Seattle Theo Chocolate Factory Pop-up Wedding | Firstlight Photography

At Firstlight Photography we get invited to photograph amazing weddings, but this Valentine’s Day we experienced a first.  We felt like Charlie peeling back that golden ticket and gaining entrance to the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.   Theo Chocolate was giving away a wedding to be set INSIDE the historic factory.  A pop-up elopement on Valentine’s Day – and we were able to photograph this one-of-a-kind wedding!

We got in touch with the Drew Zandonella-Stannard, the Marketing Manager at Theo Chocolate, and asked her just how this genius plot was developed.

Was this the first wedding at Theo? 
“We’ve had many proposals and a few weddings inside the factory, but this was the very first wedding giveaway we’ve done on Facebook especially for our fans. And it definitely was the first wedding to take place on Valentine’s Day and on our factory floor, no less!”

What was the inspiration for the Feb 14th wedding giveaway?
“At Theo, we believe in celebrating love in all its many forms. We wanted to do something different and fun for our social media fans on Valentine’s Day and thought that giving away an elopement inside of our chocolate factory with generous local partners like Firstlight PhotographyHotel 1000Terra Bella Flowers, and Westward restaurant would make for an amazing and unique experience.”

What stood out about the contest winners’ story?
“Each one of the couples who submitted their love stories to us were special.  It was extremely difficult to narrow it down to the final four!  In the end, our Facebook fans chose Brenda and Andrew.  It was such an honor to witness their commitment to each other as well as their love for their baby to be. Plus, the Seahawks jerseys they wore in their profile photo were a huge hit!”

Brenda, the beautiful bride, shared details of Andrew and her story and how she was able to secure a truly unique wedding.  

How did you learn about the Valentine’s giveaway?
“A friend of mine told us about the competition. Her mom had sent her the information.  Funny side note, she lives on the east coast – the power of social media and subscription lists.  I entered us and actually didn’t tell Andrew until we were selected!”

Your profile story garnered quite a following.  What did you do to rally the social media troops?
“We shared several times each day and sent messages to almost all of our facebook friends asking them to like and share. We had friends that took it upon themselves to do the same.”

What is the Andrew and Brenda story?  How did you two come to be?
“My fiancé and I met when we were in junior high. We were inseparable until senior year of high school when we parted ways as many young people do. I went to college, and he stayed around our hometown working. Four years passed and we both had been down some pretty broken paths filled with heartache. On July 4, 2009 we saw each other and all of those young love feelings came flooding back. We were again inseparable. Things moved pretty quickly for us and we ended up moving in together within a few months. We have spent the last (almost) six years rebuilding our relationship into the great thing that it is today.

We are that couple that doesn’t go a day without seeing each other.  We have two dogs, and a house and live in our hometown. Things have been great for us for a while. We have spent the last few years traveling being reunited. Last fall we found out we are pregnant with our first child – a boy! Our baby is due June 7, 2015.

We are so excited and basking in the fact that we have become so much closer already. Lucky for us, there’s more to come. While in Hawaii in December, Andrew proposed to me on the beach near a small lagoon. We were not sure when we would have a chance to have a wedding with a baby on the way, and were excited to win the Theo competition. We have always loved our story, but having the Theo Chocolate wedding makes it that much more unique and special. We are so thankful for the life that we have together.”

There were only a few days from being announced winner to saying your “I Do’s”  How did this play out for you? 
“On Friday of the competition, I took a risk and bought my wedding dress. It’s not returnable, but I figured that we planned to get married regardless of if we won the competition. Luckily, my dress was only $200. I am a planner. I can’t stand not having a plan. So, naturally, I planned everything out in my head as the competition was going on. If we win, this, this, this and, this needs to occur. Luckily, we didn’t have to do much because Theo took care of most everything!”

What will you remember the most from your wedding?
“I think what we will remember most from our wedding is the unique situation.  We have been hearing so much about it even a month later because people are just amazed at the situation.  It has, I hope, been a great advertising piece for Theo. I especially think this because we live in Kitsap County, so people do not know of all of the shops in Seattle.  We have an amazing wedding story, thanks to Theo. We were so grateful for the entire thing and were treated like royalty!”

The DETAILS

Dress & Shoes
The dress was purchased at Benita’s in Silverdale.  Since middle school Brenda has been shopping there for dance and pageant dresses.  Her dress had to fit over her pregnant belly so her sister and good friend met at Benita’s and the staff pulled five options.   Brenda knew at first sight which dress stood out.  She tried it on first because she fell in love with it immediately.  She did try on the other dresses, but went with the first dress of the day.

Jewelry
Brenda wore sparkling diamond hoops that were a Christmas gift from Andrew.  Her grandma asked her to incorporate a ring that belonged to her grandfather.  He found the stone in the mountains of Wyoming.  Brenda showcased the ring in the bow on the back of her dress.

