Gary + Nicole // Wedding

When I think of a "perfect wedding" this day comes to mind. Gary & Nicole got married on a Thursday afternoon at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens in Charleston, surrounded by green grass, low hanging oak trees full of moss, peacocks roaming the grounds, and their closest friends & family. They served cookies & doughnuts, danced under twinkling lights overlooking the water, and all huddled around the campfire as the sun went down. Dreamy, right?? 

Not only was their wedding absolutely perfect, but these two are such wonderful people. They were laid back, truly enjoyed their day, and loved on every single person that attended their wedding. PLUS they are a super attractive couple! We joked as we took their photos after the wedding that these photos would help them jump start their modeling career ;) But seriously, these two were so great to work with & made me feel like a friend and not just their photographer, which always makes for an enjoyable experience. Love you two, and I'm still so so happy you let me photograph your special day! 

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Johannah & Michael // Engagement

I was on Facebook one night and saw a video that Michael's brother posted of him proposing to Johannah in Charleston & thought, "they look like they would be a super fun couple to photograph!" A few days later, a message came into my inbox from Johannah, asking if I would be able to photograph their engagement session!! I freaked out because it was like she had read my mind! We started talking about where they wanted them taken & I sent her a few ideas. Not only did my wish come true about photographing them, but they picked one of the locations where I have been DYING to photograph. So needless to say, this was a dream session for me!

Johannah and Michael, you guys are fun, adventurous, and so easy going. Johannah literally walked up this mountain in heels and didn't complain at all. The session lasted almost 3 hours but it felt like nothing because of how fun they were to hang out with. Thank you two for letting me document this time of your lives and for making my dream come true ;) 

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Micayla & Wade // Wedding

I am sitting on my back porch, fingers hovering the keys, a white page staring blank before me. I am trying find the words that will match the feelings I have in my heart for these two and their sweet wedding. Not sure if I can do it justice, but its worth a try. 

Micayla and Wade are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. They both come from very large families, Micayla being the oldest of 9 and Wade being one of 11 (their family photos was the largest one I've ever taken..scroll down to see!) So, to say they love people really well is an understatement. As a photographer, I do lots of observing. Lots of watching. While I was photographing their wedding day, a few things I observed about these two was their selfless hearts, their kind spirits, and their genuine love for people. 

As a bride, its easy to get caught up in the idea that this day is all about you. Yet, the entire day, I watched Micayla selflessly serve others and put other's needs above her own. One of her sisters asked her to help with her makeup, and Micayla joyfully did it. Another asked her to fix her hair, and she joyfully did it. As she was running around getting ready she came over to me and asked if she could do anything for ME or if I needed anything. I was blown away the entire day at how she loved & served others, despite the fact that it was "her" wedding. 

Wade was kind to everyone he came in contact with that day. I was in the middle of photographing all the family photos and he looked over at me and said, "You're doing a great job Kathleen, we are super thankful for you!" Every word that I heard come out of his mouth was encouraging and kind & it was a true blessing to watch. 

Their love for their family & friends was extremely evident. I think they spoke to every single person that was at their wedding and genuinely loved on everyone that was there. I teared up watching the love that this family has for each other and how excited they were for the 2 families to become one. Micayla & Wade, your wedding refreshed my spirits and made me thankful that I get to be a part of special days like yours. The love you guys have for Jesus, each other, your family & friends challenged ME, because you love like Jesus. I am thrilled that you two get to experience the gift of marriage & I know many people will be impacted through it.

Much love to you guys. xoxo

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How to plan a wedding...budget style.

This is the time of year for wedding planning! Every week I get inquiries from brides who have recently gotten engaged and are starting the planning process. It's such an exciting season of life as a bride, but it can also become very stressful & expensive. According to The Knot, the average American wedding costs $30,000. That is just crazy to me! When I got engaged, there was no way my college student budget was going to allow me to have a $30,000 wedding. Plus, my sister had JUST gotten married 4 months before I got engaged, and my parents didn't have a lot of funds to dish out to me. So I had to make my wedding happen on a small budget. 

 I know, it might be weird to you that I'm posting a blog about how to save money on your wedding day when I am IN the wedding industry and make a living off people getting married. But I was also a bride just a few months ago, had a killer wedding, and pulled it off on a small budget. So, for all those brides getting married this year, I wanted to share a few tips on how I saved money and planned my wedding on a budget. 

