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June 3, 2015


A lot of my wedding couples want to use a photo (or two) for their save the date cards. Typically, the actual invitation is more formal, but the save the date is a really fun way to put your best face forward (pun fully intended). I’m going to break down my tips into two categories: one for photographers and one for the couple.

First off, photographers…


1) Shoot off-centered. For photographers, this is known as the rule of thirds. By placing the couple to the right or left of the frame, you are giving room for text on the other side. By all means, don’t shoot all of the photos this way, but I know from working with many designers how happy they are to have room to place a text overlay. (This works especially great for horizontal save the dates.)

2) Shoot horizontal and vertical. This gives your clients plenty of options to choose from when they are decided their card design.
3) Shoot a mixture of angles and compositions. This includes a wide shot (again, giving room on the photo for text) and a really tight shot, like of the hands or arms intertwined. The tight shots are very great for “background” photos if the couple wants to overlay text directly in the center.

4) Sometimes the photo the couple ends up picking is not one that you’d initially think would easily fits into a design space. Don’t worry. There are so many beautiful templates available that nearly any photo can work depending on the design. If the couple is working with a design company, the professionals can advise them on what looks best or make a photo work into the space. By giving a variety to choose from though, you’ve covered all the bases and that means they can easily pick a photo that means the most to them based on their interaction, body language, smiles, etc. And that’s really the most important thing.


1) If you know in advance that you’ll be using a photo for your invitation or save the date, try to coordinate your clothing choices with your wedding. Your entire paper suite will be based on the colors and/or theme you have chosen for your wedding so the photo (and you guys in said photo) should also coordinate with that. This couple was having a Gatsby-themed wedding so they incorporated that style directly into their engagement session. And their final save the date looked awesome because of it. (If you’re looking for some cool save-the-date styles, check out Paperless Post!)

2) Regarding tip 1, know that if all else fails, you can use a black & white image. Black and white images look especially great with gold foil lettering or if you want to make a pop with the text.

3) Go into your engagement shoot with an open mind. It’s difficult as an artist to have a couple say, “we’ve already picked out our save the date so can you take a photo that fits into this template?” While it’s doable, the Murphy’s law chances are really high that you’ll end up loving a different photo even better and then you’ll be in a pickle. Choose the one that fit your pre-determined template or choose the one that you absolutely adore? I’d definitely rather pick one that showcases love the best and then pick the design around that.

4) Make sure that you’re on the same page as your photographer. I always tell my couples that I want to capture their true selves. If they are a silly couple who always laughs, they’re probably not going to love photos of them being really serious. Why? Because that’s not how they see themselves in their daily lives. Your photos (both engagement and wedding!) should reflect who you are as individuals and a couple.

5) Relax. Your engagement shoot is about so much more than getting an image for a card. Your engagement session is a time to practice with your photographer and to breathe in the excitement of your wedding day coming up. By the time you’re done with your engagement session, you’ll be pros and that will leave you so much more comfortable for wedding day photos. Think of the engagement session as a trial run. You can’t mess up.

May 27, 2015

FILED IN: Business, Tips

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Ahhh, finding a dress to wear while photographing a wedding. The elusive wedding day dress has proven to be harder to find than I ever would’ve imagined. Over the years, I have figured out what works and what doesn’t. Cap sleeves, for example, look super cute, but bite into your arms when you’ve got your right arm lifted all day while shooting. Full skirts are also really cute and flattering for almost every body type, but on windy days, you’ll be doing a Marilyn Monroe.

I’ve determined that my clothing choice on a wedding day should be professional, but yet not detract me from my job. I don’t want to be pulling my skirt down or adjusting my neckline all day. I want to look nice, but then be able to forget about my clothing and just work.

With that in mind, here is my criteria when shopping for dresses:

  • Knee-length – This is a personal preference based on what I feel most comfortable in and what looks best on me. I know that when I’m shooting, the hem comes up (because my right arm is lifted with the camera to my face) so I keep that in mind when noticing hemlines. If the dress is sleeveless, there will be less hem-lifting when my arm is raised, but still some. Thankfully, midi-length has made a roaring comeback and so it’s become a lot easier to find longer hemlines. If it’s a true midi length, you can always hem it up if you want it closer to knee-length.
  • Pockets – A must-have for me. I already carry around so much stuff in my bags so having pockets keeps some items (like my phone and the wedding day timeline) within reach at all times. Depending on how much pocket room I have, my Expo Disc will end up in there as well, along with some chapstick.
  • Modest – I prefer higher necklines for wedding days because I don’t want to keep adjusting throughout the day. I’m moving so much (bending, reaching, lifting, squatting, etc.) and I don’t want to worry about cleavage.
  • Sleeveless (preferably) – It gets really hot in the summer so I like the option of having bare arms outside and then throwing on a cardigan when inside in the air-conditioning. Also, I’ve learned the hard way that some sleeves can be too tight when lifting my arms or, worse, rub on my skin and cause a fabric burn.
  • Dark colors like navy or black – This isn’t a deal breaker. I have played around with color before and it was fine. But since my main goal is to blend in with guests, wearing a bright red dress probably doesn’t help. Darker colors also help hide sweat, which is a gross, but real problem when working a full day in the heat and humidity.

