Why You Should Throw a “Big Easy” Mardi Gras Wedding

You don’t have to be religious or from the south to love a great Mardi Gras party. I mean who doesn’t love a full day of binge eating your favorite foods or a night of drunken revelry that comes with free colorful costume jewelry (aka Mardi Gras beads)! We know there are literally thousands of ways to plan your wedding, but a Mardi Gras wedding should absolutely be in the running. So, when you do decide, make sure I’m there to catch what will inevitably be fantastic photo memories! However, if you need to be convinced further, just keep reading.

New Orleans Flag

Reason 1: Have Any Venue You Want with a Tuesday Wedding

Weddings are expensive, especially if you are eyeballing a Saturday wedding.  Most popular venues are booked for Saturdays a year out. This means two things: 1. Saturdays are extremely popular, and it may be difficult to get the date you want and 2. This high demand equals high prices.  Weekday dates are much lower in price because of the lower demand (think anywhere from 10-25% lower), and you can have your pick of dates and venue.

I know what you may be thinking, “who will want to take off during the week to come to my wedding?”  For some perspective, 1.5 million Americans called in sick the day after the Super Bowl, so have no fear, we know how to plan for recovery and sacrifice for a good party. You can also look at it another way and realize that though having a Tuesday wedding may keep some people away, your wedding guest will be made up of the people who truly love you and won’t let anything stop them from celebrating with you.

Wedding Guests

Reason 2: Shrove Tuesday and Pancakes

Great Food, Masks, Parades, and King Cake.  Mardi Gras traditions simply cannot be beat. There is so much history and culture tied into the holiday that you have your pick of customs to implement into your wedding. First, it starts with the name Mardi Gras, also known as “Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.” In Christian culture Mardi Gras is celebrated the day before “Ash Wednesday.” Ash Wednesday is the start of the Lenten season, which is a time of penitence and fasting. So historically, Fat Tuesday was also known as “Pancake Tuesday” because celebrants would try to use up all their butter, sugar and dairy prior to lent by making and pigging out on pancakes.  Over time it has evolved into a day of celebration and total debauchery. Your last chance to get in all the fun before the 40 days of sacrifice that lent requires. Sounds like the perfect time for a wedding celebration to me.  But the tradition itself is the eating of the pancakes.  If you are considering a unique twist on your reception dinner, maybe throw in a pancake bar complete with ready made pancakes and all the toppings you could imagine.  Sort of a “do-it-yourself” IHOP. 

Wedding Dinner

Reason 3: Masks, Not Just for Halloween

Besides the food, Mardi Gras is known for its beautiful masks. Early on in New Orleans Mardi Gras history, revelers wore masks keep their identities secret, to avoid being bound by societies norms and be free to participate in not-totally-acceptable ways. This also gave them the opportunity to mingle with whoever they wanted. Consider implementing this into your Mardi Gras wedding.  Add a bundle of creative masks to your photo booth station and let your guests get as wild and creative as they want.

Mardi Gras Indians

Reason 4: King Cake. Need I Say More?

I absolutely could not write a piece about a Mardi Gras wedding without mentioning the King Cake. The traditional New Orleans King Cake is decorated with purple, green, and gold sugar icing. They can be plain or filled with cream cheese or nuts. A plastic baby is placed inside the cake and the tradition states that whoever gets the piece with the baby must throw the next party.  Consider a twist on this tradition for your wedding.  Instead of throwing the bouquet or the garter, offer the single ladies or men at your reception a piece of King Cake and the one who gets the baby, gets the bouquet or the garter instead and is next in line for a wedding.

Wedding Second Line

Reason 5: The “Second Line” Parade

Finally, we cannot forget the parade.  Okay this last one may not be a strictly Mardi Gras tradition, but it certainly has its roots in New Orleans. It’s called the “second line”. The “second line” is a tradition for brass band parades. It’s made up of those who follow the band as they parade in the street, just to enjoy the music, and traditionally twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air. This “dance” is called “second lining.”  Many New Orleans couples have been led to the reception or out of it via second line. Yall, can you imagine being led into your reception by a brass band, twirling a parasol, with your wedding guests behind you, ready to party New Orleans Mardi Gras style?  I mean, does it get any fancier than that??

Wedding Second Line

Are You Convinced Yet?

I hope this little history of Mardi Gras traditions and how you can integrate them into your wedding inspired you to go full “Krewe.” Once you have, contact me and I’ll be ready with photo booth, camera and beads in hand.

