Planning The Best Bachelorette Party

About The Bride’s Bachelorette Party
Shelby, the bride/my bestie, picked Nashville and I took care of the rest! The Bachelorette party planning started in January 2016 and the date for the party was set for October 2016. The first thing on my mind was booking a place to stay. With the bridesmaids help, we booked a beautiful home in the 12 South neighborhood of Nashville from VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). And the house was AH-MAZING! 

We had a quiet night in on Friday night once everyone arrived. We ate pizza, shared a drink and the girls opened their goodie bags :) Shelby was so surprised by the T-Shirts I had made, which were designed to resemble her favorite TV show, Friends! Of course, we also had Friends playing on the TV throughout the weekend. 

Saturday, we had brunch at the house and walked around Nashville. Our ubers dropped us off in front of the Walk of Fame and journeyed up a pedestrian bride nearby that offered the most beautiful views of the city. We even found a fountain that reminded us of the show, Friends. How perfect! We also grabbed some fun shots in front of an awesome wall that read, Nashville. AND I found a "Shelby Street" sign on the way over! 

Of course, we decorated the house in preparation for Shelby's big night out, had a lingerie party, a photo booth and then dashed off for dinner at Sambuca. Shelby LOVED the restaurant and they even brought her a dessert that said, Congratulations. Next up was our pedal ride with Dan at Nashville Pedal Tavern. We rode the pedal ride around Nashville stopping at bars along the way. Dan was AWESOME and made that pedal ride so enjoyable. After the pedal ride we danced the night away at Honky Tonk Central. We went to one bar beforehand for some live country music. Honky Tonk Central also had a live band and a great variety of music. We didn't even leave that bar until Shelby was read to go home! 

Shelby had a wonderful time and that's all I wanted, so the party was a success! So thankful for her awesome bridesmaids too for making it happen! 

Planning a Bachelorette Party
If you're someone who is planning a Bachelorette Party or would like to know where I purchased some of the items you see, read on because I have some pointers for you! 

Picking a Place:
This is the only thing that I made sure the bride had to think about, because the place where the Bachelorette party takes place depends on many different things....price and distance being the main factor. She will know best what her bridesmaids will be comfortable with and the bride will probably want a say on where the party takes place :)  

Picking a Date: 
Doodle was an awesome tool for asking 8 girls how their schedules looked. I could easily send out a poll on a few dates to see who was available and who was not.  I started the date search in January and didn't get one picked until 3 to 4 weeks later. It all worked our perfectly being two weeks before the wedding, but this was one of the hardest parts in planning. So, start your date search far in advance. Also, do your best to get everyone there but, come to the reality that not every single person can make it (even if you start your search 8 months early) and that is OKAY! 

Accommodations: 
After booking a date, the most important thing to do is booking a place to stay. The home I booked is now booked for the next year and a half! I highly highly suggest VRBO, Vacation Rental By Owner. The house had a bed for everyone, had a big common area, and plenty of room to spread out. And having a kitchen allowed us to skip long lines for breakfast and cook at home. Also, the neighborhood of 12 South was safe and only a 5 to 10 minute drive to downtown which was important.

Activities:
Do research on what you think they bride will want to do while you are there and BOOK it as soon as possible. If you're in Nashville, be sure to take a picture in front of the Nashville wall located at 625 Main Street Nashville, TN. Such a great backdrop! The pedal ride with Nashville Pedal Tavern was one of the highlights of the trip! I highly suggest booking a private tour so that you can enjoy your own music and private time with your group. Book this no later than 6 weeks out. It will sell out! I also bought lids for our cups which were so great because your ride gets bumpy and your drink will spill all over you! 

Food: 
I read so many great things about Sambuca in Nashville and let me just confirm, that yes, that restaurant is perfect! The sweet potatoes were delish. The Gulch neighborhood in Nashville is the perfect place to eat dinner! I booked dinner reservations 4 weeks in advance.

Decorations:
One word: Etsy! :)
Some items that we used, I did not picture. But, they were a hit so I will list them below.
Gold Tattos
Party Straws
BRIDE Ballon
Balloons
Pedal Ride Banner
Bachelorette Sash
Bachelorette Veil with Bow
Cupcake Toppers
Banner
I Regret Nothing Bags

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Honeymoon Advice & Our Honeymoon to Hawaii

 

When my husband and I got married last year, we were also moving/cosmetically renovating our new home. Our Bachelor/Bachelorette weekends were both two weeks before the big day. So, we decided to have a delayed honeymoon, four months after the wedding, and it was the best thing for us. I think it’s a good idea for anyone who has a wedding plus one other major life event (such as buying your first house). When our fall wedding ended, I felt like I hit a brick wall. We had so much going on and then everything fell quiet. We really looked forward to the honeymoon as we took our time planning and enjoying the holidays as a newly married couple.

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So, off we went to.... Hawaii!

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HONEYMOON ADVICE
I learned a few things along the way and wanted to share my advice with anyone who is planning a honeymoon.

Picking a location
After deciding on a budget for your special trip, I think picking a location that suits your personality as a couple is important! David and I knew we wanted adventure mixed in with beach and rest. It suited my laid back personality and his go-getter style. But, we both love adventure so Hawaii gave us plenty to explore!