She found her shoes at Benita’s and went with a sensible low heel since she was pregnant and wanted to be as comfortable as possible on her big day.

Flowers
Terra Bella Floral Design and Mercantile provided the wedding flowers.  Terra Bella Floral Design and Mercantile hosted a pop-up shop inside Theo Chocolate on Valentine’s Day.  Their selection of floral design is unique and artful.  They are a sustainable flower shop, sourcing local, organic and consciously grown flowers.

About Theo Chocolate
Theo Chocolate is proud to be the very first Organic, Fair Trade certified bean-to-bar chocolate maker in North America.  Since 2006, the company has been making mind-bendingly amazing chocolate.  Many people would be surprised to know that on a good day, they can make up to 55 THOUSAND chocolate bars at the Seattle factory!

Theo Chocolate has lots of exciting things brewing for the future, including exclusive tasting events, chocolate making classes, and special tours. Folks who are interested in keeping up with all of the latest happenings can follow @theochocolate on social media and check out the Events Page.

About Firstlight Photography
Firstlight Photography is a husband and wife team.  Kier and Mitzi spend their time doing work they both love.  Services provided include wedding photographyboudoir and pin up photography and corporate events.  The studio is located between Seattle and Tacoma with frequent travel throughout Washington, Oregon and California.  Call Firstlight Photography for a phone consultation or meet over coffee to talk about your photography needs.  Firstlight Photography works with each client to devise custom fit packages.  A 15% military discount is offered on all services.

SEATTLE ROCK ‘N ROLL WEDDING |FIRSTLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

This past year has been a whirlwind for us and we have not posted a few of our absolute FAVORITE weddings on our blog.  We cherish this wedding like the true gem that it is, but we are so excited to share with you since it does offer quite a satisfying dose of wedding porn.  Rock n Roll Wedding?  Uhm, yes please.

We know you will enjoy Alyson and Andy’s Rock n Roll Wedding.

Do You Come Here Often?
Like the perfect Seattle pairing, these two met at a café – Cafe Casbah to be exact.  The had been  traveling in the same circles for years but until that fateful day at the Casbah they just kept missing one another.

The Officiant
Who better to serve as officiant that the woman who was instrumental in these two getting together?  Angela, the Casbah barista that talked these two up to each other, performed the union.  Alyson recounts that during the early days, she provided just the perfect amount of meddling that made their intentions for each other clear without being awkward.

Wedding Inspiration
Let’s face it, every bride we’ve met is busy.  Alyson is no different.  She is a multi-tasker extraordinaire.  Without time or desire to sit around and read wedding magazines so she read the Offbeat Bride blog features on a weekly basis.  She also relied on Indie Bride and  Rock n Roll Bride to help build up confidence and to find inspiration.

The Wedding Theme – The Overall Vibe
Alyson and Andy wanted the whole day to be a really super awesome day in their lives.  The goal was to let their out of town guests, including the bride’s East Coast family, get a bird’s eye view and flavor of what this couple’s “Seattle thing” is all about.

It is Your Day – The Bonus Hour
After the getting ready and couple shots were done, Alyson and Andy were on the move to their venue.   We took off early to navigate through the Seattle Gay Pride Parade but thanks to a speedy driver, we busted through the city like it was nothing.  Like a good photographer Kier advised them to think about how long it was before their next meal.  Andy and Alyson asked to reroute to the Twilight Exit for a Manhattan and nachos.  They turned their phones off, shared a few laughs and even had time to play an old 80s table top video game.

Picking a Seattle Wedding Venue or Two
For the wedding, the couple wanted to select places from their Seattle community.  The wedding was held at Central Cinema where Alyson worked for nearly three years.

And, where do you go when you want your friends’ bands to be able to play three separate sets?  The Georgetown Ballroom offered a great mix of indoor/outdoor space and allowed for a structure to the party portion of the wedding.

Here Comes The Bride
Getting married at Central Cinema the couple thought they should have a slide show to take advantage of the theater venue.  So when Alyson told her friend, who just happened to be Clinton McClung, one of the program managers for the Seattle International Film Festival and former Central Cinema programmer, he said he could help.

Clinton brought her slide show concept to a whole new level.  He suggested he make a movie so they put down ideas like the gay marriage scene from Wet Hot American SummerBeetlejuicePrincess Bride and more.  They weren’t trying to be too in your face about their stance on marriage equality but thought it was a sly way to recognize it  – especially since they were married in the middle of Gay Pride Day.  The movie also featured Wayne’s World, and Billy Idol’s White Wedding video clips.

And How About that Wedding March Song
Making a grand entrance was accompanied by friends of the couple performing the song “Happiness”by Kasabian – a British band the couple had seen earlier in the year.  It is their only love song and it was perfect for this event.

