3 Things...To Bring with You on Your Wedding Day

I'm so excited to kick off a new blog series today! "3 Things" will be a quick snippet of important info for brides to consider when planning their weddings, and beyond!

Our first post is all about 3 super important things to remember to bring with you on your wedding day. These are things that may seem so crazy obvious to you right now, but in the excitement of packing your bag and rushing out to start hair and makeup...you just might leave without them!

Elizabeth Henson Photos
Your Rings
This happens so much more than you might think. Brides {and grooms} get through the whole morning of their wedding only to realize an hour or two from the ceremony that no one brought the wedding bands with them. It's a great idea to put one of your most trusted attendants in charge of these. The Maid of Honor or Best Man will likely be a little less frazzled the morning of your wedding and they'll make sure the rings get to the ceremony.

Your Vows
If you're writing your own vows, chances are you've put some serious time and effort into doing so. These aren't just a few sentences you've scribbled down on the fly...these words mean so much to you and your fiance. So once you have them written, put them with something you cannot leave without, like your dress!

Rebecca Keeling Studios
Details for the Photographer
You put some serious effort into planning this wedding, and you've likely invested quite a bit of money on a talented photographer to capture every single detail of the day. Make sure to set aside any special details you want the photographer to capture. Things like an invitation suite, any heirlooms you might plan to wear, and even your perfume are all things that you'll want photographs of later. Try having them all set aside neatly for your photographer to start capturing as soon as they arrive.

Do what you can to plan ahead and make sure these things make it out of the house with you the morning of your wedding. Pack them ahead of time and maybe put them with your dress...since we know you won't leave the house without that beauty!

If you have any suggestions for future "3 Things" posts, shoot me an email at justdandyevents@yahoo.com. I'd love to hear your ideas!

The Importance of a Wedding Day Timeline

Hey ya'll!  How was everyone's Thanksgiving?!  I hope you ate as much as I did and enjoyed some fantastic family time.  Now it's back to the grind and today I'm here with a little bit of advice for your wedding day.  A few months back, I wrote this as a guest on Sterling Dawn Events' blog and I knew I needed to share it over here on mine as well.  The wedding planning process is filled with so many important aspects and it's pretty easy for things to fall through the cracks if you're not careful.  Whatever you do, do not let your wedding day timeline be one of those things that ends up forgotten or neglected!

Kirstyn Marie Photography
I've met with so many couples who've told me in the beginning stages of planning that they won't be needing a day-of timeline.  "We're really laid back", "We like to wing it", and "We don't want to feel rushed" are some of the reasons they've given me.  As their wedding planner, it's my job to explain to them why those are all the perfect reasons they NEED to have a timeline for their big day.

Timelines allot the right amount of time for each aspect of your day, making sure that there's no rushing to fit everything in.  Without a timeline, important things like the bouquet and garter toss can be forgotten.  Then you're left to squish them in at the last minute, when some of your most important guests may have already headed home.

As much as you'll depend on your timeline to keep your day on track, your vendors will depend on it even more so.  A wedding is full of so many moving parts....sometimes dozens of vendors are working together to bring your vision to life.  It's so important that they each know what the order of events will be for the day so that they know when they have to be ready.  Your caterer will want to make sure that your dinner is served on time.  Your photographer will want to be ready by the cake table when it's time for toasts and cake cutting.  And your driver for the night will want to have your vintage care ready in time for your grand exit.

Elizabeth Henson Photos
Now that you know why the timeline is important and necessary for your wedding day, how do you build one?  It can seem like a really overwhelming thing to tackle.  Your wedding planner will be a huge help when you're putting it together, but here are a few tips for constructing the perfect timeline for your day:

- Build it around the non-negotiables.  If sunset portraits are of the utmost importance to you, build the timeline around when you and your new husband will be outside catching that perfect light with your photographer.  If it is imperative that your great-grandmother be present for the cutting of the cake and you know she won't stay past 8pm, take that into consideration when mapping out the order of events.

- Include your vendors in the building of the timeline.  You hired each of them because of their ability to perform their craft so well.  Let them educate you on what they do and how much time they need to do it.

Daniel Pullen Photography
- Set aside a little quiet time for you and your new husband!  Whether it's immediately following the ceremony or during sunset, set aside just 5-10 minutes for the two of you to catch your breathe, sip some champagne, and give each other all the goofy grins because YOU'RE MARRIED!!

Sentimental Details

Sometimes a wedding can feel very scripted.  The guests enter and take their seats.  The bride walks down the aisle to meet her groom.  The couple exchanges vows and rings, they kiss, and then the party begins.  Everything, from the dress to the details, can make you have a bit of déjà vu, like you've seen all this before.  So how can couples keep their wedding from seeming like "another typical wedding"?

A great way to keep that from happening is to incorporate some really meaningful and sentimental details throughout the day.  I'm not talking about a 20 minute photo montage of the two of you from birth to engagement.  But the little, personal details are a great way to make sure that your personalities are reflected, both individually and as a couple.  They'll ensure your guests leave with a better sense of who the two of you are, even if they've known you forever.

Incorporate Family
Mementos that the bride or groom can carry down the aisle with them offer a reminder of beloved family members.  These can be tied to the bride's bouquet or onto the groom's boutonniere.

Angie McPherson Photography
Another way to incorporate family is to wear your mother's or grandmother's gown.  You could also sew a piece of your dad's or grandfather's shirt inside your gown, or don a piece of heirloom jewelry from the family as your "something borrowed".

I've even seen a bride's father tie a piece of her baby blanket around the stem of her bouquet.  Adorable!

Incorporate Special Music
Is there a song that means a lot to the two of you as a couple, but just isn't meant to be a first dance?  Play that during your recessional!  Maybe "Benny & the Jets" or "Wouldn't It Be Nice"??  These would make such a fun exit from your ceremony and such a special touch if they mean something to the two of you. 

Personalize the Ceremony 
Have you and your fiance known each other for many years?  Incorporate a funny story of your early years together into the ceremony!  I once had a couple that had known each other since elementary school.  During their ceremony, they displayed a picture from their year book, showing where the bride had written "hottie" under the groom's picture.  THE BEST!

Sami Proctor Photography and Design
   Has your pastor known the two of you for many years?  Suggest they tell a story during the ceremony that some may not know!

Handwritten Sentiments
Small treasures, like a handwritten letter, aren't just for your soon-to-be spouse.  Make the day special for your bridesmaids, your parents, or your soon-to-be in-laws with handwritten notes on the wedding day.

Elizabeth Henson Photos
Personal Vows
This is a more obvious way to add personality and sentiment to your big day, but it's definitely a favorite of mine!  Writing your own vows or even modifying traditional vows to reflect what each other means to you is such a sweet and heartfelt touch to a wedding day.

What different ways did you bring sentimental elements into your wedding day?  I'd love to hear about it!

Building Your Wedding Brand - Ro & Co Designs

Hey ya'll!  Happy Monday!  You've all heard plenty about Rosalie of Ro & Co Designs here on the blog before.  She was a 2015 JDE bride, turned friend, turned my all-time favorite graphic designer.  I must send her a request at least once a month of something new I need designed and she hits the nail on the head every.single.time.

