Five Date Ideas | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

What is your favorite date idea?  Even after you get married, it is so important to keep dating your spouse so that you continue to grow together.  Relationships take intentional time and a whole lot of work, and while you grow a whole lot as a couple before you get married, what happens after you get married is vital to continued relational growth.  So, go on a date.  Actually, go on lots of dates.  Before I continue, let’s define “date”.  According to Merriam Webster, a date is “a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character”.  With that in mind, let’s chat about some ideas that will help you to create that intentional romantic time together. 

Dating as Newlyweds

When we were newlyweds, we were super broke.  We were the kind of broke that caused you to dig in the couch cushions to find change to put gas in the car. My husband was finishing up his degree and I was fortunate at the time to find a part time teaching position in town.  We lived in a small college town in Illinois at that time, so dating options were somewhat limited, as was our bank account.  As newlyweds in a small college town, we met a local author who did extensive research of the architecture in the town’s history.  She kindly gave us a copy.  Since we love history, we used it as an opportunity to learn more about the town’s history as we went on dates.  We would read about a really old building or house, then take a walk to find it.  Those were some of the best dates when we were in our first few years of marriage because it gave us a goal, information to wonder and chat about, and time together.  Looking back, those were some of my favorite dates with my husband.  For our first wedding anniversary we traveled to a place in Southern Illinois called Garden of the Gods and camped in a pup tent for a whopping ten bucks.  The important thing was (and still is) time together.  We love the idea of going on really nice, dress up dates.  And even though we have gone on dates where the plate of food cost more than my outfit occasionally, it definitely is not the usual thing for us.  We love spending time together and usually opt for unique, creative intentional date nights over the expensive.  We also both strongly believe in being intentional with our bank account and have financial goals that will be met faster if we choose wisely with our spending. 

For the couples who desire time together in creative, fairly inexpensive ways, these five date ideas are for you.

Five Date Ideas

1. Go out for ice cream.  Except, don’t go to the “usual places”.  Find a locally owned unique place, such as Short Lane Ice Cream Co. in Gloucester, Virginia. 

2.  If you would rather get moving and get some exercise, consider going to a local park or hiking trail.  If you want to add a little more fun to your hike, include a scavenger hunt.  Whoever takes a picture of everything on the list wins.  A little friendly competition along with getting some exercise in the beautiful outdoors can contribute to a lot of conversation and fun!

3.  Visit a lavender farm, such as Under the Stars Farm in Gloucester, Virginia!  Under the Stars Farm hosts a variety of events such as U Pick days and special dinner and dessert events.  The lavender smells heavenly and the atmosphere is friendly with a romantic flair.  It is a unique outdoor experience where you can learn something new together as you gather lavender together.  Check out their upcoming events here.

4. Enjoy a romantic picnic basket dinner at a park or on the beach.  This takes a little bit of preparation, but when going out to eat is expensive and you love to cook, it could be a great option.  You can prepare really simple sandwiches or a hot meal.  It is totally up to you to be as creative as your wish!  Add a few candles, soft music, and a nice bottle of wine and let the magic begin. 

5.  Go enjoy a competitive game of Mini Golf.  You don’t even have to be good at golfing for this!  I am awful at it, and occasionally get a hole-in-one which results in me doing my victory dance….even though I am usually losing.  The point is having fun with the love of your life.  Make it a competition with an agreed upon prize of your choice for the winner.  Keep it fun and remember that the point is time together to build your relationship….even if you suck at mini golf….like me. 

Now go plan some fun, romantic, intentional time with the love of your life!

Five Tips for Choosing Your Engagement Session Location | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Finding an Engagement Session Location

“Where should we have our engagement session?”  This is a fantastic question!  In addition to having the opportunity to get to know your wedding photographer and how they work as they capture you as a couple, your engagement session is meant to celebrate your engagement, a momentous occasion, with beautiful new images.  Therefore, having them taken at a great place is important.  With so many amazing places to choose from, how do you even get started?  I have a few tips for you.

