Boudoir Means Beautiful

By Julie Roberts at Julie Roberts Photography

Whenever I bring up the idea of boudoir photography I get bombarded with comments from women who love the idea of a session but aren’t happy enough with their bodies to brave being in front of a camera with practically nothing on. As if “happy enough with our bodies” is something we will ever achieve. As if we need any more reminders of the body image issues that plague our culture.

I once photographed a tribe of amazing people in a primitive township in south Africa. They lived in huts with no floors, no running water … and no mirrors. Which meant they had never really seen themselves and they also had no ridiculous self hatred based on what they did/didn’t/should/shouldn’t look like. One lady had only a few teeth and wild, frizzy gray hair. She was so exciting to look at and so fun to photograph.  When I showed her the picture I had taken of her on the back on my camera she went wild with laughter. I didn’t speak Zulu and they didn’t speak English, but I still understood their incredible joy at seeing themselves for the first time.


It changed me forever.  These women certainly wouldn’t meet our ridiculous standards of beauty … but they were some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. And they taught me a lesson in self worth that I will never forget.  Since that experience, the importance of photographing people has held a different place in my heart. A place where I realize that ALL people are beautiful. Cultural standards are meaningless here. When I have the opportunity to photograph someone, I have a chance to change how they view themselves. I’m not talking about photoshop. I am talking about seeing people as they are and finding their encompassing true, beautiful self. I have learned to find the beauty in people and show them what they look like through my eyes.

I could talk about flattering poses, angles, and light…but the most flattering thing I could ever do for someone in front of my camera is to let them see their own beauty and believe in it.  WE have to learn to believe in our beauty. We are so busy comparing ourselves to others, dwelling on the flaws, and obsessing over what we wish we looked like.  Instead of comparing ourselves and judging others, we need to offer up a little acceptance and a lot of love – for others and ourselves. We need to learn how to see our unique beauty and find joy in who we ARE. God made us…these perfectly imperfect people with silly smiles, belly rolls, crazy hair, big teeth, short legs…it’s all beautiful!

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I feel like it’s important for me to share this and hope that I can influence at least one woman to look at herself in the mirror today and smile back. See a freckle and say “cute!” or spend a moment admiring your shape or skip the admiration and go on to sheer awe at what your amazing body has accomplished. Maybe you have climbed a mountain, run a marathon, or survived an illness. My body has grown and birthed two beautiful babies, and I am so proud of that.

I think maybe believing in our own beauty begins with simply seeing it. We see ourselves and then instead of judgment and criticism, we learn to say “okay” and maybe even “pretty”. And then we begin to feel a little more comfortable in our own skin.

When I began doing boudoir photography I never realized what a platform it would be for making this kind of change in the lives of women. The reactions surprised me as much as it did the ladies I photographed. Mostly I get comments like “I had no idea I could look like that!” And it’s not a lie! It’s just a matter of getting out from behind your own veil of self doubt and seeing some truth from someone else’s perspective.  Who knew boudoir photography could be a ministry in self worth?  It surprisingly has such a positive, powerful, and encouraging effect on everyone I’ve worked with.  Don’t we all deserve a boost in the self worth department?

And yeah … there will be gorgeous photos in the end that you might want to share with someone special.  Nothing is more exciting than delivering your “sexy book” to your husband-to-be as a major surprise wedding day gift. But what’s even better is that before you surprise him with the photos, you’ll be noticeably more confident and self assured.  And he won’t be able to figure it out what is so different but he will definitely like it!

Essentially the boudoir session itself is really all about being honest, being silly, and having a whole lot of fun in a situation that might seem intimidating at first.  It’s about going beyond your fears and insecurities and grasping onto a new way of thinking about yourself.  Give yourself permission to feel beautiful and sexy…you absolutely deserve it!  Whether you decide to do a boudoir session or not, I hope reading this has been inspiring.  And if you are interested in doing a boudoir session…I would love to have the honor!



6 Creative Ways to Announce Your Engagement on Social Media

Mayfair, Valencia, or X Pro ll?! We have all been through the emotional rollercoaster of choosing the perfect Instagram filter, right? Well, it doesn’t get any easier post-engagement when you not only have to find a filter that perfectly complements your new shiny rock, but also the most flattering pose for you and your man! So, let us give you a few creative tips on posting your big news for the world to see!

