Social media. Those two words alone can exhaust me most days. I wonder if I would feel differently if I wasn’t a small business owner. As it is between business and personal, I am running so many social media accounts that I actually have an account management system to help me keep track of them all. (Photographers, check out CoSchedule; it has saved me!)

Of all of the social media platforms though, Instagram is by far my favorite. Because there is no easy way to run more than one account (hint, hint, Instagram; get on this!), I decided back in the beginning to keep business and personal combined on that particular platform. It’s a hodgepodge of my life in a very genuine form since it includes my work, my home life, and, of course, my baby.

Remember a few years ago when I first blogged about how I make a yearbook? You may be surprised to know that I’m still trying to keep up with that, though admittedly, 2015 is off to a bad start since I’m putting all of my free time into Henry’s baby book instead. I love the idea of having a yearbook filled with all of our memories, but I also love the idea of an easy, affordable, and quick way to page through our memories.

So when I heard about Chatbooks, I was intrigued. My favorite social media platform mixed with an affordable print service so I can get my hands on the photos I post? Hmmmm…

I had a code to try a book for free (you can use this code to get your first book free too!: AE2ZLHZW) so I figured there was no harm. Now, the best part of Chatbooks is that they offer a way to include only certain hashtags. I was interested in printing photos of Henry and since I use the hashtag #henrycrall for all of his photos on Instagram, this was super, duper easy! I can continue ‘gramming to my heart’s content, but only the photos with that hashtag will pull into his book series. I can also go into the app and include or take out photos (if I forgot to include the hashtag in the post or if there’s one that has the hashtag, but I’d rather the photo not be in the book).

I have already thought of several people who could benefit from this:

  1. This would be a great way for photographers to print off their work for a snapshot view for clients (if they use hashtags for their business). Or venues, or florists, or any small business owner!
  2. I also think couples who use a hashtag for their weddings would love these books. Imagine if you could pull in all of the photos your guests took!
  3. And of course, busy mamas who love to Instagram, but don’t have time to create a baby book. This would be a really easy way to do that. (You could use a private account to post all your photos to if you don’t want to go crazy on your public feed.)

Chatbooks’ customer service has been wonderful. I was having trouble in the beginning with a few images not auto-pulling from the hashtag and their response time was quick and they were very helpful in getting it all fixed for me.

It’s $6/book (each book is 60 pages) which is a very affordable way to get your photos into your hands. The quality is not the professional level that I provide my own clients (duh), but for $6, it’s an amazingly easy and organized way to get your own personal photos printed. Once you have your book series all set up, it will auto-print/ship every time you get to 60 pages.

Go ahead. Get those photos off your phone.

I dreamed about this day, my little Henry pie. Six months. Half a year. There’s nothing particularly magical about it except that back when we were in the trenches, I thought it would never come. Now look at us! We’re all still alive. I wasn’t kidding when I said that now things are getting fun—like really fun—and all the days can slooooowwww down because I can finally say that they’re going too fast. You are a riot from head to toe and I absolutely adore everything from your screeching gibberish to your gurgling laughter.

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I’ve continued taking you to the gym daycare and, despite your initial wailing, you’ve warmed up to it. Sometimes when I pick you up, you’re whining, but more often than not, you are still happily watching all the other children. Or, at the very least, solemnly staring. You do love a good intrigue.

You are mesmerized by the interstate that our house backs up to and I can often set you right in front of the sliding glass door in the living room and you’ll stare at the passing cars for, well, not hours, but a long time for your ever shortening attention span. The other night, your daddy was out mowing and so I put you on the kitchen counter while I made dinner and you looked out the window watching him go back and forth, back and forth. It was the highlight of your day.

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This past month you’ve started eating solids and you don’t have a picky bone in your body. You have devoured everything I’ve given you (squash, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, bananas, apples, plums, grapes, prunes, oatmeal, and on and on) and you always open your little mouth like a bird waiting for me to give you more…because apparently I’m never fast enough. It took you about two tries to figure out how the spoon works and now you often reach for it to try to help it get to your mouth.

