Grab your tissues, friends. This one might have you feeling all the feels. Mid-September along the west coast, just south of Bodega Bay, Caitlin and Casey made it all official in some serious style. With rolling hills, scenic views of Tomales Bay, and a restored farmhouse, the Straus Home Ranch was truly the perfect backdrop for their perfect day.
Every single detail of the day was well thought out and perfectly executed. It’s not often wedding days go off without a hitch, but I can sincerely tell you that this was one of them. It was a non-stop party with all of their favorite people flying in from all over to celebrate with them and I was overjoyed to be a part of their day.
These two (along with their amazing planner, Jessica, with Joyeux Events) sure know how to throw an unforgettable party. I can promise you, I’ll never forget this unbelievably perfect day.
Katie and Bryan’s wedding tucked away in the redwoods was one for the books! I had been looking forward to this wedding for quite some time because, let’s be honest: After meeting Katie once (with many email exchanges), I knew how FUN their wedding was going to be. And secondly, my most favorite friendors were also going to be there. A real win-win, if you ask me!
Katie and her gals had the entire lodge to get ready in (with the AC blasting, I might add), while Bryan and his groomsmen had their pick of the many onsite A-Frame cabins to choose from. I remember walking in and thinking how relaxed Katie was, enjoying the morning with her bridesmaids.
The couple chose their ceremony spot - an open expanse with the redwoods as their backdrop, just a few minutes walk up from the lodge. Guests were shuttled in and were encouraged to grab a drink in anticipation of the ceremony starting. The reception was back at the lodge, which was transformed to the open dance floor, with cocktail hour and dinner located outside under the trees and twinkling market lights. <3
Biggest congratulations to one amazing couple. We love you, Katie and Bryan!
**All vendors and their respective websites listed at the bottom of blog post.
SIDE NOTE: As a photographer I have to say that one of the most memorable parts of the day is that before ceremony began, the officiant stood before the guests, acknowledged that we were all here to witness Katie’s and Brian’s vows, but requested vows of the guests themselves. He had the guests repeat after him that at no point throughout the rest of the ceremony would the guests take out their cellphones or cameras. They vowed that they would keep them stowed away and be present during the ceremony. And wouldn’t you believe….They followed through! I didn’t see any guests try to sneak any shots! This, my friends, is GOLD! I’ve been to *many* weddings and this cellphone free request was completely requested! Just a note for brides who want an unplugged wedding but aren’t sure how to make it happen. :)
Photography: Vanessa Lynne Photography
Event Planning and Design: Alluring Events + Design
Florals: The Blonde Bouquet
Videography: Sean Kenney Films
Dress: Miosa Bride
Hair: Bridget Jasper of lovealways_bk
Makeup: Susie Castilone
Mobile Bar: The Whiskey Chaser Bar
Catering: Savory Events
Venue: Waterfall Lodge and Retreat
DJ: Dj Rufio
I’ve know both Danielle and Curtis for many years now and earlier this summer, they had booked a family session with me. As the date was approaching and we were emailing back and forth to finalize details, I get a response from Danielle saying, “Soooo..... call us crazy but we’re sorta kinda kickin around eloping in like 3 weeks.” The second she sent me that, I literally laughed out loud because I’ve been secretly hoping for that email for a long time. She sent me some dates and, crazy enough, I was available only three weeks out in peak wedding season! From there, we knew it was meant to be and got right to work, jumping on the phone to talk location, timing, details and get her lined up with a solid plan.
Both Danielle and Curtis love Loon Lake and so we figured that was the perfect place to hold the ceremony and casual bbq reception. The day couldn’t have gone smoother and you honestly wouldn’t have known that it was put together in less than three weeks!
After the wedding, Danielle shared some of her insight and her overall experience with planning an intimate elopement in such a short time, in the hopes of encouraging other couples to ditch the expensive wedding 10 months out and make it happen now:
“We’d been kicking around eloping for the past couple of years, but always came up with reasons not to... we want to have a “real” wedding... we want all our friends and family to see us get married... we thought we wanted all the traditions of getting engaged, planning a big wedding, etc.