Jessica Abbott accompanied by her boyfriend Trevor O’Dell on the cinema’s piano, during the processional. They are an established act that Andy and Alyson help manage bookings for now!

Alyson admitted there were a few times that she would put the song on and rehearse – after work.

Andy and Alyson met halfway down the aisle to the sultry “Boom Boom Boom” by former Seattle band Post Stardom Depression – one of the brides fave bands for many years. 


The Wedding Dress & that Amazeballs Reception Dress
To find the perfect dress Alyson started at a wedding shop but then went to Nordstrom’s  with her mom, her recently married friend and one of her “wingmen.”  The whole process took 3 hours.  They had one in her size and it was exactly what she wanted.

What a better way to top off her look but with some sparkle.  One of Alyson’s best girlfriends gifted her a fascinator from a Portland milliner friend.

To get the look perfected, Alyson’s wingman, Derik, styled her the day of the wedding (he is her stylist and colorist too).

After the wedding she changed into a  reception dress that was made by friend Pia Johns.  The dress was textural and full of movement and whimsy.  It looked great with her knee high Chuck Taylors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dapper Esquire Wingmen
Andy and the groomsmen looked dapper as all get out.  Most of this couple’s appointed wingmen had their own black suits.  Alyson asked her esquire wingmen to buy new shirts and ties and the ever important Converse Hightops.

Wedding Details Like No Other

The Wedding Logo
It all starts with your wedding logo (Alyson attributes the logo concept to Offbeat Bride).  The logo and ceremony invitation and program was designed by the bride’s aunt, Chris Winders. She lives on the East Coast, but is so talented she was able to nail the designs on the first try, exclusively communicating through phone calls and emails.

Once they had the logo they had a stamp made and put it all over their wedding items.  It is a great way to brand your wedding and gave the couple lots of ideas on how to use the logo.  They put it on matchbooks, invitation poster tubes and can use it for their thank you cards.  The logo was also featured on the paparazzi and security shirts made the couples had made for the wedding photographers (us!) and friends in charge of crowd control.

Rock ‘n Roll Poster Invites
Alyson and Andy got a real live rock star to do the poster invites for the party! Jefferson Angell (front man of Missionary Position, now touring arenas of the world fronting Walking Papers) makes excellent show posters, and nailed theirs.

Backstage Passes
What Rock n Roll wedding is complete without backstage passes.  The couple had laminated backstage passes on lanyards for the bride, groom, father of the bride, mother of the bride, wingmen, best man and the Reception Master of Ceremonies.   To continue with the rock and roll vibe, two of Alyson’s girlfriends were “doorguys” handing out flyers with musical guest information to incoming guests at the Georgetown Ballroom.

The Flowers
The flower inspiration came right off the blog pages of Offbeat Bride.  Alyson quipped she “didn’t know that duct tape had made such advances.”  There are many more colors than the utilitarian silver hue.  Now duct tape has an arsenal of colors and patterns.

The Favors
What do you get the guests of a rock n roll wedding?  The favors lined the tables in paper lunch sacks that were emblazoned with the couple’s wedding logo.  Inside guests found gourmet hard candy from the Stained Glass Candy Company.  The tasty treat looks like gemstones.  Every favor bag needs a beer coozie emblazoned with a wedding logo (Andy’s idea, since they were doing all canned beer, and, according to his wife, he is NEVER without a coozie!).  Also included were matchbooks with the couple’s logo and of course what every concert goer needs – earplugs.

And Now for Some More Music
Alyson and Andy have a lot of friends – and many of them are musicians.  Members of all 3 bands are some of their dearest friends and Alyson and Andy are very loyal fans.  They joked with the bands that they would be providing them with a captive audience.

The lineup:  MinirexBlue Star Creeper and The Missionary Position.

Their friends did not disappoint.  Hands down this was an amazing concert.

Pinball Wizard

Skill Shot, Seattle’s Pinball Zine, was a main feature of the reception. Since they were reporting on Andy and Alyson’s wedding the guys from Skill Shot donned backstage press passes.

The couple met the Skill Shot guys at Shorty’s, a local bar featuring a collection of sixteen pinball machines ranging from AC DC to the Wizard of Oz.   Skill Shots is the insider on the local pinball tournaments and they ran the tournament event at the wedding.  The pinball machine was a loaner from the friend’s private collection.

Making a Grand Entrance
One night when they were first dating the couple had plans to go to the 24 hour diner but were too lazy to get a cab.  Sacsha, owner of Greener Cab, was pedaling by and asked if they needed a ride.  He had his brother with him so they each got into pedi cabs going down 4th Ave at 1 in the morning.