Treat Yo’ Self
Honeymoons can get expensive (I’m looking at you, Hawaii) but, be sure to have a few things on your list that you know both of you will enjoy! We decided to treat ourselves when it came to renting cars on each island. We got a jeep for the Big Island and a convertible for Oahu. David did most of the driving which he really enjoyed and I had fun taking the wheel from time to time but was happy riding along as his passenger. I mean, top down in Hawaii? Yes, please!

When David proposed to me in downtown Atlanta, it was right after we got out of a helicopter (you can see that story here) so when we saw that the Big Island offered helicopter tours we were very interested! We took a few days to think it over as it was not cheap. But wow, that was our favorite thing that we did on the Big Island. I’m so glad we went for it! Worth every penny. We skipped out on some other things in order to do that such as attending a Luau dinner. My best friend visited an all-inclusive in St. Lucia for her honeymoon and her advice is to splurge on a  couples massage! I’m all about that life.

Mishaps Might Happen

You’re going to want your honeymoon to be romantic and as perfect as you imagine it to be but be prepared for the unexpected and the unwelcomed. In our case, delayed flights and food poisoning. So, be ready to roll with the unplanned and make the most of it. We flew to Hawaii from Atlanta which is a very long journey. We had to stop in Los Angeles, so we decided to buy dinner before hopping on the next plane. You probably already know this, but be sure to make smart food choices when stopping for dinner at the airport. David chose something better than I did (he always does) but I wanted a hot meal. I got food poisoning after the first day of our honeymoon. The silver lining is that it hit me at dinner time after we had spent all day sightseeing. I suffered through it all night and recovered the next day. That flight we were on at LAX was also delayed on the tarmac for FOUR hours. We were getting stressed and worried about our rental car company closing before we arrived. Luckily everything worked out, but we went to bed very hungry since nothing was open (and my airport dinner was horrible). We got up and ate the most expensive breakfast buffet I’ve ever had. Anyways, I wish I had packed my own food for the plane (more than just power bars). David took very good care of me though and everything turned out just fine!

Tell People It’s Your Honeymoon
Tell anyone and everyone that it’s your honeymoon! You only get to do this once and people are happy to help you celebrate! Restaurants and hotels are especially great at this!


Take Care of Those Rings
Don’t leave your rings unattended in your room, unless you trust the safe in your room. But, also be careful about taking them into the ocean. David and I both have a set of rubber wedding bands. We have Enso rings and we love them! Another great brand is Qalo. David actually wears his Enso ring Monday-Friday at work and his metal ring on the weekends. The rubber wedding band is safer for people with a hands on job/dealing with machinery.

Make Reservations
This is advice related specifically to Hawaii (that I wish I had known about). Every restaurant requires a reservation. Otherwise, good luck eating before 9:30 pm or getting a table at all. So, each day I was on my phone in the morning searching for somewhere to save a table. I wish I would have planned for that/known in advance.

Unplug
I think it’s a great idea to unplug as much as possible when you’re on your honeymoon. Don’t post things to social media in the moment or feel like you need to make phone calls.  I made a couple of posts with a photo or two during a wait between flights or a moment where we were relaxing. It’s exciting to share! But, being present is so much better.

Document Your Memories
I think keeping a journal during our honeymoon would have been really neat! I took A LOT of pictures, it’s kinda my thing. I also didn’t take my professional camera. Which, sometimes made me feel lost but it was also very freeing. We had just bought ourselves the Google Pixel XL 2 (which have terrific cameras) so the cell phone photography was a welcomed challenge and helped me relax and be more present. We also booked a professional photographer which fueled my photographer heart with so much joy! With so many pictures happening during the wedding year, I thanked David a million times for going along with this idea and hoping back in front of the camera. We booked a session with Vanessa Hicks Photography on the North Shore of Oahu and it was so much fun! Highly recommend a photo shoot during your honeymoon to help document the trip.

Items In My Bag/Recommended Items
A few fun items to consider packing for your honeymoon! Items below are linked.
Hubby and Wifey T-Shirts for the airplane.
Mr. & Mrs. Luggage Tags
Mr. & Mrs. Passport Holders if you’re going abroad
Honeymoon Vibes Shirt
Beach Attire: Consider a white bathing suit, a new beach hat, go fancy! It’s your honeymoon. Everything But Water is my favorite!
Rubber Wedding Bands
A fun handwritten letter to my hubby letting him know how excited I am for this new journey!

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HAWAII-THE BIG ISLAND
So, if you’re jetsetting to Hawaii or are interested in what we did, read on! We visited two islands, The big island and Oahu. The big island is the largest and is officially named Hawaii. I read up on the big island before we arrived and the books suggested that you prepare yourself for its diverse terrain and don’t think of the big island as the “postcard of Hawaii” like Maui may be to most. With two active volcanoes on the island, its land is made up of so much contrast between lava rocks/bold plants and flowers. It’s amazing that there could be so much beauty in the path of destruction.

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Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
We visited the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and learned a lot about the activity/history of the volcanoes. One of the most interesting things we learned about was Pele’s Hair. Pele’s hair are thin, fragile strands of volcanic glass that form when molten lava escapes into the air during an eruption. It really does look like hair! Pele, is goddess of fire and volcanoes, according to the traditions of Hawaiian religion.

After our visit, the lava level in May 2018 in the Overlook Crater dropped over 700 feet and out of sight, resulting in explosions, earthquakes and large clouds of ash and toxic gas, causing closures in the park. While the park visitor center and headquarters have reopened to the public, the crater at the Jaggar Museum, where we visited and learned about Pele’s hair, overlooking the crater remains closed.