But one day we were talking about getting married and I said, “let’s just elope while my sister is here in a few weeks” and Curtis said “ok, I’m down!” And this time we actually did it!
That night I emailed Vanessa and she was actually available on the date we chose. I had always told Curtis that Vanessa would be our wedding photographer.. So her randomly being available during busy wedding season made it meant to be.
The next day we went down to Folsom and got rings (the jeweler was so excited for us that he made a custom ring for me in less than 2 weeks!) and things just literally fell into place from there. We picked our favorite lake for camping and the ceremony, my best friend is a caterer and wanted to do the food, I found my dress at a local shop in downtown Placerville for less than $200, and we found the boys clothes on clearance at Men’s Warehouse and H&M... we told only close family and friends but still had around 40 people there because Curtis’s family is huge.. but it was a perfect day. It all came together so perfectly and was so “US.” That was the best part. It was so totally exactly how we are.. easygoing, not showy.. just in our favorite place with our favorite people.
Vanessa couldn’t have been a more perfect match for us as our photographer. I’ve known her through mutual friends and followed her on Instagram and always loved her work... but her personality and style just meshed so well with ours that it made our day even more easy and fun. I have a feeling she’s like that with all her clients because she’s just that good at what she does. She takes the setting she’s put in with the people she is working with and just does her job seamlessly and with so much confidence that you feel comfortable right from the start. “
When Chelsea first described how she envisioned her elopement to be with Jesse, she really emphasized that she wanted the day to be about the two of them and not about having all of the “extras” that so many wedding seem to come with. There is truly something to be said about simply spending your wedding day with the one you love. Call me crazy, but I think they are on to something! ;)
Chelsea and Jesse chose to say their vows and exchange their rings on a secluded beach in Trinidad, Ca, where they could be free of onlookers and quietly enjoy their ceremony. After a quick champagne toast that immediately followed the ceremony, we ventured to the redwoods where they saw the giants for the very first time. We explored the park (my favorite national park!), stopping only to take in the beauty of it all. It was truly a perfect day!
A few days after the wedding, Chelsea surprised me with this:
“Vanessa, you are FABULOUS! You made our day EXTRA enjoyable, perfect fit, can't imagine how the day would have gone with anyone else. Felt like we were a trio the moment I dropped my robe and hopped in the bath. I LOVED that you GOT him from first dad joke. I know that made it way more fun for him to have 2 people to pick on instead of only 1.
Professionally you gave good, subtle direction. Never made us feel awkward. Created and kept the timeline with no stressing or rushing. Handled communication with the officiant. Cool with last minute ideas. Had Kacey Musgraves ready to go. Totally willing to hold the go-pro even though the battery was dead. Also willing to get down n dirty all up in the wispy bushes. Brought an extra sweater 'with tags on' cause you knew I was gonna freeze my ass off. Offered to keep going even though we tapped out. Dealt with 107493874 questions before we even met...
The first look mishap, almost running out of gas, and forgetting the rental car made the experience an adventure. Wouldn't have wanted it any other way.”
CONGRATS, YOU TOO! Your day was so special to me and I’m beyond grateful to have been a part of it <3
Venue: Bride’s Childhood Family Home
Planning and Coordination: Shannon of Tin and Twine
Catering: Hannibal’s Catering & Events
Rentals and Decor: Shannon of Ritual Rentals
Dress: Grace Loves Lace
Bridesmaid Dresses: Lulus
Photography: Vanessa Lynne Photography
Florals: Katey Prock
Makeup: Alexa Dias Makeup
Hair: Katie Blake
Nail Artistry: Nails by Taylor
When Lauren and Jason first contacted me about photographing their wedding, they had originally planned to do a destination wedding in Kauai. They had a tentative plan but after talking through it, they decided to keep it close to home (quite literally!) to make sure all of their loved ones could attend. Lauren envisioned a full on boho wedding and, boy, did she nail it with every single detail. Shannon, the creative genius behind the styling and decor, brought Lauren’s vision to life perfectly.
It was so incredible to photograph their big day and meet all of their favorite people. I’ve always said that my kinda brides are the ones that can go with the flow and take whatever is thrown their way with grace, and Lauren did just that. I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter couple. Lauren and Jason, you two deserve THE WORLD and I am so dang happy for you. Sending you my love!
