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Five Things I Wouldn't Change About Our Wedding

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On a beautiful day in March two years ago, Jimmy and I said our wedding vows to each other in front of our closest friends and family. I remember the day feeling so surreal, like a dream, and it was over before we knew it. Though some parts of our wedding feel like a blur, we made some lovely, sweet memories that I hold close to my heart. I had been a little afraid that because I had been a part of so many weddings as a photographer, I wouldn’t be able to really enjoy my own wedding day. But that didn’t happen. :) I love our wedding, I love our venue and the quirky things we did that weren't really traditional. I love knowing that we were surrounded by people who loved us and knew us, and that we have beautiful pictures to show just that. I love that we chose details that were “us”, from the coffee bar at the reception to the typewriter we used in place of a guest book.

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Because I know there are a lot of you planning weddings right now, I thought I would share five things I wouldn’t change about our wedding day. I want all of our brides to look back on their day with the same love we have for ours, so here are some things to think about as you put the finishing touches on your own!

1. How We Spent Our Budget

When Jimmy and I started planning our wedding, the accountant side of him came out and we set a budget for both the wedding and the honeymoon. Like a lot of couples, we were paying for the majority of it ourselves, so we needed to plan within reason. We talked a bit about our priorities, which were as follows: Photographer, location, wedding apparel, decorations/food. And when we look back at how we spent our budget, it lines up directly with our priorities. We spent the majority on the photographer (about half of our budget, actually) because we both value photography and wanted someone we trusted to capture our day, in a style we loved. The photographer in me knew that location plays such a big part in the pictures as well as the mood of the wedding, so we chose a rustic, outdoorsy venue that we would still be able to use if it rained. The rest of the things weren’t quite as important to us— I got my dress half-off, off the rack, and we got our cake from a local grocery store bakery. :) We had a cake and punch reception, so no caterers or tables and linens were needed.

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I’m not saying this is the way to go for everyone— you may not want an off-the-rack dress, and you may want to feed your guests a meal! But I would recommend making a list of your priorities, and recognizing that what you spend your budget on should line up very closely with your list. I would bet that if you do your research and invest the majority of your time and money in the top few priorities, you are going to be happier down the road with the results!

2. First Look

Jimmy and I decided to see each other before the ceremony, partly so we could take pictures beforehand and not be so rushed, but also because we wanted to spend the whole day together and not just the hours after the ceremony. We only had our photographers present for the first look so it would feel intimate and we wouldn’t feel awkward with an audience, and they captured it so sweetly. We exchanged letters we had written to each other, and Jimmy’s letter was so lovely I had to fight back tears when I read it. We hugged and just took a minute to let everything sink in. It was a beautiful moment that we were able to have, and after that we were hardly apart. We were able to take a little extra time for pictures and didn’t feel too crazy, and now we have those extra tangible memories, too.

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3. Unplugged Wedding

I know this is the photographer in me jumping out, but this is one of the things I definitely recommend to everyone! :) In our programs we had a little area that asked our guests to turn their cameras off and put their phones down, and just enjoy the day. So we do not have any horror stories of guests standing in the middle of the isle to grab that shot for Instagram, and we don’t have pictures of our family with cameras in front of their faces instead of them enjoying the ceremony. (I have been to too many weddings where not only do guests have their phones up, but even fathers and mothers of the bride and groom!) If you are wondering if you should do this or not, please please do! It is so worth it, from a photographer and a fellow bride.

