The Sweetest Thing: Trey & Hannah

The Sweetest Thing: Trey & Hannah

I almost don’t remember a time Trey wasn’t a part of our family anymore. My littlest sister Hannah started dating Trey in high school - I’d already left for college, but every time I came home and every family function we had for nearly a decade, he was there. When they told the family they were engaged we weren’t surprised, we knew Trey would be around forever. Their engagement lasted nearly two years so they could be out of college when they tied the knot. It gave us plenty of time to discuss the perfect venue, photographer and time of year to get married. They settled on December 29, 2017, and that day was the most beautiful, freezing cold, blizzard of the year. It was perfect. The snow fell during pictures like we were inside a snow globe. The holiday season made the day that much more nostalgic and personal. The upcoming New Year made everyone’s hearts more hopeful. We all believed in true love that day.

Their photographer, Madelin Mack Photography, captured the most unbelievable portraits on the bridge next to the venue downtown. I sat and looked at all of the shots in her reel for hours. Each one captured so perfectly Hannah and Trey’s relationship. Trey; a never-serious, fun-loving individual who prided himself on his loyalty and love for family and friends. The guy who can’t walk through a grocery store without stopping 15 times. He knows the entire city. His genuine nature is infectious and I’ve never once heard a bad word about him. You can see that in every shot. And Hannah, a happy, easy-going soul, full of love, energy and patience. They’re high school sweethearts that have every beautiful, positive opportunity within reach. To be able to pull those emotions out in images, what an exceptional photographer.

The sweetest thing is planning your little sister’s wedding. Hannah is not an “all about me” type of gal. She doesn’t love to be the topic of conversation and she doesn’t care to get all dolled up. But for this day, I was determined that Hannah would be the center of attention. She’s practical and frugal. She probably has the same $100 bill from her 16th birthday saved in a drawer at home. So as her planner and sister, trying to explain the importance and efficiency of a professional hair and makeup artist and a quality DJ was somewhat of a challenge in the beginning - challenge accepted. Eventually, Hannah came around to the idea of letting others take care of her for this one day. Even better? We still stayed on budget.

I choked back massive crocodile tears when Hannah put her dress on. She was a winter wonderland bride’s dream. Each piece of her wardrobe was perfection. Their slate blue, champagne, copper, marble and burgundy color palette (yes, FIVE colors) was up-and-coming. We were ahead of the trend. Hannah and Trey trusted me with the decor and practically handed off the reigns. The bridesmaid dresses covered different shades of the most beautiful slate blue that popped against the white of the snow. The groomsmen’s attire was styled by my husband Brandon and wasn’t a perfect match to the bridesmaids - a favorite touch. The furs, rich burgundy, velvet adorning the floral and winter garlands were touches we spent a lot of time on. The day is determined by the details - pay attention.

My biggest personal challenge was being a bridesmaid in the wedding as well as being the planner. I don’t recommend planning a wedding you’re also a part of. I definitely don’t recommend trying to plan and execute your own wedding as the bride - what a nightmare. I missed simple and quiet, but important pieces of this day I wish I could have been a part of. I didn’t get ready with Hannah and her maids, I didn’t get to leave for cocktail hour with the bridal party and I didn’t see some of the special moments I would have as being solely the planner either. I know the temptation of saving money by having family and friends do your wedding for you, but I can’t express enough how much easier it is on everyone you love to hire a professional. If I didn’t have my experience, I would have been extremely stressed throughout the day. Leave that kind of pressure to someone that has asked for it.

Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother in law. I love who you are together, I love how you love my sons and your Godson. I love to watch you grow in your relationship and life. I can’t wait to see your own family grow and where this life together will take you. Thank you for entrusting your day to me. You were blizzard royalty on 12/29. I wish we could relive this day every year.

