I am gearing up for Maddie & Matt’s wedding in just a few more months, but absolutely loved shooting their engagement session earlier this spring! We had a relatively nice day as far as warmth goes for March in Iowa, but it was very overcast. That ended up being a huge blessing though because we were able to shoot everywhere and anywhere we wanted downtown without any iffy sun speckling that sometimes happens in the pedestrian mall.

Just as I was emailing Maddie with the first draft of their wedding day timeline, I got notice that their engagement session had been featured on Blushing Bells! Seeing it makes me so excited all over for their wedding day. I love seeing perfectly compatible people fall in love and choose to make a life together.

They are coming up on their 1 year anniversary and I can only hope that we have the same swift change of weather that we did last May! Leading up to Jaclyn & Jacob’s wedding day, it was blustering and cold, much like it is right now, but then we had the most glorious, warm sunshine on the weekend of their wedding and it could not have been more perfect.

Jaclyn chose blush pink and mint green and it was the perfect combination of elegant, classic, and modern all in one. I still love that she wore her mother’s wedding shoes. They broke just moments before the wedding and I have some behind-the-scenes photos of the dads all at work with a hot glue gun trying to fix them for her. It was a sweet moment that I’ll never forget.

Jaclyn & Jacob’s wedding has been featured over on Blushing Bells Iowa today and it makes me so happy to see all that sunshine and pretty Iowa weather in the photos.

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!