The Final Meeting & Questionnaire

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I love being involved in the wedding planning process with my couples. The more planning that goes into the wedding photography, the better things will turn out. I don't want to show up on the wedding day and be surprised by something if I have an opportunity to find out about it ahead of time. I want my brides and grooms to have the absolute best that I can give them, and that means we spend a little extra time preparing. There's a whole wealth of posts in my Wedding Weekly series, because I want to help newly engaged couples, whether they end up choosing me as their wedding photographer or not.

One of the most important parts of the planning process for me is the final questionnaire. About two months before the wedding day, I send my couple an online form to fill out so that I will have all the details of their wedding day.

What are some of the most important details for me to know?

-Names and contact numbers for the best man, maid of honor, and wedding coordinator - The bride and groom aren't going to be answering their phones on the wedding day, so I need to know who to call if we need to get in touch with them.

-Special events throughout the day - Is unity sand a part of the ceremony? Is the bridal party doing a choreographed dance? Will there be a bubble exit from the ceremony or the reception?

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-Each family group for the family portraits - Taking the family portraits can be a time-consuming portion of the day, but these images are so critical for the couple to have, especially when relatives travel from all over the globe to share in their wedding day. Having a complete list ahead of time ensures that we won't forget anyone in the busyness of the day and that I'll have the names of any missing individuals so they can be found as quickly as possible. I also ask about sensitive family situations so the whole process runs smoothly.

-Special or meaningful details - I want to know if the bride is carrying her grandmother's handkerchief or if she's wearing the bracelet that her sister wore on her wedding day. Or if the card box was the same one that was used at the groom's parents' wedding. Or if a monogram is stitched inside her gown as her "something blue." If I don't know about these important details ahead of time, I might not even see them on the wedding day.

-Photography restrictions at the venue - Some venues and ministers have restrictions on what the photographer can do during the ceremony. Many churches don't allow the photographer to move around or restrict the photographer to the last pew in the church. This dramatically changes the resulting images from the ceremony. While they'll still be beautiful images, they might not be what the bride and groom had in mind, so I always want to talk with my couples about this ahead of time so we're all on the same page.

In addition to these questions, we look over and finalize the wedding timeline. We discuss a rain plan if any portion of the wedding day or portraits are planned to take place outside. And we go over the list of wedding vendors, so I can be sure to send them images after the wedding.

Once I have the final questionnaire, I have everything that Ryan and I need to give 150% on the wedding day.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Am I The Right Photographer for You?
Comparing Photographers: Budget, Style, & Experience
Why is Wedding Photography More Expensive
Why I Photograph Weddings
What We Wear to Weddings
The Gift of Photography
Whatever It Takes
Things I've Learned Being Photographed

Amber & Andrew - Formal Norfolk Botanical Gardens Engagement Session

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They met their first week of freshman year at Christopher Newport University. They lived in the same dorm, on the same hall. They had an instant connection and almost immediately became inseparable. As time went by, they found their home in CNU and in each other. So many of their memories together took place on campus. The first time he laid eyes on her. Their introduction on a casual walk around campus. Their decision to officially date. So naturally, Andrew could think of no better place to propose.

But first, he sent her off on a scavenger hunt, with a beautiful love letter and her two best friends to guide her. Amber & Andrew are some of the most loving people you will ever meet, and it even shows in the way Andrew planned his proposal. His scavenger hunt not only led Amber to 8 of their favorite spots, but it led her to 14 of her favorite people in the world, who each read her a letter filled with their love and favorite memories together. He planned a day to show Amber how much she was loved and valued, not just by him, but by everyone else in her life.

Amber and I met in 2015 while working a wedding together. She was part of the amazing wedding planning team at Antonia Christianson Events, and I immediately saw how hard she worked to give the bride & groom the wedding day of their dreams. Later that year, Amber told her mom Keri that she should book us for her wedding day. At Keri & Ryan’s wedding in 2016 (one of our first as a husband and wife team), you could tell that Amber & Andrew wouldn’t be far behind them. And I was so honored when Amber asked us earlier this year to photograph her wedding day as well.

We are so excited for their wedding day with Antonia Christianson Events and Isha Foss Events at Three Oaks Estate and the Chrysler Museum of Art. Just a few more weeks!

Ashley & Tim - Summer Engagement Session at Norfolk Botanical Gardens

The first time he asked her on a date, she said no. The second time he asked, she said no. It was hard to deny the feelings that they had for each other, but at the same time, the deep friendship they had was so valuable. Was it worth risking? They’d been friends for 3 years, since their first week of medical school. And now that they were in a smaller group doing clinical rotations, their group felt like a family. Disrupting that with an unsuccessful dating relationship would break apart their entire world.

