Holiday Party Planning | Virginia Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove fill the air as you begin lighting your favorite autumn candles, diffuse fall themed essential oils and bake treats for family and friends.  You take out all of your favorite fall décor and carefully place each piece in its rightful place for the season.  No matter what color your décor usually boasts, it is now accompanied by a harvest of gourds, pumpkins, cinnamon brooms and hay stalks.  We prepare our homes for special seasons so that we can experience the holiday vibe, and to make our homes a place to welcome people we love. 

Whether you are an experienced party host or not, it is important to know how to plan and host a great party.  Even if you’re currently thinking “I will NEVER host a party or large gathering at my house,” these tips from Katie Blackman, a professional wedding and event planner, will still be helpful.  You never know when it will be “your turn” in the future! 

Let’s get right to it!  First, know who you are going to invite and plan on “plus one” for each guest.  Decide how you will invite your guests:  will you send a formal invitation or a digital one via Facebook?  Your invitation should require some type of RSVP, such as a text message or verbal response, depending on how formal the occasion.  It is better to know and plan accordingly than be surprised by too many or not enough guests.

Next, it may seem boring, but clean!  Katie suggests getting your home “HGTV ready” for guests.  Make sure you stock up on cute candles and make sure that your bathroom has plenty of toilet paper.  Get a helpful house cleaning checklist from Molly Maid here

Think about the décor.  If you don’t want to break the budget, look for seasonal clearance from stores such as Home Goods or Target.  Have fun with it!   Depending on the season you are shopping for, find items such as flowers for Spring and pumpkins for Fall that aren’t too “themey”  As you decorate, play music to inspire you! 

Now, it’s time to plan for the food your guests will enjoy!  If you plan to have your event catered, order enough in advance so that your preferred caterer will be available.  During the holiday season, caterers often book pretty quickly.  If you want to save time and money, go the potluck direction.  Have everyone bring a dish and a bottle of their favorite beverage to share.  You provide the main course or dessert.  Many people enjoy sharing favorite dishes.  Be sure to communicate on the invitation what you would like people to bring (or in a group chat if it’s a smaller gathering with friends).  Make sure that you have dedicated space to place the food along with plenty of plates and silverware for everyone.

Last, plan to have fun!  If you prepare in advance you will have less to worry about during your party.  It helps to have someone else to help out before and during the event to make sure everyone is taken care of throughout the evening.  Usually, as long as there is food, wine, and music, people will usually have a good time.  However, it is also a good idea to plan for (and communicate ahead of time) some type of entertainment such as a gift exchange or a game. 

Happy party planning!

Five Reasons for Anniversary Sessions | Virginia Family Photographer

57Anniversary-Session-Newport-News-Park-Newport-News-VirginiaSchool is about to begin here in Hampton Roads!  Fall will be here on September 23!  It is definitely time to start thinking about scheduling your Fall Anniversary Session, even though it is definitely “very Summer” outside!  It takes some energy and planning to get a family together for a photography session, but it is so beneficial.  Let me explain.

  1.  It is important to document your family each year as it grows and changes.  As parents, we think we will remember all of the details of our children’s sweet faces at 3, 5, and 10 as they grow through their childhood.  For the most part, we do remember many things.  However, time reduces and fades some of the details of those memories.  Photographs are powerful memory triggers for us as we reflect on those moments and share the stories behind it.  Not only do those photos help you remember, but your children will someday be able to see loved ones and moments that they may not completely remember.  A while back, my momma gave me some pictures of me with my Mamaw.  I was a toddler in the images and don’t remember that time with my sweet Mamaw.   Those images are such precious treasures!
  2. Anniversary Sessions are fun!  My job is to capture your natural interaction with your family as we go through your hour long session.  I love to laugh and want you to enjoy the time with your family as I capture your family!  Let’s have some fun!
  3. This is a great time to gather your family together, especially if you have children who no longer live with you or grandparents who would love to be included in the memories.
  4. Anniversary Sessions allow opportunities to purchase beautiful updated artwork for your home or as a gift for a grandparent’s home.  I have various products you can purchase, such as professionally printed luster paper prints, canvas gallery wraps, and metal prints.   Using my special gallery, you can even see how it will look on your walls.
  5. You will have a keepsake for not only your family, but for your children’s future families.  Will future generations of your family be able to see what you looked like and know a part of your story?  We thankfully have images of my great grandparents and know some of the family stories.  In this digital day and age, we are so dependent on digital images.  However, we may not have them forever.  If your phone dies, the cloud disappears, or your computer crashes, what would happen to your images?  Prints remain regardless of technology.

