VENDOR LOVE // Think Splendid

Liene Stevens of Think Splendid photo  

I first met Liene at a wedding conference I attend, called Engage. At the time, I knew nothing about her company, Think Splendid, and from the moment I was introduced to it, I've been a total fan! Liene is an expert in social and consumer psychology and has been studying, analyzing and forecasting what makes people tick and ultimately, why they make the decisions they do - specifically in the wedding industry! She has also focused much of her studies on the Millennial generation, who are our current and up-and-coming clients. Liene is a wealth of information and I am so honored that she took the time for this little interview to share some insights with us all on her current findings! If you work in the wedding industry in any capacity, I highly encourage you to read on, Liene has some fantastic information for us!



Q. First off, you are a totally-cool-nerd about stats. How did you begin your interest with data and how why the wedding industry?

A. I'm not so much a lover of stats as I am of people. I am obsessed with figuring out what makes people tick, why they make the decisions they do, how they behave. I believe that everyone has a story to tell and that it's a story worth telling. I love weddings because there are millions of interconnected stories in one room every Saturday evening and the human element is one of the very few things that even the most professional, experienced wedding professional cannot control.

Q. You are in expert in social behavior and also analyzing how couples spend and plan their weddings. What are some trends you are seeing?

A. Food is becoming important at every budget level. More couples are choosing quality and spending more on it than in the past. This is partly because millennials are foodies and place a high value on it, partly because of the "real food" and farm to table movements, and partly because of food television and how accessible it has made gourmet food in daily living.

Another change is that grooms are now more involved in the wedding planning and decision making than men were before (nerdy stat: 65% of grooms are actively involved in the planning process). They've researched their options and aren't just making the stereotypical band/DJ, catering decisions.

Q. What do you think the 'State of the Wedding Industry' is currently for those of us who work in this world?

A. The wedding industry is evolving, not dissolving. What worked just ten years ago won't work now, but that is nothing to be afraid of. It just means that professionals need to stay on their toes and in tune with how their clients behave and make decisions.

A Chicken Little approach to the census data about the drop in marriage rate sells news, but it's not really cause for concern when you look at the behavior behind the numbers. Today's young couples get married at a later age, but the majority indicate that they still do want to get married -- they just want to do it once. Nearly half of millennials are children of divorce and don't want divorce as an option for themselves. As for the long-term view of weddings, there's currently a baby boom in London, which bodes well for the wedding industry in about 25-30 years. People are getting married now (at an average of 40,000 weddings in the U.S. every weekend) and they'll continue to get married in the future.

Q. What do you think the 'State of the Wedding Industry' is currently for couples planning their weddings?

A. For couples, there's never been a better time to plan a wedding. Social media has leveled the playing field in terms of who can show off their talent (making it affordable and no longer solely at a magazine editor's discretion), so it makes it easier for couples to find professionals they love at every price point. If a couple does their homework, they can weed out the "all talk" pros from the talented ones.

Q. What is the most fascinating fact you have learned over the years about weddings?

A. A typical wedding has an average of 43 vendors working on it in some capacity.

Q. I find that couples are planning their weddings either very-globally or hyper-locally. Do you have any thoughts on this and what that means for vendors finding their 'perfect' clients?

A. Your experiences with this ring true industry wide. For vendors to take advantage of finding the clients they want, they really need to first hone in on what it is they want for themselves. Do they want to travel every weekend? If so, there are couples who don't bat an eye at spending an extra thousand dollars to fly in a florist, photographer, planner, band, officiant whose work they fell in love with. When some people hear the saying "go big or go home", they reply with "home please" and this is a legitimate decision. If they'd prefer to stay closer to home and put down roots, the easiest way is to really tailor their website and blog to showcase an expertise of their local area. If a wedding pro is trying to be everything to everyone they won't get the clients they want.

Q. The 'Millennial' Generation are our up-and-coming clients. Do you have any advice on what they are looking for?

A. They're looking for collaborators, not someone to delegate everything to. They grew up in an educational system that emphasized team work and group decision making, so choices and peer feedback are a way of life for them. They no longer take the planner's recommendations as gold, but as vetted options open to the feedback of their family and friends.

Millennials also see custom as a way of life, not a premium upgrade. They were taught that they could be anything they wanted because there was no one in the world just like them. They were taught that they are special snowflakes and they believe this. Using the word "packages" is a red flag because it shows you are cookie cutter and not able to accommodate their uniqueness. Your process as a wedding professional needs to FEEL custom to the client, whether the back-end is truly custom or not, and regardless of what budget level you are at.

Q. What is the most rewarding part about your job?

A. The most rewarding part of my job is when a business owner tells me that my research and work allowed them to grow and continue to put food on their table and the tables of their employees who depend on the paychecks the owner provides.

Q. What kind of difference do you hope to make in the long term with Think Splendid?

A. Everything that we do at Think Splendid has to empower the wedding industry in some way, or we don't take it on. There are good but not great opportunities that I have passed on because they didn't fit that overall mission. I want my work to empower people to think critically and make smarter, more informed decisions for their businesses. Splendid is a very specific word and I chose it on purpose. You cannot make mediocre decisions and be splendid. You cannot half ass things and be splendid. Being, acting, thinking splendid requires a choice to step up and show up. I want my work to raise the bar. I want the industry to be more splendid because of what I do and what my work enables others to do.

Q. I'm not a political person, but Gay Marriage is a big one on the ballot in many states right now. What do you think the economic effects will be in the future with more states passing this?

A. It is more complicated than this, but the very simple answer is that gay marriage means more people getting married which means more money being spent on wedding related purchases by both the couple and the guests who will spend on new outfits, travel, gifts. The industry is not going to take a financial hit when gay marriage passes in each state. Straight people are not going to stop getting married in protest.

Q. Where do you gather your inspiration?

A. I'm a voracious reader. I find that good fiction inspires me in a way that nothing else does. I also like to visit museums and go on walks and just try and notice the every day details that often get overlooked - the curvy pattern of a flower's petals against the straight lines of a fence and things like that. I find that this stimulates my mind and gets my brain spinning.

You can also check out Think Splendid on Twitter.

ELEVATE Workshop // Success Stories & Testimonials!

Creating the ELEVATE Workshop is a true pleasure. I'm a little nerdy and I think it's actually fun to write presentations and brand a whole bunch of goodies for our attendees. However, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that our attendees walk away inspired, changed and ready to rock their world. I think teaching and mentoring others is a true honor and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. My goal isn't to fill you with a bunch of bullshit - it's to be honest and open about my experiences and methods, so I can empower others to go forth and grow their businesses. In fact, after each ELEVATE Workshop, we survey our attendees and ask for the same honest critique and feedback to see how we can make future workshops better and stronger! While putting together this blog post, I was a little hesitant, because I don't want it to seem like I'm tooting-my-own-horn here, but I wanted to show you some of the responses we have received from past attendees! I also went to some of their blogs and I'm AMAZED by not only how the quality of their work has progressed, but also how much stronger their businesses have become!

One of my favorite success stories is Johnna Holmgren. Johnna attended ELEVATE last fall and she was really just officially embarking on the world of being a full-time wedding photographer. When Johnna and I sat down for our one-on-one's, she had mentioned that she had this little idea. You see, she had just taken part in a wedding fair and it was a smashing success. Her husband happens to be an amazing chalk-board artist, so he made their 'booth' at the wedding fair with chalk boards and amazing typography. It most definitely drew in a crowd and Johnna managed to book a TON of weddings, because her booth was so inspiring and innovative to the brides! As we chatted, Johnna mentioned how she felt like, maybe - just maybe - her husband could pursue his art of typography and maybe their chalkboard art could be a real thing? We sat, dreamed, talked and made goals for Johnna during her week with us and I'm happy to report that Johnna and Max launched their new brand, Bear Fox Chalk earlier this year!

Bear Fox Chalk Website

Johnna is just one of many success stories from our attendees at ELEVATE! Here are some quotes and feedback from others who have attended our workshops!

"I was actually really surprised at how different and variety filled your talks were. Each spoke about a different important aspect of photography. When you started, I thought "What are the rest of them going to talk about?... THIS IS IT!! THE MOST IMPORTANT!!!" Then Daniel started and I was like, "This is IT!! WOW!!" Then Collin.... and so on. So... it was GREAT! Full Day one blew me away." Johnna Holmgren from ELEVATE 2, Northern Minnesota

"Eliesa will inspire, encourage and challenge all that cross her path. she's a highly ambitious leader with a lot of wisdom to share." - Megas Daas, from ELEVATE 2, Northern Minnesota

"[The shooting challenges were] super awesome. Each challenge was different and that was fun. I liked that they weren't wedding based. It was a good chance to think about photography differently.. for those who only shoot a bunch of wedding.. a chance to step outside the box." - Jess from Elevate 1, Palm Springs

"Would you recommend Elevate to others? Why?  9/10 Yes. I recommend Elevate, because it puts shooters together with other shooters in an open, supportive, and honest environment.  And we all need that as artists." - Nate Larson of Capture Studios from ELEVATE 1 and 2.

