Monday Evening Roundup: Memorial Day Weekend

When it comes to planning, I tend to get a bit giddy. The more items I have crowding my calendar, the more excited I become about my upcoming days, weeks or months. That is why I was so excited for this weekend. Since Memorial Day weekend is typically the kickoff for summer, I was expecting tons of time on the beach, outdoor BBQs and frolics in the sunshine.

Well, the weather gods did not want me or anyone in the Chicago region to have any fun outdoors. It was chilly, rainy and overall gloomy Gus weather.

That did not stop me from going to a birthday bash and a BBQ, where I ate too much food, as always. Yet when the actually holiday rolled around on Monday, we had nothing planned. Luckily we have friends who always welcome us into their home, even on short notice. Of course, it helps that they just had twin boys and are always in need of an extra pair of hands. We ate enchiladas, refried beans and tons of oatmeal cookies. The men juggled and wore donuts on their heads to entertain Mariela while two generations of mothers fed hungry boys. There is nothing better than being a fly on the wall for these beautiful family moments.

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Need Ideas For Your Wedding? My Favorite Wedding Inspiration Websites

Long gone are the days when you had to go out and buy an armful of wedding magazines. Of course, you can still do that, but why bother when you can log online and spend countless hours perusing the web? Not to mention you will save a pretty penny on those albeit gorgeously printed magazines. With an internet connection and a laptop/PC, you can plan your whole wedding from the tiniest details to the grandest of events.

The problem is, where the heck do you start? There are countless websites devoted to brides, wedding planning ideas, caterers, and so much more. Since I love making lists, I am gifting you with this list of wedding planning websites that I think are so totally amazing. By the way, can you tell I am a child of the 80s? We sure did love using tons of super tubular adjectives to describe everything.

1. Style Me Pretty: Seriously, I cannot believe just how gorgeous this website is. While I love reading the love stories that accompany the galleries, I just cannot get enough of the images of actual weddings that have taken place around the country. While SMP has all of the important categories you need to plan your wedding, like vendors, wedding fashion and DIY galleries, I go back there almost daily to get even more ideas for my own wedding photography.

2. The Perfect Palette: This website is so darn cool. Whether you have already chosen your color theme for the wedding (hello coral and seafoam green!) or just can’t decide which colors will best represent you, this website has all of the tools that you need. You can search by color to pick out accessories, table settings, boutonnieres, and so much more. If you have a few hundred hours to waste, this is a great website at which you can waste them.

3. Green Wedding Shoes: As much as I love Style Me Pretty, I can also rely on Green Wedding Shoes to provide me with endless gorgeous photos and ideas for my own photography. It has tons of inspiration, DIY ideas and honeymoon tips, perfect for helping you plan your important day.

4. Green Bride Guide: Who says you can’t celebrate your big day in a green way? Green Bride Guide helps you plan your wedding in a way that will leave a small carbon footprint. You can see examples of actual green weddings and read tips from fellow eco-friendly brides. This is a must-read for anyone who is trying to be green for their wedding day.

5. Offbeat Bride: Sure, I love pretty pastels, rhinestones and gorgeous bouquets as much as the next girl. But I also love brides that choose unique wedding venues and themes for their wedding days. That is where Offbeat Bride comes in. This website caters only to weddings that don’t want to be “normal” or “traditional”. You might see dinosaurs, robots, Big Foot, rainbows, leprechauns or pranks played on the bride and groom at an Offbeat Bride wedding. If you want something that cannot be duplicated for your big day, check out this awesome website for ideas.

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Amber and Justin: Milwaukee, WI Engagement Session

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Amber and Justin, an adorable couple from Milwaukee. Born and raised in this quiet city, they had a great time during our photo shoot. We went to several locations at Lake Park, a massive public park that has endless gorgeous photographic possibilities. Towards the end of the shoot, two special guests made an appearance: their sweet dogs! Although they were full of energy and did not want to participate in the shoot, we had a great time trying.










Monday Evening Roundup

There is nothing quite like getting away to refresh the mind, body and soul…even if the journey only takes you two hours.

This weekend Mike and I took a last-minute romantic rendezvous to the Abbey at Lake Geneva, WI. We celebrated our one-year anniversary with massages, amazing pizza and s’mores. How cool is that? The Abbey starts up a fire every weekend and sets up a s’mores station. I won’t tell you how many I ate but it was just the right amount.

When we returned to Chicago I was back in the car the next day to do two shoots in Milwaukee: an engagement shoot and a family shoot. Of course, pictures to follow. As soon as I got back from the fun but tiring shoots, I had to get ready for the big event of the week: WPPI On the Road. This 2-day seminar was chock-full of amazing photographers that inspired and taught me so much. While I cannot pick my favorite speaker from today, I truly appreciated each one for different reasons. A huge thank-you goes out to Blair Phillips, Mike Long, Jared Platt, Sandy Puc, and David and Whitney Scott for showing me that the road to becoming a successful photographer is often a long, difficult road, but one well worth traveling.

