A Great Gatsby Affair to Remember + 10 Wedding Planning Must-Dos

Great Gatsby Wedding plus 10 wedding planning must dos

Mike and I have been married 10 months now!!! Where has the time gone? It seriously was THE BEST DAY EVER!  Today I’m sharing our Great Gatsby wedding plus 10 wedding planning must dos so that you too can have the best day ever.

I want to share our gorgeous wedding photos with you but I also want to talk about what made it so absolutely perfect. Recently our wedding was published on Richmond Weddings Blog and one of the questions they asked was “what we loved most about our wedding” but also “what advice do you have for other brides planning their wedding”. So I’ve come up with my 10 Wedding Planning Must-Dos in order to have THE BEST DAY EVER!

To start here they are and I’m gonna break them down as I talk about our day.

  1. Make it YOUR wedding. Not your mom’s, dad’s, sister’s, best friend’s, or the lady’s on Pinterest.
  2. Stop worrying so much about what anyone else will think about your decisions. This again goes with #1 but also don’t worry about what your guests will think about your decisions. It’s YOUR wedding. You’re inviting people to celebrate with you at YOUR wedding.
  3. Pick your vendors very, very carefully and thoughtfully. Your wedding vendors can really make or break your wedding day.
  4. Don’t let your vendors steamroll you with the way weddings are normally done. Yes listen to them and their advice. After all they’re professionals and do this all the time but…keep in mind that this is YOUR wedding & you’re paying them so you can get what you want.
  5. Ignore all the wedding traditions that you don’t want to participate in. Add new ones that you love.
  6. Have a First Look with your photographer and get all those photos out of the way before the ceremony.
  7. Decide what you will splurge on and where you want the money to go ahead of time.
  8. Brides!!!! Hire a professional hair and makeup artist for you and your wedding party.
  9. Pick a theme & style of wedding day you want. This makes it so much easier when planning out the whole day.
  10. Hire a wedding planner/coordinator!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe it’s because this was our second go around with the whole wedding/ being married process? Maybe it’s because we’re older and wiser? Maybe it’s because we know ourselves better at this stage in our lives? Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the wedding industry for so many years? I mean how did we end up planning and executing our perfect wedding day? First it’s those 10 Wedding Planning Must-Dos in order to have THE BEST DAY EVER above. Let’s also add in the fact that I don’t give a fuck what other people think of my choices. Ok now that’s a bit harsh sounding and my sweet husband wouldn’t put it quite that way but I’m keeping it real here and that’s my truth.

Honestly when Mike proposed I thought that we would probably elope. I wasn’t thinking the full wedding kit and kaboodle. The last 12 years I was primarily a wedding photographer and although I had daydreamed of getting married again I wasn’t really thinking about a full out wedding. Having a wedding day with friends and family present was very important to Mike though! And I do LOVE a good party! And I wanted Mike to get the wedding of his dreams too! So I went into full force wedding planning like a boss.

Since I have been to so many wedding venues it was easy to narrow down what we didn’t want. I took Mike to three venues and told him to choose. Luckily we both had the same #1 choice which was The Mill at Fine Creek. We both wanted a wedding venue where we could do everything in one place – get ready, ceremony, party. Bonus was that we and many friends could also stay right onsite by renting their really cute glammed up cabins.

Here’s a little bonus tip for cutting down your venue cost – have a non -Saturday wedding! I knew we didn’t want a Sunday wedding (they suck because all your guests leave early because they have to work Monday) …so we went with a Friday wedding! It cut our costs drastically. Second cost savings tip – choose a non-high season wedding date. Again easy for us because I knew I wanted more of a winter”esque” wedding. We for sure didn’t want to sweat to near death in late spring, summer, or fall. (I have photographed so many weddings where the bride, groom, and guests were absolutely miserable. And the vendors too!!) So we set a March date. Choosing an off season wedding date and non-traditional day of the week for our wedding really helped to bring down the venue price and it was our wedding so we got to choose the date! Check number 1 & 2 above!