While we were there, David and I we were able to closely see and feel steam coming from the ground.  Groundwater seeps down to the hot volcanic rocks in this area and returns to the surface as steam. The ground just a few feet down is so hot that tree roots can not survive. But shallow-rooted grasses and plants grow there.
We hoped in the jeep and continued to drive through this massive park. We got out and explored different areas. It was chilly when we started and so hot when we drove towards the shore. You could spend days at this park! We had time to spend one full day and drove back to our condo for dinner.

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Hapuna Beach
Known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! We relaxed with our books on the beach and explored the ½ mile area and the beautiful rocks along the shoreline.

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Our Rides
The jeep and convertible!

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Rainbow Falls Lookout
In the morning, the rays of sun are meant to hit the waterfall just right so that you are able to see rainbows! We saw a tiny one that morning at the base of the waterfall. We arrived a little later than we should have. It was very easy to get to and was a quick yet beautiful visit. The trees inside the forest just behind the waterfall were breathtakingly big!

Akaka Falls State Park
This waterfall required a short walk on a pathway through a jungle and once you arrive, the height of the waterfall is stunning. It feels a bit more touristy with the metal fence and crowds of people but it was worth the visit! We saw some beautiful flowers, plants and a curious lizard on our walk.

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Hilo, Hawaii
During out waterfall visits, we stopped in this town for lunch at Hilo Bay Cafe and it was our favorite restaurant on the Big Island. We shared a parmesan crusted and roasted eggplant with red peppers, marinara sauce, basil-macadamia pesto on toasted rosemary bread. Yum! This restaurant had an amazing view too.

After lunch we walked through, Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens which is a 24.14-acre park with Japanese gardens.
On our way back from Hilo and the waterfall tour, we found this shack called, What's Shakin' and they had the best smoothies! Thick and juicy with real fruit! I could go for one of those right now…We hopped back into the car and drove through a scenic route towards Onomea Bay, which provided beautiful views (with a delicious smoothie in hand).

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Mauna Kea
From a day of exploring waterfalls in shorts and a t-shirt we had to bundle up for this next adventure. Mauna Kea is a snow capped dormant volcano at 13, 082 feet above sea level, making it the highest point in the state of Hawaii. When measured from its oceanic base it’s the tallest mountain in the world (33,000 feet) but, most of the mountain is under water. It was really chilly up there! The sunset was beautiful and we felt high in the clouds. We sat on top of our jeep and watched the sun disappear into a burst of color on the horizon. David really enjoyed that visit. I wish we could have spent more time there.
We ended our day at Kona Brewery for some pizza and beer. Coffee beer was one of the most interesting flavors we tried!

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Helicopter Tour
The evening David proposed to me, we were journeying through the skies of Atlanta on a helicopter. So, we thought a helicopter tour on our honeymoon would be full of so many great memories! Before we began our ride, we enjoyed a healthy and colorful breakfast at the Under the Bodhi Tree. Hawaii is truly fruit heaven.
Our pilot gave us a great experience and played the Jurassic Park theme song as we flew through the scenery where it looked like dinosaurs should be living. Our pilot even took us over the ocean to see some whales! The shot I got isn’t clear, but you can tell!
We landed next to a waterfall during our tour and enjoyed some dessert and champagne. It truly was worth every penny to see the island this way! It was a 90 minute tour as well so we felt like we got a lot of good air time. We saw black and green sand beaches during our tour which was something we would not  have had time to do by car. Thank you, Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour!

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One of the things that I love about Hawaii are the crowds that come together to enjoy a sunset at the end of the day. We saw some beautiful sunsets at Buddha Point and Kauna’o (Mauna Kea) Beach before leaving the Big Island.

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OAHU
The day we arrived in Oahu, we hit the ground running. Almost literally. We only had two short days there so we made the most of it. We hiked not one but two mountains that day!

Koko Head Crater Trail
Stairs. So. Many. Stairs. The steps leading up Koko Crater are old railroad ties that are mounted to the hillside from the bottom to the top. During World War II, the military created lookout pillbox bunkers. A railway was created on the Koko Crater trail, and used to haul cargo and supplies up to the top.  Today, the abandoned railway is used as hiking stairs to reach panoramic views at the top. I did a lot of reading about this hike before we ventured up. I was nervous. People get injured and sometimes people don’t make it to the top and they turn around. With my husband in tow, we were going to conquer any mountain we attempted. As he frequently says, “let’s do this” So up and up and up we went. We passed many people coming and going. All different ages. As we got closer, it felt like we were on our knees making this steep climb, I was nervous! But after, 1,050 plus steps we made it to the top! My legs were shaking and my breathing was heavy but wow, it felt so good! The view is stunning and at times, it felt like we were the only two people up there.

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Diamond Head
Diamond Head is still a ways up (560 feet) but a much easier hike than Koko Crater. It’s the most recognizable landmark in Hawaii. This saucer-shaped crater was formed 30,000 years ago during a single, explosive eruption that sent ash and fine particles in the air. As these materials settled, they cemented together into a rock called tuff, creating the crater. The trail was originally built in 1908 by the US army and used for many decades as part of the Fort Rugur Military base.  Artillery cannons, cement bunkers and an observation deck were built on the summit of the Diamond Head Crater. Today, Diamond Head has been turned into a state national park.
I really enjoyed seeing the beautiful views of downtown from the top. We even caught a glimpse of a rainbow! This hike was much more packed and getting a picture at the top required patience and waiting your turn. David and I enjoyed the local feel of Koko Crater more.