Today she's here to teach us a bit about wedding branding!

Hey there!  I'm Rosalie with Ro & Co Designs and I am so excited to share with you what I consider to be the secret ingredient that will help you personalize and fuse together every detail of your wedding day .... Friends, I give you Wedding Branding!

Wedding Branding can be defined as the overall look and feel that you have chosen for your special day.  I like to think of it as the expression of you and your fiance's love through meaningful, cohesive design.  It helps to tell your story visually and emotionally so you are able to connect your story to every element of the big day!

You may or may not have met my frenemy, Pinterest.  I remember when I first got engaged, I immediately unlocked that "secret" wedding board I had been pinning to over the years {that's right - years.  Guys, my husband waited 7 years to propose....a girl had to dream out loud somewhere} and I felt so overwhelmed.  I'm talking major bridentity crisis.  I had pinned rustic barns, bohemian hair styles, ballgowns galore, mason jars, and nautical bottle opener favors...all in one board.  This is where wedding branding rides in on its big white horse to save the day.

Establishing your branding early on in the planning process helps you focus your vision and "see" it in action, allowing you to make more informed choices along the way.  Not to mention, it's extremely helpful for your vendors to see what you're envisioning in terms of specific colors, design elements, and the overall aesthetic you've dreamed of.  This results in a unified look that ties your whole day together and truly captures your essence as a couple.  Most importantly, a strong and consistent brand has the power to transform an already beautiful event into an unforgettable and meaningful experience that you and your guests will always remember.

Here's the fun part!  Here are some tips to help you and yours find your "brand".

I know this sounds daunting.  But start with a simple conversation between you and your fiance and create a list of things that represent you as a couple.  What do you like to do together?  Where are your favorite places to visit?  What kind of experience do you want to give your guests?  Are you rustic?  Nautical?  Preppy?  Whimsical?  By asking these types of questions, you should be able to pick 4-5 words that define who you are together.

Before you get too far into the planning process, you have to figure out when and where your nuptials will take place {if you haven't already}!  This will not only lay the foundation for all design choices, but it will determine vendor availability and really put the planning into overdrive.  WOO!

Now that you have an idea what you want to represent and when/where your wedding will take place, you can determine your colors, patterns/textures, fonts, and even a logo!  This is where I like to create an inspiration board for my couples to present their very own unique brand.

Your wedding inspiration board should include the following:
color palette
Start by picking one or two colors that you two adore, and build off of them with accents.  OK - so this is where Pinterested becomes a bestie again {DARN YOU} as it can be a wonderful tool to find colors that complement one another without overpowering.

As you peruse through wedding blogs and magazines, try to find images that reflect your overall style.  ANd keep in mind that textures and patterns can be a subtle way to create a strong image for your day.  Do you find yourself gravitating towards nautical stripes?  What about bold Lily patterns?  Or maybe you can't stop pinning rustic wood images.  Incorporating these textures into your wedding stationery can be a great way to really set the tone for your guests from the get go.

logo and fonts
A wedding logo?!  Yes, the exist and they are the strongest ingredient in successfully weaving your brand throughout every detail.  You can opt for a custom designed logo or monogram, as well as two complementary fonts to use on all of your paper goods!  From your save the dates and wedding invitations, to your wedding website, to your reception signage and favors, all the way to your thank you cards.  This is where your wedding brand comes to life and what will make your wedding day truly memorable!  By taking this time to brand each element, your guests will actually notice the continuity and appreciate the thought that went into every decision.

Branding a wedding is a fun way to make it memorable, but you do want to avoid going overboard.  Focus on keeping it personal and meaningful, and you'll achieve that perfect balance that comes with a beautiful branded wedding that reflects what's most important here - your life as a married couple!

Be A Nice Guest: Modern Matrimony

Hey there!  I'm so excited for JDE Intern, Lauren to continue with our "Be A Nice Guest' series with some advice on what you can expect at the modern wedding.  Lauren is an experienced wedding guest, bridesmaid, and recent bride as of February 2016!

When you think "wedding traditions," there are usually a few that come to mind - a white dress, unity candle, and almond wedding cake, just to name a few.  I'd say my own wedding was modern, yet fun with some traditional elements thrown in.  I wore a white dress and we had a one-tier almond cake to cut into.  On the flip side, my bridal party featured a "groomswoman" and we provided guests an assortment of {incredible} cupcakes.  Oh, and did I mention I saw my husband before the wedding?  That warranted some surprised remarks from our pastor!

Here are some things you can come to expect from a modern wedding:

1. To see or not to see: Some couples want to maintain the tradition of not seeing one another before the ceremony - they might exchange letters or hold hands on separate sides of a door.  Others want to have a special moment to themselves before the ceremony - a first look - where the photographer captures the groom seeing his bride for the first time.  It helps ease the butterflies and is anything but bad luck {trust me!}.  Not to mention, it can make for some adorable {and emotional} photos!

Elizabeth Henson Photos

2. Hashtags, hashtags everywhere!: With social media as popular as it is, expect to see anywhere from 1-3 hashtags throughout the wedding.  On the program, on the bar - you may even find them on the save the dates!  What does that mean for you?  You've got a social media-savvy couple on your hands!  They want you to take plenty of pictures {after all, they worked really hard on this!} and share them on social media!

David Champagne Photography

3. Unplugged: Even if the bride and groom encourage sharing on social media, they might not want guests tweeting during their ceremony!  You may be asked to turn off your cell phone for an "unplugged ceremony" - it's the couple's way of encouraging you to be truly present with them as they celebrate their special day!  Don't worry - there's plenty of time to tweet after the reception!

4.  An unconventional bridal party: Nowadays, brides and grooms are choosing their closest friends to stand by their side, which means you might see a "groomswoman" or a "man of honor" in the bridal party!  You might also notice uneven numbers - it's okay if the bridesmaid/groomsmen ratio is 5:4.  The modern bridal party is not gender specific, nor does it have to be even!

David Champagne Photography

5.  Color confusion: One of the first questions I was asked while choosing my bridal party attire was, "The bridesmaids are wearing BLACK?"  Yes.  Yes, they are.  You want to know something else?  There is nothing wrong with a chic, black evening gown for a 5:00 wedding.  Nothing says that bridesmaids {or brides} can't don an off-the-wall color like black, white, or floral print!  You may also notice that the maid of honor is in a different color than the rest of the maids - consider it a perk of her role in the big day!  Note: If the bride tells you her maids are wearing white, this does not give you permission to do the same.  Sorry!

6.  But they don't match!: My bridesmaids each wore a different style dress in my wedding and loved it!  Often times, dresses are not "one style fits all," so brides opt to have their maids choose their own gowns.  This not only makes the bride's life easier, but makes sure all her girls are comfortable.  It's okay if the bridesmaids dresses {whether it be the style or color} don't match perfectly!

Shannon Moffit Photography

7.  Unity doesn't need a candle: Have you been to a wedding and felt like something was missing from the ceremony?  It may have been the unity candle!  This tradition is sometimes modified - e.g. sand ceremony - and other times completely cut out.  It's not going to be every couple's cup of tea.

