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Tuesday Mash-Up

Of all the projects I’ve tackled and tasks I’ve attempted as a small business owner, NOTHING is harder than trying to write a bio for yourself. I just spent 40 minutes writing 3-4 sentences about Abby Grace Photography for my Southern Wedding Blue Ribbon Vendor listing, and I must have written then deleted at least 10 times! It forces me, who happens to LOVE words, to be concise and short. Not an easy feat.

On the other hand, I’m SO excited to have been chosen as a Blue Ribbon Vendor! Southern Weddings is my favorite national blog and I love their focus on MARRIAGE, so it feels like the perfect fit for me. I had my first feature on SW last month I’m so dang excited to have my name up there among other incredible Virginia photographers!

As always, lessons learned/things that transpired over the past week:

  • I can’t help but feel that I’ve officially crossed into middle age- on Sunday after church, I drove to the nearest antique shop in search of a pair of sugar tongs. And then, after finding some, I drove to the grocery store to buy sugar cubes. Why, you may ask? For proper tea, of course! Watch out- I may start crocheting doilies soon.
  • Here’s how you know you have the perfect Valentine: after a dinner of Chinese take-out (our tradition), Matt pulled out the movie “Austenland” that he’d found at a Redbox.
  • And after watching Austenland and me being somewhat disappointed, Matt resignedly suggested we watch the real Pride & Prejudice movie. YESSS.
  • After resisting for months and months, I’ve finally updated my phone to iOS7. And I’m not sure I like it yet.

I’ve been on a bit of a dry spell when it comes to shooting, which is actually pretty refreshing, but it also means I don’t have anything new to share with you guys. We’ve had a ton of snow in Virginia recently, so here’s a favorite of mine from Jeff & Tracy’s wedding in Vieques, Puerto Rico last year to help you think warmer thoughts!

Destibnation wedding photographer in Vieques, Puerto Rico- Abby Grace

Jean - February 18, 2014 - 12:45 pm

Love the photo. I’m sure you will find the words you need to describe you and your business. You have such a gift with words, written and spoken! Congrats on being chosen as a Blue Ribbon Vendor. Love you.

Five Dates that require little to no planning!

Matt and I love date nights. Love them! We sometimes differ in the level of effort required for said dates, though- I love an excuse to dress up and go out somewhere where there’s LOTS of people, whereas Matt is more of an introvert and likes quieter, less-involved evenings out. We’re both homebodies at heart, though, and sometimes there’s nothing that can beat a night in at home with a glass of wine (for me) and an episode of Sherlock from Netflix.

Our Valentine’s Day tradition is more reflective of the latter description. Every year on February 14th, we order Chinese and grab a movie from RedBox- we’ll both dress up as though we’re going out for dinner, but instead, we dine picnic-style in our living room. I think it started in college when we were both too poor to do anything extravagant, but now it’s a tradition that I’ve really come to look forward to! So in the spirit of our low-key Valentine’s Day plans, here are five ideas for dates that don’t require a ton of advanced planning!


1) Ice skating. Unless it’s National Ice Skating Day where everyone and their mother is rolling deep on boots with blades attached, chances are the local ice skating rink will still have room for skaters. And let’s face it, watching the Olympics makes you think you missed your calling as an ice skater, doesn’t it? Plus, it’s an excuse to hold hands!

2) Catch a movie at the cinemas! Matt & I can’t bear to pay $14/ticket for movies that we aren’t necessarily dying to see, so if it’s a movie we’re just quasi-stoked about, we go on Saturday mornings. There are a few theaters in our area that do $5 movies for movies that start before noon, so we’ve come to love Saturday morning dates!

3) Wine tasting. Where we live in Virginia is ripe with wineries within 30-60 minutes. Either go just the two of you, or grab your best friends and make it a double date. Wine tasting is the perfect leisurely date night, and depending on the winery you go to, you may be able to bring a picnic lunch/dinner to accompany the bottle of wine or pitcher of sangria you might decide to purchase during your tasting.


