Quad Cities Botanical Wedding © Emily Crall_0252.jpg“I was on a bus in Florence. I was living there for a semester abroad, studying studio art and art history and language and being in my hands-down favorite city ever, getting a taste of everything life on my own could be at its very finest, and I was sitting on the bus realizing that that didn’t cut it anymore. Wonderful as it all was, my best daydreams weren’t quite complete without him — and even though it would be a lot longer before I could consciously admit 110% certainty that he was it, that was the first time I understood on some level that my priorities had shifted.”

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I’ve photographed a few very intimate weddings before and, each time, I’m reminded how much I love the simplicity of small weddings. I joined Erin & Julian and their immediate families last Thursday for their wedding at the Quad Cities Botanical Garden. It was everything you could imagine for a perfect day: beautiful flowers and a relaxing environment.

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I love how happy they are together. When she listed her time in Florence as the time she knew they would be together forever, he agreed, listing the same time frame: “We skyped every Sunday morning (the only time our schedules could be synced). Every time we hung up I just couldn’t help but be very excited to talk to her in a week’s time. It became apparent that we were both very confident in each other and were committed to getting through the tough times. We weathered the storm well and after that it was pretty clear that we both wanted to be with each other for as long as we could.”

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Erin is an avid reader (and a librarian!) and an incredibly gifted artist. Julian is a genius when it comes to energy efficiency (and I’m also jealous of his green thumb) and says, “I know it’s naive and improbable, but I would like to make a difference in the world. I just feel it is my duty to try and improve the world we live in. I’m not sure how, but if an opportunity presents itself, I would not hesitate to take it.” Being invited into their home was such a perfect way to see their interests and talents in action.

Quad Cities Botanical Wedding © Emily Crall_0272.jpgQuad Cities Botanical Wedding © Emily Crall_0273.jpgQuad Cities Botanical Wedding © Emily Crall_0274.jpgTheir ceremony was held in the center of the sun garden with their parents, grandmas, and brothers present. It’s always such an honor to document a wedding like this, especially since I end up being the only one present who is not immediately related (or related at all, actually).
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Quad Cities Botanical Wedding © Emily Crall_0280.jpgQuad Cities Botanical Wedding © Emily Crall_0281.jpgJulian’s ring is made out of a meteorite; how incredible is that?! I loved hearing the whole story of how it was custom made for him.
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Erin & Julian, thank you from the bottom of my heart for inviting me into your wedding day. I am so so so happy for you two and have loved getting to know you and your families. I hope when you look back, you see the laughter and the smiling faces of those who love you.

letter-welcome to another installment of Wedding Tips Wednesday! (You can see last week’s post about every bride’s survival kit here.)

This week we’re diving into wedding makeup! I really love makeup and it’s not just because I was a licensed esthetician at one point in my life. I think makeup is so fun. But more than that, makeup can be used to enhance a person’s natural beauty in a way that shows up absolutely stunningly (did I just make up a word?) in photos!

I am welcoming a professional makeup artist, Nichole of 100% Pure Pro, to the blog to help answer some questions and give advice to brides planning their wedding day look.

Let’s first talk about the difference between airbrushed and hand-applied makeup. Airbrush make-up is on the rise and becoming extremely popular. First off, let’s go over how airbrush is different. Airbrush make-up gives you a flawless appearance without the feel of heavy make-up due to it being virtually weightless. It is also a more sanitary way to apply make-up because the artist or technician does not need to touch the face and no brushes are used.  Airbrush make-up is also camera friendly! (I agree!)

There are a few things brides need to keep in mind when choosing an artist to apply airbrush make-up and it has to do with the formula. Airbrush make-up has better longevity and durability than hand applied make-up ONLY if the correct formula is being used.

There are two types of formulas that can be used: silicone and water-based. Silicone-based is meant to give a sheer to light coverage and is best for DRY skin types. If you use silicone-based on oily skin or under warm conditions you should be prepared for the makeup to slide. Water-based is a medium to full coverage formula and is best for normal to oily skin types. This formula has a 22-hour staying power. 

Is there anything a person needs to do beforehand to “prep” the skin? Airbrush make-up is best when applied directly to a clean face. No moisturizer, no primers, etc. There are products that are specifically formulated to work with airbrush make-up. For example, if we have a dry client, we would not put a moisturizer on before we spray the makeup on. We have an “airbrush moisturizer” that is sprayed directly over the foundation to add hydration. Some regular products can negatively affect the longevity and wearability of the formula being used.

Do you recommend a trial application before the wedding day? In my business, we require a trial run for our brides and, yes, I would highly recommend this. A trial run ensures that the bride is completely satisfied with the end result and it is best to get all the kinks out before the big day.

How long will it take on a wedding day for makeup to be done? I can’t speak for other artists, but my team is really fast with make-up. I actually train my team to complete an application in 30 minutes. We always plan a little extra (just in case) but 30 minutes is very practical for airbrushing or hand applying.