Angie McPherson Photography

8.  Different desserts: What?  No almond wedding cake?!  You might notice a variety of other dessert options at a wedding - cupcakes, donuts, cookies, even ice cream sundaes - that stray from the traditional fare.  Not to mention there are unique cake flavors, from apricot to lavendar, that might make an appearance.  I love cupcakes but my groom prefers ice cream, so we offered guests an assortment of wedding cupcakes and a build-your-own ice cream sundae bar!

David Champagne Photography

These are just a few of the modern twists that today's couples are incorporating into their big day.  No matter whether the wedding is traditional or off-the-wall, it's important to realize that every wedding is going to be unique to the couple!  Embrace and enjoy the various aspects of each wedding - no matter how interesting or mind boggling they might be.  Who knows?  They might even become tradition!

JDE Brides: Chelsea

Happy Monday friends!!  Let's kick the week off with a JDE Brides feature!!  Chelsea is here to tell us the best parts of her journey through wedding planning, what she would do differently, and to offer a little bit of advice to all of you!

Introduce yourself!  And your husband!
Who are the Lindos you ask?  We are an active, upbeat couple that try to live graciously among others.  I am a Doctoral Physical Therapy student at ODU and Jaine is a soccer coach for various clubs/organizations.

What's your love story?  How did the two of you meet & how did he pop the question?
We met at NC Wesleyan College.  Long story short, I was looking for something on campus and asked him and he pretended he knew where it was to stall long enough to ask for my number and the rest was history!  He popped the question with such thoughtfulness!  At the beach in November he arranged purple flower petals in the sand in the shape of a heart and hired a violinist to play two of my favorite love songs before and after he asked.  Funny side note: I was having a terrible day that day and almost didn't come to the beach!  Also, we walked out on to the beach and I saw a violinist; I made a comment about how it was weird that someone would come to the beach by themselves to play the violin.  Haha!  Then I realized what was going on when he said we should go listen.

What 5 words would you use to describe your wedding?
Disney inspired, classy touches, subtle details, fun, {relatively} stress free!

Where did you go for your honeymoon?
Disney World!!  We had a blast trying new foods/restaurants and watching new shows we hadn't seen before!

What were your favorite & least favorite parts of wedding planning?
Favorite part of planning was definitely planning/making the Disney details {I like Disney, can you tell?}  I also enjoyed meeting some amazing new people through the process which were our vendors!  I plan on keeping in touch with all of them.  Least favorite part was 100% the seating chart.  Good lord, this was the worst!  It's like advanced calculus trying to arrange your friends and family and you really can't put it together until you receive your RSVP's.  So by nature it is the last minute.  Second least favorite part was picking the songs.  I just had a hard time narrowing it down and envisioning what that song would be like in the moment.

Who were your vendors?
Venue: Founders Inn
Photographer: Angie McPherson Photos
Planner: Just Dandy Events
Cake: Bliss Bakery
DJ/Lighting: Astro DJ
Ceremony Music: And I Love Her Violins
Florist: Fluttering Flowers
Beauty: Maggie Carter     

If you could do one thing different throughout your entire wedding planning journey, what would it be?
I honestly can say that for the planning, I wouldn't have done a single thing differently! For the day of, while the sunset pictures turned out AMAZING {and actually some of them are my favorites for the whole day} I really missed that time with the guests at the reception and felt a little guilty about leaving for so long.

Do you have any advice for future brides?
Get a wedding planner {obviously Holly is the bomb.com}.  But seriously, I had the most stress free day EVER on my wedding day and I don't think a lot of people can say that.  A wedding planner, depending on what you decide with them, will also keep your planning on track and hold you accountable, which is what I needed.

Thank you so much for sharing Chelsea!!  I wish we could relive your wedding day all over again!!


Planning a Kid-Friendly Wedding

Congratulations!  You've planned your dream wedding and invited everyone that's important to you, including the children of all your friends and family that you can't imagine not including in your big day!  But now you're starting to stress what the children will do.  Will they have fun?  Will they be bored and get rowdy?  Will they like any of the exciting {and expensive} food you plan to serve your guests?  Will their parents be too busy being mom and dad to really enjoy themselves and dance with you?
Great news: You can include children in your wedding day in a way that will keep them happy and entertained, without sacrificing the glamorous plans you have for the adults.  And here's how!
Keep Them Entertained
One way to win over the kids {and make sure the parents enjoy themselves} is to recruit someone to entertain them during the ceremony and/or reception.  Pick a space to designate as the "kids' room" and fill it with a babysitter and activities such as movies, coloring, puzzles, board games.  This gives the kids a place to make new friends with the other younger guests, while the parents get to really break it down on the dance floor!
Provide Activities
Keep younger guests occupied during cocktail hour and during the reception "down time" with activities specifically for them.  Coloring pages and crayons are a great option {bonus points for using your engagement pictures to create the pages!} and stickers can be fun, too.  Bubbles are fun for kids of all ages, but make sure to check with your venue to find out if they are allowed.  And don't forget dancing - even the littlest guests will have a great time out on the dance floor! 
Fun-Filled Favors
If you're offering more "adult" type favors at your wedding, such as succulents or mini champagne bottles, consider providing younger guests with something they'll enjoy!  Options include decorated cookies, personalized M&M's, and sunglasses.  Caution: Don't be surprised if adults ask for them too!
 Kid-Friendly Fare
Let's face it, not every kid is going to love salmon, filet mignon, or other typical wedding food.  Consider asking your venue if they offer kids' meals as an alternative.  These meals typically cost less, meaning you save money on food and the kids get to eay pizza or chicken fingers.  It's a win-win!
Drink Me
Since underage guests aren't able to enjoy the bar, considering asking your venue to offer an assortment of sodas, juices, or other non-alcoholic treats like Shirley Temples!
Offering an assortment of desserts, such as a candy bar, dessert bar, or ice cream sundaes is a guaranteed way to satisfy all of your guests, but especially the younger ones!  It provides a great alternative for younger palates, especially if your cake flavors are particularly unique {think: apricot, raspberry, lavender}.
 Whatever you decide to do, don't eliminate children from your guest list just because you think they'll be bored and won't eat the food you pay for.  Making a couple of teeny adjustments and planning ahead really could make a huge difference for your underage guests!

Bridal Party Gift Ideas

Throughout the wedding planning process, you'll find yourself saying "thank you" what feels like a million times.  There are thank you notes to write for almost everyone - family and friends, vendors {see more about thanking your vendors here} and let's not forget your bridal party!

Your best friends are standing by your side on one of the most exciting days of your life, supporting you and the life you're building with your special someone.  Thanking these special people can prove to be quite the task.  But we're here to help!  Here are a few of our favorite ideas, both heartfelt and practical!

