Should You Have an Unplugged Wedding? | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Cell Phones and Your Wedding Ceremony

If you have been to a wedding in the past few years, you have probably seen it.   The bride begins her graceful stroll down the aisle toward her groom when suddenly, a sea of cell phones and even ipads push their way into the aisle to capture the moment.  Meanwhile, the professional photographers hired are trying to capture the bride as she enters the area, the moment she walks down the aisle, her grooms reaction, the moment she arrives at the end of the aisle near her groom, and the moment her father or other precious family member gives her away.  “Can’t the photographer just move a few steps over to get the shot?”  Well sure, but in the moment that your photographer is in position and anticipating the capture of an important part of the ceremony and a couple of cell phones unexpectedly pop up, this can be unrealistic.  Unfortunately, when this happens the bride and groom end up with the sea of those cell phones and the image results are disappointing because the phone popped up and concealed the couple and important elements of their ceremony.   It is even worse when it is a friend or family member who did it.  Did they mean to invade and possibly ruin your ceremony pictures?  Most likely not.  Living in a plugged in society where our cell phones are always within reach and sharing content on social media is “normal” means that you will likely end up with the scenario above unless you educate your guests prior to your wedding ceremony. 

Keeping Your Wedding Unplugged

How do you go about keeping your wedding unplugged?  There are multiple things you can do to ensure that your ceremony is tech free.  The ceremony, being the formal part of your wedding day, and with people seated, it is the easiest for those devices to sneak their way into your images, potentially blocking your photographer.  It is okay to request guests to keep devices put away during this time.  If you “set the ground rules” and communicate your request early, it will save you a lot of headache on your wedding day.  First, you can include verbiage about your tech free ceremony in your wedding invitation.  A brief mention about how you are excited for your guest to be a part of your tech free ceremony will give them the first “heads up”.    It is a good idea to also include signage at your wedding to remind guests of your wishes for your ceremony.  How do you say it without being offensive? 

For your wedding invitations, keep it simple:  “You are invited to our unplugged wedding ceremony,” Or “We request the joyful sight of your smiles, without the distraction of electronic devices.” 

For wedding ceremony signage, I recommend mentioning your guests being fully present or the presence of your wedding photographers so that guests understand that their presence means a lot to you and that the photography is being taken care of.  Below are several great examples of wording for your ceremony signage, courtesy of

“We’re so glad you’re here! Please stow away your phones and cameras until the reception. We promise to share the beautiful pictures taken today.”

“Please switch off your devices and stow them away, we’d love to see your smiles aiming our way.”

“Welcome to our unplugged wedding. We invite you to be fully present with us during our ceremony, so please turn off all phones and cameras. Thank you!”

“Welcome family and friends! We’ve hired a photographer to capture how this moment looks with their camera, so you can capture how it feels with your hearts.”

“We’ve asked a professional photographer to capture this special moment so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy it with us. Our beautiful images will be available after the wedding.”

 “As we tie the knot, please be our guest. Our photographer will take care of the rest!”

Check out OAKYdesigns for even more ideas!

Cell Phones at Your Wedding Reception

As for the reception, I recommend allowing guests to have their phones out.  It is reasonable to request phones be stowed away for a 30 minute ceremony.  It is a little less realistic to request this for the reception, unless it is for security reasons.  Often guests will incorporate their phones into the fun.  People naturally love to capture meaningful moments with their cell phones.  So encourage it!  Work with it!  You can choose to provide a hashtag for wedding reception photos at various locations at the reception or just allow guests to post randomly.  When you assign a hashtag, images posted on Instagram, for example, will be easy to find.  You can also utilize “The Guest” app from The Knot, an app that allows guests to upload their cell phone images during the reception.  If you provide the information for guests to sign up prior to the reception, guests will be able to download the app and get signed up within about 5 minutes.  You will need to plan ahead to set up your event and provide guests with the information so that they can access “your event”.  Once they are in, they will be able to get started sharing!

The First Look | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Should You Have a First Look?

