Cute Engagement Gifts for Under $50!

Let me start by saying I was going to do a “Before and After” about our gorgeous living room, BUT I got some wonderful news today! My sister and her boyfriend are on vacation in Anguilla and he popped the big question! I am not going to officially spill the beans as to what she said, but I will say that I am very happy for her.

It’s happy, but slightly sad for my mom, she was feeling terrible that she couldn’t afford to chip in and give us big weddings. My father, who isn’t currently in my life, created a lot of financial troubles for my family and he and my mom just finished a long divorce, which everyone knows is a drain on resources.

Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of extra funds, however, that is just fine with my sisters and I…my “wedding” lasted about 5 minutes and we signed a couple of pieces of paper, my sister wants a very simple wedding, very small–just a few people, and my youngest sister will probably get married barefoot on a beach somewhere.

Once my mom began lamenting about the fact that she couldn’t chip in, my youngest sister perked her up by telling her that is was old school for parents to pay for their kid’s weddings and that everyone she knows it paying for their own wedding now…and I totally agreed! It made my mom feel 100% better and it made me think of something I pinned the other day; it’s literally the best advice I could give to a newly engaged couple:


There’s something really special about a wedding, ceremony, or occasion where the couple’s love for each other outshines the actual event and that’s what is important…not the decorations, the wine selection, etc. I wish for my sister something simple and lovely and full of love, as it should be! I know it will be magical!

Anyways, I have been scouring Etsy for cute gifts and came up with a round up of my favorite engagement gifts under $50. Check it out:


I am a huge fans of personalized gifts, there’s something really special about them, but when a gift can be functional and personal, that’s something special. The best part? All of these gifts are under $50!

Ring Dishes: These are a necessity for expensive things NOT falling down the drain. Turquoise Ring Dish via DarriellesClayArt.

Personalized Prints: I liked this particular one because it has a French twist, which is appropriate for my sister and her boyfriend, but there are plenty to pick from on Etsy. Personalized Bicycle Print via DexMex.

Cutting Board: Veggies, wine, cheese, the list goes on. These are functional and pretty enough to leave out on the counter. Personalized cutting board via TrueMomentos.

Etched Glasses: You can DIY these or order them, because the newly engaged couple will totally want to have some celebration wine. Glasses via HautePinkCreations.

Self-Inking Stamp: This is another functional and beautiful gift, plus it will save the couple time because they won’t have to hand address invites and save the dates! Self-inking stamp via SouthernPaperandInk.


Oolala! Lavender Syrup Cocktails & Mocktails

oolalaIt’s been awhile–who knew migrating a website could be so time consuming? Needless to say, with everything going on at work recently, I’ve needed (with what little time I have off) to relax.

I have some friends at work who are into essential oils and told me lavender works wonders for sleep, anxiety, and stress—so the next time I went to my favorite local coffee shop I ordered a Tangerine Lavender Honey Latte and fell in love! Not only does lavender smell wonderful, it’s delicious–very delicate and floral.

Because I rarely drink soda, wine, beer, juice, or dairy this leaves me with a lot of water, coffee, and tea. I discovered that adding lavender simple syrup to cold and hot tea, sparkling water, and coffee is truly amazing. There’s


Tangering, Lavender, Honey Soy Latte

nothing like throwing some herbs, fruit, and garnish into some sparkling water for a nice mocktail or cocktail if you’re having people over and have some vodka on hand.

Here’s the recipe to make lavender simple syrup and a recipe for my favorite mocktail/cocktail:

Lavender Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup purified water
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3 tbs lavender
  • purple food coloring (if desired)

Add the water and sugar to a small sauce pan and stir, then add the lavender and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir and bring down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain our the lavender buds using cheesecloth and store in a mason jar. Your simple syrup will end up a caramel color, but if you want it to look more purple you can add a bit of food coloring (red and blue).

Store in the fridge for up to a week.