So Long, 2016!


2016 has been a great first official year of business for Belle Eve Photography!  Owning my own business has been one of the most exciting things and the most scary things I have done, yet I am having so much fun working as a photographer.  It has been a year of growing, exploring, and learning, which has taken me down a more definitive path as a business owner.

There are several reasons that 2016 has been a fantastic first year of business, which I have listed below:

  1.  Education, education, education! I completed three photography courses, attended mentoring sessions, assisted several professional photographers at family sessions and several weddings, and read a lot to learn more and more about my craft.  I am a firm believer that education is empowering to a professional, no matter what field you work in.  It makes a difference in your professionalism and skill level, which is vital to a thriving photographer.
  2. Often in my life, I have been someone that others have shared their hearts and concerns with. Compassion and mercy are important values to me, and have been something that I feel that God has used in my life to serve others.  I haven’t always been a compassionate person.  Well, let me explain.  I would feel compassion for others, but the “serving” side of me was not as mature in my early adult years.  I have endured a lot of really tough stuff, and before you start thinking “awe poor girl”, I have to tell you that I am thankful that I went through those really tough, heart wrenching events.  Those experiences were not any fun.  In fact, they were painful and full of agonizing “sobbing on the floor” moments.  However, I have grown through them, both in my faith and my maturity, and have a greater understanding of and patience for others.  For that alone, I am thankful.  I believe that the Lord absolutely uses those difficult times in our lives so that we can be there for others who are hurting, or who need a little encouragement.   I can honestly say that I love listening to the stories of others and hearing about where they are in life.  And, if I can be an encouragement along their path, then that makes it even sweeter.   I love being a photographer who is documenting a part of someone’s story.  I don’t just take pictures.  I capture life, and that is the coolest thing!
  3. With this being the first official year of business, I was so excited to see an increase in the number of clients served as 2016 moved forward.   I had the opportunity to capture seniors, families, individuals, a women’s ministry event, and a wedding (as a second shooter).  If you trusted me as your photographer this year, thank you.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this moment for you, for allowing me to capture your beautiful children and families, and for promoting my business.   I do have one very big supporter, though, who definitely deserves a huge shout out and a thank you.  My incredible husband, Mike.  He has supported me without hesitation from day 1.  He went with me to get my business license.  He encouraged me nonstop.  To say that I have a terrific husband is an understatement.  He rocks.
  4. The fourth reason that 2016 was a great year, of course, was the families, seniors and individuals that I photographed.  Each of them was special in their own way, and each was a privilege to shoot!  You all are amazing individuals, and I consider it a blessing to have had the opportunity to get to know you!  Also included in the year was a women’s conference entitled “A Bible Study” (Established Footsteps Ministries) for which I did the photography for the stage art and photographed one evening of the three night event.
  5.  Last, but not least were the weddings!  I assisted for one wedding, and was a second shooter for another.  (I also took a class on Wedding Photography.) This leads me to how Belle Eve Photography will look in 2017.  I currently photograph families, seniors, and individuals.  In 2017, I will be expanding to engagements and weddings.  Marriage is such a gift worth celebrating, and I’m looking forward to incorporating wedding photography as a service and getting to know new brides and grooms.

Thank you, to my family, friends, and clients for making 2016 a wonderful year.  May God bless you and your families richly as we move into a new year!

The Path

It was a beautiful, incandescent afternoon stroll through Williamsburg in October.

