Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year & Winter Wrap Bridal Style

Happy New Year's Eve! With the holidays ending and winter here to stay for the next couple months, it’s the perfect time to share some of my favorite cozy bridal wraps over on The DC Ladies blog. Since winter and its chill are not my cup of tea, I never once thought about getting married during this season. But for those braver brides who decide to go for it, the options are endlessly beautiful, whether in terms of location, décor, or of course, bridal fashion.

Are you doing anything fun for New Year's Eve? After a couple weeks apart, Stephen and I are planning to cook a special dinner right here at home, while enjoying some of our favorite wines and delicious Christmas goodies from friends and family. Then, we'll walk down into Old Town Alexandria for fireworks and more fun. Here's to a great start to 2011!

(Photo Credit: Etsy)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Being Married Means...I'm Never Alone

An early happy New Year, friends! After a whirlwind holiday, I'm back in D.C., where I'm busy reorganizing and rearanging as I transition to the next phase of my career and life. I've had my ups and downs recently, but in the end, I'm feeling excited, positive and hopeful about what's on the horizon. Blog posting has been a bit lighter lately, but now that I'm back, I'm looking forward to getting caught up and hopefully announcing a couple great new projects in the new year.

As you can imagine, finally moving forward feels great, especially since my last few weeks on Capitol Hill post-election were nothing short of draining and depressing, wrought with oftentimes sticky and very uncomfortable meetings and conversations. Some days, even simply heading into the office was tough, while staying positive in the face of discussions that filled me with anxiety and distress was next to impossible.

But one day, just before heading into a particularly difficult meeting, I had an epiphany. Looking down at my wedding ring shining reassuringly on my finger, I remembered that although I might be physically walking into that meeting alone, emotionally, I am never alone. As I sat there in my empty office, I envisioned my husband, along with my family and friends, standing right there beside me, supporting me, loving me, and raising me up in all that I do, now and always.

As I gathered my binder and headed out the door, I momentarily found the strength to let go of all the stress and fear inside, focusing instead on how blessed I am to have a strong support system and a loving marriage that sustains me. We walked into that meeting confidently, my ring and I, Stephen and I, together as a team, unbroken, unwavering, and neither one of us alone.

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography) 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wedding Albums: Expert Photo Selection Tips (Part Three)

My two-part interview series with Daniel of Richmond's dmfoto is now a trilogy, thanks to PartyPlannerGal, who asked a great question that definitely calls for a follow-up. Have even more questions about album design? Keep them coming!

Do photographers mind if couples go to them just for the purpose of having a professional album created? Or is this a service that's offered only to clients?

Designing an album using another photographer's photos is something that a select few photographers will do, but most won't. It wouldn't hurt to call around and ask, but if a bride is trying to save money on an album, I definitely don't think this would be the way to go. Albums purchased a la carte from most photographers are usually considerably higher in cost than when purchased as part of a wedding day package.

I have thought about designing albums like this in the past, but this year alone has told me that I simply wouldn't have time. We shoot an average of 40-50 weddings a year, and almost all of them include albums that I design. At my slowest points during the year, I have the first album design ready for a couple to see about three or four weeks after the wedding. But during my peak time, it can be close to four months after the wedding before the couple sees their first album design. I design my albums completely from scratch, so it definitely takes time putting each page together.

This is also a sensitivity issue for a lot of photographers. For example, we shot a wedding reception a few years ago here in the United States, while the actual ceremony took place in Ireland. We unfortunately weren't taken along to shoot the wedding itself, and since the couple purchased an album from us, we had to get permission from the Irish photographer to design an album with those photos included.

Did you purchase an album as part of your wedding photography package?

(Photo Credits: dmfoto)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Love & Christmas Wishes

Whether you’re busy traveling or are staying close to home this year, Stephen and I wish you a joyous holiday filled with love, friendship, good food and lots of fun.

Though the two of us may be apart this week, we know that while Christmas lasts just one day each year, the love that comes with marriage enriches our lives every day we share. Merry Christmas!

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography) 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spreading Cheer Far & Near

Along with decorating our home, Stephen and I decided that our first married Christmas meant sending holiday cards to family and friends. Shutterfly, my go-to site for albums and photo gifts of all kinds, made it easy and fun to design a beautiful card showcasing a few of our favorite wedding photos.

