Choosing a Photographer

I believe that choosing a wedding photographer is right up there with the most important planning decisions you will make. You are entrusting this person to capture some of the only physical reminders of your special day! I didn't take this search lightly and we were so happy with the choice we made!


The first thing I did when searching for our wedding photographer was browse. I wasn't sure what pricing looked like in this field, but I knew what my preferences were for style, so I spent a lot of time on Wedding Wire and The Knot looking at local photographers.

I was looking for a fine-art photography style, with light and bright images. I wanted something classic that would stand the test of time style-wise. When I compiled a list of ones whose work met my criteria, I started digging into their websites and looking at what they offered. Let me tell y'all... wedding photography is expensive. Be prepared to spend a chunk of your budget on pictures, and even more if film photography is something you want.

I started to get a bit discouraged, as I didn't want to spend a small fortune on pictures, but still wanted something nice. I happened to be scrolling through Facebook one day when I came across Rachel Elisabeth Photography. Her work was beautiful so I decided to reach out to her for more information.

When she responded, she had some questions for me about what I was looking for in a photographer and my vision for my wedding day. This was a huge plus for me- as I mentioned in previous posts, we put a lot of stock in hiring vendors that meshed well with us, and right off the bat I felt this with Rachel!

After chatting with her via email and phone, we decided to hire her! Her packages and pricing lined up with what we determined we could afford and based on her personality and love for Jesus, we knew she'd be an asset to our wedding day. And yes, we hired her without meeting her in person! Wedding planning was a full-time job, and while having my real job, I had to make some sacrifices when it came to vendor meetings. I had such a good feeling about her, though, I didn't think twice about it.

We met for the first time when she came to Harrison's farm to take our engagement photos. Neither Harrison nor I had ever had photos taken like this, so we were a bit nervous. She made us feel so at ease in front of the camera, though, and made the whole session so much fun! She was up for whatever we wanted and made it all work for us.

We selected an 8-hour wedding package, and I ended up adding some hours on to it. Rachel played an integral part in determining the timeline for our wedding day, something I was so grateful for. She knew exactly how much time we needed for everything, which made fitting in the other happenings a breeze with our coordinators. I chatted with her often during our planning process and then one final time the week of the wedding. I was at the point where I was so nervous and anxious, but aside from going over final details, she really helped ease my mind. Something that stood out to me and I still remember vividly was her telling me that she was praying for us and for our wedding day to go smoothly. It meant the world to me to have someone who was invested in our day!

At the wedding, she worked SO hard- my mom kept commenting on how hard she was working and how awesome she was! I have a huge family and was slightly dreading family portraits, but she made them go so quickly and smoothly.

Our wedding day truly wouldn't have been the same without Rachel. My instincts were right- choosing the right photographer can truly make (and break) your wedding day! I would highly recommend her to any couple getting married.

Here are some tips for selecting the right photographer:

  • Figure out your style. Do you like moody portraits, deep colors, bright images, or formal poses? Spend time looking through Pinterest, Instagram, and other sites for pictures that are similar to what you want yours to look like. Then research photographers in your area to figure out who matches up with that vision.
  • Determine your budget. We had to spend some time researching average prices for photographers in our area. We couldn't budget for something that we had no idea what to expect for! When we did figure out what worked for us, we stuck to looking at photographers only within that range. There is one photographer who I adore, but is much more than what we could afford. I wanted to refrain from even looking at anything that would put a damper on our search.
  • Feel out the photographer's personality. Do you want someone more structured or someone who can go with the flow? Do you want a photographer who is just there to do a job or one who is invested in your day? Something that was huge for me is that Rachel asked me what I was looking for in a photographer. That showed interest in whether we will work well together.
  • Ask about packages and how your photos will be sent to you. A lot of photographers do online albums where you can download your photos. Determine if you are able to do that or if you will have to order photos through the photographer. Is the photographer able to use your photos in promotional materials? What do they offer as part of their package(s)? Do you only receive the photos they select, or do you get to see all the raw images and pick the ones you would like to be edited? Ask about retouching and what their style/preferences are regarding that.

I told Rachel in one of our initial conversations that photography is something that is incredibly important to me. Wedding photos are one physical remnant of your day, long after everything else had faded away. I wanted to invest in these images, something that we will show our future children and grandchildren, and I'm so glad we did!


Our Wedding Coordinators

Hiring a wedding coordinator was the single most pivotal decision we made to ensure our day went smoothly. Most venues now require you to hire a coordinator or may even provide one as part of the venue package.

Right after securing our venue, I started browsing through coordinators in our area. Our venue provided a list of recommended coordinators, but we weren't require to choose from that list. I looked at the websites and social media sites for those and then expanded my search beyond the list. In all honesty, I only contacted one coordination service during my search, and they were the ones we hired. That's definitely not the advice anyone ever gives, but it worked out well for us!