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4. Guest List

We knew we wanted a smaller, more intimate wedding, so we decided to cap it off at 75 people total. This sounded wonderful at first, but as we made our list of guests we realized it is quite difficult to have a small wedding! We had to decide where to draw the line between friends and acquaintances, and that line turned out to be very blurry at times. But we stuck to our guns and kept our list relatively short, and now looking back I am very grateful for that. Our pictures show only our closest friends and family, and we have fond memories with everyone who came. We also didn’t have to spend more of our budget on a bigger cake and more snacks which, again, were not our top priorities. :)

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Crackel Wedding (655)

5. Making it “Us”

One thing I love about our wedding was all the little details that made it “us”. I love acoustic, coffee shop music, so we asked our hipster friend Jared to play some songs on the guitar and sing for the music before the ceremony. We decided to use non-traditional vows, because I had photographed one wedding where the vows really struck me by how beautiful they were, and how Christ-centered they were. That bride and groom graciously let us use them, too. :) We asked my sister’s husband to officiate the wedding, and he even snuck in a Joey from “Friends” wedding quote (the give/receiving one if you are familiar with the show!). We are coffee lovers, so we had a coffee bar at our reception, complete with coffee punch. And of course, we had to incorporate the Tennessee Vols football in there somewhere, so Jimmy wore an orange bow tie and had an orange and white “T” groom’s cake. These little details, and a few others, made a regular wedding a little more “us” without going too crazy.

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Crackel Wedding (633)

Crackel Wedding (633)

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I hope this post was helpful to you! In case you were wondering, our photographer was Cheyenne Ward from Shots by Cheyenne, with help from Laci Wilson of Barefeet Photography. We are still so grateful for how they captured our wedding so perfectly! (And thanks ladies for letting me use your pictures in this post!) We chose Soleil Garden Center as our venue, and they went above and beyond for us. I got my dress at Anne’s Bridals in Paducah at their half-off New Year’s Sale, and our cake was from E.W. James. The guys went to Five Seasons for their wardrobe, and we got the bridesmaid dresses at The Whispering Tree. Bouquets and boutonnieres were from Calla Lily.

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Hot Springs Arkansas, Our 2016 Vacation

For our second wedding anniversary we decided to take a trip to Hot Springs Arkansas! Photo Mar 24, 2 34 12 PM

When I was in college I asked two of my professors if they took their cameras with them on vacation. The first said absolutely not, that photography was his job and he needed to unplug from that and just enjoy being away from it all. He grew almost tired of taking pictures all the time, and vacation was his excuse to put the camera away and relax. My other professor said, "Um, of course I take my camera with me!" and even gave himself challenges for his vacation photography-- maybe he would focus on a certain color scheme the whole time, or certain details of the country he was visiting. It was his time to be creative and just take pictures for himself, to enjoy the art of photography for what it was-- his passion.

The Gables Inn, the bed & breakfast we stayed at. It was cozy and quaint and a little quirky. :)

We had some amazing coffee and tea at a place called Kollective Coffee + Tea.

Jimmy drinking a small but tasty coffee.

I feel like I am a mixture of both of my old professors when I go on vacation. Part of me wants to capture every detail, every meal we eat and every beautiful piece of architecture we come across. I want to record it all so we can put it in a book and look back on all our trips someday. I want to be able to remember the smells, the sounds of the water rushing by, or the stillness of walking the streets in the morning, while the crowds are still in bed and the shops are just now starting to open. I'm not a great story teller with my words, but I can show pictures of the delicious cupcakes we ate and the amazing views we came across, and they can relay our traveling adventures for me.

We went to a few different bath houses while we were there, this one had been turned into a brewery, one was a museum, one was a spa and modern bath house, and another was still set up like a vintage bath house which you could tour and see it as it had been used originally.

I absolutely loved seeing all the amazing architecture in those old buildings, like this beautiful floor!

One of the amazing cupcakes we got at Fat Bottomed Girls bakery!

The other side of me, the one who knows my workaholic tendencies, realizes the importance of being present and not spending the whole vacation with a camera in front of my face. I know my husband likes this side better, because I'm not so distracted and preoccupied. :) Though photography is my passion, I understand the need for a Sabbath, for a rest and a little time away from work.

We visited Garvan Woodland Gardens while we were in Hot Springs, and it was beautiful!

I'm so glad we were there while the tulips were blooming. They were lovely!

This is what happens when you hand your camera to a very kind stranger who offered to take your picture for you... Should have settled for an iPhone picture! haha :)

Tulips for days!