Alyson had read the Offbeat Bride book and was really taken by the concept of having a walk or some private time where right after the wedding the couple walks alone.  She was trying to think of how to fit that into their ceremony.  And, lightbulb moment – they would pedi cab it to the 2nd location.

Sacsha took extra care to dress up the pedi cab and added a “just married” sign.  The entrance created a scene with people honking and cheering along their several mile ride.

They arrived into the courtyard of the Georgetown Ballroom where their adoring fans were cheering them on.  The pedi cab was left it in the courtyard and it was a great photo prop.

Fancy Date Night Pizza for Wedding Dinner & Strawberry Shortcake
For this couple they agreed that working in the food and beverage industry really paid off in spades when it came to planning and sourcing locations, supplies and catering for the big day.  They kept it local.

Alyson used to work at Zeek’s Pizza – and it is a common date night so selecting fancy date night fare for the wedding was a no brainer.  The couple sourced food from Cash & Carry for the salads.  And, Bitterroot,  a PNW BBQ restaurant in Ballard, did the strawberry shortcake.  Alyson worked there and came up with the idea since Andy doesn’t like cake but they both heart strawberry shortcake.

The couple picked The Upstairs, a local Belltown bar, where Andy used to bartend, to host their rehearsal dinner.

Hilliard’s Beer is a new brewery in Ballard they both love.  Both of the businesses Alyson and Andy used to work at serve their product.  To keep an eye on budget they mixed in this craft beer with a variety of other beers.

To make sure the night went off without a hitch they hired the Invisible Hostess to do all the catering, staffing and bartending.

 

The Wedding Reviews
What did the couple hear after the wedding?  For their friends in their social it was the best wedding ever – it had all the things they loved.  None of their families had ever been to anything so off the beaten path.  It was hard to explain their wedding concept in a cohesive way but now that they experienced it, family members felt like they knew Alyson and Andy a lot better and what their lives are like in Seattle.

Wedding Advice
Just let everything about your relationship and love shine through.  Know where to make compromises with your vision.  They had dreams of a photo booth, rock band competition, aerial artists and more but the couple wisely advises that you have got to be ok with saying goodbye to some of those grander visions if they don’t fit your budget or emotional capacity.  In other words, don’t bust your budget or your sanity.  Keep the big picture in mind.

The Show Must Go On…In Style
Alyson and Andy hired local comedian, burlesque host, and dear friend Vincent Drambuie as the evenings emcee. Not only did he introduce the entertainment, he ran around the venue like a madman, screaming announcements of upcoming reception events (gender neutral bouquet toss, cake cutting, toasts, departing shuttle buses) into an electric bullhorn.

Local boylesque performer, emcee, and singer EmperROAR Fabulous sang love classics between bands to keep the performance element going.

The Glue That Held it All Together
Megan Keller, of a Kurant Event, and her assistants absolutely smashed it, from setting up the cinema to breaking down the venue.  Alyson recounts that she barely saw her that day, but she sent her shots, kept the couple on track for the demands of family photos, had more pizza ordered when it ran out (The couple didn’t even know it happened until a month later!), and, in Alyson’s words, “just kicked ass all over the place.”  Megan was her rock via phone, email, and text the whole month of the event.

What to Do When Vendors are Friends and Refuse $
To show their gratitude for the talents’ time, travel, learning special songs (“Amzeah” from Minirex and Alyson learned a duet to “Oh!” by Sleater-Kinney, practiced in advance, and totally surprised Andy and everyone else!  Missionary Position learned “A Little Help from My Friends” in the style of Joe Cocker, and blew the roof off the house when they closed with it and everybody held hands and swayed).  The couple bought a $100 gift certificate to Guitar Center for each band.  They picked out a top-shelf turquoise eyeshadow for EmpeROAR and repurposed the venue’s “groom’s suite” as a green room for all the talent.

How Much Does an Epic 2 Venue, 3 Band Rock n Roll Wedding Cost These Days?
The couple tapped into local sourcing and rolled with their budget as the planning progressed.  This magazine worthy wedding came in at under $20,000.

The Honeymoon & Beyond
The couple decompressed in Portland for a few days after the wedding, but saved enough money, along with their wedding gifts to spend a month in New Zealand last spring as their big honeymoon. They skydived, rafted, sea kayaked, caved, hitchhiked, ate, and drank their way around a great country. The first of many journeys!

Alyson and Andy now operate a small home business called Hello Lucky.  Alyson practices waxing and skincare, and Andy crunches the numbers and writes her paychecks. An excellent partnership!

It took us a while to put this blog together.  It was such an epic day and the couple is just very special to us.  Many thanks to them for picking us – and for Alyson her time and talent making sure the blog details were just right.  She also gave us a great update.  Their friend Justin, who beat out his girlfriend Angela for the prize in the gender neutral bouquet toss, is going to be a dad!  The couple is happily engaged and expecting their first baby!