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Nu’uanu Pali Lookout
We drove for this stunning view and my legs were a little relieved after all that fun hiking! When you don’t have long to spend somewhere I believe in climbing (or driving) high to see all that you can! The views were incredible and we saw a hang glider too! What a view that must have been for that person in the air. But, this lookout isn’t just about great views. It has a lot of history. The Battle of Nu’uana occurred in the late 1700s. Kamehameha I from the island of Hawai’i sought to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule. The battle for O’ahu began with the arrival of his forces at Waikiki in 1775. O’ahu had been defeated by Maui forces a decade earlier and Maui’s Chief, Kalanikupule was in charge. He was taken to this lookout and both sides fought but Kamehameha’s cannon led to his success of the battle. 400 soldiers died and were forced off the cliff (terrifying to think about when you’re standing over this lookout). With Kamehameha’s victory on O’ahu, he became the first king of the Hawaiian Islands.

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Pearl Harbor
We couldn’t leave Oahu without visiting Pearl Harbor. Millions of people come to see for themselves where World War II began for the United States in 1941.

We got up really early and arrived to secure our up walk tickets. It’s recommended to do it this way online and we’re really glad we did. They secure 1,300 tickets but they go quickly. As the day went on, it got more and more crowded.

There are free tours to the USS Arizona Memorial every 15 minutes which also includes a very heartfelt documentary film. After viewing the film, we boarded a US Navy operated boat which took us to the Memorial. The entire morning, David and I were very quiet, reflecting on what had happened there so many years ago, but never forgotten.

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Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
We took a shuttle from Pearl Harbor to the Aviation Museum at Ford Island.
My husband is very passionate about aviation so this was a good visit for us. We saw a hanger where World War II-era planes live including an actual Japanese Zero and Stearman N2S-3 once piloted by former American President, George H. W. Bush.

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Restaurants in Oahu
A bride of mine and her mom suggested a restaurant that David and I had to try. It had a unique name, so I didn’t forget it! Luckily, I remembered about the restaurant the day we landed in Oahu and made reservations that morning. I didn’t catch a reservation at sunset so it was dark when we arrived, but we still had a wonderful time of course! The restaurant is called, House Without a Key and it was beautiful, delicious and fancy! Our fanciest meal during our trip and so worth it. It sits along the water and they play live music. I got a flower in my drink which I just love!
The next night we visited, Karai Crab which is tucked in the city. Upon walking in, it doesn’t appear to be anything special, but once you walk outside it’s like a secret oasis in the middle of the city. Definitely sit outside. David and I ordered these big bowl of crab legs (with giant bibs and all) and they were so delicious. We got free ice cream since it was our honeymoon!
Shrimp trucks are quite popular in Hawaii and our photographer, Vanessa suggested that we take a drive and try Giovanni's Shrimp Truck. While we were there we also drank a coconut, which we ate afterwards, yum. We also tried some rambutan during our walk around Turtle Bay Resort.

The Best Chocolate
If you love toffee, you gotta try this! We love it so much, we packed some in our bags, ate it all when we got home and ordered more online. It’s called the Hamakua Toffee Company. It’s family owned and handcrafted on Hawaii’s Hamakua Coast.

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Professional Photos
I’m really happy with the way our honeymoon album has turned out using only a cellphone, but I am very thankful to have turned the job over to the talented Vanessa Hicks Photography and get some professional shots of the two of us to help document our honeymoon. I highly recommend it! Thank you so much, Vanessa!! We enjoyed our time with you!

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Mahalo (Thank You)

Mahalo, Hawaii! Hawaii’s culture is rich, vibrant and treasured by so many. We feel so lucky to have experienced it together and if you are planning a trip to Hawaii, I hope this helps! And if you’re in the middle of planning our own honeymoon, remember that no matter where or when you go, the goal is to enjoy this special time together. Make new memories, be a team, seek adventure and know that this is only the beginning of your new and beautiful journey together as Mr. and Mrs.

Aloha & Bon Voyage!!

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Class of '08: The Ten Things I've Learned Since High School

 

It’s been 10 years since my high school graduation. Yup, Class of ‘08 right here! There’s an area of my photography business that I have been excited to focus more time on and that’s senior photography. And ironically, the class of 2018 was the official start/biggest year of my senior photography services!

As I was spending more time photographing seniors and my own senior class was in the process of planning our 10 year reunion, I started to reminisce. As we pass graduation season each May, I feel so excited for my senior clients! I see their celebrations on instagram and facebook of their graduation day and pictures in their college t-shirts. It reminds me what it felt like to be in their shoes. Or in this case, in their graduation cap. And I started to see my life from one point to another...graduation day to now and everything that has happened in between. More specifically, the lessons I have learned along the way.  