IMG_20160216_191207 (1)

Citrus, Cucumber, Lavender Mocktail

My Favorite Lavender Mocktail

  • La Croix Orange Sparkling Water
  • 2 Crushed Basil Leaves or a Slice of Cucumber if Basil is too strong for you
  • Slice of Lemon
  • Lavender Simple Syrup to taste

My Favorite Lavender Cocktail

  • Large shot of vodka in a cocktail glass
  • Heavy Splash of Grapefruit Juice
  • Soda Water
  • A Few Crushed Mint Leaves
  • Lavender Simple Syrup to taste (I like about a tablespoon)

Pro Tip: If you have a friend who works at a non-profit in a development capacity, recruit them to be a bartender at your wedding/event, hell recruit them to coordinate your entire event/wedding. We have all had to play double duty at fundraising events as a event coordinator/bartender/florist and have learned quite a few tricks! I know more about linens, seating grids, centerpieces, menus, catering, and ordering bistro tables, eight and ten tops than I ever, ever thought I would know.

Lavender may be on the expensive side, HOWEVER, feeling relaxed with a delicious drink is priceless—so tune out all of your work worries, miserable, mean people, loud kids, and have a delicious drink with a few friends!


Spend Less On Your Wedding, Stay Married Longer?

By the numbers

I love numbers. Some of my favorite things at work involve taking metrics. I read an article yesterday that was chock-full of numbers and it made me revisit something I had previously written of, my “wedding”. A few months ago I had written an entry about being an Anti-Bride, a fact I’m comfortable with. A wedding didn’t seem practical for Mr. JD and I, and I was fine with that, but when I read the click-bait title of the article my stomach dropped.

“Study shows this is how much you should spend on a wedding to stay married!”

I did some googling to substantiate the study’s findings and much to my shock, it turns out that the less you spend on a wedding, the more likely it is that you and your spouse will make it as a couple! I thought it would be the exact opposite, I mean, if you drop $35,000 on a wedding, you’re going to make it stick, right? Not so much; here is a summary of the findings:

  • 1 in 8 couples will spend $40,000 on a wedding (WOW!)
  • The average wedding is $30,000. Now this I can verify. For about 100 people, depending on the venue, you could be looking at $2,500 – $6,500 (at least where I live), catering including table set up, service, bussing, etc, upwards of $6,000 if you want something decent, alcohol can run up to $5,000, decorations, flowers, dresses, the list goes on. My Rentals Manager ventured a guess to say our average 100 person wedding at our facility is around $30,000 including everything, and our rental prices are very affordable.
  • Gentlemen who spent $2,000-$4,000 on a engagement ring found themselves 1.3 times more likely to get divorced.
  • For both sexes, spending more than $20,000 on a wedding increases your chance of divorce 3.5 x.
  • For the best odds, keep your wedding to less than $1,000.

While this was totally unexpected, I took a look at couples I knew who have been married and divorced. I am probably too young to see the long lasting implications, but I can say my parents had a pretty big wedding and they will be divorced within the month.

Practically speaking, I would imaging some of the stress comes from the financial realization that you and your spouse just dropped a down payment on a house for a big party. Which is what I would choose to spent the money on, because being a homeowner is awesome (but stressful). Stress is real and with student loans, going into further debt just to get married does not sound fun. However, if you are lucky enough to have your parents chip in this might not apply.

I guess I’ve always been worried that, because Mr. JD and I didn’t care about a wedding, people thought we didn’t care about each other as much as people who have giant weddings. The numbers, however, speak for themselves—so elope, have a small ceremony, go to the courthouse—and don’t feel bad about it, but be sure to invite some friends because the study also shows that a small group at your ceremony is better than no group!

Again, this is a study and isn’t written in stone–and while my preference is to be more practical with nuptials, that is my opinion as well—I knew that before I wrote my Anti-Bride entry my opinion wouldn’t be shared by everyone—I know I’m the outlier in that sense, but it’s pretty cool to have numbers on my side! In the end, what’s important is that you and your spouse/partner are stronger and better together than you are apart, you respect each other and your marriage, and you are both committed to empowering each other to do the best you can for your family, community, etc.

Besides, if I have to plan something right now—I am really excited about it being a baby shower/gender reveal for my friend Julie. Stay tuned for more on that, I have some great ideas!

Why Being An Anti-Bride On My Wedding Day Was Pretty Awesome!