I know a big concern for makeup is that brides want to look like themselves, but also look glamorous. What’s your advice for making sure this can be achieved? We require a photo of the bride up front as well as a detailed consultation form. We then prepare a “story board” for the bride which includes examples of different looks that we would think compliment her best. The artist should focus on enhancing not changing what the bride looks like.  The groom should be able to recognize his bride! The trial is the best way to ensure that the bride still feels like herself.

Going along with that, what’s the best way for a bride to communicate what look she wants? The best way to communicate what the bride wants is again a very detailed consultation and trial run, but even more importantly for the bride to be completely honest.  In most cases, the artist has no idea what a bride looks like on a day to day basis so it is extremely important to give honest feedback as to what she does or does not like. 

Lastly, what are some tips for keeping makeup from smearing/running throughout the day? And, if something does happen, what’s the easiest way to fix it? To ensure that the make-up is incredibly durable, be sure the artist is using waterproof eyeliner and mascara and we also recommend a lip stain. If the foundation starts to slide throughout the day, powdering will help. Be sure to ask your artist if they offer a touch-up kit just in case!

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letter-it was during their Junior year of college at Augustana when they first met. They casually dated that year, she says, but went their separate ways at the end of the year. It didn’t take long, however, before she realized how much she missed him and just wanted to be with him. They began dating again their Senior year and “the rest is history! Throughout our six years of dating, there have been so many moments that have made me love [him] even more and more!”

I met Jessica & Jordan at the Lake MacBride Fossil Gorge for their engagement session and absolutely loved getting to know them! They had me laughing from the first moment and, even with their humor, they are also so genuine and caring. Ironically, after their shoot, I was rereading a little they had written about each other and Jess perfectly sums up what I can already concluded about both of them: “Jordan has a great sense of humor that keeps me laughing every day. He is a very hard worker and always strives to be and do the best he can. He’s very level-headed and easy-going.” When asked what he would say are her best qualities, she answered, “I think Jord would say that I am caring, willing to help others, and a great cook. (Haha, just kidding. But he better.)” (Jordan didn’t mention her cooking, but he did say that she’s compassionate and really goes above and beyond because she’s a very caring person.)

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Lake MacBride Fossil Gorge Engagement © Emily Crall_0199.jpg(Jordan & Jess, this shot! I die laughing because I love it and you two so much!!!) ^
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letter-in my years of experience photographing weddings, I’ve started to notice a pattern in the urgent, “Hey, does anyone have a _____?” This wedding day survival kit list is by no means comprehensive, but does include some of the items that are most requested on wedding days. These are all small items and will easily fit into an empty makeup bag.

  1. Travel sewing kit – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to sew on a wedding day! Which is why I am repeatedly very glad my mother was seamstress and taught me at least the basics. I’ve stitched bridesmaids gowns, sewn buttons on, and fixed fallen beads on a wedding gown. The only thread colors you really need are white (or ivory), black, and the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, but if you have a travel kit, you’ll most likely have a sample of colors to choose from. Check it beforehand to make sure your wedding colors are represented.
  2. Tide To Go (pen or wipes)- It rarely happens, but every once in a while, someone will step in mud or spill soda on their dress or ketchup on a white dress shirt. You hope you won’t need it, but this little pen will ease any worry of an accident.
  3. Lint roller – The two biggest uses for a lint roller are for the bridesmaids gowns (there’s just so much hair everywhere in the bridal suite!) and the men’s suits. Lint or dirt shows up so so so quickly against those dark suits!
  4. Safety pins – Safety pins are such a genius invention! They fix everything! These can be used for everything from a bustle to a tablecloth. Want to be the queen of prepared? Have several different sizes in your kit.
  5. Band-aids – Most of the time, the shoes you wear on your wedding day are new. New shoes means blisters. And when you’re walking and standing most of the day in new shoes on a warm day, it means extra blisters. Have enough of your kit for both of your feet (heels, big toes) and maybe your maids’ feet too. Most of the time, you won’t even realize your feet are tired until right after the ceremony when you’re breathing a big happy sigh and then it’ll hit you, wham, take off all the shoes!
  6. Bobby pins – You’ll probably have a lot leftover from your hair stylist, but somehow there are still times that I’ve taken bobby pins straight out of my hair and used them for the bride. (This is why if my hair is up, I purposely put some extra bobbies in my hair.) You never know how a stray hair might behave in a slight breeze.
  7. Floss – At some point in the day, you need to eat. Typically, this falls right after hair/makeup, but right before getting into your dress. It’s a good idea to do a quick floss after you eat to make sure you don’t have anything stuck in your teeth right before photos. Although, if I see it, I will be helpful enough to let you know.
  8. Q-Tips – These are great to have on hand for more than just eyeliner smudges. Q-tips come in handy for so many little things. If you don’t have them, chances are you’ll wish you did.
  9. Tissues – Blot don’t wipe. While I’m normally a huge fan of the oil absorbing sheets, tissues can do the job in a pinch and it’s one less thing to carry since tissues have many times the function. Nose runs, teary eyes, oily shine, too-much-lipstick, you name it, a small pack of these is pretty necessary.
  10. Vaseline – Rather than applying and reapplying sticky lip gloss, the grooms like this little tip: apply a beautiful lip stain with a lipstick over the top. Top that with vaseline and then just keep applying vaseline as needed throughout the day. It keeps that glossy shine (the color has already been locked in with the stain), but isn’t sticky or smeary for the kissing photos.
  11. Evian facial spray – This stuff is a lifesaver for summer weddings! I keep a can in my camera bag and it’s the most refreshing feeling ever for those high temp/high humidity days. It’s a fine mist so it won’t ruin fabric or even smear makeup! It’s the next best thing to a glass of ice water. (I’ve also heard great things about Frogg Toggs and had a bride provide one for her groom. I haven’t put this to use yet, but I think the concept is awesome!)
  12. Eyelash glue – Even if your makeup is professionally done and those falsies aren’t going anywhere, they still do sometimes. It may be the tears, it may be the extra blinking (if you’re not used to those long, thick lashes on your lids), it may be the weather! It’s better to be prepared than to have to pull both sets off just because one is causing trouble. (Q-tips are also helpful in the application of this on the go.)
  13. Crochet hook – Not because you’ll be sitting around making a hat. If your dress has any kind of buttons on the back, a crochet hook will save you so much time both in getting your dress on and later in the night being able to get back out of it.
  14. Pain reliever – Pick your favorite headache reducer. Sometimes it’s the alcohol, sometimes the heat, sometimes the reality of the big-big-very-big-day, but your body has a way of trying to slow you down. Help keep your aches at bay.
  15. Small scissors – I can count on one hand the amount of times I haven’t needed a scissors as the ladies are getting dressed. The gowns are all brand new and still in their garment bags…which means all the tags are still attached. Many ladies also prefer to cut off the hanger straps since they have a tendency to want to come out as the day goes on. Please don’t rip the tags or the straps with your teeth. I’ve seen a few chiffon dresses not take a liking to that.