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY REGISTRY BY FIRSTLIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

Do you really need a butter dish?
When we first started our wedding photography business we got the idea to create a wedding photography registry.  Many of our couples already have two toasters and had shared their struggles with the whole wedding registry process.  Everyone felt awkward asking for money but they all liked the idea of getting help funding wedding elements.

We knew couples that registered for their honeymoon and it got us thinking about our own registry.  We asked a few couples if a wedding photography registry would be helpful.  Since the beginning of our business this has been one of our most popular features.

Why register for photography?
A wedding registry is an excellent way to get your wedding photography package paid for by your friends and family.  You can add the elements you want to your big day and you can add on upgrades like a boudoir shoot or an album with a metal cover and additional pages.  Simply put it offers more flexibility with your overall wedding budget.

And how exactly does it work? 
With your invites and when people ask where you are registered you can provide them our contact information.  Your guests can contact us and we will send them an invoice for their contribution towards your package.  If they wish to remain confidential until the wedding we won’t let you know who has contributed. As gifts are added to your registry we notify you of your shrinking photography package balance.

Our couples love the option of a wedding photography registry.

Rustic Outdoor Summer Barn Wedding | Firstlight Photography

As Seattle area wedding photographers we get to visit amazing wedding venues in Washington and beyond.  Wedding venues that offer a mix of outdoor and indoor spaces are the most flexible for couples – and they offer the most diverse backdrop for your wedding day photos.  Kalley and Eric were married at Green Gates at Flowing Lake in Snohomish, Washington.  

This venue has a fantastic open bluff that overlooks the Cascade Mountain Range and shoreline.  The reception was held in the open air covered barn structure that, once night falls, literally glows with rustic romantic twinkly lights.

At every turn the venue offers great photo opportunities.  The owners have put a lot of thought into making sure that there are many vantage points for wedding pictures.  We were even given help in hoisting Kalley’s dress up for just the perfect setting.

The event went off without a hitch.  We coordinated our photo schedule with the couple’s wedding planner Jennifer of Elements NW Events and Weddings so we were all on the same page for the days’ anticipated events.  The wedding details were rustic and romantic.  The tablescapes included dahlias and a mix of in season flowers set atop marvelously rustic tree platters.

Looking for a different twist on your wedding cake?  Kalley and Eric have a love of brownies so they opted for a tower of brownies with all the fixin’s on the side.  There was also a decadent candy buffet that the adults frequented more than the children.

Congratulations to Kalley and Eric!  We absolutely loved your wedding and are so glad we could be part of the day.

Wedding Vendors
Photography – Firstlight Photography
Planning & Coordination – Elements NW Events and Weddings Jennifer Vandeventer
Venue – Green Gates at Flowing Lake
Spirits – BevMo
Catering – Barry’s Catering
DJ – “Nick at Night” Nick MacDonald
Transportation – Rainier Limousine

Let it Burn

A while back the lovelies at Firstlight Photography posted a question on Facebook about whether or not there was anyone interested in doing a Trash the Dress session with them.  I, being the crazy person I am, jumped at the chance.  It was suggested that we do the shoot at Rein Fire Ranch in Ravensdale.  If you’re not familiar with the area you are sorely missing out.  Rein Fire Ranch is located in a beautiful area southeast of Seattle and is surrounded by the majestic Sugarloaf Mountain Forest.

I have to say, my breath was taken away when I first pulled up to the ranch.  First off, the place is HUGE.  Second, the view is, to be a bit cliche, breathtaking.  There’s sky and mountains and trees as far as the eye can see.  It’s an absolutely beautiful background.  And that’s not even the ranch itself.  Rein Fire Ranch has a bounty of awesome features.  From the lush green grounds to the rustic barn.  From the amazing garden complete with gazebo to the cabana.  But my favorite area was probably the pathway between the fenced in pastures, which if you are lucky, may contain a horse or two.

Before lighting up my dress we did some more traditional photos using the barn and grounds.  The place is absolutely perfect for wedding photos.  There are so many areas to take photos; you can go traditional and use the huge lawn and garden area, you can go rustic and use the barn and pasture areas, not to mention the bridal suit for getting ready.  The possibilities are kind of endless.  After our foray into traditional pictures it was time to get down to business.

Using one of the fenced in pasture areas we set up a fire pit and got to burning things.  First a cardboard cake, then my dress.  I can’t tell you how much fun it was.  There is something very freeing about ripping off your white dress and throwing it into a fire.  And before you ask, yes, I am still very happily married and about to have a baby.  I’m just no longer a blushing bride, more like a grown woman who happens to be married.  So I guess you could consider my Trash the Dress experience as a coming of age event.  With fire.

