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the blog.

I believe in strong marriages over beautiful weddings. I hope and pray that all my couples spend the months and years after their wedding day growing closer together.
I want for them to be able to celebrate being with each other in the good times, and the times when it feels like it’s all falling apart.I believe that weddings are inherently beautiful. The act of committing your life to someone is one of the most pure and genuinely exquisite things there is. Everything about a wedding in addition to that covenant is meant to add to the beauty of a wedding day.The last thing that I would ever want my couples to do is plan a wedding filled with dreamy details they found on Pinterest that don’t add a thing to that promise.

So you can imagine how stoked I was to connect withe Rachel and Elijah. They are recently married, and believe so strongly in the concept of meaningful weddings that they started a business dedicated to helping couples create an intentional wedding experience that accurately represents exactly who they are. They’re so obviously in love with each other and being married, and It shows so strongly in these photos. Elijah is an incredible musician, and Rachel is the only yoga teacher that I trust to bend me like a pretzel. So in addition to helping couples with wedding planning, they are bringing their community together through concerts and yoga classes. They’re just really cool people, if you hadn’t noticed.

I was so excited to spend a couple evenings with them in their home and their community.
I like to think that my couples consider me friends after we’ve worked together and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s definitely the case with Rachel & Elijah.

To learn more about Rachel & Elijah’s business, TERRA Ohio City, visit their website.

To all my couples planning weddings – do your best to make it meaningful.
To all the married couples out there – do your best to celebrate your marriage.
I’d love to schedule a solidarity session with you to do just that.

Enjoy some of my favorites from my session with my new friends.

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It was the perfect summer night on the lake. We played some Copeland, walked through the perfectly unkept grass, and smelled the water’s air.

In the woods & on the beach.

Matthew & Amanda.

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a photography workshop hosted by a couple of my favorite local photographers, Mallory + Justin. We spent two days in Cuyahoga Valley National Park enjoying each other’s company and learning so much along the way. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to feel isolated sometimes. I don’t regularly spend time with other photographers, but I soak up every chance I get. These two days away from my routine were just what I needed. We learned so much from each other and we’re all coming out with a few more friends than we started with.

Travis and Stephanie graciously agreed to let us practice our new techniques on them, and they killed it!

Here are a few of my favorite images from our engagement session in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Ps. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll find a list of all the wonderful vendors who made this event possible.

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A couple weeks ago, my dad gathered some of the most important people in my mom’s life into one balloon filled room and surprised her. It wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t their anniversary. It was a party just to celebrate how wonderful my mom is every day of the year. (#goals, am I right?) Her friends came from all over the state. There were people who are in her life now, and people who meant so much to her many years ago. But I think she’d agree that the most special guests at the party were the four people in these photos. (ya know, because she gets to see me all the time.) : )

This is my brother and his sweet family. Although we’re not super close in age, we’re so much alike it scares me sometimes. Matthew moved away to Florida seventeen years ago. Since then, he has married his high school sweetheart and had two (as you’ll see) adorable kids who call us Aunt Allison & Uncle Stephen. (or sometimes Aunt Raspberry & Uncle Milk) They drove all the way from Florida to surprise my mom and I’ll never forget her face when she saw them.

They spent about 10 days with us, and every day was packed with all things Cleveland. (If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen a little of our Zoo trip.) We watched fireworks, and toured downtown. We went swimming and shopped a little too much. We had sleepovers and listened to “bacon pancakes” about 40 times too many. But we loved every moment of it.

Visits are always farther apart than we’d like, and they never seem long enough. But I’m so glad for the memories that were made last week.
Here is the Wengerd family.

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“& the way you move, I won’t close my eyes.
Cause it takes a man to live, but it takes a woman to make him compromise.

Be in my eyes
Be in my heart
Be in my eyes
Be in my heart”

A big thanks to my second shooter, Marina. Some of these images are hers.
Venue / Tom’s Country Place
Florist / Stem Floral
Cake / Convivial Confections
DJ / Troy Entertainment
Popcorn provided by Campbell’s Sweets

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“What the water wants is hurricanes,
And sailboats to ride on its back.
What the water wants is sun kiss,
And land to run into and back.

I’ll show you the sky.”

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“Rock-a-bye baby, come and rest.
You’ve been tired lately, lay your head down.
Don’t you think, baby I know best
I’ve been a father for a long time.

No one knows you better than me.”