Special thanks to all the incredible professionals that helped make this day everything it was:
Planner, Decor, Styling + Design: Walker Down The Aisle
Venue: Hilton Garden Inn Downtown
Photographer: Madelin Mack Photography
Hair + Makeup: Sabreena Frances
DJ: DJ SieffStyle Entertainment
Floral: Elaborations by Joyce Naber
King’s chairs: ABC Rentals
Dress: Bridal Gallery
Bridesmaids: Lulu’s
Suits: Halberstadt’s

A Natural Kind of Love: Abby & Korey

A Natural Kind of Love: Abby & Korey

Looking through Abby + Korey’s wedding photo reel from Corey Gross Photography even a year later I can still remember the crisp air and warm sun beating down as I arrived at the reception venue. Even at 8am, it was warm for October 21st. The leaves were in their final stages of changing and the yellows, golds and ambers on the oldest trees in the city filled the downtown streets and skies. It was the perfect day for a wedding.

I have the butterfly feeling I do every morning of a wedding. Nervousness mixed with excitement and anxious to get going on decorating, I’m going over the timeline inside my car before heading in, setting my alarms for the key points in the day to check in with the bridal party’s progress, thinking about all the details we’d covered in the last 9 months. Still working full time, I’m not able to take on as many clients as I’d like to in the year, but it’s a blessing in disguise; I get to spend more time with the clients I do have. I learn them, I watch them interact closely during meetings, I figure out what makes them, them. I follow each of my bride’s Pinterest boards for months and in the end, I get to design to my clients, instead of the other way around. I love this job as planner. The greatest reward of all comes after long months of decisions, meetings and emails, seeing my couples finally stand at the alter, saying their vows, dressed as bride and groom. I still haven’t gotten through a wedding without a tear. But for now it’s time to focus. I still have 7 hours of decorating to do before the ceremony starts.  

The bridal party is in good hands with Corey and Dan from Ludeman Productions, and I get going on the styling and décor design. I work quickly with my team, knowing we’ve got a lot to get done and two locations to hit despite the 7 hours to do it. This couple was the easiest going I’ve worked with. They provided me their color palette of forest green, gold, raspberry and burgundy, and fall/woodland theme, and said ‘run with it.’ I’m both intimidated by and in love with these types of clients. It’s a compliment and a dream to have such free reign (and trusting clients) to be able to piece together a design you think the couple will love. It also has you checking everything you do the day of, sometimes more than twice, wondering if you interpreted their vision correctly and hoping the look they described and had in their head is manifested when they walk through the doors for the first time. Their 20-person bridal party sat at a U-shaped configured head table with a sweetheart round middle. Their forest green settee from Prairie Lane Vintage Rentals sat prettily between two huge fall floral filled gold floor vases. For the guest tables, I mixed colored glass, gold pedestal vases, pieces of birch, and hanging floral from gold manzanita trees. We used birch trees to frame the couple in front of the church for the ceremony, my attempt to pull the grand ceiling in First Lutheran Church ‘down’ as much as possible.

I loved that Abby and Korey were comfortable with leaving a majority of the decision making up to me. It left so much of the ultimate look a surprise to them. It gave them the freedom to plan the truly meaningful details they incorporated throughout the day. Abby had a painting commissioned of Korey’s late father, the matching bridesmaids shirts to get ready in, the DIY’ed guest book globe, signs for the guest book table - these are the type of details couples should concern themselves with for their special day. Not how to logistically fit 12 vendors into a timeline or how to manage family and friends setting up 25 tables for your special day.

Still looking through their photos, it’s so easy to see Abby + Korey’s love story. Their kind of happiness you don’t have to work for. Their easy, simple kind of love comes naturally. They’re adventurous, outgoing, the life of the party, the best friends you could hope for, the good people you wish you knew. Abby waltzed right through those dirty leaves in her ivory wedding dress without a second thought, Korey chased down geese with his guys, they laughed hard with friends and cried happy tears with family. Special moments un-posed, out-of-focus shots that still somehow seem to work impeccably, stark black and whites that ended the night on the most romantic note. On this day their love story turned the page on a whole new chapter, and Corey so accurately captured it all.

Happy Anniversary, Abby + Korey!

See below for industry professionals.