Straight away it was an easy choice for a theme/feeling for our day. I wanted more of a glam cocktail party/gala feeling and less of a wedding feeling. Great Gatsby”esque” it was!!! Black and gold and glam all the way baby! I wanted Mike and I to walk into the reception and be “WOW this is a gorgeous party!!” and less “wow this is a gorgeous wedding”. We carried the theme from our wedding stationary, to my dresses & accessories, through to the reception. It was kind of just sprinkled throughout the day and not too overboard! Tips #9 & #2

Early on we knew that we would do things a bit non-traditionally. I honestly wasn’t the least bit worried about traditional the only thing I was thinking about was what would make Mike and I happy on our day. Here are a few non-traditional things we did. Tips #1 #2 #5

  • We walked ourselves down the aisle with our French bulldog Francois
  • We wrote our own vows
  • We had a very non-traditional reading during the ceremony. (No bible verses here)
  • My wedding party didn’t carry bouquets – instead they carried lanterns & no bouts for the guys
  • No wedding favors
  • We opted for Gumbo to be served as the first course instead of a salad that nobody tends to eat. It was amazing!!!
  • We had croquembouches in lieu of a wedding cake for dessert. We also had mini tarts & chocolate covered strawberries. So no cake cutting.
  • No bouquet toss, no parent dances, no giving away of anybody, no awkward wedding reception games, no till death do you parts
  • We also wrote our whole ceremony & had one of our very good friends marry us!
  • I had TWO different dresses both of which were evening gowns not wedding dresses
  • We gave a welcome speech together at our reception
  • We had all 5 of our kids + our best friends + our dog in our wedding party

Being in the wedding industry did help when picking out our vendors. I knew a lot of them already so I also knew their work ahead of time. I cannot stress enough how important it is to hire people that you like, are easy to work with, listen to you, know what they’re doing, and add joy to your day. The wrong vendors can really take your day from a 10 to a 5. I’d say the top vendors to make sure you’re in love with (in no order) – photographer, hair & makeup artist, wedding planner/coordinator, dj/band.

Friends you’re with both your wedding planner/coordinator & photographer all damn day!! You need to love them and trust them. You want to look Ahhhh-mazing on your wedding day so you’d better hire someone you love and trust to put on your face and do that hair. And seriously your dj/band runs the whole reception and keeps the good vibes flowing for the whole evening. A bad dj can ruin a wedding reception. Tips #3 #4 #8 #10

As a bride, photographer, and wedding guest I say that a First Look is a must. Hands down. No doubts. Get all those photos out of the way so that you can actually enjoy and be a part of your wedding day. Having a first look insures that you get the photos you want without being interrupted by all the guests you want to talk to or all the wedding things that are happening on a timeline. It also insures that you can get some good lighting for those images and that you have time to enjoy the process. On top of all that do you really think it’s fair to keep your guests waiting for 2 hours to start a reception while you’re out taking photos? Nope. The biggest part though is that you get quiet time with you and your beloved before the whole wedding craziness kicks into full gear. You get to talk to each other, hug, kiss, laugh, cry, really look at each other. It helps to calm all those wedding jitters when you have your person there by your side and you’re chatting about what you’ve been doing all morning and how excited you are to marry them! Tip #6

NO matter how Type A you are and how much planning you’ve done you really need a wedding planner/coordinator. You can opt for many different types but I went with a Day of Coordinator. Which really is more a month of Coordinator if I’m being honest. Also don’t fully believe what your wedding venue tells you. They often claim that you get a day of coordinator with the venue. Yes they have a day of coordinator on site but he/she is there for the venue not for your every want/need/wish/desire and they’re not going to deal with all the possible problems of the day and make sure that you get your dream wedding. So hire a planner!!!!! For instance our wedding planner Chelsea of Illumination Event Studio (who is the most awesome ever) dealt with so many coordination things before the wedding in reaching out to all our vendors and on the day in making sure they were all there and doing their jobs on time. She did most of this without ever even having to come to me to discuss. This is because we had talked in length before the wedding and she knew what I wanted and how I wanted it all to go. Chelsea was a life saver and one of the main reasons our wedding day was empty of any disasters. She calmly told me about the weather forecast of rain and more rain and then continued rain for the day. She calmly told me that I had to make a rain call for the ceremony (it was supposed to be outside) and then she handled all the coordination for moving it inside. She asked me about the inside layout and then dealt with “flipping of the room”. I didn’t have to do anything because I knew she was handling it and I knew she would make sure it was beautiful. Tip #10

I had a very specific vision for our wedding day and for our reception. I wanted things done a certain way and those were very important to me. I stuck to my guns and my vendors made it all come together. This is where the This is YOUR wedding part also comes in. You know what you want so make sure you get it (if it’s possible). My florist and wedding decorator Casey of Cultivate Events Co. was awesome!!! She listened to my vision and suggested all sorts of great ideas to make it happen & she did an amazing job. From my non-traditional bouquet to our sweetheart table alcove. She made my wedding vision come together.

