Woman Defends $130 Wedding Ring Set: 'You're Not Marrying Someone for a Ring'

Courtesy of Ariel McRae(MARTIN, Tenn.) -- When Ariel and Quinn McRae decided to get married on the last day of their vacation, the last thing they were thinking about was buying wedding bands.

The Martin, Tennessee, student wrote in a now-viral Facebook post that she and her now husband "scrape and scrape to pay bills and put food in our bellies."

So they went to a local mall to pick out Ariel McRae's rings, ultimately settling on a sterling silver, pearl and cubic zirconia ring set that cost the couple $130.

But, according to Ariel McRae, as they were buying the rings from a sales associate, another employee at the store approached and asked "'Y'all, can you believe that some men get these as engagement rings? How pathetic.'"

Her husband appeared chagrined, Ariel McRae said. "Poor Quinn's face fell and I was a little baffled," she wrote.

Thankfully, another "super nice" sales associate helped them purchase the ring set they fell in love with, Ariel McRae told ABC News. "We went ahead and bought them because we wanted them and I really liked them," she added.

But Ariel McRae wrote that before she left the store, she told the employee, "It isn't the ring that matters, it is the love that goes into buying one that is."

Ariel McRae's message has now gone viral on Facebook, with more than 44,000 likes, and many complementing her on her ring.

The newlywed said what prompted her to vent on Facebook was after receiving similar comments from friends and family members asking when she planned to upgrade and if her wedding bands were placeholders for a larger ring in the future.

"I wanted people to understand that ... a ring is just a bonus," Ariel McRae told ABC News. "You're not marrying someone for a ring. You're marrying someone because you love them."

The Knot magazine's fashion and beauty editor Shelley Brown agrees despite the fact that in their most recent survey, the 2015 Real Weddings Study, the magazine found that on average grooms spend nearly $6,000 on engagement rings.

"Really the center stone of your ring will make up the bulk of your price," Brown explained. "The majority of the data shows that people are investing in a half-carat to two-carat diamond [ring]."

Brown gave suggestions on how grooms and couples can cut down on the price tag. "You don't have to buy a diamond," Brown said. "Precious stones are also becoming more popular than they used to be."

Sapphires, emeralds, rubies and Morganites are particularly popular, she added.

Brown also suggested that grooms choose a ring with a halo or a "ring of micro-diamonds that surround your center stone," to cut costs. If grooms avoid "bedazzled settings" or any "intricate side work ... that's labor intensive to create," that can also cut down on the price tag.

Still, Brown said grooms should remember that it's "really whatever makes you happy." She noted that some couples forgo rings altogether and opt for ring tattoos.

"It should be more about the significance than having a big stone," she added.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


US and European Stocks Rise Despite Italy's Referendum

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street closed in the green Monday as global markets recovered from Italy's referendum result.

The Dow gained 45.82 (+0.24 percent) to finish at 19,216.24 after hitting an intraday all-time high of 19,274.85.

The Nasdaq jumped 53.24 (+1.01 percent) to close at 5,308.89, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,204.71, up 12.76 (+0.58 percent) from its open.

Crude oil lost 1 percent with prices hitting over $52 a barrel.

Italy: Italians largely voted "No" over the weekend to a proposal that would attempt to streamline Italy's lawmaking process. Italian Prime minister Matteo Renzi supported the reforms in the referendum, and said he would resign in wake of the results. The Euro briefly fell about 1 percent (a 20-month low) against the U.S. Dollar after the news, but European markets have largely rebounded since.

Amazon: introduced "Amazon Go" on Monday, a physical grocery store with no checkout and no waiting in line. According to the online retailer, the first Amazon Go location will open to the public in Seattle in early 2017. Shares in soared nearly 3 percent on the news.

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Hashtag Service Helps Brides Create Customized Social Media Tags for Their Weddings

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It's a common struggle: Stuck with thumbs hovering over smartphones trying to come up with a witty hashtag to help organize photos for a big event.

Well, think no more thanks to a new service that helps create hashtags for any event, including weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, office parties and even birthdays.

It's the brainchild of Los Angeles magazine arts and culture editor, Marielle Wakim. She created Happily Ever #Hashtagged last month, offering a witty and clever hashtag for $40.

"My goal is not to give someone a hashtag anybody could think of off the top of their head," Wakim, 29, told ABC News.

The editor created what she calls her "premiere concierge service" after attending 19 weddings over two years and noticing the lack of options. Each bride wanted help coming up with a creative hashtag to capture wedding photos on social media.