"I loved that you (Eliesa) and the speakers weren't just "available" for questions during the presentation time but it was flowing throughout the entire time if there was anything that came up or critiques or things like that." Johnna Holmgren

"This is wedding photography workshop 3.0 and more people need to experience this type of workshop. We discovered things we just didn't want to hear, but NEEDED to hear." - RJ Kern

The registration deadline for our upcoming ELEVATE NYC Workshop is September 7th! Our seats are filling fast, but there is still room! We have an absolutely amazing group of people signed up! Join us!



Mr. and Mrs. Payne // A Northeast Minneapolis Wedding

Minneapolis is a pretty amazing city. In fact, if you live here, you're bound to have some MPLS pride and if you visit here, you know you've just experienced a hidden-gem-of-a-city. When I first met Lindsay and Elliott, I knew they were totally 'my people', because they literally hung out at all of my favorite local joints. They also reside in Northeast Minneapolis, which is where our studio is and, in my humble opinion, one of the best neighborhoods in town. The vibe in NE is unlike any other place in the city. It's a little working class, a little hipster, filled with artists and there is a church and a bar on every corner. Lindsay and Elliott's wedding took place from start-to-finish in the NE area and I was SO SO SO excited to shoot a wedding in an area of town where I feel such a personal connection to! I love everything about the way that L & El (cute nicknames, huh?) planned their wedding. The ceremony took place in their friend's backyard - just a few doors down from where the couple lives, too! An intimate group of 30 guests watched the couple get hitched over beers and we headed to a little park just a couple blocks from the couple's home for their portrait session! For the dinner, Lindsay and Elliott treated their wedding guests to a 4 course dinner at the Modern Cafe, one of Minneapolis's best restaurants. There was nothing by family, friends, amazing drinks and food, laughs and great conversation - literally, the essence to life! To wrap the evening up, we all went to the Varsity Theater to continue the party, where more of the couple's friends met to celebrate!

Our entire day was so relaxed and chill. My goal with this wedding was to tell a more intimate story of the day and to capture special moments of every person who attended! I feel like my documentary switched flipped on during this wedding and I'm a lot a bit in love with these images!



Congratulations to Lindsay and Elliott! It's been a true pleasure to get to know you as a couple and document this day for you!



WEDDING STYLE // The Stoa Wedding

Bride and Groom Wedding PortraitClare and Ryan are some of our clients who tied the knot earlier this season! From the moment I met Clare, I knew she had impeccable style and taste. She had also hired some of the most amazing vendors in the area, so I also knew that their wedding would be nothing short of fabulous! However, the thing I love about Clare and Ryan was their approach to their wedding. Yes, they had hired wonderful people to bring together stunning details, and yes, they 'went all out'; however, if none of that came together in the end, they honestly could have cared less! All that Clare and Ryan cared about in the end was that the two of them got married and shared it with their family and friends who were close to them! I love this mentality and from my perspective, they were SO much fun and easy to photograph, because of their easy-going attitude towards their day. Everything went absolutely perfect for this wedding and it is so so so so so gorgeous! I wanted to get in touch with Clare and see if she had any advice for future brides on how to style their wedding!  

Q. You have incredible style. Hands down. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration for your wedding?

A. We gathered inspiration from EVERYWHERE. Design websites, magazines, lifestyle blogs, Pinterest, home decor catalogs, etc.

Q. What were the first steps you took in designing your big day?

A. Once all the excitement of getting engaged settled down, the first question we asked ourselves was, "What do we want the feel of our wedding to be?" We simply wanted our guests to be comfortable.

Q. How did you choose your vendors?

A. After narrowing down the vibe of the day, the Enchanted Barn was an obvious choice. Rustic. Vintage. Chic. Next up, we snagged Photogen Inc. I've been a HUGE fan of Eliesa's work for years. The third vendor we booked was Laura Mullen Event Design. Laura has amazing grace and vision. She pointed us in the right direction with Munster Rose, Bridgemans, Midway Party Rental, and Blooms and Tunes.

Q. Both you and your groom added personal, hand made details for your day. How did these come about?

A. We did! Ryan makes fishing lures in his spare time and he wanted to incorporate those elements into his wardrobe + day. I just love to create. From the chalk cups to the framed guest book to the giant L-O-V-E sign, our friends and family spent tons of hours (and lots of wine) creating the special details.

Wedding Details Triptych

Wedding Groom Triptych

Q. All of your bridesmaids had different dresses. Why did you choose this?

A. I wanted the bridesmaids to feel fabulous. It would have been difficult to find one dress that fit everyone's personality, body type, and budget. Plus, they all have great, unique taste! It was fun to see it come together. When I sent them invitations to the be apart of the bridal party, I included a swatch of five ribbons that encompassed our overarching color scheme and let them do the rest!

Wedding bridal party walking in grass field

Q. What was your philosophy in investing in the details of your day (money wise)? What were the priorities for you?

A. Basically, the order in which we booked our vendors. Everyone says that this day is about "you." We didn't really feel that way. Maybe it's our MN upbringing, but hospitality was important to us, we wanted people to be well fed, thirst quenched, and entertained enough to stay until the doors closed for the night.

It was also super important for us to have AMAZING documentation. Our favorite thing (out of many) about Eliesa and crew at Photogen Inc. is their photojournalistic style and raw talent. They capture the emotion while they shoot, and that's pretty special.

Lastly, I just wanted to show up on the day of the wedding and have an amazing time enjoying my husband, family and friends. The LMED team took care of everything, I did not worry about one thing the entire day! Just pure bliss!

Q. Why did you choose the Enchanted Barn?

A. No doubt that the Enchanted Barn is a gorgeous venue. We loved the details about the site that made it unique. The stone in the milking parlor, the horses in the field, the lit hanging candles during the dance. The owner of the barn, Lorin, has revamped this barn with such and eye for design. Plus, he is SO wonderful. His team really made our day feel special.

Bride and Groom Wedding Ceremony at the Enchanted Barn

Q.  When it came to your actual wedding dress, you had two. Why did you choose this? How did you choose your dresses?

A. I actually found my reception dress first, Ryan has always had a thing for my calves (weird!?) so I knew I wanted to surprise him with a short dress! I was working a job in Santa Monica and walked into a vintage clothing store and found the most amazing piece of clothing ever! I walked out of the store with it that day! I found my ceremony dress when I was living in Colorado at a local bridal shop. It just felt "right." I knew I wanted the dress to feel classic with a rustic twist. I loved the texture of the lace and was sold when I found out it had pockets!!

Q. Aside from your vendors, who did you collaborate with to bring your ideas to life?

A. My mom. I get my "creative vision" from her. And my dad for being the MacGyver of these visions.

Beautiful Wedding Reception under a tent

Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that incorporates so many details?

A. In the grand scheme of things, the details really don't matter. The whole week leading up to the wedding day, I kept telling everyone that even if the Uhaul (yes, Uhaul) died on the side of the road, the day will still be amazing. And it was. Ryan and I have the BEST friends and family and that's what it really boils down to. But, if you are like me and anal retentive, hire Laura Mullen. I literally showed up, said yes, cheers'ed, and danced the night away with my husband and friends.

Wedding  Invitation Details

Mr. and Mrs. Evans // A Villa Bellezza Winery Wedding

I absolutely love to photograph a wedding in a new space. So, when Hilary and Nicholas told me that they were having their wedding at a brand-new-romantic-winery-in-Wisconsin, I was sold! The more and more they started telling me about their day, I literally started swooning. First off, Hilary and Nicholas are  fantastic couple who have the deepest love and respect for each other. Secondly, the couple was having the first wedding ever at Villa Bellezza, which is a winery - and now a new wedding venue - in Pepin, Wisconsin. Lastly, the lovely ladies of Mimi Design were creating and planning their wedding and I just love them so much, so any opportunity to work with an amazing crew gets me incredibly excited! Oh - and did I mention that Hilary was wearing a STUNNING Vera Wang dress?!? Seriously, the silhouette was absolutely perfect for her and I was a bit in awe of it all day long!

Our day started in Minneapolis, where the bridal party got all done up. Then we all, yes the ladies and the gentleman of the wedding party, trekked in a big party bus all the way to Pepin, Wisconsin. It was such a gorgeous drive and Hilary and Nicholas literally had one of the most gorgeous days of the summer. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the 70's and we were in 'God's country'. There was nothing by cornfields and American Flags around us, yet when we arrived at Villa Bellezza, I suddenly felt like we were whisked away to an Italian Vineyard. The space was intimate, romantic and simply gorgeous. It was a true pleasure to document Hilary and Nicholas's day in this space and to be the first photographers at this venue.