Since the day I threw my cap up in there and headed out into a bigger world, I have gone to college, studied abroad, made new friends, experienced grief, got my first job, started a business, won awards, made mistakes, traveled, fell in love, got engaged, got married, bought a house and so much more. The beauty of life is that it has no one direct path. It’s a journey that is uniquely yours. One of the reasons I love working with seniors so much is that this time in your life is so special. It’s a similar feeling I have when photographing weddings. It’s a time worth capturing and remembering. Rising seniors, you have so much life ahead of you and you can do and be anything you want! I can’t wait to see how you make your mark in the world. But, time flies. One day, you’ll be a decade away from this time and you’ll have your own new experiences. As Jack from Titanic says, make it count. (I”m sorry, but I still love that movie!)

So, before we say goodbye to 2018, I’d love to share with you the 10 lessons I’ve learned since high school in 2008.

1. Your Comfort Zone: Leave It
Have you ever heard that saying? “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone?” Wow, is that true. This means something different for everyone. For me, it was study abroad. Not only that, it was deciding to study abroad for one whole school year rather than one semester.

I attended the University of North Georgia, I went home to see my parents often because it was only 30 minutes away and I lived in an apartment on campus with my best friend from middle school. Everything about my life was comfortable and familiar, in such a blessed way. Studying in England for one year, where everyone looked at you funny after you said, “y’all”, was way out of my comfort zone. When I was eleven years old, my parents and I moved to France for three years. So, when I decided to move to England, I thought I knew what to expect..culture shock, new surroundings, different accents. But no, this time I was on a journey by myself and I felt out of place,

I called my parents after a couple of months and told them I wanted to come home. I wanted to give up. I decided that it was okay that I tried and it was okay that it wasn’t working out. I later learned that the Center for Global Engagement at North Georgia advised my parents to let me work it out. I know that wasn’t easy for my mom and dad, but they did the best thing they ever could have done for me. They didn’t “rescue me.” They let me figure it out. And you know what happened? I finished my full year, became a better photographer, witnessed the royal wedding of William and Kate in person and made lifelong friendships. My parents knew I would regret that decision of giving up and they were right.

Last year, during my own wedding, my best friend from England was one of my bridesmaids, her parents came to the wedding, as well as eight more of my British friends.  Imagine all that I would have missed if I had given up. I do regret not signing up for fencing in England. It was one of the clubs and I wondered what that would have been like. This is the time to try something new! Just go for it, do something out of your comfort zone, as long as it’s safe and healthy.

2. Study Abroad: It Will Change Your Life
Since we’re on the topic. I often hear from people that did not study abroad that they wish they would have. And if you can, I’m here tell you, it’s an experience that will change your life.

Exploring a new culture, learning new traditions, traveling, making new friends are just a few of the amazing things you can expect when studying abroad. It truly is something that you will never forget.

And when I returned, those experiences gave me so many lessons/topics to talk about in my job interviews. I gained independence, lifelong friends, and a new perspective on my own culture. I learned to appreciate my own traditions and cultures at home. Things that felt so “normal” to me were fascinating to my British friends and I helped them to see positive things about their culture too. My favorite British saying (and my husband even says is now too) is “risky biscuit” AKA, you’re being a daredevil.  

3. Friends: Take Care of Them and Keep in Touch
When I studied abroad, my friends, my family and I wrote each other letters. Yes, pen to paper, mail the letter with a stamp kind of mail. When I came back, my group of best friends from high school welcomed me with open arms. And I needed them. I was settling into a new space all over again. And those friends I made studying abroad? Yup, wrote them letters, mailed birthday gifts and made skype dates.

Invest in your friendships, it takes time and effort and it’s so worth it. Don’t be the person that’s horrible at texting back. My friends from my high school? They’re still my very best friends today. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Those study abroad friends I made eight years ago? Let’s just say, I always have a place to stay in London! We make an effort to schedule visits, phone calls, do lunch,  grab coffee, send texts, celebrate our successes and be there when something doesn’t go well. I don’t know what I’d do without my group of girlfriends. Having a support system is so important. We’ve helped each other through a lot of ups and downs.

4. Quality Over Quantity
I’ve always believed that a few REALLY great friends are better than a lot of acquaintances. I mean, I had four girlfriends from England travel to my wedding for me. Four girls that I knew for one school year. But, because I had invested my time in our friendship, it allowed me to get to know to them well. So well, that they would travel over an ocean to see me marry the man of my dreams. It meant more to me than they will ever know.

This rule also applies to STUFF. Your spaces during and after college will most likely be small. Be careful of what you hang on to because that pile will only grow as the years go by. Keep up with it now. I am a nostalgic person when it comes to notes, letters, ticket stubs, etc. I keep all of those memories in a shoe box (or two...or more). The point is, it’s organized.

My mom also told me that quality over quantity matters when it comes to clothes which is very true! Ever buy a cheap shirt that doesn’t last long and gets a hole in it? Ever get a skirt those cost a little more that last you years?! Buy better quality clothes and make sure those outfit can mix and match with one another. I believe you save money in the long run.

5. Dating
Oh boy….do not spend too much of your time and energy worrying about boys. Have sleepovers with your girlfriends, dance the night away, focus on school, go out on dates, but don’t ever let your energy get taken away by drama or a situation that isn’t going to make you a better person. I believe that you are the sum of the five people who hang around most. Make room in your life to surround yourself with people who will bring you up and not down. And when you do find the one, you’ll know. It will feel effortless and you will be a better person because of them. They’re worth the wait.