But first, coffee. Ladies, Etsy has got you covered for this one! Just hop online and order those cute, little coffee mugs we’ve all seen quoted, “Does this ring make me look engaged?” You can now get them personalized! *praise*

Focal points for the win. If you’re really lucky, hiring a photographer was covered, and you will have the best picture of your sweetie down on one knee!

Play it up with props. A cute celebratory glass of champagne or some seasonally colored flowers that really make your new ring pop is always a fan favorite!

Intensify the mood with a little PDA. You can go so many ways with this one–the simple “look, everyone, we are ENGAGED!!!” pose with your shiny ring pointing toward the camera and a little kissy action in the background, or something even more unique! Being creative is bound to draw our eyes towards your new sparkler!

Let’s take a selfie. Finally–an acceptable excuse to post a selfie! Avoid the criticism by uploading a simple picture of you and your man’s smiling faces. There’s no way your friends won’t show their support and double tap for the newly engaged couple!

Your hands tell a story. Not every social media post has to be bright and perfectly filtered. Bring back the chic black and white filter for a timeless look. Place your left hand in his, tell him to give it a little smooch, and voilà!

Let’s face it, the more emotion shown in the picture, the more reaction you’re going to get out of people. But no matter how you decide to announce your engagement to the world–and no matter how many likes, comments and reactions you get out of it–remember, you’re actually ENGAGED…like to be married! Let that soak in! Don’t stress out if he didn’t hire a professional photographer or if your hair won’t cooperate for the perfect ring selfie. Bottom line: marriage is so much more than the picture you post.

…which leads us to our next point – Coming soon on the blog: Rules and Advice for Announcing Your Engagement on Social Media

8 Bold Colors We Want to See in Your Spring Wedding

It’s that time of year again! Wedding season has come upon us, and the pastel wedding palettes are quickly making their way back into our Pinterest feeds and favorite wedding blogs. We agree that the light blues, baby pinks, soft greens, and pastel yellows are perfect shades for the spring season. As a bride, you shouldn’t feel cornered into using these colors for your wedding, but you also shouldn’t be intimidated by vibrant colors! We’ve come up with a list of a few bright, bold colors that you should totally incorporate into your spring wedding:

Poppy Red. Let’s face it, we’re all busting out My Chihuahua Bites to brighten up our nails this time of year–why not add it to your wedding color palette! Red hues are a bold color for every season. However, it’s most commonly seen in the colder months, so throwing in a touch of this cherry red will give new life to your spring wedding! We believe it’s best accented with blush, peach, ivory, and leafy greens.


Spring wedding colors


Magenta. Who says jewel tones are limited to fall weddings?! We like to think of magenta as poppy red’s flirtatious sister. Add a pop of magenta into your pastel color palette to create whimsy. This vibrant color can be perfectly paired with blush, tangerine, and deep purple.


Spring wedding colors


Cobalt Blue. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something *cobalt* blue! There’s something about this color palette we just can’t get over. Blue is such a classic color, you’ll never tire of seeing in your wedding photos, and the rich tones of the cobalt add an elegance unlike any other to your special day.


Spring wedding colors


Bright Yellow. Bright yellow peonies and daisies, shimmering gray table cloths, and some pops of sleek gray can modernize your spring wedding, AND it looks fabulous. It’s guaranteed to brighten any guest’s day! Despite what some may think, this color can be very versatile. We love it with lavender, dusty blue, or blush!


Spring wedding colors


Tangerine. When tastefully done, the charm of this orange hue is simply irresistible. This is one bold color you’ll need to utilize in moderation. Depending on the amount used, it can either give off a youthful, summer vibe or a chic, modern feel. We love pairing it with peaches, blush, and dark greeneries. For the ultimate wow factor, pair it with hot pink and magenta!


Spring wedding colors


Copper. Hop on over, silver and gold. There’s a new metallic in town. Rose gold and copper are becoming quite the staples in the wedding industry this year. There’s no reason you can’t make a metallic your main color–it makes a statement that will leave your guests stunned!


Spring wedding colors


Lavender. Okay, so maybe lavender isn’t exactly the first ‘bold’ color that comes to mind, but we adore it too much to leave it off the list! For this color palette, think springtime tea party–throw in a few chandeliers and beautiful drapery, and you’ve got yourself a top-tier wedding.