I had four things about the venue that I decided to do differently than they usually do. Some they were happier about than others but they did help to make them happen for me. This is why knowing your vision and sticking to your guns is soooooo important. Tip #4

  • I didn’t use the bridal suite at all and opted for getting ready in the area that’s usually used for the guys. Honestly I hated the venue’s bridal suite. I think it’s too small and I also didn’t like the way it photographs. That’s the photographer in me for sure! Mike and the guys rented one of the cabins on site for them to get ready in while I took over The Miller’s Cottage with my girls.
  • I wanted the reception room flipped. The area in the reception space that is usually used for the cake I instead wanted used for our sweetheart table and then the desserts went where the sweetheart table usually is. I wanted this for several reasons. From a photography stand point I didn’t want a wall of glass behind our sweetheart table and I really wanted the intimacy of a little alcove for our table. Our florist hooked us up and hung little twinkly lights and vines from the landing above and it was gorgeous.
  • The reception area consists of two rooms at the venue. The main part has a really high ceiling (two stories) and the second room has a rather low ceiling. The second room is where the dance floor is and the two rooms are located right next to each other. The first dance always happens in the 2nd room because that’s where the dance floor is. I said NOPE, I’m having our first dance in the main room! So our floor plan for the room had the tables moved out a bit to create a little dance floor right in front of our sweetheart table for us. I wanted it in the main room mostly for photography purposes and because the majority of the guests were seated in this room. It was gorgeous and photographed so much better!!
  • Lastly because of the height differences between the rooms I wanted to visually bring down the height of the main room and have it be eye catching. In comes my lighting guys Leap AV who said they could string bistro lights across the ceiling of the main room without doing any harm to any part of the building. What???? They were hired!!! They also put in all kinds of uplighting around both rooms to help them to flow together and bring in that glam feeling.

We definitely had a few splurges for the wedding! These were the parts that were so important to us that it made sense to splurge. As far as splurges go – that lighting was a splurge & 100% worth it!!!! Those croquembouche and desserts were a little extra but so worth it! I also opted last minute for a paper flower wall by Sweet Pear Paper and that I must say was one of the best decisions I made for the day! I opted for letterpress wedding stationary – splurge! And I opted to have the envelopes hand lettered and our seating chart was hand-lettered as well. More splurges but soooo pretty.

I’m also am a bit of a thrifty girl when I need to be so I did my part in keeping the budget down as much as possible. For instance I knew I wanted two wedding dresses! I also didn’t want to spend $20k. It helped that I wanted non-traditional and more evening gown”ish” dresses. I searched and found the perfect store where I fell in love with both dresses and spent less money on 2 than most brides spend on 1. To keep the budget down and have my splurges I also DIY’d a bunch of the wedding decor. I made the signs, provided the lanterns and candles and gold chargers. I bought the sequin runners and had some donated from a friend. I put together the lanterns the girls walked with, including spray painting them, and painted the mirror for the seating chart. It was a balance of splurge and DIY/budget for sure. Tip #7

I cannot stress enough how having YOUR wedding day is the most important part of making sure you have THE BEST DAY EVER! Be true to you and your partner and it will surely be a dream. A funny little side note. When writing my vows I included an f-bomb. That’s right I wrote into my vows the word fuck. Anyone who knows me knows that that’s a very Amber thing so it seemed natural to me. Well it was funny when during my vows I dropped this well placed “fuck” and I could hear all the laughs, some inhales of disbelief, and Mike was laughing. I didn’t care what anyone else would think. These were my vows to my husband what did it matter what people thought of them? Now I’m not saying that you should say fuck in your wedding vows but I am here to tell you that you need to be true to yourself and not care what anyone thinks about your choices for your wedding day!!! And that my friends is how you have the BEST DAY EVER!