Classic Elegance: Ashley & Farzin

Classic Elegance: Ashley & Farzin

Ashley and Farzin’s wedding day is one I will never forget. Ashley’s attention to detail is one I’m familiar with. Having worked at the same public accounting firm I knew her taste, her affinity for simple, classic elegance, and I knew the day she envisioned would leave no detail unturned. The details - my favorite part. The underlying aspect that separates a pretty wedding from one that will never be forgotten. Not just the decor details, but the nods to traditions and specific relationship history that mean something.

I hadn’t met Farzin before the pair moved to California, but I knew he was something special to have captivated Ashley’s heart so completely. Planning their wedding included a few challenges I hadn’t encountered before. Incorporating Farzin’s Persian background took research, time and attention. I knew nothing of Iranian wedding traditions. Certainly not their traditional Sofreh Aghd table, or what a knife dance and sugar scrubbing were. These are the challenges in wedding planning I’ve come to embrace and love. When you spend time on learning the meaning behind the traditions and listen to how important it is to a bride to incorporate as much of her groom’s heritage as possible on their special day, you don’t avoid the responsibility to deliver; you don’t procrastinate or leave it as an afterthought. What drove me to incorporate these aspects as completely and accurately as possible was learning Farzin’s family wouldn’t get VISAs to attend their son’s wedding. His family would have to rely on pictures and video and memories spoken to experience the most important day of their son’s life. The recently enacted travel ban quickly felt so much more personal. I failed the family of the only wedding experience they would get if I didn’t exceed the expectations I could only display on film. The groom’s immediate family wouldn’t be present and there were guesrs that had flown in from all over the world for this wedding: Canada, South Korea, and Scotland are just those I recall. Ashley and Farzin were kind not to put the pressure on, but I felt it regardless. I wanted this day to be perfect and truly magical for them.

The morning of their wedding was dark and overcast. It was sprinkling when I arrived at the Old Courthouse museum for setup. Of all the beautiful days we had in September 2017, this Saturday was grey and cool. The darkness was relaxing and calming to work in during setup, my favorite start to a day, but the implications of flipping the entire Courtroom from its pristine, exacting reception setup back to theatre seating for the ceremony then reversed for dinner wasn’t a challenge I wanted to accept that day. Ashley and Farzin took a chance that morning deciding they were going to stick with the outdoor Courtyard ceremony, complete with the Dakota Prairie String Quartet, floral arch and Sofreh Aghd table. It was the best decision. We still had a cool air, but by 4pm on September 16, 2017, the clouds parted, the sun peered through and an absolutely stunning outdoor ceremony at one of Sioux Falls’s oldest historical buildings downtown commenced.

Blush mismatched bridesmaid dresses, sleek black suit and bow-tied groomsmen, a bride that would take your breath away and a best-dressed Hugo Boss groom, they truly complimented each other in the most beautiful way. It wasn’t the words that were said or the blush + neutral floral, it wasn’t the Quartet or the Top Chef caliber dinner that was served. The all-ivory vanilla bean cake wasn’t the focus and the vintage accents didn’t steal the show. The way these two looked at each other that day, the way Farzin got choked up while my own husband assisted tying his bow-tie, the first look they had with one another in the still-dark staircase of the museum, the small smiles and hand-squeezes and eye-smirks that only you and that special person can interpret; it was all the things that weren’t said out loud that made me see the true love these two had for one another. I spent 5 minutes in the bathroom alone that morning saying a word of prayer for them and their families who wouldn’t get this day as traditional couples do, to unite in-person 2 families as 1. In a time when we just can’t seem to get along, when Love seems to come last, it was incredible to see these two from opposites ends of the world share something so ubiquitous to us all in the most subtle way, in silence. 