And now that our mailed copies have all gone out, I want to also share our card with each of you, whose friendship and support I value so much. I hope you're enjoying these last few days before Christmas! I know I am!

Did you send out holiday cards this year?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Home For The Holidays

The Christmas week is finally here, and I'm off to California for a little BlackBerry-free and completely uninterrupted holiday fun for the first time in nearly five years. But even though I won't be at home in D.C. with Stephen, I've spent the past month enjoying our decorations and getting in the spirit before heading out of town.

For our first married Christmas, we decided it was high time to make our apartment a little more festive, so we snagged a 4-ft. starter tree, along with some fun ornaments, including bulbs representing our universities, the annual House of Representatives ornament, and a "First Married Christmas" photo ornament from my mom. And then, after we had the tree all ready to go, my in-laws surprised us with a too cute set of embroidered stockings that Stephen's mom handmade!

Our collection is still small, but it's growing and will definitely be fun to add to as the years go by. How have you decorated for the holidays? Do you have any fun travel plans this year?

(Photo Credits: Personal Library)

Friday, December 17, 2010

DC Ladies Post: Honeymoon Timing Tips

It’s Friday, and do you know what that means? If you guessed that I’m back over on The DC Ladies site today, you’re right!

This time, I’m sharing my thoughts about the pros and cons of scheduling your honeymoon immediately following the wedding.

What do you think? Be sure to weigh in, either here or on The DC Ladies blog!

(Photo Credit: Personal Library)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Farewell To Capitol Hill

This is it. After nearly five years of making memories, tomorrow’s the day I’ll finally say goodbye to the congressional office I’ve worked in ever since I first arrived in D.C. as an innocent college graduate. The times have changed, and so have I, but although I know there are bigger and better opportunities waiting for me, it’s still tough to say goodbye and let it all go.

But because I don’t want the difficulties of the past two months to define what this place means to me, I'm using this week to focus on the happier times, including the ones seen in the images below. Say what you will about Congress and politics, since I have my criticisms, too, but at the end of the day, I know I'm very lucky to have worked here, playing a role in a way that was meaningful to me and hopefully to at least a few others, as well.

When all is said and done, I've had the time of my life, and I know things can only get even better from this point on, even though change can be so hard. I'll always remember...

Attending meeting and events in the fabulous new Capitol Visitors Center...

Working hard, but also taking time out to laugh and have fun with my coworkers...

Giving Capitol tours to constituents and visiting friends...

Visiting the White House for a fantastic West Wing tour and meeting with Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card...

And so much more. Have you ever faced losing or leaving a job? How did you say goodbye? 

(Photo Credits: Personal Library)  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

I’m talking about my hair, ladies. After years of hassling with my thick and naturally frizzy hair, the past couple months of stress pushed me completely over the edge. Between finals, cleaning out my office and keeping up with personal obligations, something had to go. So, I finally decided to cut back on the amount of quality time I spent each day with my blow dryer and trusty hair-straightening products.

A bit anxious but very burnt out, I recently headed to a small Korean salon recommended by a friend at work. There, they gave me a Japanese-style “magic straightening perm” for just $250. Was I nervous? Yes, especially since I used to color my hair, and chemically straightening color-treated hair can be damaging. But the staff at Mr. Lee’s Hair Place really knew their stuff, carefully trimming away a few end pieces that still contained traces of dye, while also explaining things to me each step of the way.

Was the three-hour process good for my hair? Probably not, especially given all the harsh chemicals that were used. But “healthier” treatments, including the more expensive Keratin complex, just hadn't given me the super-straight hair I wanted. Plus, Japanese straightening is permanent, whereas the Keratin treatment eventually washes out.

Now, instead of spending a solid half hour or more styling my hair, I spend less than 10 minutes blowing it dry after just a quick spritz of spray. And if it’s the weekend, I can just let it air dry, no product required, becasue no matter what I do, it comes out straight, smooth and not even slightly bulky every single time. And in my busy world, that’s completely awesome.

Have you ever tried a straightening treatment or other major styling service?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Heavenly Voice

Without a doubt, one of the best things about our wedding ceremony was the inclusion of family members and friends, either as bridesmaids, groomsmen or readers. Perhaps most special of all was having both our psalm and recessional sung by Gianna, one of my best friends, who traveled all the way from Germany to share the day with us.