Spring wedding colors


Black. Black isn’t restricted to the winter months! Using black is the best way to incorporate formality into your wedding. Complement the bold, yet neutral color with ivory and sage greens to add a serene feel. The bonus to using this color – absolutely nothing clashes with it!


Spring wedding colors



Poppy red image credits: Cake // Bouquet & Dress // Bouquet // Shoes // Bridesmaids’ Dresses // Table Decor & Chair

Magenta image credits: Wedding Chicks

Cobalt blue image credits: Cake and Shoes // Bridesmaids and Invitations // Bottles and Place Setting // Ring

Bright yellow image credits: Chevron table runner // Bridesmaids // Skirt & Bouquet // Daisies // Flower with table runner // Invitations

Tangerine image credits: Invitations // Specialty cocktails // Groom and Bouquet // Wire Decor // Cake

Copper image credits: Candle holders // Floral arrangement // Place Setting // Calligraphy // Chair // Mug Party Favors

Lavender image credits: Invitations // Bouquet and Bridesmaids // Floral arrangement // Cake // Groom

Black image credits: Cake // Bridesmaids’ Dresses // Tuxedo // Invitations and Chalkboard Sign // Bouquet

10 Ways to Entertain Your Wedding Guests Until Send-Off

The ceremony is over, the formality of the day is coming to an end, and the bride is ready to kick up her heels! Some couples tend to become a bit worrisome once the dance floor opens up, afraid their guests will grow tired or disinterested throughout the night. After all, a bride’s biggest wedding day fear is having the majority of guests leave before her big sparkler send-off! We have come up with a few ways to keep your wedding guests entertained all night long, ensuring there will be plenty of people to throw confetti as you bid adieu:

Reserve a cozy spot for conversations. This is a crucial detail when you’re planning your reception! Not everyone wants to dance their hearts out all night, so it is important that you give these guests an area where they can cool down and enjoy a good conversation (probably about the other people dancing their hearts out).

Hello, open bar! Free drinks on a Saturday night? Difficult to say no to that. Everyone knows that alcohol gives guests the liquid courage they need to get out on the dance floor and bust their best moves. Pro tip: wedding receptions where alcohol is served tend to last at least 1.5 hours longer than dry receptions.

Cut the cake already! Cutting the wedding cake a little earlier will keep from awkward interruptions for later when everybody is in the middle of their groove!

Late night snacks. Who doesn’t love chowing down on some delicious fried foods after a night of dancing?! Our caterer, All Occasion Catering, quickly becomes everyone’s favorite vendor when they come out with a biscuit bar, flaming donuts or Krystal’s! This will keep your guests not only happily entertained, but also keep them from partying too hard. Pro tip: if you have an open bar, we HIGHLY recommend shutting down the bar and serving a late night snack to begin getting guests ‘back on track.’

Create your own playlist. Even though he/she is a professional, you know your guest list better than your DJ does. Some brides and grooms like to choose their own songs, so they know every word and can sing along without feeling left out. Be sure to mix it up and play songs for every generation! Grandma probably doesn’t want to get down to Fetty Wap. Pro tip: Allow your DJ to accept requests from your guests. If they know their song is coming up, they’re guaranteed to stay!

Group activities that don’t involve dancing. Karaoke machine? Cards Against Humanity? Blackjack table? With these options, your non-dancing guests are bound to want to stay a little longer!

Shake it like a Polaroid! If your photographer is off the clock, set out a few polaroids or disposable cameras so your friends and family can get interactive with each other. No wedding guest ever turns down an opportunity for a selfie. This can also be a great alternative to the traditional guest book. It will leave you with not only sweet notes, but also pictures to remember the fun night everyone had! Pro tip: invest in a photo booth or fun backdrop!

Arrange for guests’ transportation back to the hotel. If you’re serving alcohol, this is for everyone’s safety. You can also arrange the buses to begin shuttling at a specific time, ensuring your guests will stay as long as you want (but don’t be cruel, holding them hostage!).

Specialty bars. Investing in a specialty bar (moonshine bar, cigar & bourbon bar, etc.) gives guests a reason to stay past the bouquet and garter tosses, knowing there’s a shot or two of whiskey in their future. Pro tip: Don’t open up your specialty bar until at least 9 p.m. to evenly break up the night’s activities and give guests something to look forward to.