Mardi Gras beads

Napa engagement session

Napa Engagement Session | Sarah + Tanner

Sarah and Tanner really wanted their engagement session to feel like a normal day and didn’t want anything too posed or formal.  They had fallen in love with my work through their friend Kelley, whose engagement session to her now husband Neal, was a romp around San Francisco.  Since Sarah and Tanner had already planned a trip with her family out to California, we decided to all meet for a Sunday funday together for their Napa engagement session.  It was a blast!  We played bocce and picnicked at their bungalow on a vineyard to start, took in an incredible vista, went wine tasting at the winery that Tanner’s brother works at, Ashes and Diamonds, and all finished up at an incredible dinner in town at one of their favorite spots.  It was such a great way to get to know the two of them and I had such a blast exploring one of my favorite places.  I’ve since been back to Ashes and Diamonds multiple times because I absolutely fell in love with their wine and I am super excited to photograph their wedding in Aspen, CO over Labor Day weekend this year!

Napa Engagement Session

Aspen Grove Wedding

Aspen Grove Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Kelsey + Nick

Nick and Kelsey met in college at UNR and now reside in Las Vegas, NV.  They were excited to wed in Lake Tahoe and their venue is one of my absolute favorites in the area – it always has amazing light, regardless of the time of day and although it’s right in the heart of Incline Village, NV, you feel tucked away into your own private space.  Their Aspen Grove wedding was an absolute blast from start to finish.

Nick and Kelsey’s friends and family were right up my alley: whiskey drinking, dance floor maniacs that spent the whole day laughing.  Their dance floor was epic from the get go: both Kelsey and Nick were crowdsurfing at one point and the end of the night culminated with pants being torn off a groomsmen.

 Related note: shout out to Kelsey for being part of a really amazing non-profit that I considered as my recipient for this year.  She’s on the board of S.A.F.E. House, a comprehensive anti-domestic violence organization that offers free 1) shelter, 2) advocacy and counseling services, 3) community education to end domestic violence. The organization serves primarily women and children in Southern Nevada, but also serves men who are victims of domestic violence, as well folks from outside Nevada.  If you aren’t aware, I pick a different non-profit beneficiary every year to give a percentage of my sales to and I always choose one that is directly connected to my clients. 

Venue: Aspen Grove | Catering: Aspen Grove | Florist: Moana Nursery | Bride’s Attire: Celebration’s Bridal | Groom Attire: Brooks Brothers | DJ: Lake Tahoe DJ | Second Photographer: Annie Robillard 

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Wedding favors

Football, Fly Fishing, or Film: How to Incorporate Your Favorite Hobbies into Your Wedding Festivities

So, you met your life partner at the local theater’s all-day Star Wars marathon and ever since then you two have been inseparable.  You two can be found at every indie movie midnight showing and every film trivia night at all the bars in town.  We get it, you love film, or maybe it’s not film, but football, or ballroom dancing, either way, it’s an integral part of who you are as a couple and you want to share that somehow throughout your wedding festivities. The question is how do you go about it without feeling like a giant cheeseball?  Below are a few fun and classy ways to incorporate your favorite hobbies into your wedding festivities.

Wine Country Engagement

Shoot Your Engagement Photos “On Location”

Your engagement photos are a perfect place to demonstrate your love for your hobbies as a couple.  This can start with location. It requires a little thinking outside of the box, but If you spend your Wednesday nights competing in your local bowling league, why not use that bowling alley for your shoot location.  Okay, so maybe that one is a bit cheesy, but it could also be a location shoot on a golf course, a museum, or a trail you love to hike, or a destination location that you love.  Can’t live without wine? Let’s go to Napa!  I love activities as a shared day taking photos – it’s an easy way to share your interests with the people you love, and the photos turn out amazing.

Alternative Engagement Session Ideas

Integrate Props that Display your Hobby into your Wedding

If you’d rather not shoot your engagement photos at a bowling alley, or if the perfect location is inaccessible, there are always ways to integrate things you love into your wedding decor.  Who says your wedding has to have burlap or the color of the year as it’s centerpiece (oh yeah, the knot does).  F that!  Want an off the wall wedding theme?  How about dinosaurs?  WHY NOT.  Two good clients of mine met and bonded over their love of Magic and so their wedding centerpieces were quick to learn table games that their friends and family could play at their reception during the Magic Tournament they also held.  You do you.   

