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

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

12 Wedding Trends to Look Forward To in 2016

2015 was all about fierce plunging necklines, champagne fountains and deep wine-colored hues throughout! With a year filled with such classy amazingness, how could you top that?! We think, however, that this year is going to be one for the books with predicted trends like metallic color schemes, wedding dress separates, furry sidekicks, and many more! Be prepared for 2016, ladies and gentlemen, because this year’s trends are about to be bolder and more dazzling than ever!

Metallics. This year is going to be filled with metallic color schemes everywhere. Rose gold and copper are said to be the “it” color of 2016. Incorporate metallics into any aspect of your wedding – invitations, bridesmaids dresses, or even table linens!


Sleeves. Gone are the days of strapless, sweetheart-neckline dresses. 2016 is going to be covered (pun intended) with gorgeous designer gowns with sleeves of all sorts! From cap, illusion, or tank… You name it, it will be done!


Furry sidekicks. Calling all you puppy lovers out there! It’s been said that a trend for this coming year is going to involve bringing your pup along on the special day. This is by far the best thing we have heard all year (even if it is just January). So ladies and gents, grab your little fluff ball, take him to the groomers, and get ready to have lots of kisses from not only the bride!


Pre-ceremony cocktails. Ready to party? Pre-ceremony chatting (empty-handed) will be no more! Couples are now wanting to greet their party-comers with a bubbly refreshment to get the party started. Who’s excited?!


Two-piece dresses. It started with prom and now has flooded into the wedding world, and we’re not mad about it. Two part wedding dresses and removable bottom pieces are going to be seen everywhere! Looking to be a chic and sexy bride? Well you’re in luck, because this is your year!


Vintage engagement rings. Word of advice: Ask mom! Trending now are heirloom engagement rings! Nothing is more special than saying yes to a beautiful piece from Grandma, trust me!


Boudoir beauties. Boudoir sessions are an easy gift to let your husband see a little more of your sexy side. Instead of having a whole day set apart for beautifully baring it all, brides are beginning to do it throughout the morning of their big day! Hooray for knocking out two birds with one stone!


Jewel tones. Deep purples, royal blues, and bright fuchsias… Oh my! Some brides are on the metallic train to their big day, but if you still want that splash of color, that’s okay too! Jewel tones are here to stay for 2016, ladies.


Long tables. Join the family! Separate round tables are out, and long tables for many guests to sit together are in and we love it. Pass the rolls, please!


Lighting. Great lighting is everything, and this year, it’s not going unnoticed! Using a plethora of candles or more chandeliers than you should (because they’re beautiful, right?) is totally okay!


Pattern. Adding pattern into your wedding is one quick way to being the most stylish bride of the year. Checkerboard, polka dot, or color blur your way to the top!


2016 wedding trends mix and match furniture

My Blonde Ambitions

Mix+Match. The bride wants glitter but the groom wants matte? Bride wants glamorous, groom wants traditional? Arguing over who has better wedding ideas is exhausting. So calm down, because this year you can both win with the new trend of mixing and matching (YAY)!

With this knowledge in hand, begin pinning away and planning, ladies!

Wedding Planning 101: Save the Date Cards

Wedding save the date cards

There’s a ring on your finger, a groom on your arm, and a date in the books! The next few months will be a whirlwind as you begin finessing all the details of your special day, from flowers to cake to accommodations to honeymoon… but, if you’d like guests to actually attend your wedding, one of the first things you should put your mind to is your Save the Date! Here are a few key points to consider when ordering your Save the Date cards:

Letterpress save the date cards

First Impression. This really will be the first thing that your guests see regarding your wedding. This means that as fun and wacky your Halloween picture is of you two dressed up as a hotdog and hamburger, this probably isn’t the best choice for your save the date. If you’re including a photograph, this may be the first picture some people are seeing of your spouse-to-be! And of course, a Save the Date doesn’t need to have a photo at all if you don’t have one you love— we’ve letterpressed many gorgeous save the dates as an elegant first impression.

Visually Cohesive. You want your save the date to feel like it belongs with your other printed pieces. If you’re having a formal, elegant wedding, you may want to consider choosing a more formal save the date design. Better yet, when we work with a bride, we start with the invitation and then work backwards towards the save the date. After the bride has selected fonts and styling for the invitation itself (the main event!), we then apply those same character traits to the save the date, with varying details, and print that piece first. It is important that all of your printed pieces look like they are part of the same ‘family’ and coordinate well together.

