On May 3rd, 2019, I got engaged to my wonderful, kind, perpetually-smiling boyfriend of over 2 years. It was such a magical moment, and being a Youtuber, Robbie had filmed it all with 2 DSLR’s, 2 Go-Pros, and no less than 5 cellphones. The events that transpired were definitely surprising, but the ring he proposed with was certainly not. You see, two months prior to the proposal, we had decided that we should find a ring together, seeing as how I would wear it for the rest of my life.
Setting aside whether I would recommend picking out a ring with your soon-to-be fiance before the proposal until the end of this post, the search for the perfect engagement ring started months before he got down on one knee. We had entertained the idea of diamond-alternatives like moissanite and white sapphire at first. After all, we like to think of ourselves as practical millennials. But a few weeks into our 6-week trip to Beijing, China to visit my side of the family, it became clear that though we didn’t care about the material or the size of the stone, my relatives had a different idea. Apparently, the ring must check all the boxes on a family checklist that we knew nothing about:
In a moment of despair after visiting upwards of ten stores in a high-end mall in China and coming out empty handed, we turned to the internet. We typed in the numbers for the 4 C’s we needed into a search bar, and to our surprise, the first results that popped up were diamonds in our price range from Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth, and James Allen! We couldn’t believe it! That was our first introduction to strictly online retailers.
We were ecstatic, though cautious. I mean, buying an engagement ring off of the internet sounds super sketchy! We felt like we had no way of ensuring we’d get the diamond we’ve selected. What if we got it and I didn’t like it? What if it looks different on my hand than I’d imagined? What if the sizing wasn’t right?
That was when the countless hours of research came in. Being a total math-brain, I was determined to convert the confusing and subjective ideas of what makes a good engagement ring into cold, hard numbers. And that’s exactly what we did. In the end, we had a complete checklist with not only the 4 C’s, but also details about fluorescence, depth, certification, and more. Basically, we had made a passport for our dream diamond ring.
Armed with our “passport”, it really came down to finding an online retailer with the setting that I liked. After browsing endless solitaire settings (who knew there were so many ways to set a single stone!), the one from James Allen won out. From then on, it was easy. We simply typed all the numbers into the filter and picked the diamond we like the best. The 10x magnified pictures of the diamonds showed every detail and made the selection process easy. We got it set in a platinum setting because I’m a total klutz. And 20 minutes later, we had made one of the biggest purchases of our lives.
The ring came in 2 weeks later in an inconspicuous white shoebox, complete with a lifetime warranty, a 60-day free resizing, a GIA certificate, and an internal appraisal that was nearly 30% higher than our purchasing price. It was actually quite amazing! The band I ordered was about a size and a half too big, and we made the decision to get it sized on Diamond Jewelry Way next to our apartment instead of sending it back and waiting 3 weeks for it to return to me. We also decided to get an in-person appraisal that wasn’t from James Allen, and it scored even higher than the initial appraisal. Needless to say, we were ecstatic.
In the months after the purchase, Robbie and I had talked more about our “risky purchase” from the internet and dissected the reasons why we had such a good experience. We’ve concluded that shopping for engagement rings online could indeed be a great option if you’ve done your homework. And here’s why:
Now, I promised at the beginning of this (monstrously long) post that I would comment on whether I recommend buying the ring with your partner and waiting to plan the proposal. Like everything in life, it depends on the couple. For me, I loved having the peace of mind of knowing I’m 100% happy with the ring and that it’s insured and sized correctly. However, I’m a very nervous person who hates surprises. So for two months, tensions were high in and out of our apartment as I tried to find out details about the proposal, when it was going to happen, whether Robbie was going to lose the ring, etc. Robbie would be the first to tell you that his biggest mistake was telling me that he had started planning the proposal because it just kicked my anxiety into high gear. I’m sure he’d agree with me that if he could do it over again, he would have hidden the ring as soon as it was sized and insured, not told me when he started to plan it, and just generally not talked about it as much, even when I would ask him about it non-stop.