6. Money: Saaavveeee It
The greatest advantage when it comes to how to save money is time. Time is something that we cannot get back, so we must use it wisely. And I believe one of the ways you can use it wisely is by saving money. When I got my first real job after college, I remember feeling so proud when I held that first check. It had a number by my name that I had never seen before when working odd jobs in high school.  And at first, having a four digit number in your account is going to feel great, as it should. You worked hard for that! But, it’s not as much as you think. Life is expensive and you need to prepare for the things that haven’t yet happened. When you’re young it’s easy to stay in the here and now, but start thinking ahead and you’ll be glad you did.

7. Stand Up For Yourself
I am a people pleaser.  It took me a long time to learn that I can say no as strongly as the person who is is trying to make me say yes. Just because I don’t want the situation to be awkward doesn’t mean I should do something I don’t want to do. The person pressuring you is the one making it awkward, not you. Just say no. And remember, “no” is a full sentence. You don’t always have to offer an explanation.

Once you enter your career and join a company, there will be many different personalities under one roof. The free personality tests online are so helpful in understanding who you are and what kind of team member you are. I learned a lot about myself during those first few years of working my big girl job. And more often than not, when you stick up to the person who is treating you unfairly, they will respect you more.

You can be the juiciest peach on a tree, but there’s always someone who is not going to like peaches. Not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay….a lesson I didn’t accept until recently.  My favorite personality tests: Meyer-Briggs 16 personalities and the Enneagram test. Both can be found online.

8. Take Care of Your Mind and Your Body
Everyone’s journey in this area will look completely different. But, I didn’t realize the effort I had to put into my diet and body until after high school. As you get older, your body will continue to develop and you may not digest things as easily as you used to. And in my case, I developed IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in my early 20s as most young women in this situation do. Which means, I have to be extra careful about what I eat. It takes a lot of work, but I stick to a diet that fuels my body with energy and care. You have to take care of yourself in order to show up well in life. Exercise 30 minutes of day (that’s just great for your heart and health anyways no matter what your goals are) and eat food that will nourish your body. Also, the meaning of “tired” gets more intense as the years go by!

Comparison is the thief of all joy. Your self worth doesn’t come from the validation of someone else’s opinion of you. In fact, their opinion of you is none of your business. One of my favorite quotes from Rachel Hollis’ book, Girl, Wash Your Face. Only compare yourself to the person you were yesterday. You. Are. Beautiful.

There was a time in both high school and college (during finals) were I suffered from panic attacks. Like, on the bathroom floor, passed out, feeling like I wanted to vomit type of panic attacks. I didn’t understand it at a young age and those feelings were terrifying, but my mom did and she helped me get through it. Be sure to talk to someone if you’re going through a herd time and seek help from someone you trust. You can get through it, but don't try to do it alone. Whatever it may be.

9. Dream Big! And Then Make Actionable Goals to Get There
If you are creative and you do decide to take the path to college, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to take businesses classes! Seriously. I don’t care what kind of art you do, if you want to make money, you have to do business to sell that art. It wasn’t until my second year of college that I finally worked up the courage to admit to myself that my passion is photography and that’s what I wanted to do in life. That day, I changed my major from Visual Arts to Art Marketing so I could get into some business classes. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what you want to do in life, that’s okay. But don’t make it too hard. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What sets your heart on fire? For me, it was being creative and that creativity turned into photography. From there, I had to figure what kind of photography and how would I earn a living. College is the time to try anything and everything. I tried wedding photography, fashion photography, product photography, street photography. Reach out to people who are where you want to be and learn how they got there.

One of the best resources at my university was our career service center. There was a woman who helped me develop a resumé and practiced interviewing me. Those services are FREE (or a part of the expensive tuition) Either way you look at it, just take advantage of it!  It was very helpful.

10. The Best Lessons in Life are Outside of the Classroom

None of us know what we are doing, but we are doing the best we can. That’s a lesson I’ve recently learned and it’s totally normal! So, if you ever feel that way you are not alone. This lesson goes all the way back to when you learned to walk. You didn’t go to school for it, you didn’t google it or look it up on youtube. You just went for it and then you fell. You got back up and tried again until you took your first few steps in a row. Baby steps are giant leaps forward.  

For our senior year field trip in high school, we took a trip to Six Flags and rode roller coasters all day. It felt fun and carefree. But, what I didn’t understand that day is that the ups and downs and twists and turns that we took on those rides would be a glimpse into what our lives would look like after high school. The dips could be heartbreak, grief, anxiety, panic attacks. The ups could be graduating, falling in love, getting married, buying a home, having a child, getting promoted. Life isn’t always an easy ride, but it’s a gift and I hope you always recognize that by living each day to the fullest. Take too many pictures, be kind, work hard and take care of yourself.

“Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for you being here. Make good art.” —Neil Gaiman

“If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” —Vincent Van Gogh

Just a few of the amazing seniors I have photographed!

Just a few of the amazing seniors I have photographed!

My Memory Lane

My Memory Lane

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Engagement, House to Marriage. I went to high school with my husband. Even had the same homeroom. We met a year and half after graduation for our first date! Life can take you places you never imagined with people you never expected.

 

Krystal and Jonathan | Married!

 

For Krystal and Jonathan, it was love at first sight. They were set up by a mutual friend who thought they’ be a great couple. When Jonathan opened the door to the friend’s house that evening, Krystal just knew that was her person. On their wedding day, Krystal wrote about this moment in her personal vow booklet and it was so heartwarming.