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  • Splurge on what's important, save on what's not. Everyone has things they value and are willing to spend money on. For some, it might be that they have a LOVE for music & want a live band at their reception, and are willing to pay $3,000 to have one. Some might have a lot of friends and family that they want to attend their wedding, and are willing to pay $4,000 for a venue that will hold everyone. MY hope is that you value quality photos to remember your wedding day by, and splurge on a professional photographer ;) Whatever that may be for you, decide on what you value, splurge on that one thing, and then try to find more affordable alternatives for everything else. 
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  • Read your vendor's fine print. I got married at a beautiful venue that wasn't outrageously expensive. However, in their contract, booking them as my venue meant that I agreed to using their rental company for all my tables, chairs, and any additional needs. That rental company was not the most affordable option I could have used, but I agreed to the contract and had to use them. Make sure you are aware of all the fine print to keep you on budget & prevent any unexpected expenses. 
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  • Buy dried flowers & make bouquets yourself. As a photographer, I LOVE it when my brides use professional florists because large & creative bouquets add such a beautiful element to the photographs. I also have friends who are florists, and I am constantly advertising for them because they are true artists and I love photographing their work. However, using live flowers can get costly very quickly. So what I did on my wedding day was order a ton of dried flowers (from Curious Country Creations online), had a fun, bouquet building night with all my bridesmaids, but then had a professional florist make my bouquet with live flowers. This saved me some money, but then also provided the funds for me to splurge on my bouquet. I'd highly recommend this because professionally done bridal bouquets make for beautiful photos.  Another way to save money in this area would be to hire a professional to make all your bouquets, but then add a different element to the dinner tables, instead of large flower arrangements, which will save you a lot of money. (Bouquets below done by Lexi Woodward)
  • Do as MUCH DIY stuff as possible. For my wedding, anything I could do myself (or could bribe my family members or close friends to do), I did. My sister has beautiful handwriting and she did all the hand lettering for my invitation. My other sister & I actually designed my invitation. My sister made our wedding cake. My dad and I made flower & candle holders out of wood for the table center pieces. I made a wedding music playlist on Spotify and had my uncle (who has tons of sound equipment) DJ the reception. I had these huge, wire, plant holders that were on the main wall of the venue that my best friend & I made by hand. My sisters & best friend raided the woods near our house the day before my wedding to gather greenery & vines to use as decorations for the reception. There are TONS of things you can do yourself. Sure, it might take time & some extra thought, but it can cut costs tremendously! I had so much fun creating unique elements for my wedding and made lasting memories with my family & friends in the process. (Below are some images from my wedding of things we made ourselves. Photos by Julie Mixon) 
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  • Have a pot-luck reception. I know this sounds crazy and kinda impossible. Yet, this is probably where I saved the MOST money on my wedding day. On average, caterers charge about $20-$30 per head at a wedding, and if you invite 200 guests, that is somewhere between $4,000- $6,000 you will spend, just on FOOD alone! Unreal. At my wedding, my parents provided the meat for everyone, and the rest of the food was brought in by our guests. We had a food sign up sheet online that people filled out, so we were aware of how much food would be provided. It sounds pretty ghetto, but seriously, it was the greatest idea. There was SUCH a variety of mouth- watering, home cooked dishes, breads, and desserts and we had more than enough to feed everyone! It was such a blessing and I tell all my brides to consider this on their wedding day if possible! 
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There are so many things I'm glad I did on my wedding day, and other things I wished I would have done differently. I love any chance I get to help my brides (and brides in general), and I think one way is by sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. It also saddens me to watch so many people go into debt because of their wedding, or spend so much time, energy and money on their wedding, and neglect their future marriage. My heart for my couples is that they have thriving marriages, not just a killer wedding. These tips might not work for everyone, and I'm sure there are better/more affordable alternatives than these, but I hope these will help you has you begin your wedding day planning, in order for you to have a killer, affordable wedding AND a thriving marriage. xoxo

Small Business Owner *Spotlight*

Having my own business is never something I imagined for my life, but the Lord knows better. He has blessed me with a career I love and I can’t imagine doing anything else! There are so many beautiful aspects of having my own business, but there are equal amounts of hardships that come along with it. Having people in my field who are working just as hard and pushing through the hardships truly encourages me to keep going. A few of those people for me are Shana Wanco, Jeff Felton, and Randy Branch. These three all started small businesses in 2017 and are absolutely KILLING it. I love watching their growth while doing something they are passionate about. I thought it would be helpful, for other small business owners or people who are simply curious as to how running a business actually works, to hear from THEM about some of what they learned in 2017.

