It happened!! It FINALLY happened!!

Awhile back my husband and I finally got a Saturday off together; we had taken the kids to lunch at our favorite S&B’s downtown and were juuuuust about to place an order when my phone rang.  I answered and there was a frantic venue coordinator on the other end.  “Hi Leia, are you booked today?” “Um, no.  But I am about to have a date with a cheeseburger-why what is going on?” “Well, I have a bride here who’s photographer is a no-show;  I need someone here in the next few hours.”  “Wow!  Ok! I’ll see you in a few hours!”

A wave of panic swept over me.  Not for me, not for my situation, but for the Bride.  How is she feeling right now?  How did this happen?  So. Many. Questions.  My husband and I looked at each other, wide-eyed and in disbelief as I relayed what I knew of the situation.  I have heard of stories like this.  It’s so crazy that things like this happen.  It would be like calling an Uber, and Marty from Back to the Future shows up.  It’s so confusing and surprising- that you almost really can’t put the shock into words.  All I knew is that we had to put our game faces on for this bride, and make her day right. 

See, what most clients don’t understand is that not only are we wedding photographers, we are also unofficial therapists.  We advise you throughout the day.  “Should I put the garter belt on now?” “I feel like I’m going to throw up.” “Would my mother in law be mad if we did a first look?” “This is MY wedding, and I want to take pictures out in the rain.” “My MOH and I just got into a huge fight yesterday” “I don’t want pictures with my veil on, but my mother does” “My dad is bringing his girlfriend to the wedding and I DON’T want her in any of the pictures!!” 

You name it, I’ve heard it ALL.  We are professionals though, and we take great pride in helping couples through the day.  We are either in a church or out in a field every week sometimes multiple times a week, believe me- we HAVE the experience.  We WANT to make sure your day is a success.  We want to see happy smiling faces, so when something goes wrong, we go into “fix mode.” 

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We arrive, talk with the Coordinator again, and then meet the Bride. To my surprise, she is calm, cheerful, and has the support of her bridesmaids. I’m relieved. I get her off to the side in private, get more details on the situation, and asked her how she would like me to proceed. Just walking into this, I have no relationship with the Bride. I have no idea what her wants and needs are, or her expectations. Typically I spend months corresponding with Brides. We’ve done engagement sessions or Bridal sessions, I’ve met their family. Today- I am literally walking into a wedding where we know no one. She assures me that she is just happy we are there, and to treat this as if we’ve been planning this the whole time. OK! I can do that!

Needless to say, the rest of the day went off without a hitch, and she was lovely to work with. I’ve only read about situations like this- but now I get to write about it.

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It’s hard to know how to prevent this from happening in the future. I wish I could tell a Bride, “do this and this and this” and your wedding vendor will perform the way you had planned! All I can offer is this:

Make sure they are a vendor that has been around for awhile- it helps if one of your friends know them, or has worked with them. Make sure you check in with the vendor regularly. If you booked them last year, and it’s been 5 months since you heard from them- write them to make sure everything is still on track for your big day. I’m big on confirmation emails. I want to assure, reassure, and assure the bride again that I. Will. Be. There. We are ALL busy. I’m busy running a business, running my girls around like an unpaid Uber, and dealing with my husbands crazy truck-driving schedule. Yeah, I’m busy. So are you. You shouldn’t have to check in with me to see if I’m going to show up. As busy as I am, I’m serious about running my business and giving you PEACE of mind. So while I may not email you during the day, rest assured you may get an email from me at 9:30 at night after everyone has gone to bed- checking in with you, making sure you don’t need my help with anything, making sure none of your plans have fallen off the rail…. I’m here for you girl!

I hope you all have a very Happy New Year! Big fluffy hugs to all of my 2019 brides. We CAN’T wait!! :-)

~Leia

How will you remember?

When I was a kid, I distinctly remember the smell of Toys R Us.  My mom could have blind-folded me and I would have known the moment we walked into one.  I can't even describe the smell, but every store smelled the same.  Raise your hand if the warm "pop-corny" smell of Target isn't forever ingrained in our brains.  