4) Go for a drive. We really like doing this late at night, spur-of-the-moment style. It’s just an excuse to spend time next to each other, possibly some country music on the radio, talking about everything and nothing.

5) Plan your next big vacation. When Matt & I were planning our Europe trip for last summer, I loved going out for lunch and whipping out the calendar to talk about which days we’d be in which country, how long we’d stay with these friends or at that hotel, what we thought we might like to see, what we didn’t care to miss, everything. Just dreaming of being in another country with my love was enough to get me giddy with excitement!

6) I know, this one’s a bonus. If you’re a photographer, go take portraits of the two of you! It’s super easy as long as you have a tripod, and I even posted a tutorial that you can find HERE which will make it a lot easier.


I know none of these are revolutionary, but the point of this post is more to encourage you to get out and HAVE date nights! Being intentional about spending time together is so important. When Matt & I first started dating, he told me something I’ll never forget: “I won’t stop dating you until either we break up, or one of us passes.” Now that we’re married and the break-up is no longer an option, Matt’s committed to dating me for as long as we’re both living and breathing. That means intentional pursuit, a deliberate chase. And when you’ve been married for a few years, it’s tempting to let that go a little bit. To stop chasing quite as intentionally, and to let the “dating” bit slip to the wayside. Don’t do that. Your marriage is valuable enough to chase, your spouse is worthy of your pursuits! February 14th is just about being a bit MORE intentional than usual :).

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Caili - February 15, 2014 - 4:18 pm

Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more. I love date nights! Now, if only we could find a way to double date…Skype? :-/

Jean - February 14, 2014 - 11:00 am

We love date night, too. An afternoon movie and dinner out is our favorite, but we are open to other venues, too. You and Matt keep that romance in your marriage.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Dreaming bigger and going the distance

Right now I’m in the middle of what we in the biz refer as “the off-season.” For the most part, from roughly January-March, my calendar is usually free of weddings and shoots, due to the sometimes-unpredictable weather (like today- 12+ inches of snow!). It’s a time for dreaming, resting, and doing all the small, menial tasks I didn’t get to during the regular season. But I keep forgetting about the RESTING part- I was thinking back the other day, and the last time I actually took a real vacation, and I mean sans-email, sans-blogging, sans WORK, was… an embarrassingly long time ago. When you run a small business, it’s hard to let your life be consumed with your job, because when you’re the only one fighting for your business, it feels like you NEED to be on, ready to go 24/7.

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Rest is important. Without taking time away from my business, my camera starts to feel like it’s leeching the life out of me. And I don’t want to feel that way! I love what I do, the reason I started this business in the first place is because I have a passion for photography, and just as importantly, a passion for people. But in the same way that it’s important to rest up for a big race or game, it’s crucial that I take time for me as well. If I want my business to succeed from year to year, there’s no choice in the matter- burnout is a real thing, especially for creatives, and I don’t ever want to feel that way about something I love so much.

Remember last year when I blogged about dreaming, and how I wanted to go back to Europe? We’re making that happen! One of the amazing things about Matt is how he sees what inspires me and pushes me toward it. During our trip abroad last year, I felt my soul come alive- it was like a rocket booster for my work, and I learned SO MUCH about myself during our travels last year! Matt sees just how hard it is for me to step away from my business, and so when I told him about my idea to head overseas again, he not only agreed to it, he encouraged me that I SHOULD go. That I need time away from my office, time to be inspired, and time for just me. Folks have different places they go for inspiration- for some, that’s a beautiful painting, a favorite song, an elegant piece of stationery. For me, it’s TRAVELING. I know there’s nothing unique about liking travel and that most people jump at the opportunity to go somewhere exciting, but there’s something about it that breathes life into my soul and opens my eyes even wider. It’s not just the pleasure of being somewhere new, and I can’t really describe it, but traveling, especially in Europe, does something for me that nothing else can. I feel on fire, unstoppable, and utterly, breathlessly in love with life.