Look at that stud. ;)

Jimmy took a few pictures of me at the Garvan Woodland Gardens. :)

These tulips were absolutely beautiful.

Our attempt at taking a picture of us with a make-shift tripod and a self timer!

We had to make a few visits to Kollective Coffee + Tea because they had too many delicious drinks to try!

So my vacation photos from this trip are incomplete, in a good way. I didn't take pictures at all at the horse races, or at the spa, and I didn't even get a picture of the most amazing meal we ate in Hot Springs. And who knows if I'll remember those things for the rest of my life, but I do know I was present when they happened, and had a wonderful time just being there. That is my vacation photography tip for you all-- take enough pictures that your creative, sentimental self is satisfied, and then put the camera away to just enjoy your vacation. And maybe that goes for everyday life, too. Be present, be sentimental, take pictures and record your adventures, but find the perfect balance of it all for you. Mix them all in at varying amounts-- it may not be perfect at first but I think we'll all get the hang of it eventually. :)

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Resolutions, Insecurities, and Why You Should Take More Selfies

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I have always loved the beginning of a new year, the resolutions and the commitments, the fresh starts. I know it is so cliche, but I have done it all-- I’ve written down my “word of the year”, I have vowed to focus on loving more or eating better, I have made list after list. And some of these resolutions I have kept, some have faded as January becomes June, becomes December. But I still love it. I love goals and I love hope. planner-sm

I know we are already halfway through February, but I have finally taken some time to think about 2016 and have set some goals and written some lists. One phrase I heard a while back that has been resonating with me is this-- Exist in Photos. And I have decided that this is something I will try to focus on a little more this year.

I have a chance to see first-hand a lot of insecurities. You want to remember what you don’t like about yourself? Have someone point a camera at you. :) Even if someone doesn’t tell me with their words, I have gotten pretty good at reading it by the way people act. I see the wedding guest who always drifts towards the back of the group photo, because they think they are overweight and like having people in front of them. I see the bridesmaid who never gives me a full smile because she doesn’t like her teeth. I hear the mom, who laughs and asks if I can take off 20 pounds and ten years-- she winks as she says it, but sometimes I think she really wishes I would. I know the senior doesn’t pick certain photos of herself, because she thinks her arms look too big.

So this year, I would like to inspire you to step out of your insecurities just a little bit, and exist in photos. Why? Because there are a lot of people out there who love you. They want to remember this beautiful time in your life, right after you’ve had your third child or turned 18 or said I Do. They love your big smile, the one that lights up your whole face and makes your eyes sparkle. They can almost hear you laughing in those pictures. This time in your life, the year you may not have it all together, or the year you gained 3.455 pounds, it is so full of lovely memories that deserve to be captured. Like baking cookies with your kids. And playing in the snow with them. And being at your cousin’s wedding, or standing with her at the alter as she says I Do.

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This year, let’s Exist in Photos. Let’s take too many pictures and post too many on Facebook. Instead of shrinking to the back of the group, let’s jump in with them and smile big. Snuggle with your kids and ask your husband to take a picture as your little ones fall asleep on your lap, even if you’ve already taken your makeup off. Make 2016 the biggest photo album yet. And then at the end of the year, maybe we’ll look back and see how much fun we’ve had. Like those late night dates to Wendy’s because we were craving a frosty. That beautiful beach vacation that made all your friends a little jealous. Instead of taking too many pictures of just your dog, see how many you can take with your dog. And maybe in 2017 you can keep it going. Be intentional about it, have fun with it. :) I will try, too. Because I’m guilty of taking more pictures of my coffee than I do of the ones I love, with the ones I love.

So let’s try this together. In 2016, let’s build more tangible memories. Let’s take a few seconds to record this amazing life that is going by way too fast. Set a ten second timer and jump in the picture. Be present and laugh and love like crazy. From the big moments to the small, sweet ones, let’s create a little paper picture trail of our year. Whether with an iPhone and Instagram filters or with pictures from a pro, in 2016, let’s Exist In Photos.

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