Being a small kid, everything looked huge.  The aisles of toys soared over me, making it this powerful giant of a store.  I remember just being in awe and wonder of the latest "must-haves."  Toys R Us was such a huge part of everyones life.  It's like any other store that has been around forever- like Baskin Robbins.  Whenever we think of going to get an ice cream, don't you remember going to Baskins as a kid?  A giant familiar face in our lives is gone now.  The doors have closed and it will never reopen again.  All we have are our own personal memories of being in the store.  Do we have any pictures to commemorate the visits?  No.  We just have what is in our heads.  

The Bride and Groom walking down the aisle will always be remembered because hopefully you have hired a good photographer, and you will have thousands of grainy blurry cell phone photos from friends. That aisle will be one of the most important aisles you have ever walked down in your life.  That aisle will have your friends and family on it.  That aisle will have the memory of you walking down as a single person, and walking back up as a married couple.  What other aisle can do that? People might remember the smell of the florals, the weather, the sweat rolling down their backs (if it's an Oklahoma summer wedding), or the crisp wind (if it's a winter wedding).  People will remember how they felt seeing you for the first time, they might remember your dress, food, your cake.... but will they have photos of this?  Well, in this day and age yes, probably.  Photos help us remember.  

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When we look at a photo we can remember the feelings, the weather, the smells, the day.  Without photos, it might be hard to remember details.  You may be able to pinpoint one thing here or there, but over the years everything else is forgotten.

This year I have heard a lot of "My cousin is gifting us with photos- thank you, but we won't need you."  or "Our friends are going to do it" or my favorite- I show up and there is another "fauxtographer" who will follow me around copying me.  Not sure why they will need everything twice, but ok.... or even better- the DJ or other vendor will follow me around with their cell phones capturing photos, shooting the same things I am (but I guarantee you- it doesn't look the same).  

Then come the emails.  "I should have gone with you!!"  "My friends' pictures didn't turn out the way we thought they would!!"  "Can you edit a cell phone picture for us?"  Ugh.  

When I saw a picture of Geoffrey leaving Toys R Us on the news last night, I immediately thought- "Well, I will always remember the smell and the feelings I had when I was a kid, and the distinct blue color of the walls, but I won't really remember anything else." And I kind of felt sad.  Sad that the only memories I have are in my head, and I have no other way to think of it or see it.  

I have no idea who took this photo (I did not take this) so credit to whomever took this!

I have no idea who took this photo (I did not take this) so credit to whomever took this!

I do have one last happy memory of going into the store with my mom a few months back, just like when I was a little kid.  I am so glad that we were there in the beginning, and at the end.  Together.  And just like all the times before, I will remember it in my head.  We hate selfies. lol  

How will your wedding be remembered? 

 

I Just Need A Photographer!

She contacted me out of the blue, emailing me like most do, wanting to schedule a consultation.  “I'd like a quote for my wedding, it will be very small, 100 or so guests... and it will be from 2-10 p.m.  I'd also like a second photographer, an engagement session, and a leather-bound album.”  So I emailed her my proposal (as usual) and moved on to other work I had lining up for my Monday morning.    

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I quickly received a reply to my invoice.  “$3--- for an 8 hour wedding?? It's small, and the venue is local, and I've already overspent on the venue and the flowers, can’t you cut me a deal?”  No.  I’m sorry. But no.  Think this is a fake conversation? No.  Sadly it's not.  Is there a right order to hiring your vendors?  Should you have the venue before the photographer?  Should you get the cake before the flowers?  Should the DJ come before the food?  Sometimes I am hired out of order, meaning the clients have literally hired everyone else BEFORE they have hired a photographer.  After an $800 cake, and $3,000 in flowers, and thousands for the venue, why can't I do my job for $500?  

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Let me explain.  You are paying for 11 years of sweat, tears, workshops, lenses, cameras, books, business classes, marketing courses, and photoshop classes, and finally after so many years, a consistent and dependable stream of work.  You are paying for an experienced professional who has the ability to anticipate moments that typically occur on a wedding day.  Wedding photography- done right- is supposed to tell the story of your special day.  The moments beforehand, the weather, the anticipation, the laughs, the tears, the details, the food, the camaraderie, the family-bonding.  The ceremony, the reactions, the nervous laughs, the vows, his reaction as you are coming down the aisle in your beautiful dress, your dads kiss on your cheek as he puts your hand inside the hand of your betrothed.  The first kiss, the first steps as husband and wife, the excitement as you are rushing down the aisle, the relief as you spend your first few minutes alone together.  There are so many other things, but to name a few- we know these things will happen.  When you decide to "hire your friend" will they know these moments will happen?  Will they know how to pose you so that you look your best? Will they know how to edit the photos properly?  Will they know how to design your album?

