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Monday Mash-Up

Since leaving my full-time corporate job, I’ve never had such a rough time returning to a Monday as I did today. This weekend was AMAZING!!! Matt and I went up to New York City for our anniversary shoot with Justin & Mary (AAAAHHHH!!!!!!!) and used Saturday to tool around Times Square while we were waiting to go see Harry Potter, The Exhibition! My heart is so incredibly full from such an impossibly wonderful weekend, and I’m humbled yet again by what a precious gift my husband is. He’s an introvert, not a fan of crowded cities, and not comfortable in front of the camera, and yet he braved all three challenges for me this weekend. Just as I knew they would, J&M brought Matt out of his shell, and he surprised me with how relaxed he became. It was such a blessing!! But more on our experience with Justin & Mary later :).

As always, lessons learned/things that happened over the weekend:

  • I learned that, under no circumstance, should I ever ask Matt to drive in New York City ever again. Especially not in Times Square. I thought northern Virginia drivers were bad…
  • If you’re going to take photos of street performers, either a) have a few dollars with you, or 2) shoot fast then run away. That’s what I did.
  • Being an extrovert and extremely outgoing person, I always assumed I’d fit in well in the city. Oh my gosh, y’all, I’ve never been so intimidated in my life being in Times Square. There were thousands upon thousands of people, I was constantly on the watch for someone to mug me, and I really had no idea where we were. I suppose if we’d spent more time there I’d have relaxed, but holy cow. Talk about stressful!
  • Harry Potter, The Exhibition = awesome. If you’re going to be in New York City between now and April, I definitely recommend going!
  • I don’t recommend NYC taxis if you’re prone to motion sickness or a general fear of dying in a high-speed journey through the city.

And because I’m about to jet off to an engagement session, I’ll leave you with one image from our weekend, taken at the Disney Store in Times Square:

Happy Monday!

Tina - November 19, 2012 - 10:29 pm

Omg you went to the Harry potter exhibit!?! We live right in nj and are planning our day to see it!! I heard you can meet buckbeak & I LOVE buckbeak! Probably the most random character to love lol. Can’t wait to see more of your trip (um, times squares Disney stores is the best!!) and your shoot with Justin and Mary!

Terry Lynn - November 19, 2012 - 10:00 pm

NYC tips:
Act like you own the city even when you have no idea where you are. If you discover you are going the wrong way, either stop and look in a shop window and then correct, or square the block to get turned back. There’s plenty to see if you do.
Keep you eyes off in the distance. You can steal glances for people watching, but don’t get caught in an eye to eye contact.
Have any valuables divided between a purse and close fitted pockets.
There, nothing to be scared of. Enjoy!

Sarah B. - November 19, 2012 - 8:09 pm

Abby, your love and devotion for (and very obvious fun with) Matt make me so excited to be married! What an example of a fun and godly couple you are!

Glad you had a chance to get away and do something with you hubby!!

Court Bay - November 19, 2012 - 6:33 pm

You were so close to me!!!!

ashley link - November 19, 2012 - 6:03 pm

so fun! i can’t wait to see more of your shoot with justin and mary!!! that’s so exciting and cool! new york is amazing!!! totally stressful,though, too haha. and yay! i love the tangled quote! :)

happy monday! :)

Cassady Adams - November 19, 2012 - 2:52 pm

NYC was intimidating when I moved up here in May but you quickly learn to fit in. And driving actually becomes pretty fun…it’s more the parking that’s a pain. Can’t wait to see J&M’s pictures!

mollystillman - November 19, 2012 - 2:24 pm

i cannot WAIT to see your J&M pics!! so glad you had a great weekend :) :)

Sarah Goodwin - November 19, 2012 - 2:02 pm

Now that’s my kinda weekend! A J&M portrait session is definitely on my to do list too. Can’t wait to see!

Sharon Elizabeth - November 19, 2012 - 12:54 pm

haha — sounds awesome! and i cannot wait to see the photos =)

Rosie Parent - November 19, 2012 - 12:17 pm

That sounds like a very full weekend! Can’t wait to see the Justin & Mary shots :)

Alicia Lacey - November 19, 2012 - 12:14 pm

You have to check out my recent FB pics from London — we went to the Harry Potter Warner Bros tour and it was amazing! I totally thought of you while we were there and how much you’d like it :)

Rebekah Hoyt - November 19, 2012 - 12:03 pm

I’m so glad you guys had a great time in the city!! I simply cannot wait to see Justin & Mary’s pictures!!