Are there any items not on this list that you think are essential parts of a bride’s survival kit? Let me know in the comments!


Long before I became a wedding photographer, I loved decor and styling. I have always loved art, but even more (and maybe the older I get?), I love personal art. Personal art means something to me. So when it came time to decorate our first condo and then later our home, I wanted to invest in art pieces that were personal and unique. The easiest way to do this? Canvas gallery wraps.

In brief, a canvas gallery wrap is a photo printed on canvas material and stretched tightly around a wooden frame. As you’ll see below, canvases don’t have to be photos of people. They can be of anything! Here are some examples of canvases I have in our home.


This floral canvas is a photo that my good friend, Jill, took and gave to me to use. I had it printed in a large 30×40 size and hung it in our entryway. To many, it’s a stunning photo of beautiful flowers. And it is. But to me, it’s so much more than that because there’s a person behind it. (She gave me about 8 photos to pick from so I could get the one that fit best in our home! How wonderful is she?!)

In our bedroom, I had some canvases made soon after we got married from our wedding. I would love to get some new family photos of us and print a giant canvas for one of the walls. For now, I’m keeping these up. They are precious to me because, well, it’s us…on our wedding day. What better wall art than that?

In 2013, we took a somewhat last minute vacation to Colorado. It was such a fun trip that we both comment on a lot. (We also can’t wait to take Henry there someday!) We hiked and explored and spent a week soaking up the beautiful late summer in Breckenridge. I took some of my favorite photos from that trip and had them made into canvases to do a canvas wall gallery in the basement.


I’ll be posting soon on how to select the size of canvas you’ll need for your wall. (Hint: bigger is always better when it comes to canvases.) In the meantime, I hope this gives you a good idea of what a canvas gallery wrap is and how it could look in various parts of your home.

For my clients: you can order canvas gallery wraps directly through your PASS gallery. Think outside the box: it doesn’t have to be a photo of you! It can be some of the detail shots, your florals, or a large photo of your bridal party!

letter-in our six years of marriage, this past year has brought about the biggest change. (He goes by Henry.) We found out I was pregnant last year, just a few days before our fifth wedding anniversary. Your surprise trip to Chicago ended up with a lot of vomiting and a lot of napping in the hotel room, but I still treasure that trip. Maybe even more than I would have otherwise. It was simultaneously our last trip as the two of us and our first trip as the three of us.

During this past year, you’ve supported me in every way possible through a tough pregnancy, a busy wedding season, and then, of course, the hormonal craziness that is “new mom” and “I don’t know what I’m doing.” You showed me this past year how truly steadfast you are.

I remember on our wedding day thinking that I couldn’t love you more. Even though I had been told that love grows over time, it still just seemed impossible. Yet each year that goes by gets better and better. Do we work hard on our marriage? Of course. We’d suffer greatly if we didn’t. But it’s so rewarding to share my life with you.

I want to continue laughing with you, loving you, parenting with you, holding hands with you, sharing chores with you, and growing older with you. Before there was Henry, there was just us. And forever on, you and I will be the groundwork, the foundation, to our little family. I couldn’t be more proud of us.

Happy anniversary, my love.

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