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First off is Shana. We met in college where she was studying graphic design and I was studying photography. She immediately stood out to me because of her crazy talent and sweet spirit. I ended up photographing her engagement and wedding. She has also completely redesigned my logo and branding for my new website. If she wasn't already cool enough, she recently started her own business called Iris & Marie Press, where she specializes in letterpress work. If you haven’t heard of or seen letterpress done before, you HAVE to follow her on Instagram @Irisandmariepress.She frequently posts videos of the process, which are absolutely mesmerizing. This is what Shana had to say about what she learned this past year:

"Okayyyyy so, 2017 was my taking off year! Super exciting, super scary. I quit my full time job in April & officially started my business in May. Being able to set my own schedule & say yes to the work that fits my style was & is still AMAZING! The biggest, hugest thing I've learned in 2017 is how important relationships are & putting yourself out there! Everyone knows that taking good photos of your work, being authentic & trying to keep your social media game up to par is key, but behind Instagram are tons of relationships! I love using Instagram as my main platform to market, but I've put a lot of time into making lasting vendor & client relationships that have turned into friendships. I go to dinner, schedule coffee dates with people, ask for advice & give advice. All of that usually doesn't even include talking about work! I've also put myself out there by attending styled shoots outside of the city I live in, reaching out to wedding planners & photographers outside of my state & messaging people on Instagram. Quitting my job has given me a tougher skin & allowed me to become more outgoing with people that I don't know. If I didn't know someone, I would NEVER go out of my way to speak to them, but now it's almost second nature. You never know what job you could gain if you just go & introduce yourself."

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Second is Jeff. If you live in Florence, you most likely know him as one of the baristas at Lula's Coffee Company. He and his boss took a small dream they had years ago and turned it into a non-profit coffee shop that has not only impacted people within the Florence area, but also people around the world. Jeff recently quit his job at Lulas, but couldn't stay away from his love for coffee. Last year, he started his own coffee roasting business called Batch Nine Coffee Company, @batchninecoffee, which Lula’s now sells and brews in their shop. He is expanding his brand to other local coffee shops in Florence, as well as others across the states. Jeff really knows how to run a business, but is still learning more and more each day. This is some of what he says he's still learning:

"For all of the glamorous moments from small biz owners that you seen on Instagram, there are an uncountable number of tough moments that go on behind the scenes. Late nights, long days, tough spots, uncertainty, doubts, creative blocks. What I’ve learned most in 2017 and the first month of 2018 is how to embrace these “un-glamorous” things as the ebb and flow of starting/owning a small business.

You have to want to own your own business. And when I say you have to want it, I mean you have to WANT it. Lots of people have ideas for starting businesses and some of them actually get up the stomach to take steps and make it happen. But I understand now why a considerable amount of them tank pretty quickly - it’s because late nights, long days, doubts, tough spots, and creative blocks happen, and if doing what you’re doing isn’t engrained in the core of who you are, you’re not going to respond when it’s crying in the middle of the night.

I have learned that this is what I want to do, that this craft is one I want to perfect. How do I know? Because it hasn’t come without late nights, super long days, doubts, frustrations, and creative blocks, and yet I still keep moving forward.

Sometimes I have several orders to fill and they have to go out in the morning, which means a late night is inevitable. Creativity comes in spurts. Lots of times, I draw a blank on what to do next, how to drive sales, or even what to caption a picture. I’ve had multiple opportunities to throw in the towel, and sometimes it would seem to make sense to do so. I could have, but I just couldn’t, if you get my drift. It’s because deep in my guts, I know this is just the ebb and flow of it all, and I’m willing to grind it out when that’s all I can do. I’ve also learned that in those moments, patience and perseverance are all that works, but its worth it every time to keep moving forward!"