Probably my favorite thing our coordinators did all day was decorate our cross. It looked like everything we wanted it to.
We hired Kelsi and Stacey with Every Little Element and were beyond happy with that decision. We purchased their Day Of package. Their services technically started one month our from our wedding day, but they were so responsive and willing to answer any questions I had between the time I hired them in June and when our contract started. I reached out to them about things like bartender recommendations, timeline help, and much more.

Around a month before our wedding, I met with them and we put together a timeline of the wedding day specifics: when we would cut the cake, do the bouquet and garter tosses, when the dances would be done, etc. Knowing that the flow of the day would be completely off of us put us so much at ease.

A week before the wedding, they contacted all of our vendors to confirm arrival times and details. They conducted our rehearsal, also. The package included 8 hours of service on the wedding day, but we ended up adding a few more hours to our package. They set up all of our decorations and made sure everything went off without a hitch - which it did!

We have only good things to say about our experience with Every Little Element and my hope for all brides is that they love their coordinators as much as we did! Wedding coordination is such a broad field, so here are some things we considered when looking:

  • What kind of coordination do we want: day-of, partial planning, full planning, etc?
  • How much are we willing to spend?
  • What packages does the coordinator offer and what do they include?
  • How many hours of service day-of are included? Will we need to add hours? If so, what is the fee per extra hour?
  • Are they excited about our vision?
  • How many weddings have they coordinated previously?
  • What are their reviews on wedding sites like?

The most important question I asked myself, though, was do they "click" with us? Harrison and I have a very strong sense of community and quite a few of our vendors are people we know or are in overlapping social circles. Because of this, "feel" was very important to us. We wanted people at our wedding who felt like friends and who were excited about their job. This was 100% the case with Kelsi and Stacey. 

My biggest piece of advice for brides is to hire a coordinator. This may seem like a no-brainer, but some people may feel like they can handle it on their own - and they probably can. But, having a coordinator takes the logistical stress off you and your family. Your only worry the day of your wedding should be getting ready to marry the love of your life. Do everything you can to make sure you can focus on yourself, your family, your wedding party, and having fun that day! If we didn't have coordinators decorating, our family would have been doing it. We wanted them to enjoy the day, too. 

Hire the coordinator, you won't regret it.


Venue Hunting

Picking a venue ran somewhat concurrently with picking a date, but I wanted to share a bit about how we went about deciding where to get married.

We put a few weeks into our venue search, but ultimately we decided to go with The Pavilion at Carriage Farm!

This was the venue that I had in mind all along (even before I knew Harrison!). I know the family that owns it through 4-H and was very excited to work with them!

While I was pretty sure I knew where I wanted to get married, Harrison encouraged me to keep an open mind as we looked at some other venues in the area. We knew that we wanted to get married in or around Raleigh, and I had a pretty specific vision for what I wanted the venue to look like. Some questions we asked ourselves as we set out on the search were:

  • Do we want to have separate ceremony and reception locations? We wanted everything at the same place. We were not rooted in a church in Raleigh and we decided we wanted a pastor from Harrison's hometown to marry us, so we decided upon an outdoor ceremony. Therefore, we wanted to keep everything at the same place.
  • Is there a weather plan B? Since we wanted an outdoor ceremony, we also wanted a venue that offered an area to hold the ceremony inside in case the weather didn't cooperate.
  • How much do we want to spend? 
  • Are we interested in packages? Some venues offer packages where they provide catering, photography, planning, and more in their venue reservation. We ultimately decided against a package because I had specifics I wanted to incorporate.
  • What look do we want? I had a pretty specific vision, as I said. I wasn't interested in anything too "glam" or too rustic. We wanted a venue that didn't have to be decorated a ton and would "speak for itself."
  • Do we like the venue owner and/or coordinator? This is someone you have to work pretty closely with, so ensuring that they are responsive and willing to help make your wedding day phenomenal is so important!

With some general direction in mind, we started researching and contacting venues. Here are some other venues we looked at:


Image result for the barn at valhalla

This venue had a very intimate feel and everything was absolutely beautiful! They offered a really interesting rental package that spanned the whole weekend and included some lodging. We ultimately decided it was out of our price range.


Image result for summerfield farms wedding

It wasn't exactly in Raleigh and was out of our price range. 


Image result for winmock at kinderton

This venue is a converted dairy farm and is in the town over from Harrison's. It didn't meet our city requirement but it was worth a look into anyway! I ultimately decided it didn't seem super conducive to the kind of set up we wanted for the reception and that we wanted to stick with Raleigh.


Image result for neuse breeze wedding venue

A beautiful outdoor venue (also not in Raleigh!), but the indoor area was too small in the event that we had bad weather.


Image result for leslie alford mims house

This ended up being our second choice venue!


