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Why wedding photographers (including us) use the term "investment" when talking about prices

Time to admit something: when I first started my company, I would get so annoyed when photographers used the term “investment” on their websites instead of “price.” It felt like an overly-flowery use of a thesaurus - trying to make things sound fancier than they are instead of being simple and understandable. It also seemed like a bizarre euphemism meant to hide the fact that wedding photography is a business agreement with a cost associated, just another way the Wedding Industrial Complex was trying to con me out of more money.

I am here to say that I was so, so wrong.

And look...before we go any further, I know you're reading this on my website and I use this website to run a business, and that business requires folks to exchange money for my services. I get it, I've got a bias here - but what I want to write about today isn't whether or not photography should be free (I can write a whole other screed on the capitalist value of time BELIEVE IT), it's what I think the true value of photography is, for couples who choose to pay for professional photography. In fact, “investment” is really the BEST word to use when describing the money that is paid to a wedding photographer -  as with any investment, your return on it will not necessarily come at the moment of purchase, but over time. And marriages last a long time, if we’re lucky.

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Try to imagine a day way in the future, like the year 2053, when Facebook and Instagram are just distant memories. There have probably been some absurd technological advances when it comes to social media (or maybe the tech sector has turned their attention to SAVING THE PLANET vs selling you that dog food it overheard you discussing yesterday, who knows). Anyway, it’s 34 years from now and you and your spouse have traveled the world, enjoyed time with your family, probably discovered the cure for cancer (you smarties), danced together, and cried together. You have gained and lost friends and relatives. Your lives have been rich and full and beautiful.

In 2053, you have been looking at and enjoying your wedding photos for 30+ years. You have a fancy-shmancy album*, and maybe you look at it every year on your anniversary. Maybe when loved ones visit you, you pull it out and show them. The image of someone’s father, who is no longer with us, dancing his heart out. The image of a flower girl, who is now almost forty and a mother of two, sobbing her way down the aisle. Your best friend from college (who is now a big deal comedian) cracking everyone up with a hilarious toast. Your first kiss as a married couple.

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Without photos, these images may fade from memory (and to be fair, some folks like that. Respect.)  But when you hire a wedding photographer, you’re making an investment in remembering, and in how you remember. You’re not just paying someone for their time shooting, but for their experience, their eye, their ability to make you feel comfortable in front of the camera, and their understanding of what moments are important to you. You’re paying them for their work that day, but also for their work standing the test of time for the next few decades.*

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So here’s my official apology to any photographer I judged, back in 2012, for using the term “Investment” - I’m so sorry. I get it now. And while I’ll never call wedding photography the “most important” investment of anyone’s life/marriage (hellooooo I’m not that egotistical, we’re not ending world hunger over here) I completely  understand what an investment it really is.


*Now do y'all see why I'm so adamant about the albums? I care about 2053 you! I care about post-Facebook you! I want you to actually invest in a thing that will give you SO MANY returns for SO LONG!






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Kate + Matt's Simple + Dreamy Sandbridge Beach Wedding

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Kate + Matt's Simple + Dreamy Sandbridge Beach Wedding

Kate and I met through a mutual friend a few years ago when I was between studio managers and KINDA panicking about it. She whisked into my life with a calmness and confidence that I really admire, helping me organize my office and get things back on track. After a few weeks, though, she told me that she and her (then) boyfriend were planning a move to Korea. Of course, I was thrilled for her (though I fell slightly back to panicking) and watched their adventures via social media. Then, last summer, she emailed me to say that they were coming back stateside to do a small wedding in early October — and asked if I could shoot it.

I’m going to be very honest here — usually, October is THE MOST HECTIC MONTH for weddings. Everyone’s gotta get a piece of that foliage, you know. But because my birthday is in October and I am a major birthday diva, I try to take one weekend off to celebrate. Kate and Matt were getting married on that weekend that I had set aside for birthday stuff (fun fact: my partner and I have the same birthday so it’s double the fun). I told Kate I would think on it, and after a few days realized that Kate and Matt are TOTALLY “our people": adventurers, laid-back, doing things their own way. So I said YES and I’m so glad I did.