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Each photographer around here will have their price for doing anything.  Many will take a headshot for $20 and charge $300 for a wedding.  They decide what it will cost for their business to run.  They decide their worth.  Your 8 hour wedding is way way over that.  After the consultation, the emails back and forth over the course of months and/or the year, the phone calls, the correspondence with the planner, the engagement session (if there is one), travel, time spent creating your timeline and making sure your day is outlined perfectly before we start--oh  and lets not forget the weeks of editing your photos.... Your 8 hour wedding is closer to 60.  

Quick question: After the flowers wilt, the venue is cleaned out, and the cake is eaten- what is left?  

Have a great week!

~Leia

What? You mean my phone makes CALLS?

Hey, sometimes I forget.  I mean how many hours go by where you are staring at your phone, emailing, texting, replying to Facebook messages, and all without using the phone for its raw intended purpose.  MAKING A PHONE CALL.  I've ended that.  Well.. as much as I can anyway.  If a client is emailing me and it's going to be a long conversation, I'm picking up the phone and calling you.  If your text can't be answered simply- you're getting a call.  If your Facebook message is way more involved and includes a bullet list of questions- expect to answer your phone when it rings.  

Sometimes all of the messaging back and forth with our fingers really disconnects us from the fact that we are dealing with living breathing beings.  It's like we're all afraid to talk all of a sudden.  Hey, I won't bite.  Not in the first meeting anyways. :-)  My new goal is to reach out and talk more.  Hear my voice.  Let's have a real living conversation.  Let's laugh, joke, stutter, and share an awkward silence.  Sometimes I miss the art of conversing.

It may be startling for some, but every time I get a new lead and you leave your phone number, I'm picking up my phone and I'm dialing your number.  I want to talk to you, hear about your wedding day plans, and put a voice with an email.  

I hope you all have a great weekend!

~Leia

Happy Anniversary to me!

I guess it's my anniversary.  I didn't realize it until I kept getting notifications from LinkedIn that people were messaging me.  I checked it this morning, and I see all of these notes of "Congratulations!" Oh yeah.  Congratulations on 6 years of officially being an LLC.  On 6 years of hard work, keeping my nose to the grind-stone.  6 years of failing, succeeding, pushing myself, struggling, and winning.  Not every day is a winner, believe me, but not every day is a struggle.   

Some days my desk is so crowded with books (that I never have time to read), batteries that need to be charged, Post It Notes EVERYWHERE, receipts, calendars, contracts, bills, that it's enough to want to make me turn immediately around and crawl back into bed.  I don't have To Do lists, I have To Do BOOKS.  It can be...how do you say...OVERWHELMING.  

Every year gets better and better though; I have fallen into a rhythm.  It's like a dance, and rather then constantly stumbling and tripping over my feet to keep up, I'm beginning to glide.  I want to thank all of the clients that I have worked with over the last 9 years.  This career is more than I could have ever asked for.  Here's to 50 more years! Cheers! 

~Leia 

 

  

Jonathan + Minh

She said she read my blogs, loved my personality, and wanted me to shoot her wedding.  I was flattered.  I met Minh and Jonathan and immediately could see how perfect they were together. I have to have a connection with my brides, be it personality, common interests, TWD, dog lovers, ANYTHING.  I have been sooooo very fortunate to have had a connection with each bride I work with.  When they mentioned they were incorporating Star Wars into their wedding- I was taken.   We gathered around the table getting more and more excited about April 16th!

Here are some gorgeous photos from their engagement and TWO weddings (that's right, we shot 2 wedding ceremony's in one day) and it was really an epic experience.

