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The Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, TN

Friday, August 10, 2007
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On a sunny August day in 2005, Alicia Sawatsky married Brent Altum on top of a mountain near Gatlinburg. The bridal preparations took place in a nearby cabin that was included in the venue's wedding package. Alicia's family traveled in from as far away as Canada to share in the special day. After the outdoor ceremony, the couple released doves and then retreated into the enclosed pavilion for dinner, toasts, a bit of dancing, and of course cake.

Sawatsky/Altum Wedding Anniversary August 10
Sawatsky/Altum Wedding Anniversary August 10
Sawatsky/Altum Wedding Anniversary August 10

Sawatsky/Altum Wedding Anniversary August 10

Sawatsky/Altum Wedding Anniversary August 10

Sawatsky/Altum Wedding Anniversary August 10

A tip on destination weddings in Gatlinburg:

There are many small venues in Gatlinburg that specialize in destination weddings. These places can be an excellent choice for couples who want a small wedding, and they often have various packages to fit different budgets. However, these venues usually do perform many, many more weddings than venues in other cities, and couples often have less say in how their day will play out. The main problem that I have seen is that venue employees will agree to special requests by phone or email and then the people there on the wedding day know nothing about it and can't allow the changes.

If you are planning such a wedding, absolutely get everything in writing, and take it with you to the wedding. Learn who will be there on your wedding day and only deal directly with them. The day before (or at least as early on the wedding day as possible), get together with the person to go over your plans for the day and reiterate any special requests that you have made. Alicia and Brent did have a problem with their venue early on their wedding day, but they were able to speak with the owner and straighten things out because they were well prepared.

Many of the venues will not allow outside photographers, and many will not even allow guests to take photographs. They will even separate the guests from the wedding party and couple during the photographs. I once witnessed an employee yell at the groom's mother for trying to take photographs. She then stood in front of everyone to keep them away from the couple and to block photos.

However, you may be able to work out a deal with the venue in which you either pay an additional fee or pay for their photography service and then just don't use it. This is an example of a special request that you would want to have in writing.

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The Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, TN

Sunday, June 17, 2007
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Danielle Embry and Rashaan Backers of Kentucky had a 2005 destination wedding on top of a mountain near Gatlinburg. These are two of the most beautiful people inside and out, and they had a perfectly beautiful wedding. After getting ready with her girls in a cabin nearby, Danielle was driven to the ceremony/reception site where her mother walked her down the aisle to Rashaan. When the officiant asked for the rings, Danielle surprised Rashaan with a diamond band instead of the plain band that he was expecting. With tears of joy, they exchanged their vows and then jumped the broom before heading up the aisle as man and wife.

Also memorable were the delicious caramel apples that the guests received as favors, the program printed on fans for the guests, the groom acting as DJ, and a beautiful sunset over the mountains.


Danielle getting laced into her dressEmbry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18

Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18


The cloud cover helped keep the temperature comfortable and created dramatic skies.

Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18

Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18
Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18
Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18

Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18

This isn't exactly what I was expecting when Rashaan asked me to take a photo of him with one of his students...

Embry/Backers Wedding Anniversary June 18
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The Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, TN

Monday, April 30, 2007
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Kelly Powers and Dempsey Parlier had a 2005 destination wedding in Gatlinburg. While helping her daughter plan the wedding, Kelly's mother Cathie heard about me on The Knot message boards and contacted me about photographing the wedding. I'm so glad that she did!

When I arrived and saw the baker transporting the cake up to the ballroom, I knew that it would be a fun wedding. The cake, like the couple, was really fun and quirky.

I began with photos of the girls getting ready in their suite on the top floor of the Clarion. From the large windows in the room, we could see the chapel across the street. The weather was wet, but it didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits.

For destination weddings, the small chapels in Gatlinburg can offer a great value. They often have inclusive packages at reasonable rates which can be perfect for many couples. However, in order to keep the cost low for each couple, much of the business plan is based on performing a large number of weddings and/or selling add-ons (such as photography). Anything that cuts into their profit (such as an outside photographer) may not be welcome, and as a result I have seen a few brides run into problems on the wedding day.

Fortunately, Kelly & Dempsey were married at Sugarland Wedding Chapel. Unlike some chapels that restrict guest photography so that you have to purchase expensive prints from them if you want to have any photos of your own wedding, Sugarland was much more accomodating. They did allow me to take photos as long as I stayed in one place and did not use flash so that I wouldn't disrupt the ceremony or interfere with their photography.

Afterward, everyone walked across the street to a reception in the Clarion hotel ballroom. Kelly's wedding was my first opportunity to work with one of my favorite DJs - Jim Ogle of Special Notes. DJs, like photographers, are not all the same. A good DJ does make a difference and can even make my job much easier, helping me produce the best reception photos possible.

Here are a few favorite photos from the day. Happy second anniversary, guys!
Powers/Parlier Wedding Anniversary April 30

Powers/Parlier Wedding Anniversary April 30

Powers/Parlier Wedding Anniversary April 30
Powers/Parlier Wedding Anniversary April 30
Powers/Parlier Wedding Anniversary April 30
Powers/Parlier Wedding Anniversary April 30
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Calhouns, Gatlinburg, TN

Sunday, April 8, 2007
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Jamie Guest and Ethan Allen traveled from Michigan for a 2005 destination wedding in Gatlinburg. Family and friends joined them for a ceremony at one of the many wedding chapels, and then the group went to Calhoun's for dinner and cake.

Jamie was one of the most relaxed, generous brides that I have had the pleasure to work with, and from the way the couple included their son and Jamie's 3 girls in the day, it was very obvious that this is a close-knit, loving family.

Guest/Allen Wedding Anniversary April 8
Guest/Allen Wedding Anniversary April 8
Guest/Allen Wedding Anniversary April 8
Guest/Allen Wedding Anniversary April 8

Guest/Allen Wedding Anniversary April 8

Guest/Allen Wedding Anniversary April 8

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The Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, TN

Monday, March 12, 2007
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Since this is my first year with a blog, weddings from past years have missed out on being featured. To rectify this, I want to go back and do postings for those couples in honor of their anniversaries.

Lindsay Anderson & Brian Ison had a 2005 destination wedding in Gatlinburg, TN. They rented a large cabin from Majestic Mountain Vacations so that they could have the ceremony and reception there. It was perfect for the intimate event they had planned, and the view was incredible. Fortunately, the sun came out and melted the snow that had fallen the day before or I'm not sure we could have made it up the hill to the cabin!

The view looking toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Gatlinburg.
Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12
Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12
Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12
Brian is in the U.S. Airforce so Lindsay wore a dog tag on her garter.
Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12
Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12
Anderson/Ison Wedding Anniversary March 12
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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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