Though she only met the pianist once briefly before the wedding, Gianna confidently took to the podium without a whole lot of direction, but with years of experience as a cantor backing her up. As for me? It was all I could do to keep from crying as her gorgeous voice filled the church.

Thank you, Gianna, for your love and friendship, on our wedding day and always. Did relatives or friends add any special touches to your ceremony?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography & Damien Smith Photography; Video Credit: Max MacIver Videography) 

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Makes The Perfect Wedding Planner?

Recently, I had the great opportunity to do an interview for Northern Virginia’s West Belmont Place and National Conference Center about what makes the perfect wedding planner in a bride's eyes. As both a recent bride and wedding coordination student, this was a fantastic way to share my perspective and offer a few points of advice.

But it also got me thinking. As part of the interview, I noted that experience and connections within the local wedding community are certainly important considerations when selecting a planner. I also recognize that, understandably, many established planners are wary of recent brides who decide to go into wedding planning on their own, especially since some of these brides are quick to overstate their qualifications and don’t have a clear understanding of what goes into planning a wedding or similarly detailed event.

But I also find that some people are too quick to automatically write off even those of us who do demonstrate a true passion for weddings and have the potential to pursue wedding coordination as a long-term goal. For example, though the congressional events I’ve been involved with during the past few years bear no direct similarity to weddings, they have instilled in me the very real knowledge that event preparation and execution of any type is incredibly challenging and often fraught with logistical snafus. As the youngest person on our staff to have worked my way into a supervising position, I’ve also clearly proven myself to be a skilled organizer and detail-oriented problem solver.

Furthermore, because I recognize that training and credentials are important in any field one chooses to pursue, I'm taking the time to earn a certificate through Northern Virginia Community College’s wedding coordination program. I am honest about my qualifications and would never claim to have years of experience that I simply don’t. I am, however, actively developing knowledge of the industry through my experience as a blogger, writer, volunteer and advisor to others, while being sincere, enthusiastic and thorough in all that I do.

Wonderfully, I’ve spent the past few months advising a creative bride who is planning a September 2011 wedding here in the D.C. area. Helping her navigate the planning landscape has been a true joy and honor, and I'm hoping to connect with several other brides next year, as well as continue offering daily advice and inspiration within the online community. Interning to gain experinece is also on the table, and I do accept the possibility that this path ultimately won’t work out, or that I’ll decide to stick with writing and publishing as my primary focus.

But I’d ask others to please not instantly count me or other hardworking women out just because we also happen to be recent brides. Everyone has to start somewhere, get their inspiration from someone, and discover their dreams somehow. It’s how we handle it that makes all the difference.

What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Boudoir Shoot: A Holiday Gift To Myself

As a Wish Upon a Wedding DC board member, I talked our online auction up a storm throughout the past couple months, and I’m so grateful to those of you who took the time to bid in support of couples in need. I even took the opportunity to bid on a couple items myself, and guess what? I won!

One item I won is a car detailing service for our trusty Jetta, but the other much more exciting item is a boudoir photo session for me! I’ve shared before that I’ve gone back and forth about whether to do one of these shoots, but the auction really inspired me to just go for it. I guess it's time to bring out some of my bridal shower goodies...

I’m not sure when I’ll book the session, but probably not for a couple months, partly so that things can settle down with my work transition, but mostly so that I can whip my lazy, eggnog-sipping, pecan-pie eating butt back into shape after the holidays! Talk about motivation!

Any tips for me, ladies, from those who have done a shoot like this before? How should I prepare, and how should I go about choosing an outfit I'm comfortable with? Do you think professional hair and makeup is a must? I’m a little nervous, but think it's definitely time to push my boundaries and take on a new challenge after the past couple months of stress and uncertainty. So, here goes nothing!

(Photo Credit: Google Images)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Old Town Engagement

Our engagement shoot was a last minute decision, made possible thanks to my friend Damien Smith, a true pro who treated us to a shoot during his D.C. visit in May. You probably remember the highlight video reel I shared just before the wedding, plus shots of the blown-up photo we displayed at the church and golf club.