How to Find the Right Wedding Photographer | Guest Blog

Our friends at On the Go Bride are always putting out really informative content.  As wedding photographers and owners of Firstlight Photography we recognize we might be biased, but we thought their recent post about finding the right wedding photographer was brilliant.

Sadly, this story doesn’t have a happy ending but the message is clear.  You only have one shot at getting great wedding photos.  Do your homework and make it count.  Krisstin, owner of On the Go Bride (she is also an archaeologist which we find just way too cool), has laid out her dirty laundry in the form of some not so stellar photos of her wedding.

Blog Repost from On the Go Bride

This is an important topic not enough people touch upon. I’m sure you have heard stories. Do you have that one friend or relative who did not get the best service from their photographer? How about the person who spent a lot of money to end up with less than quality photos? Or worse, the friend that ended up with blurry photos or the photographer’s fingers showing in not one, but multiple photos. This happened to me. This happens to a lot of us. So how come more of us aren’t talking about it? Why aren’t we sharing our experiences to educate each other and help more couples on this topic? Well, that is exactly what I would like to do today. I want to share my experience and educate others on how to find a quality wedding photographer for their special day. Because when your day is over, the photos are what you will have left.

Let me start with my experience. Planning my wedding was my first introduction into the industry. I had no idea what to do or where to look. I was also an on-the-go bride who traveled a lot for work, so my “in town” time was limited. Logically my first stop was the wedding faire in town. Makes sense, right? One location, multiple vendors; I was sure to find everyone I was looking for or would ever need. Boy was I wrong. Here is a little secret I learned later. A lot of the great photographers don’t do wedding faires. Now that is not to say you can’t find amazing photographers at wedding faires. They are there. I’m just trying to encourage you to look outside the box as well. Don’t let the wedding faire become your be-all and end-all for local vendors.

I am not going to give the name of my photographer or all the details, just a few of the important ones. I did find my photographer at a wedding faire. The work displayed in their booth was gorgeous! I was drawn to the style. I liked the modern, fashion, magazine-ish flair. The style worked for me and my interest was piqued. I had heard all the warnings about having a family member take your wedding photos as well as going for the cheapest photographer. I had decided in the beginning I was willing to pay for quality. My wedding was in 2010 and I paid $3800 for a 6-hour package. By no means is that price at the highest end of the spectrum, but in my mind it was a fair amount to expect quality work. Without going into all the details of ignored emails, missed deadlines, and not producing everything that was paid for…I will just show you the end product. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So here is a great example of what I got. The photo on the top is from the professional photographer we paid for. The photo on the bottom is from my husband’s uncle who has a nice camera. Now I don’t have a photographer’s eye, but I can tell you which image I think is better of the two. I was pretty bummed when 95% of my “professionally edited” images seemed dull and missing all the color.

The photos I received looked nothing like the work I had seen. It looked nothing like what I thought I would be getting. I started to question if the work I had seen was really this photographer’s work? I also started to question what I had missed and where I went wrong? Through this experience and educating myself I discovered what I should have done and the questions I should have asked. That is what I want to share with all of you today. There are a couple important topics I would like to address and I am also including a wonderful questionnaire you can print out and take with you when you interview your potential photographer.

Your Photographer’s Work

There are a couple key issues that really go together. The first is verifying the work you are shown is actually that of the photographer. So how do you verify work? This one can be a bit tricky. There are a couple ways you can go about this. When looking at a photographer’s work, you want to pay attention to the style of all the photos. Do they all match? Do they all appear to be from the same person? One way to check is by asking to have the contact information for a few of the couples whose pictures you like. If it is the photographer’s real work then they should be able to give you contact information. This also doubles as great references. What better way to find out about your future photographer than to ask couples for their likes and dislikes of the service they received? Another way to verify the work is to ask your photographer to see the entire collection of photos from a specific wedding photo you like. If this is the photographer’s real work, then they should have all the images.

This also leads us into our second key issue. You want to make sure your photographer can produce quality photos in all different settings. Your wedding day usually spans many hours. When you look at albums or see photographer’s work at a wedding faire, you are usually seeing the single best image from multiple weddings. The truth is everyone gets lucky. Every once in a while everyone takes a good picture. By asking to view all the photos of a single wedding you are able to see the quality of photos that photographer can produce for an entire event. It will also show you if the photographer can shoot just as well outside as they can inside. If you have an outdoor ceremony and an indoor reception, these are important things to look at and good questions to ask.

Life Happens

There is no better way to say it…life happens. The important part is how your photographer handles the unexpected. What does your photographer do if a family member dies the day before your wedding? What if they go into labor or are in an accident? This is an important question to ask, and one that did not dawn on me until it had already happened. My photographer did not show up in their best form on my wedding day. The months preceding, they became almost non-existent. To this day (almost 2 years later) we still have not received everything we paid for and I doubt we will. I learned shortly after my wedding day that the photographer was in the process of getting a divorce. One that dealt with young children and I’m sure assets. I imagine that is not an easy thing to go through. Taking the chance that I don’t sound too selfish here… We never get our wedding day back. And that is how I honestly feel about the situation. We paid for a service we did not receive. I think on some level if the photographer knows they can’t be on their A-game the day of your wedding they should have a backup plan. Perhaps a few photographers they can contact to fill in for them?  