Relax – seriously! We know wedding planning can get a bit hectic, but once the day arrives, everyone will have more fun if you can look over any little debacles (and trust us, there is always something that can’t be controlled)! Don’t spend your entire wedding day stressing and wondering if your guests will leave early. You spend months and months, dollar after dollar planning this one day. ENJOY YOURSELF. Pro tip: If you’re on the dance floor having a great time, your guests will be doing the same. If you’re sitting at the table looking bored, your guests will be doing the same.

14 Wedding First Dance Songs That Will Melt Your Heart

It’s here! The time for song selections has finally arrived on your wedding planning checklist. Processional–check. First dance–check. Bouquet toss–check. Now, there are two types of brides in this world: brides who have basically known since birth what songs they are going to walk down the aisle to and dance as Mr. & Mrs. for the first time to. It’s the song they grew up daydreaming about their Prince Charming to. It’s the song playing in the background of their first kiss. It’s the anthem for their relationship… And then there are brides who put off this decision until the night before their wedding and end up choosing whatever first comes to mind. While we definitely want the former type of bride to continue reading (it’s always nice to have options!), we’re here to help the latter type of bride overcome any procrastination. We’ve taken into account the romantic, make-you-melt kind of lyrics and beats you can actually dance to. From there, we have narrowed the list down to our top 14 favorite first dance songs to give you some inspiration.

Popular First Dance Songs. If you’re wanting a song your guests can sing along to while you waltz away, here are our top choices:

‘Make You Feel My Love’ by Adele

‘XO’ by John Mayer

‘Better Together’ by Jack Johnson

‘How Long Will I Love You’ by Ellie Goulding

‘You and I’ by Ingrid Michaelson

‘Come Away With Me’ by Norah Jones


Alternative First Dance Songs. If you’re looking for a more unconventional first dance song–you know, the kind of song your friends haven’t all chosen–weve’ve got you covered:

‘Sea of Love’ by Cat Power

‘Sparks’ by Coldplay

‘You Are the Best Thing’ by Ray LaMontagne

‘Heart’s on Fire’ by Passenger

‘My Two Left Feet’ by Erick Baker


Classic first dance songs. Because they just never seem to get old… If you’re afraid the classics are all overused, search for covers of older songs. Same tune, fresh vocals! It was hard to narrow down, but here’s a few of our favorite throwbacks:

‘The Way You Look Tonight’ by Frank Sinatra

‘At Last’ by Etta James (or pump up the younger crowd with a little Beyonce)

‘Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ by Haley Reinhart

Wedding Planning 101: Why Videography is Worth Every Penny

When my parents think of wedding videos, they step back in time to their wedding day, when Uncle John so generously offered to film the entire event on his VHS camcorder. However, Uncle John didn’t consider choosing an aisle seat, so when my mom walked down the aisle, all poor Uncle John caught on film was the top of each guest’s head as everyone stood to watch the most pivotal moment of a wedding.

When I think of wedding videos, I go back to my college days. My friends all made fun of me because I used to watch every single wedding video I could find on the Internet, almost incessantly, feeling and sharing all of the emotions shown (I shed a few tears every now and then…). Sometimes, when watching the really emotional, give-you-goosebumps kind of wedding videos, I felt like I was connecting with the couple as if I were at the actual event. Ha!

Alex Widmer wedding videography

After chatting with Alex Widmer, one of Castleton’s preferred videographers (and my wedding videographer!) and working in the wedding industry, I’ve noticed that, around here, videography either doesn’t fall within most wedding budgets or it’s just not “important” enough to be considered a wedding day essential. The majority of brides will rank their wedding day priorities, whether that means putting most of their budget into catering to really wow their guests with the dinner presentation or photography to provide those picture-perfect memories to show the grandkids (and a new profile picture that guarantees 200+ likes). The most common vendors that couples prioritize for their wedding are photographers, venues, and caterers because those are the wedding essentials that have been around  forever. Right now, videography is at the bottom of the totem pole because people miss out on seeing the value in it. As Alex put it, people only see it as the “distant uncle with his large camcorder, letting the camera droop down in the last row because he’s focused on the ceremony.” However, in the majority of polls taken by wedding sites, not hiring a professional videographer tends to be most brides’ #1 wedding day regret.