For Your Maids
- Robes/rompers/oversized dress shirts with personalized monograms: They make for adorable getting ready photos and are versatile, so your ladies will likely wear them again!
-  Accessories to complete their day-of look: Earrings, necklaces, or even vintage clutches make a practical gift that your bridesmaids can use again after the day, but also help finish off their look on the day of your wedding!  If you're having a winter wedding, consider gifting your ladies with a shawl or wrap to keep them warm...super practical and really great for portraits!
- Personalized wooden hangers for their dresses: These are a simple {and affordable} DIY gift and they look a bit fancier than the plain plastic hangers that usually come with bridesmaid dresses.  This will make for gorgeous photos of all your dresses hanging together!
- Mugs or {wine} glasses: Coffee mugs and wine glasses personalized for each of your ladies are perfect for sipping coffee or mimosas on the morning of the big day.  Adorable and useful!

David Champagne Photography
For His Men
- Watches: Talk about practical and stylish!  Watches are perfect for accessorizing and also for making sure everyone is on time!  A sturdy leather strap and/or a personalized back are guaranteed to be worn well after the wedding day.
- Fun socks: Another fun way to unify the groomsmen while playing up their hobbies/personalities is with coordinating, fun socks!  Think superhero socks with a different hero for each groomsman.  Or fun patterns in a coordinating color scheme.  These make for an awesome photo op too!
- Pocket knives and multi-tools: Practical and able to be personalized with names or initials, pocket knives or other multi-tools are perfect for every groomsman.
- Celebratory accessories: Cigars and adult beverages {think Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola} are sure to put the groomsmen in a celebratory mood.  These items are a little more adult, but add an element of fun for the guys that's sure to be appreciated.  Bonus points for personalized labels!

Kirstyn Marie Photography
Need a little more inspiration?  Check out our Pinterest board full of fun ideas to celebrate those special maids & men!

Choosing the Perfect Wedding Venue

Hey brides-to-be!  First off, congratulations!  You're engaged and on the way to planning one of the happiest days of your life!  This is such an exciting time for you and your fiance!  That being said, you have a very big job ahead of you.  A wedding has so many moving parts involved and it's pretty easy to get overwhelmed while planning.  So I'm here to help!

Today I'm going to give you a list of the most important factors to consider when visiting venues and what will ultimately help you pick the very best one for your big day.

Cavalier Golf & Yacht Club, Daniel Pullen Photography
Budget is obviously going to play a very large role in every single decision you make surrounding your wedding.  You'll need to ask yourself how much of your budget you're willing to use on the venue.  Will the cost keep you from being able to afford another aspect that may be priority?

 The location of your venue is super important logistically.  Will you have sufficient parking for all your guests and vendors?  Are there lodging options nearby for your guests?

Lesner Inn, Shannon Moffit Photography
What does your venue look like?  You'll need to make sure that the aesthetic of the venue lends itself well to the look and feel you're hoping to achieve with your decor.  Most venues allow you to transform the space to your liking, but some have strict limitations. So be sure to find out these regulations from the venue coordinator prior to booking.

Cozy is fantastic, cramped is terrible.  Will the venue comfortably fit all of your guests?  This seems like a really simple aspect to consider, but it's so important. You don't want to spend your time, energy, and budget putting together a wedding that will then be shoved into a small banquet room with 120 of your closest friends and family members.  Be sure there is ample room for the type of wedding you're hoping to achieve.

The Regency - Sandbridge Realty, Elizabeth Henson Photos
What season is your wedding planned for?  If you're planning a winter wedding, choosing a venue for it's gorgeous garden views may not be the wisest decision.  Will those flowers be bloomed in December?  Likely not.  Also, if you're hoping to have an outdoor ceremony or cocktail hour, be sure that you and your guests will be comfortable in the elements.

If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, reception, or cocktail hour, does the venue offer an indoor option in case of inclement weather?  I know for sure that here in Hampton Roads, the weather can change drastically in the matter of hours.  So it's always always good practice to have a backup plan.  If the venue doesn't have an option or allow a tent on their property, that may not be a great place for your wedding.

Founders Inn, Kirstyn Marie Photography
Overall Impression
For me, first impressions are everything.  What was your impression of the venue and their staff?  Did the coordinator get back to your inquiry in a timely manner?  Did they seem knowledgeable and able to answer your questions?  Was this person warm and welcoming when you visited?  You will likely be working very closely with the venue coordinator throughout your entire wedding planning journey.  So it's very important that you feel comfortable with them and like they are the right fit for you.

I hope these tips help make it a bit easier for you to narrow down all your wedding venue options so that you can pick the one that is perfect for your big day!  And in case you have no idea where to start, here are a few of my favorite wedding venues in the area:


Be a Nice Guest: Wedding Etiquette 101

Elizabeth Henson Photos

Ever wonder what it takes to be the perfect wedding guest?  Check out the first post in our series on how to "Be a Nice Guest" by guest blogger and JDE intern, Lauren Windham.  Lauren is an experienced wedding guest, bridesmaid and recent bride as of February 2016.

 Summertime is filled with so many lovely things - sunbathing, lazy beach days and of course, weddings!  If you're anything like me, it can often seem like every season is wedding season!  To prepare you for your summer soirees, here's a few tips on wedding etiquette 101:

1. Do not, in any way, shape or form, wear white: This should be an obvious one but sometimes, people need a reminder.  No matter how cool it may keep you, keep that LWD/white pant suit on the hanger.  Be a nice {and respectful} guest - blues and corals are perfect alternatives for a summery wedding day!

David Champagne Photography
  2. Do refrain from taking an excessive amount of photos: It seems like many couples {including my husband and I] are opting to have an "unplugged" ceremony free of phones, photos and Facebook updates.  Why?  Because brides and grooms often spend countless hours {and dollars} on choosing the right wedding photographer.  Leave the photos to the professional and save the status updates for the day after.

3. Do not complain to the bride and groom: This comes from personal experience.  Don't complain to the bride that the champagne isn't being poured fast enough.  Take any and all questions, comments and concerns to the wedding planner or coordinator and save the bride/groom/parents from unwarranted stress.

Angie McPherson Photography
 4. Do make a point to say hello to the bride and groom: Make sure you say hello to the newlyweds and join them out on the dance floor!  Count it as one of your "guest duties."

5. Do not get overzealous with the bar: Trust me, the bride and groom want to make sure you are enjoying the reception but secretly, the thought of drunken antics can be anxiety-inducing.  Enjoy a drink {or two}, but make sure you've assigned someone to keep you in check and ensure you get home safely.

David Champagne Photography
 6. Do celebrate: A wedding day is a wonderful celebration of the bride and groom.  Enjoy it!  Take in every little detail {that the bride may or may not have obsessed over} and make a point to do your wedding guest duties - sign the guest book, eat a slice of cake and get down on the dance floor!

Be A Nice Bride: Keep Your Guests Informed

Hey ya’ll!!  Happy Thursday!  It’s almost the weekend and we are gearing up to head out for a styled shoot with some amazing vendors on Saturday. Keep an eye out for some behind-the-scenes snaps from the JDE team.

In the meantime, I wanted to share another “Be A Nice Bride” post with you.  This time it’s all about the importance of keeping your guests informed!

Save the Dates are the best way to give your guests a heads up if your wedding will be out of town or on a holiday weekend.  Since traditional invitations aren’t sent out until 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding day, this gives your guests a little extra time to make travel arrangements, book hotels, find childcare, and request time off work.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Henson Photos
Your Save the Dates are also a great place to include your wedding website, which can serve as a hub of valuable information for your guests.  You can share some background on the area for your out-of-town guests, like the best places to eat and what attractions they just have to visit before they head home.