Finally, she caved in and agreed to go on a date with him. And each day that followed proved that Ashley & Tim were perfect together.

In 2015, Ashley & Tim knew they didn't have time to plan a big wedding, but they also didn't want to wait any longer to get married, so they said their vows at the courthouse. A year later, they had a son. And now that (most) of the craziness of their careers are behind them, they are excited to celebrate their marriage with friends and family at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

We did their ‘engagement session’ exactly a month before their wedding day, so you won’t have to wait long to see their gorgeous faces here on the blog again! I know I'm counting down the days!

The Questions You Shouldn't Ask Your Wedding Photographers

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We've already gone over questions I think couples should ask photographers before booking. Today I wanted to mention a few that I've seen recommended in articles but I think are unhelpful and sometimes confusing to the client.

Can you change your editing style?

There may be some photographers who let their clients dictate their editing style, but for most it's an integral part of their work and can't be separated from the final product. It's as natural to them as the way they shoot.

Is your photography business full time or part time?

There are plenty of amazing photographers who don't run their photography business full time, and they are still 100% dedicated to giving you an amazing experience.

What type of equipment do you use?

If you have a photography background, by all means ask about this if it matters to you. But if you don't know a SB700 from a 50mm 1.4, just trust that other questions you ask will determine if you're dealing with a true professional or not.

What is your style?

The problem with this question is that photographers have to use buzz words to describe their style - traditional, modern, photojournalistic, candid, lifestyle, formal, casual, flash, natural light, romantic, whimsical, bold, moody, etc. Some of these words mean completely different things to different people. And not everyone can look at an outdoor portrait taken with flash and distinguish that flash was used. Instead of asking the photographer to describe their style, I recommend taking time to dig through the photographer's portfolio first. Then you can ask more specific questions about photos you saw.

Have you shot at my venue?

This was a question I saw recommended a lot when I was planning my wedding. But there are dozens of wedding venues in every town, and you don't want to cross out an amazing photographer just because they haven't done a wedding at your venue. Instead, ask to see a wedding similar to yours: an outdoor wedding with an outdoor reception under string lights, for example.

Do I get the RAW files or the copyright for the images?

I've covered these topics in depth before, but the short answer is that's not what you're actually looking for. The RAW files are unedited and can only be opened with special photo editing software. It's part of the photographer's job to edit the images and deliver a finished product to the client. And as the artist and creator of the images, the photographer keeps the copyright to the images but sells the bride and groom printing rights for their personal use.

Are you a member of any photography associations?

25 years ago, photography associations may have been more important than they are now. But honestly, now it's just a certification that can be purchased. It's not really proof of anything. 

Do you specialize in weddings?

I can understand that you might not want a photographer who shoots weddings, newborns, dogs, families, commercial, senior portraits, products, fashion, and literally everything else. Different types of photography require different equipment and you can't master 12 different types. But I don't think you should rule out a photographer who shoots families and weddings. There are a lot of similarities between various types of portrait photography and weddings, not to mention brides might want to continue to use their wedding photographer for their family photos every year.

Can I see references?

I understand why this question is recommended, because your wedding day is one of the biggest days of your life. That is why I work really hard to get online reviews and client testimonials from my past brides. I want prospective clients to have complete confidence when they hire me for their wedding day. But I don't have permission to give out my clients' personal contact information.

What is your response time?

There's no point to ask this question because everyone knows the "right" answer to give. Instead, just look at the response you're getting from the photographer during the inquiry process. Are they emailing you back within 24 or 48 hours? Great. (And don't forget, they're probably not available on the weekends, so don't count that in your response time!)


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Am I The Right Photographer for You?
Comparing Photographers: Budget, Style, & Experience
Why is Wedding Photography More Expensive
Why I Photograph Weddings
What We Wear to Weddings
The Gift of Photography
Whatever It Takes
Things I've Learned Being Photographed

We're Finally Homeowners Again

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125 days of living with my parents
118 days since closing on our little yellow house
112 days of waiting on our short sale

WE DID IT! We finally have a house again! Yesterday we closed on our dream home. Since then it's been a flurry of cleaning and moving (and we're nowhere near done!) But we are so grateful for our new house and ready to get settled into new routines! 