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Third is Randy. I'm literally so excited because he and his beautiful fiance Samantha are getting married this year and I get to photograph their wedding!!! I did their engagement photos last fall and let me tell you, they were a dream to photograph. They were so natural in front of the camera and are a pretty attractive couple! Randy is a videographer, @randybranchmedia, who specializes in weddings, music videos, and promotional work. I've been so impressed with Randy, as he took a hobby and created a business out of it. He's constantly learning new things and always creating new work, which is one of the keys to growth and improving your craft. Here are some words from him about all that 2017 taught him:

"2017 was a transitional year for Randy Branch Media in that I learned the difference between JUST creating content and running a business. I've learned that it takes hard work, dedication, and most of all, patience. I've also found that networking is key. Building relationships with other creatives and business owners has encouraged me to learn, grow, and improve my craft. It's so rewarding doing what I'm passionate about on a daily basis, but that doesn't come without some struggles. It can certainly be difficult managing the business side of things when you just want to follow your passion and create content, but I've found a sense of fulfillment in owning my own business. My favorite thing about Randy Branch Media is the relationships that I'm building and in 2018, I want to see the development of more relationships, collaborations, and cross-promotions."

The farther I go in my business, the greater my love for it grows, as well as my appreciation for OTHER small business owners. I literally have SO much to learn, but the best way to learn is by doing. I am super thankful I get to grow, fail, and learn alongside some pretty talented people. I'm also thankful to the Lord for giving, growing, and completely blessing my business the way He has. I often get frustrated and impatient, but He is so faithful and has given me way more than I could ask or imagine. If you ever need wedding stationery/branding, coffee, or videography, hit up my friends!

Happy Friday y'all!! xoxo

Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer

Good morning friends!! 

I am writing this on the floor next to a big window in our apartment, watching these HUGE white snowflakes fall to the ground. It is a gorgeous sight. I feel like everywhere else in the country has gotten snow already, except where I live. But thankfully that's not the case anymore :) 

Since this is the time when people start booking wedding photographers for the upcoming year, requests start coming in. Unfortunately, a few brides have requested to book me on a date that I am already booked. When this happens, a lot of brides ask me for help or recommendations, because they feel lost, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to look for when it comes to choosing the right photographer for their day. So, if you are getting married this year or know of someone who IS, hopefully this will help you when it comes time to choose your photographer! 

  • Choose someone you like & enjoy. Between the engagement session, bridal session, and wedding day, you will most likely be spending more than 12 hours with your photographer. He or she is literally your shadow the entire wedding day. So if it's someone whose personality annoys you or who you don't enjoy being around, this will make for a LOOONG day. Therefore, make sure you ENJOY the person. I try to meet with all my clients before the wedding, to make sure we get to know each other and build a friendship. It's super awkward when you show up on the wedding day, having never met the bride or groom. So, meet up with your photographer before your wedding or grab dinner with them after the engagement session to make sure it is someone you enjoy and want by your side on your wedding day. 
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  • Choose someone who is talented, creative, and who reflects your style. Some people settle for a cheaper photographer because their budget is tight (I get that!). Yet, people who do this regret it in the long run. They wish they would have invested in a talented photographer. Sure, in the moment, it feels like a LOT of money, but it's so worth it. When my sister got married, she was a 19 year old, poor college student, who was paying for her wedding almost entirely on her own. Even though her budget was super tight, she invested in a wonderful photographer (shout out to Erin Drago!). It was probably the most expensive thing she invested in on her wedding day, but she had no regrets. You will get what you pay for, so choose to invest in someone talented & who reflects your personal style. Photographers pour countless hours into traveling, shooting, editing and spend lots of money on workshops, equipment, taxes, business expenses etc. They put in a TON of work, so value it and don't settle for someone cheap. 
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  • Choose someone who will give you the most bang for your buck. Some photographers only give about 100-200 images from the wedding day, which to me is craziness because on average, photographers take somewhere between 1000-2500 images (or more!!) on a wedding day!! Obviously not all those photos are gallery worthy, but I give my clients at least 800 photos (usually more depending on the size of the wedding & how long I shoot). Ask them about this upfront so you aren't disappointed when you receive your gallery. 
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There is obviously much more that goes into choosing a wedding photographer, so if you have ANY questions at all, I'd be more than happy to help out! Even if I am not your top choice, I can point you to many other friends & creatives in the industry who would meet all these qualifications and MORE! Happy Wednesday & for those who are enjoying their snow day, I hope you have lots of hot chocolate, blankets, and a fire in your fireplace <3 

5 Things I Learned the First Year of Marriage

Hi friends! Happy New Year!! What a whirlwind these past few weeks have been!! Christmas, New Years, and our anniversary all land within a week of each other, so this time of year is crazy, but fun.

