I‘ll never forget the time I entered the bridal room at the start of the day and the bride had every single item to be photographed set aside on a table, ready for me to photograph. She hadn’t forgotten a single detail. I have told her numerous times since that day how much I appreciated that. Because the truth is that wedding days are chaotic. Sometimes the bride and her ladies are traveling from the salon to the church to get dressed and they don’t have everything in one place. Sometimes the best man, in all his well-intentioned foresight, already confiscated the rings for safekeeping that morning, not knowing that I’d need to photograph them. Sometimes the bouquets have been delivered to somewhere other than the getting ready location, maybe the church instead of the hotel. There’s just so many pieces that can be misplaced.

And while those detail photos are gorgeous, they serve a bigger purpose than just being pretty on a blog post. I recognize that you, my clients, have paid a lot of money for those gorgeous full-suite invitations, the personalized gown hanger, the brand new bottle of perfume, the jeweled peep-toe heels. You have a lot of sentimental value attached to the family heirloom jewelry, the veil that Grandma sewed, and the piece of lace from Mom’s wedding dress that was hand-stitched into yours or wrapped to your bouquet. These are the little details of the day that don’t necessarily show up in portraits, but they are no less valued in the memory of the day. And since the entire purpose of my job is to help my clients remember, it’s important to me to help you remember even the small parts that aren’t center-stage during the day.

While I do remind my brides multiple times before your wedding days what to have and where to have it, I realize there’s a lot going on and sometimes things just get misplaced. One time, I beat the ladies to the final getting ready location (they were still coming from the salon), but was told that everything was there, ready to be photographed. It was such a calm, ideal situation. I had the room to myself to start photographing all these gorgeous details before makeup bags and dress bags and people started filling the room. I got everything photographed before the ladies got there. I felt awesome. Only when the bride went to put on her shoes did I realize that I had photographed the wrong pair of shoes!! A bridesmaid’s pair of shoes had been left in the room instead of the bride’s! Thankfully, I caught it and was able to grab some quick shots of the shoes before having the bride put them on, but it’s little things like that that make a big difference in the timing flow of the day. (We certainly don’t want to get behind on the timeline at the very beginning of the day!)

Here’s a list of items I ask my brides to have ready to be photographed when I arrive:

  • wedding gown
  • a pretty hanger for the gown (It doesn’t have to be personalized; just a plush lingerie hanger or a simple wooden hanger will work! It’s best if the hanger has notches or stops to prevent the dress from sliding off.)
  • veil / hair pieces
  • wedding rings (all three: engagement ring, her band, & his band)
  • shoes
  • bouquet
  • jewelry
  • perfume
  • invitation suite (save-the-date, invitation, RSVP, envelopes, programs, etc.)
  • borrowed & blue items

Once I arrive on the wedding day and say hi and give out hugs, I get started with photographing those items. I can maximize my time if everything is set aside and ready for me to grab. Sometimes, if the room is crowded, I’ll take them to another area or I’ll set up a little space to do detail shots right there in the room. But the most important thing is that if I have everything from the start, I can swap things out as I go and photograph quickly, not having to break to find missing pieces or make sure I have everything. And if I can maximize my time there, we’ll have more time for photos of people! It’s a total win-win for everyone!

So what’s the best way to make sure everything is where it should be? Assign the task to someone you absolutely trust who is very responsible. Maybe your wedding planner, a personal attendant, one of your bridesmaids, or a good friend who won’t need to be getting hair and makeup done that morning! The easiest way to organize everything is to put everything (including the shoes; only excluding the gown and veil, of course) in a small bin! Then you’ll know that everything is in the same place, ready to go!

Now that you know what to have ready, let’s look at some other detail photos and how I shot them!

I’ll often grab a bridesmaid’s or mom’s dress to use as a background for the detail shots. Since those dresses will definitely be keeping with the color scheme of the day, they’ll tie in the wedding colors while also adding some texture! The background in this photo of the bride’s earrings was the mother of the groom’s dress!

This next photo was in the bride’s childhood home by the fireplace. You can see where the stone ledge of the fireplace hearth drops off in the very lower left corner of the photo. To add texture and interest to the photo, I pulled in her bouquet on the right and a beaded clutch she had.

This is one of my favorite rings shots ever and it’s by far one of the simplest shots I’ve set up. The writing in the background was the envelope liner of their invitations, a beautiful script of their names.

This ruffle background was actually a tablecloth on the cake table. Everything was held in the same venue so I was able to use reception elements like that tablecloth to add interest to the detail shots!

I loved the bold hues in this bedroom. That green looked gorgeous behind the creamy wedding gown and shoes!

Adding loose pieces of floral elements is an awesome way to make a uninteresting photo really interesting! Ask your florist if you can have a few of the loose stems they don’t end up putting into the bouquets! I love using them in the detail shots!

This was a marriage booklet of the bride’s grandparents that they signed on their wedding day. Because of it’s significance, I wanted a shot of the bride holding it, but I also wanted a photo of just the book so I placed it in front of the bride’s bouquet.

Here’s another example of using a dress for the background.