Today, I couldn’t resist also sharing the DIY album I created to showcase our favorite images from the fun Old Town Alexandria photo session. Since this book is much shorter than the wedding album I wrote about yesterday, it definitely took much less time to design and was much more affordable! But all in all, I loved making both albums, and especially love being able to share them with others.

Did you do anything creative with your engagement photos?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our DIY Collage Wedding Album

Since Daniel shared tons of fantastic photo album tips over the past two days, let’s continue with that theme, shall we?

Stephen and I did receive a professional wedding album, but I also decided to create a DIY collage-style book combining photos from both of our professional photographers, including my friend Damien, who shot our “getting ready” pictures, and our guests. While our pro album is more like a highlight reel, showcasing the best of the best, the Shutterfly album includes hundreds of pictures that offer a fun look at every aspect of our day.

I won’t lie and say that creating it was simple, because with nearly 500 photos to work with, this project took me a couple months to complete, and the finished 75-page 12 x 12 album cost well over $100. But I think it turned out great, and I can’t wait to give 8 x 8 copies away as Christmas gifts this year. Check it out!

Next, I'll share our DIY engagement album. Have you ever made a photo book using Shutterfly, Picaboo, or a similar site?

(Photo Credits: Damien Smith Photography, Alex Neumann Photography & Personal Library)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wedding Albums: Expert Photo Selection Tips (Part Two)

Today, I’m back with more advice from dmfoto’s Daniel Marks, who's sharing his professional insight to help couples make the best choices. Read on...

When working with your clients, how do you normally start the process of choosing photos for an album?

When we work with our clients on albums, we have learned that it's usually best if we select the photos for them first. For the past couple of years, we have done what we call a pre-design. This is where I go through and select what I feel are the best photos for the album, and then put the album together in a digital format for the couple to see. After seeing it, they have the option to make changes to the album.

This makes the process go much faster than letting the couple choose the initial photos. When they have 700-800 photos from their wedding, it can be quite overwhelming to think about. Since this is something we have done for a long time, almost every couple prefers that we do it this way. About 95 percent of the time, the changes are simply photo swap-outs.

What's your best advice for a couple going the DIY route?

If a couple is going the DIY route with their wedding album, without the advice of a designer or photographer, I would recommend using a DIY album website. Shutterfly and Snapfish are two of the more popular sites I’m familiar with. Albums from these sites are nice products, because they are simple to put together, and have a clean look when finished. But my strongest recommendation is to hire a photographer who designs albums all the time. A professional album will almost always be better.

Do you have any additional advice or comments you'd like to share?

I think the most important advice I can give to any couple with regard to photography is to hire a professional. We live in a world where so many people have nice cameras and feel they can do an adequate job, but hiring a professional can make a real difference. Also, during your first meeting with a photographer, be sure to ask plenty of questions before signing a contract. Is the photographer insured? Does she belong to any professional organizations? How many cameras will he bring to your wedding? Does she design her own albums?

Do you have any questions for Daniel? Do you think you'll have a hard time choosing images for your album, or did you, if you already went through the process? How did your photographer approach this?

(Photo Credit: dmfoto)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wedding Albums: Expert Photo Selection Tips (Part One)

Whether professionally made or DIY, a well-designed photo album is an absolute must when it comes to forever preserving your wedding memories. And the first step to creating a beautiful album is choosing just the right pictures to include.

Here to offer advice on how to do that is wedding photographer Daniel Marks of Richmond's dmfoto. Enjoy, and feel free to share your questions and comments!

When choosing photos for our professional album, my husband and I loved so many of the over 700 amazing shots we received that we had a hard time narrowing it down to just the top 100. Do many couples face this issue, and what's your best advice on how they can make the selection process easier?

In today's digital market of photography, photographers are definitely showing more photos to couples than ever before. I think this is something that definitely makes the album decision a lot harder, especially if the bride and groom select the photographs. The best advice I can give is to try to plan out a story with each page.

I always start my albums with a single photo of the bride and groom, and from there try to build a story that tells how the whole day has gone. I believe that less is definitely more when it comes to a photo album, and I try to use only three or four photos on each page. When you start to add too many photos, the album can become cluttered, and the story can easily be lost.