"Clearly there's a need. People are not able to come up with something," Wakim said of what inspired her. "So I decided to give it a try in terms of monetizing it."

So far, so good. She's had 60 orders to date and her most popular has been the three wedding hashtags package, which retails for $85.

Wakim said it takes her at least an hour, and at most "days" to come up with original hashtags, such as #MollyPicksUpTheTempo for a bride named Molly Goldbach who married Chad Tempo.

"I spend a large amount of time trying to come up with something witty and clever," she said. "I spend a good solid hour on punning, thinking of idioms or rhymes or wordplay."

"It can take a couple days to come up with something I think is worthwhile," Wakim continued. "You’re going to land on a bunch that aren’t quite right when they’re written down or they look weird or inappropriate."

One bride, Dana Hill, was pleased with the hashtag Wakim created for her nuptials: #ForeverlyHills. It's a play on Beverly Hills. Duh.

"I was surprised. I thought it fit perfectly," Hill told ABC News. "My husband and I are [Certified Public Accountants]. We're not the most creative types."

Hill, 29, who lives in Naperville, Illinois, said she incorporated the customized hashtag into her country chic wedding by putting the hashtag on her wedding website. It was also featured at her reception on signage and cocktail napkins.

The bride said it was worth the investment.

"We wanted an isolated place for us to go back and a million years later look at photos," Hill said. "To my knowledge, no one else is using it."

And that's the point for Wakim -- to create novel hashtags no one else can use.

"A hashtag -- if nothing else -- is a sorting mechanism to help you not only see all of your photos pretty immediately," Wakim said, "but also avoid having to scroll past 20,000 photos on #SmithWedding2017."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Arianna Huffington's New Company Combats Burnout

Taylor Dunn/ABC News(NEW YORK) — Arianna Huffington is no stranger to sleep deprivation. The 66-year-old media mogul, who’s now on a mission to make sure you get enough sleep, had her own personal wake-up call in 2007, when she collapsed from exhaustion. Outwardly, she was the picture of success but while going from MRI to CAT scan to echocardiogram, she says she began to wonder, “Is this really what success feels like?”

From this journey, Thrive was born. In her 2014 book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she challenged the traditional measurements of success and investigated the “epidemic of burnout” and negative impact of stress. One of the most pertinent points she discusses is the importance of sleep as a gateway to improving well-being.

She further investigated that idea in her latest book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, in which she proclaims, “We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis … and this has profound consequences -- on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness.”

Huffington’s quest for a better quality of life has culminated in her latest venture, Thrive Global, which launched on Nov. 30, 2016.

“The reason why I became such an evangelist of this new way of living, that we call 'thriving,' is because I now know that we can actually get to that place where we are achieving and creating and getting things done without burning out,” Huffington told ABC’s Rebecca Jarvis in an interview for Jarvis’s new podcast. “In fact we can get there much faster.”

With Thrive Global, Huffington is hoping to change the way we work and the way we live by offering “science-based solutions” to combat stress and burnout in order to enhance well-being and productivity.

“I want to and stop using the term 'work-life balance' because it is not based on science,” Huffington said. “It's not like we have to balance work and life. The truth is very different that when we prioritize our life …our work gets better.”

Thrive Global is also offering a variety of apps to help “set boundaries” with technology. Two of Huffington’s favorites are called “Thrive Away” and “Silo.”

Going on vacation and don’t want a clogged inbox when you return? Thrive Away might just be the app for you.

“This app that we've created makes it possible for you to send an e-mail when you are on vacation, which says … if this is urgent, please contact so and so, if it is not, email after my return date [because] this email will be deleted,” Huffington explained.

Want to disconnect but not entirely? Huffington suggests the app Silo.

“Another app is called Silo and it turns your smartphone into a dumb phone for a specified period of time.”

As our cultural attitude toward sleep and work ethic continues to evolve, so does Huffington, who never dreamed that she would be launching a new company at this point in her career.

She told Jarvis, “I thought the Huffington Post was going to be my last chapter but then Thrive and The Sleep Revolution ... became more and more important to me and there's so much we can do here to change the way we work and live. I'm so excited to have just embarked on this journey.”

Arianna Huffington’s full interview with Rebecca Jarvis will be released in January 2017 on Jarvis’s new ABC News podcast.
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Santa's House Listed on Zillow

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A real estate listing for Santa Claus’s home at the North pole has appeared on Zillow, the online real estate database.

The listing features pictures and a video tour of the single family house built in 1822, which is said to feature three beds, two baths and 2,500 square feet of living space on a 25-acre lot. The listing indicates the home was last remodeled in 2013 and features a gourmet kitchen, a toy workshop, reindeer stables, a floor-to-ceiling river rock fireplace and a sleigh parking garage.