Chris & I just celebrated our *FIRST* year of marriage this past weekend!!! Its hard to believe a year has already come and gone. Chris and I were talking today on the way to the airport about if the first year of marriage few by this fast, it's only going to fly by faster as the years go on. But with everyday that passes, I grow in gratitude for the gift of marriage, given by Jesus. It truly is a wonderful gift, one I feel undeserved to experience. Its super fun being married to your best friend. But marriage is also work. Whatever we neglect will eventually fail. If I stop watering my plants, they will die. If I stop working on my marriage, it will eventually die. Sure, it's work, but it's so much fun. 

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Going into marriage, I had no idea what to expect. Everything was unfamiliar & unknown. Lots of people gave us advice and tips, so we knew a good bit. But knowing and applying are two different things. I work with a lot of sweet couples & brides, and we often talk for months about the actual wedding day. But rarely do we talk about the marriage. The end result of the wedding day, which is a lifelong commitment to your best friend. I'm obviously not a marriage expert by any means, but I figured I’d share a few things I learned this year in marriage. 

  • Jesus MUST remain your first love. 

Marriage is a reflection of our personal relationship with Jesus. It is not intended to replace it. Over the summer, there was a period of time where I was unhealthily idolizing Chris, looking to him for the main source of love, affection, and security. I was feeling lonely & insecure & wanted to run to him to fill that void. The void that only Jesus can fill. When we put those expectations on our spouse, to do only what Jesus can do, they are going to fail us. Because they weren’t intended to be Jesus. Psalm 63:3 says that the love of the Lord is better than life! That's the kind of love relationship we can have with Jesus. And when He is first in our affections & desires, our marriage will function properly. We will stop placing impossible burdens on our spouses that they need to fulfill, because Jesus will fulfill them. It's so easy to idolize our spouse, but we must fight to keep our relationship with Jesus #1. HE is the Giver, my spouse is just the gift. 

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  • Always look for ways to out serve the other

Selfishness is the root of a lot of sin, conflict, and even marriage problems. Each human being is a selfish sinner, and when 2 of them get married, it could potentially be disastrous. But my husband & I have noticed that the more we try and serve the other, the less conflict there is in our home. The more we are looking out for each other’s needs & desires, the less we are looking out for our own. And you will see that the more you try to please your spouse, the more you will personally find pleasure in pleasing them. If you both have this mindset, then you both will get served. Every morning, Chris wakes up and makes me coffee. And while he's doing that, I make him breakfast. We both get served & both find joy in it. Even Jesus, when He was on this earth, “didn’t come to be served, but to serve & to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28)  If this was Jesus’ mindset, and my marriage is intended to reflect Jesus, then this should be my mindset too. 

(every morning consists of coffee & smoothies at our house) 

  • Communication is key (seriously)  

Everyone who gave us pre-marital advice told us this. And after a while, I was like “yea yea ok.” But really…it's so crutial for a flourishing marriage. My husband is WAY better at this than me, but I am actively working on getting better. There is a new level of closeness you feel with someone when you communicate with them. About any and everything. I have learned (after not being great at this) that Chris feels loved by me when I open up to him and share what's on my heart. Big or small. Important or non important. We love sitting down (every night if possible) at the dinner table and sharing with each other about our day, dreams, struggles, or joys. One night, we talked and talked, and before we knew it, it had been 2 hours! Of us just sitting at the table and communicating with each other. Chris is SO great at asking me questions that prove to me that he cares deeply about me. And knowing that he cares makes me want to communicate with him even more. So maybe communication isn’t so great in your marriage. A start to making it great is asking your spouse questions that show you care. Put your phone down and actually listen. The more caring questions you ask & the more willing you are to listen, the sooner those doors of communication will swing open. 

Go on dates! 