Highlight the most important parts of the particular story you are trying to tell, and keep them as sequential as possible. For example, when choosing ceremony photos, try to  include only one or two photos each of the ring exchange, the vows and the kiss. Other important photos from the ceremony may capture expressions or emotions from the bride and groom, their parents, or wedding party members, such as the best man, who passes off the rings.

Another good example, this one from the reception, is the toasting and cake cutting. Try to include only one photo showing each of the most important parts of that story, such as the cake alone, people toasting the bride and groom, and the bride and groom cutting the cake. If you are allowed to use a background image, try to tie it into the story with an option like champagne being poured into a glass.

Do you feel it's important to carefully balance the number of album images in different styles, such as black and white, sepia, fisheye, and so on? What about choosing shots chronologically?

I think it’s extremely important to keep a uniform look to all images on an album page. If I have one image on a page that is black and white, they are all black and white. I feel the same way with color and sepia-toned images, too. I think telling a story in a chronological order makes a lot of sense, and I feel a story is what makes an album so special. Just having a book full of random photos without any order is strange to me. When I look at albums, I want each page to lead me to the next.

What are your plans for a wedding album? Will yours be professional or DIY, and what types of shots do you hope to include?

(Photo Credits: dmfoto)

Friday, December 3, 2010

DC Ladies Post: Large Wedding, Small Budget Tips

What do you picture when you think of a “big” wedding? Maybe a reception for 250 guests? How about 350? Well, for my bride-to-be coworker Kim, a “big” wedding means nothing short of 450 guests!

How can a bride with a huge guest list still be budget savvy? Head over to The DC Ladies, where I interviewed Kim about her top tips and tricks.

What's the largest wedding you've even been to?

(Photo Credit: Etsy)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Six Months Ago…

It’s hard to believe, but this Saturday marks our six-month anniversary. Though the time has gone by so quickly, it’s amazing to think about just how much has changed since that beautiful day in June when we said “ I do.” From going back to school to my looming job loss, it’s been a wild and emotional ride, but also a great one, with new opportunities and an entire lifetime of adventures still ahead.

Surveys show that many people are now forgoing marriage in favor of domestic partnership, and that’s just great for those who feel that way. But not me. Being married to my dearest friend has been the most wonderful experience of my entire life, filled with comfort, security, and hope in the face of life’s uncertainties. No matter what happens, I know Stephen will always be there at the end of each day, as six months turns into six years, and, if we’re so blessed, maybe even six decades.

Happy anniversary, love! I am one lucky girl.

What are your thoughts about domestic partnership vs. marriage? 

(Photo Credit: Damien Smith Photography) 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Please Vote For Us In The Weddzilla Photo Awards!

One of our fabulous photos by Alex Neumann Photography is up for a Weddzilla award! Please head over to cast your vote, no login required.

Thanks, Alex, for your amazing work. We’re honored to be in the running!

(Photo Credit: Alex Neumann Photography)

Making The Cut

From the simple yet elegant displays at the church to the wine-themed reception features, I couldn’t have been happier with the way our vision for décor came together throughout the wedding day. The cake table was no exception, and from the moment I saw it, I loved it.

Not only did the team at Skiff’s Cakes do an incredible job crafting a design based on the rough sketch Stephen had created, but our florist at Happy Flowers and coordinator from All Occasions Event Planning made the table look stunningly romantic, awash in rose petals and accented by our lovely “I Do” letters from Creative Custom Card Boxes. A few pretty petals even made it onto the cake itself!

As for the cutting? Stephen and I got tons of questions both before and during the reception about whether we planned to “smash” each other with cake. Did we? Have a look!

Though a few guests gave us a hard time right after the fact, they were soon way too busy stuffing themselves with delicious cake to give it another thought. And with one tier each devoted to cookies and cream, cream cheese and lemon raspberry flavors, I think everyone must have enjoyed it, because aside from the few slices our coordinator set aside for us to take home, there wasn’t a single piece left!

What's your cake and cake table vision? Is "cake smashing" your thing?

P.S. If you look closely, you may notice that, no, I did not remember to place my hand underneath Stephen's during the cutting, which is the proper etiquette. I was eager, excited, and it totally slipped my mind. Deal with it. :)

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography, Damien Smith Photography & Personal Library)