Wedding Photography: Rebecca Keeling Studio | Rehearsal Dinner + Catering: The Mill at Fine Creek – Miller’s Cottage | Wedding Videography: Double Take | Wedding Day-of-Coordinator: Chelsea with Illumination Events Studio | Ceremony + Reception Site: The Mill at Fine Creek (moved inside due to rain) | Officiant: Family Friend | Gown: Glitter and Lace Formals | Shoes: Kate Spade + Gianni Bini | Hair: Lara with LGB Hair Designs | Makeup: Kara with Kara Waggoner Beauty | Groom’s Bands: Manly Bands | Formalwear: Men’s Wearhouse | Bride’s Accessories: Stella and Dot + Kendra Scott | Invitations + Stationery: Monday Morning Press | Flowers: Cultivate Event Co. (Formerly known as Stems and Sweets) | Flower Wall: Sweet Pear Paper | Calligraphy: The Lettering Lady | Lighting: Leap AV | Cake/Sweets: Liberty BakingEdible Arrangements, + Family Friend

A Great Gatsby Affair to Remember plus 10 Wedding Planning Must Dos




5 Essential Tips for Planning Your Next Vacation

5 essential tips for planning your next vacation anywhere

Travel is one of the great loves of my life! Before Mike and I got married we both agreed that travel would be an essential part of our lives as we both want to explore this gorgeous world we live in. I’ve always had the travel bug…even if I couldn’t go I dreamed about going and seeing and experiencing other places. I still do that!!! Mike and I have an ongoing bucket list that we add to and it’s so fun to dream. When Mike and I were discussing honeymoons it was an easy decision to choose France! We had 2 weeks (15 days) for travel and so many ideas on what we wanted to see and where we wanted to go. The what to do, where to go, what to eat,  what to see part of travel can be a bit overwhelming for sure. Through the process of planning our 15 day France adventure I came up with these 5 essential tips for planning your next vacation.

These tips have helped me plan several other trips and little get-aways and they’re the tips I’m using to plan our one year anniversary trip to Hawai’i next month!!! Friends I can get a little carried away and not get any work done when I’m planning a trip. Haha. I think 50% of the fun of travel is in planning and anticipation! I imagine myself in far away balconies, on beaches, strolling down a side street, gazing at gorgeous art, drinking a glass of wine, all the fun stuff!!

Ok let’s get started with the 5 essential tips for planning your next vacation!!! These are so fun & helpful.

#1 Sit down and talk about your must-sees, wants, & ideas with your travel partner

This is the first big step friends!!! If you’re traveling with another person then considering their wants and needs is critical to making sure that your trip together will be amazing for BOTH of you! This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s so easy when you starting planning and looking at what to do to just get wrapped up in the ideas of what you want and steam roll your travel partner. Travel, like a relationship, takes compromise!  This is especially important if you both like different things and have different visions for your trip. Sit. Talk. Drink wine. Laugh. Have fun going over all the things you both want to do on your trip.

I suggest making a list of things that you think want to do. Have your partner make a list of what he/she wants to do. Then sit down to talk and compare! Sometimes things will overlap and sometimes they won’t…that’s where the compromise comes in.

My husband and I like some very different things. I could spend weeks in museums and art galleries. He could watch every soccer game known to man. I could eat all the fancy foods from every 5 star Michelin rated restaurant. He could live on bread, steak, and wine. I could spend every day roaming a different cathedral or chateau. He could visit every winery in a 50 mile radius. So we compromise!

In discussing France we both had our lists. The top of mine- explore Paris. The top of Mike’s- drink wine in Burgundy. So we decided to split our 2 weeks in France evenly between the two places. Compromise! When planning our days in Paris I knew that too many museums / art galleries would bore him so I chose my must-sees carefully, fully keeping him in mind and what he might like to see too. Mike really wanted to see the French National Team play a game in Stade de France so we made that happen and I added two museums to balance. (hahahah) When planning Burgundy we scheduled lots of wine and vineyards and sprinkled in many little medieval villages and chateaus. Our trip was the best of all that we both love!

Talk. Talk. And more talk with your travel partner. Run by new ideas, things you’ve learned. Show pictures you’ve found, share reviews of places and menus. Give options. It will all be so worth it when you look at each other after your trip and know you had the best trip ever.


#2 Research. Research. Research. Before.