I loved the story of how they met.  Minh should be a blogger because I love how she tells her story:

We met on match.com.  We emailed back and forth for about a couple weeks and then we exchanged phone numbers and texted/called for another couple weeks until our first date in October.  He came to pick me up in his awesome 1985 Mazda RX-7 and we went to eat sushi at his favorite sushi place Sushi Hayashi in Moore.  It was delicious! Then we went to see Seven Psychopaths.  I thought it would be funny and had a lot of actors that I liked, but nope.  I mean it was funny but it was dark humor and definitely not a good date movie.  Jon kept trying to find time to put his arm around me but then someone was brutally murdered, so yeah.  Needless to say, there was no good time for flirtatious gestures.  Fast forward a few dates, on our 4th date, we wanted to go somewhere and talk because all other dates were movies.  So we went to Tapwerks for some beer.  After a little drinking, we were sharing stories and came up on the topic of sad movies.  I mentioned Titanic and how I surprisingly didn't cry but when I watched Armageddon, I meant to say, I cried my eyes out or I bawled my eyes out, but instead, I said "I cried my balls out".  So embarrassing! I attempted to keep talking while I see Jon biting his cheek trying not to laugh.  After that everything was great, he is so funny and kind.  He is my big, hairy, cuddly bear and I love him for all that he is.

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She knows me pretty well.....what she said and I do love her. 

But I digress, It was a typical night like any other. I was probably playing WoW or staring blankly at my computer screen. I suddenly remembered I had matches to go through on Match.  So I went through my daily matches and read profiles and looked at pictures.  I  came upon a beautiful woman with a profile name that I didn't understand. It read MinhsterCheese. Not knowing what I know now about her, (muenster being her favorite cheese and her name is Minh) I was intrigued and confused.  I read her profile and sent a wink to her thinking that would be the end of it. Low and behold she emailed me!  I remember that day because it made me extremely happy she was interested in talking to me. So this is where my story meets hers. She pretty much nailed it on the head.  It was crazy because everything just clicked with her. Even with our poor choice of movie, that first date was a lot of fun. We often look back on it and laugh.  I've said my fair share of goofy things, like telling her cooking is better than nothing. What I really meant was I couldn't think of anything better than it. I also once told her I loved her "so so" much, which could be confused with "meh" .  But she knew I meant I loved her a lot. Man, I could write a book of my word "mess-ups" haha. Having her in my life has been the best thing ever.  To quote a well known singer, "It's like you're my mirror, My mirror staring back at me, I couldn't get any bigger, With anyone else beside of me, And now it's clear as this promise, That we're making two reflections into one".  I can't wait to start our next chapter together and see what lies ahead.

She got her dress from David's Bridal-Vera Wang and isn't it gorgeous!  It was perfect and she rocked it!

The Skirvin did a beautiful job setting up the reception area.  From the table settings to the cakes, Jonathan and Minh's wedding day was really spectacular.

I caught a few snaps as they were practicing for their grand entrance into the reception.  

They had a second ceremony at the Skirvin, her dad walked her down the aisle twice in one day which I thought was truly awesome.  Jonathan's grandfather officiated the second ceremony.

They made their grand entrance, and had an epic battle!

The guests were completely surprised, and loved every second. 

It was so great to see their outfit change into traditional Vietnamese attire.

Jonathan and Minh incorporated the Vietnamese tradition of walking the tables to thank guests for their blessings and accept cards, gifts, and well wishes.  

Spending the day with Jonathan and Minh was really an amazing experience.  What I truly loved about it, was how Minh shared her family traditions with Jonathan.  There was so much love- and you know me. In love with LOVE!  Thank you for making us a part of your night you two.  Seriously- it was the best.  

Madison's on Main - Cake
Nexus Productions - DJ
Inaru Creations - wedding day of coordinator
Tori Hlad - Hair
Victoria Jakola - Make up
Hosty Duo - Band
Mom (Hong Truong) - Florist

Do Dinosaurs have lips?