In an ideal world, I’d have clean, white shelves in every getting-ready suite, but it’s only happened this one time.

I love the visual here of the classic invitation suite against a blue background against a floral background. There’s a lot of things happening in the picture that stimulate the brain and make it say, “Ahhhh, something about this looks nice.” It’s the soft variety! The floral pattern is a rug and the blue pattern is an ottoman.

For this shoe shot, I grabbed all the bridal bouquets and laid them in a semi-circle to create a background that would make these shoes pop!

Not everyone has access to a dress form, but this is a fantastic way to make your gown look glorious! Gowns aren’t meant to hang up; they’re fitted to be worn and they look best when they’re on! Using this form gave the dress it’s ideal shape for photos. In the paper suite photo on the right, I was able to use some floral elements (that fern) mixed with some confetti (that would later be used for their exit) against a board that had been covered in coordinating blue fabric!

I used a bridemaid’s gown for the navy background on the left and the bride’s bouquet for the earring photo on the right!

Silk ribbon is one of my favorite ways to add something special to photos!

This is another one of my favorite ring shots and I simply balanced the rings on the bride’s beaded clutch. If you look closely in the groom’s wedding band, you can see me. More importantly, you might also also see that I was in a narrow sunroom in the bride’s childhood home. There was lots of stuff around, but the light was great there (makeup was also being done in this room due to the large windows to the right) and all I needed was a small space for these little detail shots.

Summertime weddings in Iowa are usually…warm. Hot, actually. And Stephanie & Sam’s was certainly hot. But they live in Texas so heat is something they’re used to. What you can’t tell in these pictures is just how hot it was or how quickly we had to photograph the bridal party and couple! We had a very limited amount of time for photos with no wiggle room at all and we blazed through these like superman.

I’m so happy that their gorgeous wedding was featured on Blushing Bells Iowa today! It’s so much fun to relive a couple’s wedding, especially when it lives on a blog other than mine.

The weekend before and the weekend after were both filled with rain, down-pouring rain. Planning an outdoor wedding in April takes the same sort of courage that it takes of winter brides hoping to escape snow storms. My husband and I got married in April and we had the most beautiful weather on our wedding day and then barely made it out of Iowa for our honeymoon due to snowstorms. So, you know, Iowa weather is fickle, especially in the spring. But Shanna & John had the most wonderful sunshine beaming at them the morning of their wedding and we all breathed a sigh of relief that rain plans could be forgotten.

Shanna & John had a short-term wedding planning season (only 12 weeks!), but Shanna was the most hands-off bride I’ve ever seen, and I say that with the utmost delight! When they decided to forego a courthouse wedding she had wanted, they knew they wanted their wedding to take place soon due to some family health issues so they let their very best friends and family surprise them by planning this wedding for them.

Shanna enlisted Brenda (Town or Country Event Design & Coordination) to plan the wedding. “I trust you, just do what you do and surprise me!” she told her. Brenda immediately got me on board and went to work with Zephyr Weddings to get all the paper details and designs nailed down. They designed the stunning wreath logo that became a main theme in the wedding decor and got everything set up from invitations and placemats to programs and seating charts. It was such a collaborative effort and I was so honored to be part of it.

Shanna & John were the first wedding this year to happen at the brand new Rapid Creek Cidery venue at the stunning Wilson’s Orchard in Iowa City. Not only was the staff there so accommodating and kind, but the food was equally amazing! I’m so excited to return several more times this year for more wedding fun!


Anyone who has gone bridal dress shopping knows that there’s no such thing as a “short-order wedding gown.” Most gowns, after being ordered, take 12 weeks to get in before any final alterations have been made. Brenda had nothing but great things to say about Hope’s Bridal, who pulled an array of dresses together in Shanna’s size that could be purchased off the rack, same day. This stunning gown was perfect for Shanna; it fit her like a dream and had the perfect amount of beading and soft draping overlay.


The jewelry bar was a really fun idea! In the bridal suite, there was a bunch of jewelry that the bridesmaids could pick from. This is like dress-up except for adults. And with better jewels. 😉

John & his daughter, Kamryn, shared a special first look before John saw Shanna. Kamryn also served as their flower girl and the cutest, most eloquent reader for their ceremony.


Despite the sunny day, there were still patches of mud from the week leading up to the wedding so we kept their first look simple and in the reception space. This photo also shows you a preview of their stunning tablescape.



Shanna’s dad passed away several years ago so she had her brothers walk her down the aisle.



After the ceremony, guests enjoyed cocktail hour. Since we had done all of the formal photos beforehand, Shanna & John were able to mingle with their guests and relax! That’s one of the huge, most unknown perks of a first look + photos before the ceremony.



And when the couple was done with dinner, while guests were still eating, we snuck them outside for some evening photos. These are always, always my favorite photos of the day and this is no exception here.

Back inside, we enjoyed the rest of the evening toasting and dancing and celebrating. Celebrating their marriage, first of all, but also the enormous feat of teamwork it took for so many vendors and family members to pull off this event in less than 3 months. It was perfect in every way and it was more than Shanna could have ever dreamed. I know that because she said so. If there’s ever a case for hiring people you trust and letting them do what they do best, this is it right here. Cheers to the perfect beginning of your lives together as husband and wife, Shanna & John.