Kate and Matt got married on the beach in Sandbridge, VA (many Virginians will tell you it’s the quieter southern sister to VA Beach and they are very, very right). They had a great group of family and friends with them, and decorated their giant beach house with photos from all their travels. We spent some time after the ceremony walking down the beach and talking about their post-wedding plans, which were basically: drive west until we find a place that suits us. I loved that so much. And we just learned that they did choose a place (for now): Salt Lake City!

Kate and Matt’s wedding was more than a celebration of their love, but it was a cozy resting place where they could spend time with their nearest and dearest before flinging themselves to the wind and exploring the world together. Oh and of course it was a dance party, because duh.

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Patty + Mike's Vintage Hollywood + Lush Autumn Wedding

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Patty + Mike's Vintage Hollywood + Lush Autumn Wedding

Sometimes a wedding is so full of personality and beautiful details that writing a description seems like overkill. Patty + Mike’s wedding is like that.

Their Upper Shirley Vineyards wedding was a perfect blend of vintage Hollywood glam, retro rock and roll, modern twists on classic decor, and 100s of feet of lush garland. The entire party felt extremely luxe but also comfortable and funky: aka our dream vibe.

The following images will delight you if you love sparkly wedding gowns, autumnal floral color palettes, weddings that feature dogs, hot-dog-shaped cakes, and loads of happiness and warmth.

Special shout-out to their planner, Heather from The Hive Wedding Collective, who executed this day FLAWLESSLY, despite the officiant getting into a car accident en route!

VENUE - Upper Shirley Vineyard

EVENT COORDINATION - Heather Kemman | The Hive Wedding Collective

TRANSPORTATION - James River Transportation

CAKES - Sweet Fix RVA

FLORALS - Amanda Burnette

MUSIC - DJ Mikey Post | DJ Ian Svenonious | Paint Fumes

JEWELER - Catbird NYC

STATIONERY - Minted

FURNITURE RENTAL | CUSTOM SIGNAGE - Paisley & Jade

DRESS - Jenny Packham

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Rory + Lane's Studio Two Three Dance Party Wedding

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Rory + Lane's Studio Two Three Dance Party Wedding

The first time I spoke to Rory and Lane, I knew they were Our People. They are adventurers, dirt-bikers, crafty smarty-pants types who were actually planning TWO wedding celebrations: one in the woods that involved quirky costumes and wigs, and one here in Richmond. When we talked, though, they told me that they were tentatively planning to have the Richmond wedding at Quirk (a venue I know and love), but I asked if they had considered Studio Two Three, the artist co-working/co-making space that Carly Romeo & Co calls home. S23 had just started doing weddings in our new event space, and I knew Rory and Lane would be PERFECT for the space. I was thrilled when they told me later that they had decided to book S23!

Things just got more and more exciting from there. They hired my favorite florist, Amanda Burnette, and asked her to create a meadow-ish look inside the space with an “elevated rainbow” pallette (and damn, did Amanda deliver)! Then Rory and Lane added all their own touches to the event: origami cranes, a cat as a guest, pizza + fried chicken, mixed-gender wedding parties (my fave), hilarious + profanity-laced toasts, and loads of enthusiastic dancing. DJ Ant Boogie had everyone shaking it late into the night, and soon after Lane and Rory embarked on a 3-month exploration of southeast Asia (that I’ve been following intrepidly on social media).

We are always so grateful when our couples love to celebrate but also bring a spirit of silliness and joy to the whole experience — because weddings aren’t meant to be stuffy and uncomfortably formal, they are meant to be bursts of happiness and community. Rory and Lane nailed that feeling, and we’re so grateful that we were there to document it!

WEDDING PLANNER - Christine Greenberg @ The Hive Wedding Co.