First Looks

…are the bee’s knees. They really are! I know a lot of photographers have written about their take on the popular trend (I hope it’s a trend that sticks!), but here’s my take on the matter. It’s a topic that I bring up at every consultation to put a bug in my couples’ ears from the beginning- I want my brides and grooms thinking about their schedule as far out as possible. “Why?” you ask. “That seems like a pretty tedious detail if you’re booking 9-12 months out, don’t you think?” Actually, you want to start thinking about the portraits + the  overall schedule almost as SOON as you start planning to help choose a ceremony and reception start time! Unless a bride and groom are wedding industry professionals or have had a heavy hand in planning a wedding before, chances are they won’t know how much time they’ll need to devote to portraits. Opening up the topic from the beginning helps my couples understand how much time we’ll need and why we need that much time. I never pressure anyone for an answer at that first meeting, I more just want to get my brides and grooms talking about it between themselves.

First looks- Abby Grace Photography

Whenever I’m chatting with one of my couples about First Looks, I always make sure to tell them that ultimately, it is absolutely their choice as to whether or not they’ll do one. It’s a personal decision, and I’d never push my brides and grooms one way or the other; after all, Matt and I didn’t do one for our wedding. Looking back I wish we had, but it’s good for me to be able to articulate WHY we didn’t do one and WHY I wish we’d done things differently. After prefacing the “First Look” conversation with my no-pressure disclaimer, I begin to talk with them about why I think they’re an ideal way to schedule your wedding day:

  • It’s more private. The first time you see each other on your wedding day is big moment, something most brides have dreamed about for years! Not everyone wants to share that moment with 100+ other people. It’s a way to keep that time intimate, to share it just between the two of you- to shed a few happy tears without getting embarrassed, to laugh, to hug, to kiss with abandon without dozens of pairs of eyes watching you. Waiting to see each other at the ceremony is wonderful, but you’re not able to exclaim your joy or throw your arms around each other at the altar for another 20-40 minutes! First Looks give you the chance to let your guard down.
First looks- Abby Grace Photography
  • It’s more relaxed! Instead of waiting until after the ceremony, after family formals and after bridal party photos, we get to do your bride & groom portraits BEFORE the wedding, meaning we have ample time to shoot without the pressure of needing to be introduced at the reception in 10 minutes. We’ll set aside plenty of time for portraits of just the two of you to capture you all relaxed and crazy-in-love :). In my experience, when the wedding day schedule gets crunched because so-and-so is running late or family formals took longer than expected, the thing that ends up being cut short EVERY TIME is the bride and groom’s portraits. It’s such a bummer to go from having 40 minutes set aside for relaxed, romantic portraits to a short 15 minute window. I want you all to ENJOY taking these portraits! Plus, on your wedding day, you won’t have much time alone together to soak everything in- a First Look gives you guaranteed time for just that.
  • It makes for a smoother schedule! If you do bride & groom  + bridal party portraits before the wedding, then you don’t have to worry about building in an hour and a half + travel time between the end of the ceremony and the start of the cocktail hour  for all of your portraits. Doing a First Look means that after the ceremony, we’ll do family formals, then I’ll steal you and your new husband away for 15 more minutes (for a few photos once you’re, you know, ACTUALLY married:)), and then it’s off to your reception! No worries about an antsy bridal party, no having to check your watch over and over to make sure you’re not doing to miss the deejay’s introductions. Just the chance to ENJOY the process in a laid-back way.
 First looks- Abby Grace Photography
  • Your hair and make-up are fresh! Matt and I didn’t do a First Look but also didn’t want to keep our guests waiting between the ceremony and reception, so we opted to do portraits after the reception (it ended around 5:30pm, so we had plenty of time). What I hadn’t anticipated was my hair starting to fall and my make-up needing freshening up, and as I look back at my wedding portraits, you can tell it was at the end of a long day. Doing the First Look before everything ensures you’re looking your absolute best!
  • If you’re getting married in the late fall or winter and have scheduled your ceremony for the late afternoon, it may be the ONLY way we can do portraits. The sun sets much earlier around this time, which isn’t something most brides think about when planning their ceremony time (I know I didn’t!). These days in Virginia, the sun is setting around 4:55, meaning a 4:00 ceremony time would only give us about 20 minutes of waning daylight if your ceremony is 30 minutes long. I definitely suggest looking up what time the sun sets when choosing your ceremony time- it can be the deciding factor as to whether or not you’ll be able to do portraits before or after!
I think Katelyn hit the nail on the head when she said that people who want to wait for the ceremony to see each other are more looking forward to the reaction than the tradition itself (that’s what I was looking forward to!). In my humble opinion though, the most thorough way to capture that precious reaction is by setting aside time for portraits beforehand, because who knows? You may not be able to see each other’s faces very well from the end of the aisle when you walk in, owing to a long aisle or various guests stepping in the aisle to take photos of their own. At our wedding, the church’s restrictions on our photographers meant they weren’t allowed to get close enough to photograph Matt’s reaction, something that still makes me sad. And because of how emotionally0charged everything was, I barely remember that walk down the aisle!
First looks- Abby Grace Photography
The most common concern I’ve come upon is the idea that the First Look will lessen the impact of that moment you walk down the aisle. In my experience? It doesn’t change it one bit. It’s still JUST as big of a deal! Guys, your bride is still taking that walk down the aisle to marry YOU! Seeing each other beforehand doesn’t that walk any less of a big deal. Ladies, your groom is still going to get that ear-to-ear smile when he sees you on the arm of your dad. It’s just as big of a moment, just with a little less anxiety.
Like I said above- it’s a personal decision, and not one that I would ever push anyone into. It’s something I feel like helps me do my job best though, and a decision that helps me give my brides and grooms the kinds of images they’re dreaming of!
First looks- Abby Grace Photography
Happy Friday!