Wedding videography regrets


Is wedding videography just a trend? We don’t think so. It’s just another way our industry is being affected by the evolving culture. Think about it. Why do you spend an extra 20 minutes scrolling through your Facebook these days? Why did Vine and Periscope gain popularity so quickly? Why did Instagram add a video feature? Alex stated that video communicates authenticity. You can add filters, sure, but for the most part, you’re hearing and seeing things for what they really are–something our millennial generation is all about, ironically.

Wedding days are FILLED with all sorts of emotions–once-in-a-lifetime emotions that you can’t even begin to describe, emotions that you’ll never know existed until you experience your own wedding day, and simply put, emotions that can’t be captured through pictures, no matter how awesome your photographer is. As Instagram stated, when they released their video feature, “Some moments need more than a static image to come to life.” Videography allows you to experience those feelings long after the wedding. You get to see it, hear it, and feel it all over again.

Truthfully, there’s so much you’ll miss on your wedding day–preparation and set-up of the details you so thoughtfully planned out, interactions between guests who traveled from near and far for this one special day, grandma’s killer moves on the dance floor, and more. If you spend your whole life, from the time you’re a little girl, planning your wedding, why wouldn’t you want it captured in a way that you can relive it whenever you want?

Personally, I knew I had to squeeze videography into my budget because that’s all I raved about for four years. Now, it’s been four months since our wedding day, and even though we’ve oohed and aahed over our pictures, I cannot wait to watch our video. I’m ready to see, hear and experience our emotions when we read our letters to each other. I’m ready to relive our first look (and probably rewind to watch Corey’s reaction an embarrassing amount of times), our first kiss as husband and wife, the sweet toasts from our friends and family, and all of the other fun, quirky and emotional things that happened in between that made our wedding day my absolute favorite day.


Check out some work by our favorite, wedding-video-loving friends!

Alex Widmer Video

Milestone Pictures

Casey & Kristin


In case you’ve missed the rest of our Wedding Planning 101 series…

First Glance: Her Perspective

First Glance: His Perspective

Save the Date Cards

Dos and Don’ts of Your Engagement Shoot

Bridesmaids Proposals

Choosing Your Bridesmaids

Saying Yes to the Dress

Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Choosing Your Date

How He Asked: All About the Proposal


Planning an Indian Wedding: Shopping for Sarees

Darla, Ben, our bride, Heena, and “the mommas” (Heena + Ronak’s mothers) spent the first 3 days of their adventure in India shopping for Heena’s wedding sarees and jewelry for the big day! Despite being on a tight schedule, the crew helped Heena find all seven of her outfits (no, that’s not a typo – she needs seven outfits for her wedding!). Before moving on to the next city, Heena wrote us about her shopping experience in Mumbai:Shopping for Indian wedding sarees

“My dress buying process has not been the typical dress buying process. Most brides will come to India to shop at least six months before the wedding for about a month. I, however, am shopping for my outfit 3 months before my wedding for less than two weeks. It was really difficult for me to find time to shop for the wedding with my school schedule. I didn’t want to miss out on this experience, even if it meant I had to be a little stressed and rushed. The actual shopping process has been pretty flawless overall. At times it can get overwhelming being in one store for hours, however overall it has been really exciting! I definitely had an idea of what I wanted to wear. I was really nervous that what I was envisioning would be difficult to find though because it was unlikely that there would be time have a dress custom made, with coming to India so close to the wedding. I knew I wanted my wedding dress to have floral print or embroidery on it. This isn’t something you typically find on Indian outfits, but luckily that is what ended up being in season!! It’s really starting to set in that Ronak and I are getting married! It’s been so much fun sharing this experience with Ben and Darla so far…I can’t wait to see what the coming week has in store for us!”

Indian wedding sarees

Indian wedding sarees design process

Heena has chosen a beautiful peach-colored dress along with SIX other outfits! The traditional Indian wedding saree is made from red, silk fabric. However, our bride has chosen to go a little more neutral with her color selection. In India, the color white represents mourning, so obviously white is not the color of choice for a wedding! Typically, Indian wedding sarees will be embellished with crystals and real 24-karat gold thread and combined with lavish gold jewelry, including necklaces, bangles, rings, and hairpieces! Wedding sarees can also be complimented with a mix of pink or gold, and the bride will change into a different colored dress for the reception! These gowns can cost just as much as a wedding dress in America, if not more, because of the intricacy and details involved in the handmade design process. Wishing for more shopping luck for Heena, Darla, Ben, and the entire family!