I've always said that 'the meaning of life' to me is sitting down with good people, sharing an amazing meal, drinking a fabulous glass of wine and having a lovely conversation. Hilary and Nicholas's wedding did just that by serving a family style meal to all of their guests. It was a little bit magical at Villa Bellezza Winery. My other 'meaning of life' moment is to do what you love and share it with those around you. I am truly blessed to document people's lives each week during one of the most momentous moments of their life and on my simple, little blog, I am able to share it with the world. There is something very, very special about this.




Congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Evans! We are SO happy for you!



FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS // Why I started a wedding studio vs hiring associate photographers

Eliesa Johnson At a certain point in any photographer's career, we start to think about hiring others to help us. Whether this means outsourcing editing, adding on assistants or signing up an intern - when business expands, so does our team around us. Today I want to talk about hiring on other photographers as Lead photographers...otherwise known as Associates versus creating a wedding studio. For the record, I really loathe the word 'Associate'. Personally, I think it sounds like 'second best' and if I am going to hire anyone to be a lead photographer, they are not just going to be good-enough, they are going to be the best. However, for lack-of-a-better-term, I'll use that phrase throughout.

A few years ago, my prices started reaching a more luxe price point for the Minneapolis market and I found myself turning away a ton of work. At the same time, I had a couple of assistants who were really starting to grow exponentially and were clearly on a trajectory to be amazing wedding photographers on their own. I decided to start another wedding studio, called Rivets and Roses, instead of having 'Associates' under Photogen Inc. I did this for several reasons, which I will get into later, but I first started the brand with one photographer and this past winter, we officially hired on four more artists to make Rivets and Roses an official wedding photography studio. I have to say, having a second brand, or really our sister company, as we like to call it, has been nothing but a positive experience and I wanted to give some advice to those of you considering bringing on other photographers as Leads. Here are 5 things to consider when starting a wedding studio or hiring associate photographers:

Rivets and Roses Wedding Studio

 NUMBER ONE // Structure Your Business Right from the Beginning:

If you are going to hire on photographers to work for you, it's important to think about how you want your business to be structured in the long run. If you take a long, hard look at this at the beginning of this journey, it will totally benefit you in the end, rather than having to restructure your business twice. Many photographers have associate shooters under the same company name and this works for them! However, when it came time for me to make this decision, I chose to start a completely different brand. Why? There are a few reasons:

  • What if it failed? I was a little nervous about the idea of having other photographers and it not going so well. What if it was too much? What if they did a bad job? I didn't want that coming down on a company that I had worked so hard to build, so separating the two brands made sense to me.
  • I didn't want our photographers to feel like they were second best. I felt like if they were shooting under Photogen Inc., clients might think of our artists as 'the discount photographer' or even 'second best' to myself. I wanted to give them more freedoms to be their own individual artists and thrive under a studio name, rather than my name.
  • I wanted to start a studio that was different from a general photography studio. I really do believe that brides and grooms should be able to find their perfect photographer, no matter their price point. I also feel like it is important that they get the top-of-the-line experience. Money is always a factor in clients decision making but when it comes to a wedding day, everyone deserves an amazing experience. The goal with Rivets and Roses is to provide an experience for both our artists and clients. For our couples, we want them to come to the website, browse thru our photographer's portfolios and really choose the person that they connect with - both thru their images and personality - the most. Once their wedding has taken place, our studio continues to take care of all of the post processing, album design, etc. I have the highest of standards, and everything meets those requirements before it leaves the door! For our photographers, they are able to strengthen and grow their talents while being supported by our studio. It's literally a win-win for everyone!

Now, with this said, there are many photographers who choose to have photographers under their name and it works perfectly for them! This has just been my experience. If this is something you are looking to doing, simply look at your business from all angles to see which model is right for you!

Wedding couple at the alter

NUMBER TWO // Build it Slow:

When I first started Rivets and Roses, I had only one photographer at a time. I am SO happy this is the way I chose to start this brand, because I learned SO much. Growing our sister company slowly has helped us build a fantastic reputation with the local Minneapolis market and honestly - who knows where we will take it! There is a world of opportunity out there! Building this over a couple of years has also helped me solidify my visions for the brand and where I wanted to take it. There was a little 'gut feeling' I had last winter where I KNEW that it was time to take Rivets to the next level. I decided to 'put it out there' to hire on more photographers and make it an official wedding photography studio, and it was a little scary. I didn't know what kind of people might apply or what people might think of me doing this, but honestly - I was blown away. We had SO many talented photographers apply to be a part of Rivets and Roses and I felt so humbled. This is also when I realized that this was going to be a big success. I am SO impressed with the quality of our team and just how amazingly they have come together to build up our brand and also create amazing work for their clients!

engaged couple in a field

NUMBER THREE // Empower Your Photographers:

This is so so so so so so so important. Honestly, I'm a pretty hands-off boss lady when it comes to our photographers. I'm here to structure things, guide them, critique their work and give advice...but I also want to empower them to be their own artists, with their own ideas and handle their clients in their own way. This approach is one of the key reasons why I think we have such an amazing crew. Each of our artists feel like they 'own' a part of this brand and every individual has so much to offer and bring to the table. Our photographers are in charge of answering their inquiries, setting up client meetings and being the leader on the day-of. They're also in charge of running their blog, notifying our editor, etc. In other studio situations, clients are simply 'placed' with photographers and compensated on a per-hour basis. When I started Rivets and Roses, I wanted to make sure it was worth everyone's while. Our photographers are compensated very well for their work and we sat down with each individual artist to make sure their rates made sense and also that their editing style can be processed by our editor, so their unique processing is true to each individual artist. If everyone feels like they have ownership in a dream, it's going to soar. As the leader, I don't want to overly-control too much. Passion is a strong, beautiful force that can take an idea and make it brilliant.

engaged couple in front of old garage

NUMBER FOUR // Set Expectations:

Obviously, there needs to be structure in a business with 5 photographers under it. When we launched Rivets and Roses with more artists, we sat down and really nailed down our workflows to make sure that there were 'routines' in places. Every one of our artists follows the same workflow from start to finish. Of course, this also takes time to train in and get everyone on the same page. Some things to consider are:

  • Who books the clients?
  • How do you organize your inquiries? (I highly recommend Shoot Q!)
  • Who books your assistant for a wedding?
  • How much does the photographer get paid and when do they get paid?
  • How are the files managed?
  • What are the expectations in dealing with clients? (Literally  - how do you answer the phone?)
  • After the photographer's contract is done, do they get any of the images for their portfolios?
  • Who makes the contracts? Who's in charge of the money?
  • What is the goal for both the artist and the studio?
  •  What are the specific roles of the artist and the studio?

Know that if you are starting a studio, you need to take the time to invest in your photographers, setting expectations for them and making everything clear. If you are clear in the beginning about everything - even the uncomfortable things like money, photo rights, terms of contracts, etc. this will save you a potential headache and heartache later on. Invest in a lawyer and make sure you have a solid contract. All of our photographers are contract for a minimum of 2 full wedding seasons and after that they are welcome to stay or some are ready to take the leap and go on their own...which leads me to....

engaged couple in an old dinner

NUMBER FIVE// Be OK With Change:

Whenever you decide to hire people, whether that be a studio manager, editor, and assistant or another lead photographer, know this: people are always going to eventually leave. In my opinion, if I am doing my job right, eventually every one of my photographers will eventually be strong enough and prepared enough to be amazing on their own. With that said, there are certain personalities who are perfect for working for a studio and others who thrive to be on their own. Honor this. Honor the needs of your staff and understand that they need to go where their heart leads them. Now, I know I just got all touchy-feely-hippy on you, but we are all artists here. Artists always want more and we always strive to be better. Change in inevitable in business and as entrepreneurs, we need to be accepting, ready and able to deal with change in a positive way. Change moves us forward and helps us gain momentum for bigger and better things.

engaged couple in front of Minnehaha Falls

Rivets and Roses Wedding Studio Website

To learn more about Rivets and Roses and our team of photographers, visit our website and blog!  If you are considering hiring more photographers under your brand, there is a lot to think about. My goal with this post is to encourage you and give some helpful tips on the 'big' things to think about! Hopefully this helped; however, if you have additional questions on running a studio, you can always e-mail me at: eliesa (at)

You can also check out Rivets and Roses on Facebook.

VENDOR LOVE // Munster Rose

Bride with floral bouquet in hair The first time I went to the website for Munster Rose, I thought to myself, "Who is this? I MUST meet her!" For a florist site, it was bold, edgy and very sassy. Basically, it had SO much personality that I couldn't help but want to know more about this company! Fortunately, over the last couple of years, I have had the extreme pleasure of working with Jackie, the owner and artist of Munster Rose, on several jobs. Her work always blows me away and we've collaborated on everything from test shoots, engagement sessions, weddings and even editorial work for magazines and ad campaigns. In my opinion, Jackie is one of the most professional and also one of the most artistic florists I've ever worked with. If you give her an idea, she will totally go above and beyond to create something beautiful! We wanted to know what makes Munster Rose so special and also, what advice such a great florist has for all of you brides planning your big day!


Q. You have incredible style. Hands down. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration for designing florals for your clients?