When Jonathan decided to propose, he took Krystal to Savannah for a “friend’s wedding.” An actual fake wedding idea all planned by Jonathan! He even had a fake invite mailed to their house. Once they were all dressed up, they took a stroll through Forsyth Park near the gorgeous fountain. He told her how much he loved her and how he enjoyed their time together. Then, he got down on one knee! He put the ring on her finger and told her to turn around. She saw both of their parents who had watched the whole thing! Such good planning, Jonathan!

Their wedding day and reception were filled with a lot of laughter and so much love from both sides of the family (and a few online score checks for these Gator fans!). They danced the night away and their DJ, who is also a personal friend, kept the guests interacting with one another as well as the bride and groom with games and fun!

Congratulations Krystal and Jonathan! Wishing you so much love and happiness!

Their talented team of vendors!

Catering, Florist, Planner: Cotton Gin at Mill Creek
Hair and Makeup: Catelyn Nicole
Rings: Sabri Guven
Wedding Dress: Wedding Angels in Roswell
DJ: Times of Your Life 

 

Rachel and Ryan | Married!

 

Rachel and Ryan were friends in college for many months before they made it official and once they did, they knew they were it for one another. One day, they would get married!

Three years later, Ryan took Rachel to the top of Preacher’s Rock to propose. The little mountain town of Dahlonega had become very special to them. They attended school there, met there and started dating there. But, college had come to a close and graduation was right around the corner. As they closed the chapter on this stage of life they began a new one when Ryan got down on one knee! Preacher’s Rock was the spot where Ryan had originally intended on asking Rachel to be his girlfriend three years prior. He felt nervous and ended up asking her a week later. He later admitted to Rachel that he meant to ask her on top of the beautiful mountain. When he proposed, he took her back to the very same spot on Preacher’s Rock and said he wasn’t going to “chicken out” this time. Rachel said it was perfect and so very sweet!

The two picked The Walters Barn as the setting to their start to forever as the barn atmosphere and the North Georgia mountains had become a big part of their story. They wanted a simple, southern and fun wedding day!

Rachel and Ryan held hands across a wall, without seeing one another, and read their personal and heartfelt vows to each other before the ceremony. It was quiet and such a beautiful moment. Their vows included fun memories from the past and promises for the future.

They danced the night away at their reception with their close friends. Rachel said their wedding day was everything they had hoped it would be. It was such an honor to capture this beautiful couple and their story!

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. McMahon! I can’t wait to see where this new chapter of life takes you!

Huge thanks to their talented team of vendors!

Second Shooter: Sarah Colombo
Venue: The Walters Barn
Planner: Allison Dolph with Soirées Southern Events
Florist: Soirées Southern Events
Hair and Makeup: Make Me Up
DJ: NDL Entertainment
Cake: Sugartopia
Catering: Luna’s Restaurant
Minister: Steve Pette

 

Kelsey & Blake | Married!

 

Kelsey and Blake met at a New Year's Eve Party, where they shared a short exchange (as well as a phone number exchange!) Blake was immediately taken with Kelsey and contacted her shortly after they met! 

They dated for a couple of years and when the moment came to propose, it was moment that wasn't planned but beautiful in every way because Blake said it just felt so right. He said he just couldn't wait any longer.  He had booked a cabin for her birthday and they were sitting outside on the balcony overlooking the river. Kelsey went inside to get ready for dinner and when she came back outside, Blake took her by the hand and got down on one knee. She said it was the most perfect and simple moment. 

Their wedding day was exactly that, perfect and simple. They got ready at a hotel overlooking the beautiful Chattahoochee river outside in the quiet town of Columbus, Georgia. Blake had his best friend by his side and Kelsey had her best friend by her side. Kelsey spent her morning rooting on the dawgs and spending time with her mom. Their short and sweet ceremony took place in Kelsey and Blake's backyard surrounded by only their closest friends and family members. 

Their couple portraits took place in their very own front yard. What special memories to have in your home and beautiful way to start your life together! 

Kelsey and Blake were surrounded by so much love and support by their parents. Kelsey's mom, Karen, is the owner of Marie's Italian Deli in Cumming, GA (one of my favorite local spots). You're always met with a hug and a smile when Karen sees you. Karen's positive attitude, attention to detail, and strong work ethic were no different when it came to making sure her daughter had the best wedding day ever. Everything her parents do is done with a lot of love. 

After the ceremony, Kelsey and Blake's parents embraced in the biggest "In-Law" hug I've ever seen! It was a beautiful "we are family now" moment. 

Kelsey and Blake have a love that is silly and romantic. Their first dance at their wedding was just as much "them" as their couple portraits were. Always So. Many. Laughs. I loved it! I have no doubt their life and their home will always be filed with a lot of love and laughter. 

Kelsey's maiden name is Smith and Blake's last name is Smith, so....no name change for her! I'm so glad these two had their perfect wedding day! Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Smith and great job to everyone who worked to make it so special! 

Catering: Jamie Keating with JK Culinary
Florist: Kim Nelson with Bloomwoods Florist and Events
Hair and Makeup: Emily Cummings with Becoming Emily
Rentals: Outdoor Events
DJ: Kenny Lewis with Kenny Lewis Productions
Dress: Lulus

 

 

Casey & Austin | Married!