So where is one to find a dress that fits into the above criteria? Well, some of it is luck. But a lot of it is just plain searching and searching until you find it. Here are some of my favorite shops:

  • eShakti – They custom-make the dress to fit you. Done. You can customize the hem, the neckline, and the sleeve-length. Submit your body measurements and, wah-lah, you have a dress that is tailored to your exact needs. It’s almost magical in it’s ease. (First time buyers can get up to $40 off and they are always running sales. Sometimes you can even get an additional 10-15% off just by shopping on your mobile.)
  • Boden – They’re a British-based company so no wonder I love their styles. Their clothing is usually very wash- and wrinkle-friendly. And the silhouettes are flattering to many body types.
  • Land’s End – I used to think LE was a place only for the mature woman, but they’ve really revamped their look. A lot of their dresses are tailored for the “working woman” and typically what passes in an office is classy and modest enough for a wedding day.
  • ASOS – Leave it to the Brits to have the best fashion. I love ASOS for many of my clothes, besides just dresses. You can tell immediately that this is more of a younger demographic than the other stores, but they are constantly updating their inventory and it pays to keep checking. One thing I will note, it’s easy to find longer lengths here, but hard to find pockets. This dress would be perfect if it just came in another color. I use their “refine” sidebar a lot when shopping to help narrow down the listings to find what I am looking for. If you’re shooting weddings while pregnant, check out their maternity line. I got all of my maternity dresses here! (Also worth noting, a lot of dresses from ASOS are unlined so you may need a slip.)
  • Shabby Apple – They have really cute, modest dresses, but unfortunately, don’t often include pockets. I rarely find anything here for that reason alone, but it could definitely fulfill all the other categories if you don’t care about pockets.

May 20, 2015


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.

May 13, 2015


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

May 6, 2015


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!

April 29, 2015


We’re continuing our talk on reception music with Travis of Unique Events of Iowa. Last week, we talked about how to make your reception fun. This week, we’re diving into your first dance and how to pick a song that is meaningful to you.

Every couple wants a special first dance. How should they go about picking a song, especially if they don’t have one that is meaningful to both of them?

We get asked relatively often what we suggest for a first dance song and, although you would assume a DJ could just rattle 10 songs off at will, with a first dance song it’s really not that easy! We feel like a couple should be clicking with their first dance song and that’s what makes suggesting songs so difficult. 

I usually recommend creating a Pandora station with a few songs that you like then sit back and listen. A lot of times you’ll come across a song you never knew existed or that you completely forgot about that works perfectly! We can tell (and I imagine a camera can too) when a couple is just out there dancing to a song compared to a couple that has a connection to a song.

For reference, I did some online research for the 10 most popular first dance songs. You can follow Travis’ advice and make a Pandora station from any of these and see where the rabbit hole takes you! You may find your perfect first dance song!

  • “At Last” by Etta James
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz
  • “You Are The Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne
  • “All of Me” by John Legend
  • “Better Together” by Jack Johnson
  • “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri
  • “Everything” by Michael Bublé
  • “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes
  • “Then” by Brad Paisley
  • “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele

Any tips for the parent dances?

For a parents dances, I like a good surprise for the guests! A fun dance (especially if the parent wouldn’t be expected to partake in a fun dance) can really get the crowd going!

Who’s responsible for picking the songs in general for the evening (for open dance floor and such), the couple or the DJ?

Whoever! Although we appreciate being trusted by our clients to use our expertise to play to their mass of people, some  clients want a more specific selection of music that they have hand picked. Generally our clients give us a few (5-10) songs that they must hear throughout the night. With that list and after discussing their general music preferences, we can confidently pick music throughout the night that not only makes them happy, but their guests as well.

Thanks again, Travis, for all your tips! We’ll conclude this mini series next week when we talk about the order of events at your reception. Believe it or not, it ties in very closely with how much fun your guests will have!

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