“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.”
“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.”
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
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…
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.
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.
Please do your research. Please don’t hire anyone who doesn’t know how to handle your wedding with importance. Please hire a professional.
“Your love is a symphony, all around me.
Running through me.
Your love is a melody, underneath me.
Running to me.”
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.
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.”
I consider each wedding I photograph to be such a privilege, but when one of those weddings involves two people I already love, the feelings run so much deeper.
I met both Josh and Taylor my freshman year of college. Taylor and I had been assigned to the same dorm and I met Josh while participating in those new student orientation activities that everyone loves so much. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I became good friends with either of them. Taylor was always throwing the cutest parties in our tiny campus apartments. I definitely looked forward to those. After college, my husband shared an apartment with Josh and a couple more of our friends.
I remember on my 20th birthday, school had just ended for the summer and I was staying on campus for my internship. Stephen had to work all day, and I was really bummed about spending my birthday alone. So Josh and our friend Allen picked me up and took me to the fair in town. We went to dinner and watched movies and had a really great time. They spent the whole day with me so I wouldn’t be alone on my birthday. That day still makes me smile.
Now when I think back to all of this, I feel a little bit like an idiot. Here I was, friends with both of these wonderful (single) people and never once did I think to introduce them. When I really think about Josh & Taylor together, it makes so much sense. Their meeting, however, was much more serendipitous than I could have ever been a part of.
Taylor is an incredibly talented illustrator. She sells the cutest cards in her Etsy shop. Josh, being the thinker that he is, bought some of Taylor’s cards so he’d have an excuse to talk to her. It worked. Now that he had her address, he started to write her letters that she’ll treasure forever. Soon after the first letter, they decided to meet in person, and it was love at first sight. He loves the way she makes him laugh, and she loves the way he speaks so thoughtfully. Together, they make one of the most beautiful couples the world has ever seen.
Josh & Taylor, I am happy beyond words for the two of you. God’s timing never ceases to amaze me and you are the perfect example of that. You are both so wonderful, and I have loved watching your love story unfold. I am forever grateful that I got to be a part of your wedding day.
*A big thanks to my second shooter, Becky. Some of the images you’ll see here are hers.
Ok, it’s time to be honest. This week has been tough. This election crap has really been messing with my head, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I think when big events happen in our lives, and in this case, our country, we tend to reevaluate things. Am I saving enough money? Am I spending enough time with my family? Am I happy with my job? And that’s a lot of what this week has been for me. As I’ve started to think about these things, I’ve discovered some answers I wasn’t expecting.
When I think about the life that I’m living, I’m overcome with happiness. I love our little apartment in the most wonderful little neighborhood. I love our cat and how she squeaks instead of meowing. I have an incredible husband to come home to, and the most comfortable couch there ever was. I’ve got a family who loves me, and food in the fridge. And I’ve made the most amazing friends to share it all with. I really do think that 16 year old me would be so happy with who I am today. I’m also running this business, and it’s nothing short of a dream. It’s what I think about when I wake up, and when I go to sleep. It’s where my mind wanders to in line at the grocery store. I’m constantly evaluating the way I do things, and always trying to improve. I want to create the best photos and experiences for my clients, so I’ve got photos on the brain 24/7.
But I’m slowly starting to see how these two different and wonderful parts of my life aren’t harmonizing as well as they should be. I’m editing photos while I’m catching up with friends on the phone. I’m refreshing my email when Stephen and I sit down to watch TV together. I’m blogging while I eat my dinner instead of sitting and talking about my day with Stephen. Car rides and shopping trips all turn into work time somehow, and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
So many moons ago, I told you that I was going to start periodically blogging about some of the things that inspire me, and today I’m talking about We are the Parsons, a husband and wife photography team.