I have no idea.  It's a question I heard yesterday, and I've been wondering ever since.  On another note, I've read countless articles over the years about musicians, artists, photographers, (and many other professions) being introverts.  I never knew what an introvert was growing up, I just knew that I preferred to be tucked away in my bedroom with a good book.  Alone.  Photography has changed that for me.  All I knew was that I wanted to shoot.  Never even considered that I'd have to actually market myself, sell to clients, meet people and talk about myself and what I could offer... that never even crossed my mind.  Plan 1: Get Camera, Plan 2: Shoot.  Plan 3: Come out of my shell. Wait. WHAT?!  

Many of the clients, and friends, and fellow photographers that know me, absolutely cannot believe that I am quiet, reserved, and completely content to just be alone by nature.  I'm a homebody.  I'm more than happy to run the office at home, and just hang out taking care of everything.  

The me that now exists since photography-is thrilled when it comes time to meet with clients to discuss their wedding plans-I immediately perk up.  I get just as excited about their plans as they are.  The intricate details, the invitations, the decor, the cake(s), the food, the dress, THE DRESS, the shoes, the jewelry, there are so. many. things!  Aside from the details, I am thrilled when the wedding party has ideas of their own on the wedding day.  My hands shake when I am in the room photographing mom buttoning up her daughter's dress, and the bridesmaids slowly walk in so as not to disturb the moment, and I catch them in the background, smiling, crying, eyes wide with excitement--their reactions are important, and absolutely MUST be documented. When my husband catches the groom writing a quick love note to his beloved, or when his friends gather around him for some last minute laughs.  When the reception area is completely prepared and pristine, and ready for pictures- I think of all of the magazines I've thumbed through, looking at pictures of these very moments knowing that magic is about to happen.

I have become a different person.  That shy quiet mouse disappears, and out comes a strong, confident woman.  One who coaches the bride into position.

who's not afraid to fix the dress for the perfect shot.

Got to make sure everyone looks sharp!

Veil feels loose?  Gotcha!

This job has done so much for me, how can I ever repay it?  Not many people can wake up in the morning and say, "I love my job.  This is where I'm supposed to be."  I get to say that.  I will forever be grateful.  

Moving here 10 years ago was a big change- but now, when the mailman asks me how business is going, or my UPS guy asks how big Angus is, or the lady at the post office doesn't even ask me what kind of shipping service I need when sending out photography stuff because I'm in there practically everyday... I know I am in the absolute right place.  I'm in the right place in my life, and the right place in personal growth.  Photography in itself is the right passion for me to pursue.  I was meant to do this.  I wasn't meant to hide out with a book.  I was meant to photograph the bride and groom's special day, the moments leading up to it, and the moments after.  

This is totally my job.  Pinch me, I'm dreaming. :-)

Until next week!

~Leia

Chris + Mandy

Chris and Mandy are completely enamored with each other.  You can tell by the loving glances, the funny stories they share, the flirting- each time we meet they are more and more in love.   Add in their beautiful daughters, and they have the most adorable family ever!  This is nothing new- this love started back in 2012 when they crossed paths online.  After dating for awhile, Chris decided to plan a weekend in Dallas where he had decided to propose.  He was so excited however that he couldn't wait that long, and caught Mandy in the kitchen.  As Mandy says, "He told me that he couldn't wait another moment to ask me to be his wife.  We still had our amazing weekend in Dallas celebrating our engagement!  He also "proposed" to my girls before he married me.  It was important to him that they knew we were a family now.  I love that he loves not only me but my kids as well."  

Here are the beautiful photos of their day:

The love they share is rare and intimate.  You can feel it when you are around them.  This couple proves that love is not just shown, but felt.

Thank you Chris and Mandy for inviting us- your wedding rocked! 

Joe + Kayla

We met at Sara Sara Cupcakes downtown last year, I remember having an album on the table, and my notebook out ready to take down some details about her wedding plans.  She walked in, and the first thing I noticed was her big bright smile.  We got settled and dived right into what she had planned so far.  As she flips through the album, I ask her how she met Joe.  I love the romance behind it.  Yeah yeah yeah... I love all the mushy details.  No I don't watch Lifetime. (Anymore).  

Kayla was studying abroad in England when she met Joe.  I KNOW!!  ENGLAND people!  They have so much in common, they fell in love.  Despite the challenges of having a relationship that is super long distance, they were determined to make this work no matter what.  He proposed, and she came back home to Yukon to get going on the wedding plans.  So here we are sitting in a cupcake shop while the love of her life is half a world away.  It got me a little choked up.