A. Thanks so much! Well, of course we follow all the popular wedding blogs (Style Me Pretty, 100 layer cake, Wedding Chicks), but maybe more importantly we try to stay in touch with current fashion and design trends via websites like Trendland and Dezeen, which help us draw from an inspiration pool that lies outside of the wedding industry.

Q. What are the first steps a client should consider when booking their florist?


The kinds of flowers and style of the arrangements are in part determined by all of the other factors in your wedding—the venue, the dress, the shoes, the décor—so the better you understand the look and feel you want for your wedding day, the more productive you’re initial meetings with your florist will be. But most importantly: Find a florist whose work gets you excited about flowers!


After finding a style that you gravitate towards, make sure you hire a florist that you actually like. A good florist is a florist that “gets” you and your vision and that should be fairly obvious in your initial meeting. The planning process should be fun!

wedding floral bouquets

Q. How would you describe the style of Munster Rose?

A. We try to create pieces that are appropriate for each couple and their venue, using a “floral language” that is smartly-styled and up-to-date. Sometimes that means we do vintage and barnyard. Other times it means we create florals that are elegant and modern. Mostly, we just try to design flowers that help make your wedding a little more awesome.

wedding tablescape

Q.  You tend to go above and beyond as a florist. What is a unique piece you have made for a client?

A. We’ve been blessed with a lot of brides who are looking for something unique or extra- ordinary, but one of our favorite pieces to date was probably the bridal bouquet for Alyson Newquist. She asked for a “gigantic cascading” bouquet with tons of texture and earthy bits. In the end, the bouquet weighed 15 pounds and was 2 feet long--full of seed pods and petal-y goodness. We LOVED it!

Q.  How does the venue choice and time of year affect the choice of flowers and design?

A. The venue choice is HUGE! Venue affects the flowers probably more than anything else. I almost always advocate for adjusting your flower choices so that they are in tune with their surroundings rather than ignore the architecture and style of the venue to get a certain flower. Flowers are flexible and can be tailored whereas most venues just are what they are!

We also like to embrace seasonality. There are many blooms that are unique to each season. Generally, spring weddings warrant spring flowers; fall weddings warrant fall flowers.

wedding tablescape

Q. What was your philosophy in investing in the florals / details of a wedding day (money wise)?

A. You only get married once, so do it up! Decide what’s important and delegate funds to those aspects. Our top recommendations for investments are:

  1. Photographer (the photos of your big day will decide, in part, how you remember it. So get a good one!)
  2. Florist/designer (of course)

Details make the wedding day, and make your wedding unique. Pay attention to those aspects. And don’t forget that, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Q. How many weddings to you do each year?

A. This season we have about 45 weddings on the books, but that number really depends on the size of the weddings. Some weekends we’ll only take on one wedding (if it’s a large event) while other weekends we’ll take 2-3 smaller events. We are hands-on studio and it’s important to us that each client get the attention they require and deserve.

Q. What are some hot trends for florals right now?

A. Ombre arrangements are pretty hot. Also, looser botanical designs with more depth and movement are on-trend this season. After a few years hiatus, foliage and fillers are making a comeback--people are straying away from the perfectly-compact bouquet of the Noughties.

Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that incorporates so many details?

A. Three words: Hire a planner. Even the most organized bride or groom will need someone to keep things running smoothly on their wedding day. A planner is essential for organizing all those details and giving you time to enjoy the day rather than worry about whether or not the tables will be cleared in time for the band to setup.

Bride holding floral bouquet

You can also check out Munster Rose on Facebook.

WEDDING STYLE // Anne Kristine Lingerie

Anne Kristine Archambault Headshot

Anne Kristine is a designer who focuses specifically on bridal lingerie for your wedding night. I first met Anne a couple of years ago when she hired me to photograph her new line she was about to launch! I fell in love with the idea that there was something more custom out there and that brides no longer needed to go to Victoria’s Secret for their intimates! Everything about Anne Kristine Lingerie is bridal. It’s light, feminine, and drop dead sexy…while still being very classy! Her goal is to help the bride transition from her dress to a beautiful piece of lingerie for the wedding night. Fun, right? We caught up with owner and designer, Annie Archambault to dig a little deeper in to why we should invest in some custom lingerie!



Q. What makes Anne Kristine Lingerie so unique?

A. I would say it’s the details that makes Anne Kristine Lingerie stand out. It’s the silk satin shoulder ties, the handmade rosettes, the ruffles, the soft fabrics, and the finishing techniques used on each piece. It can be a sad moment when a bride takes off her gorgeous wedding gown, but not if she gets to slip into fabulous lingerie!!

Bride in lingerie sitting on bed

Q. What were the first steps a bride should take when choosing where to purchase her intimates?

A. There are two different categories for “bridal intimates”. What is worn under the wedding gown, and what is worn for the wedding night. My first suggestion for deciding what and where to buy “under the gown” intimates is to ask a wedding gown consultant or seamstress. They will know exactly what will work. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the proper undergarments. Many salons sell bustiers, bust cups, etc., and if they don’t, they usually can refer a lingerie boutique. As for “wedding night” lingerie, look no further than Anne Kristine!

Q.What are the benefits of having fancy/custom lingerie?

A. I love the idea of wearing bridal lingerie for a wedding anniversary. Making the pieces keepsakes. There’s something so romantic about having that special lingerie piece to remind you of your wedding day and the love you share with your spouse.

Anne Kristine Lingerie Website screenshot

Q. Where do you pull inspiration from?

A. For the bridal lingerie line, I find inspiration from wedding gowns. I want the wedding night lingerie to be a continuation of the wedding day. I love the romance and whimsy of wedding gowns. It directly correlates into lingerie. The lace, bows, ruffles, and soft fabrics are all perfect for creating bridal intimates. And I just LOVE wedding gowns! (It’s no wonder since I was a wedding consultant for 6 years before starting Anne Kristine!)

Q. What are some key trends for bridal attire right now? What about Bridal Lingerie?

A. It’s all about a bride showing off her personal style. Accessories are a great way to do this. The wedding gown is still so important, but accessories are huge. From sparkly Louboutins to Hunter rain boots, a bride has so many way to express herself through accessories. She can even change her look from ceremony to reception. I love when a bride changes from her long gorgeous veil to a fantastic headpiece! As accessories are becoming more important to the bridal look, bridal lingerie is also becoming more important. Brides are more determined than ever to have a complete and coordinating wedding day, and that includes after the sun goes down! Also, I LOVE the idea of wearing bridal lingerie for a boudoir shoot before the wedding!

Q. What are some tips on buying lingerie online that have the ‘perfect fit’? Tell us more about your online store…

A. Pay very close attention to the size charts. Every designer has different sizing, so it’s important to know your measurements. On Anne Kristine Lingerie’s website there is a video on how to measure. There are also videos further explaining the different pieces. I want customers to see the lingerie in different ways. I also encourage customers to contact us if they have any questions regarding sizing, or which piece of lingerie would be best.
Anne Kristine Lingerie Website screenshot-2

Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that want something ‘different and unique’?

A. I think the key is to keep things personal. Instead of just a table number, the couple could have the numbers on engagement photos, or on travel pics they’ve taken together. I like the idea of offering a signature wedding drink, or if the couple has a favorite dessert, serve that instead of cake. Every couple has different interests and a different style, so incorporating them into the wedding ensures it will be unique!
Bride with floral bouquet in lingerie on bed

You can also check out Anne Kristine Lingerie on Facebook.

FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS // An Interview with Liz Banfield

Liz Banfield Headshot

Liz Banfield is one of my favorite photographers. Personally, I love how refined and simply gorgeous her work is and I believe she is a person in our industry who is going 'to go down in the books.' What do I mean by this? Liz's work is timeless. As an artist she has stuck to her film roots and has still continued to run a successful business by not making the switch to digital. There will always be an aesthetic to film that no action can every compare in digital. It's pure, beautiful and should remind us why we are all photographers. Stylistically, Liz's work has notes of photojournalism, along with a more editorial tone that simply comes together to create stunning imagery that will continue to inspire for generations to come!

Q.  How did you first start to photograph weddings?

A. Before I was a professional, I was that person who was taking pictures all the time. When I got to the age when my friends were getting married, shooting pictures at their weddings was a very natural extension of what I had always done. This was also the era when wedding photography was transforming from a rigid, traditional approach to one with it's roots in fine art and photojournalism. At the time I was working as an executive in advertising and my stylish advertising colleagues were at the forefront of this trend. Soon I graduated from "friend" photographer to "official" photographer and was shooting their weddings on weekends.

Q. What were the first steps a photographer should consider when deciding to become a wedding photographer?

A. Make sure you are pursuing it for the right reason -- because the assignment inspires you, not because you think you'll make money. Assuming your motivation checks out, carefully consider the lifestyle choice you are making. Are you willing to work evenings, weekends and practically every holiday weekend throughout the year? And that's not just shooting. Wedding clients usually have full time jobs and will want to do consultations, engagement sessions, and conference calls all during their spare time and almost never during the regular work day. Also, ask yourself if you are willing to miss the weddings or other celebrations of your own friends/family because you booked a particular date a year in advance. I have missed many over the years.