I was an Anti-Bride…and I am admitting this for a few reasons:

  1. Weddings, weddings, everywhere! We are having so many weddings at work, like three a weekend.
  2. I just had my five year wedding anniversary with Mr. JD and my friends/coworkers keep asking me what my wedding was like.
  3. People assume that because you know a lot about special, formal events that you must have planned one for yourself, right? I was helping run an event last night and even the ice sculpture guy asked me where I got married and what my reception was like.

For all these reasons (and more) I am embracing my anti-bride status and am kind of really proud of it. Not that I hate brides—I don’t. Many people I love dearly have been brides, I was just not a typical bride—nor did I want to be.

My husband and I were married five years ago in Columbus, Ohio in a hit-and-run ceremony that lasted about 5 minutes. Nothing was planned except for paperwork. We didn’t have rings or personalized vows—we didn’t even have time for vows—and I wore a pretty yellow sundress that I had bought from a thrift store.

My idea of the perfect wedding dress. Very Tim Burton. Non-traditional, but I love it!

My idea of the perfect wedding dress. Very Tim Burton. Non-traditional, but I love it!

Sounds like the opposite of what everyone else experiences on their wedding day, right? Well here’s why…I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I wasn’t wearing a $1,500 dress or had a table adorned with rustic tablescapes and clever programs (I’ve had to proofread enough programs to last me a lifetime). What I can tell you is that on my wedding day I got to give my full attention to my husband without worrying about the caterer, the reception, or writing 100 thank you cards for gifts I registered for.

As a little girl, I never dreamed about having a wedding. More so, I just wondered who I would end up marrying. After dating for a few years, Mr. JD and I were living together, very young, in school, and working full time with no help. We had been engaged for quite awhile and didn’t want to be irresponsible and go into debt or spend $20,000 on a wedding (we have student loans and wanted to buy a house, after all). Some people are lucky enough to have their parents chip in; they buy the dress, spring for the invitations, the venue, etc. My parents we’re headed for a nasty divorce, I was pretty estranged from my father (so I didn’t have anyone to walk me down he aisle) — so I couldn’t ask them to do that — and I never would have accepted their financial help anyways. Honestly, my parents probably couldn’t afford to participate in a big hoopla and because my friends from New England would have to travel, I didn’t want to put that burden on them. Just to complicate things more, my husband was about 9 months away from taking the bar exam, the hardest exam he would probably ever take.

IMG_20150912_172054So..what to do? Get married in the most unapologetically, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way! I get asked a lot if I regret basically having a court house “wedding”. My answer is always, “It depends on the day”. Sometimes I see “pinspiration” that gets to me a little bit, but at work I am always helping to implement/plan events and fundraisers, so I have an outlet for that.


Themed cocktail table


formal fundraiser

For-Kelly-182Though I didn’t have a wedding, I do deeply appreciate things my friends have done at their weddings. The special things. There’s nothing more boring than the standard rustic, wedding. My Rentals Manager at work says she hears the words whimsical, rustic, and fairytale so often when people talk about their wedding themes. I do, however, adore seeing things at special events that are unique and meaningful. My friend Denise, who is Malaysian, hand folded 1000 paper cranes because in Asian cultures it brings good luck to the person who folded them. They made stunning decorations with fun pops of color at her reception. It was a great nod to culture and an inexpensive way to decorate.

So, what would I do if I went back and had more time and support? Probably nothing significantly different. My husband and I hate being the center of attention and we don’t subscribe to the notion that, “it’s our special day”. In fact, my husband said, (not too long ago) “I didn’t need a self-congratulatory party to marry you.” I guess I know where he stands!

I do, however, personally believe that asking people to celebrate a moment in your life shouldn’t mean putting yourself on a pedestal. No head tables, no wedding showers, no 40 minute speeches about how great the bride and groom are. My husband and I know we’re perfect for each other. If I could go back all I would want was maybe a fun, early fall night, a bonfire with all my family and friends, and a movie marathon on an outside projector—sitting on blankets just hanging out. Simply appreciating a moment when I have everyone important to me together, because as an adult—it happens so rarely.


But hey, to each his/her own! Long story short, you won’t see any pictures of my “wedding” on here — there were really none to take. However, you will see fun crafty things you could incorporate into a wedding…and a lot of love between my husband and I, because that’s truly what’s important in the end.