Despite my being a ball of nerves for 2 months, the proposal happened and it was as perfect as my ring. You can watch the video of it below. Now, wedding planning is in full swing and we are both very excited. And I’m sure through this process and well into our marriage, we’ll be doing the one thing I keep harping on in this post: doing our research.
Photo Credit: Robbie Frank, Reflections Film LLC
Recital season is always a stressful time for college musicians. I can't speak for how the instrumentalists prepare for their recitals, but, after 2 full length voice recitals of my own, I feel qualified to give some tips about voice recital preparation. Hopefully, this post will make your life easier during your recital year.
Do: start thinking about your program as soon as possible.
Do you want your recital to have a theme? What style(s) do you want your recital to contain? What are the requirements for you to pass your recital? Make sure you ask yourself those questions well before your recital date, and make sure you are consulting your teacher about your songs. Having a program that meet the requirements that you also enjoy is important to a successful recital and will make your preparations and practice sessions much easier.
Don't: pick music that is too difficult for you or not for your type.
If you're an undergraduate, the Queen of the Night aria might not be the best for you. Similarly, if you are a mezzo, maybe don't put in Glitter and Be Gay. Your teacher probably don't let you sing anything that is too difficult for you, and they definitely won't let you sing something that's not written for your voice type. Pick music that will show off YOUR voice.
Do: divide your music into sets as soon as your program is finalized.
Decide where you want your audience to clap. Generally, for a classical recital, people don't clap after every song. Note that in your program and practice your sets together. For my junior recital, I divided up my program by language. So, during my practice sessions, I'd practice my French set all together, take a break, then go into my Italian arias.
Don't: compare your program to other people's.
Programs are like tailor-made dresses. They're designed for you. Pick a program that you love and don't compare it to other people. Someone else's program might be more technically difficult or all in foreign languages, but that doesn't mean you have to cut your English set to make room for a Polish set if you don't want to. However, with that said, it is okay to get inspiration from other people's recitals. Did they sing a song that you really want to learn? Bring it to your teacher and ask if you can fit it into your program.
Do: get memorized early.
At my school, the unspoken deadline for memorization is one month before your recital date. For me, I finalized my program the summer break before my fall recital and was mostly memorized by the time school started in September. This gave me lots of time to play with the characters and the musicality of my program. I was also not as nervous when it came time to go on stage because I knew these songs so well.
Don't: let the last month freak you out.
The month before your recital is going to seem scary. You're going to feel unprepared, anxious, and have doubts about the whole thing. Don't worry. This is the month to explore and make mistakes. In my experience, you make the most progress and during the two weeks before your recital. Just relax and remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
Do: plan out what you want your dress rehearsal to be like.
I had open dress rehearsals for both of my recitals where I treated them as proper performances. I invited people to come so I could have an audience, and so that people who couldn't come to my actual recital got a chance to see it live. That's one way of doing it. You might decide that you want your dress rehearsal to only include you, your accompanist, and your teacher. You many want to work through things logistically or sing certain songs twice. The bottom line is: it's your time. Use it however it will benefit you most.
Don't: wait until the last minute to deal with logistics.
Logistics is half the battle. You have to book your dress rehearsal space, book your reception space, pick an outfit, pay your accompanist... Have a plan and enlist your friends to help. Make sure your parents know where to go. Girls: make sure you PRACTICE IN YOUR DRESS AND SHOES! Have a plan for everything that might go wrong way in advance so that you can focus on you the day of your recital.
Do: take your time to prepare yourself before the performance.
On your recital day, you are the most important person. You get to be a diva. Make sure you eat something that makes you feel comfortable, and don't be afraid to tell people to leave you alone or be quiet. My parents fight exclusively during times of high stress. I've had to tell them to please be quiet or fight somewhere else before both recitals. Also, once you've gotten to your performance space, think through your songs, meditate, or have some tea to calm your nerves.
Don't: kick yourself if you're not perfect.
Trust that you've prepared enough for this performance. Everyone in the audience is on your side. Strive for meaningful communication and not for perfection. And trust that whatever you are doing is good enough.
Do: enjoy performing and have a great time!
This whole day is about you and your achievements. You are giving people the gift of your talent. So enjoy, and have fun with it. You are going to do great.