The team of wedding professionals we had working on this wedding should be briefly noted: This was one of the last weddings my favorite florist Joyce from Elaborations by Joyce and I would work on together as she’d pass the following January, and she stopped the show with her creations this day. The vintage accents and furniture come from long-time preferred vendor and friends at Prairie Lane Vintage Rentals. The food was beautifully plated and served to perfection by another preferred vendor and Sioux Falls great, Chef Jeni & Co. The cake was crafted, a one last masterpiece, by Kari of Sugar’s Baked Goods and Sweet Treats. The sweetheart table backdrop and chandelier were provided by Ideal Wedding & Events. The ever-classic mahogany chivari chairs by ABC Rentals. Ashley’s stunning hair and makeup by the talented Jade Christensen of Chameleon Designs and Jodi Hunter of Bombshell Beauty Makeup Stuido. The ivory and black - simple, gorgeous stationary was designed by preferred vendor Brandi from b.Invited. The day was captured by preferred vendor, cinematographer Ludeman Productions, and you can view their wedding video below. The bright, crisp photography, a wedding reel so gorgeous I have hundreds of photos to pick from, all captured by Mackenzie Orth. The Dakota Prairie String Quartet provided the most beautiful ambiance during the ceremony and cocktail hour, and Adam Sieff of DJ SieffStyle kept the party going till closing time. All of this happened at the perfect venue for a smaller crowd, The Old Courthouse Museum of Sioux Falls. From Walker Down The Aisle, we handled the linens and decor, setup and tear down, styling and design and full coordination of the day.

This wedding will forever remain in my heart as a favorite. This couple will always remind me of the strength and compassion marriage brings. I will always think of how love overcomes when I see a picture of these two on my feed. Ashley and Farzin - congratulations on your one year anniversary! The first year is never the easiest, and I know the two of you have already gone through so much together. Your love is beautiful, your wedding day was beautiful, and the light you bring to your family and friends was truly beautiful to see. You are an inspiring, driven couple and I expect only greatness from you two working as a team.


WDTA Preferred Vendor: Sabreena Frances

There are some people that God puts in your life for a reason and Sabreena is one of them for me. When I first met Sabreena I was pretty brand new to the wedding industry. I was working with my first two full coordination weddings and didn't have a go-to hair and makeup artist, so I was actively looking for someone that delivered not just an amazing result the bride was thrilled with, but the full service feel and experience of a professional. After a short introduction and a few hours creeping on her looks online, I felt confident I'd found the right one. A few years and multiple weddings, events and shoots together later - I've never questioned this decision.

I've learned a lot about Sabreena in the last few years. After graduating early from Mitchell High School she headed to LA for the top Makeup Academy in the states at the age of 17. Yes, 17. Now she's not even 30 but has over a decade of experience, from Orange County to Sioux Falls, working with brides, actresses and regular women like me looking for a little stress-free assistance for family photo sessions. She does hair, makeup and is a licensed tattoo artist being one of the first and only artists in Sioux Falls offering microblading services. The girl has got credentials. There's absolutely nothing I love more than a woman that makes no excuses and never ceases to continue improving themselves. In spite of any and all odds, Sabreena is kicking ass with over 41 weddings in 2017, too many to count in 2018 and currently booking for 2019. 

One thing I truly love about Sabreena is the conversation during our sessions. There's nothing worse than spending 2 hours with someone and having nothing to say. Having done multiple sessions with her myself, I can attest to an honest, real experience you can feel in what she says. Her life is her son, but her work is her passion, and you can feel both sitting in her chair. She starts simply with, "What are we thinking, have any inspo shots, what are you wearing, is there a theme?" A few simple answers, a quick look at a picture and she's off to work. The rest of her session doesn't feel like I'm about to get my world rocked when I look in the mirror and truly don't recognize the woman staring back at me, it feels like hanging out talking to a friend. 

I asked her what's one thing you wish brides knew on their wedding day, she said "The little things are just the little things. Often I see brides stress over every much so that they often forget to stop and let the important things sink in. Hug the family members that traveled in before the hustle and bustle starts, have a glass of champagne in silence in a bubble bath that morning, delegate tasks that are overwhelming to you. Breathe." The way she answered this question reiterated just how connected with reality she is. She takes no small thing for granted and feels the moments she lives in. Her happiness, her ambition, her dedication to herself and her family, they're beautiful qualities to see in one woman. They make her fun and easy to work with. She's truly a gift to have on-call. 