If I could go back to my wedding day, I would have had a first look and had some time set aside to pray with my soon to be husband.  Even though I had a wonderful wedding day, that is one thing that I wish I could have done.  A “first look”, the first time a couple sees one another before the ceremony after getting completely ready, can be a beautiful moment for the couple.  If you’re considering a first look but aren’t quite sure if it would work for you, keep reading.  I have had some couples who really love the idea of having a first look on their wedding day, while others prefer to see each other for the first time as the bride walks down the aisle during the ceremony.  Ultimately it is entirely up to the couple.  Each couple is unique and each wedding is unique.  Having a first look is a preference, but as a photographer I must tell you that a first look can be very beneficial and memorable.  In the following paragraphs I will share three reasons that you should consider having a first look on your wedding day.

A Memorable Moment

Do you think you will be nervous on your wedding day?  I know that when I got married, I felt a little nervous.  Mostly I was so excited about this next chapter in my life, but I had so many butterflies in my tummy!  We actually ended up sneaking off to pray together before the ceremony, which helped tremendously.  A first look can definitely give you a chance as a couple to see each other for the first time that day and have a private moment (except for the presence of your photographer) so that you can interact and take in that moment.  Once guests arrive, your day will be like a whirlwind.  I have witnessed joyful first looks, quieter first looks, and energetic first looks!  You have an opportunity as a couple to be yourselves together in this moment, knowing that you’re about to join your lives together.  What if you don’t want to see each other before your wedding?  First, I never pressure couples to see one another for a first look because I truly believe that your wedding day should be about you and what will work best for you as a couple.  After all, I’m not the one getting married!😁 If you truly do not wish to see one another in person prior to your ceremony, you can opt for a moment to pray together or hold hands around a corner or a similar structure so that you can have a “moment”, yet still keep the tradition that you choose.

Cocktail Hour

Second, having a first look can get you to cocktail hour much faster.  Typically at a wedding without a first look I will photograph the bridal party (including the couple) all together and then the family immediately after the ceremony while everyone else moves to cocktail hour.  After I capture those groups and send them to cocktail hour, I work with the bride and groom to capture them for the first time as a married couple.  I prefer to use a 30 minute time slot for my wedding couples to ensure that they can relax, breathe, and enjoy their session instead of feeling stressed and rushed.  With approximately 40 minutes for the bridal party and the family groups and 30 for the couple for their portrait session, that is about an hour that you are away from your guests.  Guests normally understand this, but if you prefer to join cocktail hour sooner than that, a first look may be a great option for you because not only can I capture your first look and do your bride and groom session, we can also allot time to capture the bridal party (and the family groups too) which can save more time after the ceremony.

Photography and Light

Third, it is important to consider the available natural light.  As a wedding photographer, my first priority when capturing your day is to think about the impact of the light at a particular location.  Good lighting is vital to having good images.  If lighting is too bright and harsh, people tend to squint more and the people in the images could possibly lack even lighting on their faces.  If it is too dark, a photographer will need to add a light source to create a well exposed image.  In the summer months there is a lot more time after a late afternoon/early evening ceremony to do natural light portraits.  While it is possible to use off camera flash for portraits, natural light group portraits can go much faster and may be your preference as well for your couple’s session.  During the winter months, the sun sets between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.  When a winter ceremony starts at 4:00 p.m., for example, that can leave little to no natural outdoor light to work with for those who desire to do all of the portraits at that time.  In that case, I would utilize off camera flash. 

What will you choose? Your wedding is all about you and when you are looking for a wedding photographer, find one who will work with your vision for your special day so that you can have a visual story of your day. For more information about weddings with Belle Eve Photography, go to the link below.

Weddings With Belle Eve Photography

The Freight Shed | Yorktown, Virginia Wedding Venue | Belle Eve Photography

With the arrival of the 4th of July this week, which is a yearly reminder of all of the rich Revolutionary War history here in Yorktown which resulted in our nation’s independence from England, I’d like to introduce you to The Freight Shed at Yorktown.  I have so many memories of this special place from when we first moved to Virginia in 2002.  Often, I would park under the Coleman Bridge, then walk with my very tiny kids at the time down the sidewalk and past the Freight Shed to get to the beach.  Every time we walked by this historic building, which was closed at the time, I always wondered what its story was.  It was evident that it was a very old building.  Several years after Hurricane Isabel hit our area, which did a great deal of damage to the Yorktown Riverfront, the Freight Shed, along with the beautiful Riverwalk, were revitalized and built.  Not long after the renovations were complete, I learned more about what made this building unique. 