I’ve been a fan of their work for a while but it wasn’t until I listened to them on this podcast that I really fell in love with the people they are. They’re genuine and compassionate, and they’re striving to live their lives as present as they can be in all the little moments that matter most. They realized they were missing precious time with their kids because of their focus on Facebook fans and Instagram followers, something I think we can all relate to, so they quit social media. Yes, they quit. Talk about self control…
They’ve reminded me about the things that matter. They’ve helped me discover how to realign my priorities to be more present with the people I love most. What good is my comfortable couch if I never get to share it with Stephen? Why have these amazing friends in my life if I’m not even going to take the time to really listen to the things going on in their life? Running a business takes effort, but I can have a little more control over that effort. I can put my phone away at a certain time each night. I can stop answering emails for dinner. Blogging can wait. The people in my life are what I treasure most, and sometimes I forget to live like that’s true.
Listen to this podcast! Let it remind, realign, and challenge you to live a more present life.
Dana’s a girl that makes things happen. She’s ambitious, compassionate, and as you can see, gorgeous.
I have a questionnaire that I ask seniors to fill out for me so I can get a little understanding of who they are and what they like before our session. Dana’s definitely impressed me.
When I was in high school, I spent most of my time in class thinking about whose house we were going to sleepover that night. Dana spends her time interning at the Cleveland Clinic. She’s a senior at Laurel School, where she founded multiple clubs and is a member of even more. She’s applying to over a dozen colleges, and my guess is that she’ll have her pick of any of them. Her goal is to be a pediatric surgeon.
I had such a great time hanging out with Dana for her senior pictures at the Huntington Reservation in Bay Village. The trek through the weeds was more than worth it, and if you look closely, you might even be able to spot some new friends we made along the way.
Here are some of my favorite images from our session together.
I told you we weren’t done with the sunflowers. : )
Katie’s a Senior at Rocky River High School. She’s in the National Honors Society, she’s involved in drama productions, and she’s in the band. (It was an honor to meet a fellow mellophone player, or really just anyone who knows what a mellophone is.)
This session was a dream.
The first shot in this blog post was the very first shot my camera fired off that evening. This is what the girl looks like when she’s not. even. trying.
I knew real fast that we were going to have some fun together.
We started in the sunflowers, and ended at the beach, and Katie didn’t stop being flawless for one second.
I was once a bride. I was once planning my wedding, and stressing about colors and dresses and food and all the things brides stress about. I was nervous to be the center of attention for a day, and I wanted to please everyone. Was my dress going to fit? Was everyone going to be on time for pictures? I was a mess.
But four years ago today, I walked down the aisle and met my best friend at the altar in the church where I used to nap in the pews. I got ready and took my deep breaths in the nursery that I helped paint. I walked by the office where my crayon art used to hang on the walls. We said our vows in the same spot that I forgot my lines in the church Christmas play. And I looked out and saw all the people we love most, there to support us. And suddenly the color of the tablecloths didn’t matter anymore, because I was about to spend forever with the boy I loved most.
Our wedding day wasn’t perfect. One of our groomsmen forgot his suit in another state. The girl who promised she’d be there on my wedding day to do my hair called off sick. And even though I was so adamant there only be white pumpkins at the reception, an orange one snuck in. There were miscommunications, and unnecessary worries, and there are things I’d do differently if I could.
But all of that is okay because marriage isn’t perfect.
There are words I wish I could take back, and arguments that should have never happened. There are days where I’ve spent too much time working, and not enough time just being. Sometimes I cry for no reason, and I care about all the things I shouldn’t. Stephen leaves laundry in the washer, and forgets to lock the car. He’s bad at answering texts, and never rinses his dishes. We’re two completely imperfect people, choosing to love each other for who we are right now, and who we will become.
Your wedding is going to be messy. But your marriage will be, too. And that’s okay. Because he’ll send you flowers at work on your anniversary, and you’ll pick up his dirty socks off the floor, and he’ll make you dinner, and you’ll buy him that xbox he really wanted, and he won’t make fun of you for crying at that Allstate commercial, and you’ll learn to share the covers, and somehow, every day, you’ll learn to love each other so much more than the day before.
Here are a few of my favorite photos from my wedding day. All of our photos are by our friends, Penny & Finn, who sadly no longer shoot weddings.