Brides and Groom in classic car

Q.  How do you view your relationship with the vendors in your industry? Why are these relationships so important to you?

A. I can tell you that without a doubt, my relationships with other creative partners in the wedding business has been essential to my business success. You never know who will give you your next great referral. It can come from unexpected places, even someone you might consider to be your competitor. I always go out of my way to help and connect with other industry professionals. Many have become close personal friends in the process.

Q. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration?

A. I was an Art History major in college so my favorite place to gather visual inspiration is at a museum. When I'm traveling I always try to make time to visit one or two while I'm in town. At home, I love the Minneapolis Institute of Art for it's vast mix of art throughout the ages. I also read fashion and interior design magazines for inspiration. I try to live an artful, aesthetic life. Everything I do feeds into my life as an artist, from the shoes I'm wearing to the restaurants I seek out. I embrace inspiration and celebrate good design every day.

Q. Describe the perfect 'Liz Banfield' client.

A. I have a wide range of clients from school teachers to art collectors, all of them "perfect" in different ways, but the most important factor is that they appreciate what I do and put their trust in me.

Q. What is one of the coolest weddings you have ever photographed. Why was it so special?

A. Oh, it's so hard to play favorites! As an artist I thrive on photographing things that are new to me, visually. My first Hindu wedding was for CNN Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. He arrived at the ceremony on a white horse. And the festive, expressive nature of a traditional Indian celebration, not to mention all the bright colors -- I was in heaven!

Sanjay Gupta Indian Wedding

Q. What kind of work are you personally drawn to?

A. I'm a sucker for great design with a touch of the human hand. Objects and images that are perfect and balanced but with a little imperfection or spontaneity thrown in.

outdoor wedding reception tablescape

Q. What are some innovative trends you are seeing in the wedding industry right now?

A. Extending beyond the wedding day, clients are wanting to chronicle more and more of their entire wedding experience, from the engagement party to celebrating their first anniversary. I can easily see this blossoming into other events, such as the bachelorette. And I know it sounds a little crazy (and it hasn't happened yet) but I'm hoping that some day to be invited to capture travel highlights of the honeymoon. Wouldn't it be amazing to have your once in a lifetime trip documented professionally? Romantic shots of the new couple wandering the streets of Venice, sailing the Caribbean, up close and personal with the lions on a Safari... I see so much potential here!

Q.  You are so respected in our industry. How do you continue to stay inspired?

A. I have always been careful to respect my workload. I don't take more than 15 weddings a year and that has allowed me to stay fresh over a long period of time. This is my 14th year as a full-time professional and I still feel excited as ever to be shooting weddings.

Q. What is the best part about your job?

A. I have to say it's the shooting itself -- the actual creation of images and the challenge of always looking for the next one that really excites me. When I get a shot that I know is really good, a surge of happiness goes all the way down to my toes.

Kissing couple at wedding

Q. What kind of differences do you see in weddings in Minnesota vs other parts of the states?

A. In general, I think regional differences are really diminishing because people share ideas over the blogs, pinterest, etc. I've actually seen this change take place throughout my career. People travel more than ever to attend weddings all over the world. While doing so they are curating their ideas and notions for their own celebration.

I will say that midwesterners tend to be more pragmatic when it comes to planning their day. They aren't as hung up on traditions or how it's "supposed" to be done. Also, the culture of the midwest influences the style of the wedding, which tends to be more understated and less flamboyant than in other regions. The ultimate compliment to a Minnesota wedding might be "pretty!" whereas in Texas it might be "wow!"

There are lingering traditions in other parts of the country that I find charming. Down South, for example, the Best Man is usually the groom's father. I think that's so sweet! Also, many other regions have started to adopt this, but a "Southern-Style" reception is a stand-up affair with food stations. In the North, a sit-down dinner is much more typical.

Be sure to check out Liz Banfield on Facebook!

5 Reasons to Attend the ELEVATE Workshop!

Photographers, this post is for you! As you may have noticed (with my constant tweets, status updates and e-mails), I am hosting another ELEVATE Workshop in New York City this fall! Every time we announce another ELEVATE, I find it a little bit hard to ‘hit home’ on the amazing-ness that we are creating with this event and why you should sign up! I mean, there are SO many workshops offered out there by super-talented photographers in our industry – What makes ELEVATE different? What makes it worth it? I wanted to write this post for all of you who are considering taking the plunge and signing up for my workshop, and to help you make a more informed decision!



Drum roll please!!!

REASON NUMBER ONE // It’s ALL Inclusive!

Personally, I have invested tons of money attending workshops over the course of my career. After the workshop tuition, travel, and hotel – I’ve spent upwards of $3000 – $5000 per workshop. Some of my experiences have been worth it, and others I have paid top dollar to learn from the best-of-the-best and I’ve been a little disappointed. When it came to planning ELEVATE, I wanted to create a workshop that INCLUDED all of  the essentials! Our price point is $1675 and this includes: Hotel Accommodations at The Pod Hotel, a 7 day Metro Card for transportation around the city and most of your meals…along with your actual workshop tuition! We’ve worked hard to negotiate with the hotels to make this possible! It’s important for me that ELEVATE be a workshop that is affordable as well as an amazing experience for each attendee. I know for myself, if accommodations and meals were taken care of – sign me up! And for a week in NYC? That’s a steal…

REASON NUMBER TWO // The One-on-One’s.

With each ELEVATE workshop, I wanted to incorporate a group ‘classroom’ experience, as well as dig deeper with each attendee, individually. With our past workshops, the time with our attendees that really hits home is our discussion that takes place during our one-on-one sessions. These are meant to be intimate and really dig into your portfolios, website presence, branding, processing and any other questions you have about creating your art and business. Each attendee gets the opportunity to sign up for session with myself, Collin and Daniel. I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable these sessions are for both us as speakers and you as the attendee!

REASON NUMBER THREE// The Shooting Challenges.

In workshops I have attended in the past, I have both observed the speakers shooting and been invited to shoot a ‘stylized’ session. The thing about stylized sessions is that everyone attending the workshop suddenly has the same ‘portfolio’ piece to blog about and honestly – anyone can put together a stylized shoot a make it look beautiful. When it comes to ELEVATE, I want to challenge you as artists. Our shooting challenges are meant to make you uncomfortable and get you out of your comfort zone. I’ll be honest, most of our shooting will not result in a portfolio piece for your website. My goal is to give you a opportunity to play that will change, improve and elevate your shooting style when you go home and for all of your shoots to come!


Seriously – We. Are. So. Lucky. to have the incredible lineup we do for ELEVATE NYC! With each workshop, I want to invite photographers who I have personally seen create amazing art, grow their businesses and simply ‘come into their own’ and change our industry a little while doing it! Collin Hughes and Daniel Chin will be joining me as guest speakers and I couldn’t be more excited. We are all SO different in our shooting styles, processing, workflows and client experience; yet, all have the same standard, which is to be the best. I want our attendees to not only see the way I do things, but for them to learn from Daniel and Collin to see the difference and see what things would apply perfectly to them!


New York is said to be ‘The city that dreams are made of’ and hosting the workshop here has opened so many doors for us! I wanted to expand the worlds and knowledge of the wedding industry with our attendees at this workshop and take them on a little tour of some of the most fabulous, luxurious wedding brands in our industry. We will be having behind-the-scene tours of the offices of both Ceci New York and Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine! I can not even begin to tell you how excited I am about this. It is an absolutely invaluable experience and we are so lucky to have time with Ceci Johnson and Shira Savada, Real Weddings Editor for Martha Stewart. They are a true inspiration to the wedding industry world-wide, and the fact that we have such personal time with them is just SO amazing!

I know many of you photographers have written into me that you REALLY want to attend ELEVATE, so hopefully this post helps you to decide! We still have seats available; however, we do want this to be an intimate experience, so spaces are limited. Full registration is $1675 and you will be able to sign up until September 7th!


For dates, rates and full details, visit the ELEVATE WORKSHOP page!


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at: Hope to see you at ELEVATE!



VENDOR LOVE // Skinner Jones

Abby of Skinner Jones headshotI love meeting new people, and I especially love meeting talented new people. A few years ago, I met a woman named Abby who made some GORGEOUS bouquets for one of my clients. I was absolutely blown away by her style. It was fun, refreshing and easy! After the wedding, I had to know a little more about her and I found out that she was officially starting her own floral business under the name Skinner Jones! Several of my clients over the years have now used Abby and her team and we are always over the moon with her arrangements! We caught up with Abby to talk her about what makes Skinner Jones so special!


Q. Abby, you create some stunning arrangements. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration for designing florals for your clients?

A. I draw inspiration from books that my grandmother handed down to me (an outstanding floral designer herself!), magazines, art, gardens, current fashion trends, and it cannot be denied for quick, of-the-moment trends - Pinterest!