[…] love First Looks. I really, really, really do! But one inherent flaw about the First Look is that it typically […]

molly - November 17, 2012 - 3:11 pm

a-freaking-men! john and i did a first look and i was a wee weary thinking it would “ruin” the walking down the aisle part. NOT AT ALL! it was the BEST decision we made!!

Tiffany Farley - November 16, 2012 - 10:50 am

I LOVE first looks!!

Wendy {Weswen Design} - November 16, 2012 - 9:51 am

My hubby and I couldn’t have made it through our wedding if we didn’t see each other first. Period. We would have both been blubbering idiots which would have made for horrible ceremony pictures. As it turned out, we were able to have our tearful moment together just the way we wanted it, by ourselves (and our photographer of course!) What it got us was amazing pictures before the ceremony, which also included our bridal party. In the end, I think we lucked out doing it this way because when we got married, the sun had set, so we have a beautiful set of pictures with bright skies, and then the ceremony set with the dreamy fireplace setting. It the best, do it.

Lena - November 16, 2012 - 8:43 am

Great explanation of it! I am so thankful that you were able to explain it in this way to Brent. He totally was against it, I think more for the tradition aspect. But now, he is all in for a First Look and I couldn’t be more excited to see how those pictures will turn out!

Love Everlasting- Jarrod & Abby’s Old Town Alexandria wedding

She was buzzing around the hotel room in that excitable way that only a bride can do- laughing, smiling, complimenting everyone. Being the sweet person they all knew her to be, never stressing, never panicking about the schedule. Just happy and content, because today? Today she was marrying the love of her life.

She described him as her “ indie rock, shy, well dressed guy who loves threadless t-shirts, classic British cars, history, camping, long car rides, and me.” She laughs often and easily, he’s a bit more reserved. But when they’re away from everyone else, something in him relaxes. He laughs more, smiles more frequently. She brings out the best in him, and he does the same for her. So when it came time for vows to be exchanged and rings to be given, there wasn’t a doubt in the room that this was the best kind of match to be made.

Jarrod and Abby, it was such an honor to be there with you both as you committed your lives to one another. I couldn’t have imagined a more joy-filled way to wrap up the wedding season, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for extending such a blessing my way!

We began at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in old town Alexandria…

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Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Hills!

Dress: Justin Alexander via Elle’s bridal boutique
Shoes: Lulu Townsend
Ceremony: St. Mary’s Catholic Church
Reception: The Lorien Hotel & Spa
Rings: Antiques
Bridesmaid dress: Lela Rose
Pies: Buzz Bakery


Elizabeth Victory - December 20, 2012 - 5:49 pm

Oh Abby, that black and white one of them kissing in doorway, maybe as they are entering the reception, is just stunning! I also really like the dress hanging over the bed, to. Of course, there are all marvelous. I haven’t been keeping up with your blog very well lately, and after not seeing you pictures for a while they are more spectacular then ever!

Nicole - December 15, 2012 - 9:41 pm

Absolutely Beautiful!!!

molly - November 17, 2012 - 3:13 pm

AHHH ABBY! this is gorgeous. just stunning. wow. wow. that last photo(s)? AMAZING!

Laura Gordon - November 16, 2012 - 3:52 pm

This wedding is SOOOOO pretty! You did such an amazing job shooting it! I love that vertical shot of the stole and shoes on the chair!!!