Indian wedding sarees

A sneak peek of Heena’s main wedding saree

Indian shopping experience

The best shopping buddy – doesn’t say much though! #PappusPassage #WhereInTheWorldIsPappu

A special thanks to Sammohi Design Studio for hosting us and letting us film the design and production process. They also helped Heena find her dream wedding dress!

Catch up on our Indian adventure through our Facebook vlogs and photos. As the culture shock wears off, the videos keep getting better and better! Darla even finds a McDonald’s on Day 4!

8 Differences Between Indian and American Weddings

Do Indians really throw a better party than Americans? The ceremony length, the number of guests, and even the rituals–all of these aspects of a wedding in Indian cultures are completely different from that of American weddings! Here at Castleton Farms, as we prepare for yet another Indian wedding, we have done some research to provide you with a breakdown of just how different these two cultures really are in terms of weddings.

Differences between Indian and American weddings

The More, The Merrier.
The guest count is the most noticeable difference between the two culture’s wedding days. This is where the bride’s family likes to show off their money and hospitality–not to mention, Indian families tend to consider everyone they meet family–so they will typically invite as many people as he can afford! The guest count for an Indian wedding can range anywhere from 200 to 1,000 guests! In America, however, weddings remain a bit more intimate. Depending on the budget, the bride will send invitations only to close family and friends, bringing the average guest count in America to 130 or less.

Differences between Indian and American weddings

But What Will I Wear?!
In the United States, it’s typical for a bride to wear a white dress, though it’s becoming more common to see ivory, champagne, and even blush wedding gowns. The groom either sports a tuxedo or a suit, usually with a white shirt underneath and a splash of color in his tie. It is traditional, however, for Indian brides to model extravagant red, silk sarees on their wedding day. These beautiful and intricate pieces of handiwork can cost just as much as a wedding gown, if not more! Indian grooms wear embroidered sherwanis.

Differences between Indian and American weddings

A Girl’s Best Friend.
While American brides tend to choose simple diamonds, pearls or color coordinated pieces that fit their wedding day theme, Indian brides can vary greatly on what jewelry pieces they choose to wear on their big day. Some will wear an abundance of gold pieces and others may choose the royal rani look that features large polki diamonds. Either way they go, their lavish jewelry pieces will always be a matching set that compliments their wedding attire!

Differences between Indian and American wedding rituals

Differences between Indian and American weddings

More Than Just ‘I Do.”
We could write an entire book on the differences between Indian and American wedding rituals, but we’ll try to keep it short and simple! We’re all familiar with the American wedding processional order–begins with a traditional leading in of the groom and groomsmen, then follows the mothers and grandmothers. Next up: groomsmen, bridesmaids, and finally, the bride makes her big entrance, walking down the aisle, teary-eyed, with her father to meet her groom at the altar. The bride and groom then stand to exchange their vows and seal it with a kiss. However, Indian ceremony traditions are completely different than anything we’re used to. Their ceremony includes the barat, where the groom arrives at the venue on an elephant or horse, surrounded by his family who dance to music the entire way, and is welcomed by the bride’s family. Also, the Saptapadi is said to be an important ritual where the bride and groom will walk around the Holy Fire while saying a vow each time around. Whereas American ceremonies take as long as one hour at the very most, the main Indian wedding ceremony can last up to 3 hours.

Extravagant Indian wedding reception

Party of the Year Goes To…
The traditional American wedding reception immediately follows the ceremony and includes drinks, cutting of the cake, dinner, and dancing to follow. However, Indian brides, grooms, and their guests have to freshen up in between ceremony and reception because it’s such a long day. The Indian wedding reception is the huge celebration of the bride and groom coming together. Rumor has it, you don’t want to miss out on these parties!

Differences between Indian and American weddings

Are We There Yet?
Traditional weddings in America last the entire day for the bridal party and a few hours for the guests, with a ceremony lasting about 30 minutes, followed by a cocktail hour, and a 4-5 hour reception. Get this–Indian weddings can last anywhere from 1 to 3 whole days, if not more! These days consist of amazing rituals, including henna tattooing the women’s arms, hands and feet and eating LOTS of food.