 

Casey and Austin both attended the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, a beautiful campus set in the middle of surrounding mountains and the cutest downtown square. Casey was an RA (Resident's Assistance) of one of the dorms on campus and Austin lived on her hall. One evening, in the common room of the dorm, they were having craft night. Austin asked to join in on the fun and he sat with them for awhile. After everyone went to bed, Austin sent Casey a text message admitting that she was the reason he visited the common room that evening. He asked her to coffee and they met up the very next day and have been dating ever since!

When Austin proposed, he got Casey's very best friend involved. He had her pick up Casey and bring her to a little garden in the Dahlonega Square, a spot where Casey and Austin frequently visited together. This time, when Casey arrived to the quaint garden, Austin was there, reached out for her hand and led her to the fountain where he got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.  Afterwards, they went to the very first Starbucks they visited on their first date! 

Their wedding day took place in the very same town at a beautiful venue with southern charm and rustic beauty.  Their gorgeous brunch wedding was perfect for them! They shared an emotional first look tucked away in a small garden and string lights. Casey's bridal portraits were taken in quite/peaceful moments on the front porch only an early Saturday morning could provide. Her mom had tears in her eyes after her daughter was done putting on that beautiful wedding dress. Chef Cary's Cuisine cooked up a beautiful breakfast for all of their guests. 

Casey and Austin, I'm so glad your wedding day was everything you dreamed and more! Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Sanders!! 

Their Wonderful Vendors
Second Shooter: Hannah G
Venue: Waters Mill
Videographer: Bentley Media
Catering: Chef Cary's Cuisine
Florist: Lauren's Florals
DJ: The TC Show

 

The Rubin Family

 

This was the first photo shoot for the Rubins as a family of THREE! It's such a precious thing to watch your best friend's become parents. Rhode Rubin is about 7 months old and he will ONE on December 31st. Yup, he's a New Year's Eve baby! 

Zach and Ciara Rubin were a very special part of our wedding  last October, standing with us as a bridesmaid and a groomsman. We have a special friendship with these two as Ciara is one of my best friends and Zach is one of my husbands best friend.  Rhode had about two more months before he would be born but he was also at the wedding! 

At that time, we didn't know his gender and his name had not been revealed yet either.  Ciara brought Rhode into this world through an amazing at home birth experience. On the morning of New Year's Eve, we received a text revealing his name and gender. It was such an exciting day! P.S. My guess was a boy! 

I've gained a new little bestie and I love him so much! Can't wait to see what the future holds fo you, Rubin Family! 

 

Amanda and Patrick | Married!

 

Amanda and Patrick went to the same university, but their paths wouldn't cross until mutual friends would bring them together during a dinner party on April 8th. Amanda and Patrick stayed up talking and getting to know one another. They talked about their favorite movies, their families and their hopes and dreams for the future.  

Patrick lived in North Carolina and Amanda lived in Georgia. However, distance wouldn't stop them. On April 18th, they had their first date and ten days after that, on April 28th, they were in a committed relationship. It only makes sense that their wedding date was 08/18/18! 

When Patrick proposed, he decided to recreate their first date.  They went to the Marietta Square in Georgia to walk around and enjoy some time together. They ended up at the field around Kennesaw Mountain. It was in this very spot where they shared their first kiss and it was the moment they both knew that they had found the one. So, years later, Patrick got down on one knee and asked Amanda to marry him! 

Amanda and Patrick picked Morning Glory Farm in North Carolina to say, "I do" and begin their forever together. They loved the balance of the natural and elegant qualities this beautiful venue offers. 

Upon arriving to the venue, there was so much to explore. Horses roamed the fields just outside the barn where Patrick got ready. Goats played in the distance. The breeze swept through and the willow tree delicately swayed back and forth. Covered pathways led to and from the ceremony and the reception space. 

Amanda and Patrick already had a gorgeous setting, but their love, their personal vows, the support of their friends and family made the day all the more beautiful. Amanda found a very special way to honor the family members who are no longer with them. Patrick and Amanda each had small frames hanging from their bouquet and boutonniere which held beautiful portraits of those loved ones. This served as a reminder that they are always close in heart. 

During their ceremony, I was able to capture a moment where Amanda and Patrick took a moment to gaze upon their guests. This was a part of the ceremony which was prompted by their Pastor, Steve. It was something I had mentioned to Amanda as she was wedding planning. She later told me that it was because of this advice that they added it into the ceremony script. And Pastor Steve loved it too! "You had a huge impact" she said. 

Documenting and telling the story of someone's wedding holds so many wonderful reasons as to why this job is amazing. My work will outlive me and my work becomes someone's treasured memories. And to be able to serve my bride and groom's in a way that directly impacts their day forever AND document that moment, just makes my heart so happy. 

Also, it rained directly after couple portraits and directly after their sparkler exit. Someone was looking out for these two! Their day was truly amazing.
Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Bradey! Thank you for trusting us to capture your story! 

Thank you to everyone who made their day extra special!

Second Shooter: Diana Bello (Thank you, Diana!)
Venue: Morning Glory Farm
Planner: Nia Thompson
Catering: Roots Catering
Cake: Delish Bakery
Flowers: Gregg Bradey
Hair: Rose Barlowe
Makeup: Grace Barlowe
DJ: Ernest from Agape DJ Entertainment
Bride's Dress: A Formal Occasion
Bridesmaids Dresses: David's Bridal
Bride's Rings: Swarovski
Groom's Ring: Great Grandfather (Papa Charles)