Time Frame. The general rule for time-frame on save the date mailing is 5-months to 1 year prior to the wedding. However, traditional wedding invitation mailing etiquette dictates that the invitations mail drop 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding. This means that if you’re mailing the save the date 5 months prior to the event, you’re then mailing the invitation just a few months later.  Personally, I like when save the dates are mailed 6-7 months prior to the wedding. This gives guests ample time to make travel arrangements and book hotel rooms if necessary, but doesn’t feel too close to the invitation mailing date, either.

Content. The save the date typically includes the bride and groom’s names, the date of the wedding, and the city and state of the wedding. You don’t need to mention time or specific venue until the wedding invitation. Also, this is a great place to put a wedding website if you have one and even accommodation information if many people will be traveling. The more information you can give people, the less you’ll be fielding questions from guests! One hard and fast etiquette rule: don’t put your registry information anywhere except your wedding website and shower invitations. Don’t print it on the save the date, rather, direct people to the website where they can glean all of the information they’ll need to know, including registry.

Congratulations! It is definitely time to get started!

Sarah from The Happy Envelope

Tennessee wedding save the date cards

Wedding Planning 101: Dos and Don’ts of Your Engagement Shoot

Engagement pictures

Yes! I personally believe everyone should take engagement pictures, and I personally believe they should be taken, at the most, 2 months after the proposal OR during an opposite season from your wedding (to have more picture options, of course!). Why so soon? This is the fun part! The giddiness that resulted from the proposal hasn’t worn off yet, and your pictures are going to reflect those feelings and emotions. Engagement shoots are also the best way to get to know your photographer, and vice versa, before the wedding. Not to mention, you’re going to want a professional picture with your new show-stopping sparkler for your send-the-dates, am I right?

*Pro tip: when choosing your photographer, make sure you find someone you can completely be yourself around. The more comfortable you are around your photographer, the more relaxed you’ll be. The more relaxed you are, the better you look on camera! Corey can be shy and hates having his picture taken, but of course I wanted the dreamy engagement pictures every girl longs for – where the fiancé is grinning from ear-to-ear and just looks “soOoOo in love” – so I definitely felt the pressure of choosing a photographer who could break him out of his shell. I chose someone with a similar personality so that Corey wouldn’t be too overwhelmed, and after our engagement shoot (a.k.a. an entire day of having his picture taken – nothing Corey hates more), all he could talk about was how much he loved our photographer. So ladies, find someone who your man will love too! This is another secret to better, “Pinterest worthy” pictures.


Summer engagement picture in a boat


1. Do your homework! Knowing your photographer’s previous work is an absolute must so that you aren’t unpleasantly surprised when the pictures come back. Check out their website portfolio and Instagram. Each photographer has their own style, so it’s important to find a style that matches yours.




2. Create a meaningful backdrop. When picking your location, incorporate a place that is significant to both of you. You want your photos to reflect your personalities and represent you as a couple. Corey and I both enjoy traveling, so our photographer came up with the creative idea of doing a road trip engagement shoot. We drove all around Athens, Tennessee, making various stops and taking pictures. Corey is a big hiker and basically lives in the mountains on the weekends, so we ended the day on the top of a mountain for sunset pictures. We also asked our photographer to snap a few shots of us in the third grade classroom where we met. Those ended up being my favorites because of the memories associated with the setting!




3. Complement, don’t coordinate. Once you’ve chosen the location of the shoot, it’s time to ask what to wear. You aren’t your significant other’s twin, so don’t dress like it. However, you don’t want to completely clash, so if he’s dead-set on wearing a bright yellow striped shirt, you probably don’t want to wear neon purple polka dots. Try sticking with neutral colors and simple patterns. Avoid super trendy outfits. The last thing you want is to look back 5 years later and say, “What was I thinking?!” about your tie-dye popcorn shirt. Find an outfit you’re confident in, even if that means hopping on over to the mall and splurging on a new dress.




4. Avoid the clutter. Props are adorable but can also be distracting. Don’t drown yourself in paper photo booth props, picnic props, and picture frames. Keep it simple, and keep most of the props at home. You want to be the focus, not your things.




5. Act natural. Don’t overdo it, wondering if you look awkward or forcing your fiancé to kiss you a certain way. Fake laughing can be cute sometimes, but if the perfect laughing pictures you see on Pinterest are all you dream of, choose a photographer who is light-hearted and can make you genuinely laugh – even if you are a bit uncomfortable! Hug, kiss, flirt, and smile – you’re getting married after all!!! It’s okay to love on each other. The more relaxed you are and the more you interact with each other, the better your pictures are going to turn out.