Garrett Johnson - November 16, 2012 - 8:22 am

I’m just glad that the Gangnam Style dance was captured and immortalized.

Kelly Semrau - November 16, 2012 - 7:23 am

The wedding was so special. The photos are simply amazing. Kelly

Abby - November 16, 2012 - 6:28 am

These are so great. So many beautiful moments in there…the pictures just make the wonderful memories rush back in. You were amazing, Abby. Thank you so much. I can’t wait to see the rest!

Rebekah C - November 15, 2012 - 4:03 pm

I love her ring w/ the blue in it & the fur wrap as well.

Megan GUernsey - November 15, 2012 - 3:10 pm

You have given me such a love for the Lorien Hotel ;) Beautiful!

kaitlyn phipps - November 15, 2012 - 2:57 pm

LOVE the last set! these were really gorgeous abby! great job!

Jean - November 15, 2012 - 1:47 pm

Beautiful photos! Great job, Abby.

Erica - November 15, 2012 - 1:23 pm

That elevator triptych is ah-mazing! That screams to go on a wall. Great job! Love how they had board games as table numbers.

Wine Wednesdays- musings of a vino novice

Check me out! A NEW blog series! After writing last week’s blog post about how I know I’ve been coming up short, I realized I wanted to do something new, something non-wedding related. Jen & Ashley have their Styled posts, Katelyn has her home decor posts, and I’ve been wanting to find something to blog about that I really enjoy on a personal level. I was talking through it with Matt and brought up the idea of blogging about different wines since I love trying new varieties, and wallah! Wine Wednesday was born. You all can thank Matt for that catchy little title- that was all him.

Here’s what I’m thinking for Wine Wednesdays: I love wine (in healthy proportions). I love trying new types, searching the wine aisles for hidden gems, and being able to order a glass in a nice restaurant with confidence. I’d be willing to wager that there are at least a few of you out there who aren’t as familiar with the differences between a Pinot Noir and a Merlot, or who are slightly intimidated by the grocery store’s wine selection? Let’s break it all down here! I’m going to blog about the differences between stemware, how to taste a glass of wine, the different varieties, how to store your wine, etc. My hope is that for those of you who are, as of now, intimidated by all the choices available you’ll be able to find something you like and be willing to branch out a bit more!

Virginia wine lover

So with all that said, I thought we’d start the first week off super easy by chatting about how to pour and taste a glass of wine!

1) Start out by making sure you have the appropriate type of glass for whatever you’re serving (large, bulbous glasses for reds, more narrow glasses for whites, flutes for anything sparkling- we’ll chat more about that next time). Check the glass to make sure it’s clean, even give it a sniff to make sure it doesn’t have any lingering soapy or musty smells (if so, give it a rinse).

2) Once you’re satisfied with the glass, place it on the table, then pour to the center of the glass for reds + whites. If you’re pouring anything sparkling, hold the glass and pouring against the side to preserve the carbonation.

3) Pour reds until you get the widest part of the bulb, then stop- usually about 1/3 full. Whites should be poured until about 1/3, but you can get away with a little more with whites. The reason WHY you stop at the fullest part of the glass for reds is to give your wine the largest surface area possible to decant (breathe, aerate)- doing so lets your wine rest and come into its best flavor possible before drinking it. I’ll be doing some experiments in the next few weeks, testing a decanted glass of wine vs. the same wine straight from the bottle to see just HOW much of a difference it makes.

4) Give your wine glass a good swirl, then stick your nose into the glass and take a deep breath- what do you smell? What’s your initial impression?

5) Now take a sip. But don’t swallow it immediately- let it roll around in your mouth so you can really EXPERIENCE the flavors the wine has to offer. If you’ve ever been to a wine tasting and heard people slurping with a sip of wine in their mouth, it’s to give the wine even more of a chance to aerate.

See? Now you look like a pro! And in case you feel like picking up a book on wines, this is one I definitely recommend- it’s a GREAT source for people who aren’t as familiar with wines as they’d like to be.

Virginia wine lover

Happy Wednesday!

Stephen - November 15, 2012 - 8:13 am

Wine is yummy :)

Brittany Claud - November 14, 2012 - 6:04 pm

YAY Abby! I am SO excited about this blog series!!! I LOVE wine and consider myself an amateur wine enthusiast haha so I can’t wait to read what else you have in store for this series! ;) I didn’t know about the different glasses for reds and whites…very interesting!

Anna K. - November 14, 2012 - 5:50 pm

oooh, excited to hear about your suggestions! I love a good glass of wine!