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So next month, I’ll be heading to Italy, France and Ireland for about two weeks. I don’t have many solid plans about what to see or where to shoot, and I kind of prefer things that way! My usual tendency is to try and map things out hour by hour, but when Matt & I went to Paris without a single solid plan other than checking into our hotel room, it left the door wide open for spontaneity. Spur-of-the-moment turns down this windy lane, or that cobbled street, just wandering with the joy of being lost in a beautiful place.

If there’s been something on your to-do list that will breath life into you, don’t make excuses and just make time for it. Lara Casey said it best:


What’s stopping you?


Jean - February 13, 2014 - 1:51 pm

Go do what makes you happy and wear that tulle skirt! Love you.

Sarah (Danaher) Bradshaw - February 13, 2014 - 1:13 pm

I love you and your love for life. I’m so proud of you for taking the time to build into yourself this way!

Rachel M. - February 13, 2014 - 12:37 pm

Abby, I love how transparent and authentic your posts are! That is a goal of mine with blogging, to never get caught up in the pressure of having “perfect” posts. I appreciate your honesty and the way you share your heart to inspire and encourage other creative people!

Erin - February 13, 2014 - 11:44 am

It took me forever to buy my plane ticket for UNITED because I couldn’t decide whether to just fly in and fly out and just go to the conference, or tack on a few extra days and actually fly in and out of San Francisco instead. It’s been an expensive year thanks to needing a new A/C unit AND a new furnace, but I just decided to throw caution to the wind and do it. I’ve been to California several times, but always San Diego or LA-area and I really wanted to see Northern California and Yosemite. So, I don’t have a solid plan, but I’ve stretched me 4 days at UNITED into a week with a few days just to be by myself. I’m hoping to get to Europe again in 2015… my cousin graduates from high school next year and she wants to go to Paris. I haven’t been since I was 13, but I love to travel. I really want to go to Ireland… something about having a name that literally is the poetic name for Ireland has always made me fond of the country. And my mom’s family has Irish roots… albeit very, very far back. I will get there one day!

Natalie - February 13, 2014 - 11:29 am

I couldn’t agree with you more… Sometimes I have to remind myself that rest and relaxation are a vital part of my success.. I can’t be going and working all the time! Love this post!

Kerith - February 13, 2014 - 11:27 am

I love Lara Casey and the whole Southern Weddings team. I applied to intern in college :)

I found this blog post to mean a lot today. I’m really struggling with my corporate job and the fact I don’t feel like I contribute anything meaningful or do anything there that makes my soul happy. It’s incredibly difficult to find a place where my passions and career can meet.

This image is now saved to my computer, to remind me that sometimes doing what you love is more important than anything else.


Monday Mash-Up

Sometimes I wake up and stare at my computer screen for a full 30 minutes before coming up with what I want to write for my MMU post. Actually, scratch that, sometimes it’s a full hour to hour and a half. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get these started in the winter- maybe it’s because life is going at a slower pace and I don’t always have some crazy “you won’t believe what happened over the weekend” sort of story to start things off with. So instead, I just go downstairs for my second or third cup of tea to delay the writing process. And then we end up with paragraphs like this that make you wish you could have the last 30 seconds of your life back. :).

As it turns out, my weekend WAS pretty eventful! We made the four-hour drive down to my Granny & Pawpaw’s house to spend a few days with my grandparents, and I decided to bring along a new sewing project that I was hoping my Granny could help me with. See, for Christmas, I received the most perfect blush pink tulle skirt, and I wanted to take a crack at making one of my own, but this time I wanted it to be cream-colored and a bit shorter. My Granny, being the excellent seamstress and quilter that she is, said to go ahead and bring the fabric and such with me and we’d do our best. I was of the mindset that the design seemed simple enough, so how hard could it be?

I comPLETELY overestimated my own capabilities when it comes to sewing, and it’s only thanks to my Granny’s mad skills that the skirt we produced came out as perfectly as it did. Thank the Lord I didn’t attempt this on my own because I would have wasted at least $40-50 in fabric. In the end, we managed to create one heck of a tulle skirt with no real pattern to go off of, and I’m pretty sure I’ve turned my grandmother off from ever using either satin or tulle again, due to it’s inherent nature of being difficult to work with. (Sorry again, Granny!)