HAIR | MAKEUP - Elle Style Studio

FLORALS - Amanda Burnette

FOOD - Mean Bird, River City Wood Fired Pizza

BAKERY - Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe

DJ - Ant Boogie

JEWELER - Young in the Mountains

STATIONERY - Minted

FURNITURE RENTALS - Paisley & Jade

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Caroline + Logan's Dreamy Pastels + Poetry Prospect House Wedding

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Caroline + Logan's Dreamy Pastels + Poetry Prospect House Wedding

WHERE TO EVEN BEGIN WITH THIS WEDDING??? Picture it: a glamorous, light-pink-haired bride with a glittering back necklace, ultra-modern gown, dramatic cathedral-legnth veil and periwinkle-to-pastel-pink pumps. Her towering husband-to-be in a tailored suit, perfect-for-the-poet-that-he-is spectacles, the BEST head of curls, raspberry-colored tie, and all the steamy affection in the world for his bride.

Place these two dreamy people in front of a rad geometric backdrop, under the big bad state of Texas sky. Give them a ceremony filled with poetry they wrote for each other, meaningful readings from friends and family, copious tears, and the juiciest foraged bridal bouquet you’ve ever seen. Surround them with the greatest feminist friend-crew, hardstyling fellas and fuck-you-I-don’t-need-to-shave ladies (damn right). Set their dinner tables with bones, tropical flowers, and other curios; pile their dessert table almost to the ceiling with Dr-Suess-meets-Wed-Anderson delicacies.

The soundtrack runs from the bride walking down the aisle to “Baby’s On Fire” all the way to bumping party jams. The guests slay at the DIY photobooth, complete with furs and plants. The rosé flows generously all night. The newlyweds have crafted the most perfect celebration of their very Them love, and everyone basks in their joy.

Thank you, Caroline + Logan, for asking me to document this very special occasion.

PLANNER | FLORALS - The Moonlight Manor

DESSERTS - Jessica Dowdy Lopez

CATERING - Royal Fig

HAIR - Vibe Collective

SUIT - SuitSupply

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Five Steps for Making a Photo Book so Your Photos Can Live Somewhere Other Than Facebook

It’s holiday time so of course we’re ready to talk about our number one most favorite holiday gift of all time: Photo Books!

A few years ago, we announced that every single one of our couples would be receiving a custom-made, heirloom photo book as part of our Signature Package. EVERY COUPLE. The reasons are simple and plentiful: a photo book will outlast whatever current technology we have; a photo book can’t get corrupted files (unless a child or clumsy adult spills on them); the experience of going through a photo book with someone you love is worlds better than scrolling through images on your laptop; your photos are art and art deserves to be printed and exist beyond the internet. I don’t think we need to go on (but we could).

So if we’ve convinced you that your photos need to live in a book, but you’re a little bit overwhelmed, DON’T WORRY! We’re here to help. Here are our favorite tips for turning your photos from files to heirlooms:

1. Select your favorite photos, and keep variety in mind.

Most wedding galleries we deliver contain more than 400 images, and you’re just not going to be able to fit all of them into a single photo book unless it’s HUGE (see below for size tips). To get started, go through and select your absolute favorite images. Keep in mind that you should select at least a couple that don’t include people (i.e. scene-setting photos of the venue or space where your wedding took place), and for photos of people, select a good mix of formal portraits (especially meaningful family formals) and candid shots.

Yen, Scott, and their families

Yen, Scott, and their families

2. Size matters.

Our standard photo album for 2019 is a 10”x10” album with ten spreads. Since a “spread” is two pages lying open, a ten spread album will have twenty pages. This size is large enough for approximately 50 images. A 30-page album would feature approximately 100 images, and a 40-page album would hold feature approximately 150 images, and so on. We have found that fifty images per 10 pages is a good guideline. Also, remember that square-format albums, when lying open flat, will be rectangles; horizontal rectangular albums, when lying open flat, will be super wide rectangles.

Nicko and Sara’s wedding photo book was square, so when it is opened and lying flat, this spread is like a frame from a wide-screen movie!

Nicko and Sara’s wedding photo book was square, so when it is opened and lying flat, this spread is like a frame from a wide-screen movie!

3. Tell the story.

We provide our clients with wedding galleries that are broken out into chapters, because that helps to tell the story of the day. For our albums, we like to ease our couples into the narrative by doing one spread (i.e. two pages lying open are considered one “spread”) of location-based wide shots and/or details. Then, introduce the important people from the wedding day; move through the day as it progressed and try not to skip around too much. Also keep in mind that it adds to the consistency of the story to keep color images together and black and white images together on their own spreads.