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Henry 6 Months_EmilyCrall_0020.jpgWe continue to read a lot and go to story time at the library on Thursdays. You have a lot of little friends there and it won’t be long before you are all on the move and playing together. I have loved getting to know other mothers (some of whom I first met at Baby & Me Yoga) and, in our little group of friends, all of our boys are within just a few months of each other so we share stories, experiences, and ask advice from each other every week. You’re the youngest of the group by a few weeks so it’s extra fun to me to see some of the exciting new things you’ll be learning and doing in the next few weeks based on what the other boys are doing.

As difficult as those first couple of months were without a full night of sleep, you have more than made up for it by becoming an incredible sleeper. We worked really hard on establishing your eating/sleeping routine in those early days and it has more than paid off. You continue to sleep 12 hours a night (bless!) and waking you up at 8 in the morning is so much fun. You start smiling before you even open you eyes and stretch as you arch your little back. Once we change your [sopping wet] diaper, you start kicking your legs and talking because you know that the next agenda item is a bottle. Your little mouth opens in anticipation long before it ever comes close to you.

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Due to the introduction of solids and your ever-growing little self, your routine stretched again just a couple of weeks ago so now you are able to stay awake a lot longer and take two naps (one in the morning, one in the afternoon). If your afternoon nap isn’t good, we still slip in a catnap in the early evening, but otherwise, we’re down to two naps. The evenings can get long since you end up being awake for over 3 hours, but as long as we keep up with your short attention span, it’s been working.

This coming weekend marks the big return of wedding season and it’s going to hit with a bang (a double header weekend!). I’m so excited to get back into the swing of working, but I’m also hesitant to see how you adjust and behave with someone else watching you. I am so grateful that I’ve had these six months with you to get you on a steady routine and to get to know you so well and am hoping that you’ll just keep being awesome even when your daddy and I are away. I know how busy wedding season always is and I feel that the next time I look up, it’ll be November and we’ll be celebrating your first birthday!

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Henry 6 Months_EmilyCrall_0026.jpgYou continue to amaze me with your ever-growing curiosity and skills. You challenge me and try my patience every single day, but you also fill me overflowing with joy and happiness and laughter. I feel so incredibly blessed to be your mama. In the short six months that you’ve been with us, you’ve changed our family to the point where we can’t even begin to imagine what we would be doing if you weren’t here. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at your face and feel overwhelmed with gratefulness that you’ve been given to us. We are the luckiest. Truly. I’m so glad you’re ours.

I love you, my darling boy.
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Weighs: 16 pounds, 8 ounces
Loves: the songs “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Open, Shut Them”, jumping, standing, watching the traffic on the interstate, Sophie the giraffe, your feet in your mouth, reading books, and eating solid food
Wears: 3-6M and 6-9M in clothes (we’re in the midst of transitioning), size 2 diapers
Sleeping: 8:00PM-8:00AM plus 2 long naps during the day and a possible catnap in the early evening

I‘m so excited to welcome Kailee of Hair by Kailee to the blog today to talk about wedding hair! (Little known fact: when Kailee was still in cosmetology school, she did MY hair for my wedding day! And I still get compliments on it!) There’s so many different ways to do your wedding day hair: extensions, updos, curly, etc. I’d recommend taking a page from Kate Middleton and doing something that still looks like you, just a more polished version. My hair was short when I got married and I’ve never regretted that. I loved having it down and knowing that I absolutely looked like myself. 

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Is there any thing to avoid prior to the wedding day when it comes to hair?

I always tell my brides to schedule a trial run 2-4 weeks before the big day! And to not get a cut, color, or anything drastic like a perm in between the trial and wedding day!

How necessary is a trial run?