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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Wedding Coordinator: Town or Country Event Design & Coordination

Florals: Bobbie Peiffer

Cake Artist: Brenda Miller

Venue & Catering: Rapid Creek Cidery

DJ: K-Jo DJ Service

Makeup: Michaela Kiefer

Hair: Lissa J’s Salon & Shear Image

Paper Suite: Zephyr Weddings

Bridal Gown: Hope’s Bridal

Maids’ Gowns: Bill Levkoff & Vera Wang

Suits: Skeffington’s Formalwear

Rings: Phillip’s Diamond Shop

Their wedding day was the absolute perfection of Iowa fall. It was crisp and cool, without being cold. You could hear the rustle of the tall grasses, the crunch of leaves, and smell that slightly smoky fall air that hints of burning leaves mixed with cool air. And even though it’s April now and the trees are boasting their unending seasonal circle of life and giving us fresh blooms, I love looking back at Jenna & Andrew’s wedding and reliving the joy of their day.

On that note, I’m so pleased that their wedding is being featured on Blushing Bells Iowa today! Head on over and check it out!

Rose & Paul just got married 2 weeks ago in a stunning wedding clouded with rain. I’m so excited that they were now husband and wife; they are the sweetest couple who cares not only for each other, but genuinely cares about and takes care of people around them. They are such a perfect match and I’m so excited to see their marriage flourish. Back as they were planning their wedding, we got together while Paul was back in town one weekend for their engagement session. Today that beautiful session in the gorgeous Midwestern fall season is being featured at Blushing Bells Iowa!

They first met in June of 2015. It was a few weeks into their summer-long mission trip in South Carolina. One Sunday afternoon, they ran into each other and started talking. “After our first conversation, [he] definitely caught me eye and I knew there was something special about him,” Kristen says.

At the end of the summer, they went back to their homes; he to Minnesota and her to Iowa. Towards the end of September, he came down to visit her for the first time. “We hadn’t seen each other for over a month since the mission trip had ended. We had just been talking on the phone and FaceTiming so I was pretty nervous. When he got here, he got out of his car and gave me flowers and had this sweet video he had made for me right before he had left South Carolina the month before,” she says. Chad adds, “I asked her to be my girlfriend the second I got there.” They spent the rest of the day walking around downtown Iowa City. “I was excited to finally be with her in person and to officially start dating.”

Chad moved to Iowa to be closer to Kristen last summer. “I knew Chad was special since the day I met him. But it wasn’t until this past summer that I for sure knew he was the one. He had just moved down to Iowa City and while the transition was a little shaky of being in the same place for the first time, there were just some moments that I was like, ‘Wow, he came all the way here just for me and I can’t imagine life without him.’ He is so selfless and caring and while I can’t pick out one definite moment of when I knew, it just kind of happened.”

Chad had known for a long time, perhaps giving him more reason to uproot his life and move to Iowa. “On my birthday about half a month [after meeting her], I wrote her a note about how I felt and that I knew she was the one.” He gave that note to her the day he proposed.


The proposal itself was a complete surprise to Kristen. “Chad and I had planned to spend most of the day together. He knew that it was a weekend where I didn’t have much studying to do so we cleared the schedule to have a nice date day before he started his job as a sheriff deputy. We made brunch together, watched our favorite TV show, and just hung out. We planned to go for a walk and then go out to dinner. I went home to change, and somehow Chad convinced me to wear nice clothes for a walk in the woods (I wanted to wear a tee and shorts) without me being skeptical at all. He picked me up and we went to the Coralville Lake. We were walking and reminiscing about when we first met in South Carolina when Chad asked to go off the trail so we could take a picture together. He always wants to take pictures and selfies together so his request for a photo wasn’t unusual, but being the rule-follower that I am, I didn’t want to go off the trail. Nevertheless, he finally convinced me and when we got off the trail a little ways, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I was so incredibly surprised–freaking out about how it was even possible because in the days & weeks leading up to it, he had intentionally thrown me for a loop so that I would be surprised.”

Chad fills in a little of the backstory, “We had planned to get engaged in summer 2017, even though I wanted it to be sooner. One day she told me she was ready to be engaged and in two weeks I had to plan everything. I had to figure out how to use Pinterest to figure out her dream ring, find a photographer [to photograph the proposal], and talk to her dad. I did it all in that timeframe and told her that I wanted to go for a walk before dinner. I brought her to the lake and pulled her off the trail saying we were going to take a picture. I then said I wanted to make her bucket list come true (she had told me the first time we hung out on the mission trip that her bucket list was to get married and have kids) and I got down on one knee and proposed.”


Kristen & Chad are two of the sweetest, kindest souls. It is clear that Chad adores Kristen and that she flourishes in that love. To witness the two of them together is to see pure, gentle love. I have loved getting to know them and am so excited to celebrate with them this summer at the start of their marriage.