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I remember as a child when I would visit a friend’s house for the first time, I would always take a second to close my eyes and experience what their house “felt like.” I’d take in all the smells and absorb whatever vibes the room was giving off and from then on, when I’d think about that friend, that feeling would come rushing back to me. When I think about Marlee and Grant’s wedding, the feeling that comes back to me is so comfortable. I remember taking a moment during the reception to take it all in. I looked at their families, and watched their smiling faces, and made a mental note of just how “right” it all felt. It’s like the world had been waiting for this day to happen, like it was all finally coming together exactly the way that it was supposed to. Like Marlee and Grant were created to be with each other. To be married. On this day. From their strikingly similar family backgrounds to their perfectly silly personalities, this was all so right and I knew it from the moment I met them.

Marlee and Grant kicked off my wedding season and they set the bar super high. We started the day at Stylehouse Beauty Bar in the Arcade, and finished at Windows on the River. It was all one big party – from the bridesmaids’ gold sequin Rent the Runway dresses, to their flawless Hamilton duet in the party bus. It was perfect.

Here are a few of my favorite images from that day.

A big thanks to my second shooter, Marina.

Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist: Style House Beauty
Florist: Paradise Flower Market 
Transportation: Platinum Party Bus 
Reception Venue: Windows on the River 
Cake: Wild Flour Bakery 
DJ: DJ Willie Hooper, Drop the Mic Entertainment

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So you’re planning a wedding, and it feels like both your money and emotions are being pulled in all different directions. Your mom is adamant that there be baby’s breath in the bouquets. Your dad NEEDS steak at the reception. And the best man is dead set on a party bus. When you can’t afford it all, where do you make the cuts?

Well, you don’t have any friends who own a party bus, and your parents are paying for part of your wedding. But you’ve got a friend with a new camera, and you’ve seen some of her pictures of flowers from her last trip to the botanical gardens, so you’re pretty sure she can handle it. If not, you’ll just set up a wedding hashtag, or throw some disposable cameras on the tables and let your guest handle the rest. What’s the worst that can happen…

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Because most of us live with cameras in our pockets 24/7, it feels like photography is often the first to get cut out of the wedding budget. And if I can speak as a former bride, and not a photographer for just a second, can I just say that’s a really bad idea? Ok, photographer again.

I want to do my best to educate brides on some of the things they may not think about when planning their weddings. I’ve seen it all, I’ve heard the regrets, and I want to save even just one bride from wedding photography sadness.

So why should you hire a professional wedding photographer?

1. Because I’m more than a photographer.
You’re going to hire a whole lot of vendors, some of which you won’t even see on your wedding day. Your florist will drop your flowers off and maybe say hello. You won’t see the artist who bakes and decorates your cake. You’ll greet your DJ, and thank him in between announcements. But your photographer is with you all. day. long. For most of my brides, this is their very first time being a bride. If they haven’t hired a planner or coordinator, who are they supposed to ask their questions to?

I help my brides with their wedding day timelines (before and during the wedding) – who’s supposed to be where and at what time, and I’m there all day to answer all the questions a first time bride might have. After all, I’ve been to a few weddings. ; ) When my camera is in their face during the cake cutting, they whisper to me to ask which layer they’re supposed to cut. I’m there to quietly shoo your great aunt out of your bridal suite when you need a few quiet moments with just your girls. I’ll fix your dress and remind you how high to hold your bouquet, and to take just a few moments to soak this beautiful day in. These are questions that an amateur won’t be able to answer for you. So don’t think of me as just your photographer, but your personal wedding expert.

2. Because weddings aren’t suited for amateurs.
There are plenty of great newborn photographers who probably couldn’t shoot a wedding. Similarly, I wouldn’t be the one you’d call if you were looking for some sweet Anne Geddes style photos of your new little one. Just because someone is a photographer, does not mean they are a wedding photographer.

Studio and portrait photography are usually in very controlled environments. For instance, I schedule all my portrait sessions around sunrise or sunset because I know that’s when the light is going to look its best. If it’s storming, we’ll cancel. It’s simple. Weddings are completely out of my control. Although I’d prefer all wedding venues to feature large windows, and natural light pouring through, that’s not how it works. Sometimes your reception is in a dark restaurant at 9pm, and I’m working with only candle light. Sometimes it storms during our whole allotted portrait time and we have to make it work. It takes both the right skill and equipment to produce the results you’re looking for in these situations. A less experienced photographer might know exactly how to photograph a dark space, but if they haven’t invested the money in the right equipment, they simply won’t nail the shot. On the other hand, you may know someone with the best equipment on the market, but if they don’t have the wedding experience to back it up, it’s of no worth to you.