Q.What were the first steps a could should consider when booking their florist?

A. A connection w/ the designer and also loving photos of their past work - Your big day is personal and your florals reflect you! If you like what you see and feel comfortable with/love the energy of the designer then I think you should feel confident that they will create something spectacular and perfectly you for your special day.

wedding floral bouquets

Q. How would you describe the style of Skinner Jones?

A. The style of Skinner Jones is clean, fresh, wild and abstract with classic nuances. I like classic and traditional looks but I also like to throw them off and make them a bit unexpected with strange or more edgy details or combinations. Those unexpected bits are very often a nod to the bride's style!

Q.You tend to go above and beyond as a florist. What is a unique piece you have made for a client?

A. I love my work, and I have a hand in each piece I create. So it only feels natural to go above and beyond for all of my clients. A piece that I loved creating was the bouquet for a photo shoot for Anna Kristin's latest lingerie line. She gave me an idea of the looks she liked and the look she was going for but left it up to me to pick the combination of flowers, look of the bouquet and color scheme. I love all the different textures, colors and shape of this bouquet. To me this bouquet is juicy and perfectly messy - my idea of a stunning bouquet.

Q. How does the venue choice and time of year effect the choice of flowers and design?

A. I think that the venue choice should play a huge part in what flowers you choose and what your centerpiece design is. Work with your base and accent that instead of working against it. Use the venue as a guide for the 'feel' of the arrangements but would make sure that they centerpieces also reflect the personality and style of the bride and groom and their other wedding day details.

Wedding Tablescapes

 Q.  What was your philosophy in investing in the florals / details of a wedding day (money wise)?

A. Each bride places a different value on the flowers. So many of my recent brides have done very minimal centerpieces or add DIY touches off their own but I always encourage them to make sure to spend enough money on the bouquets and personal flowers so that they are sure to love the look because those flowers are the ones that will show up in your photos for years to come.

Q. How many weddings to you do each year?

A. Totally depends on the year. I have done 12 - 15 some years, and I have done 5 so far this year because I have just recently had my second baby. I only take on weddings when I know I can fully devote myself!

Q. What are some hot trends for florals right now?

A. Hot trends right now: lots of texture, vintage feel, little greenery, succulents, and anemones and peonies always seem to be a fave.

Bride with floral bouquet on bed

Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that incorporates so many details?

A. Be clear on what flowers, colors, looks you absolutely want/need to include. Then let your florist also run with it and guide you. I feel strongly that you should hire people who you trust and whose work you love. Remember that you are paying them to do what they do best. So let those vendors, or florist in particular, work their magic and give them a bit of creative freedom to come up with a most gorgeous combination that is uniquely yours.

You can also check out Skinner Jones on Facebook.

WEDDING STYLE // Juliane James Place

Alyson and Jesse brides

The Newquist wedding will always hold a special place in my heart. First, it was my first same-sex wedding that I had the pleasure of documenting and it was also an awesome collaboration with the brides leading up to their wedding day. Alyson and Jesse are the definition of Do. It. Yourself. These ladies didn’t just bring together some details, they created an entirely new venue that is now open for other couples to rent out for their wedding! Juliane and James Place is located a little over an hour north of the cities and is the ultimate wedding retreat. We caught up with Alyson and Jesse to learn more about why they decided to open a new wedding venue, in the midst of planning their own perfectly styled event!

Q. You have incredible style. Hands down. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration for your wedding?

A. We used everything from historical images of turn of the century weddings to the weddings of some of our favorite wedding vendors like Hello! Lucky co-owner Eunice Moyle, whose wedding was featured in Martha Stewart Weddings a few years ago. In fact, we used Hello! Lucky’s website to see what their past clients have done because we love their work so much. Most of our influence to go with our theme of a turn of the century exploration/discovery/invention theme though came from watching Sherlock Holmes a few years ago. We loved the costumes and the depiction of London in Guy Ritchie’s interpretation of that world. So we tried to recreate it in the woods.

Q. What were the first steps you took in designing your big day?

A. Coming up with a feel we could both agree with. I have fairly outlandish tastes and Jesse needs to reign me in a lot and keep me focused, especially because as a wedding planner I see so many things I like all the time. I also don’t have that part of the brain that controls impulse and I tend to think I can do anything, and then try, and keep trying until I succeed, so she needed to put the breaks on some of my crazier ideas. Anyway though, Jesse has much stronger opinions on what she likes and doesn’t like so I would present her with a ton of ideas, ask her what she liked about each one and then go back to the research table (aka the inter-web) and then find more stuff I thought we would like.

We also spent about 16 months up to our wedding renovating a property in the middle of the forest just thinking and coming up with ideas and running them by each other. What we were doing was so utilitarian that a lot of our ideas, such as creating our invites as a shadowbox that guests could use as a photo frame after they were done with the invite (the invite slid out and then photos could slide in) came naturally to us. We also were doing a lot of discover about gardening and grounds-work with our 40 acres so creating things like terrariums or test tubes with feathers in them came to us from nature and just living so close to it.

outdoor wedding reception

Q.  How did you choose your vendors?

A. Mostly by reputation and word of mouth and price. I didn’t want mid-range vendors, I wanted high-end luxury vendors who marketed themselves that way and valued the services they provided enough to price themselves in the upper echelon within the Twin Cities.

Q. Both you and your Bride put in TONS of work to get your venue up and running. What was that process like?

A. I’m pretty sure answering this questions would take up an entire novel, let a lone a blog post! To be concise though, we had to first renovate the main house and then the cabin, then get the grounds ready via clearing spaces for the tents and various cocktail areas. We had to tame and reign in the garden spaces. We had to hunt down church pews and antique folding chairs across the Midwest and build tables for the reception area. We had to build a stage and landscape a space that was formerly (a month prior!) the middle of the woods and then two weeks prior to our wedding we decided to build an aisle using stone we found on the property. Then we had to let other people know about our space and get people excited about what we were creating. At our first wedding that wasn’t our own, I had to remove myself from the ceremony because we had just work SO hard to get to that point, to see another couple as happy as we were getting married. Standing in the same spot. To know that so many people are going to commit to themselves in a space we created we our bare hands is an unbelievable feeling.

Q. All of your bridesmaids had different dresses. Why did you choose this?

A. I like the look of different colors together and different women have different bodies. My maid of honor could never have pulled off blush but two of my bridesmaids could. And one of my bridesmaids was pregnant and she would have been the odd one out. I just love the look of the same material in the same length in different styles with different colors. Luckily, Flutter Boutique carries both Jenny Yoo and Amsale who both make a silk crinkle chiffon.

same sex bridal party

Q. What was your philosophy in investing in the details of your day (money wise)? What were the priorities for you?

A. Our priorities were:

Guest experience: almost all our guests traveled from out of state and we wanted to treat them to everything they could ever imagine being at a wedding, food and drink wise.

Creativity: making sure our wedding was unique and represented us.

And lastly, creating a mode for other weddings at the property.

Q. Why did you choose to start Juliane James Place?

A. My parents died a couple years apart from each other in my late twenties (I in my (very) early 30s now) and I wanted to create a place where happy things happened. Jesse and I had just been through so much in our 20s and moved around so much that we wanted to create a place to be anchored to where everyone would feel safe. I also wanted to have a tangible example for others to see of what same-sex weddings, marriage, and participation in the business community surrounding weddings look like. I feel that through our creating JJP, many other people feel comfortable reaching out to same-sex clients or talking about same sex weddings because they now have a language to do so with. Every person who comes for a tour at our property who saw our wedding in MN Bride knows how to talk about our marriage and wedding. We create a space where folks can feel comfortable asking if they should say partner or wife, which is awesome, because gay people are still figuring all that out, and we can create an environment where people who know how important getting married is, feel comfortable talking about all weddings as equal (besides the boring, unthoughtful ones, obviously!).

Q. When it came to your actual wedding dress, you both chose local designer, Joynoelle. Why did you choose this? How did you choose your dresses?

A. We chose Joy because she is the established name in local bridal couture. She also just got it that we wanted dresses that went well together but didn’t compete. She had also done same-sex bridal dresses before. Her boutique was an amazing space too that I knew that Jesse would feel comfortable in. I LOVED my experience with Amanda and L’Atelier and would recommend them and their amazing space and collection to anyone, but when it came down to it, I felt we needed to have dresses created in conjunction with one another so that neither of our dresses took precedence over the other.

brides walking down the aisle

Q. Aside from your vendors, who did you collaborate with to bring your ideas to life?

A. Each other mostly and Jesse’s family. Jesse’s parents have built their home from scratch in the middle of the woods in a gorgeous valley outside of Winona, MN. My father in law, Pat, is a genius at figuring out creative ways to make anything you want to have happen, happen. And he inspires us constantly. Jesse’s mom, Julie, has the most amazing aesthetic that utilizes a lot of muted pastels. Even her collection of bathroom towels inspired our love of muted pastels for our color scheme. And Mitch, Jesse’s brother, came and helped us so many times when we needed him and it just made so much more possible. He is always networking for us and thinking of things we can do to run our business better. I feel so fortunate to have married into such a great family.

Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that incorporates so many details?

A. Hire a planner! You can access the services of a skilled planner for just consulting to organize your ideas, for partial planning, or for full-planning. I know plenty of planners who offer hourly consulting to just get you on the right track toward organizing and achieving your wedding goals. We are lucky to have planners like Laura Mullen Event Design, Mimi Design, Amy Zaroff Events + Design, Rocket Science Weddings & Events, Lizzie Anne Weddings, and other great planners locally (who are too modest to list their own company!). Utilize that vast resource!

To back up the suggestion above: Do not rely too heavily on your family and friends. They are there to celebrate with you; not work for you.

Utilize Pinterest.

Create a well-thought out craft and DIY plan so you know what gets done when and invite friends and family over to help with those projects and make it fun. And feed them and give them wine for helping you (include that sort of thing in your DIY budget if you are going to ask for a lot of help)!

Make sure you have the budget to be able to execute all the ideas you would like to or you may financially over-commit and be left with only half an idea executed.

Do not cut corners on floral. It makes the biggest impact of all. Take a look at our photos and imagine them without flowers. It’s a different wedding.

Focus on a few key style elements. Your guests can’t possible take in everything you create and you may end up feeling upset that the thing that took you a month to work on is tossed aside because your guests are doing what you want them to do: HAVING FUN!

Hire a photographer who values details and understands capturing them. If details, crafts, styling, and DIY projects mean the world to you, then make sure your photographer knows that! And be willing to pay more for a great team of photographers.

wedding tablescape

You can also check out Juliane James Place on Facebook.

Engaged // Nate and Nicole

I love my job, so so so much. A large part in that is because of our amazing clients that invite us into their lives! Nicole and Nate are really the epitome of my perfect client. They are fun, absolutely adore each other god...they are also gorgeous. What is even better is how I met the couple. I was first introduced to Nicole and Nate when their wedding planner, Gretchen at Rocket Science Weddings and Events, called me and said, "There is this couple you just have to meet...please say you are available for their date!" Luckily, I was and we all hit it off perfectly at our first meeting. I mention that I love the way I met this couple, because it's one thing for me to know who my clients, are, but I also love it when wedding coordinators, planners and designers know that we will be a perfect fit for their clients as well. It all comes together in this beautiful circle of collaboration on the client's wedding day and there's simply nothing more rewarding .  Now, back to our first meeting. I know I was head-over-heals in love with this couple when they mentioned that they really wanted to go wake boarding for their engagement session! Um...yes please! Sign me up! I have been looking forward to this engagement session all summer and we literally had the perfect day  - and the most beautiful golden light - for the shoot. I'm also very in love with these images, because Nicole and Nate were simply enjoying the evening together, and they are so natural in every single picture. They're having fun, letting loose and I was there to document it. That is the recipe for a perfect engagement session! We all (myself included) got in the water and had some fun...maybe I'm biased, but I think the photos speak for themselves!

Congratulations to Nicole and Nate on their engagement! Thank you for allowing me to document this time in your lives and relationship...and of course, for teaching me how to wake surf! Our team is so looking forward to your wedding!


For Photograhers // Getting Your Wedding Published

Megan Mccarty Headshot As a photographer, getting published is invaluable. Seeing our work in print is the ultimate experience as well, because not only does it put a few more notches in our belts of being a professional, but it also gives us the opportunity to share our work with the world! In my business, I have always followed the idea to publicize, not advertise. This means, I choose to spend time submitting to various wedding magazines for print and also to wedding blogs for publication, instead of spending the money on an expensive advertisement to sit in the pages of the magazine. I want people to see more of our work and you should, too! Here in Minneapolis, we are super lucky to have a great bridal publication that supports our industry greatly, called Minnesota Bride.

We caught up with the Web Editor, and oh-so-fun Megan Mccarty, to ask her some questions on the submission process and some things to keep in mind when you are considering submitting a wedding to be published.

Q. What is the best part about your job?

A. So be it if this makes me sound like a big ol’ suck-up, but I’ve always said my job goes ‘round because of photographers. You hit the ground running, capturing the weddings that make our magazines and websites what they are. From those we hand-pick what we want to portray to the next round of brides-to-be. If the worst part of my job is being forced to look at Zapfino, the favorite font of the industry that makes my eyeballs hurt, I’d say I’m a lucky gal.[quoteRight]Photographers happen to be some of my favorite people in this big, bad world, and I thank my Taurus stars to call many of them my friends.[/quoteRight]

Q. How did you start writing for Minnesota Bride and how long have you been there?

A. Some days I feel as if I’ve been with Minnesota Bride forever, and that’s a good thing. At the wide-eyed age of 19 I walked through the front door of Tiger Oak Publications, asking for an internship. Ten minutes later I walked out with one. My former editor (hi, Mary!) took me in as her editorial intern and a year and a half later created this position, Web Editor, for me. After a large handful of years I’m still here, lucky enough to look at pretty things all day. My business card squeezes it all in: Web Editor for Tiger Oak Publications’ bridal titles: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Seattle and Oregon Bride.

Q. What are the first steps a photographer should consider when deciding to submit a wedding for consideration to be published?

A. First off, become familiar with the publication. Know the departments, the editors’ names and the type of content we regularly publish. Then be honest with yourself: Is this wedding of the caliber that we feature? A terrific photographer can capture a ho-hum wedding, so be your own editor before you submit. Keep in mind deadlines, presentation and the submission directions too.  ...And please, don’t spell my name with an “h.” That “ouch” you hear is you stepping on my wrong foot.

Q. What goes into your decision as to what to publish?

A. A number of questions rotate through my head: Has it been published elsewhere? Is it timely? What’s different about this? Is there an interesting story to back up the pretty pictures? A couple years ago, when Minnesota Bride was choosing between two Photogen Inc. weddings to feature, we ultimately chose this Guthrie Theater ceremony because, in typical Eliesa fashion, you exclaimed—literally, using a slew of cap letters and exclamation points—in your submission that the groom had donated a kidney to the bride. (That’s what they call love, I believe.) But ultimately it mostly needs to stir up some sort of emotion from that indescribable spot in my stomach.

Then, of course, there are other factors that you can blame on procedure: How many pages do we have to work with? Is it too similar to something else we’re running? Have we featured this photographer or venue recently? Was it submitted on time?

Q. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration?

A. In terms of bridal, I consider, Real Simple Weddings, New York Weddings and all things Martha top-notch. But my own inspiration—which then translates into my 9-5’s—is stirred up from sites such as The Everygirl, magazines like Kinfolk (my Bible), products sold on Fab and books of blank pages that I fill with my own thoughts.

Q. What makes Minnesota Bride different and unique in an industry filled with wedding blogs and magazines?

A. It’s all about the “Minnesota” in Minnesota Bride. That Monique Lhuillier gown on the cover? 50th & France is just a drive away. That bride on page 62? She could be your old roommate from college. For such a large state, we live in a tiny city, so at the end of the day (whether that’s a summer Friday at 4 p.m. or a deadline day at midnight) our big, beautiful magazine seems like a glossy scrapbook of friends.

Q. What is one of the coolest submissions you have ever seen? Why was it so special?

A. A few years ago, as I was coming into my role as Web Editor, I came across this wedding by Gene Pease of Geneoh Photography. He was new-ish on the Minnesota photography scene, and I nearly snake-bit his arm to submit it. Not only was the wedding creative, detail-rich and photographed to perfection, but I had a guttural reaction to feature Gene’s not-so cookie cutter work before everyone else did. Fast forward a few months and Kelsey and Jacob’s wedding was the two-page opener to Minnesota Bride’s Newlyweds feature. Worth a little arm twisting, no?

Q. What kind of work are you personally drawn to?

A.  Though our Pinterest-y world is attracted to details, I’m a sucker for moments. No thanks to forced poses, but yes please to first looks, rogue groomsmen and genuine belly laughs. I’m looking for a story—a beginning (getting ready), middle (ceremony) and end (reception). Even better? A prequel (engagement session) and sequel (day-after, maternity).

Q. What are some innovative trends you are seeing in the wedding industry right now?

A. I could not care less if succulents are popping up in bouquets or when yellow and grey will seize to be the color scheme of choice. However, personalization is now the norm for weddings, so your photography should be too. Sure, to appease the bride’s mother, you’ll need to capture the frame-friendly family photos, but others (ahem, me) would rather see the couple plunging into the ocean or a mascara-streaked face of tears. Make me study a photo, wondering what yoga pose you wiggled yourself into to capture it, what the subject is thinking or even what the hell is going on.

Q. What do you, as an editor, want in collaboration with photographers?

A. Help me help you. Submissions don’t need to be accompanied by a singing telegram—actually, please, never do that—but including a vendor list and the couple’s contact information is certainly helpful. The easier you make my job, the more likely you are to creep up my mental list of reliable, organized, go-to photographers.