6. Quality, not quantity. Pinterest has created monsters out of us women. When I was planning, I ended each day by searching Pinterest, re-pinning and saving images for my vendors. Of course I had a board for engagement pictures and expected every picture to turn out exactly like the ones I re-pinned. A photographer described this pressure as being “in a race to give [couples] 40,50,100 engagement photos all with different ideas and concepts at a million locations with 3 or 4 outfits.” Sounds AWESOME…if that was realistic. You do not need 200 flawless images. I promise there are not enough walls in your house to hang every single one of those (in addition to your wedding photos), and none of your Facebook friends are going to sift through that entire album. It’s okay to think you look silly in a few of the pictures you get back! Laugh about it and be happy with the beautiful images you DID get!

Most of all, enjoy it. How often is someone going to take (professional) pictures to show you how adorable and in love you are?!

| all photos by Ben Finch |

Check out my previous posts from the Wedding Planning 101 series:

Bridesmaids Proposals

Choosing Your Bridesmaids

Saying Yes to the Dress

Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Choosing Your Date

How He Asks: All About the Proposal

An Introduction

Wedding Planning 101: Bridesmaids Proposals

With the rise in creative marriage proposals, we’ve also seen a rise in creative ways to “propose” to your bridesmaids. Pinterest is overflowing with ideas, whether it be with a simple scratch off card (almost used that one), a custom illustration of the two of you (a personal fave), or an elaborate DIY box filled with wedding goodies. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of these ideas! Take into consideration how special your bridesmaids are to you and how much time and effort (and money!) they’re about to put into your wedding day. Asking your bridesmaids in a thoughtful way will make them feel appreciated and loved (and maybe a little more willing to wear the purple polkadot dress you picked out for them).

asking bridesmaids to be in the wedding

Asking bridesmaids with scratch off card

Asking bridesmaids with DIY boxes

Of course I wanted my boxes to be overflowing with goodies for my bridesmaids, but sometimes the budget gets in the way, so I opted for a “homemade” gift package. I included a small painting, my favorite picture of us, wedding color swatches, an inspiration photo of their dresses (which I obviously ended up completely changing…about 20 times), and my favorite, a long handwritten note. Handwritten notes are my number one love language. I would so much rather write out what their friendship means to me than give them an Essie nail polish, BUT that’s just me! If your love language is gifts, speak that language, girlfriend!

However you choose to pop the question, your girls are sure to be honored to say yes and stand with you on your big day.

Asking bridesmaids with gifts

Watercolor illustration for asking bridesmaids

Asking bridesmaids with a gift card


If you missed my last post on choosing your bridesmaids, read it here!

Other previous posts:

Saying Yes to the Dress

Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Choosing Your Perfect Date

How He Asks: All About the Proposal

Wedding Planning 101: Meet Kelly

Wedding Planning 101: Choosing Your Bridesmaids

Choosing your bridesmaids and bridal party

Ahhh choosing your bridesmaids – one of my least favorite parts of the entire planning process. I’m a people pleaser, so of course I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’ve also been blessed to know so many awesome girls who have played a huge role in my life, and of course I wanted them all standing with me! But I knew that personally, I couldn’t handle a bridal party of 14. Remember: with girls comes drama. The more hormones floating around, the more drama, and you don’t need that on your wedding day. So, even though Darla tried her best to convince me to choose only 3 or 4, I chose 6 bridesmaids. However, that number is totally a personal preference! I’m not here to tell you how many bridesmaids you should or shouldn’t have – just here to warn you of making a rash decision because this is a big deal!

Whatever you do, do not ask your bridesmaids right after you get engaged! Think it over. Think it over again. And again. The last thing you want is to regret who you chose to stand beside you on one of the most important days of your life. Wait and ask your bridesmaids about 6-8 months out. This will give you time to make a thoughtful decision, while still giving them enough time to order their dresses, make travel arrangements, coordinate a bachelorette party, and whatever else their duties may include.

*Kel tip: shipping for most bridesmaids’ dresses is 3-4 months, so start shopping earlier rather than later!