Fast forward to April 3rd and the sight of them together nearly brought tears to my eyes.  I had a small idea of what it took to make this day happen, airline flights, family coming over to witness the moment, and in that moment I just thought it was the greatest thing that Kayla and Joe brought two family's together from different parts of the world.  Now these family's are joined together forever.  Yukon and England.  It was a pretty big moment and definitely made an impact on me.

Here are a few snaps from the day (as the English say). :-)

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Congratulations to Kayla and Joe, what a simply amazing and elegant couple.  She is packing her bags as I sit and write this, prepping to move to England.  This story has all of the makings of a movie, I'm telling you!  I hope to keep in touch with her so that I can live vicariously through her on Facebook. lol  So happy to have met both of you.  Cheers!

Michael + Emily

He saw her on TV when she first started at KFOR, and told his buddies at the firehouse that he was going to meet her, ask her out, and marry her.  He had been a big fan of hers for a few years, and by pure coincidence, they happened to be at the same gas station one day.  While she was grabbing something to drink after a workout, she noticed this totally hot guy out of the corner of her eye. He struck up a conversation with her, and the rest is, as they say...history.  

After two engagement shoots, Bridals in Chicago in January, and the actual wedding day itself- I've come to know Emily outside of the public eye.  She is kind, generous, and beautiful inside and out.  Both her and Michael are an exact fit for eachother- perfect in every way- they seem to revolve around eachother like a pair of planets.  

Skip to the wedding day, March 19, 2016 was perfect in every way.  Once again, as if the heavens curated the entire event!  While there are thousands of favorites, here are just a few.

Dress: Moliere Bridal, Flowers: Camden Chitwood, Emerson Events

Dress: Moliere Bridal, Flowers: Camden Chitwood, Emerson Events

Writing a little love note before the ceremony.

Her mom Molly was helping her get dressed, and I loved this shot of them both.

Their first look was awesome.  I'm going to nerd out for a second and tell you that the lighting was absolutely perfect.  In fact I actually made Emily wait for a cloud to pass over the sun before she came out.  We hurried up and shot some wonderful photos, then as soon as the sun came out again- we changed locations.  His reaction was EVERYTHING!  Aren't they a beautiful couple??!!

The cutest cake ever- little Okie is peeking out of the last layer!!! 

The cutest cake ever- little Okie is peeking out of the last layer!!! 

Grooms cake.  Doesn't this look like a real helmet??

Grooms cake.  Doesn't this look like a real helmet??

Precious Okie was the ring-bearer; he had the rings tied around his collar.  I remember Emily telling me, "He's our son, of course he's going to be in the wedding!"  Another reason I really like her so very much. 

The moment they were pronounced husband and wife, the crowd cheered.  So did Okie!  He barked with excitement and made everyone laugh- it was adorable. 

The moment they were pronounced husband and wife, the crowd cheered.  So did Okie!  He barked with excitement and made everyone laugh- it was adorable. 

Quite appropriately, their get-away car was the KFOR storm chaser vehicle driven by Reed Timmer. 

Quite appropriately, their get-away car was the KFOR storm chaser vehicle driven by Reed Timmer. 

Michael and Emily's wedding was not just a wedding, it was an exclusive event.  Everything was carefully planned, and Camden from Emerson Events was freaking fantastic.  I'm not gonna lie, that girl was on top of everything!  She was a pleasure to work with and gave us the creative freedom and time we needed to get some spectacular shots.  With the KFOR band, and a dance performance (several actually), it was awesome to photograph, and a privilege to experience.  I'm so thankful that I met Emily and Michael and had the chance to capture some of the most important moments of their life and love.  Thank you Emily, and thank you Michael, I'm so lucky to call you the best of friends.

Dress: Moliere Bridal Cake: C.Birds Cakes, Grooms Cake: E Michelle's Cakes, Venue: Gaylord Pickens Museum, DJ: Jeremy Miller of BTP Productions, Videography: Ty Uhles, Photography: Leia Smethurst, Wedding Planner: Emerson Events, Catering: Abbey Roads Catering