Your website is also a fantastic place to share your wedding registry info.  Emily Post holds to the opinion that registries should never ever be shared on your wedding invitations, and I couldn’t agree more.  To avoid any awkward conversations with guests about where you’d like gifts from, share this info on your website.  And remember to keep it to a maximum of 3 stores...more than that and you start to look a little greedy.

Another valuable bit of info to include on your website is what your guests should expect on the day of the wedding.  What time will the ceremony start?  Are there special instructions for parking?  Will the party be in a field and should they leave their heels at home?  Will there be a cocktail hour or will they need to entertain themselves between the ceremony & reception?  These are all things that will help your guests come prepared and able to really relax and enjoy the day with you.

Photo Credit: Kirstyn Marie Photography
Wedding programs are one of my very favorite details about a wedding day.  Whether you have individually printed programs or a stunning chalkboard sign at the entrance to the ceremony, providing your guests with a few details about your ceremony goes a long way!   You can introduce your bridal party to everyone with little snippets about how you all know each other and how they have supported your relationship with your fiance.  Your program is a great place to explain any special readings or unity ceremonies you might be including in your ceremony since some people may not be familiar with them.

Your program is also a really wonderful place to honor lost loved ones.  I’ve seen some of the most touching tributes to grandparents, parents, and siblings in wedding programs and I always enjoy seeing the guests’ slow smiles when they read over them.

Photo Credit: Shannon Moffit Photography
Taking these extra steps to make sure that your guests are well-informed really does make a huge difference in their experience on your wedding day.  And happy guests mean a happier day for the new couple!!

Be A Nice Bride: Review Your Vendors

Hey there friends!!!  Today’s Be A Nice Bride post is going to be short & sweet.  I just wanted to put a little reminder out there about how important it is to review your vendors after your wedding day.

So much of this industry is built on referrals and word of mouth.  And writing up a little blurb to post on The Knot or WeddingWire….or even on your vendor’s Facebook page, goes a really long way with helping their business grow!  It doesn’t have to be anything lengthy or detailed.  Taking five minutes to craft a quick note about how they met your expectations and made your wedding experience great really does mean the world to them.  We each put so much heart into what we do...it’s always so awesome to hear that it meant something to our couples.

Reviews not only help your vendors book more business….they also help other brides-to-be book the RIGHT vendors.   A glowing review of how your photographer captured every important moment and emotion throughout your wedding day could be the difference between a bride booking your amazing photog and having an incredible experience….or booking a photographer that costs less but may not give them the warm & fuzzies on their wedding day.

So after you’re back from your honeymoon and working on those thank you notes...take a couple minutes to shout it from the rooftops that your vendors were fantastic!

Photo credit: Andrew & Tianna Photography // Thank You Sign: Water's Edge Design

Insight from my Friends: The First Look

Hey friends!  I took a few days off after Easter but now I’m back in the office and ready to tackle the spring season!  And to kick it off, I’m starting a new series of guest blogs from some of my very favorite friendors talking about different wedding-related topics.

First up is my sweet friend Maria of Maria Grace Photography.  Ya’ll, she’s so talented and has the sweetest soul.  For all you business owners, she’s also a master of SEO!  Go give her a follow and check out her work.  You won’t regret it.  Anyways, I asked Maria to chat about the First Look and why she feels it’s such a great thing to incorporate it into your wedding day!  I couldn't agree more on this and hope you see the benefits too!  Enjoy!

Hi there, my name is Maria Grace! I am a Hampton Roads wedding photographer for elegant, joyful brides. My goal is for photography to be the least stressful, most exciting part of the entire wedding! When I'm not working I love eating local food, going on long runs, and curling up with a latte and a good book.

In the last few years, a new tradition has begun in the wedding world called the First Look.  For those who have not yet heard of it, this is when a bride and groom opt to see each other prior to the ceremony.  For parents, grandparents, and even some young people this is almost unimaginable.  They aren’t supposed to see each other before they are married!  However, after photographing many weddings with and without first looks, I am here to tell you why I believe they are the best option on your wedding day.

When a bride and groom have a first look, all of their portraits are taken before the ceremony.  In addition, having a first look allows us to capture all the bridal party portraits prior to the ceremony as well!  From a timeline standpoint, this is a dream scenario for everyone involved.  So you can see what that means practically, here are two scenarios.

No First Look: Getting Ready - Groomsmen Pictures - Bridesmaid Pictures - Ceremony - Family Portraits - Bridal Party Portraits - Bride and Groom Portraits - Reception - Sunset Portraits {if there is enough time}

First Look: Getting Ready - First Look/Bride and Groom Portraits - Bridal Party Portraits - Ceremony - Family Portraits - Reception - Sunset Portraits

The second scenario is not only easier, it also allows the day to flow more smoothly.  When you set the First Look and bride & groom portraits first {arguably the most important pictures you’ll have all day}, your hair and makeup will be fresh, you will take all your pictures at the beginning of the day, and you will be able to go almost immediately to your reception.

From a timeline point of view, it makes the most sense.  However, what’s most important to me is not the timeline or the order, but the gift a First Look gives a bride and groom.  On my wedding day, I barely got to spend time with my husband.  Even at the reception we were pulled our separate ways.  When we finally got into the car to leave, I realized we had not been alone, just the two of us, the entire day save for a few brief moments here and there.

A First Look is an absolute gift and treasure.  It is the only time a couple can guarantee they will spend a few quiet moments alone on their wedding day.  These are some of the most beautiful times I remember.  The groom can actually look at his bride in her wedding dress and take it all in.  The bride can be enjoyed and treasured, and see her future husband tear up at the sight of her.  Of course your photographer will be capturing these moments, but these are moments the couple can spend together, just the two of them, at their wedding.

So this gift of time spent alone is what it’s all about.  A First Look allows for a better timeline, easier logistics, and a less stressful day.  But more than that, having a First Look re-centers the wedding day on what it should be about: the marriage and lifelong relationship between two people finally becoming one.

And that is why I believe in First Looks.

Oh Maria!  You put into words exactly what was in my heart.  I’m a huge lover of first looks for so many logistical reasons {the planner in me just can’t help loving a solid timeline}, but the sentimental reasons are what it’s all about.  I try to encourage all my couples to take some alone time at some point throughout the day.  To take it all in, to reflect on what the day means, and to just be together.  Whether it’s a First Look before the ceremony or a few minutes alone with a glass of champagne after the ceremony...that alone time is so important.  Thanks so much for sharing Maria!!  <3 span="">

Working from Home

Currently I work a full-time job in addition to running Just Dandy Events.  This means that from 8am to 5pm five days a week, I’m in an office with a lot fewer distractions than I have at home.  While my heart isn’t really in that day job {my big goal is obviously to run JDE full-time and leave the corporate world for good}, a setting like that definitely allows me to be a bit more productive than my office at home.

There are just so many distractions when I work from home.  Aside from wanting to spend time with Wes and Wyatt, there’s also always something else that could be benefitting from my attention.  Like laundry and dishes.  I swear you’d think an army lived in my house with the amount of laundry and dishes that always needs taken care of.

