an engagement ring. As you begin to calculate the information you’ll need to gather just to get started (her ring size, her likes and dislikes, the type of diamond, the type of setting, how much you can afford to spend, the list goes on and on…), you begin to feel lightheaded. But why are you putting yourself through this torture? Just so she can get the surprise of her life? You’d be better off making her laugh with a fake ring (courtesy of the Cracker Jacks box) and announcing that you intend to take her shopping for the ring of her dreams. Here are some reasons to let her pick the ring.

1. Sizing – Nothing will spoil your romance faster than a ring that doesn’t fit. If it’s too small, she won’t even be able to get it on, causing her to question how well you know each other. This is a situation best avoided. And if it’s too big, she could accidentally lose it before she has time to get it properly sized.

2. Preference – There is a lot that goes into choosing a ring that she’ll wear for the rest of her life, so why not let her pick it out? Do you really want to learn the ins and outs of diamond-buying (the four Cs) and then try to figure out if she likes princess or round cut, and whether she would prefer a larger carat, better clarity, or an unusual color? And that’s just the diamond. You also need a setting so she can actually wear it. No, the smarter move is to sit her down at the computer and let her browse while read the latest Sports Illustrated.

3. Price – No matter how small the diamond, you are going to shell out some serious money on this piece of jewelry (as well you should) and you want it to count! You don’t want to spend into the four-digit category only to see her face fall in disappointment when she sees the ring you picked. Ensure a smile by allowing her to get exactly what she wants. This is not only a better investment of your money, it is probably a far wiser investment in your future.

You may sacrifice the element of surprise by letting her shop for the ring with you, but you will save yourself a lot of time, effort, and potential heartache by trusting your lady to choose her own ring. It’s a fair bet that she has something specific in mind anyway, and in the long run, whatever makes your future wife happy is going to make you happy, too.