Omg it’s soooooo easy to research any destination these days!!!! I’m not sure what people did before the internet. I know, I know…guide books…but they only get you so far and often they’re not very up to date. Some of the very, very best things we did in France were from all my research before our trip. I won’t lie friends I spent months planning! To me all the research was fun and as I found new places to visit, new things to see, places to eat, specific things I wanted to eat, specific spots I wanted to take photos, my heart would race and I’d get even more excited about the trip.

Here are a few of my very favorite ways to research a vacation destination-

  • Online travel blogs – I love travel blogs…may be why I’m half transforming this photo blog into a travel blog!!! It’s so awesome reading other people’s travel experiences and getting their personal recommendations. It’s often the best way to find little hidden gems and some great tips on traveling to your specific destination. A simple google search of “(your destination) travel blogs” brings up so many options to read through. You’ll quickly discover the blogs that speak to your heart and your style of travel. Beware they will lead you down the slippery slope of web surfing for hours.
  • Instagram- It’s no secret that I’m slightly addicted to Instagram in general but it’s also an amazing tool for finding awesome places you need to see and places to eat at. Also if you’re anything like me it’s great for finding iconic picture spots!! Here’s where geo-tagging and hashtag searching comes in handy. I like to search for hashtags first and then see where that takes me. So for instance before France I searched #parislove #parisfood #parisphotographer #visitparis and a lot more! But those got me started and did me right. I fact I found the photographer we hired via Instagram, many of our pictures spots, and a few stores to visit.
  •  Google – Yes I mentioned online travel blogs already but a few simple google searches will also bring up plenty of travel ideas outside of travel blogs. I like to search things like “10 best places to eat in Paris” “must see places in paris” “where to eat in beaune france”. This also will send you down the rabbit hole of internet land but I found so many of the places we ate at in France doing this.
  • Podcasts / FB Groups – I listen to podcasts all the time so I figured it was worth the search to see if there were any France travel related ones. I hit the jackpot last summer by finding the podcast  “Join Us In France”. This lead to their Facebook Group which lead to their private FB Group. All of which were absolutely wonderful and so helpful with planning our trip! Take the time to see if you can find any podcasts or Facebook Groups associated with your destination.

#3 Budget & Plan Where to Splurge.

Travel can be super expensive. Money, or lack thereof, is the reason most people cite for not traveling. I’m not here to give you any cheap travel tips but what I do believe is that if you choose carefully ahead of time what you want to splurge on then it’s much easier to budget the rest of your trip. Mike and I talked extensively about some of our bucket list items before France…the things we just knew we had to do while we were in France. We each had a list of a few that were on the more pricey side and then whittled that list down to be manageable on the budget. We then paired these splurges with less expensive activities and meals.

For instance – I knew we HAD to have a Paris photoshoot with a Paris based professional photographer! Mike knew we HAD to take a hot air balloon ride over Burgundy. Check and check. Mike HAD to attend a soccer game in Paris and I HAD to eat at least one fancy meal at a to-die-for restaurant. Again check and check. We researched and planned these things first! We budgeted for them first as well and then we planned the rest of the trip around them. This meant that there were quite a few things that we didn’t do. Nope I didn’t get to take the cooking class I wanted to in Beaune and we didn’t eat dinner at a few other restaurants that I had starred and underlined. But choosing and planning ahead of time on where and what to spend the majority of our money made us very happy with our decisions and we never felt like we missed out on anything.

#4 Google Maps Are Your Best Friend

I became best friends with google maps before our trip. In fact I made several custom maps! Google maps are great so that you can see how far apart the places are that you want to walk or drive to. This is so helpful in planning a days itinerary. I started by making a Paris map and pinned our hotels to it. Next I pinned the places I knew we were going to go at some point. For instance – the Louvre, Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame, + many more. Then I began breaking down the days we would be there and what we wanted to see each day and what made sense according to their location. When choosing restaurants I used this location criteria for each day and each meal. It worked like a charm!!!

Bonus is that you can make as many custom maps as you like and you can include walking/ driving directions as well. Next step is to download them for offline usage. This is especially helpful if you’re without cell phone coverage or wifi. I made separate walking maps for each day we were in Paris and pinned all of our stopping points and points of interest. I also included extra stops in case we had time or just felt like veering off course.