3. Because I’ve done this before.
It’s your wedding day. You’ve been announced into your reception for the very first time as Mr. & Mrs. and you couldn’t be more excited to get out on the dance floor and spend a few quiet moments with your new husband. Your song starts playing and this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You can’t even wait to see the photos of you dancing in your beautiful dress with your love. Those sweet little glances and dance floor whispers. But when you get your wedding photos back, something is wrong – you don’t see any first dance photos. There must be a mistake. That friend you knew with the camera, who did you such a favor by photographing your wedding must have just misplaced those photos. But when you hear back, that’s not the case. They explain that since they had never shot a wedding, they thought the first dance came later in the night, so they decided to take a little break during the reception. They didn’t think anything important would happen while they were out, but it looks like they were wrong. You’ll never get that first dance back.

Professionals know what to look for. If I need to leave the room for any reason, I know to talk to the DJ and let them know when I leave and when I’ll be back so we don’t miss a beat, and you don’t miss any photos.

4. Because your “I do’s” should never need a redo.
If you hire a photographer to take family photos and you’re unhappy with the results, you may be out some money, but you can hire another photographer the following week to get you the results you’re looking for. That’s not how weddings work. Think about all the hard work you’ve put into planning the wedding of your dreams. When will you ever have a room filled with your favorite people, and your favorite things together again? Your niece will grow out of her flower girl dress in just a few months. Your maid of honor won’t have that cute baby bump anymore, and by the time you get your photos back, your family will all be settled back into their homes around the country. You’ll never get a chance to redo your wedding day. Hire someone you trust to make sure you won’t need to.

5. Because photos matter.
I’ll end with the obvious. Your wedding photos matter more than you realize right now. I know you’re thinking about how to impress your guests with the best food you can find, or making sure your peonies are the exact shade of pink you’ve always dreamt of. But in a few years, people will have no idea what kind of food you served, or even what color your flowers were. They won’t remember the cake, or if you handed out favors or not. But you’ll be left with the photos that capture that exact shade of pink you love so much. You’ll look back and talk about how young you looked, and how much you had to learn. You’ll thumb through that special photo of your husband hugging your mom and that little tear in her eye. And for a moment, you’ll remember those butterflies in your stomach the day you married your love. I don’t want you to look back on your wedding day with any regrets. Let yourself have the photos you know you’ll cherish. You deserve that.

I asked a couple of my friends who had wedding regrets about their experiences, and this is what they had to say.

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Please do your research. Please don’t hire anyone who doesn’t know how to handle your wedding with importance. Please hire a professional.

 

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“Your love is a symphony, all around me.
Running through me.
Your love is a melody, underneath me.
Running to me.”

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It was July 12. Sarah’s boyfriend Evan called to ask if she wanted to go on a hike. They had been together since high school, and had enjoyed many hikes before, but this one would be a little different. She was excited to spend time with Evan but was a little confused when Evan told her not to bring her dog they both loved so much, but she didn’t think too much about it. They strolled through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and made their way down to Blue Hen Falls – one of their favorite spots. Evan slowly worked up the courage to ask Sarah the most important question of his life. The details are a little fuzzy for both of them but somewhere between the hike down, and the hike back up, Sarah added the prettiest piece of jewelry to her collection.

When Evan, Sarah and I started discussing their engagement photos, we knew we had to make our way back to those falls. We miraculously picked a wonderfully mild winter afternoon in Cleveland, and we made it happen. We braved muddy trails and slippery rocks and every bit of it was worth it.

He loves her big smile, and she loves his big personality.

I can’t wait to watch as they promise their lives together in September.

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If I had to choose my favorite part about living in Cleveland, it would hands down be Lake Erie. There’s something so calming about the water, even on 30 degree mornings like this one. Lauren & Corey braved the cold cold wind, and woke up early with me to watch the sun rise behind the skyline. Lakewood park is like a little piece of Northern Ohio heaven, and I learned it’s even more special to these two lovebirds.

Lauren & Corey met at a wedding earlier this year, and had their very first date at Lakewood park. A few months later, that same spot is where Corey proposed. This is the spot that has held so many firsts for the two of them, and I like to think it’s a place where they’ll someday bring their kids and tell them that this is where it all began.

Once we were nice & frozen, we headed to Lauren’s apartment, just a few blocks away. We put on her Josh Garrels record, and I watched them spend the morning together, like they had so many times before. Lauren’s apartment is filled with so many meaningful things. Her walls are decorated with the scriptures that mean the most to her and Corey. Scattered around, there are journals; their pages filled with her love story. Even though I had never been there, it felt like home.

“Take my hand, I won’t let go.
We’ve waited so long.

And all my life I walked alone
To you, my heart, my home.”

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