The Freight Shed was originally built in 1935 by the National Park service after a tropical storm destroyed a great deal of the waterfront.  It was initially used as a terminal for Baltimore steamships until 1952.  After that, it was remodeled and used as a post office.  Although Hurricane Isabel damaged the waterfront in 2003, the renovation of the Freight Shed and the development of the Riverwalk Landing, completed in 2005, was a project 13 years in the making.

The Freight Shed, a wedding venue that can seat 130 people inside, now hosts many functions in addition to weddings such as parties, business meetings, and concerts to name a few.  It is about 1,950 square feet in size and has a large brick plaza on the river side of the facility.  A tent is available on the plaza to offer an outdoor option for your wedding ceremony or reception (April through October).  The Freight shed also provides use of their tables inside the building, use of the kitchen area (in the building adjacent to the Freight Shed), and you may rent their white chairs for use outside in the tent.

One of my favorite things about The Freight Shed as a Yorktown, Virginia wedding venue is the beautiful couple portrait locations.  The sunsets on the York River are gorgeous, and in combination with the Coleman Bridge, you have so many options for gorgeous and unique wedding imagery.  The brick plaza and sidewalks surrounding this wedding venue offer a colonial feel and lead to other areas along the waterfront with the bridge and without the bridge in the background. Additionally, you can opt to do bridal party and couple portraits along main street in Yorktown where there are multiple locations with green space, historic buildings, brick walls, and gardens.

Ware River Yacht Club | Venue Tour | Gloucester, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Located on the beautiful Ware River in Gloucester, Virginia sits the Ware River Yacht Club, a social club with a passion for sailing and a location where you can have your wedding!  I had the opportunity to visit the Ware River Yacht Club several months ago and thoroughly enjoyed the tour of this wedding venue.  Founded in 1971, the yacht club has lifetime members that are still active today.  The marina boasts of a spacious river view that offers gorgeous sunset views and an organic natural feel.  During the warmer summer and fall months, yachts and sailboats gracefully adorn the shore and dock.

There are a variety of ways you can have your wedding ceremony at this venue.  To the left of the the club house, a huge and beautiful tree stands near the shore.  This area adjacent to the tree can be used as a ceremony site on beautiful days.  Couples can also use the green space to the right of the tree near the 300 foot pier for their ceremony as well.    You also have the option of renting a wedding tent to place on the green space for additional cover from the sun or rain, or for more than 193 guests.

The clubhouse, with it’s rich neutral tones, is a versatile space for your reception.  It has a wraparound deck, a full industrial kitchen, a bar, a dance floor, and a screened in porch to serve up to 193 people.  The screened in porch can be used for cocktail hour or for other creative purposes during your wedding reception.  The clubhouse faces the water, allowing romantic sunset views through the windows as you dine and dance with family and friends.   

The 300 foot long pier offers a unique and beautiful location for bridal party and couples’ portraits. And if you time it with the sunset, you can have a colorful sky as the backdrop. I have the honor of shooting a wedding at the Ware River Yacht Club in September and cannot wait to capture my sweet couple along with all of the beauty there!

A Royal Blue and Violet Micro Wedding | Newport News, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Odell and Valerie went from a larger wedding to an intimate, micro wedding in about 72 hours flat.  It was an incredibly quick transition, but the love they had for each other overshadowed everything else.  Originally they weren’t planning to have a tiny wedding.  However, because of the quickly shifting changes with the coronavirus pandemic, they adjusted their plans so that they could get married before more restrictions were put in place in Virginia. 

Odell and Valerie met because of their individual journeys when they were both involved in “The One University”.  The One University, also known as TOU, is an online community that helps to guide Christian men and women through the 7 Stages of the Success Path to Marriage.  It is a program that offers classes, courses, mentoring, and opportunities to get to know other singles in the program in the private Facebook group and in-person meetups.  At the time, neither of them were actually searching for “the one” at the time.  However, on their journeys as single adults during a time which they were both learning more and preparing to eventually become a loving spouse in the future, divine destiny happened.  A Facebook post led to conversations, friendship, and a mutual desire to honor God with their lives and their relationship.  They were both involved in TOU, which led to them meeting on Facebook.   Valerie stated, “a Facebook post can lead to happily ever after when Jesus is in your DMs.”