#5 Plan BUT Make a Flexible Itinerary

Now that I just told you to Google map your whole trip I’m going to say….but make it flexible. Hahahahaha. The truth is you can plan until you’re blue in the face but #1 things will not always go as planned and #2 when you over plan then you leave no room for some beautiful serendipity. Planes are late, you can’t figure out the subway tickets, dinner runs over, you’re tired and your feet hurt. Life happens even on vacation so leave some room in your trip plans for down moments or for alternative plans. Leave some extra time to peruse all the titles in the book store, to chat longer over that cup of cafe creme, to stand and stare in awe in the museum, to wander side streets and look at gorgeous front doors, to drive through villages and look for houses for sale, to sip an extra glass of wine.

I must say that I’m pretty proud of myself for padding our days with extra time to just BE in France and soak it all up with each other. For instance if my google map estimated it would take 2 hours to walk to all the places I had pinned then I gave us 4-5 hours to do it! That gave us time to walk slow, read, stop and eat a croissant, take more pictures for Instagram, or sit on a park bench. In Burgundy when my map estimated a 30 minute drive I figured in 90 minutes. That way we could drive the slow winding road through the vineyards and jump out whenever we wanted to enjoy the view and the moments.

One of our most serendipitous moments was a morning we were  driving to a winery about 40 minutes away from our Airbnb. I turned off the car gps and used my phone map to guide us down the little roads that wound through the vineyards and gorgeous medieval villages. Some spots of the roads were only one car width wide….we could have touched the walls of the houses if we had just stuck our arms out the side windows of the car. Every turn was more beautiful than the next. Plump pinot noir grapes, dark as night, were in bunches on the vines, chickens strutted about their morning in the street, gorgeous flower boxes full of geraniums were everywhere. We came around a big blind curve in the road and there I saw a sign that read “Pelletier et Fils” next to a vineyard . Mike saw it after me and quickly hit the brakes. If you didn’t know his last name is Pelletier (I haven’t changed mine yet) and that vineyard was Pelletier and Sons. Michael Pelletier and Sons to be exact. Well Mike had to stop. He knocked on the door to the house and through hand gestures and broken English to French and showing the gentleman his driver’s license he communicated that he too was Michael Pelletier. Same name. The man smiled and laughed and said yes he was Michael Pelletier and he was the winemaker. That’s pretty much all the English he spoke so he got his wife to come down and she sold us Pelletier et Fils wine. We drove off with our special wine, smiles on our faces, and a beautiful adventure to always remember.

I hope these 5 essential tips for planning your next vacation are helpful in your vacation planning. The same tips can be used for anywhere you travel. I’ve used them for The Bahamas, France, Nashville, and Hawai’i as I’ve streamlined my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you!!!

To read about more of our travels click HERE to see our Tradewinds catamaran trip to the Bahamas!

Honeymooning in The Bahamas

tradewinds catamaran vacation abacos bahamas scotland cay

Yay!! We got married 3/8!!! And then we had a Bahamas honeymoon!!! The Abacos, Bahamas to be precise.

Travel is definitely one of the loves of my life and traveling with the love of my life makes it even better. When Mike and I were exploring honeymoon destinations we knew we wanted to go somewhere warm. (Honestly we wanted to go to France but we decided to put that off until fall. Because March in France isn’t too warm. But I digress.) We explored so many options and ultimately we decided on exploring the Bahamas on a catamaran!!

We had no idea what we were getting into but once we discovered Tradewinds and watched their videos we were sold on the idea!!!!! We started out spending three days being beach bums in Treasure Cay. We stayed at Treasure Cay Beach Marina and Golf Resort , went to the beach, explored the area a little, drank rum filled fruity drinks, and ate over priced food.

The beach and the water were absolutely stunning. We practically had the place to ourselves and had our choice of beach lounge chairs and tiki huts for a little shade. One morning we walked the beach to find an amazing sand bar that just popped up at low tide! Another morning we rented scooters to explore a bit and found an amazing local bakery where we promptly ordered meat pies & coconut pastries and declared it the best food we had in days.

One last morning on the beach and we boarded our catamaran- The TLSea!!! It was docked in the harbor right outside our room and we had been walking past it for a few days. We were so excited to get on board!

Day 1 I was able to cross off my bucket list – Island of Pigs!! They didn’t much appreciate our carrots and much preferred the bread other boats brought to them. Also don’t let that big pink one fool you – she was a bit feisty and didn’t really appreciate the piggy petting.