A Meaningful Location

1.  Consider a place that is meaningful to you.  Is this a requirement?  Of course not.  I have found, however, that some couples opt to have their engagement session at a place where they first met, first kissed, spent a lot of time together as they began their relationship, or where the proposal happened.  Sometimes though, this isn’t practical because of distance, availability, or other reason.  If this is the case, there are always other options.


2.  Light is KING.  As a wedding and engagement photographer, I adore photographing my couples in beautiful and unique locations.  The first priority, though, is always the lighting.  What does this mean for your session?   The lighting will determine what direction I will position you so that you will look great in your images.   Lighting also determines the time of day that I work with couples.  Let’s use the beach as an example, since there is generally no shaded areas on the beach.  I absolutely love shooting couples on the beach.  There is a vast difference, though, between shooting at noon and shooting at golden hour in the look of your images.  Consistency in time of day that I work with couples contributes to consistency in the images I deliver from client to client because I care a whole lot about the outcome for my couples. 

A Beautiful Backdrop

3. Here in Coastal Virginia, we are so blessed to have an unlimited amount of amazingly scenic locations that wedding photographers can use for engagement sessions.  There are historic locations such as Colonial Williamsburg, beaches, wooded areas such as Newport News Park, and pristine Main Street city areas.  It really depends on your preference.  For Natasha and Justyn, Colonial Williamsburg was a great option since they will be tying the knot at The Williamsburg Inn, a Colonial Williamsburg hotel, in the Fall. 


4. There are many places here to have an engagement session.  Most outdoor locations are available at no cost and / or formal permission to shoot in.  There are some outdoor locations, though, that require you to submit an application / payment for a permit.  This is not to discourage you from using those areas, but it is important to realize that some locations can take 30 days or more to process.  Planning ahead for situations such as these is key.  You can also opt for an indoor location as well.  Nearly always, you need to plan ahead for an indoor location because most indoor venues will require payment for using their facility.  If it is a wedding venue, it may be challenging to book a weekend session date because the majority of weddings occur on weekends.  If it is your “dream location” for your engagement session, you may need to be flexible with your schedule and choose a weekday to make it work. 

Crowded Locations

5.  Do you want random crowds of people in your images?  If the answer is no, you will need to determine if the location you desire will be busy.  Check their events calendar on Facebook, call to verify if possible, or visit at the time of day you plan to have your session so that you have a good idea of what to expect.  On the day that I captured Natasha and Justyn’s engagement session in Colonial Williamsburg, it was a pretty chilly day in January, so there weren’t large crowds of people there.  Additionally, since I have shot there a lot, I have a pretty good idea of where to go in the area so that there will be fewer accidental photo bombers.     

Should I Hire a Wedding Planner? | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Wedding Day Stress

Wedding planning takes a lot of patience, skill and knowledge about the ebb and flow of a wedding day.  Managing many weddings yearly, they have the experience and understanding of what can go right as they plan and what could go wrong. They know how to anticipate what could go wrong so that the day runs as smoothly as possible. They are the professionals who take the stress and burden off of you on your wedding day, and work behind the scenes in an organized manner to facilitate your vision.  “But Joy,” you say, “I am a really organized and creative person and I can absolutely do it all myself,” or “my sister is really good at putting events together so she is going to do the wedding planning and coordinating.”  I have no doubt that those things are true.  And please understand that I do not judge brides who go this route.  It is your wedding, and I know that everyone has different circumstances and experience levels. I am here to serve you well and provide a wonderful photography experience for you on your wedding day.  Here me out, though.  I have photographed a lot of different weddings and I have seen a lot of brides who were relaxed and enjoying their time pre-ceremony with their bridesmaids and family there and I have seen brides who were trying to get ready and enjoy the pre-ceremony time, but were really stressed because of things that weren’t done yet or vendors that were delayed in arriving.  This results in someone coming to them while they are getting ready and telling them or one of the bridesmaids or family members.  Then the bridesmaid or family member has to leave the bridal suite to go deal with the issue.  They end up being present intermittently, which causes frustration and even delays to the ceremony start time as well.  Most of the time when a bride is in tears pre-ceremony due to stress, it is because they did not hire a wedding planner.  Is this the case 100% of the time? No.  There is always an exception to the rule, so to speak.  However it can and does happen when a planner or coordinator is not involved to shoulder the issues that do pop up on a wedding day.  Let me introduce you to someone who can shed more light to this.