The wedding day was originally planned to take place at a church in Newport News, Virginia when the coronavirus pandemic caused them to have to make several decisions about their wedding day.  They moved the wedding to an alternate location, found out that many of Valerie’s family members would not be able to drive in from out of state because of the pandemic, found a new location for Valerie and her bride tribe to get ready, and found a new location for Odell and his groomsmen to get ready.  They were such troopers, though.  They had the best attitudes, given the situation that was completely out of their control, and stayed focused on what was important: their marriage. 

It gave me so much joy to serve this incredible couple.  There were so many smiles!  They were truly amazing throughout the day, and met each challenge with a solution.  Their ceremony was delightful and inspiring!  At the beginning of the ceremony, Odell danced as he entered and danced all the way down the aisle. Honestly, it was the best groom’s entry I have ever had the privilege of photographing!  Next, the bridesmaids in their elegant violet and blue gowns and the groomsmen in their dapper purple suit jackets entered.  When it was time for Valerie to enter, Odell’s father escorted her down the aisle.  Because of the pandemic, Valerie’s stepfather and her mother were unable to attend.  The family really stepped up, though, to help make sure Odell and Valerie were both celebrated.  Valerie looked drop dead gorgeous in her lovely white wedding gown and chic birdcage veil.  Her smile as her eyes met her groom’s eyes spoke of the love she has for her groom.  After Valerie entered, Odell, who is a worship and youth minister, sang a song to his beautiful bride and even changed part of the lyrics of the song to describe how the even the coronavirus wasn’t going to ruin their wedding day.   Their ceremony not only reflected their energetic personalities, but also the commitment and love for one another and also their love for God. 

Before the reception, we walked behind the church to a park-like location where the sun was just starting to lower behind the trees.  The light was so perfect and glowy as they snuggled up for their bride and groom portrait session.  The smiles and kisses were abundant, and I had so much fun capturing their love! 

After a delicious buffet style meal was served for dinner at the reception, the newlyweds had their first dance and were gleaming brightly with so much joy! Following their first dance as a married couple, D.J. Lawrence started the party with some favorites that definitely hyped up the party. I am so grateful that I was able to be a party of this beautiful couple’s wedding day!

Empire Colonnade Arch by Hampton Roads Event Rentals

Micro Weddings | Big Love on a Smaller Scale | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Your Dream Wedding

How big do you want your wedding to be?   When I was a little girl, I remember watching Princess Diana get married to Prince Charles.  Everything was opulent, formal, gorgeous…. Her dress was the dress of my dreams (at the time) with a train that went on for forever.  There were so many people packed in the cathedral as well.  Seeing that as a little girl played into my dreams for my own wedding.  I remember dreaming about having a long train on a huge dress with a huge veil.  The hilarious thing is, I’m only a petite 5’ 2” and when I tried on a princess ball gown type of wedding dress with the huge puffy skirt, it practically swallowed me.  Y’all it made me look so much shorter!  I ended up getting a mermaid styled dress with a shorter train which fit my frame much better and made me look taller.  Sometimes the reality of what we can or actually do for our wedding is better than our dreams.   Simply stated, bigger is not always better.  Don’t get me wrong though.  Large weddings are amazing, however sometimes that “large wedding” may not be the best fit at the time due to budget, venue availability, guests who cannot travel, or currently….COVID-19. 

Big Love on a Smaller Scale 

I had the pleasure of chatting with Tammy Mills of Simply Grand Events about Micro Weddings, an incredible wedding and event planner who specializes in this area.   A Micro Wedding, which is a more intimate gathering ranging from 10 to 50 guests, could be a way to celebrate the beginning of your lives together on a smaller scale without sacrificing all of the  elements that you really want.   Most things about a micro wedding are the same, for the most part, as a larger wedding.  The biggest difference is in the guest count.   The budget is another difference, depending on the elements you choose to include.  Your budget can impact your guest list when you take into consideration that on average you will spend about $100 per guest.  And in turn, the guest list drives a lot of other things about your wedding: quantity of food, venue space, quantity of tables and chairs needed, florals, guest gifts, and so on. 