So I’ve finally learned a few things that I can do to keep myself on track when working from home.  A few things that help me stay focused and productive.  I figured I’d share in case any of you are like me and are easily distracted by puppies and dirty dishes.  :)

Every time I sit down to get work done, both at home and at my day job, I start a list.  It’s never anything fancy and it’s very rarely pretty.  But it helps me to lay out what my priorities for the day are.  Otherwise my brain sort of starts to shut down and I never accomplish anything.  My lists also give me that incredibly gratifying feeling of checking things off as I’m done with them.  On the busiest of days when I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything at all, it’s always a nice reality check to look down at my list and see a few things marked through with my highlighter.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot focus in silence.  I pretty much always have music playing while I work.  Thank goodness for Pandora.  And thank goodness for different stations for different tasks.  If I’m blogging, I like to listen to Adele, Ellie Goulding, or Charlene Soraia.  If I’m working on wedding day timelines, I prefer Killswitch Engage, Pepper, or Shinedown.  And pretty much everything else calls for Corey Smith, Cross Canadian Ragweed, or Josh Turner.  Don’t question it….it’s a science.

If I have to get up from my desk to get a drink of water or a snack {because I’m perpetually hungry}, I’m bound to fall out of my groove.  So I usually try to bring a drink and snack with me when I sit down to start working.  If I’m at my desk, you can guarantee I have in front of me either a can of Diet Mt. Dew or a glass of wine...depending on the time of day and the task at hand.  My favorite snacks while I’m crossing things off my list are a big bowl of parmesan popcorn or a plate of cheese & crackers.

I know they say that you should dress like you’re going to the office if you want to be productive at home.  And sometimes, that rings true for me.  But more times than not, I just need to be comfortable.  I need my best broken-in yoga pants and the softest blanket I own.  Otherwise I fidget far too much to be productive.

So those are a few of the things that help me to stay productive while working at home.  What are some of your tricks to knock out your long list of to-do’s in the home office?

What to Expect from your Wedding Planner

When booking your wedding planner, it’s important to know what you can expect from them.  Some responsibilities are obvious and expected, like lining everyone up for the processional and making sure that you have your bouquet for photos.  However, here are 3 things that an experienced planner will bring to the table that you may not realize will make a huge difference in your wedding day.

Photo: Elizabeth Henson Photos, Graphics: Ro & Co Designs

Keeping you on time throughout your big day:
A well thought-out timeline will be the difference between feeling rushed from one place to another and really being able to enjoy your day.  Your planner will create a timeline custom to your wedding, allotting for the right amount of time for each thing that is important to you.  This will help the entire day flow smoothly, giving you ample time to really enjoy every aspect.

Putting you in contact with the best-of-the-best vendors:
Your wedding is only as great as the vendors that you book.  And, unless you’ve been in the industry for many years, you may not know the very best people to help execute the big dreams you have for your wedding.  Your planner will be able to link you with vendors that will be the perfect fit for you and your fiance.  An established planner will also have the ability to score you really great packages that fit perfectly into your budget.

Being your voice:
As much as you adore your friends and family, there will inevitably be someone that will disagree with the choices you and your planner make for your day.  Whether it's the camera-free ceremony or assigned reception seating, your planner should be the person addressing your guests’ concerns during your wedding.  They will make sure that your wishes are carried out exactly how you discussed, while making sure that your guests are comfortable and able to enjoy the day with you.
Take these things into consideration when searching for a planner for your wedding day.  This person will have such an impact on the day and it's important that you can trust them to make it as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.

Motivation for the Small Business Owner

So every now and then, I get a little overwhelmed by this whole small business ownership thing.  It can be exhausting and terrifying and absolutely downright wonderful, all at the same time.  I’m lucky enough to have the most incredible friends in my life that cheer me on and help talk me down when I let the pressure get to me.  But sometimes I need to hear a few encouraging words from someone I don’t know.  Don’t ask me why….it just helps me to feel a little better.

So, sometimes I turn to Pinterest to find some inspiration and motivation.  To help turn my way of thinking around and make myself feel better when things get crazy and overwhelming.  Seriously what did we do before Pinterest?  I figured I’d share a few of my favorite quotes I’ve found recently to help cheer on any of you small business owners that might be feeling the same way.

“Don’t let small minds convince you that your dreams are too big.”
As small business owners, we’ve taken a leap of faith to conquer our fears and achieve our big, wild, scary dreams.  And some people in our lives may not understand.  Whether they mean well and are concerned for our well-being or are just plain jealous of our successes….they just don’t get it.  And instead of supporting us, they tell us that we’re crazy for pursuing our dreams.  They list all the reasons we’re going to fail.  They try to convince us to give up and take the safe route.  When that happens to me, I do my best to remember this quote.  I thank the person for their concern, and then I move on….with a bigger motivation to prove that person wrong.  Because nothing feels sweeter than surprising a doubter.

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
It’s a feeling all small business owners know too well.  The days spent balancing a full time job and your dream job.  The evenings that turn into early mornings at your computer.  Having to turn down Friday night plans so that you can conquer your every growing to-do list.  Right now, you’re hustling your little butt off to make your dreams a reality.  Some days it’s next to impossible to remember why you’re trying so hard.  Some days it might not seem like you’re making any sort of progress and you just want to give up.  But the reality of the situation is that all of the hustling is worth it because you’re on your way to living the life you’ve dreamed of.  It’s hard work that takes a special kind of person to accomplish.  You’re going to be your own boss, and you’ll have yourself to thank for that.  What an amazing feeling that’s going to be.  Keep chugging friend.

“Small business isn’t for the faint of heart.  It’s for the brave, the patient, & the persistent.  It’s for the overcomer.”
Not only does being a small business owner mean that you have to work hard.  It literally takes so much bravery to make a dream into a career.  It means constantly wearing your heart on your sleeve and taking every “no” as a little push to try harder.  It’s downright terrifying.  And at the same time, so gratifying.  It’s a constant feeling of knowing you’ve put all your cards on the table and you’re willing to take whatever comes at you to make your dream a success.  Small business ownership isn’t for everyone….but it’s for you.

“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”
Oh this one hits so close to home.  I currently work 40 hours a week at a job where I’m not my own boss….where my schedule is not my own and my projects & priorities are decided for me.  To say I don’t love that job would be a huge understatement.  If given the option today, I would quit that job and work twice as hard & twice as many hours on my dream job.  There would be no question.  When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel so much like work.  It feels like a labor of love.  And you would spend as many hours necessary to make it a success.

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”
Growth takes time.  Nothing worthwhile is easy or quick.  Sometimes I get really frustrated with how long it’s taken me to build JDE into what it is today.  Did you know that next month marks 5 whole years that I’ve been growing my little hobby into the business that I dream of?  I see other people in the industry go full time in their first year all the time.  And while I’m so happy for them and love cheering them on, sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow.  But along the way I’ve realized that if JDE is going to be everything I want it to be, it’s going to take careful planning, hard work, and lots of time.  And as long as I’m moving forward, I’m happy to keep chugging along to build a strong foundation for this dream of mine.