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And I just want to take a second to say... if you feel the urge to take a photo, don't push that feeling away. Take the picture. If all you have is your cell phone, if your outfits clash worse than a tacky 80s party, if the sun is staring you straight in the face and you can barely see, take the picture.

If it's a special moment for your family, that's all that matters.

Waiting on Our Short Sale

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Part One: Finding Our New House
Part Two: Waiting on Our Short Sale

We spent my birthday weekend stressed out by our decision to walk away from the Best of Both Worlds house, which we had imagined living in for nearly 6 weeks. We went to two open houses, sorted through the backlog of houses on MLS, and scheduled 2 showings with our realtor for Monday night.

And Monday night, we walked into our dream home. It was huge, something we could grow into for a long time, with plenty of space for a guest room and home office. It was renovated from top to bottom; roof, windows, AC unit included. It was in a central area of town, in a quiet neighborhood. And it had more closet space than I'd ever seen in a home. It was perfect. I couldn't stop smiling as we walked around.

But... it was a short sale. And it has taken FOREVER to close. Here's a quick timeline for you:

April 25 - Moved in with my parents

May 2 - Closed on #ourlittleyellowhouseinva

May 4-7 - Walked away from the Best of Both Worlds house. Found the Short Sale house and put in an offer.

While we were waiting to hear back from the bank, we continued to look at other houses. But everything brought us back to this house. It was the best, by far, of what we could afford. Over and over again, we decided that it was worth waiting for.

{Quick short sale explanation here: When we signed the contract on the short sale, that kicked off the bank's 2 month+ long process of getting the seller's paperwork together and evaluating the property. We could walk away at any time, but we were under contract so no one else could come in and outbid us unless we walked away first. Essentially, we weren't 100% sure that it was the house for us, but we wanted to see where it went.}

May 18 - We showed our parents the short sale house. Ryan's dad is in construction, so he knows what problem signs to look for. After walking through the house, he was happy with it and said the inspection shouldn't come back with any major repairs (which the bank was NOT going to help pay for).

May 25-August 1 - We received a variety of vague updates. The contract deadline passed with no answer. We extended the contract. That date passed with no answer. Multiple times we hear the words 'any day now' but nothing happens.

August 1 - We find out that the loan is set to be sold at the beginning of September. This deadline gets the bank motivated. 

August 14 - Approval (FINALLY) given. We have 14 days to close (or everything blows up in our faces.)

August 27 (today) - Closing

All communication through this process went from the bank, to the seller's lawyer, to the seller's agent, to our agent, to us, so there was a significant lag time on all responses.

As you can imagine, we've been on an emotional roller-coaster. We have had ZERO control in this entire process. Our two options were wait or walk away. There was nothing we could do to speed things up or make the process easier. This is certainly not the way I would have wanted to buy our second home, but look at all the blessings that came with this crazy process:

-We figured out what we really wanted in a house. The Geometric Doorway House only had 1 downstairs closet and very little storage in the laundry room. We decided not to submit an offer on a house we liked because there was no shade in the backyard and we saw it on a hot summer day.

-We changed our minds on our preferred neighborhood. All three of the previous houses were in the south edges of Great Bridge, which meant a great school district and convenient shopping, but more driving time to a lot of places we'd still be going. Our new house is still in Chesapeake but much closer to the Virginia Beach line.

-We could not put in an offer on a short sale until we had sold our home. But we are not risk takers, so we would have never sold our house unless we thought we had another house lined up. God brought us each of these houses to walk us through the house listing and closing process, so that we would be ready when the Short Sale House's price was reduced.

-We sold our house without the stress of constantly touring possible homes. The week we were moving out, we could focus completely on saying goodbye to our little yellow house without worrying that we'd be living with my parents forever. 

-Darcy has been able to kiss his grandparents goodnight for the last 100+ days. And we've had the opportunity to go out on a few extra date nights since we've had a built-in babysitter.

- We've been mortgage free for 4 months. We've had a break from most of the responsibilities that come with maintaining a home.

-Most importantly, we learned (and will continue learning) that we do not direct the path of our lives. God does. And God's primary concern for our lives is not efficiency. He orchestrated this process of waiting for us so that we could grow and be more like him. So that I would fight my anxiety and frustration in waiting with truth about his faithfulness.

One more thing... my word of the year is SEASON. I chose this word for 2018 in December while working through my powersheets. My intention for that word was to embrace the changes that would occur in both my business and personal life throughout the year as Darcy grew. I love routines and having a baby means changing your entire routine every 3-4 months if not more often. God had SO MUCH MORE planned!

Photo of our new house to come soon!!! We're closing today!