Dream Wedding on a Smaller Scale

Is it possible to have the wedding of your dreams on a smaller scale?  What does that even look like?  Will I still get to have a dress, flowers, reception, a beautiful cake, a D.J. and dancing? Cake cutting? First look? Mom and my besties helping me with my dress?  Pictures? Dancing? Your wedding can still be elegant and have the same types of elements as a standard 8 hour long wedding.  Often, people equate a smaller guest list with a less elegant wedding with only a very simple ceremony, but that does not have to be the case.  If anything, having a smaller guest list may offer you the opportunity to upgrade some or all of your elements, depending on your budget and preferences.  A smaller guest list may make more room in your budget for the perfect venue location for your ceremony and reception, beautifully designed floral arrangements, or your dream dress, for example.  You have a wide range of options!  Ultimately, you have to decide what your priorities are for your wedding.  It is important, though to keep in mind that the growth of your marriage will be even more beautiful as you grow together as a married couple in the years to come.


Wedding vendors (such as florists, planners/designers, photographers, videographers, D.J.s, stationers, event rental specialists, bakers, and caterers) will work hard to make your Micro Wedding a unique event that showcases your love.  Some of these artists may have special packages specifically tailored to couples who wish to have an intimate wedding or elopement.   In addition to chatting with Tammy Mills on a Zoom call about all things micro weddings, we were able to get together for a unique experience, social distancing included!  As a planner, she works closely with couples to design and plan their weddings.  I was so excited that we were able to get together and watch her work her magic!  Her creativity is boundless and she transformed a few simple tables and an old bench into a dreamy boho setting.  Her boho inspired romantic sweetheart table and dinner table design takes you to a warm golden summer afternoon in a beautifully natural setting, such as a back yard or a grassy clearing at a vineyard.  She loves planning and designing Micro Weddings and shared with me that they are similar to plan compared to larger weddings, just on a smaller scale.  Some are more complex and elaborate and some are more minimalistic.  These intimate weddings are generally quicker to plan and can be, on average, a 4 hour event. 


Choosing the perfect venue for your gorgeous Micro Wedding is also similar to considering a venue for a larger wedding.  (Learn more about choosing a wedding venue here).  What is the most important thing to you?   Just like larger weddings you have a variety of venue options for Micro Weddings.   Some venues offer options for using certain parts of their space, such as the Watermen’s Museum, Mariner’s Museum, The Commanding General”s Residence at Fort Monroe or Colonial Heritage Club, for example.  Some offer partial day packages, and others offer only full day only packages.  One thing that is important to remember is that even though your guest list is smaller, you still will need a certain amount of space to accommodate your guests comfortably.   For seated guests, you will need a minimum of 14 square feet per person.  If it is cocktail style, you will need a minimum of 9 square feet per person.  With fewer guests there will be fewer people therefore utilizing less space or having more space to move about.  When considering your guests’ needs for your event as you navigate COVID 19 regulations, you need to stay informed about the latest requirements for indoor / outdoor public gatherings and your planner will also be a wonderful resource for you. 

Guest List

How do you even begin to decide which guests will be at your intimate wedding?  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a little stressed about the idea that you will only be able to invite a limited number of people.  It’s the enneagram 2 in me.  I just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause anyone to feel left out.    But you have to make a decision about who you’ll invite.  Your family.  His family.  Your friends.  His friends.  And what about Great Aunt Lucy and your Grandma’s bestie?    “The guest list will take care of itself”, Tammy explained as we chatted.  If your family is very close, you will likely want them to be there.  You may need to make it an “adults only” event as well, depending on your preferences.  When it comes down to friends, though, Tammy recommends asking yourself “Is this someone I regularly stay in contact with?”  “Do I chat with this friend regularly?”  With COVID 19 regulations, you will likely need to include the wedding party, photographer, and wedding officiant as well.  With the ebb and flow of the effects of COVID 19 on limited public gatherings, there are other options to consider.   One option you can consider adding so that more people can be included is to hire a videographer to do live video streaming of your wedding.  Another option is to hire a videographer to professionally capture your ceremony, then share this with others.  Hiring a professional videographer will ensure that your video quality is clear and the sound is balanced.  A professional videographer will know the important moments to focus on and will provide a polished product to share.

