Jewelry Issues

March 31st, 2011

I hate to bring up a difficult, uncomfortable subject when we’re talking about weddings, but I do think it is better to know all sides of an issue, especially if you are interested in eco-friendly events.  I’m talking about the environmental and political problems associated with the commercial jewelry trade.

The issues around jewelry can be tricky.

The issues around jewelry can be tricky.

Let me be very clear about one thing:  I am not saying that you are a bad person if you wear and like commercial jewelry.  I just want to make sure that you have enough information to make an informed choice.  I won’t pass judgment on your choice if you are happy with it.

There are environmental issues with gold, as well as political ones.  Diamonds and other precious stones, as far as I can tell, have fewer environmental problems, although there are political problems.

Gold mining and refining, according to one informed source, release large amounts of toxins into the environment, including cyanide, arsenic, and mercury.  Gold also requires huge amounts of water and electricity to produce, according to the same source.  Many who are concerned about the problems associated with gold mining and refining call it “dirty gold” because of its negative environmental impacts.

In addition, gold mining is believed to fuel conflict in places like the Congo and Colombia.  While not all of these conflicts make it into the news daily, they are ongoing sources of human rights abuses, death, and destruction.

The diamond trade also fuels conflicts in Africa according to the UN and Amnesty International.  While there has been some progress in restricting the trade of illegitimate diamonds that fund wars and abuse, it is still very difficult to ensure that a diamond comes from a conflict-free zone.

Fortunately, more and more jewelers are taking environmental and human rights considerations seriously.  It is becoming easier than in the past to find jewelers that carry no-conflict diamonds and clean gold.

If you want gold jewelry, look for a jeweler that uses recycled or reclaimed gold.  If they supervise the recycling process themselves, that is even better.  As far as I am aware, there is no certification process for recycled gold, so if this is a concern of yours, ask as many questions of the jeweler as necessary to assure yourself that their gold really is recycled.

But there are solutions to the problems of jewelry at hand.  Photo by MWD Photography.

There are solutions to the problems of jewelry at hand. Photo by MWD Photography.

Another choice for gold jewelry without additional harm to the environment is to find vintage jewelry.  Maybe there is even a piece in your family (or your soon-to-be in-laws’ family).  For example, I wear my husband’s great-grandmother’s wedding ring and he wears his great-grandfather’s.  The rings are a red gold, which isn’t fashionable these days, so it is a little different than anything you could buy in a store.  If there isn’t anything in your family, antique and vintage stores often have jewelry sections, and you can find some very nice pieces there.

Vintage diamonds are also one answer to the problems of new diamonds.  Some jewelers also import their diamonds from places like Canada where they believe the diamond trade is not involved in bloody conflicts.  But do your homework and make sure you have found a trusted source if this is an issue for you.

There is probably no perfect answer to these troubling issues.  The more people are aware of them, though, the closer we can come to solving some of these perplexing problems.

How to Hire a Photographer

March 21st, 2011
Just one example of what a good photographer can do.  Photo by Carasco Photography.

Just one example of what a good photographer can do. Photo by Carasco Photography.

I think there are probably about 5,000 wedding photographers in the Chicago area, so how do you go about narrowing that list down to the one you want to hire for your wedding or other special event?

My first recommendation would be to look at a photographer’s work if you are considering hiring that person.  Don’t just look at the limited selection on their website.  Ask to see all the photos from one event.   That will give you a good sense of the photographer’s range and style.  You might notice if they missed something you think is important.  You can judge for yourself the ratio of great shots to adequate ones.

The second thing, as with any vendor, is to get references.  Call people who have hired this person recently and ask if they were satisfied.  Ask if they thought they got value for their money.  Ask if there were any problems and how they were resolved.

Then, look at their prices and packages.  Every photographer has a different set of packages and it can be difficult to compare them.  But it is important to compare prices to be sure you are getting a good deal.

Finally, get to know your potential photographer.  You will be spending a lot of time with this person on your special day.  You should feel comfortable around your photographer.

Trust your instincts.  If you feel strongly that you have found the right person and if they can work within your budget, you have probably found your photographer.  If you have any doubts, keep looking until you are sure.

First Dance

March 11th, 2011
One kind of first dance.  Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

One kind of first dance. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

If you are getting married this summer, you might be starting to think about your First Dance.  It’s an important wedding tradition for a lot of people and sometimes it takes some planning.

Of course, it’s not important to some people, at all, and I’m not saying you have to do it.  If you’re not dancers and you don’t want to dance, I say skip it.

But for those who are going to dance together at their wedding reception, here are some thoughts.  The first dance is usually a bit of a performance.  You don’t have to announce it to the guests, but if you do, then everyone will be watching.  Be prepared for the extra pressure and be sure you are both comfortable with the music and the moves you choose.

A different kind of dance, but they are having just as much fun.  Photo by hannahelaine photography (

A different kind of dance, but they are having just as much fun. Photo by hannahelaine photography (

I’ve seen all kinds of first dances, everything from a simple slow dance to an elaborately choreographed tango.  (The tango was done so well that the guests insisted on an encore!)  There’s nothing you can do that is “wrong.”  But if you want to make sure it is interesting for your guests–and easier for you–choose a song that is three or four minutes long.  It might be a mistake to have a ten minute first dance, especially if you are not an accomplished dancer.

Despite what I said before about performance pressure, try to remember that the important thing is that the dance is for the two of you.  It’s the first time in your married life that you’ll dance together and it ought to be a special moment.  So, if you lose the rhythm or forget a step, don’t sweat it.  Enjoy the dance.  It’s the first of many.