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Whitestone Country Inn, Kingston, TN

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
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While planning my 2004 wedding, I looked at several venues in the area. Aesthetics are very important to me, and I knew that I wanted something picturesque and elegant. Initially I liked the idea of having a ceremony outside, but the stress of not having an indoor option for inclement weather turned me off at a few locations. Once I visited Whitestone Country Inn, I knew that I had found the perfect place.

Whitestone has a cute little gazebo area with a gorgeous view if you want to have an outdoor ceremony, but they also have a little chapel available. Since our wedding was in June, I was a bit worried about the temperatures outside and decided to use the chapel. A spring or fall wedding overlooking the lake would be beautiful though.

Not only are the grounds beautiful, but the buildings are all great inside and out. I stayed in a large room with my girlfriends the night before the wedding and then stayed in another nice suite on my wedding night. All of our family and friends were well taken care of and commented on how nice the venue was. The food was excellent, and the coordinator worked with me to accomodate all of my requests and to make the day run smoothly.

It was the perfect venue for us, and I am so glad that I found it. Here are a few snapshots:

The early morning view from my balcony:

Venue Spotlight: Whitestone Country Inn

Looking up the hill to the chapel and reception building:
Venue Spotlight: Whitestone Country Inn

The gazebo and heart-shaped courtyard located next to the chapel:
Venue Spotlight: Whitestone Country Inn

Not every venue will work for every wedding, and there are a few things to consider with this location. The ceremony areas and reception hall are not extremely large. The inn is located out in the country down some small, winding roads. This may present a problem for guests traveling home afterward. Due to the inclusive nature of the weekend wedding packages and the exclusivity of the venue, many budgets will not be able to afford this venue. However, if you fall in love with the location then you may be able to find other areas to cut back in or work with the venue on a weekday or off-season wedding.
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On Location, Knoxville, TN

Sunday, March 4, 2007
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I ran into an interesting report online today about how much people are spending on weddings. It sounds a little unbelievable, but anyone planning a wedding can attest to how fast everything adds up. I thought that those of you planning a wedding might want to see how your budget compares to that of the average American wedding couple.

The average American wedding in 2006 cost almost $27,000 with the average for weddings around Knoxville closer to $23,000. The following numbers are a general breakdown and should be adjusted for inflation since 2006.

Wedding attire (dress, tux, hair, makeup, veil, accessories) = $1,800-1,900
Wedding Ceremony (location, decorations, officiate, rehearsal dinner) = $1,800-2,300
Favors & Gifts (for parents, attendants, and guests) = $800-1,100
Flowers (bouquets, decorations/centerpieces, bouts, corsages) = $1,400-1,700
Jewelry (his & her rings) = $1,500-1,700
Music (ceremony & reception) = $700-900
Photography = $2,700-4,000
Reception (wedding night hotel, beverages, food, venue, rentals, cake) = $10,000-13,000
Stationery = $600-800
Transportation = $300-500
Engagement ring = $3,100
Honeymoon = $2,600

It all sounds very expensive, but it is possible to have the wedding you want and still stick to a budget if you prioritize. My husband and I paid for our wedding ourselves and had to find creative ways to keep the price down. By finding ways to cut back in some areas, we were able to spend our money on the things that were most important to us.

I booked the venue I wanted - Whitestone Country Inn. I picked the rings I wanted (after all, I do plan on wearing them every day). My husband Marcus wanted a sit-down dinner so that is what we had.

So which areas did I save money on? Luckily, I had a wonderful friend to do the photography. I found Hallmark invitations on sale, and we printed the inserts and STD magnets ourselves. I bought flowers and did the bouquets myself. We ordered his wedding band online. I made my own veil, tiara, and jewelry. The centerpieces were bought on sale at Target after Easter. We had a sit-down dinner but did not serve alcohol (would have been a bad idea since our guests had to drive home in the dark). We kept the guestlist small. We had live music for the ceremony but used CDs for the reception. We did not have a rehearsal dinner (our rehearsal was the morning of the wedding). We did not give out favors to the guests (from experience, I know that they aren't missed). The ceremony and reception were in one location so there were no transportation costs and no rental fees. Happily, Marcus's parents gave us some money as a gift to use toward the honeymoon, and I had enough frequent flyer miles to cover the plane tickets so we were able to go to Italy like I wanted.

Also, we did not hire a videographer. We did, however, have a friend shoot some video throughout the day and put together a little video montage for us. The first time I watched it, I cried, but now we can't help but laugh at ourselves when we see it.

We had an amazing, beautiful wedding. By deciding what's most important to you and what areas you can cut back on, you too can have the wedding you dream of.

Edited 2008: This thread has received some renewed interest lately. Unfortunately, I don't have up-to-date numbers so keep in mind that these figures are a couple years old now. My current clients usually spend between $3,500 and $5,000 on their total photography coverage. My clients appreciate good photography and consider it an important part of their budget so they are willing to pay for the time and skill necessary to create beautiful imagery. However, I am not in a high-end market. Those living in large cities or different parts of the country can expect to pay considerably more for comparable work.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007
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The practice of not allowing the groom to see the bride dates back to the times of arranged marriages. The father of the bride was reportedly afraid that the groom might back out if he didn’t like the looks of his intended so they postponed the “unveiling” until the ceremony. Nowadays, you know each other, and you know what to expect when you see each other at the ceremony. Letting go of that old superstition and deciding to meet early has so many advantages that more and more couples are deciding to have a “first look” meeting.