People have jokingly told us that every night is date night without kids, which could be true. Yet, plans come up, week nights get filled, the TV gets turned on, and the night is soon over, without really having a quality conversation with your spouse. Sure, it's easy for Chris and I to spend time together, since its just the 2 of us. But it's not always intentional time. One thing Chris & I said we would do every week is get alone together, out of the house if possible, and do something fun. No phones. No one else. Just us. And those nights truly do differ from any other night, even if it looks slightly similar. The difference is we are intentional with our time and conversation. There are no distractions & we can properly pour into each other. This has been so life giving for our marriage & something I look forward to every week. There are a few older, married couples I know who have flourishing marriages. And you know what? They are religious about date night. So before kids come & life gets any crazier, make this a habit. It will then become a natural thing you do every week, even years down the road. 

  • Marriage is made up of mundane moments

Paul David Tripp said this in a marriage study we did this year, and it couldn't be more true. Our life primarily consists of mundane moments. Sure, there are big milestone moments and special seasons you will go through, but a majority of our lives consist of the mundane. It's easy to bypass those moments, because of social media, which glorifies the big moments and showcases the best of our highlight reel. But the mundane moments should be celebrated, enjoyed, and cherished. Chris and I were talking over our anniversary trip that some of our favorite memories from this year weren't even anything that grand or spectacular. They were times like when Chris came into my office one day, grabbed my hand & told me we were going for a drive. We rode down to my favorite field, walked through the tall green grass, and sat down on a blanket and just talked. Or the time we were coming home from Louisiana, after being in the car together for over 50 hours that week, and we were cracking up and laughing hysterically (I think the reason that was special was because we were surprised we hadn't killed each other yet ;) ) So, what are you doing in the mundane? Most of our marriage (and life!)  is spent here, so treasure the small things. Take lots of pictures, keep a journal and write stuff down, because you will forget it!  Don't dismiss the mundane, rather, enjoy it and make the most of those moments. 

I am thankful for this year & all that I learned, and am looking forward to continuing to learn as the years go on. I talked to a married couple the other day who have probably been married over 20 years, and they said this past year of marriage was the best one yet. However, that didn't come by being passive. That came from actively working, being faithful, enduring hardship, openly communicating, apologizing quickly, and over using "I love you". Im thankful for the couples in my life who model marriage well for me. And since I work in a field where lots of people are getting married, I am passionate about my couples, friends, and even acquaintances experiencing Christ centered, life giving, joyful, and committed marriages. If you would ever like to talk about marriage, being a wife, how I've failed at doing and being both, or if I can help listen or point you to another resource, I would absolutely love to! Lots of love to you all!! 

Quincy + Rachel

If I am not careful, weddings can kinda grow stale to me. Its just another day, just another wedding, just another couple. Yet, this couple helped refresh my spirit and come to a deeper appreciation for shooting weddings. I think in our culture today, marriage isn't viewed as a sacred, lifelong commitment anymore. Weddings are just a thing people do and an excuses for people to get wasted. Being married isn't about a committed relationship, but rather about the status. I don't mean to be rude or speak for every wedding & marriage, I have just seen this a lot over the past 5 years of shooting weddings. However, it is SO refreshing to witness a wedding where a couple values and celebrates marriage in the way God intended it to be; for life, for joy & for Him. 

Quincy & Rachel's wedding day was a true celebration of the gift of marriage God has given.  SO full of love and joy. Their entire wedding party was thrilled for them, so many happy tears were shed, and there was so much evident love between Rachel & Quincy. As I was taking their photos after the ceremony, I told each of them to tell one another something they love about each other. I took a few steps back and shot from a distance, but watching them exalt and shower each other with words of genuine love was SO touching. I think I teared up about 39 times that day, watching Rachel & her dad's first look, hearing all the prayers her bridesmaids said over her, and watching Quincy & his mom during their mother son dance (which I shouldn't have been crying over that because I barely know them!) 

All this to say, their wedding reminded me of how special marriage truly is, it helped me remember WHY I love shooting weddings, and it was just overall so much fun. Their wedding posse was super fun and the weather & lighting that day was a photographer's DREAM! Sorry about the overload of photos...I am the worst at narrowing down photos from wedding days to post! Hope you all can feel the love & joy that marked their wedding day as you look through these photos. Thank you again Quincy & Rachel for loving the Lord & each other like you do. It was a blessing to ME to witness you two become husband and wife xoxo

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ThankFULL

I have ALWAYS loved Thanksgiving. I think I get just as excited about it than I do about Christmas. There is something so special about Thanksgiving to me. For us, this is the only time a year we see some of our extended family. Growing up, we were super close to all my mom's family, her aunts and uncles & cousins. We would have family members at the Thanksgiving dinner table that I had grown up knowing, but had no idea how they were related to me. Come to find out, they were my 2nd cousin twice removed on my mom's dad's side. Or something like that. Thanksgiving growing up was always a LOT of family with a LOT of food and a LOT of conversations. All day long. 