Scene-setting spread from Catie & Erin’s wedding photo book

Scene-setting spread from Catie & Erin’s wedding photo book

4. Explore different layouts and embrace open spaces.

There are countless ways to lay your photos out for the photo book, and this is where a lot of people get stuck. If you’re opting to DIY, you can design your own layouts when ordering through Artifact Uprising. Aim to keep the layouts varied yet balanced — and embrace empty space when needed. Too many solo images or similar collages on one side of the spreads, page after page, will feel repetitive. If you’d rather not DIY and want us to do this part, we can help you.

A lot of space on the right side of this spread in Katie and Keith’s photo book helps their portrait stand out.

A lot of space on the right side of this spread in Katie and Keith’s photo book helps their portrait stand out.

Feminist Wedding Photography Carly Romeo Photography Richmond VA Album Redtree

5. Invest in the highest quality photo book you can.

We know that there can be a lot of sticker shock when it comes to purchasing a photo book. In fact, when we were getting married we even rolled our eyes over how much photographers have to charge for quality pieces. However, an heirloom-quality photo book is an investment that should last generations. We order our books from a lab that works only with professional photographers, and the reasons we work with them are:

  • Handmade construction (yes, made by hand)

  • True layflat binding

  • Thick, sturdy pages

  • Lustre finish on the pages (prevents fingerprints), and

  • Accurate color tone.

    Here are some examples, below! If you’d rather DYI, we recommend Artifact Uprising.

Is this whole process feeling like too much for you right now?

If you order a photo book from us, we handle everything from photo selection to sequencing to individual spread layouts. After you order, Fin creates a first draft which you review together and make tweaks as needed. Once you’re happy with the design, we send in the order and deliver your heirloom book to your door. EASY!

Feminist Wedding Photography Carly Romeo Photography Richmond VA Album Redtree

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David + Juana's Private Baltimore Clocktower Wedding Ceremony + Reception Partayyy

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David + Juana's Private Baltimore Clocktower Wedding Ceremony + Reception Partayyy

Juana and David had their wedding ceremony in one of the most unique wedding “venues” I’ve ever been to: The Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. Getting to the spot required an elevator ride, a ladder climb, and some careful stepping around actual giant clock machinery, but it was SO WORTH IT. The intimate vibe — just Juana, David, their officiant, and myself were present — made way for so much beautiful, real, raw emotion and one of the most genuine ceremonies I’ve ever witnessed.

Second-favorite thing about David and Juana’s celebration: THE STYLE, Y’ALL. These two radiate confidence in their quirky selves. Juana rocked the combination of ballgown, glam jewelry, tattoos, glasses (#brideswearingspecs, YES), and leather jacket. David was a dapper dad in a burnt orange wool blazer, jewel-toned bowtie, his own glasses and tattoos, and a rad boutonniere that tied the whole look together. To any other groom considering a non-suit, or a non-traditional-color suit, GO FOR IT. Look at David. Be like David.

After their micro ceremony, we took the limo to pick up their two kiddos and made a quick pit stop at their favorite bar for some pinball. Because couples that play together, STAY TOGETHER, friends. It’s real. After that, we popped over to the Corradetti Glassblowing Studio where their reception party was starting to roll! Moment of honestly: it is very rare for the Carly Romeo & Co team to shoot at the same venue more than once — not because we tend to trash the place, but because our couples hail from so many different locations and have such unique tastes that it just so happens that we’re usually checking out new places every time. However, this is the second wedding we’ve shot at Corradetti (HAY Paige and Roger!) and we 100% endorse it as a place to celebrate your love. The glasswork there is gorgeous and the whole place has a very “art is made here” vibe, which we are all about. So Baltimore-area folks: take note!

Anyway, back to Juana and David. Their reception at Corradetti was a candlelit, colorful, beer-lover’s paradise. Instead of cake, they had an ice cream bar. I brought a polaroid camera for their daughters to play with, so there were polaroids a-plenty. There was dancing, and hugging, and so much JOY. It was epic, and we feel so lucky that we were invited to document it.

