This past Thursday we got to travel to Buffalo to surprise one of my best friends on her birthday. I’ve known her since elementary school so it’s safe to say we’ve been friends for a long time.:)She has lived in Buffalo since 2006 so I’ve been there quite a few times to visit, but this time was different. This time her boyfriend, Paulo, contacted me a few months in advance to invite us up to surprise Kristin for her 30th birthday and I couldn’t have been more excited. I love surprises. I knew Kristin would absolutely love it, too, so I was just beside myself with excitement to see her reaction. Josh was up for it because my friends are his friends and vice versa. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved about him and our relationship. We’ve always made an effort to be friends with one another’s friends. To become an intricate part of one another’s life even if the friends predated our relationships and sometimes especially so. You can learn a lot about a person based upon what types of friendships they have and if they’re loyal and reliable to their friends. That’s why we’ve always loved being friends with each other’s friends. Interestingly enough, Josh met Kristin on her 21st birthday when we traveled to visit her at Ohio University so it was especially fitting that he got to come with me to surprise her for her 30th.

We got to Buffalo a few hours before the surprise was going down so we explored a bit and found Lake Erie. (Not hard to do).
Then came the SURPRISE. Paulo & Kristin are in a volleyball league on the beach and they had a game that evening after work so Josh & I arrived to the beach and waited for them to show up. I was clenching my fists and could barely sit still I was so excited to surprise Kristin. When she saw us, her jaw dropped open, she covered her mouth with her hand, and she said, “You guys!” I ran over to her and we hugged each other like 8 times in a row really tightly. Josh was standing by snapping some candids.

The surprise was my favorite part about Kristin’s birthday in Buffalo! Friends are so valuable and having a friendship last for 20+ years is a rare beauty in today’s fast-paced world. Love ya, Krin!:)

Friday, we busted out the trusty passports and headed up to Canada to see the Falls. It was an absolutely gorgeous day!

Stunning, wondrous, amazing, breathtaking. I love seeing Niagara Falls! It’s so impressive and fascinating that it almost doesn’t look real.

We had lunch together and then had to say goodbye to Canada and Kristin.Thanks for following along with our little personal journeys & fun.:)For more personal posts, check out past Josh & Danielle Files HERE.

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We are super excited to share Kelly & Mitch’s wedding with you today! These two are so fun together. She laughs at his jokes, embraces his slight obsession with Cleveland sports, and adores his endearing habit of spoiling their dog. He tells her she’s beautiful, cherishes her, and is still smitten with her, even though they’ve been together since college. Their relationship is a lovely match & we’re glad we got to witness these two publicize their forever commitment to one another at The Links at Firestone Farms!

This wedding day was a little bit different than other wedding days because Kelly & Mitch were kind enough to give us their blessing on having Casey Cashell shadow us throughout their wedding day. Casey is a photographer in the Youngstown area & we are so glad to have met her! She’s definitely a giving, caring, and talented woman & we really enjoy chatting with her about photography and life. Plus, she’s taller than I am & she helped me get Kelly’s wedding dress up in that pretty tree in Kelly’s parents’ back yard.:)She helped me with a lot of things that day! Thank you, Casey!
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Kelly is the sweetest! Let me tell you! Mitch is a lucky guy! Kelly made all of her bridesmaids personalized cups as part of their bridesmaid gifts, and she even made me one. I thought that was so sweet & thoughtful of her & I really like my “Danielle” cup.:)Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0004Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0005Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0006

Kelly’s mom helping her only daughter into her wedding dress:

Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0007

Sitler’s Florist crafted the bouquets.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0008While Casey & I were with the girls, Josh was with the guys at the Holiday Inn.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0009

Then Mitch got posted up at the barn in The Links for his & Kelly’s first look. Ahhhhhh! SUCH an exciting moment!Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0010Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0011

Oh my goodness . . . both of them are just giddy to see one another. I love the pure joy on their faces.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0012Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0013

Mitch had to take all of Kelly’s beauty in:Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0014

It’s just so emotional & touching to share a private moment together on your wedding day without interruption or people watching. (Except us . . . and we’re really cool about it & use our zoom lenses to keep as far away as we can so the magic can unfold unimpeded.:))
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After Kelly & Mitch’s first look, they were able to have a relaxed and casual time of family portraits, bridal party portraits, and bride & groom portraits before the guests arrived for the ceremony. This worked out extremely well because their ceremony & reception were just a few steps away from each other & they knew that they didn’t want to have to rush in between the wedding ceremony & reception for photos, they didn’t want to make their guests wait hours for them to take photos in between, and they wanted to be able to enjoy the cocktail hour with their guests. It was all so well planned and such a relaxing and great day!Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0017Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0018Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0019

Stunning bride! She got her gorgeous gown from Elizabeth Renea’s Bridal & Formal Wear in Salem.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0020Don’t you just love the happiness conveyed by these cheery colors?!Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0021Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0022Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0023Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0024Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0025

