By Casey Nilsson
Just when I start to feel comfortable with my budget, I get a rude awakening from the grim reapers of capitalism.
Realistically, the biggest culprit to my budget is me. I’m capable of being a tough-as-nails bride, laying down the law about how much I’m willing to spend before talks even begin. But, sometimes, I’m totally unprepared for upturned noses. They catch me off-guard, and they make me feel bad. It’s a part of budget-conscious wedding planning that I’ve avoided for the most part, but I think it’s something we all have to face when we’re dealing with a money-hungry monster like the wedding industry.
Last week, my man and I went on a spur-of-the-moment trip to the mall to try on some wedding suits. He wanted to buy his duds so he had them for life, and thought the racks at Macy’s would be a good place to start. Eerily similar to my wedding attire experience, he bought the first suit he tried on. Macy’s was having a sale and he got his dashing dark gray two-piece suit (that perfectly matches the vintage suspenders he bought a while back, I might add) for about one-third of the original price.
I wish I had a camera crew to capture how excited we were; oddly, it ranks up there in cuteness with the night he proposed. We thought we’d keep the momentum going and check out some wedding bands at a jewelry store not far from Macy’s in the mall. And so we bopped, still high on suit success, from Macy’s to the jeweler to stretch out our hour of success.
Although my fiance bought my 1920s-era engagement ring from Hegeman and Co., a small shop owned by Richard Hegeman on South Main Street in Providence, I thought we might get a better deal at a chain. I realize I’m not supposed to say that; it’s a noble thing to keep your money in the local economy. But a simple, inexpensive white gold band — that, in all likelihood, I might drop down the drain/lose/somehow destroy — seemed like a no-brainer compared to the pricy vintage beauties at Hegeman.
After about a minute of standing in the brightly lit, completely empty jewelry store at the mall, my fiance and I stopped holding hands. The discomfort started to set in. The saleswoman who greeted us asked why we were there, but didn’t show us where we needed to go to find the white gold wedding bands we were looking for.
After squinting into the glass cases for a bit, we found our way to the platinum and diamond bands, neither of which we wanted. My engagement ring has just enough sparkle to catch my eye — no need for a diamond band — and is set in vintage white gold. I’d like my band and ring to age well together (just like me and my man!) so I wanted to stick with one metal. And, of course, we let her in on our budget.
This did not sit well with our orange-nailed saleswoman. She sized my fiance and then grabbed my hand to scope out my engagement ring. After studying it for a couple seconds, she gave my hand a little toss — it doesn’t sound as offensive without a good, dramatic hand gesture; just appease me and try to imagine it — then pulled out a gaudy platinum engagement ring — not a band, I remind you — for me to try, “just to see how it looks.”
This was mortifying. I love my engagement ring. I couldn’t have picked out a more perfect little sparkler myself, one that I’ll appreciate and wonder at my entire life. I get washed over with this warm, full feeling every time I think of my fiance standing over the case at Hegeman and saying, “That’s it. That’s the one.”
All the happiness from the suit discovery must have thrown me off my ball, because I put the platinum one on. It hurts my head thinking about that imposing, diamond-incrusted mass smashed up against my engagement ring. (Sorry, little beauty! I’ll never do it to you again.)
I took it off and asked her to kindly show us the white gold bands. She shuffled around for a bit and pulled out a tray. I thought, since she so thoroughly examined my ring, she would show us a few. Instead, she said the jeweler could make a band (with diamonds!) that would work with what I have.
I pulled out a few from the tray and tried them on, then she flatly asked us when we were getting married. September, I told her. “Oh, well, you have a lot of time, then.” She shifted her attention away from us, her only customers, and we stood there for a moment alone with the tray of misfit bands. With not much left to say, my fiance and I headed for the door.
I try not to be so sensitive — you kind of have to have thick skin to plan a wedding from the ground up — but I didn’t want to go into another jewelry store just yet, fearing we’d get the same treatment. We wondered aloud, does overstock.com sell wedding bands?
But, driving around Providence that following rainy Saturday, we decided to stop back in at Hegeman, just to see. Michelle — the saleswoman who helped my fiance pick out the engagement ring, helped us resize said ring for free, helped us replace two diamonds that wriggled out for free, helped fortify the ring so new diamonds wouldn’t escape for free, and knows us by name — was starting to close up the shop when we walked in. But she pulled out a tray and started choosing different white gold bands that would work with my ring and our budget, anyway.
The first one she recommended was custom-made and pretty, but would’ve been hard to wear without my engagement ring. So Michelle looked around some more and plucked out the dainty band of my dreams, in yellow gold but could be ordered in white. It took about three minutes in total.
When I went to pick up the fit-for-me band, Michelle and I chatted about life, men and the foreboding allure of Sara Lee pound cake. It was a little bittersweet. She and Richard helped us pick out two hugely sentimental pieces of jewelry, from start to finish. They connected us with the city of our love story in an even deeper way: The ring belonged to a couple who lived in Providence generations before. But, most of all, they listened to us and helped us, even though they knew full well we weren’t on a monetary free-for-all.
I don’t know why we went anywhere else. When you buy from local business owners, especially ones who were hit hard, like the rest of us, by the recession, they understand the drop-dead reality of a budget. And I think they also understand the value of good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth. So, Hegeman and Co., thanks for being on our side. This one’s for you:
Hegeman and Co. Fine Jewelry, 361 South Main St., Providence, 831-6812, hegemanandco.com.