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I have many, sweet Thanksgiving memories. One year, when I was a little girl, we went and visited my great grandmother's house, where my mom spent a lot of her childhood. It was like stepping back in time, and my mom & aunts had gobs of stories & memories from growing up there. There is also this cousin, (I guess he's actually my 2nd cousin?!) who every single year, my mom, aunt, sisters & I will always find a way to put pepper in his drink. Every year. He always leaves his drink sitting around, and when he isn't looking, we slip it into his tea. You would think after all these years, he would keep a close watch on his drink. 

This year, Thanksgiving looked a little different. This is my first Thanksgiving being married. I remember last year at this time, I was up to my EYEBALLS in trying to graduate college, projects, senior exhibitions, exams, and planning a wedding. It was the craziest season of life. And, this is the first Thanksgiving in 2 years that we are NOT planning a wedding! Two years ago this time Gen was about to get married, and then it was me last year. So we thought it was going to be a very relaxing, stress free Thanksgiving. 

Until my parents, who have been trying to sell their house for MONTHS now, finally got an offer on their house. And they closed THREE days ago. Yes, the day before Thanksgiving. They have been frantically looking for a house to buy, put 11 offers on houses that, come to find out, had just been put under contract. That happened 11 times....! Unreal. And to make it even crazier, the house they bought won't be ready to move in until December 18th. Thank the Lord they have an RV that they will be living in until they get to move in. So needless to say, the past few weeks have NOT been relaxing, or stress free.

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As I was saying, this Thanksgiving looked a little different. Since my parent's and siblings have been in the craziness of moving, we weren't able to make it to our huge family gathering that we always go to. And since my parents don't have a house at the moment, we celebrated in the yard of my brother in law's family's house. It was so sweet and dreamy. Growing up, this family WAS like blood family to us. We did everything with them and our memories with them go waaaay back. They felt like brothers & sisters that just lived in a different house. After all those years of growing up together, John & Gen fell in love, and now they have been married almost 2 years!! And its so cool, because now they really are family. Even though it doesn't feel any different. They were so sweet to open up their home and let all of us celebrate with them. We ate outside under twinkling lights, ate so much GOOD food, sat around the fire pit, all loaded up in our cars to help my parents move one last load from their old house into storage,  all sat around their den playing a very competitive game of Catch Phrase, and then went out to do some Black Friday shopping. 

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I heard a quote the other day by Paul David Tripp and he said, "True love grows best in the soil of gratitude." I thought about it, and realized it couldn't be more true. The more gratitude I have for my husband, the more I love him. The more gratitude I have for my family, the more I love them. The more gratitude I have for my job, the more I love it. I heard a sermon on Luke 17 the other week, about the 10 lepers who get healed by Jesus. All of them were healed, but only ONE of them came back, in gratitude, and "threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him." (17:16a)  I always want to be aware of Jesus' love for me, that propels me to fall at His feet in gratitude. The verse before that one says, "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice." When we see Jesus, what He has done for us, and how much He loves us, we will fall down at His feet in praise. The more I see Him, the more grateful I will be to Him, and the more I will fall in love with Him. 

I have also come to realize that it doesn't matter what state, city, or house you live in. What matters is that you have great people, friends, and family in your life. I would rather live in my little apartment, with my wonderful husband, have a sweet marriage, and have wonderful friends & family to do life with, instead of living in my favorite city in my dream house. And that is exactly what I have, and I couldn't be more thankful. I have some friends who don't have the best Thanksgiving memories, who don't have great family to celebrate with, and who feel way more lonely on Thanksgiving than they are grateful. If that is you, I'd love to celebrate Thanksgiving with you next year. My family isn't a perfect family, but we have lots of love and great food to go around. I might not have as much as some of the world has, but I have WAY more than most of the world. Jesus is the giver of ALL the gifts in my life. And to Him I owe the MOST thanks. 

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving, and will be celebrating family, friends, and left overs for the next few days. xoxo

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Rachel Belk // Bridal

Hi friends!!