JDE Brides: Rosalie

Oh friends....these JDE Brides posts are quickly becoming my favorite posts.  It's so much fun to relive each of my couples' wedding days & whole planning experience through the brides' eyes!  It brings back all the feels every time and this post is no different.  Rosalie and Troy's wedding was absolutely stunning, certainly a favorite wedding of all time for me.  And Rosalie just holds such a special place in my heart.  She's one of those brides that has become a treasured friend, as well as an amazing fellow wedding vendor!  If you're in the market for wedding invitations or even branding for your business, she is your girl!

Introduce yourself! And your husband!
My name is Rosalie and my wonderful husband is Troy. I grew up on a 100 acre farm in the small, yet charming town of Culpeper, VA and Troy is a beach boy born and raised in Virginia Beach who could spend all of his days on the water. We grew up on separate sides of the state and lived such different lifestyles, yet somehow hit it off when our worlds collided in 2008 in Harrisonburg, VA.

What’s your love story? How did the two of you meet? How did he pop the question?
Troy and I met at James Madison University at a small gathering of mutual friends one random school night. I was not prepared for what this gathering turned out to be seeing that my roommate Janie and I showed up wearing pajama pants. These weren’t just any pajama pants though, mine had tiny elves holding Christmas trees on them. Of course, Troy would argue that they were gnomes but regardless, they were Christmassy and it was APRIL. Luckily for me, even though he will never let me live it down, Troy was able to look past the gnome-elves and we instantly hit it off. I am a sucker for a good sense of humor and Troy has an incredible ability to make people laugh, whether it’s his witty responses, sharing of random trivial facts, or just by making a really silly face at the end of a sentence. I'm not sure I had ever laughed as hard as I did that night and he says the same of me... so naturally we became inseparable quickly and that's where our love story began

We dated for 6.5 years before Troy proposed. It was a brisk December morning,12/13/14 to be exact, at Pleasure House Point, where we often take our dog for long walks. We were sitting in the sand overlooking the Lynnhaven River while playing with Reggie when he started fidgeting in his coat pocket… and after convincing me he was just looking for a piece of gum, he pulled out the most sparkly vintage diamond ring! He topped it off with the most heartfelt words a gal could ever imagine hearing, and I remember thinking “is this actually happening?!” (SO cliché, I know) even though it was no secret that I had long been waiting for the moment. Troy did such an amazing job with the ring! He had my great grandmother’s engagement ring setting from 1913 set with a diamond from his grandmother’s ring... Everything was so special, low key and perfectly us! And being as attached (border-line obsessed) to Reggie as I am, I love that he was there to take it all in with us.

What 6 words would you use to describe your wedding?
Fun & heartfelt!

What were your favorite/least favorite parts of wedding planning?
As soon as we got engaged, we promised each other to make the wedding planning a fun, stress-free, and heartfelt journey... and I really feel that we accomplished that!

What I loved:
Trying on wedding dresses!
Having the best group of bridesmaids EVER
DIY craft sessions with Troy
Dreaming up a theme that represented both Troy and I. It was so much fun for me to blend my soft, playful, & feminine aesthetic with Troy’s rustic nautical roots to create our wedding day look! Being a graphic designer, I adored finding a way to incorporate this throughout every element of our day!
Meeting new people along the way. Aside from planning and experiencing the most amazing day of my life, the people I have met and the friendships I have gained through the process are truly invaluable!
Writing my vows and being reminded of the true importance behind it all

What I didn’t love about wedding planning:
Accepting the fact that we would not be able to please everybody

Where did you go for your honeymoon?
We spent a week out west! We started out in Big Sky, MT before exploring Yellowstone National Park and ultimately ending the week in Jackson Hole, WY. We had such a blast visiting all of the local shops, trying new foods, hiking, horseback riding, more hiking, pool side lounging, trying not to get eaten by a bear watching wildlife, and more hiking.

Who were your vendors?
Venue & Catering: Lesner Inn Catering Club
Coordinator: Just Dandy Events
Invitations & day of paper goods: Ro & Co Designs
Cake: Jarod Clemente (Troy’s cousin)
Dress: Wtoo “Mimi” gown purchased at Ava Clara Couture Bridal
Make up - Melissa Roomsberg of Dhalia Edwards
Hair - Andra Del Rosario at Salon Vivace
Linens (table runners) - Waterford Event Rentals
Ceremony/Cocktail/First Dance Music:  Jesse Chong
Reception DJ - Chuck Wills

If you could do one thing different throughout your entire wedding planning journey, what would it be?
Hire a videographer! I so wish I could sit back, press play, and revisit the moments that unfolded throughout the day. Especially being able to hear Troy and I recite our vows to one another.

Do you have any advice for future brides?
A few tips:
A First Look!  One of the best decisions we made was to take a moment away from all of the madness to see each other for the first time before our ceremony. It allowed us to take a deep breath, let the moment sink in, and feel all the emotion we were about to feel all day. And to see Troy’s reaction in such an intimate setting was honestly the most special moment of the day (aside from hearing his vows!). It was also a great way to get the wedding party portraits out of the way so we were able to spend more time with our guests after the ceremony!
Try not to stress!  Remember why you are getting married, and try to truly make it be an event about (and for) the both of you. Have faith in your vendors and wedding coordinator and trust that they will do their job well! And once it's happening, just go with it.


Why You Need A Wedding Planner

Part of my job as a wedding planner is to help newly engaged couples understand why they need a planner for their big day.  And I know you’ve likely read the articles stating all the reasons you need one.  So I won’t bore you with that list again.

Instead, I’m going to share some input from some of my friendors that have had direct experience working both with and without a wedding planner.  I asked for them to share firsthand why they feel like wedding planners can make a huge difference in how a couple's wedding day plays out.  Here’s what they had to say.

“Wedding Planners make all the difference in the world.  I do over 400 events a year and it's truly a sigh of relief when there is a planner on site.  Wedding Planners have this knack to anticipate, to allocate time and energy, focusing on the actual event and its people.  As much as mom, or auntie, or best friend may have the best intentions, the reality is that the organization of the event is left to me and the DJ usually.  Unless I plan to be at the event 30 minutes early to organize the slew of bridal party, family, interpersonal conflicts, nerves of the bride, nerves of the groom, cranky step moms, and more, events without wedding planners suffer.  No matter what, I will always do my best to make sure that the event looks, feels, and sounds amazing.  I just know that without a planner, I've got my work cut out for me.”

In my experience, couples with wedding planners seem much happier on their wedding day haha! Having such a huge resource throughout the wedding planning process and an expert to coordinate logistics on the actual day makes the investment so worth it. Wedding planners are a resource not only to couples, but also the vendors! They can create a timeline that will optimize your wedding day and from a photographer's point of view, I am so thankful for this aspect. Without a planner, I am usually very involved with crafting a timeline to ensure you get the best images on your wedding day. I'm totally fine with this but when a planner is involved, they have the expertise to curate the entire day making sure ALL vendors are able to give you the absolute best service!”