If you opt to meet before the ceremony, you can truly make the most of your day. We schedule the “first look” to take place as soon as the bride and groom are dressed. You can see each other while you’re still fresh and excited; you aren’t tired from doing group formals, and you aren’t nervous about the ceremony. It’s a special, shared moment that you have to talk, hug, pray, and just enjoy being together. Then the two of you can spend 20-30 minutes “alone” together getting great couple portraits.

For your special “first look” meeting, you can even decide to put him at the end of the aisle and walk down to him. However, most couples choose to have his back turned until you’re ready to jump into his arms. That way you can still have the precious moment during the ceremony when he sees you walking toward him.

Some of my most emotional vow exchanges have been with couples who saw each other before the ceremony. They were more relaxed and able to focus on the words that they were exchanging rather than the butterflies in their stomach. They really felt like they were doing something together and felt connected in a way that you might not feel if you’ve spent the day apart.

If you meet at the altar, you have lots of eyes on you and can’t really enjoy the moment. So many other things are going through your head, and the excitement of the moment gets pent up until the end of the ceremony. When you finally do get a minute to talk to each other, it’s usually something really profound like, “Hey, we did it!” After the ceremony, you’re rushed and stressed to get the group pictures out of the way. Then at the reception, you’ll have the dance and cake cutting, but most of the time will be spent socializing with other people. Even if you can retouch your makeup and find your bouquet and veil to sneak off and do more photos together, you’ll be tired and feel rushed to get back to your guests.

Some brides are stuck thinking that it is more romantic for him to see you for the first time as you are coming down the aisle. It is romantic, and if that’s the way that you want it to go then do it your way. You can always focus on being with family and friends at the wedding and then schedule a newlywed session later to have more photos taken together. However, sharing that private time together and then enjoying the rest of the wedding without the extra stress is romantic too. The important thing is that the two of you discuss the alternatives and decide what is important to you. Do what you want. Then you’ll be happy, and the guests will be happy (even if they have to stand around and wait for a while at the reception) because you’re happy.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007
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There are a few key reasons why I prefer digital photography over film:

1. The pictures can be viewed immediately. This is my favorite thing about digital cameras. I know instantly if I've captured the best photo possible and can make corrections if needed.

2. Memory cards hold more pictures than film. I can wait until a lull in the activities to backup the files rather than having to constantly switch out film.

3. Images are less likely to be lost. Backups of the files can be made during the event and immediately afterward.

4. ISO can be changed quickly and easily. Traditional photographers need to use multiple cameras with different ISO rated films or switch out the film when going from one lighting situation to another.

5. There are no restrictions on how many pictures I can take. Traditional photographers must pay for the film used and are weary of wasting film. I have no such worry.

6. Creativity and experimentation. I'm free to try anything that comes into my head because I can delete the picture or change settings and try again.

7. More editing options. Traditional photographers are limited by having to use either color film or black and white. I can use one digital file to produce color, black and white, sepia or selective color prints. This gives you more variety and choices.

8. Image enhancement such as removing blemishes, stray hairs, and spots on clothing are also quicker and easier with digital editing.

9. No scanner needed. No need to spend hours scanning in your proofs before you can share them online.

10. It's easy to make prints and enlargements. You don't have to wait on a photographer to send you reprints. With digital files, multiple copies can be printed cheaply and easily so that anyone who wants a copy can have one. Spreading copies around the family also makes you less likely to lose all of your precious pictures in the event of disaster.

11. Avoid film processing. Film processing uses toxic chemicals that can damage the environment and adds a third person who may damage or lose the negatives.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007
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After you've spent countless hours and dollars planning the picture-perfect wedding, you want a photographer who can deliver the perfect pictures. Wedding photos should capture each precious moment and event of the whirlwind day in a beautiful, creative way. After the vows, the dancing, and the cake have all passed by in a blur, you want to be left with photographs that will remind you of the joy, surprise, and love of the day - a beautiful collection of images to be cherished for years to come.

In the field of wedding photography, there are many skilled photographers to choose from, and the decision can seem overwhelming. First and foremost, keep in mind that the pictures are the whole reason that you are hiring someone. You must like the photographs and be comfortable with the person's photographic style and vision. By now you have probably seen lots of wedding images and have an idea of what you want so search for photographers with a style that suits your needs.

Weddings are major events with large price tags, but keep in mind that one year after the wedding you will be left with a ring on your finger and your wedding album to remind you of this wonderful event. Most photographers can offer similar albums, prints, or cards. What you are really paying for are the photographer's vision, creativity, and the images that they can create. Regardless of the price or what's included, no package is a good deal unless the images are great. Prioritize your spending so that you can get a nice album and the best photographer that you can afford.

Once you've narrowed your potential photographer list down, meet with them. Ask yourself if you are comfortable with them. After all, you will be spending most of your wedding day with this person and should not book them if you can't be yourself. No photographer is right for every couple.

Finally, it only takes one person to book your date and leave you without your first choice. Once you have found the photographer that's right for you, sign a contract and secure your date as soon as possible.

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Welcome!
Welcome to the Nancy Hellsten Photography blog! This is the place to be if you’re looking for wedding ideas and photography promotions or if you just want to view some great photos and see what I’ve been up to. If you or someone you know are getting married, having a baby, or just want some relaxed portraits with the family, please visit my website or contact me for more information. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for visiting and check back often to see what’s new.
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