As any photographer would tell you, there’s something really special about capturing a couples’s journey through the years. I photographed Brittany and Carl’s engagement almost exactly one year ago and then their wedding back in October, so when Brittany reached out about a maternity session, my answer was an immediate and resounding “DUH!”
If you’ve met Brittany, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely her irresistible laugh. She’s the epitome of exuberance and you can’t help but love her. Honestly. When you photograph weddings for a living, you often see the not-so-pretty-side of much stress can be put on the bride but I can truly say that Brittany was one of the calmest brides I’ve photographed.
I’m so dang excited for both Carl and Brittany as they welcome their baby girl, Ripley, into the world in just few weeks. You two are going to be THE BEST parents!!
Paulina and Chad are a rare breed. Both have that hard-to-find combination of hard working, compassionate, thoughtful, and humility are simultaneously the most hilarious people you’ll ever meet. Oh, and there’s also the fact that they are two of the most stunningly beautiful people on the planet.
I’ve been waiting for this wedding for what seemed like ages. The day began at the Citizen’s Hotel, where both the bride and the groom got ready and had views overlooking Downtown Sacramento. From there, we walked to the ceremony, where they had a traditional Catholic wedding at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. The Bride and groom saw each other for the first time, said their vows, took communion, and exchanged rings. After the ceremony, we moved over to the reception. For those who’ve never been to the Grand Island Mansion…Well, let me tell you. It’s straight up magical. Right on the delta on the outskirts of Sacramento, it's a gorgeous four-story Parisian-style mansion that’s the perfect place for holding your reception.
I TRULY couldn’t be happier for the bride and groom! [who are currently honeymooning in the Dominican Republic] A most sincere congratulations to Mr and Mrs. Ratcliffe. Your day was so dang beautiful and I am so honored to have shared it with you.
Amber and Camden’s big day felt like a giant party with all of their best friends that just happened to include them getting married. If you know them personally, you also know that you can’t help but have a goooood time right alongside them. I instantly knew when I met with Amber that we were going to jive (I don’t think I’ve ever said that word before?) and was so excited once the wedding day finally came.
I talk a lot about finding a good getting ready space for brides - preferably one that has really good natural light: think big windows. Amber was able to find the perfect Airbnb to rent for getting ready just a few floors up above her wedding venue, so it was really efficient to have everything all in one place. Then, when it was go-time, she was already on site!
The day truly went off without a hitch and the night ended with some Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. Like I said, my kind of people. <3
It’s really no secret that Fall is my favoritttte season. Every year, I play the “how-many-sessions-can-I-squeeze-in-during-peak-fall-season'‘ game, and every year gets a little crazier. I will say that, even though peak fall colors changes every year, I’ve gotten pretty darn good at the game. There really isn’t anything quite like the bright yellow, orange, and red hues that fall gives us, except for maybe Amanda’s gorgeous yellow dress that so perfectly complimented it so perfectly.
Amanda and I worked together back when we were teens at my very first job where we were Starbucks baristas. 12 years ago, people. So to say I was excited to capture this new chapter in her life would be an understatement. We hopped around Hope Valley, finding some new favorite locations along the way.
The first word that comes to mind when I think back on Lauren and Bryan’s is FUN. It was one of those weddings where, even when I was off the clock, I was sucked in to the the vibrance of their beautiful day. Once the party started, I really didn’t want to leave. They had alive band, Trace Repeat, who KILLED it and added such a lively component to their reception.
One of my favorite things to do is ask couples the story of how they met. Partly because I love seeing the two different perspectives, but mostly because I just really enjoy getting to know my couples and their story.
how they met:
Lauren: Armadillo Music is where we met back in May 2012. I still remember introducing myself to my new, incredibly handsome co-worker and being instantly nervous around him. This funny, handsome, great-taste-in-music and over-all wonderful guy had me smitten from day one. I knew quickly that I had to get to know him better. Our first date lasted seven hours, and that was the beginning of our journey together. Six years later we are a married couple!