Why Should I Hire a Florist for My Wedding Day? | Vendor Feature | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Planning Your Wedding

You just got engaged and your thoughts turn from staring at that sparkly new ring to planning for your big day.  Wedding planning and design can be a lot of fun to dream about, but when it comes to your wedding day, all of those foreseen and unforeseen details can become stressors that can take you from elated and joyful to a heap of tears as you and your loved ones helping you do your best to pull it all together.  Don’t get me wrong.  It is wonderful for family and close friends to be involved with your big day.  It really is.  But if you would like to be able to fully enjoy your day without having to worry about each thing with your loved ones it is better to leave the designing, floral artistry, cake, catering….etc. to the professionals if possible. 

If budget is an issue, ask the vendors for their recommendations to carry out your wedding day dreams in a way that may be more affordable.  Many enjoy educating their clients and often have really helpful suggestions that can make your plans more doable while taking more tasks off of your plate.   Each wedding is unique, but one thing most couples have in common is a desire for their wedding to be stress free and special which is why I recommend for brides and grooms to hire planners, cake artists, caterers, stationery designers…..and florists.

Floral Design

Floral design is one of those art forms that “looks easy” but is very complicated because it requires a great deal of knowledge about not only the design aspect but about the plants, when they are available seasonally, and how to keep them looking their best for you.  Floral designers go through an extensive amount of training and continually attend professional development to remain knowledgeable about floral design trends and best practices.  I have had the pleasure of working with some pretty amazingly talented floral designers as a wedding photographer.  One floral designer that I have worked with, Annette Lindsey of I Do Weddings With Love, has generously given three great reasons why you should hire a professional floral designer for your wedding day. 

Three Reasons for Hiring a Professional Florist

According to Annette,

“The number one reason is that you get to sit back and enjoy the day.  Most of the time the family is so busy trying to decorate before the wedding that they have little time to spend with each other, get makeup done (or keep it looking fresh), and be in pictures.  As pretty as flowers look, they are not clean.  Your hands WILL be dirty when you’re done, leaving dirt under your fingernails and green stains on your palm lines.  It is not glamorous.  I can’t tell you the last time I got a manicure because I know the nail polish will just chip within hours of working.

Second, as a florist I can find those special flowers at many regions throughout the world.  I love to find that special flower that means something to the couple.  Sometimes it’s the flower he first sent to her.

Third, I know how to process the flowers correctly to ensure lasting freshness and beauty.  Plus I can store them to make sure the wilting does not begin.  Trust me when I tell you that every bunch of flowers does NOT arrive in pristine condition, with no broken heads, no bruising, or no mold.  This is when having a great relationship with my wholesaler comes in handy!

Being your florist means I take all of those floral worries off your shoulders.  I hold all the stress so that your flowers look perfect, colors flow together, nothing wilts, and your day comes together just as we discussed.  It is my greatest reward when I see your face light up when you first see your bouquet.”

Why should I use a makeup artist? | Vendor Feature | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Imagine.  You just woke up.  You have so much to do, especially today because you accidentally overslept, so instead of taking the time to do all of your regular getting ready routine, you jump out of the shower, hurry to blow dry your hair and make it look presentable as possible from at least the front view, slap on some foundation, powder and blush, put on as much mascara as your pretty little eyelashes can hold with a quick swipe of some neutral eye shadow, slop on a generous amount of lip gloss, and get your nice pastel colored shirt and maybe layer it with a pretty scarf, a cute cardigan, and your favorite necklace and earrings.  You don’t have time to pick out the perfect pants to go with your adorable shirt, so you throw some pajama pants on.  They have Christmas trees on them, but you don’t care because your next meeting is on Zoom, so you will just make sure to keep the camera stays focused on your face and not your pants.  (Don’t get up during the meeting, you think.  Don’t even think about it.)  Besides right after that meeting you’re going to do an Instagram story and just figure…hey filters work wonders!  Those are definitely pretty forgiving moments when it comes to having a professional appearance.  If you’re anything like me, especially in the past few weeks of trying to maintain a healthy work and life routine while a pandemic is going on around you, you may have experienced the scenario above.  Business up top and party (or a hot mess in my case at times) on the bottom. 