Magic the Gathering WeddingDinosaur Themed Wedding

 

Wedding Party Gifts

Like most couples your bridesmaids and groomsmen will likely have some things in common with you.  After all, these are your closest friends and family members. If you share a common hobby or interest, consider gifting them with something that corresponds with that hobby.  Hand built barbeque pits were the perfect groomsman gifts for my friend who grills with the men in his family once a week. I also thought about my cousin who was part of a book club and bought her bridesmaids a bottle of their favorite wine with a book attached. The great thing about these types of gifts is that it helps support a hobby that you and your friends can enjoy together.

Wedding Party Gift Ideas

Wedding at the Museum (Venue Location)

Much like the idea of taking your engagement photos at a place that you as a couple frequent, this idea involves location.  This recommendation however, takes that one a step further and instead of just a location for photo shoots, why not choose your actual wedding venue based on your hobbies?  If you spend a lot of time checking out museums, consider renting out a museum in your city for your wedding day or maybe you are both teachers and met at a school, see if it is available for events. 

Designer Wedding Cakes

Last, but certainly not least, if you don’t want your whole wedding focused on your hobbies, designing a cake that reflects your interests adds just a small touch of who you are into your big day without it completely stealing the show.  Pastry artists and bakeries have advanced in their cake making skills at a rapid pace and you can have a cake designed that looks exactly like R2D2, the Dallas Cowboys football stadium, or a giant scarf with knitting needles and tastes equally delicious.  Don’t want to go overboard?  Just add a custom cake topper that represents the two of you!  It’s a bit more subtle than the other ideas, but it still makes a statement about who you are as a couple and the bonus is that it looks great in your wedding photos!

Wedding Cake Toppers

There are a multitude of ways that you can incorporate your hobbies into your wedding festivities, these are just a few.  The important thing is to make sure that you make this day about you and use it as an opportunity to share the things you love as a couple with the people you love.

Chart House Wedding

Chart House Wedding | Ashley + Tim

Once upon a time, two people named Ashley and Tim hired me to be their Chart House wedding photographer and to do an engagement session with them in my hometown of Dallas, TX but really what’s really important is that we got drunk and ate pizza and they met my mom and we became best friends forever.   

True story.

Tim is from Northern CA and he convinced Ashley that they should get married in Tahoe in August of this past year.  She was very concerned that it was going to rain.  “It never rains in Tahoe in the summer,” Tim assured her over and over.  “It NEVER rains in Tahoe in the summer!” I exclaimed with ultimate authority over and over.

It POURED.

But thankfully it poured seconds AFTER their ceremony and stopped by the first dance so clearly they are going to have the best of luck for the rest of their lives, which is what we tell people so that they feel better when it rains on their wedding day but is actually a lie.

Second true story.

Ashley’s aunts can really break it down on the dancefloor.  

Third true story.

Also, I went home with one of their wedding guests.

True or false?  You decide.

We were also all super pumped to do a post wedding portrait session and we went tromping all over the rocks out at Angora Lakes a few days later so I included some of those gorgeous images at the end of their wedding images.

Venue: The Chart House | Florist: Thran’s | DJ: Cornerstone Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Allure Bridals from Terry Costa | Bridesmaid Attire: Lulu’s | Groom’s Apparel: J Crew | Groomsmen Attire: The Black Tux | Rentals: Camelot Party Rentals

Chart House Wedding Chart House Wedding Bride and Groom

Sand Harbor Engagement Session

Tahoe Marriage Proposal | Sand Harbor | Bill + Kayla

I found out after the fact that Kayla had given Bill pretty clear instructions: she needed to have her nails done and she wanted there to be a photographer.  He managed to nail both of those and to be a bit sneaky, instead of having me hide in the bushes or troll around the beach pretending to be a tourist for his Tahoe marriage proposal, we decided to have his mother gift her a portrait certificate for Christmas. 

The plan went off mostly without a hitch, save the fact that I expected him to get down on one knee more than 25 minutes earlier than he did in the session.  I was agonizing inside and wondering if he had changed his mind!

In the end, she said yes, obviously and we ended up with some of the most gorgeous Tahoe light I’ve had in recent months for our sunset session at Sand Harbor State Park.

Bill and Kayla: congratulations!  I’m so thrilled to have been a part of your proposal and that I was able to capture the start of a long and happy life together!