Send your submissions (or just say hello!) to Megan—no "h"—at

Engaged // Krystle and Aaron

Krystle is a perfect example of why I love my clients. She has been a loyal blog reader and fan of our work for quite some time now. So, when Aaron popped the question, we were one of the first vendors she called to book! Krystle and Aaron currently live in Texas, but are coming back to the Chicago area for their wedding this winter! For their engagement session, we simply hung out in the city of Chicago! We walked around, got some eats and even brought their dogs along for a bit of the ride!

Congratulations to Krystle and Aaron on their engagement! I am so looking forward to your winter wedding!


VENDOR LOVE // Amy Zaroff Events + Design

Amy Zaroff

Amy Zaroff is the powerhouse behind one of the Twin Cities best wedding planning and event design team, Amy Zaroff Events + Design. We wanted to get some advice from Amy on what couple's should keep in mind when designing and planning their events! What I love about the Zaroff team the most is that no idea is too big. This crew can pull off magic by collaborating with some of the best vendors in the midwest to create the must stunning space for your event!



Q. Hiring a wedding planner and designer in Minnesota is a bit of a new concept. Why is this important?

A. Many people have the false impression that hiring a designer and planner is an extravagance. We believe it is quite the opposite.  The time and money saved typically pays for itself. Often, clients are concerned that they will end up spending more with a planner, but if you work with a fee based design and plan firm, the savings they receive from the vendors are typically passed on directly to the client.[quoteRight]Hiring a design and plan firm allows you, as a couple, to enjoy the wedding planning process while placing your trust in the experts to translate your vision in to a reality.[/quoteRight]

Q. How did you start Amy Zaroff  Events + Design and how long have you been planning /designing weddings?

A. Myriad career paths have led me to this high point in my life. An early career as a television producer and later as a marketing director allowed me to refine my skills in design, planning and time management. Along with my husband, I fine-tuned my skills in event planning at our authentic, New York-style delicatessen. In 2004, I purchased the invitation, stationery and gift store, Give My Regards To, and added full-service event planning to the company’s repertoire of services. Over the next several years, I  began to build an all-encompassing event planning company that would deliver exceptional customer service by working intimately with clients to understand every aspect of their special event. My vision, built on the vast possibilities that both my background and Give My Regards To’s 32-year reputation could deliver, came to fruition in June 2010 with the launch of Amy Zaroff Events + Design.

Q. What were the first steps a couple should take in designing their big day?

A. Solidify your guest list! Believe it or not, the list is the most important starting point because it determines everything from how far the budget will go to which venue the couple should choose to what decor will be appropriate with the size wedding that is planned.

Q. How do you help your clients choose your vendors?

A. No two clients are alike and that is why we work hard to match them with the appropriate vendors based on the couple's desired style, budget and personality as a couple.

Q. You create some pretty amazing spaces for your weddings. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration for your weddings?

A. Inspiration is everywhere! Magazines, blogs, window displays, museums, restaurants and industry events all provide great ideas, but getting to know the couple as individuals is truly the best way to exude their personality on their wedding day.

Q. Describe the difference between a wedding planner and designer? Where do you fall in this?

A. A wedding designer conceptualizes and develops the creative vision of the event while the planner organizes the design ideas to make them functional. The planner then acts as the master orchestrator to ensure the event runs smoothly and the design was executed flawlessly.

Q. Lets talk money. What is your philosophy in investing in the details of a wedding day? What are the priorities for your clients?

A. Every client has a budget, but each client has a different idea of how to spend it. When planning a wedding, it is important to prioritize the budget based on the personal preferences of the couple. Some will want decor to be the big ticket item while others will prefer photography. A foodie couple will put the dollars into the food and bar while some couples put it all in to the entertainment. While we definitely suggest that photography and videography are two of the expenses that produce a memory that will last forever, it is crucial for the clients to put their ranking on paper prior to meeting with a designer and planner.

Q. Describe the perfect Amy Zaroff Couple.

A. Our perfect client loves our personality and feels at ease with us from the moment they meet us. As with any chosen vendor, enjoying the time we spend together and knowing you can place your trust in us is the key to a great relationship. In many cases, we are connected for well over a year and sometimes will speak multiple times a day. Trust and open lines of communication are the two most important aspects of working well together and enjoying the design and planning process.

Q. When it comes to choosing a venue, what are the most important things to keep in mind?

A. When choosing a venue, remember that it is better to choose a space for what it innately is rather than choosing it to then completely transform.

Check out this amazing video by Capture Studios that shows the behind-the-scene action of what it takes to bring a Zaroff wedding together! I love the collaboration of all the vendors!

Q. What do you, as a planner, want in collaboration with your vendors on a wedding day?

A. The most we can ask for from our vendor partners is that they share the same commitment to excellence on behalf of our shared clients.

Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that incorporates so many details?

A. Hire a planner! Whether you work with a start-to-finish, design and plan firm or opt for day-of assistance, a planner can help clients gain access to the best vendors for their desired style and budget.

Q. What are some innovative trends in weddings right now?

A. Designer furnishings and well propped tables are fast becoming a wedding trend for today's couples. We are seeing many more brides and grooms opt for unique accessories on the table that are both meaningful and functional. Think antique photo frames from your grandmother's collection or old books that double as tabletop decor. Furniture beyond the standard table and chair rental options now include decorative chaise lounges, over-sized couches and tufted chairs and assorted curios and mirrors to add whimsy and texture to the event space.

You can also check out Amy Zaroff Events + Design on Facebook.

Mr. and Mrs. Keefer

Alisha and Dan are one of my clients who booked long before their actual wedding date. Over the last year, I've really enjoyed getting to know these two! We took their engagement photos last winter and have enjoyed some awesome conversations over beers! Dan adores Alisha, like completely adores her. What I also love about Dan is that he wants to give his wife the world. The couple met on and were together for about a year before he proposed in a hot air balloon ride over the picturesque town of Stillwater, MN. When it came to planning their wedding, Alisha knew that she wanted to be married in an old church. They made the perfect choice with Hennepin Avenue Methodist in Minneapolis. the church as so much character and was a very romantic space for their ceremony. It was also important for the couple to have a very modern, yet elegant vibe to their wedding day. The bride wore a gorgeous Vera Wang dress and Richfield Flowers created some awesome bouquets for the ladies...and you have to check out the gold bridesmaid dresses! Everything is absolutely stunning!


Congratulations to Alisha and Dan on getting married! I couldn't have asked for a better experience with you two! We are so happy we could be a part of your day!


Engaged // Melissa and Mike!

Melissa and Mike first met in college at the University of Denver. She grew up in the good ole' Midwest and he was a California boy. Mike had thought a lot about his proposal and he ended up popping the question on Christmas Eve on White Bear Lake! Side note...this was also Mike's first time ever on a frozen lake! To continue the cold-weather tradition, the couple who now lives in San Diego, are coming back to Minneapolis to get married in December! I was lucky enough to catch the couple in town to photograph their engagement session while it was still sunny and warm in the midwest! Melissa's father has a pretty sweet car that we were able to take for a spin and it proved to be the best prop for their session!


Congratulations to Melissa and Mike on their engagement! Many more photos of these the come!



Engaged // Hilary and Nicholas!

Hilary and Nicholas are one fantastic couple! The two are currently living in Chicago and they will be getting married in only a few short weeks! I've heard lots of awesome stories over the years of how people met and it always amazes me. I have to believe that there is a perfect time and place in everyone's life when they meet a special person that they will share their life with! For Hilary and Nicholas, it was volunteering for the Young Life organization that brought them together. Three years later, they are engaged and I couldn't be happier for the two of them! I am SO excited for their wedding, but I'll save all of the cool details for that blog post...  


Congratulations to Hilary and Nicholas on their engagement! We can't wait for your wedding in a few weeks!




Mr. and Mrs. Hunt!

Leah and Ricky have known each other for a very long time. The couple were best friends for years, when one day, things changed. Their friendship grew into a lovely relationship and before you know it, Leah and Ricky were tying the knot! One of my favorite moments of the day was with Ricky's parents, who are both deaf. Right before the ceremony, the interpreter tapped me on the shoulder and said that the mother-of-the-groom had a special request. We both went over to his parents and they said,[quote] "We want to take a photo of us giving the 'I Love You' sign in sign language. I want my new daughter to know how much I love her with my son!"[/quote] It was such a touching moment and a simple picture that means more than words for the couple! Leah and Ricky's wedding took place at the beautiful Calhoun Beach Club and had an awesome lineup of vendors for us to work with! The crew at Capture Studios was there to document their day along side us, and Le Petite Fleur wow'd us again with her amazing arrangements. Apres Party Rental put together some awesome tablescapes that transformed the venue into a beautiful reception! Gateaux did a stunning job on the couple's cake to add the perfect touch and wedding planner, DeAnna Foster, produced their beautiful wedding!

Congratulations to Leah and Ricky!