I am busy editing away on Rachel & Quincy's wedding photos (which are absolutely dreamy..can't wait to share them!!). But until then, I figured I would share some of Rachel's bridal portraits that we did at The Southern Bleachery in Taylors, SC. This place used to be an old textile mill and has such a rich history. Someone recently bought it, renovated it, and has turned it into a gorgeous wedding or event venue. I think it reflected Rachel's style perfectly, simple & beautiful. I had SO much fun doing these. I would shoot, look at the back of my camera, and be in awe. Everything about this shoot was perfect. I also loved the image Rachel chose as her bridal portrait (4th image in post). Most brides chose a very traditional, full length photo of them smiling at the camera with the whole dress in view (and there is nothing wrong with that). Yet, Rachel chose a close up image, which made me super happy because I LOVE close ups. 

Also, my great friend Lexi, at Consider the Lilies, made her stunning bouquet. I mean look at that thing...it could be in a magazine!! Her work always amazes me, and anytime I can work with her, I do it!! Future brides, hire her if you can! You won't regret it. 

Rachel, you were a beautiful bride, and your beauty on the inside far exceeds your external beauty. Thanks for letting me do these and for putting up with my constant oohs and ahhs while taking these! 

xoxo

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Megan & John Wedding

Megan and John's wedding day was pure JOY. Not just for them, but also for me. It was one of those weddings where it didn't feel like work, but rather like I was actually a guest to their wedding.

Their day was full of sweet, emotional, and joy filled moments. Megan & John are so in love, and it just oozes out of them. I literally got goosebumps watching John's face as Megan walked down the isle. Those moments, full with emotion, are what make my job so sweet. They never get old and I loved experiencing all the joy that their wedding held. 

These two are the most fun, loving, and caring people you will meet. As soon as we entered the reception venue after alllll the family and bride & groom photos, I walked into a little side room where they were waiting until the DJ announced them in. The caterer had brought food in there for them to eat, but the second I walked in the room, Megan gave me this huge bowl of mashed potatoes and said, "Here's some food girl, eat!!" All day, they were constantly making sure I had all I needed and that I was cared for. They were a JOY to work with and felt more like family than clients. 

I am thrilled for you two, and am still honored you allowed me to play such a special role in your wedding day. Praying your marriage deepens in love every single day. 

xoxo

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When your childhood friend is getting MARRIED!

This couple's wedding is extremely special to me. Why? Well..Ive grown up with Rachel, ever since I can remember. My sister, Rachel, my other friend Rachel, and I were inseparable growing up. I feel like we did everything together. Some of my very first memories of childhood involved these girls. And if you don't believe me, maybe this picture will prove my point ;) 

 And now Rachel is getting married in just a few weeks!!! Her fiance, Quincy,&nbsp;is the sweetest man, and loves her so well. Their families have actually been lifelong friends, but the two of them never really had a thing for each other. Yet, they got reconnected a little over a year ago, and that suddenly changed! He proposed over the summer and they will be married in 3 weeks!! They love Jesus, each other, and others so beautifully. I am so honored to be a part of the day they commit themselves to each other for LIFE!&nbsp;  We did their engagement photos in downtown Greenville, which is where they both live, work, and go to church now. It is a special place to them, since they will be starting their lives together in this town. My husband came along with me on this shoot, and I am not sure if that was a help or a hindrance, because he and Quincy made jokes and laughed the entire time. ;) It was almost impossible to get a serious photo of them! Either way, it was a FUN day and I am thankful for lifelong friendships!!&nbsp;

And now Rachel is getting married in just a few weeks!!! Her fiance, Quincy, is the sweetest man, and loves her so well. Their families have actually been lifelong friends, but the two of them never really had a thing for each other. Yet, they got reconnected a little over a year ago, and that suddenly changed! He proposed over the summer and they will be married in 3 weeks!! They love Jesus, each other, and others so beautifully. I am so honored to be a part of the day they commit themselves to each other for LIFE! 

We did their engagement photos in downtown Greenville, which is where they both live, work, and go to church now. It is a special place to them, since they will be starting their lives together in this town. My husband came along with me on this shoot, and I am not sure if that was a help or a hindrance, because he and Quincy made jokes and laughed the entire time. ;) It was almost impossible to get a serious photo of them! Either way, it was a FUN day and I am thankful for lifelong friendships!! 

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