A Wedding Planner’s Perspective

A while ago, I interviewed Kari Scruggs of Two River Events, LLC. She is a wedding and event planner located in Southeastern Virginia who serves Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas. Kari established Two River Events in 2013 because of her own wedding.  She and her mother planned her wedding, which made a lot of sense because her mother was a veteran wedding planner. While it was a successful and beautiful wedding, it was also pretty stressful. She recalls wishing that she would have had a coordinator on her wedding day as her phone was ringing nonstop while she was getting ready. Her mother ended up having her hair done twice because she was working so hard after the stylist did her hair the first time that she was literally sweating as she got all of the details set up. Ultimately, Kari missed out on time with her mom because of all of the work it took to make her wedding day a success. Because of this experience, Kari understands first hand the stress of a wedding and how it can impact a couple and their families without help. She is passionate about making sure her clients are so well taken care of that they can enjoy their wedding day free from stress. She truly desires for her couples to be free to enjoy time with family and friends, knowing that their wedding planner is handling all the details.

Advice for Couples

As we were chatting, I asked her this question: What is some advice that you would give to potential clients? Kari suggests that as you plan your wedding, make sure you have a good understanding of your wedding budget, knowing that your guest count will dictate everything. She also recommends being flexible. Sometimes unexpected things, such as weather, illness, missing wedding rings, and so on happen. Things will probably happen that are out of your control. Being flexible and having a plan B will save everyone a lot of stress.

Two River Events, LLC

Two River Events, LLC has several options to help you plan your wedding with the understanding that each couple and wedding is unique. Therefore, the experience will be customized to fit your needs.

  • Event Management: This option allows the bride and groom to design their own day. Kari will help with the timeline and the execution of the details of your day.
  • Partial Event Planning: This option incorporates some designing, conversations about the design, 1-2 vendor meetings with you, and the timeline and execution of the details of your ceremony rehearsal and your wedding day.
  • Full Event Planning: This option includes full design, all meetings with you and your vendors, and the timeline and execution of the details of your ceremony rehearsal and your wedding day.

Hair stylist: Lauren Barefoot

An Elegant Burlington Weddings and Events Wedding | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Burlington Weddings and Events Venue

Burlington Weddings and Events is located in Charles City, Virginia, just eleven miles west of Williamsburg.  It proudly sits on several hundred acres and delivers an incredible view and luxurious experience for couples who plan to have large or small romantic weddings with an historic farm vibe.  This Virginia wedding venue has a rich history which adds to the historic farm estate ambience.  The Main House was built in 1818 by Edwin and Sara Major.  Eventually, John Mumford Gregory, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Governor of Virginia purchased the estate. 


Some of the original structures, such as the Smokehouse (circa 1700’s), a Guest House, the Icehouse and the Main House, still stand today.  The original buildings have been restored and remodeled to preserve their historic appearance.  A Cape Cod styled Bridal Cottage was recently constructed and has a modern kitchen and bathroom in addition to a light and airy beauty salon for the bride and bridesmaids to get hair and makeup done.  Last, the Event Stables is an incredible facility which can hold up to 300 guests for an indoor wedding ceremony and / or a wedding reception.  The Event Stables houses a Groom’s Den upstairs near the Main Bar, and a spacious, elegant Reception Hall with beautiful wood floors, a Grand Ballroom with a Grand Staircase, and crystal chandelier.