Bryan: When I first saw Lauren, she had green hair, and was wearing a sweater any Grandmother would be proud of. She was many things all at once: fiery, well-spoken, engaging, and genuinely interesting. However, Lauren is wrong. Our first date was nine hours-- I know because I timed it. If I could spend nine hours of any day with any person, it would be her. So here we are taking the first of many first steps in our 'new' life as the independent but intertwined, slightly unhinged, but lovable couple that we've come to be.
How he proposed:
Lauren: The engagement happened on the Tower Bridge in Sacramento, CA. After numerous failed attempts to get me to stop taking photos and focus, Bryan managed to "pop the question" on the bridge. I believe my words were "it's happening?!" rather than yes.
Bryan: I spent a considerable amount of time rehearsing what I was going to say when the time came. To this day, I remember bits and pieces. In my head it was going to be profound, and encapsulate our journey to this point, a grand gesture. Fun fact: she never said 'yes' until much later. I like to think that I wooed her speechless, so I'm sticking to that. Under the setting sun of a pleasant but hot Sacramento evening, in the middle of the of the mustard yellow Tower Bridge, we got engaged. Shortly after rising off the concrete, a boat below us playing some truly awful rap song came into view, and we laughed heartily as if I had planned it. We also had the worst champagne hangovers of our lives the next day, we laughed about that, too, but much later. I'm a lucky man.
The Kindest of Words:
I asked Lauren if she would be willing to share with me her experience with me as her photographer. To my surprise, Bryan insisted on writing it and I think you’ll love it as much as I did:
Bryan wrote, “I never met the photographer; but I trust my wife. When she came back from meeting Vanessa for the first time, she said "I think I've found the one." Similar words are only spoken at the altar, and rarely with such enthusiasm. So, naturally, I was optimistic. The day of the wedding was a blur, and when I saw commanding red hair descend into my bachelor cave, (and it did have the dinginess of Frank Sinatra's bomb shelter) first thing she did was assess her environment, and said something along the lines of 'we can make this work.' Of course, Lauren chose her. The bachelor room was small, dimly lit, but cool in a very industrial way; with piping lining the walls, painted the same shade of grey as the rest of the interior. This should be a photographer's nightmare, but it just proved to be a welcomed challenge to Vanessa. When we got the photos back, I was floored with the way she made a drab, dark place, come to life with the excitement a wedding day brings. With the camera, she slinks around like a shutter-fly assassin. You can really see the delicate touch she puts in her photos, and there were so many damn good photos that it was extremely difficult to put a finger on which ones would make the walls in our home - there wouldn't be adequate space, and people's eyes would roll into their skulls, and vomit with jealously. She made us feel the moment (even more), and gave us direction, which, to me, life's a party when I have to be serious, and inexplicably, I turn into Woody Allen without spectacles, and flail about.
This all reads as hyperbole, but good wedding photographers (like really good) are hard to come across, and there are even fewer who will take the photos that you revisit time and again. Just thinking about the overload of emotions, and awe when moving from one to the next, sitting next to my Wife, is a ride worth more than the price of admission. We were in very good hands, and I can't recommend Vanessa enough!”
This weddings, guys. Where do I even begin? When Mary first got engaged last year (while in Maui), we booked hers and Jaime’s engagement session right away (you can find their engagement session blog post here). We opted to do their shoot in the mountains in the fal since they had a pretty good idea they were doing a tropical wedding. They woke up at the butt crack of dawn (2:30 am) and met me hours before sunrise to catch the first light in one of my favorite spots. Nothing says “we trust your vision” like waking up in the middle of the night for an adventurous engagement sesh.
Fast forward to their wedding day and the warmth of Maui literally couldn’t have been more of a contrast to their chilly and mountainous engagement session (thank you, Jesus!). They said their vows surrounded by their family and closest friends, then ran off with me for some portraits out on the jetty. As is pretty typical for Maui, the most spectacular sun began to set and so began the onslaught of many happy dances.
They wrapped up their evening with the kindest words and, *cough*, roasts from others and boogied the night away on the dance floor. My most sincere congratulations, Mary and Jaime! What an honor to photograph your PERFECT day.
It's no secret how much I love engagement sessions.. A well-planned engagement session can be the difference between nice images and magical keepsakes. If you're planning your engagement session, (or know someone who is) here are a few tips to guide you in the right direction.. But first, let's talk about why an engagement session is important to begin with.