So, in honor of our weekend of fabric-related challenges, I present: lessons learned/things that transpired over the past week:

  • If you’ve decided to sew something you’ve never sewn before and your seamstress skills are novice at best, don’t fool yourself: you’re going to need a pattern. “Just freehanding it” won’t work. Even if your sewing partner/Granny is a boss when it comes to needlework.
  • In the event that you proceed sans-pattern anyways, you may end up needing your TI-83 calculator. Remember that time you told your 6th grade math teacher you’d never need to use Pi in real life? Lies. I used 3.1415 this past weekend to calculate measurements for our homemade pattern!
  • …which we traced onto wrapping paper with a homemade compass, comprised of a pencil with a ribbon tied to it. It worked surprisingly well, by the way.
  • It is absolutely necessary to have a large glass of wine ready at the end of the day, due to the stress incurred by all of the aforementioned points.

I’ll be you’re hoping to see a photo of the skirt we made, aren’tcha? Well, you’re in luck- here’s an Instragram I posted yesterday!

Tulle skirt- Abby Grace PhotographyHere’s to my Granny, the best grandmother in all the world!

Becca B - February 19, 2014 - 10:41 am

You are so pretty!! The skirt is gorgeous, too :) I’ve been coveting something just like it that I saw on pinterest. Nice job!

Lydia - February 18, 2014 - 1:11 am

The skirt is beautiful! I may just have to get some tips from you at United to make my own!

Holly - February 11, 2014 - 2:05 pm

That’s AWESOME!!

Rici - February 11, 2014 - 7:05 am

Very cool Abby! Ever since you first mentioned to make your own, I´m thinking about making one for myself as well. How fun would it be?
~ Saluti.

Erin - February 10, 2014 - 8:59 am

Jean, you remind me of my grandmother! She too loves a project and is not afraid to MacGyver something together herself from what she has lying around in lieu of something ready made for the job. And she too has mad sewing skills.

Natalie - February 10, 2014 - 8:55 am

That skirt is absolutely GORGEOUS! I hope to see you rocking it at United in two weeks! Ahhhh!

Jean - February 10, 2014 - 8:46 am

I thought the skirt turned out perfect, especially in light of the fact that we ended up making a pattern. It looks beautiful on you. As always it was fun working on this project together. Now what is the next challenge? Love you.

Anniversary sessions, and finding time to reconnect

Matt & I’s story is probably similar to that of nearly every other photographer’s family- we went the first almost two years of marriage and only managed to take a grand total of something like four photos together, three of which were probably iPhone photos. After attending WTAW in June 2012, I realized just how very much it bothered me that I’d failed to put more of an emphasis on documenting OUR love story. I’d spent so much time and effort working to capture other people’s memories and moments that I’d forgotten to take care of Matt & I; we have a story worth telling as well.

There’s a tendency to have photographs taken during the “big” moments- engagement, wedding, babies, etc. But what about the in-betweens? What about the years spent just the two of you as you fall more in love, become even better friends, and learn the in’s and out’s of living life together? Or the years spent with small children, when sometimes you just want an excuse to get away and enjoy the presence of just your spouse? Those moments, that time, it matters.

Virginia anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

I’ll never forget how I felt during our anniversary session with J&M in New York City. The images are of course beautiful, and I appreciate them for the gorgeous photographs that they are. But even more so, those photographs allow me to recall how I FELT during that brisk Sunday afternoon- standing there in Central Park in the chilly November air, holding onto my husband, his arms looped around my waist, and kissing. Kissing a lot. I remember falling in love with him all over again that day. Wondering how I ever got to lucky to share life with this incredible man, a man who would drive up to New York to spend several hours out in the cold taking pictures, all because he knew that it was important to me to have those photos. We needed that.