Sand Harbor Marriage Proposal 

Bride Groom dancing

7 Ways to Hold a Charitable Wedding

Let’s all be honest here: weddings cost a lot of money for all parties involved.  The spending spree usually starts with the hefty purchase of the engagement ring, and continues beyond the honeymoon.  For some people the excessive consumerism required to plan a wedding is something they could do without.  Planning the “Wedding of the Year” doesn’t mean you have to be the biggest spender of the year. Of course, we all know there are some big cost involved, but many couples are now working to make their wedding less about consuming and more about charity. If you are looking for opportunities to use your special day to help improve the lives of those in your community, consider some of the ideas below as ways to hold a charitable wedding.

marraige proposal

Consider Making Your Bachelor or Bachelorette Party a Volunteer Event.  

Think about some of your favorite hobbies.  In what ways can you and your bridal party use those interests or skills to serve others?  Are you a huge animal lover or often get called “the dog whisperer”? The local animal shelters are always in need of volunteers to come out and help walk or spend time with lonely pups. Or maybe you have always wanted to help at your local food pantry, they usually need small volunteer groups to help organize their donations.  Take your bridal party out for a few hours of community service and maybe continue the party with drinks later that night.  It’s the perfect opportunity to blend helping your community with spending time with your favorite guys or gals.

Wine glasses at a table

Host a Food Drive During Your Engagement Party or Bridal Shower.

If you are already anticipating a massive influx of wedding gifts, why not dedicate your bridal shower or engagement party gifts to charity.  Instead of having guest bring you a gift personally, maybe ask that they bring in a bag of canned goods or other non-perishable food items.  You can also ask friends who may not have time to attend the entire shower to just drop by, say hello and drop off donations as well.  Guests might be relieved to not have to choose the perfect gift to bring and have an even better time focusing on the actual event.

Bride and Groom

Use Amazon Smile When Making Wedding Purchases.

AmazonSmile is a great way to make sure that all your spending does some good too. AmazonSmile allows you to choose a charity and they in turn will donate a percentage of what you spend to your chosen organization.  To go a step further, if you have an amazon wedding registry you can ask your guest to use your charity when shopping for your wedding gifts to ensure that even more donations make it their way.

bridal party laughing

Have Your Bridesmaids or Groomsmen Donate their Unwanted Wedding Attire to an “Operation Prom” Organization.

Okay, they don’t have to tell you upfront that they thought your choice of dress was hideous or that they can’t think of when they would ever wear it again, but making this an option for your special ladies or gentleman can help ease the uncomfortable thoughts they may have about the best way to get rid of that dress without you finding out. Give them the out they are so desperately seeking and let it go to some lucky teenage girl or boy who might not otherwise be able to afford a formal gown. There are several organizations out there that provide gently used evening attire to teenagers who are not able to afford a prom dress or tux on their own. A few to look into are “Project G.L.A.M,”   “Operation Prom” and “Becca’s Closet.” You can either have your wedding party bring clothes to change into after the reception and leave it in an available closet or box, or arrange for drop off after the wedding.  Either way, you make some gal or guy’s prom dreams come true.

Guests with food

Donate Leftover Wedding Food and Goodies to a Local Homeless Shelter or Food Pantry

Along with wedding attire, there is usually tons of leftover, unwanted food and wedding trinkets that family and friends of the bride and groom are practically begging guests to take as they walk out the door.  Even with all the pleading, much of it gets left behind and unfortunately thrown away. A great way to prevent this from happening and help your family and friend “clean-up crew,” is to plan to donate all the leftover food to people who really need it.  Local shelters and food pantries generally welcome all the help with extra food they can get.  Just designate someone (or a few people) in advance to be the delivery guys and feel good knowing you saved a piece of a landfill and you helped feed your community at the same time.

No gifts please

In Lieu of Wedding Gifts, ask Guests for Donations

In a day and time when many couples already live together pre-marriage, the same old wedding registry gifts of housewares are just not needed anymore.  If you have already outfitted your home the way you want, and have all you need, why not forego the registry altogether and have guests donate to a specific non-profit cause?  There are a couple of ways to do this, but first choose a charity that is important to you as a couple.  Then you can either have guests donate on their own, or use a website that allows you to create a “charity registry.” It’s a bit more like a “GoFundMe” than a Macy’s registry, but it gives you the opportunity to share the story of why you as a couple want to support this particular charity. You then share the link with guests, so they can donate. 

Resources for black brides

Use Vendors Who Give Back

If you have been planning your celebration for even a short amount of time, you know that not all vendors are created equal.  There are lots of reasons couples choose the vendors they want to work with, but a great way to help you decide is to find out if they are giving back. Many vendors are socially conscious and not only want to build their business, but they also want to build their communities.  I give 10% of my profits each year to a non-profit that I choose based on it’s connections to my clients.  This year, my beneficiary is the Girls and Boys Club of Lake Tahoe.  You can read more about my current and former recipients here Consider using a network of vendors like “Black Sheep Bride,” which I am a founding member of, to find charitable, like-minded wedding and event vendors, who you know are using some of your money for good works; after all, it may take a little bit of the sting out of the costs! 