Life on the boat was very relaxing!!! We shared it with 3 other couples and our Captain & First Mate. We loved everyone especially our Captain & First Mate (Michael & Marica)! Everyone had their own cabin and bathroom, small but all we needed.  It was an all inclusive trip so we got 3 meals a day cooked for us and all we could drink.

We had lots of little excursions off the catamaran to explore different cays. The captain would dingy us ashore! Here we were heading to Great Guana Cay. There were several lively bars including Nipper’s which seemed to be like Spring Break 24/7.

We went snorkeling at Mermaid Reef and saw so many fish!! One little sucker even bit my finger!!! When we got back on board I tried to figure out what kinds of fish we saw. We did see quite a few sting rays and some turtles.

Another day and another excursion! This time into Hopetown. Loved the lighthouse – such amazing views from up top.

We sailed over to Tahiti Beach which was a super cool sand bar. I find this cute little box fish and spent about 20 minutes chasing him down in about a foot of water trying to get a good picture of him. While we were exploring a storm was busy rolling in. Crazy how one half of the sky was a dark storm and the other was a perfectly blue sky.

For sure one of our favorite spots was Scotland Cay!!! We kayaked from the catamaran in and around, pulled on shore the sandbar, and did a little snorkeling. Mike found a little stingray and chased him around for a bit. We found starfish, sand dollars too. The water was delicious. Pretty sure the vacation life is for us!

Dolphins, Man-O-War Cay, and a sunrise with a full moon!

Loved the sails up!!! I’m not sure the name of this cay but we anchored and I snorkeled over to the little island. Complete perfection.

Heading back to Treasure Cay with my feet on the sugar scoop and miles of blue ocean to see! The last morning of our trip we spent back on the beach with the sand between our toes soaking up the whole experience. Then it was off to the smallest airport ever with meat pies in hand from the bakery. Yes we had our cab driver stop for us!!

We can’t say enough amazing things about Tradewinds!!! We are totally sold on this way of vacationing and are busy planning our next Tradewinds trip. If you have any questions about taking a catamaran vacation (Tradewinds has over 60 catamarans in the water all over the world) send me an email!! Or if you have any questions about a Bahamas honeymoon in The Abacos I can tell you all I know.

Why You Need a Pro Photographer for your Blog

richmond blogger photography

Richmond Blogger Photography

Who are your favorite bloggers & influencers? Besides their style what do you love about them? Their photos right?! Really that’s the first thing you notice (especially when finding them and following on Instagram…which happens the be THE PLATFORM)! These girls seem to have it all – style, content, an amazing esthetic, all the right images with just the right non-posed poses  (for the record many of those are posed shots of looking non-posed). You want to know them, hang out with them, wear what they’re wearing, have them on your girl squad!

The two things that make any blogger or influencer stand out are #1 their images & #2 their voice. Since photography is my game we will talk about the images here.

I’m an Instagram addict. I admit it! It is by far my favorite social media platform and it is what I use to see where I want to eat, what new stores I want to check out, get some fashion and makeup tips, etc. When I come across an account that has non-appealing imagery (under exposed, over exposed, out of focus, boring, etc) I’ll scroll on past. Let’s be frank…..you do not want your potential readers/customers to just scroll on past your images! You want to them be drawn in, get to know you, read what you have to say.

Instagram and blogging have turned quite competitive! For you and your brand to stand out you definitely need to make sure you’re posting imagery that stands out. Let’s face it you can take some really good pictures with your iPhone but…it’s not the same as hiring a pro photographer. Finding the right photographer for you is vitally important. That photographer-blogger-influencer relationship & chemistry is what will help your images stand out from the crowd. Building your relationship with your photographer will translate to your photographer intuitively knowing your brand, how you like to be photographed, your best angles, and what you ultimately want.

Here are a few of my favorite images from a recent shoot with Taylor Pitera of Tailor. She has a personal blog Tailored and also runs a successful e-commerce boutique Tailor. You can find her on Insta HERE & HERE. We spent about an hour strolling around parts of The Fan in Richmond getting these (& many more!) images. Four outfits – several locations & different looks!

If you’re a blogger/influencer I would like to chat photography with you. Drop an email to info@amberkayphoto.com and let’s set up a time to sit down and talk about you, your blog, your social media, your business goals, and how I can help with photography.

richmond blogger photography


Vintage Cabana Summer Birthday Party by the Pool

vintage cabana inspired birthday party pool richmond va

Vintage Cabana Inspired Birthday Party Summer Poolside

vintage cabana inspired birthday party pool richmond va

I cannot for the life of me believe that I haven’t shared this kick-ass shoot before on the blog. This is the magic that happens when you get a few genius boss ladies together!