The house is currently off-market but has an estimated value of $656,957.

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This Year, The "Twelve Days of Christmas" List Will Run You More Than $34,000

iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) — Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group has tracked the cost of the gifts mentioned in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" for the last 33 years as a way to keep a whimsical eye on inflation.

The cost of two turtle doves jumped from $290 to $375 this year, but nine of the other 12 gifts listed in the carol stayed the same price -- or became cheaper.

You'll still pay a pretty penny, however: more than $34,000 for ever item on the seasonal list. PNC says the cost of this year's gifts increased $233 to $34,363, up 0.7 percent from last year.

Eleven pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming were also slightly more expensive this year.

At slightly more than $5,500, nine lords a-leaping are a downright bargain, considering the prices Hamilton tickets are fetching.

In case you still need to do some Christmas shopping, here’s the full list, as PNC found from brick-and-mortar businesses -- not online:

- Partridge, $20; last year: $25
- Pear tree, $190; last year: same
- Two turtle doves, $375; last year: $290
- Three French hens, $182; last year: same
- Four calling birds (canaries), $600; last year: same
- Five gold rings, $750; last year: same
- Six geese-a-laying, $360; last year: same
- Seven swans a-swimming, $13,125; last year: same
- Eight maids a-milking, $58; last year: same
- Nine ladies dancing (per performance), $7,553; last year: same
- 10 lords a-leaping (per performance), $5,509; last year: same  
- 11 pipers piping (per performance), $2,708; last year: $2,635
- 12 drummers drumming (per performance), $2,934; last year: $2,855

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Dolly Parton Planning Telethon Dec. 13 to Benefit Tennessee Wildfire Victims 

Ian Gavan/Getty Images(PIGEON FORGE, Tenn.) -- Dolly Parton is going a step further to help the victims of wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee where the singer grew up.

The country music star is planning a telethon to support the many who have lost their homes in the devastating blazes.

Parton announced last week that she would donate $1,000 per month to each family that lost their homes to the wildfires that have scorched thousands of acres and burned hundreds of homes and other buildings. She set up the My People Fund for her donations.

Now, a rep for the singer confirmed to ABC News that Parton is planning a telethon on Dec. 13 in Nashville.

All of the proceeds from the telethon will go toward the My People Fund, set up by the singer's Dollywood companies and the Dollywood Foundation.

"More details coming soon," the rep added.

Although Parton, 70, has been in Los Angeles filming The Voice, her thoughts have been back in Tennessee. The singer's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge was barely saved from the wildfires.

Dean Fleener, a spokesperson with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, told ABC News last week that the flames were "right on the doorstep" of Dollywood, but crews were able to keep the fires away from the park.

"I’ve always believed charity begins at home, and my home is someplace special," Parton said when she announced the fund. "We want to provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires. I know it has been a trying time for my people, and this assistance will help get them back on their feet."

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Trump Will Decide 'Day by Day' on Intervening With Companies, Pence Says 

ABC News/ State of Indiana(NEW YORK) -- Vice President-elect Mike Pence says the incoming Trump administration will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to reach out to companies that are considering moving jobs out of the country, as the president-elect did with Carrier.

"The president-elect will make those decisions on a day-by-day basis in the course of the transition and in the course of the administration," Pence told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos today on This Week.

Asked about Trump's decision to negotiate with Carrier but not with other companies planning to move jobs out of the country, Pence said, "I don't think it's picking winners and losers at all."

"What the president-elect did with Carrier was simply reach out, one American to another, and just ask them to reconsider," he said.

Carrier will receive about $7 million in state tax breaks to keep about 800 jobs in Indiana under the deal it worked out with Trump, although the company will still move hundreds of other jobs from its Indianapolis plant to Mexico.

"[Trump] asked them to reconsider, and they did," Pence said. "I think that the message that that sends across the American economy to businesses that may be considering leaving our country is that things are really changing."

Some conservatives came out against Trump's intervening with Carrier, saying that it goes against the principles of a free market. Former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin called the deal "crony capitalism" in an op-ed earlier this week.

But Indiana Gov. Pence said Trump is living up to his campaign promises.

"We're going to make the American economy more competitive," Pence said. "We're going to get tougher and smarter on trade deals."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Farecompare CEO Rick Seaney Shares Four Bad Reasons to Miss Out on Europe This Year

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many people feel that traveling to Europe is financially out-of-reach, but that isn't necessarily the case.