Growing up, I remember so many chilly Octobers – even a few with a coating of snow on the grass and the Jack-O-Lanterns on Halloween.  This day, however, was warm.  I do love the mild fall weather that we usually have here in the southeast corner of this great state.  Whatever the weather that afternoon, it was the people I was privileged to spend time with that made the day special.mills003

Him…the love of my life…

 He is my best friend, the one who still makes my heart skip a beat.  As we continued on our stroll hand in hand through quaint Colonial Williamsburg, I couldn’t help but think of how our paths crossed just a “few” years ago.


It was my Senior year in college.  I had spent the time from my Freshman year through the fall of my Senior year as a football and basketball cheerleader.  I majored in Elementary Education and minored in Spanish, so I walked in the circles of my Spanish and Education classes, football and basketball games, cheerleading and dance practice, and working out.  Singing in chapel occasionally and playing violin with the community orchestra during the Christmas season were also sprinkled into my crazy schedule.  Mike transferred in during our Sophomore year and was a ministry major with an emphasis on voice.  He was an athletic guy who also enjoyed working out.  He was (and still is) a gifted vocalist, pianist, and guitarist who demonstrated his creativity in songwriting.  (He even wrote a song for our wedding, and it still makes me cry when I hear it.)


Our paths crossed because of a series of separate decisions and events with amazing timing.  (I believe that timing came from the Lord.)    I had always dreamed of being a vocalist in a rock band.  I would hold my “microphone” (which also happened to double as my hairbrush) and sing my heart out in my bedroom throughout my childhood.  It was never my goal or ambition to make it big.  I just loved singing and performing.  Besides, my “education major” coursework didn’t exactly offer “singing” as a part of my class load.  However, a unique opportunity arose when there was an audition call for one the campus bands, named Fortress.   As I considered auditioning for the band my Senior year, I wavered with thoughts of “what if I don’t make it?”.  My roommate, though, was so encouraging and pushed me to go for it.  What if you don’t try?  Regret, that is what happens.  (Thank you, Alison, for motivating me!)  Needless to say, I was over the moon excited when I found out that I made it.  This opened new doors for me, and enlarged and shifted my circle.  Not only did I learn a great deal, I was also blessed to get to know so many really amazing musicians and new friends. We performed at a prison, Six Flags in St. Louis, MO, and participated in “Battle of the Bands”.  I was able to spend time with some amazing people in the studio as they recorded, which was a completely new experience for me.

The coolest thing about the whole experience, though, was how the new friendships took me down a path on which I would eventually collide with my future husband.  He lived in the same house with some of the guys I became friends with.  He also worked out at the Sports Training Annex at our college where I briefly worked the front desk as a clerk.  He would come in to work out, and we would end up chatting.

Boom! Just like that, our paths collided.  The funny thing is that, at the time, I wasn’t looking to get into a serious relationship.  (O.k., I will admit that I did have a crush on him from the moment I saw him in the Annex. Those kind, clear blue eyes…  But still, I really didn’t want to get super serious with someone yet. I didn’t want to get hurt again, as I had recently moved on from a relationship.  I was really trying to trust God with my future.)  Mike became my best friend, and after a five month period of time we began dating.  He was (and still is) this super caring and Godly man of integrity, and I found that he was the real deal.  I just adore him, and it’s difficult to put into words how very thankful I am that he is my husband and the father of my children.  We get to do life together, which is such a gift!

The bottom line is this:  Fear is a killer.  Fear can hold you back from great things and can paralyze your potential.  I have to keep telling myself this from time to time.  I’d like to say that I never fear “going for it” or the big “scary” circumstances that happen in life.   I’m still learning to trust God first, even when life becomes overwhelming and the “what ifs” grow louder.  I am so thankful that I stood up and took a risk back then, even when I was shaking in my boots nervous!  I think the outcome was pretty great then, and I believe that continuing to walk with boldness will bring about great things in the future.

**Side note:  My son, pictured above helped to take the pictures of my hubby and I.  I just set the settings and gave him instructions.  I think he did a pretty good job!






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