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Why we didn't hire a wedding photographer

In early 2012, I was navigating the world of wedding planning as a feminist, and it was really hard. In fact, I felt like my options in terms of “weddings” were so limited (and so counter to my feminist values) that I didn’t even want to call our celebration a “wedding” — we called it a Love Party. Some of the true elements of a wedding were still there: sharing a meal with our community from near and far, toasting to each other and to happiness and love in general, dressing up in fancy outfits, dancing our asses of all night. We hired a band and a vegetarian caterer and rented a cool old bank to have the party in, but one thing that we couldn’t find was a wedding photographer that fit our values and would capture our day in the way I had wanted.

It feels like sacrilege to admit that.

It’s not because we didn’t value photography or want the time with our friends and family documented! We were able to convince my dear friend and former Plan 9 Records co-worker PJ, to shoot a few rolls of film and a handful of digitals. (Thank you again, PJ.) But PJ isn’t a wedding photographer; he’s a band/musician/live performance photographer. He’s also the only photographer I could find, after a looooong search, who I knew would keep us comfortable in front of the camera.

Every wedding photographer I found in Richmond in 2012 (a time when googling “Feminist Wedding Photographer” yielded literally zero results—which was eerie) had websites talking only to brides about “the details you’ve spent years dreaming of,” finally finding “Prince Charming,” gushing over “the perfect diamond ring,” and how thrilled I must be to finally become “a Mrs.” Everyone was “so honored” to be considered to shoot the “best day of our lives.” And for some reason, SO MANY of them LOVED Starbucks and mentioned it constantly (still true).

There were photographers promising to pray for us before starting to shoot on our wedding day (pass). There were photographers with only white people on their websites. I did not find ANY Virginia photographers with same-sex couples on their site (in fact, when I started my company in 2014 I was told by a lesbian couple that mine was the only site they could find with same-sex people on it and that was TWO YEARS LATER). Our wedding photographer search was a deep, dark dive into the super white, super hetero, super fairy-tale-schtick Weddingland and we were not about it.

So we celebrated without a professional wedding photographer. We had a beautiful time, we drank boozy milkshakes and enjoyed our friends playing live music and there were decorations made by our dearest friends, and our favors were MASON JARS (because even feminists can be #basic y’all, it was 2012.) My mom made my dress and my dad made my cake and we ate the best vegetarian wedding food ever by Everyday Gourmet. Everyone cried.

We cherish the photos we have, but they aren’t Wedding Photos. I’ve made peace with that (and am eternally grateful to PJ for documenting it at all). But I wish I had had a better option.

So I started my business to be the photographer that I couldn’t find back then.

If you’re searching through what feels like endless websites full of gauzy tulle and people waxing poetic about how idyllic weddings are and that doesn’t fit you — we’re here. We’re realists. We love love, of course. But when we say that, we mean we love people and we love partnerships. We love supporting folks who intentionally navigate (and even disrupt) spaces that aren’t For Them.

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Catie + Erin's Low-key, Queer, State Park Wedding

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Catie + Erin's Low-key, Queer, State Park Wedding

Erin and Catie have a special place in my heart, because they met at a summer camp, just like my partner and I! I’ll admit, their camp was the outdoorsy kind and ours was the nerdy kind (any CTYers out there?), but still, camp vibes are camp vibes. You camp people understand. Erin also has a Mountain Goats tattoo, so they are clearly one of the coolest people alive. Only the best people have Mountain Goats tattoos. Just saying.

But really: Erin and Catie are awesome people who are clearly immensely in love with one another. Their wedding day started with an awesome surprise: Erin surprised Catie during their first look by playing a song on the guitar. You can see Catie’s reaction below, but spoiler alert: everyone was crying.

For their ceremony, Catie and Erin opted for another surprise: rather than walking into their ceremony, they started the ceremony under an beautiful arbor and their community came to them. I am deeply in support of this twist, which felt unique and special (and helped quell any debate about whether or not someone’s parent/father would “walk them down the aisle.”) It was beautiful to see each person’s reaction to their friends standing there looking all fancy and fabulous. Erin wore a stunner of a gown that had a surprisingly poofy overlayer hiding a glam silhouette underneath; Catie wore slacks, a vest, and a fucking mohawk braid. Mohawk + braid.