More Than Just a Piece of Paper.
American wedding invitations can really be anything that the couple enjoys, whether that includes engagement pictures, beautiful calligraphy, or eye-catching artwork. Custom monograms are quickly becoming something every couple desires because it goes further than just the piece of paper. You can include custom monograms on your chalkboard signs, menus, and even the dance floor! Along with the American trend of choosing what reflects your wedding theme, Indian wedding invitations also have some brilliant artwork on them. However, the artwork on these invitations is extremely bright in color and has a cultural significance. The envelope that contains the invitations isn’t just a piece of paper to protect the card. It’s also made of silk, natural fibers, and bright colors–how cool!

Differences between Indian and American weddings

Forget About the Price Tag.
The average wedding cost in America depends on how many guests are attending and how much the bride is willing to spend on decor, flowers, the dress, and more. Typically, American brides will spend anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. On the other hand, Indian weddings tend to be over the top! The bride’s family spends their whole lives saving their money to spend on this one occasions, and the guest count, as stated earlier, is huge! Indian brides will have a ballpark budget of $50,000 to $100,000.

Despite the many differences between Indian and American weddings, at the end of the day, both cultures place a strong importance on uniting the two families and each hopes for a long, wonderful married life together for the newlyweds.

Planning an Indian Wedding: Castleton Goes International

You haven’t heard? Castleton Farms is headed to India! As you read this, our Executive Director, Darla Walker, is jet-setting across the world with our bride Heena and photographer Ben Finch to prep for the big day. While over there, Darla and Heena will shop for the wedding sarees, jewelry, invitations and more, and back home, we’re going to be documenting every bit of it. While they’re all en route, we wanted to introduce Heena + Ronak to you all!

International Indian wedding planning

Indian wedding photography_Bill Waldorf


their storyThe two met at a graduation party at the end of their Junior year in college, and Heena claims she knew there was something special about him when she saw him walk through the door (swoon!). Little did they know, at that moment, where life would bring them! A few days after, Heena was leaving Atlanta for the summer so Ronak asked her to grab coffee at the ever-so-eclectic Java Monkey, and the rest is history. Heena commented, “It’s a good thing that I liked him enough to go on a date with him because I’m not the biggest fan of coffee!”


Indian wedding engagement_Ben Finch Photo


how he askedOne of the couple’s favorite places is Savannah, Georgia. The fact that 3 out of 6 of their anniversaries have been spent in the charming, historic town made it the perfect proposal location. Ronak had mapped out every detail of the day, which would end with him on one knee, at their favorite place in Savannah–the fountain in the middle of Forsyth Park, asking the girl he adores to spend forever with him. But life happens, and the day didn’t go as Ronak had planned. Every time he thought about proposing throughout the day, something went wrong. The day ended back at the town home where they were staying, and Ronak decided then that the time was right. He asked. Heena was taken by surprise. She said yes, of course, and here we are today!


Indian wedding engagement_Ben Finch Photo

castleton brideHeena had previously been to an Indian wedding at Castleton and fell in love with our property. When the time rolled around for her to choose a wedding venue, she considered Castleton because of the outdoor venue options. In India, over 90% of couples get married outside. While there are endless outdoor venues to choose from in America, the couple had difficulty finding an outdoor venue that could accommodate such a large guest count. Indian families consider everyone they meet part of their family, which explains their 500+ person guest counts. Heena + Ronak also mentioned choosing Castleton because of Darla and the built-in event planning that comes with every experience. Unlike American weddings, Indian weddings consist of multiple events occurring over a 3-day time period (at least!), so having an event planner to keep track of each detail and hold people accountable was a huge deal breaker for these two.

All of that being said, we are SO excited to have the opportunity to experience India with Heena, Ronak, Ben, and the whole family. Join us on this adventure and find some entertainment in our daily Facebook vlogs, Instagram inspiration photos, blog posts describing the details and importance of planning an Indian wedding, and one of our favorite parts – Pappu’s passage! That’s right. The little friend you see below is joining our journey. We’ll be posting photos of Pappu wherever we go, and it’s up to YOU to guess where he is. Darla will be bringing back some fun souvenirs for each winner! Be sure to follow us with the hashtags #PappusPassage, #WhereInTheWorldIsPappu and #IndiaExperiencesCastleton.

authentic patchwork Indian elephant

18 Romantic Date Ideas For This Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again! You’ve been together for a few years now and the ideas of what to get your significant other are starting to get so stressful–especially since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow! No worries, ladies and gents. If you live in the Knoxville area, we’ve got you covered. For starters, it helps that you live in the 3rd Most Romantic City in the country, but also, we’ve prepared a list of charming date and gift ideas to make your special person feel…well…special!