As comical as this may sound, I know that in normal, real life business interactions in which you are either seeking employment, attending a business meeting in a live / tech free setting, maintaining a professional appearance or brand, or attending a special event such as a first date, or your wedding… you would likely approach that a little differently.  You probably wouldn’t wear flannel Christmas tree covered pajama pants with the rest of your outfit, and you likely would take the time to properly do your hair and makeup.  Why?  Being fully put together with your hair styled and makeup applied in a flattering way makes you feel better about yourself whether you are going to a job related appointment or your wedding.  Makeup accentuates our features and covers our flaws.  Even though I don’t subscribe to the belief that your makeup makes you “more valuable or beautiful”, it does give you a polished look for those moments you spend in a professional setting.  In some ways you could compare having your make up and hair done to dressing professionally for a job interview.     

When it comes to wedding photography or portrait photography, I always recommend utilizing a professional make up artist for engagement sessions, weddings, Senior sessions, or branding headshot sessions.   A skilled professional makeup artist has mad skills.  They know what products to use and how to use them to ensure you look good in your pictures.  The products that they use are not typically what is found in your makeup bag.  They pair professional grade products with their skills to help you to have a flawless look that will last throughout your entire wedding day or portrait session while still looking and feeling incredibly natural, whether you opt for the natural look or a more glamorous look.  Even if you don’t wear makeup, a skilled makeup artist can achieve a natural look so that your beautiful features will be accentuated in your photos. 

Last fall, I had my own headshots done.  Being a photographer, I knew that having my makeup done professionally would help to magnify my features and smooth my skin tone in my images.  I have freckles, which I am proud of.  However, a few years ago I was diagnosed with a mild case of melasma.  It usually is more prominent in the summer months when I’ve spent a lot of time in the sun, even though I do use sunscreen on my face.  It is not a big deal and is benign, but it causes uneven skin tone and patchiness.  I’m not insecure about it but I just didn’t want it to show up in my branding imagery. 

I hired Sara Cannon (Makeup By SAC, LLC) to do my makeup for my headshot session (Luke & Ashley Photography).  She communicated well, was punctual and was so much fun to work with!  She asked me questions about my skin and the type of coverage I wanted before she began working.  I opted for a natural glam look with lashes and it was worth every penny.   She worked very carefully, choosing colors that both worked with my skin tone and made my eyes pop.  I have hazel green eyes, so her artistry really brought them out, which was very apparent in my images.  I felt confident about my appearance and to be completely honest, it was really fun to get all glammed up!  If you are looking for a makeup artist for your wedding or portrait session, I highly recommend Sara at Makeup By SAC, LLC.  

The Watermen’s Museum | Yorktown, Virginia Wedding Venue | Virginia Wedding Photographer

The Watermen’s Museum of Yorktown, Virginia

I am thrilled to feature another one of the Yorktown, Virginia wedding venues on my blog!  A few months ago I had the honor of touring The Watermen’s Museum, a small museum that explains the role of Chesapeake Bay watermen from pre-colonial to modern times in our history.  Nestled in next to the York River and just northwest of the Coleman Bridge stands this charming and rustic location for weddings.  This venue offers many options for couples depending on the size of your guest list and your specific needs. 

Picturesque Setting for an Intimate Wedding

If you love the idea of having water views with the sound of the water lapping the shore, these options could work for you.  The Watermen’s Museum owns a large stretch of private beachfront along the York River that you can use for your ceremony.  The colorful sunset view there is absolutely breathtaking.   You can also opt to have your ceremony on the pergola covered balcony at the Carriage House, which also overlooks the lovely York River.  The Carriage House may be used for smaller gatherings of about 50 people indoors. 

