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.

Africa

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!

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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.

 

CoreyKellyEngagement-6

 

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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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 with Kelly: How He Asked

Engagement ring picture

Now, let’s talk about proposals! Getting engaged is of the biggest moments every girl dreams of. Will he choreograph a dance with my closest family and friends so we can become the newest YouTube sensation? Will he build a memory wall of us in his backyard, complete with a private concert and dancing by candlelight? Will he take me up in a hot air balloon over Napa Valley and feed me chocolate covered strawberries while we ride off into the sunset (may or may not have been my dream…)?

Biltmore Estate engagement

Here’s my advice, girls. Let him be him. I knew Corey had the ring for over a month before he proposed. The poor guy was just too nervous to ask because he knew he couldn’t plan and deliver some extravagant date ending in the most over-the-top proposal, though I continued to expect something elaborate and well thought out.

Finally, one night, it hit me. If I were Corey, I would plan a hot-air-balloon-over-Napa proposal with champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and a long handwritten note about how in love I am. However, I’m not marrying myself (thank goodness). I’m marrying Corey, and that’s the beautiful thing about it. Whatever he came up with was going to be perfect no matter what, because it was all his idea. It came from his heart, not mine.

Update: his proposal included me being the one to suggest when and where to do it, I was wearing my pajamas, and my nail polish had been 50% peeled off. Definitely something that would rack up two million views on YouTube, but perfect in every single way. A quiet, intimate, and expected proposal can be just as romantic, if not more.

(However, guys, if you’re reading this and want to do something that will make your girl absolutely melt, take some inspiration from this adorable proposal)

East Tennessee proposal

Also, when your favorite guy finally gets down on one knee and asks the infamous question, it’s completely normal to lose your breath for a second or two. You’ll even forget everything he prefaced it with. I barely even remember being asked, “Will you marry me?”

What will inevitably happen in the following half hour: stare at the new sparkly rock on your left hand for a bit (you won’t want to look away), ask yourself if this is real life, address him as your fiancé for the first time (that can be a hard one to get used to), snap a good picture of the ring because everyone’s going to ask for one, be prepared to tell the proposal story 200 times, and get ready for the time of your life!

Next post, we’ll be talking about choosing a wedding date and setting your budget, which in my opinion, was where I hit the most road bumps. But we’ll get you through it!

Jennifer + Joe: A Knoxville Engagement Story

Last month was filled with food, flowers, and FUN when Jennifer + Joe came in for Castleton’s Vendor Experience! Jennifer + Joe are one of our local couples, being from Halls and Farragut. They met in February 2010 through mutual friends at an event in February, went on their first date to an Eric Church concert in Nashville in July, and have been in love ever since. Dating long distance–Jennifer went to the University of Tennessee and Joe was at Austin Peay State University–couldn’t even keep these two apart. They took turns coming home on weekends and made it work. Hey, as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? As Jennifer’s graduation approached and Joe had another year to go, they began to wonder what would happen to their future.

“He asked mom and dad first,” said Jennifer’s mother, with a proud smile on her face.

Joe had decided to take Jennifer on a date which he joked ended up being a “miserable day because [he] didn’t get to do anything [he] wanted to.” The plan was to eat dinner at Wasabi’s on Bearden Hill and go see a movie, but after they ate, Jennifer wanted to go home and take care of Dixie, their precious puppy of four years. Little did she know, she was stalling the entire plan. Joe wanted to go for a walk, but Jen “…obviously wasn’t buying that because it was raining.” He suggested going to the Sunsphere for a drink and Jennifer was like, “okay, whatever, date night woohoo,” but Joe wanted to walk the long route and Jennifer couldn’t figure out why. They stopped on top of the bridge where a photographer was taking pictures of his girlfriend, and Joe started looking for fish in the stream. “I was like Joe, it’s a man made foot deep stream, there’s no fish.” But when Jennifer turned around to look at Joe, he was already on his knee! The photographer “taking pictures of his girlfriend” was actually for there for them and caught it all on camera. Both Jennifer and Joe’s parents and Jennifer’s brother were in the Sunsphere so they witnessed the whole event and celebrated with the newly engaged couple who joined them shortly after. “We had talked about it for so long and dated for three years, there’s no way else he could surprise me.” Joe had picked out the ring himself a month and a half before proposing–he went to Jared–and he did a great job because she loves it (and so do we!)! The fun didn’t stop after that night! “We ironically had an 8 day cruise planned for right after we got engaged where most people, including me, thought the engagement was going to happen, but Joe knew I wanted my family to be there.

Proposal picturesEngagement picturesDiamond engagement ringFamily party after proposal

 

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