Trust Your Gut

The best thing you can do is trust your gut. I had a bad feeling about my photographer after the engagement session. (Side Note – this taught me the benefit of an engagement session is getting to know your photographer). When I voiced my concerns to my mother and suggested finding someone else, she talked me into staying with him. I can’t blame her; we had already put down a significant deposit. But sometimes moms do not know what is best. She wasn’t there for the engagement session and I was. I should have went with my gut feeling and I would have been much happier with the outcome. When you meet with your photographer, is it someone you can picture yourself hanging out with? Do they try to get to know you as a person or are they all about business? Do you feel confident that they will give you their best on their big day? I can’t stress this point enough…trust your gut.

Printable Photographer Questionnaire

This post includes some of the major lessons I learned about finding a wedding photographer during my wedding planning process. I wanted to share these with you and I hope they help others. I hope they help you to find your wedding photographer that you will be happy with, by making sure to ask the right questions. To go along with this post I want to provide a questionnaire I created to help you remember to ask some of these important questions. Just click on the pdf below, print it out, and take it with you to each photographer you interview. And remember…trust your gut!

NOTE:  Firstlight Photography also recommends that you make sure your photographer shoots all photos in RAW format.  This allows for the most flexibility during the editing process!

Be sure to visit On the Go Bride on Facebook.

Seattle Food Truck Weddings | Seattle Wedding Photographer {Firstlight Photography}

As a Seattle / Tacoma wedding photographer team we began seeing the wedding food truck trending in 2011 and it is growing in 2012 – and we are loving this!  For quite some time many local jurisdictions made it hard for the food truck operator.  In many places these types of mobile food mobiles were prohibited – or just allowed to sell hot dogs and light vending items.

Times are a changin’ and many cities are seeing these mobile restaurants as an asset and an economic development tool.  The stigma of the “roachcoach” is long gone.  Now food truck offerings range from comfort to  cuisine  items.  And let us not forget the spectacular desserts and ice cream options.  Lunch workers can stalk food or dessert trucks via Twitter and food truck vendors offer specials and updates to loyal followers.

Customers clamor for the latest food truck creations that they have heard about from friends, colleagues and their social media network.  Food trucks deliver delish food and a fun experience – they are serving up a food mob.  Finding your favorite food truck is exciting – and a challenge to be sure to time your arrival so you actually get to buy your nosh.  Hanging out with people that appreciate good grub and enjoy the thrill of the chase is also part of the charm.
So, with the “food”tainment value it makes perfect sense and adds that homegrown element to weddings.  Seeing a food or dessert truck roll up to a wedding is truly spectacular.  Last summer we were photographing a wedding on a private Camano Island beach.  When we saw the shiny silver Skillet airstream trailer pull up we squealed with glee!  Skillet can provide street food style (right out of the truck) or family style catering at weddings and events.  A combination of both services is a good option for larger weddings.  We were treated to the fanciest gourmet burger ever and we can’t forget the seafood taco sliders.  We were delighted to see their pink lemonade garnished with jalapenos – yes.  And it was quite delish and refreshing.

Some couples are also going the way of the dessert truck.  You can still have your cake and eat it too.  Most cupcakeries / bakeries have a variety of other treats on the menu and can provide the traditional cake top for brides and grooms (as photographers we love the cake cutting shots).  Having your cupcake truck roll into the wedding creates a great buzz.  People can mingle and self serve. It is a surprise treat that reminds many of their days chasing crazed ice cream truck drivers around the cul-de-sac!

The Piccadilly Bakery is the first Kitsap County mobile bakery / cupcakery truck. Calling it a truck is somewhat of a disservice for it is more like an art truck.  The owner is from the UK and her desserts show inspiration from across the pond as well as traditional US fare.  Her cooked frosting is, in one word, divine.  She has just the personality to delight wedding guests – and just wait until you hear that fab accent.

We are awaiting the day that Seattle based Bluebird Microcreamery shows up at a wedding we are shooting.  This isn’t just because they make Elysian Stout ice cream (they are neighbors with the very talented Elysian Brewing Company).  Their product is fabulous and it is served up from a retro ice cream truck – a perfect back drop for wedding candids.

Things to Keep In Mind When Hiring a Food Truck

If you are considering food trucks for your wedding you are after something different and perhaps a bit whimsical.  Keep this in mind when reviewing menus.  Food trucks aren’t a good match if you want traditional wedding fare.  If you want something different food truck fare by no means sacrifice taste – just the pomp and circumstance.