Austin engagement photographer

Austin Engagement Photographer | Halie + Price

Once upon a time in my past life, I was a camp counselor at Camp Mystic for Girls.  I was a counselor there for six years.  Camp Mystic is a magical place where every summer, girls return again and again to spend either two weeks or a month of their summer with their cabin-mates, which stay the same all of their years spent there.  I was always the counselor who was left alone on my co-counselors’ nights off with dozens of children under the age of 10 to corral.  My cabin almost always had the privilege of getting out of rest hour early for commissary due to the fact that I consistently threatened to throw anything they left on the cabin floor out the front door.  I taught swimming and diving as my activities, training girls to do inwards and gainers and one-and-a-halfs despite their fears and worries.  I met and watched amazing young women grow up before my eyes and to this day, thanks to social media, I still keep in touch with many of them.  One of them lives in Mexico City, one studied abroad in London, some are married, a few are engaged, a few already have children.  I am so proud of all of them and who they have become.  

And then the day came that one of them got engaged and then asked me to photograph their wedding and that made me feel incredibly, unbelievably esteemed.    

You wouldn’t have to press me hard to say that Halie was always one of my favorites.   She has turned into the beautiful, smart, engaging woman I expected her to become.  There has always been a spark of laughter in her eye and to no surprise, she’s found the most amazing partner for her life.  Price is charming, respectful and clearly loves her.  I am so honored to photograph their wedding, which will be held just down the street from Mystic at Camp La Junta, and even more excited to share their Austin engagement session, during which I basically just made them go everywhere. At least we did have cocktails first though. Thanks for accomodating me, y’all and thanks for the highest honor you can bestow on your camp counselor.

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If you’re wondering, the umbrellas are an art installation on Aldrich Street in the Mueller neighborhood.

 

Tahoe backyard wedding

Tahoe Backyard Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Dost + Nick

These two. 

I adore them. 

I’m so thankful to call them friends now.  They love music, and dancing, and laughter, and good food.  They are adventurous, curious and sardonic.  They say yes when I invite them to concerts by bands they’ve never heard of and they invite me to concerts by bands that I’ve never heard of.  They are willing to go to burlesque shows starring my former clients.  They like brunch (but, I mean, never trust a person that doesn’t).  They have some incredible moves on the dancefloor.

Dost and Nick wanted an intimate backyard gathering with their motley crew of far flung friends and family.  Their guest list was as diverse as they are, with folks coming from as far away as Turkey.  They rented a beautiful house directly on the water through VRBO for their Tahoe backyard wedding and as an added surprise, it decided to snow that week.  Bonus: Dost made good use of a thrift store fur coat that was perfect for the occasion, which is to say, it was fucking freezing that day and she had no choice but looked amazing in it.

We were all thankful for the tent and for the best DJ around Dave Berkman, who was willing to completely break down and move mid-day his entire setup inside so everyone could cut a rug the grass in relative comfort while it was 40 degrees out in Tahoe in September.

Dost and Nick have since told me that they were drawn to my work because they loved the way I capture movement and motion, which is something their dancefloor had plenty of!  I’m so incredibly honored to not only have been part of their day, but have new friends also.

Venue: VRBO | Caterers: Carson City BBQ | Rentals: Celebrations Rentals | DJ: Ascent DJ | Bride’s Attire: Maggie Sottero | Groom’s Attire: Paul Smith

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Tahoe Winter Engagement | Sand Harbor State Park | Tom + Tori

Tom and Tori had Tahoe on their bucket list for ages.  She was desperate to see the splendor that Tahoe has to offer: epic snow capped mountains, the seemingly endless lake, and fresh mountain air.  They travelled all the way from Atlanta for a getaway and wanted to capture a Tahoe winter engagement session while they were here and I have to say, totally lucked out on weather that day.  Sand Harbor State Park continues to be one of my favorite locations for portrait sessions and this day was no exception.  The lake provided an exceptionally unbelievably special sunset that night with silver strands of wispy light that bathed the beaches in a really special glow. 

Tori told me that she knew I was the photographer for them based on my FAQ not so subtly suggested that alcohol is the solution to shy partners who are hesitant to be photographed.  Their solution: champs on the beach.  

My kind of people indeed.

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