Choosing sister as maid of honor

Maid of honor was an easy decision for me because I have an older sister and usually, sisters trump friends. In my case, I’m very lucky that my sister is my best friend, so that was a no-brainer. Otherwise, I would advise choosing your most loyal friend, not necessarily the one you’ve known the longest (also, having organizational skills is a big bonus). Your maid of honor is your right-hand girl throughout the planning process and on the day-of. She’s typically the one planning your bridal shower and bachelorette party, attending vendor meetings with you, preparing a toast for the rehearsal dinner (or reception), straightening and fluffing your dress on the day-of, and answering ALL of your late night phone calls, prepared to come help you whatever the task.

Choosing bridesmaids and bridal party

When it comes to bridesmaids, choose girls who you know will be in your life for the rest of your “firsts.” First house, first married fight, first baby. Choose a friend who you know will be honest with you to tell you that dress you love is super unflattering or that you’ve had food stuck in your teeth all day. Choose a friend who has, selflessly, listened to you ramble on and on about all of your boy problems. Choose a friend who isn’t afraid to tear up the dance floor with you, even if she isn’t the most coordinated. Choose a friend who will happily start writing when you throw 75 blank recipe cards her way and tell her they need to be done that night (I might be guilty of this…). Choose a friend who is, as I heard somewhere, your “marriage godparent,” someone who has had and will always have a personal relationship with you and your husband-to-be. Choose girls who know you and your insecurities, your emotions and what causes you to come unglued, your stress levels and how to calm you down.

If you’re still having trouble deciding, I love this point system Glamour came up with. Where was this when I was choosing my bridesmaids?!

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing a fun little post about how I asked my bridesmaids! Until then, I want to know! How did you decide who to ask? What’s your advice on the subject?

P.S. Sarah, Amy, Stephanie, LeighEllen, Becca, or Ashlyn, if you’re reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you for being the absolute best (and for staying up until 1 a.m. handwriting 75+ recipe cards).

If you’re not to this stage in the planning process yet, maybe my previous posts will help a little more!

Saying Yes to the Dress

Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Choosing the Perfect Date

How He Asks: All About the Proposal

Wedding Planning 101: Meet Kelly


Wedding Planning 101: Saying Yes to the Dress

Lace wedding dress

My wedding dress…ah. I was never the girl who got caught day-dreaming about what I would wear on my wedding day, and I definitely didn’t scour Pinterest throughout the wee hours of the morning (which might sound odd to all of you who know I graduated with a degree in Apparel Merchandising). I was also in an interesting situation because at the time Corey proposed, I was interning at a wedding dress boutique in Knoxville – but was still never fully into the wedding dress thing like most brides. One morning, we had some down time at the shop, so we decided to play! I tried on maybe a total of six dresses. I only felt truly comfortable in one (something you should note: I am the most indecisive person alive, so this was a miracle that I only loved one). It was whimsical, flowy, and a unique kind of vintage (not to mention, customizable – two thumbs up). Days passed, and every time I would walk by “the” dress in the shop, I would spend a few extra seconds staring at it. However, I noticed another dress in the shop that girls kept trying on and looking FAB in, so I decided I would try too. And wow, I felt like a babe in it. It sparkled and hugged my curves all the right ways. If ‘Hollywood Glam’ had a picture beside it in the dictionary, it would be of this dress.

So I was stuck. Do I choose the dress that makes me feel like a stone cold fox or do I choose the dress that makes me feel exquisite and lovely?

I always look to the opinion of others for big decisions like this, and literally everyone told me the same thing: even though I couldn’t go wrong with the Hollywood Glam dress, the first dress I loved was simply more me. It perfectly complemented my personality and resembled what I wear on a daily basis. Plus there was never a time when I tried it on and thought, “Nah, maybe not.” So that’s the one I ordered and the moment it arrived – my dress, the dress I would wear standing in front of everyone, saying ‘I do’ to my best friend – I became a girl who would daydream about what I would wear on my wedding day. I fell in love…hard. Wearing something that made me feel so beautiful and graceful was a serious dream! I wish that experience on every single one of you because it’s something no one should miss!

Bride admiring wedding dress

Ben Finch Photography


I tried to wrap that up quickly so I could share just a few things with you:

• Go for the dress that fits your personality. If you’re a simple, Plain Jane kind of girl, don’t buy the top-to-bottom beaded ballgown if you’re not completely comfortable in it. You’re going to look great in most every dress you try on because they’re designed to be flattering and attractive. It’s about how you feel in the dress, not necessarily how you look (but of course, looking great definitely helps!).

• SO IMPORTANT: It’s okay if you don’t cry when you think you’ve found “the one!!” Television has kind of set that expectation up for brides, so it’s easy to think there’s something better out there if the tears aren’t flowing – which is so not true!