Most vendors are very savvy about permits and requirements needed to operate in a certain location (jurisdiction, private venue) but be sure to coordinate with your venue and the catering / food truck vendor to see if street permits (if parking on a public street) are in place.  Some private locations might also require permits depending on the jurisdiction.  Do you homework to avoid any red tape issues on the big day.

Work with your caterers to devise a menu that offers some variety but keep it simple.  If you are planning a wedding of 100 + you might want to consider an additional food truck or one with catering options to avoid long lines.

Consider a dessert buffet in combination with the dessert truck.  It makes sense for larger weddings; the table is ready to receive extra cupcakes and treats when it is time for the truck to leave.  Or, have a food cart greet guests as they exit.  They can easily be given treat favors – not only is this a green wedding practice, but who doesn’t like to leave with an additional treat?

Food trucks are like water coolers.  They provide a unique activity that gets guests mingling.

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Tacoma Boudoir & Pin Up Photography | {Firstlight Photography}

We have been doing our Little Black Book boudoir studio for less than a year but have built a great client base – mostly by word of mouth.  When the phone started ringing off the hook in December we were stumped but then a client told us  the Weekly Volcano’s Naughty and Nice Holiday Gift Guide featured us.  We hopped online, read the review and squealed with delight!

 

While many of our client’s were able to give the gift of boudoir for the winter holiday season, many are working on some pretty steamy Valentine’s Day gifts as well!  Do you still need a sexy gift for your special someone?  We have some open dates available but we have to do your shoot before February 2nd to ensure photos are ready!


In case you didn’t see the Volcano write up, here it is!  In our world, flattery will get you everywhere!  Thanks Volcano staff!

Way more flattering than your cell phone and a mirror 
Want to give the gift of self in a more permanent fashion? “Little Black Book” boudoir studio by Firstlight Photography can capture the hottest side of you.  The husband and wife photography team create lasting images of beauty and grace for all shapes and sizes.  Elegant lighting, flattering poses and excellent customer relations make the experience of having your naughty bits caught on celluloid an exhilarating experience. Only as much of you will be revealed as you desire. Be it tasteful and subtle, or full-blown sexy and provocative, the results will be worthy of any bombshell or movie star. –  Ginger Knoxx

Do You Have a Wedding Timeline? | A Must Have! {Firstlight Photography}

If there is one thing we are going to tell you to do for your wedding it is to make a schedule!  As wedding photographers at Firstlight Photography we know that, without a plan, bedlam will likely ensue.

We didn’t put together a detailed day of wedding schedule for the couple when we first started, but now it is just part of our wedding packages.  Some couples hire a wedding planner and that make our work easy.  We still communicate with the planner regarding our photography schedule.

If couples don’t go the way of a planner, we begin crafting a schedule early in the process.  Our couples have told us that it is a great exercise – one that makes them get their ducks in a row.  And for us, we have a schedule that we can use as our road map for the day.

Wedding Timeline Tips

1.  Be realistic about your wedding schedule.  Make sure you leave enough time for each segment.  If you have too much on your list, you may need to pare it down.

2.  Share your schedule with family and attendants at least a week before your wedding day.  Seeing things in black and white might help those slow pokes – you know, the friends that are always 15 + minutes late.  It is a great tool to make everyone accountable.  Don’t forget to share with other wedding vendors.  Having everyone on the same page is your secret weapon.

2.5  Make a a fun graphic wedding timeline to help keep guests in the loop as well.  We especially love the inspired Wedding Timeline Card by Pixels to Paper as seen above.

3.  Appoint a wedding time keeper.  This important job shouldn’t go to a close family member or any attendants as they have enough on their to do list.  Ask someone that knows both families to lend a hand.  A schedule is only good if someone is actually keeping track of time.

4.  Give your wedding photographer permission to steer the off course ship.  Did you know that your photographer is your right hand man/woman the day of?  We are your shadow and, therefore, are usually the first to recognize a time slip.  Have a discussion before the big day and let your photographer know it is A-OK to let you know when you have fallen behind.  The last thing we want to do is to stress you.  These agreements can really make your day go smoothly and will keep your vendor from feeling like a nag.

5.  Realize you can’t plan or prepare for everything.  You can surround yourself with loved ones and vendors that are in place to keep you calm and to act like McGyver when things might begin to go wonky.  Honestly, some of these things make for the best stories.

Most important – don’t forget why you are doing this in the first place!

Puyallup Wedding Photographer | Fort Worden Park Military Wedding {Firstlight Photography}

If this Firstlight Photography wedding picture leaves you wanting more, click on it to see a video of this couple’s wedding day!  The venue was Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend nd it was quite impressive.