If haven't yet read my last blog post, (see "It's all about the chemistry") I talk about the importance of choosing the right photographer for you and your fiance. Once you've found him or her, booking your engagement session is a great way to see how your photographer interacts with and directs you doing your shoot. By the time your day comes, you'll be super comfortable in front of the camera.
Another reason I encourage couples to book an engagement session is so that you and your fiance can have professional photos that aren't just in your super formal wedding attire. Take the opportunity to document your love outside of your wedding day. You won't regret it.
Outfits play a super important role in your engagement session. Most photographers allow a few outfit changes and typically 2-3 is sufficient.
Choose a few complementary colors so that outfits coordinate, but not match. Most importantly, choose colors that work well in nature. Avoid black and fluorescent/neon colors which are harsh and clash with colors found in nature.
DITCH THE JEANS. These are your engagement pictures; dream a little! Dress up. Have fun. Don't wear what you wear every dang day.
This one might seem obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway: Make sure you feel confident and comfortable in the outfits you choose. If you feel uncomfortable, you will look uncomfortable. It's as simple as that.
2. Hair and Makeup
As a general tip, women's hair typically photographs better when curled. It allows for more natural movement and doesn't have to be perfect. Additionally, I recommend going a *little* heavier on the makeup than what you might normally wear. Many bride-to-be's opt to hire a makeup artist so that it's extra special. Whether you choose to hire someone or apply it yourself, be sure to pack your makeup bag for the shoot in case you need to touch up during the session.
3. Adventure, Please
Now, I can't speak for all photographers, but in my opinion, engagement sessions are THE best when an adventure is thrown in there. Take a day off and let's head to Yosemite, Bodega Bay, Death Valley, or the Sequoias. California is so freakin' beautiful and diverse that if you can dream it, it's a car ride away. I'm more than willing to go to wherever your heart's desire is for your one-of-a-kind engagement session. So, dream big and we will absolutely make it happen.
4. Trust me
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me they're not photogenic, well, I'd probably be rich. You might start out your shoot feeling a little awkward and that's normal. But! If you have the right photographer, you'll be a natural in no time. I love watching couples gain confidence as the shoot progresses with just a little direction from me and a lot of laughs. We all look like supermodels when we are with the one we love. Trust me. It's a fact.
5. Just be You
At the end of the day, you want your photos to be the perfect representation of you! It's okay to go the extra mile since it's a special occasion, just remember to let your unique and beautiful light shine.
So, grab your lover and get your adventure on. I'll meet you there.
If you know me, you know I love a good sunrise session. Maybe I'm a freak of nature, or maybe I just love the morning light. I'll let you decide. I somehow persuaded Mary and James to accompany me up to the mountains before the sun came up for their peak autumn engagement session.
We fueled up with some hot coffee before making our trek up towards Hope Valley and found ourselves in the perfect location before the birds chirped. I spotted this location years ago and will talk just about anyone and everyone into going with me because it's just that magical in every season.
Mary told me weeks after that they had both been so nervous the night before that they barely slept. But as soon as we hopped out into the open valley, they were too busy to think twice about their nerves.
The Whitfords invited me into their home with their newest addition, Asher Louis, just 9 days old. Asher preferred to be held in his parents' arms, only fussing briefly when laid down for a few moments.
In-home sessions with newborns are so quiet amongst the chaos of this world that time seems to stand still. So still, in fact, that the shutter of my camera even startled Asher once or twice. It fascinated me that I had never before noticed just how abruptly loud it could be in the absence of noise or movement each time I pressed the shutter button.
Congratulations, Jess & Matt, on your sweet baby boy. <3
Kelly and Florian contacted me all the way from Belgium back in March about photographing their elopement in Redwood National Park. They were planning on spending two weeks in California and wanted to start their trip off in Northern California by tying the knot. I immediately felt like we were long friends and was so excited to capture their special day.
We started by exploring around Patrick’s Point, then headed over to Redwood National Park to stand under the Redwood Giants while they exchanged vows. We finished the day frolicking amongst the ferns and it was pretty darn magical. <3