A Burlington Wedding

I had the pleasure of second shooting alongside Elizabeth Henson Photography on a hot July day at Burlington Wedding and Events.  The heat, though, did not distract from Lauren and Burke’s beautiful wedding.  The day started with the ladies getting ready in the Bridal Cottage while the gentlemen getting ready in the Groom’s Den.  As Lauren finished getting ready, her father made his way to the Bridal Cottage which served as the backdrop for an endearing first look between father and daughter.  It was a precious moment filled with a father’s love for his lovely daughter. 

Wedding Ceremony

The ceremony was accompanied by a string quartet that sweetly ushered in the couple’s families, guests, groomsmen, bridesmaids, and finally the beautiful bride into the ceremony.  Near the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom lit a unity candle to symbolize the joining of their families.  Following the ceremony, the guests enjoyed a lovely cocktail hour as we photographed the family and bridal party.

Wedding Reception

The reception took place in the Event Stables and began with an introduction of the bridal party and the newlyweds, followed by the bride and groom’s first dance.  Additionally, the bride shared a dance with her father followed by the groom with his mother.   Deep Run Roadhouse catered an amazing meal that guests enjoyed.  Sweet Justice, a cover band from Richmond, Virginia rocked out as friends and family danced the night away. 

Sunset Bridal Portraits

At sunset, I went with Elizabeth Henson of Elizabeth Henson Photography and the bride and groom and we were able to capture a variety of romantic portraits during golden hour.  As the temperatures cooled, we captured the stunning bride and groom. The golden light combined with pristine historic buildings, immaculate landscaping, and a small vineyard which helped to create a beautiful backdrop for Lauren and Burke.

Sparkler Exit

The night ended with a sparkler exit, illuminating the end to a wonderful wedding day at Burlington Weddings and Events.

Wedding Vendors

Venue: Burlington Weddings and Events

Wedding Planner: Burlington Weddings and Events

Primary Wedding Photographer: Elizabeth Henson Photography

Second Wedding Photographer: Belle Eve Photography

Bridal Gown: Here and Now Bridal

Bride’s Shoes: Bella Belle

Hair and Makeup: Kara Waggoner

Groom’s Tux: Men’s Wearhouse

Florist: Over the Top Flower Shop

Caterer: Deep Run Roadhouse

Cake: The Mixing Bowl Bakery

Band: Sweet Justice

String Quartet: Ulysses Kirksey with Petersburg Symphony

Five Tips for Planning the Perfect Proposal

Engagement Season

It is Engagement season! The evergreens, scent of pine, cinnamon and cloves combined with twinkling Christmas lights usher in all the romance feels.  Here in Virginia, our Decembers are pretty mild for the most part, even with a little chill in the air.  Planning outings outdoors with the love of your life, such as taking a stroll in Colonial Williamsburg, is fairly easy, convenient, and offers a variety of options….especially when you are planning to propose to your significant other.  Making an intentional plan will help you to pull off the perfect proposal that you will both remember for the rest of your lives. 

Let’s get started.


Having a conversation with your soon – to – be Fiancé’s  family is very important, especially if you want to have a positive relationship with them after you pop the question.  Family is important and it will mean a lot to them to include them, if possible.   There is something to say for marrying into a family.  You may not live with them, but building a positive, healthy relationship (which includes inviting them into knowing your intentions and plans) will have ripple effects for your future and your children’s future.   They may also have some great and meaningful ideas to offer as well which could really help to make it memorable and unique. 


Decide on a ring budget.  Researching the cost of rings that your future fiancé would like will help you as you decide on what to purchase for the love of your life.  I highly recommend doing your homework on this.  In addition to researching pricing, it is also valuable to search for reliable jewelers, and have a good idea of what your future fiancé likes. If you are not exactly sure what she might like, enlist the help of her family and friends.   In order to pull off a great surprise, it will be helpful to know her ring size as well.  Go here to learn about ways to get her ring size without her knowing.

It also is important to decide on a budget for your proposal.  Will you hire a photographer?  Will you buy her dinner at a 5 star restaurant?  Or will you pop the question at a favorite location and then celebrate with family afterwards? 