At my core, I believe that marriage is worth fighting for. That some day, every marriage will face its share of up’s and down’s. And sometimes, in those moments, we need to be reminded that love NEVER fails. And THAT is why I love anniversary sessions. Do I think that photographs are a magical cure for marital problems? No, I don’t, but I do believe that photographs can act as a conduit for healing, as a reminder that things weren’t always this hard, that times can and will be beautiful once more.

Virginia anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

As time passes, I realized more and more than as much as I love weddings, I love MARRIAGE even more. Last year, I had the honor of photographing several anniversary sessions, and I’ve come to realize that I want “celebrating marriage” to be a much more significant part of the Abby Grace brand. So for 2014, I’ll be opening up my schedule a bit more for anniversary sessions, and just a tad less for weddings. It’s important to me that people find a reason to celebrate their marriages, and photographing your love, just as it is in this moment in time, is the perfect way to do that.

If it’s been years since you’ve taken a photo with your husband or wife, do yourself a favor and get in front of someone’s camera and spend time simply enjoying one another’s presence. Your marriage is worth celebrating!

Virginia anniversary photographer- Abby GraceVirginia anniversary photographer- Abby GraceVirginia anniversary photographer- Abby GraceVirginia anniversary photographer- Abby GraceVirginia anniversary photographer- Abby Grace


Laurel - February 15, 2014 - 11:27 am

Your photos are so gorgeous! My husband and I decided (well, I decided and he’s going along with it :-D) to have an anniversary session done every year. Photos are so important to me, and I absolutely love yours.

Kristen Duffy - February 11, 2014 - 11:26 pm

Aww Abby this is beautiful! And beautifully written :)

rosa - February 10, 2014 - 1:46 am

Oh! If only you were closer! Anniversary sessions ARE or should most definitely a must. In a time where marriage is rarely taken seriously, it can remind us how beautiful it can be :)

Alex Blackmon - February 5, 2014 - 9:49 pm

This post just made me more excited about mine and Dan’s anniversary session with you! So excited!!

Jean - February 5, 2014 - 6:35 pm

I love the anniversary photos you took of us. You are so good!

Nikki Santerre - February 5, 2014 - 6:18 pm

I love this, Abby. You are so right, while weddings are awesome, it is MARRIAGE that really matters. Beautiful images…I can’t wait to see what you create this year!

Caitlin Gerres - February 5, 2014 - 2:49 pm

I love this! We did an anniversary session this year and it was amazing! I’d love to do one every year!

Tiffany Farley - February 5, 2014 - 10:45 am


Michelle - February 5, 2014 - 10:38 am

Love this! The images from our session with you are still some of our most cherished possessions. Two years later they still remind us of who we were and where we were at that point in our marriage and that is so precious.

Kat - February 5, 2014 - 10:12 am

YES! So great, Abby. My thoughts exactly!!

Kathryn Grace - February 5, 2014 - 10:03 am

Love this SO much.

Katie Wallis - February 5, 2014 - 10:02 am

I been toying with the idea of doing an anniversary session. This blog post just confirmed that I want to go through with it :)

Megan Guernsey - February 5, 2014 - 9:44 am

I could not agree more! I am so glad we did anniversary photos to document our first year of marriage. And obviously glad we chose you to do it :) That is one of my favorites!!

Lindsay - February 5, 2014 - 9:43 am

YESSSS!!! A million times YES! I look at the canvas from our anniversary session every day (because it’s hanging in our room) and just sigh… it’s such a magical moment captured forever! I totally and completely, 100% agree that this is SUCH an important thing! Thanks for documenting OUR story Abby and I’m SO excited for the couples you’ll be photographing this year!

Tiffany Heidenthal - February 5, 2014 - 9:35 am

YES! Erik and I need to do this.

Mary - February 5, 2014 - 9:34 am

This post makes me so happy! I was just telling my husband that we don’t take near as many pictures together now that we are married. I SO wish we still lived on the east coast so I could jump on this! Can’t wait to see the future anniversary shoots!