Allia and Brian: Milwaukee Engagement Session

Almost 8 years ago I stepped off a plane in Tokyo and thought “Oh my God, what the heck am I doing in Japan?” I was a little nervous until I met Allia, who took me under her wing and taught me everything I needed to know about living in a foreign country.

Who knew that six years later I would move to Chicago, just a 2 hour drive from Allia? When I learned about her engagement to Brian, I immediately offered to shoot their engagement session. Knowing Allia, I knew it would be fun and just a little bit quirky. As you will see from the pictures, Allia and Brian are super crazy in love with each other. They love playing board games, video games and pretending to be superheroes – okay, just for this shoot, but they sure looked like they knew what they were doing. Even though it was a bit chilly in Milwaukee that day, we had gorgeous blue skies which made the giant orange sculpture in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum pop.

These two were so good at hamming it up for the camera and kissing that I nearly had to pull them apart at times. I just can’t get enough of a love like that.

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Monday Evening Roundup

Phew, I am bushed!

I had a busy weekend filled with an engagement session in Milwaukee (stay tuned for photos!), plant shopping for our garden and a yummy dinner at Las Palmas for Mother’s Day.


Today I spoke with a blushing bride about her wedding next May and I am already getting excited. To top it all off, my wonderful boyfriend is assuming the chef role again and preparing dinner for us. And yes, cookies are an important ingredient in every meal.


Could a girl get any luckier?

How To Prepare For Your Engagement Session

When I shot my first engagement session, I knew that my life had changed. After I shot my first wedding, my heart burst and I realized that I had finally found the type of photography that I was to pursue forever.

There is nothing more fun that giving two people free rein to just enjoy being with each other, to be silly and romantic, all while capturing the moments to treasure forever. That is why I adore engagement sessions. However, my brides-to-be are usually a little nervous about the session. There are questions about what to wear, what will happen and what to expect. In order to relax my couples, I give them some advice. Keep reading to learn more about an engagement session and how you can prepare for yours:

1. Theme: I first tell my couples to take some time and search the Internet. I ask them to come back to me with images that they find interesting, that they would want to try or just pick out parts of an image that appeals to them. With these images I can start to create a game plan for the engagement session to ensure that they get everything they were hoping for, and more. I admit it, I am a little more than obsessed with Pinterest, which is why I you should turn to my Pinterest board to get ideas. In fact, I’ve even had a couple create a Pinterest board and add me as an admin so that we could share ideas.

2. Outfits: With a theme in mind, it is easier to help couples choose an outfit (or two or three!) to wear on the day of the engagement shoot. If you research this theme, most websites will direct the couple to wear simple outfits that have similar or matching elements. While I do agree with this to a certain extent, this is your day and you should wear whatever you want. If that means a big sombrero or tie-dye shirts, so be it. The only thing I would definitely recommend is to be comfortable. If you are not at ease in your clothes, it will show in your pictures.

3. Hair/Makeup: Some brides use the engagement session as a chance to test out their wedding day hair and makeup. If you don’t want to give away your style for the big day, you should still visit the salon and get a fresh blowout or cut. Not only will you look great, you will feel confident and beautiful for your pictures. One pet peeve I have is when people come to a shoot with chipped nail polish. Make sure you either get a fresh coat or remove it entirely! Pampering isn’t limited to the ladies, however: have your guy get a fresh shave at the barbershop and he will feel just as good as you do.

4. Props: I always ask my couple if they have something tangible that is meaningful to them. Props are a great way to give idle hands something to hold during a session, but also give even more meaning to the final image. If you both love ice cream, go to a cute ice cream shop and share a cone. Can’t get enough of board games? Bring one along and the smiles will naturally follow.

5. Location: Picking a spot to shoot your engagement session can be difficult. Some people choose to leave it up to their photographer while others take control and choose a location for themselves. I love shooting outdoor locations but it is best to pick a spot that is meaningful to you and your significant other. If you have the time, try to pick at least two places, preferably not too far from one another. I think it is nice when couples change locations and outfits to bring variety to a shoot.

6. Have Fun: Seriously, this is important! This may be one of the last chances you get before your wedding to just enjoy being with one another without worrying about choosing flowers, picking a cake and wondering where to seat Aunt Mildred. Allow yourself to just let go for a few hours and relax. Make sure that you find a photographer who you feel comfortable with and will bring out the best in you. Remember, this person will most likely be shooting your wedding as well, so you want to build a comfortable rapport with him/her during the engagement session.