Image result for the barn at blueberry hill elkin nc

This was a really cool new venue, but their availability did not match up with ours.


Image result for carrollock farms

This was probably Harrison's favorite and they offered great packages! We decided that wasn't ultimately what we wanted to pursue, though.

When looking for venues here are some questions we asked:

  • What is included in the rental fee?
  • Do you have a list of vendors that we are recommended or required to use?
  • How much is the deposit, when is it due, and is it refundable?
  • What is the payment plan for the entire bill?
  • Do you offer any discounts for paying in cash or paying in full?
  • What is your contingency plan for weather?
  • What additional fees are not included in the venue rental?
  • Are we able to provide our own alcohol?
  • How much time is allotted for the rehearsal?

This obviously doesn't include everything, but will give you a good start when considering the venue where you want to get married!


Picking Our Wedding Date

I'm finally beginning my wedding planning and recap series! My plan while planning was to share on the blog, but seeing as how my last post was the first in 2019, that clearly didn't happen. I had enough on my plate, so blogging the process went out the window! I'm wanting to recap everything now, though, so I don't forget anything and always have this to go back and look at.

I've been working on planning this series and figuring out how to organize it. I figured the most obvious place to start was with picking our date.

We got engaged on May 27, 2018. I knew I wanted our engagement to be around one year long. More than that I felt like I was dragging it out (I was so excited to get married) and much less made me feel like I wouldn't have enough time. That left us looking in the April to June 2019 range.

We went ahead and ruled out any holiday weekends, which were Easter, Memorial Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the State 4-H Horse Judging Contest (duh). We took what was left, the Saturdays of April 6, April 27, May 4, May 18, June 1, June 8, and June 28, and began to look at venues.

I'll talk more about the venue search in the next post, but I found that generally most venues still had quite a bit of availability in that range when I was looking, which was in early June 2018.

Once we picked our venue, we sat down and looked at each date they had available that matched up with our wants. One was in early April, so that was ruled out. We talked about a later June wedding, after Harrison was finished with the school year. We really wanted to avoid the heat of that time of year, so ultimately he decided that being out of school towards the end of the semester wasn't a big deal.

We were then left with April 27, May 4, May 18, and June 1. When thinking about when we wanted to celebrate our anniversary in the future, April 27th didn't feel right (don't look at me like I'm crazy!). June 1st sounded like a pretty cool date, being the beginning of the month and all, but May really appealed to us.

Going back a few years for a quick story, I had always joked with my good friend Lori that I would have a Kentucky Derby wedding. We would have a screen that showed the race, wear hats, the whole shebang. I never really dwelled on that idea, because, to me, it was all dependent on when I got engaged (which was not any time in the near future relative to when we were talking about these ideas).

So, May 4th was really standing out in my mind. Combined with the fact that our venue was at a horse farm, it all seemed to fall into place! Harrison was completely okay with it (there weren't many things during planning that he wasn't okay with), so May 4th it was!

A few more notes about our wedding date: it is Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you), we know quite a few people we share an anniversary with, and the numbers make me happy. What do I mean? 5-4-19. 5+4=19. You're still looking at me like I'm crazy? Figured so.


August 2019

One of my favorite parts of each month is going through my Powersheets goal planner. I haven't been great with it lately (I think getting married and moving is an acceptable excuse!), but I'm looking to get back on track this month!

-Create our wedding album // I'm planning to get photos organized and decide where we want to make it! We may or may not order it this month... I don't want to skimp on quality, so if that means waiting and saving up a little bit, that's fine with me!

-Organize my closet // It's a bit embarrassing that I haven't gotten around to this yet, but oh well! I have baskets and organization stuff, now I just need to DO IT!

-Clean out the corner room // Oh my... this has been our storage room since we moved in. It is chock-full of stuff that needs a home, so I want to have it completely cleared out this month.

-Paint & stain // There are a few more things around the house leftover from renovations that haven't been done yet. I want to knock those projects out this month.

-Write & blog // I'm excited to stretch my creative and story-telling muscles a bit more. I'm planning all my posts recapping the wedding!

-Complete all workouts // I made up a little workout schedule and want to check them all off. It's nothing strenuous by any means, but anything is better than nothing at this point.

-Do something for Harrison // I want to work on showing love and making him feel appreciated.

-Budget check-in // We use You Need a Budget, so I want to stick to inputting spending and categorizing it so we can get a better picture of where our money goes each month.

-3 bottles of water // I can go all day without drinking anything, so I need to hold myself accountable!

-Write the World // I'm behind now, but I want to finish strong with Cultivate What Matter's Fresh Faith Challenge- using my Write the Word journal everyday this month.

-Stick to my cleaning schedule // I drafted a schedule to prevent myself from having to do everything all at once. So far, so good!

-No purchases // After buying a lot for the house last month, I need a spending break!
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