Have you ever wanted to have the BEST birthday party ever with your girlfriends? Does a pool party sound fun? How about a vintage cabana inspired birthday party during the summer poolside? YES?! You could even turn these ideas into graduation party ideas or a house warming or bachelorette!! I mean seriously you can’t go wrong here. Your friends would never stop talking about it. I know I wouldn’t.

The mastermind behind this genius is Chelsea of Illumination Events Studio and she absolutely rocks! (I mean I even hired her as my day of wedding coordinator she’s so awesome!!) When Chelsea asked if I’d like to participate in a vintage cabana styled birthday party & she showed me her inspiration I jumped up and down with excitement. If you’re planning any type of event, party, or wedding and need some help with inspiration, planning, bringing the whole thing together then she’s your woman. So many other amazing vendors came together for this birthday party shoot as well!!

So let’s start off with the venue. A cool pool of course!! This happens to be at Bandit’s Ridge  in Louisa, VA. Not too far of a drive from Richmond, it’s set out in the country so you could definitely play your music as loud as you would like and laugh the day away.

vintage cabana inspired birthday party pool richmond vaHow would you like to get to the party? Why a vintage red vespa of course!!! Make sure you don’t forget your perfectly wrapped presents.

vintage cabana inspired birthday party red vespa with presents

vintage cabana inspired birthday party red vespa with presentsvintage cabana inspired birthday party presents

These lovely ladies were perfectly styled all day by Megan of Sweet Sauce. I’ve worked with her several times and she is just amazing and has the perfect eye for fashion and accessories. She’s perfect to work with to help you style your own closet, curate a new wardrobe, or of course to work with you on a specific project…like your senior pictures!! These beautiful women are wearing outfits from fab’rik of Carytown and they look smashing! Hair and makeup was perfectly done and attended to by Elle Style Studio.

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You can’t forget the invitations!!! How bright and cheerful are these? Riot + Revel did an amazing job designing the invitations and all the other signage and paper goods for the day.

vintage inspired birthday party invitationvintage inspired birthday party invitation

You can’t have a party without party hats. And what type of party hat goes best with a vintage inspired cabana party? Why fruit and flower hats and headbands of course!!

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A few of the party decorations and set up. It’s not a party without the perfect decor that sets the scene for your theme.

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What’s more perfect on a hot summer day than a fruit bar?

vintage inspired birthday tropical fruitbarvintage inspired birthday tropical fruitbar

Every girl loves a fruity drink to keep her cool. How pretty are these little watermelon drinks?

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Small party or big party the setup and flow is everything. This little tablescape is so cute and makes me want to have a party right now.

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Hello AH-mazing cake!! This geometic fruit cake manages to be tropical and retro and feel like summer!! Dessert First Custom Cakes rocked it.

vintage inspired birthday colorful fruit birthday cake

Quick outfit change into vintage inspired swim suits and cover-ups.

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A little pineapple pinata action. You’re never too old for candy!

vintage inspired birthday party pineapple pinataThe highlight of the party may be relaxing and splashing by the pool.

vintage cabana inspired birthday party pool richmond vavintage cabana inspired birthday party pool richmond vavintage cabana inspired birthday party pool richmond vaOr maybe it’s the dance party & bubble?

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SOOOO excited to say that this was featured on Hostess With The Mostest blog!!!!!!!!!! Check out what they had to say.

All Vendor Credits: Conception, Planning, Florals, Decor, & Styling- Illumination Events Studio / Venue: Bandit’s Ridge / Photography: Amber Kay Photography , Amber Kay Seniors / Apparel: Fab’rik Carytown / Apparel Styling: Sweet Sauce / Hair and Makeup: Elle Style Studio / Cake: Dessert First Custom Cakes / Linens and Rentals: Rent-E-Quip / Paper goods and gift wrapping: Riot + Revel / Vespa: 7 Hills Scooter Club

Vintage Cabana Inspired Birthday Party Summer Poolside

Did you check out my post about Hot Diggity Donuts? Great design & great donuts!!! You can read that HERE.