Rebekah - November 14, 2012 - 3:52 pm

I’ve slowly been wading my way through the wine world in the past year or two. I can’t wait to learn more about it from you. Still haven’t found a red wine I like.

Ursha - November 14, 2012 - 8:58 am

What a great idea for a blog post! I don’t drink alcohol but i did enjoy this post! I was recently in Italy and we had wine tasting of some of Italy finest wines and it was such a great experience :)

Jean - November 14, 2012 - 8:49 am

Wine tasting with you was such a hoot!

Building in time for bridal portraits

Let me start this off by saying that I LOVE bridal portraits. Love, love love them! During my first year as a wedding photographer, I was slightly terrified of them, so I’d just make sure to take a few images of the bride by herself during couples portraits. But ever since I attended J&M’s Walk Through A Wedding workshop, I’ve really begun to LOVE portraits of the bride by herself! It’s my second favorite part of the day, and I always make a point to build time into the schedule for these shots.

The conversation about a schedule begins when I first meet with a couple- I always walk my brides and grooms through what a typical wedding day with me looks like to set the expectation from the beginning about how much time is needed for each part of the portrait process. That way we can avoid getting two weeks out from the wedding and realizing there’s only 10 minutes left for bride & groom portraits :). As I’m walking the couple through the schedule, we chat about how once the bride has her dress on, we’ll ever so politely clear the room so that we can take 5-10 minutes to capture a few classic images of her before she goes out to meet her groom. This time is crucial for two reasons:

  • It gives my bride a chance to breathe, to soak it all in amidst the quiet calm of a mostly empty room
  • It gives me a chance to capture the elegant bridal portraits that I KNOW every bride (and every mother of every bride) wants to have.

I’ve noticed that taking this time with just the bride helps to calm her during what’s one of the more intense parts of the day. Getting your dress on is a big deal! Everyone’s oohing and aahing, and there will more than likely be a couple of tears shed. I want my brides to REMEMBER that feeling, and taking a few minutes to quietly photograph her gives her the chance to do just that. It’s especially important because these days, we’re seeing fewer and fewer brides doing bridal portrait sessions before the wedding day, so in order to have at least a handful of classic portraits I really need that time with my brides. I was in absolute heaven when Lauren and I built in 15-20 minutes for bridal portraits- having that time before we departed for the church was such a gift! As a result, we had time to shoot a few images inside her childhood home, and then a few extra minutes to spend shooting outside on the steps. The results were my favorite bridal portraits I’ve ever taken, and a huge part of that was having enough time to shoot in a relaxed fashion. As the photographer, I can control a lot of the level of frenzy in the room just with the tone and volume of my voice, but having an extra little window of time can make a huge difference!

And now, some of my favorite bridal portraits, all taken on wedding days!

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All this isn’t to say you shouldn’t do a bridal session if you’ve been thinking you want to- I LOVE BRIDAL SESSIONS! It’s more meant as an encouragement to make sure to schedule at least a few minutes on your wedding day to capture those precious images before you step out to meet your groom.

Happy Tuesday!

Colette - November 17, 2012 - 11:32 am

You know, after not really having a lot of time for portraits (DIY wedding!) this is great advice. Having that morning with you was way past our big day, but I know I will cherish those photos always. So while I wish they were from our wedding day, there’s always day-after or trash the dress shoots!

Sarah B. - November 15, 2012 - 4:32 pm

I didnt even know that there were a thing as bridal portraits and taking time for them – Ah, how didnt I know that?! lol. So glad you wrote a post about it and that you DO IT! I cant wait!! This definitely needs to be a part of our day! :D

Tiffany Farley - November 14, 2012 - 9:05 am

Absolutely stunning. That first image is my favorite!

ashley link - November 14, 2012 - 12:08 am

that first image is definitely a new favorite. it just pops! so beautiful! :)

Brittany Claud - November 13, 2012 - 2:00 pm

That first bridal portrait is one of my favorites you’ve done for sure!! I would love to see a post where you go in to detail about the timeline and also meeting with clients before hand!

Jean - November 13, 2012 - 9:55 am

These are all so beautiful that it would be hard to choose a favorite! Your work is exquisite!

Rebekah Hoyt - November 13, 2012 - 8:38 am

Gorgeous, gorgeous! I love the idea of clearing the room when you take these – I’ve had moments of chaos and trying to capture a sweet, quiet moment of just the bride can be difficult with 10 eager people watching what you do (and making the bride more nervous and aware of the people watching her) – this is GREAT advice!!