When I am on location for a wedding I am there all day. I see the venue before it's decorated, I see the bride before she's dressed, I see the family before they've had a chance to prepare; and I get to see all of it when it's done. Of all the transformations I see that day, there is none like watching a bride go from their every-other-day look to a professionally done bridal look. The smile, it kills me. I cry every time. I can't tell you how big of a stress reliever it is for brides to not have to worry about this transformation. From personal experience I can attest to Sabreena's advice, "One thing I find silly about so many individuals is their willingness to cut out services for themselves (on their big day) to fulfill the wants of others or to simply save a few bucks. This day is about you and yours, period. I urge you not to cut yourself short of having your hair done, your makeup done, your nails's not just about the aesthetic nature of what it will do to enhance your beauty, but the nature of what it will do to your soul." She's right. You don't just transform your look, you transform you entire day. There's nothing like the confidence a professional airbrush application can give you. You deserve that.

At my last session for my maternity shoot Sabreena let me in on a little secret of what's in store for her and guys, I can't say anything, but it's BIG. Don't stop watching. 

Hair and makeup in the images above done by Sabreena. Images above provided by Bethany Melvin Photography, Brittany Elizabeth Images and Madeline Mack Photography


Pregnancy: Feeling Beautiful

There's nothing more real as a woman than finding out your pregnant. You don't seriously contemplate all that comes along with pregnancy until you see that 'positive' on the stick. The experience isn't the same for everyone, so I can only speak to my story. I know there are women that struggle with fertility and miscarriage and that is an entirely different aspect of recreation I can't relate to. For those women, please don't give up hope. 

I'll start by saying this isn't the popular opinion. I don't enjoy the process that is pregnancy. The 40 weeks are hard for me. The physical changes and emotional rollercoaster are difficult for me to just step outside of and accept or embrace for the time-being. I don't recognize or feel the *glow* and serenity I know a lot of women do. I feel like I'm in a constant state of preparation. It doesn't always reach a level of stress, but there's not much relaxing. 

Emotionally I start off more "mindfully balanced." Instincts take over and planning begins - what needs to be done before the baby is here, how much do we need to save financially, what we we all need to purchase to be fully prepared...the real list making begins. Once those tasks start to get knocked off and Brandon and I have a plan of action we're following, my mind goes to the life changes. What I'll need to change and rearrange in order to make time for the new person I'm in charge of, what I might need to give up all together. As an ambitious, goal-oriented woman, that was difficult to accept the first time around. With this second pregnancy, those acceptances are familiar. The expectations are known. But the sacrifices are still real. I have no complaints, its a part of the process, its just not always an easy one.

Physically though, I don't think it gets easier regardless of what pregnancy you're on. Losing your body to another 'alien' being is a crazy experience, one that is in retrospect of course worth it, but during it - so hard. Becoming this new person in size and shape uncontrollably is a very out-of-control feeling. Your face looks different in the mirror, your geography grows with features that didn't exist in the same way as before, and your overall comfortably being inside your own body completely disappears by 9 months. It is difficult to feel confident in yourself when you're not just yourself.

I decided with this pregnancy I wasn't going to live in the misinterpretations of my own insecurities. I wanted maternity pictures. Not the typical family maternity style pictures, but pictures that made me feel something I hadn't felt in a long time - beautiful in my own skin. Skimming through Pinterest, the milk bath shoot continued to catch my eye. Who were these gorgeous women owning their pregnant bodies? I wanted to personally feel the confidence their photos made me feel, the confidence I'd been missing. 

I knew the women I wanted to work with immediately. Sabreena of Sabreena Frances accentuated one of my favorite features, my blue eyes, using a muted mauvy-matte palette. There's a feeling you get when your makeup is dead on - not thinking twice about what your face looks like in pictures is a pretty huge feat to overcome. If you aren't a makeup artist, it's 100% worth it to find someone that makes you feel that confident. As for location, I somehow talked a strong female supervisor and friend from the past into letting me use her impeccable bathroom - BIG thank you Lisa! For a photographer, Brittany of Brittany Elizabeth Images was the first on my list. I knew she would take my burgundy lace dress, quicksand roses and milky vision and turn it into something I didn't even quite expect. I was right. If you're pregnant and there's something you want to do to feel more like you again, make it happen. Forget the expense of the thing and just make it happen. This one wasn't for anyone but me.