Location and Season

Choose how and where you will propose.  Your proposal should be unique to your relationship.  There are so many “viral” ideas out there that may sound amazing.  However, if the idea does not connect to who you are as a couple, it may fall a little flat.  Consider meaningful locations, such as where you met, a favorite location where you like to bike or walk together, or the place where you first said “I am in love with you.”  Consider the time of year as well.  

Christmas is a time when families often gather together.  If Christmas season is a time that is meaningful for you as a couple, it could be a great opportunity to pop the question knowing that family from out of town could be there to celebrate afterwards.   Or perhaps you want to propose when it is warmer outside when walking on a beach or at a park, for example, would be a little more comfortable. 

Time of Day

Time of day is really important, too, especially if you plan to hire a wedding photographer like myself to capture this beautiful moment.  As a photographer I can consult with you about the best window of time for natural lighting.  I will also be able to coach you on exactly where to stand and what direction to face so that I can capture the moment without obstruction of view.  After you propose, I offer a post proposal session to clients.   Couples can opt to use these images for their engagement announcements as well as printing on canvas, metal, or a coffee table book.   

A little advice from your cheerful wedding photographer:    Make sure that you provide an excuse for your special someone to dress up.  Everyone is different with this.  Some ladies do not mind having images taken when they haven’t put on make-up.  That is perfectly fine!  If your girlfriend is more selective about her appearance for photos, the experience will be more pleasant for her if you provide a believable excuse for her to get dolled up.

Choose What You Will Say

While what you say will be really important, don’t make this too complicated.  Do you need to write and rehearse a 3 page speech about your undying love?  I am all for romantic accolades. (Hallmark channel junkie here!)   Perfectly crafted poetic words are lovely, but keep the message authentic.  Your words should convey a beautiful message of love in a genuine way.   The big thing here is to be yourself; be creative in how it fits your relationship while being you.  Then, pop the question! 

Now it is time to celebrate!

Wedding Trends | Intimate Micro Weddings | Virginia Wedding Photographer

2020-2021 Wedding Trend

One of the biggest Wedding Trends, as we finish out 2020 and move toward 2021, is to have a smaller, more intimate wedding ceremony. Obviously, a contributing factor to this trend is the coronavirus pandemic.  Whether you prefer a formal or informal micro wedding, there are definitely many ways to still make it traditional or modern, with the elegance of larger weddings.  You may be able to make your wedding experience even more elegant since the total guest count for a micro wedding runs approximately 40-50 people at the most. 

Wedding Planner

I had the pleasure of chatting with Tammy Mills of Simply Grand Events , an incredible Newport News, Virginia based wedding and event planner who specializes in smaller weddings, about Micro Weddings.  A Micro Wedding, which is a more intimate gathering that lasts 2-4 hours and ranges from 10 to 50 guests, is 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. 

The Wedding of Your Dreams

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 many of the same types of elements as a standard 8 hour long wedding, but on a smaller scale.  For example, if you are having a 2 hour wedding, you may not have time for a full 30 minute first look.  Your prep time will likely be 30 minutes to an hour before your wedding instead of 2-3 hours before your wedding.  This will result in fewer images of you getting ready, but can still include those important moments such as Mom helping you button up your wedding gown, and you in the room where you are waiting to walk down the aisle.

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, an exquisite catered meal or heavy hor d’oeuvres,  beautifully designed floral arrangements, or your dream dress, for example.  You have a wide range of options!  Ultimately, you will decide what your priorities are for your wedding. 

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.

Wedding Venue

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.  Some offer partial day packages, and others offer only full day only packages.  It is also possible to have a lovely backyard wedding (such as the one featured here), which could help also to place more of your wedding budget on other things. 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?” 

Online Guest Options

For guests who are not able to attend, there are other options to consider.   One option you can consider adding so that more people can be included is to hire a D.J. or a videographer (or a friend who is knowledgeable in this area) 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.

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!

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