The cascading bouquet was so pretty.
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Don’t mess with these dudes.;)Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0027

Just joking. They’re not that serious.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0028Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0029Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0030

These guys are pretty excited for the Browns’ football season & seeing how Johnny Football fares in the NFL.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0031Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0032Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0033Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0034Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0035

They’re so HAPPY! Just like their engagement photos. 
Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0036Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0037Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0038Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0039Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0040Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0041Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0042

After the family photos, the bridal party photos, and the bride & groom photos, it was time to get married!:)This was just before the ceremony. Kelly’s mother got to put HER veil that she wore on her wedding day on Kelly & I could just see the pride and love she has for her daughter.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0043Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0044Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0045

And then Kelly’s dad got to walk his baby girl down the aisle.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0046Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0047The ceremony was full of smiles & love.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0048Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0049Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0050Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0051Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0052Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0053Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0054Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0055Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0056Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0057Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0058Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0059As the guests made their way from the barn to the reception hall for the cocktail hour, we snuck Kelly & Mitch away for just a few more photos.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0060Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0061Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0062Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0063Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0064Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0065And then they joined their guests for the cocktail hour. How cool are first looks?! They allow you to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. . . you know . . . the people whom you’ve not seen in awhile, the people you wanted with you on one of the most special days of your life, the people you LOVE. I’d say that’s pretty terrific.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0066Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0067Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0068Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0069

Classic Bakery made their pretty wedding cake.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0070Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0071Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0072Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0073Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0074Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0075Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0076Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0077

We LOVED their guest”book”- a wood block carved into the shape of Ohio for guests to sign & write messages on.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0078Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0079Once the newlyweds were officially introduced after the cocktail hour, they shared their first dance together as husband and wife.
Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0080Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0081Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0082Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0083Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0084Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0085Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0086Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0087Kelly’s college friend, Erin, gave a lovely toast about all that she and Kelly went through together during some of their hardest and most stressful years & she also shared how she was overjoyed for Kelly & Mitch because she’d seen their relationship grow & knew they were meant for each other.
Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0088Mitch’s older brother shared how much he liked Kelly & how it was a sad day for single guys out there because she’s now off the market. Then he said, “And for all of the single ladies. . . it’s just another day.”:)He also got sweet, too, and said that even though Mitch is his younger brother, he looks up to and admires him.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0089

They played the “Shoelywed Game” led by their DJ- Bella Sano Entertainment. The guests submitted questions for Kelly & Mitch & they raised a shoe for either Kelly or Mitch for the answer, but they had to sit back to back so they didn’t know how the other was answering. These two were very in sync with their answers, not surprisingly.Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0090Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0091Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0092Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0093Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0094Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0095Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0096Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0097

Then the party started & everyone had so much fun!Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0098Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0099Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0100Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0101Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0102Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0103Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0104Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0105Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0106Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0107Kelly & Mitch, thanks so much for sharing your wedding day with us! We wish you both the very best in your marriage & a long life together filled with happiness & love.

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Grandparents. They’re sweet. They’re cute. They always win the anniversary dance for being the longest married couple. They’ve attained the age when they aren’t afraid to express their true opinions for fear of rebuttal. They’ve been a source of love, comfort, and encouragement to our couples since they were born. They’re an inspiration to young and newly married couples because their marriages have stood the test of time. And these are just a few of the reasons we love shooting grandparents on wedding days.:)grandma dancing with granddaughter at wedding
grandparents at a wedding receptionErin_Jared_W_0708

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3 generations photo- the bride, her sister, their mother, and their grandmother:)

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groom and his grandma

Most people don’t have professional photographs of their grandparents even though their grandparents are among the most important people in their life. It’s true, of course, that no one knows how much time he or she has on this earth so cherishing the moments with our loved ones who are advanced in age is vitally important. If you’re lucky & blessed enough to still have your grandparents with you on your wedding day, these are the photographs you & your family will love for generations to come.
Brooke_Matt_First-Christian-Church_Salem-OH_The-Lake-Club_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0107Let’s connect:  Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | G + | Instagram

Josh & I got married in November 2010. It was a BEAUTIFUL day full of love and our favorite people, and everything went as planned. We stuck to our budget. We loved our vendors. We absolutely loved our wedding day and are very thankful that our parents helped us to plan and fund such a lovely occasion. I don’t want to say that we have regrets about our wedding day because I wouldn’t characterize them as such . . . “regrets” has such a negative connotation. I will say, though, that, knowing what I know now, there are a few things I would change if I were to go back in time and marry Joshua all over again. I get giddy just thinking about marrying him – vow renewals are definitely in our future just so we can celebrate our love with our family members and friends again.:)

DJMenning_W_0529Photo Credit: Inlux Photo

If I went back in time and married Joshua again, I’d definitely have a first look prior to the ceremony! Josh & I got married before we began our photography business so we weren’t working in the photography industry. While we were planning our wedding, I had heard of a first look before, but I didn’t know too many details about it. I just thought, “I don’t think I want to see him before the ceremony because I want to have that epic moment when he sees me walking toward him down the aisle.” No one told me that NOT doing a first look and NOT having a lot of time in between our ceremony & reception would greatly reduce the amount of images we’d receive from the bride & groom creative session. That should’ve been common sense, but, like I said, we weren’t in the wedding industry then. That thought really didn’t cross my mind & I wasn’t familiar with how much time I should have set aside for bride & groom portraits.