I always HIGHLY recommend doing a trial run! I believe the consultation with my brides is the most important part to make sure we’re on the same page! We go over details for how things will run on the day of, finalize how many people will be getting their hair done (so I know if I need an assistant(s), go over the schedule to make sure we have enough time, and make sure the place they want to get ready at will be enough space.

It also gives us time to play around with the veil, hair piece, or different hair styles if she’s torn between what she wants!

I always let them know that I think it’s best to schedule the trial run for hair, makeup, and the dress fitting on the same day! That way she can see it all come together! And to make sure it’s exactly what she really wants and not just a style she thought she liked on Pinterest.

What’s the best way for a bride to communicate what she wants?

I like when a bride brings pictures. The consultation is so important to me, and I ask lots of questions, and make sure I understand what she wants. Communication is so important because she might bring in a picture she thinks she likes, but in the end it might not be what she wants with her dress and truthfully might not like the style from the picture on herself! That’s why the trial is so important. I’m always very honest my brides. I want them to feel and look their absolute best and still feel comfortable!

How long does it take on the wedding day for hair?

I usually block off one hour for the bride, then 30-45 minutes for each bridesmaid.

What is your biggest piece of advice to brides when selecting their wedding hair?

If they’re wearing a veil, make sure the hairstyle will accommodate it. They want to look extra special on their wedding day, but I also remind them they want to feel comfortable and not to choose something that’s totally not “them”. For example, if a bride hates her hair pulled back, she’s probably going to want a hairstyle that’s half up, or loosely pulled to the side!

Dirty hair or clean hair on the wedding day?

I prefer clean hair! I always tell my brides I can “dirty” it up with product!

I also always tell them to make sure they blow dry it with a more dramatic part if that’s what they’re wanting for their wedding, compared to their normal part!

Every stylist is different, again this is where communication is key! Make sure you know what your stylist prefers!

I’ve been specializing in weddings for 6 years and I’m still so in love with them! I have such a passion for making brides’ dreams come true and helping them look their best on their big day! Take time to look at stylist’s Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to see if they’re the match for you! It’s so important to be on the same page. Call, email, or set up a meeting to get together and discuss details.

I am so excited to welcome Jenn from Harper Hadley Events to the blog today! I have loved working with and getting to know her over the past few years and, if there’s one thing you should know, she is kind through and through. That real kind. She’s genuine and sincere and organized nearly to a fault. Which is what makes her an amazing wedding planner/coordinator!

For this wedding tips Wednesday, I’ve asked her to talk about wedding planning, specifically day-of details that need to be done to make sure everything flows smoothly. (A wedding day is like one of those old water wheels…one stopped-up piece could potentially set off a chain reaction to many other pieces.) All of the stuff she lists below are things that your wedding planner will (or should) take care of on your wedding day. As you read over it, you’ll understand why a planner is well worth the investment. But that being said, we all know sometimes it’s not in the wedding budget, in which case, Jenn lays out what you should do to ensure a smooth, stress-free wedding day even if you don’t have a wedding planner! 

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There are so many moving parts that make up a wedding day. It is a wonderful and joyous occasion that should be spent celebrating with your loved ones. However, not everyone allows themselves that luxury (though I think you should!). If you are a bride without a wedding planner or day of coordinator, here are a few things to consider and tips to help make your day run more smoothly.

If you and your family are doing things, here are some things to plan for ahead of time and tasks that you’ll need to have covered. Whether it is your mom or another family member, whomever is your main go-to person will typically manage the following:

Set up & styling: unloading all of your décor, ironing linens, setting up your layout, filling candy dishes and snack table dishes, setting the tables, getting your champagne flutes at the head table, making sure all of the vendors have what they need, laying out all of the details and anticipating the flow of the night to have everything where it needs to be ahead of time. The styling aspect means getting things laid out exactly like you want in the way that you will have the best impact and what you envisioned.