• If you’re indecisive like me, don’t shop at every single wedding boutique in the Southeast. That gives you way too many options, and chances are, it will take you twice as long to make a decision.

• When you’re first shopping, try on every style, even if you think you’re going to hate ballgown. Most of the time, girls end up walking out with the dress they said they’d never try on!

• Start shopping a year in advance and be prepared to buy AT LEAST 6 months before the wedding, but preferably 8 months before to ensure time for delivery and alterations. Girls don’t realize how long the wedding dress process takes!

• Take a few friends or family members with you, but not an entire entourage. Too many opinions get thrown around, and you risk your feelings getting hurt and/or not being able to make a clear decision.

• Most of the time, the dresses you’re re-pinning cost $6,000+ and it’s unrealistic to even find some them. So if your budget is $1,500, don’t expect to get the exact dress you’re showing your bridal consultant with all the same features. Definitely keep an open mind!

Since I’ve spent so much time at the bridal boutique, I’ve learned SO much about wedding dresses and the process, so please feel free to use me as a resource for questions and concerns!

P.S. A huge thank you to Lea-Ann Belter for my PERFECT wedding gown!!

Wedding Planning 101: Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Wedding budgets are intimidating, I won’t lie to you. When you make a list of how much things are going to cost versus how much you’ve allotted, it can be upsetting. Pinterest has kind of ruined the wedding industry because it makes us girls believe we can have a Vera Wang gown and an explosion of seeded eucalyptus and peonies, with no price tag attached. However, have no fear! There are ways to cut wedding costs and still have your dream wedding!

Wedding inspiration on Pinterest website

In the beginning, it’s important to prioritize three things you wouldn’t mind splurging on. For me, it was photography, videography, and invitations (and of course, Froufrou Chic silk ribbon for my bouquet). My personal advice: I think photography should be on the top of everyone’s list simply because when the day is over and done, the only tangible memories you have left are the pictures. We got our wedding photos back two weeks ago and still pull up the link every day to browse through them. However, you know yourself better than I do, so if you know you really don’t care about the pictures, add something else to the list. Maybe the food is really important to you, or a beautiful, detailed 5-tier cake or a bouquet overflowing with peonies. The only person who can decide that for yourself is you!

Okay, now I’m going to tell you something no bride wants to hear but needs to. By the way, I help plan weddings on a daily basis, but I never fully understood this concept until I was a bride myself. You cannot have the high-end wedding you’re dreaming of on a $10,000 budget and expect to have 400 of your closest friends attend. Weddings, unfortunately, do not work that way. Think about it: inviting one more guest is ordering one more invitation suite (not to mention the $6 per envelope calligraphy which is all-too popular these days), one more chair (which leads to more tables and floral arrangements), one more plate of food, one more piece of cake, one more wedding favor, etc. On average, you’re paying $100 for each guest to show at your wedding, so let’s do the math. If you only cut 10 people off your list and your groom does the same, you’re saving approximately $2000. So, let’s prioritize again and think about who we really want to attend. Ask yourself: when is the last time I had an actual conversation with this person? Do I know their boyfriend/girlfriend well enough to give them a plus one? Does this person have a clue as to what’s going on in my life? Where do I see our relationship in five years? You’ll be able to start narrowing it down as you answer these questions.

Wedding in a field with guests

Ben Finch Photography

Friends at a wedding having fun

Ben Finch Photography

Honestly, creating a realistic guest list was the hardest part for Corey and I. Of course we both wanted ALL of our friends and family to come, but our budget had other plans… Be patient with each other throughout the process! Your fiancé might not understand when you first tell him, “Babe, you have [#] of people you can invite,” because guys typically don’t understand any of the wedding planning process, but with lots of thought and patience, you’ll be able to create your perfect guest list.

A few other ways to cut costs:

• Timing is everything! Think about having your wedding on an off-day, like a Friday or Sunday. You might be surprised at how much vendors will discount their services for non-Saturday events, which is why Corey and I decided to have a Sunday wedding.

• Skip the plated meal and add food buffets to your ‘must-have’ list. Plated meals require more servers, which adds to your catering costs.

• Only about 75% of your guests will eat the cake, so no need to buy the 4-tier cake for your 150 guest count. A way we cut the cost of cake was to have family and friends bake their favorite cake recipes.


Have other ideas? Leave a comment and let us know how you’re cutting your wedding costs!