DJMenning_W_0397Photo Credit: Inlux Photo

While the moment I walked down the aisle toward Josh was amazing & so beautiful, it sort of left me wanting more. As I stood two feet away from Josh on my dad’s arm, I couldn’t give Josh a big hug or talk to him or kiss him or laugh with him or chat with him about how excited I was to be becoming his wife that day. Nope, I had to stand two feet away from him silently in front of a church full of people looking on. I’m not saying I didn’t LOOOOOOOVE our wedding ceremony. I certainly did! It was personal, tailored so uniquely to our personalities, full of little touches we wanted as part of our day, God-honoring, and everything we wanted from our wedding ceremony. It was just that I wish Josh & I had gotten to see each other, touch each other, and be excited together before that moment up in front of everyone when we had to keep quiet.  Plus, if we had done a first look, we would’ve gotten to spend MORE time together on our wedding day. . . novel idea, right?! Treasuring and investing time with the person with whom you are pledging to spend your entirety on earth on your wedding day? That sounds like a plan!:)Additionally, we got married at the end of November, which means that Daylight Savings Time had kicked in & we had “Fallen Behind” on the clocks. Since our ceremony was at 3:30 pm, lasted until 4:00 pm, and we had to get all of the family posed shots finished in the church before heading to our creative photo location, it was pretty much dark outside by the time we got to take 10 minutes worth of bride & groom photos. Thus, a first look would’ve served us VERY well on our wedding day. The wedding day timeline could’ve been much more photo-friendly, which is what we wanted because photography was the top priority for us. In fact, we invested 1/3 of our entire budget into the photography & we’d do that again in a heartbeat! The photos are what we have to look back on our day & they help us to relive it again and again. We simply wish we had been advised on or done our research about the amazingness of a first look! We could’ve gotten to spend more time together on our wedding day, gotten the family photos finished before the ceremony, gotten some bride & groom portraits before the ceremony, and not had to rush in between the ceremony and reception for family photos, bridal party photos, and bride & groom portraits. A lot of times, brides & grooms tell me that they can’t imagine giving up “that moment” that they have built up in their minds- the one when the bride is walking down the aisle toward the groom, and the groom sees her for the first time. Believe me, I completely understand because I thought that way, too. Now that I KNOW what a wedding day feels like, how quickly it flies by in a FLASH, and how I felt the ENTIRE day and EVERY time I looked at Josh. . . I KNOW without a doubt that doing a first look would’ve only ADDED to the excitement, happiness, and completely ecstatic and elated emotions that I felt the entire wedding day. I felt like I was floating. Nothing (especially not seeing and touching Josh before the wedding ceremony) could’ve taken away from the special moment of walking down the aisle on my dad’s arm as a bride. So that’s why I would do a first look if I could go back in time and marry my love all over again.

DJMenning_W_0191Photo Credit: Inlux Photo

Another thing I’d do differently if I could go back in time? Tan less! I was way too tan! It was November for crying out loud. If “Now Danielle” could go back in time and tell “Wedding Planning Danielle” one piece of advice it’d be “Put down the tanning lotion! Step away from the tanning bed! Ugh! Seriously. Come on, Danielle!” I know tanning beds are bad and cancer-causing, Readers. Believe me, I know. I haven’t been in one in almost four years and don’t plan to ever lay my bare booty into one again. The health aspect is one of the reasons I wouldn’t tan for the wedding if I could go back. However, my line of thinking was that I didn’t want to be pale because I feel more beautiful with a little color, but natural color is hard to come by in November in Ohio…hence the fake bake.  The thing is, too much fake baking makes most people look a little orange. I love our wedding photos & felt absolutely princess-like and beautiful on our wedding day, but when I look at the photos, I kind of wish I looked more natural. I think that comes with maturity, though, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s just something I’d change if I could.

Like I said, our wedding day was absolutely amazing. I love reliving it with our wedding video, photographs, and memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. My hope is that this blog will be helpful to readers who are currently planning their weddings. Even if you don’t ultimately choose to take my advice, at least you’ll have heard my perspective and taken my points into account before making decisions about your own wedding day. I’d also love to blog soon about a few things we LOOOOOOOOOVED about our  wedding day, although it’ll be really, really, really difficult to narrow it down!

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