They are often the point of contact for any vendors, family members, and your bridal party. You don’t want your phone ringing all day. You want to relax and enjoy. Often, moms get that task. It can be overwhelming or stressful for them, so be sure to set clear expectations and guidelines for what to answer, who is allowed to call, etc. Of course, you have to be flexible, but guidelines are always good.

Checking in with all vendors and making sure everything is ready on time, plus they have to get themselves dressed and to the ceremony on time. This does not take into account anything you have done beforehand. On that day, someone needs to ensure that everyone arrives and things are running smoothly.

Helping run the timeline for the day: If you don’t have a coordinator, someone has to help keep things on track. Moms and host/hostesses often assist with that. Once your photographer and DJ arrive, they help with a lot of that as well.

Making sure everything is exactly how you envision it. Your mom and family want your day to be just as amazing as you do and, from my experience, that can stress them out. They feel pressure to make you over the moon in love with the day and what they’ve done for you. Coordinators and planners do too, but we have the experience and expertise to focus on that while your family (and mama) is with you, enjoying the entire day.

Clean up/end of night tasks: making sure everything gets back to whom it belongs, packing up décor, getting leftover food and drink packed, busing tables, getting flowers to guests you gift them to or into the car safely, loading gifts into the car, sweeping the venue to be sure nothing is left behind, giving tips to applicable vendors.

While I truly believe that every bride deserves a wedding planner, I realize that not everyone is able to hire one. In that case, there are some things that you can do ahead of time to help your crew on the big day. These are tasks that I always facilitate with my brides, so that my team and I can focus on the tasks that must be done that day. Regardless of who is doing the work, these always help things run more smoothly.

Be explicitly clear what your expectations are. Draw out diagrams and even set up your tables. Take a photo so who ever is setting up knows what you expect and how you’d like it to look.

Be organized. Box everything by centerpiece and use, with very clear labels so there is no question about what it is for if you are not around.

Confirm vendors and timeline. Be sure that you have confirmed all delivery times with your vendors one to two weeks prior and advise your helpers and venue. Also be sure to create and share day of timelines and responsibility cards to anyone helping you and your vendors. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that the day will logistically flow well. Creating a timeline is paramount. Your photographer and DJ will often help with this, but knowing all of the moving parts is very helpful for all involved.

Have an exit plan! This is one of the things that people often forget. They get so wrapped up in the preparation that they often forget that you have to clean everything up. Know who will take what home. Here are the areas I always review with my couples. Be sure that you have at least two people assigned to each.

  • Food/beverage, left over cake, candy and snacks if you have a food table
  • Décor that you brought in and any rentals that you are responsible for returning
  • Gifts/cards
  • Flowers – they often get delivered, but you keep them after the fact. Are you going to have someone take them to your home or gift them? If you are gifting them, know who you want to give them to ahead of time and assign someone to ensure they receive the arrangements.
  • Any personal items that need to get to your hotel/into your transportation for the night.

As a planner, we wear many hats leading up to and on you wedding day. While many weddings are successful and wonderful without a planner, here are a few things that often go unnoticed or sneak up on people in the course of a wedding day.

  • Ceremony clean up
  • Picking up stray programs
  • Bussing tables at the reception
  • Helping make sure that food is cleared before toast pictures
  • Cleaning up as I can throughout the night so at the end, we just box and load what is left
  • Keeping candy/snack tables filled
  • Straightening things up to keep them looking nice
  • Helping the photographer style paper items and details if we are short on time – having it all ready and laid out when they arrive (Emily: from a photographer’s perspective, this is very, very helpful!)
  • Loading and unloading coolers and personal items on your transportation
  • Making sure the bridal party eats lunch and stays hydrated (I’ve been known to make sandwiches and pack them to go in the limo)
  • Washing and removing price stickers from dishes for candy/snack table displays
  • Ironing/steaming linens
  • Anticipating what you will need where and ensuring that is laid out and ready. (i.e. cake knife and server, forks, napkins and plate for your cake cutting, change of shoes under the bride’s seat for the dance portion of the night, getting drinks for the head table while they get their food – waitress style, etc.)