Knoxville sky line

Let’s start with the best part…food!

The Melting PotPrepare your wallet if you choose this unique, interactive dining experience, but it is absolutely worth it! The dim lighting is perfect for a romantic date, and cooking your own meal sets the tone for plenty of laughs and lots of time to enjoy just being with each other.

Ruth’s Chris Steak HouseAbsolutely fabulous! Hands down, if you and your special someone are craving the most delicious steak and wine that you’ve ever had, then this is the place to go!

NAMA Sushi Bar. If you’re a sushi fanatic, then load up the car and head to either the downtown Knoxville or Kingston Pike location! Consistently voted the number one sushi restaurant in Knoxville.

Altruda’sCraving Italian? You must go here! The menu is a never-ending list of delicious entrees, and did we mention they have peanut butter pie for dessert… Uh, yes please!

Icon Ultra LoungeLocated on the 5th floor of the Sunsphere, this restaurant is an iconic part of Knoxville, and you’re guaranteed the best views!

Tupelo Honey CaféThe perfect spot for a relaxing brunch to start the day of love. This restaurant is located in Market Square and is well-known for their delicious biscuits and homemade jam–trust us, they don’t disappoint!

The Crown and GooseSuch a cute and quirky little gastropub located in the Old City. It will almost make you want to move to England!


Romantic date ideas for couples


Not big foodies or simply content with a #5 8-count from Chick-fil-a? Try these activities for the perfect date night!

Ice Skating at the Ice ChaletWe know here in Knoxville, the weather has been a little crazy, but how cute would an ice skating date be?! Bundled up kisses and your favorite person all in one–nothing gets better than that!
Painting with a TwistWe pass this place on our way to work every morning and have heard only great things. This step-by-step art class is a great idea for a Valentine’s date, AND you can bring your own wine! Yay!

Ballroom Dancing Lessons at Dance TonightWhat a fantastic excuse to put on a fancy dress and learn some new moves. No more excuses about not having an occasion to wear that beautiful sparkling evening gown that takes up so much space in your closet. Ladies, tonight, you’re going dancing!

Couple’s Spa Day. Is the new year already causing you stress and exhaustion? This is a perfect excuse to relax, enjoy yourself and also, give a great gift to your partner! This gift is really killing two birds with one stone, so what more could you ask for?!

Stay in for warm snuggles, order a pizza, and watch a good RomCom. For you busy bees out there, you may not want to get dressed up and re-shower for a full night of activities, and that’s okay! If a movie is involved, it’s a date! We always recommend About Time, Serendipity, and of course, anything featuring Ryan Gosling.


Romantic date ideas

But what will I buy him?

Cook him a great meal. Enough with the microwave meals and Totino’s Pizza. Take out the fine china and your best recipe book and whip up something that will have his mouth watering for more (P.S. if you don’t have a cookbook, head over to Pinterest for some fabulous inspiration!). He may even want to join in!

Something he will actually use. A wallet, shaving set, a new pair of jeans. Figure out what he is truly needing and head on to the mall.

Chocolates! Everybody loves a box of chocolates. Yes–even big, strong, independent men!


Romantic date ideas

But what will I buy her?

Jewelry. The number one thing that will come to anyone’s mind when you ask what to get a woman! Every lady loves a little bit of frosting, and what a great way to tell her that you love her than with fine jewelry?

Flowers and Chocolates. This may be obvious, but one of our very favorite things about Valentine’s Day is the heart shaped box of chocolates! It’s such a yummy surprise to bite in to each one to find out what it is! (and pretend you’re in the scene from Legally Blonde or The Vow)

Something Hand-Made. Finally, make this a day to overly show your appreciation for each other! Some men aren’t the most creative crayon in the crayon box, but when they try, it really shows us women how much they love and cherish us. Thoughtfulness is every girl’s love language!