Farecompare CEO Rick Seaney sat down with ABC News and gave 4 reasons why people don't book a trip to Europe and why those reasons aren't always valid.

Here's what he had to say:

Back in 2009, the New York Times reported "shockingly" low fares to Europe.

The report showed prices from a few sites (including my own) such as New York to Paris for $392 round-trip.

There was no catch beyond the fact that back then the U.S. was in the depths of a great recession.

Well here’s another shock: We’ve climbed out of that recession and times are good, but you can still go to Paris for just $392. In fact, I just found a round-trip on Icelandair for $391! It must be noted that this fare and other cheap flights to Europe are largely good in the winter months, but these are still remarkable, even shockingly good deals.

Yet some don’t want to go to Europe. Here are four bad reasons that shouldn't hold you back:

1. You’re Cheap

You love to boast about how much you save, so a Boston to Brussels deal for $382 round-trip might be right up your alley.

Tip: Those of you who do like to brag about spending too much can take the same Boston-Brussels flights on the same days, same airline (Air Canada) but fly business class; then it’ll cost you $5,798.

2. You Like to Fly Favorite Airlines

While it’s true that many of the current best deals to Europe are offered by discount carriers like Icelandair, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Wow Air, there are nearly as many good deals on airlines you’re more familiar with and here are some examples (again, prices were found last week):

- Boston to Copenhagen: $355 round-trip on United
- Boston to Barcelona: $397 round-trip, British Airways
- Denver to Amsterdam: $489 round-trip on United
- Boston to Paris: $572 round-trip on Air Canada
- Chicago to London: $597 round-trip on British Airways

Tip: Always compare fares on an airfare comparison site (there are many, including my own) because you never know which airline will have the cheapest fares.

3. You Don't Like Crowds

Travel in winter and enjoy the significantly shorter lines outside the Uffizi Gallery or the Louvre.

According to British tourism statistics, the number of visitors to the U.K. in the first quarter of 2016 (January to March) was about 7.5 million. From April to June, the figure jumped to just a hair under 10 million and although the complete summer figures aren’t yet available, you know they’re staggering.

Luckily, prices in winter aren't. Here’s an example for a round-trip flight from Hartford to Dublin on Aer Lingus:

- Fly in February: $513
- Fly in July: $783

Tip: If you’re flying as a family of four on a trip in the example above, flying during summer will cost you more than $1,000 more than winter travel.

4. You've Already Been to Europe

Maybe you’ve been to London, Paris and Rome, but that doesn’t mean you’ve seen it all. There are more fabulous places like Barcelona, Glasgow and Venice. Or how about Oslo or Copenhagen, Santorini, Greece, or Split, Croatia? The point is the list is endless and so are the deals, at least for now.

So what if you can’t speak the language? Learn a few words, meet some people, get off the beaten path; my experience is that most people like people who take the trouble to come and see their native treasures.

Tip: You’ll never regret exploring a new city or country; you will regret not taking advantage of what may be once-in-a-lifetime deals to Europe.

Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Biltmore Estate Takes Christmas Decor to Another Level

Courtesy of Biltmore House(ASHEVILLE, N.C.) -- Each Christmas season, the Biltmore Estate -- the nation's largest privately owned home -- welcomes 300,000 guests through its doors.

That's a lot of pressure for even the most experienced decorator.

A trip by George Vanderbilt to Asheville, North Carolina, in 1888 led to construction of the family "country home" the next year. It was open to the public in 1930 and in 2001, an inn was opened on the vast grounds. Today, it remains one of the most beloved travel destinations in the Southeast and is still family-owned.

For 2016, the Christmas at Biltmore theme is Hearth and Home, which "brings to mind celebrations around the fireplace, caroling from house to house, and certainly the warmth and hospitality that began with George Vanderbilt welcoming family and friends to his new home on Christmas Eve 1895," according to the estate.

The estate is home to 62 Christmas trees, the largest of which is the 35-foot-tall Christmas tree that spends the holidays in the seven-story-high Banquet Hall of the house. It's no small feat to bring the tree in safely, requiring 40 employees.

New in holiday decor this year is an 18.5-foot-long replica of Biltmore Village that sits on the dining room table in the Banquet Hall. Four generations of a Biltmore family helped build it: Designed by floral design team member April Partain, she and her mom (retired from Biltmore after 20 years); her brother (currently on the engineering services team at Biltmore); along with her father, grandfather and nephew, collaborated to create the village from dollhouses sourced from their family, a Biltmore marketing team employee and the staff from a Biltmore shop.

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