At Harper Hadley Events, my relationship with my couples and their relationships are my focus. That is my heart behind the business. Regardless of the services HHE couples choose, I put a lot of time into getting to know them, so that we are comfortable with each other on the day and because I sincerely care about each one of them. Many of my couples also become my friends and that is my favorite!

I always do a consultation to get to know my couples before booking. For month-of brides and grooms, we have 2 in-person meetings before the wedding, but I’m always available via email or phone. Some brides don’t want more than that. However, I am all about the relationships and I adore all of my couples. If they want to grab coffee and get to know each other better, I will always say yes!

A month out, we have a check in meeting for me to find out more about their wedding and then a hand off meeting in the two weeks before the big day. In that month, I am creating their timeline, checking in with all vendors, gathering their décor and details, as well as helping in any way I can to make the last few weeks run as smoothly as possible.

By the week of the wedding, I should know as much, if not more than, the bride about how the day will go, what details will be needed and the logistics. I want my couples to feel complete security in the fact that I am helping run their day, which means that I know the ins and outs like the back of my hand. In turn, that translates to them feeling pampered and free to fully enjoy their wedding day with their loved ones.

Regardless of your wedding day crew, there are the three tips I want you to keep in mind. If you do, your day will be absolute perfection.

  1. Work ahead. Don’t procrastinate.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Focus on what matters.

Xoxo, Jenn

Iowa City Engagement_Emily Crall_0415.jpgletter-i asked what he most admires about her. “That she’s smarter than me, but never tries to prove it. She has never judged me. She will give you anything she has because things don’t matter to her.” She says his unwavering kindness is a trait that she respects in him.

They met at a football game in 2011. “My friend, Rob, introduced me to his girlfriend, Christine, who is now his wife and also happens to be Walt’s older sister. Christine had both of her brothers in tow that day.” It wasn’t until two years later that they met again at Thanksgiving when the timing of missing two trains and changed plans put them at the same dinner. “There was one empty seat next to Walt…and so it began.”
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I met up with Kelly & Walt last weekend for their Iowa City engagement session. They brought along their adorable puppy, Bear, and he kind of stole the show.

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Kelly has a natural grace and beauty about her that few people still possess. She’s incredibly kind, but also self-confident and relaxed. I adore this about her.

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We’re finishing up our mini series on reception music (read part 1 and part 2) by talking with Travis of Unique Events about the order of events at your reception.

Is there a certain order for the reception events that will make it flow more smoothly?

There are certainly a number of ways that itineraries can be arranged and still flow well. A lot of it has to do with what the couple would like to do as well as how traditional they are trying to be. Ideally, the order is put together while considering the flow of the event. 

An example of this is the cake cutting. If you have a 4-tier cake that needs to be cut to be served to your guests after dinner, ideally your cake cutting would take place before dinner. This is suggested because it takes time to move, cut, and plate the cake for serving. A common issue with this scenario is couples who want the cake on display longer because they have invested a lot of money into making it look awesome so they will want to cut it after dinner. That can be done, just know that your guests are going to sit there for an extra 20-some minutes waiting for the cake to actually make it out. 

We can assist couples with talking through the pros and cons of different orders of events as well if they are looking for suggestions!

I always kid you guys about your energy drinks. Just how many Red Bulls do you go through during a reception? 

This certainly varies by DJ! A lot of it is just ritual, I think. Personally, I usually have an 8.4 oz Red Bull prior to guest arrival. Some of our staff can go through 3 Monster Energy Drinks in a day. This practice is not sanctioned by Unique Events or OSHA. 

Thanks so much to Travis for giving out so many tips! Armed with all of this knowledge, your reception should be a smashing success! Cheers!