Part of their ceremony also included planting a small tree together — be still my tree-hugger heart!! They fortified the soil with ashes from bonfires had at the summer camp where they met. I dare you to come up with a more poetic and nature-loving ceremony element.

The ensuing celebration was catered by one of our favorites, Everyday Gourmet, and the dance party was epic (derby skaters are notoriously wild on the dance floor FYI). Of course, we found some time to sneak away and explore the park during golden hour, which was a combination of photography time and “discussing-the-problem-of-being-misgendered-when-wearing-a-wedding-dress” time (PSA: people who wear dresses aren’t always ladies/don’t always use she/her.) We closed the day with everyone blowing bubbles and hugging and feeling so grateful to know these two and be part of their story.

VENUE: Pocahontas State Park

OFFICIANT: Casey Doukopil, EQ Events

CATERING: Everyday Gourmet

JEWELER: Diamonds Direct

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Milan + Susan's Kaleidoscopic Indian + Jewish Wedding

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Milan + Susan's Kaleidoscopic Indian + Jewish Wedding

You may have seen a glimpse of this wedding in our article about wedding party outfits (hint: it’s the photo of the bridesmaids wearing saris), but Susan and Milan’s colorful Indian wedding deserves a post all its own. Prepare your eyes for a magical ride of color and joy.

With an Indian groom and a Jewish bride, there were many traditions that Susan and Milan could choose from for their celebration. Milan opted to wear a traditional sherwani in a beautiful gold color over ruby red pants, with jutti shoes in gold and ivory (complete with those awesome curls on the toes). He also had a ton of groom swag/jewels/accessories, which we are Here. For. Susan picked a white gown and a chapel-length veil, plus bridal mehendi on her hands, arms, and feet (also omg can we talk about how great her eye makeup is?? Well done, Miriam!) plus a couple gold bangles.

These two had one of the most colorful (and biggest!) wedding parties we’ve ever worked with. Susan’s bridesmaids wore a combo of American-style dresses and saris, ranging in color from apricot to fuchsia; Milan’s groomsmen also wore sherwanis, but with American shoes.

After their first look, there was a raucous Baraat (sorry, no horse though) with drums and singing and shouting through the streets. Matt totally captured the joy and energy of that procession! After they made it over to the venue, the two families signed a ketubah (a traditional Jewish wedding document) and the ceremony began!

They got married under a dreamy, jewel-toned mandap that looked like it was straight out of a royal palace. We were also particularly fond of the candles along the sides of the aisles, which gave the whole room a warm, golden feel. The ceremony incorporated both Indian and Jewish traditions, and culminated with Milan stomping on a glass (Mavel Tov!) and the new couple leaving the ceremony draped in flowers.

Susan entered the reception with her own surprise: she had changed out of her white gown and into a crimson-and-gold sari. She and Milan shared a first dance. Toasts happened. Everyone cried. Dancing started. Everyone cheered. A few bridesmaids surprised Milan with a traditional Indian dance, and then there was the traditional Jewish wedding dance: the Hora!

Weddings are about community. Susan and Milan come from different backgrounds, so their community is a blend of those backgrounds, and so was their wedding. It was a joy to witness the ways they incorporated each of their backgrounds into one giant, opulent, whirlwind of love and celebration. Do you have plans to weave different traditions together? We’d love to hear your ideas!!

PLANNING: Jeannette Tavares, Evoke DC

FLORALS | DESIGN: Sarah Khan Event Styling

VENUE | CATERING: The Westin Annapolis

WHITE DRESS: Francesca’s Bridal

HAIR: Sara Elizabeth, Infinity Artistry

MAKEUP: Miriam Ault

DJ: DJ Ramzy

CEREMONY MUSIC: Iain Forrest, Eyeglasses String Music

LIGHTING | DRAPING | SOUND: Brian Wasser, Electric Entertainment

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