Multiple Options in One Venue

While some couples love having the view of the York River during their ceremony or reception, others may desire to have their ceremony on the greenspace in front of the Windmill.  Additionally, you may choose to use the 30’ x 50’ event tent on site next to the Carriage House for your ceremony and/or reception.  For more information about The Watermen’s Museum, click here. 

Finding the Perfect Wedding Venue | Featuring The Commanding General’s Residence & Garden at Fort Monroe | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Finding a wedding venue can be one of the most exciting moments during your engagement and also really overwhelming.  If you are newly engaged, you are likely thinking and dreaming about the place where you’ll say your “I do’s”.  How do you even begin?  Most couples have a lot of questions about how to get started, so my hope is that after you read today’s blog you’ll feel more confident about finding the wedding venue of your dreams! 

First things first.  Decide on several possible dates along with the general location where you want to get married, such as Hampton, Virginia for example.  Once you have that decided, move on to your wedding venue budget.  Your wedding venue budget should help you to determine the number of guests that you will invite to your wedding.  This step is important because you’ll need this information to determine how much space you’ll need to accommodate your guests comfortably.  Different venues accommodate a sometimes wide range of guest lists.

Next, you need to decide what your priorities are.  Do you want a beach wedding?  A rustic wedding?  A marina wedding?  Or a historic site wedding?   Do you want your ceremony indoors or outdoors?  Is there a rain plan in the event of inclement weather for outdoor weddings?  Does the venue provide in house catering?  Does the venue provide tables and chairs for guests, or do you need to rent them?  List your ideas and consider questions you may have for the venue.

After you determine your priorities for your wedding venue, create a list of venue options that are located in or near your target area.  Find 3-5 venues that meet your needs by researching them online.  Helpful hint: The Knot and Wedding Wire have venues listed along with really helpful information, such as how many guests they accommodate and a description of their amenities.  Use this information as a guide for which venues you’ll reach out to.

I know that you are just dying to visit those gorgeous locations that you just researched!  But, before you do that, reach out to the venues on your list and ask them some basic questions.  Are they available on your chosen date(s)?  Can they accommodate your number of guests?  Be sure to ask if they offer the “top priorities” you and your fiancé decided upon.  Ask about the pricing to confirm and find out what all is included.   After they reply to your email or phone call, set up your venue visit.

This is the best part!  Visit the locations you’ve chosen based on your research and their availability.  Visiting a wedding venue is not only exciting, it is also very important.  The venue likely has gorgeous images of their location on their website, but you need to see the layout of the space to see if it is a good fit for your needs.  This will also allow you an opportunity to get acquainted with the venue coordinator (the person who manages and books weddings for the venue) and ask any questions that you may not have considered before your visit.  After you decide on the venue where you’ll book your wedding, you should be offered an agreement and will likely be required to pay a deposit to book your specific date. 

Let’s look at this amazing location as an example.  The Commanding General’s Residence at Historic Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.  Up until 2011, Fort Monroe was an active United States Army Base.  Now it offers beach space, historic landmarks, and the original fort which was constructed in part by Robert E. Lee when he was stationed there as a first lieutenant and engineer in the U.S. Army.  Last summer I had the chance to visit this wedding venue.  Because of the military and historic significance, I was all kinds of excited. The commanding generals of Fort Monroe did, in fact, used to reside here on base. 

Jenn Stokes from the Fort Monroe Authority showed me around this gem, and I had the opportunity to learn how this space could help my future couples.  The Commanding General’s Residence, built in 1907, is a strikingly beautiful estate and boasts of impressive details. 

The estate can hold up to 150 guests and has “customized packages that suit a variety of styles and budgets”.  The pricing ranges from $2000 to $4500, depending on the time of year, weekday or weekend, and your number of guests.  You can hold your wedding in the residence only, or you can include the formal garden.  Included in the rental of the Commanding General’s Residence is some available equipment which can be used indoors, such as banquet tables, for example.  If you are having an outdoor wedding, they will provide up to 100 white folding chairs.  You also have the option of adding on the use of upstairs rooms and the use of the bandstand across the street in Continental Park (for an additional fee).  I was really impressed with Jenn’s kind hospitality and enthusiasm about this amazing place. 

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