Planners are a huge part of a couple’s wedding day.  Design elements, RSVP management, vendor selection, timeline creation, etc…are just a small part of what planners do that are not traditionally the primary focus of a venue manager.  One of the many reasons I enjoy working with event planners is the ability it provides me to focus on the set-up and service of a couple’s event, with the knowledge and assurance that the bride and groom are being completely taken care of by the planner.  Planners are able to guide couples through their day (and many days before) from the time the hair and make-up team arrive to the sparkler exit and gift pack up, which as a venue manager is so much appreciated (because cloning isn’t an option yet).  The most important thing about creating a client’s perfect day is team work, and I always love having planners as part of the team.

Photo Credit: Daniel Pullen Photography

Live & Learn - Styled Shoots

The past year has been full of styled shoots for me.  And I'm loving it.  Don't get me wrong, they take A LOT of work.  And time.  And work.  But every single second of labor has been worth it and SO MUCH FUN!  I've met some amazing vendors and had the best time working with them.
Elizabeth Henson Photos
In the process of putting together a total of 10 shoots over the last year, I've learned a thing or two.  I've learned the things that work best {for me} while planning, and what does not.  I've learned the best ways for me to execute things on the day of, and the worst ways to go about it all.  So I figured I'd share a little bit of this with all of you!

Put together a vision & a purpose:
When putting together a styled shoot, you need to have a vision of what you want the end result to look like.  In my experience, I'm usually planning the shoot around a vision that the photographer has in mind.  So I ask that photographer what words they would use to describe the shoot they see in their head.

You also need to know what purpose you and the photographer have for the shoot.  Are you putting the whole thing together to submit it for publishing to a national blog?  Are you putting together a "branding shoot" to serve as the backbone of a vendor's new website?  Make sure that the decisions you make in regards to the shoot coincide with the intention of the shoot as a whole.

Pick a date & a venue:
 Without picking a date and reserving a venue for the shoot, booking vendors will be difficult.  When signing on to such a project, people like to know when and where before they commit.  Do they already have 3 weddings that weekend?  Will they be traveling over an hour to the venue?  These things definitely make a difference and it's easiest to take care of them at the beginning. 

Andrew & Tianna Photography
Create a checklist:
If you know me at all, you know that pretty much my whole life revolves around checklists.  I operate best having my thoughts organized into tidy lists that I can tame.  When I create these lists for styled shoots, I make sure to have EVERYTHING on them.

Every single element that the photographer and I want to be incorporated into the shoot goes on that list so that I can make sure to have everything under control on shoot day.  Otherwise, I run the risk of getting really excited about the sweetheart table, showing up to shoot day, and realizing we never got a cake!!!  How humiliating would that be?! 

Armed with my handy lists and the vision we have for the shoot, I then begin building a Pinterest board.  I really do have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.  It can be so overwhelming if you don't go in knowing exactly what you're looking for, and how to par down the results you get from your search.  But if you know how to use it effectively, Pinterest can be your best friend when planning a shoot.

When I search on Pinterest, I don't just type in "whimsical backyard styled shoot".  The results are too broad and difficult to make your own. Instead, I search for separate elements of the shoot.  For example, "whimsical sweetheart tablescape" or "backyard wedding guest book".  From these images, I decide which ones best match with the adjectives the photographer had in mind and how we can make each element uniquely ours.

Elizabeth Henson Photos
 Vendor Wishlist:
Once the photographer & I have decided on our inspiration, we sit down and put together our "vendor wishlist".  This consists of the different elements we want to incorporate and which vendors would best help us execute our vision.

I usually use a styled shoot as a great opportunity to reach out to a vendor I've been DYING to work with.  You know, the vendor that you keep hoping and praying one of your brides will book?  Yeah, this is when I reach out to them and beg them to work with us.  Ok, maybe beg is too strong a word.  But I do ask very nicely!

Usually the vendors provide their goods {cake, florals, linens, lighting, etc.} for free.  However, being involved in the shoot benefits each and every vendor!  Everyone gets to practice their craft without the constraints presented by a real wedding day.  After the shoot, the photographer provides each vendor with a gallery of images they get to use for their portfolios and social media, showcasing some of their best and most creative work. 

Etsy is usually my very first stop for different accessories for the shoot.  Ties, cake toppers, etc.  If you're unfamiliar with Etsy, go check it out!  It's the most amazing platform where different creatives set up shops to sell their homemade goods.  It's so easy to get wrapped up in going from shop to shop to see all the amazing things people make & sell.

Even though the sellers are based all over the country {and even internationally}, the sellers tend to have an awesome "small business" mindset.  Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed.  And therefore, they are always more than willing to be a part of the styled shoots.

When reaching out to Etsy sellers, I always offer to pay for postage and return the goods promptly following shoot day.  The sellers receive the same gallery as the rest of the vendors to use in their advertising and they are also cited in any publication the images are shown, which brings more traffic to their shop.  Everyone wins!

Andrew & Tianna Photography
Shoot Day Necessities:
On shoot day, I always bring along a kit very similar to my wedding day survival kit.  This bag contains all the things I'll need {or might need} during the day, plus a few extras that are necessary for shoots.  Examples: SNACKS {big priority....I usually go for small bags of goldfish crackers}, bottled waters {if it's really hot, I bring these in a cooler with ice}.  Sunscreen & bug spray, and a first aid kit {including Advil}.  Scissors, a single-hole punch, masking tape, and zip ties.  Another thing I found out comes in handy: GLOVES & EARMUFFS!  While preparing for a shoot on a rooftop in March, I randomly grabbed about 4 pairs of gloves and some earmuffs.  Just about everyone on the "crew" ended up with some of my pink gloves on...including the guys.  Talk about feeling useful!

So there you have it....some of the things I learned over the last year while planning a lot of styled shoots.  If you're interested in hearing a bit more about how to execute a successful shoot and get the most out of it, I'll be speaking at Elizabeth Henson Photos' Meet & Greet on August 20th!  Email me for details or follow this link!  Hope to see you there!

Vendor Spotlight - Bayvue Estate

Hey there everyone!  I'm back with a new vendor spotlight for you!  This time its an incredibly beautiful and charming venue that I think you should all go check out.  Read on to learn a bit more about BayVue Estate in Mathews County, VA.

Tell us about your business:
BayVue Estate is a family-owned outdoor wedding venue located on the Mobjack Bay in Mathews County.

 What services do you offer?
Ceremony & reception packages as well as weekend packages.

How would you describe the "style" of the venue?
Coastal, vintage, waterfront

What's the most memorable event you've ever hosted and why?
My sister's wedding - What could be more special than hosting your own sister's wedding at our family venue, celebrating with all of our close family and friends.

What are your favorite types of events to host?
 Weddings, of course!

Who are your favorite vendors to work with?
Photographers, event planners, and florists - They can create different styles in one venue to capture the most beautiful memories.

Any advice for brides when planning their wedding and choosing a venue?

This is one of the most important days in your life, make sure you capture every moment possible, because days, months, years later, it will all be a blur and you want to make sure you can relive that day through photography and film.  Advice for choosing our venue - No matter what style of wedding you want, our venue can create that look.  You are not limited to just one style.  And of course, we have water!