2019 marks NINE years for me of shooting weddings professionally, so when people who know this hear that I’m getting married, everyone seems to be curious about the choices I’ve made after spending so much time in the industry.

The automatic assumption is that planning must have been a breeze for me, after all – I’ve had so many years to gather ideas, witness the pitfalls, the triumphs, know what stressors to avoid, etc.

Well- let me tell ya- planning is NOT easy.

Not for me, and not for most people. Even for trained event planners it’s still a pretty big deal!

A friend of mine referred to wedding planning in a way us outdoorsy folk refer to rough days in the mountains – “Type 2 Fun”. He couldn’t be more right. In retrospect will it be worth it? Absolutely- but it’s not so fun right now.

Part of my job as a photographer is to help guide future couples and to make their lives easier. Now that I’ve been on the bride-side of things, I feel like I have so much more to offer! Therefore I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned from my time in the industry, how I’m applying them to my own wedding, and a few new things I’ve picked up along the way!

First topic I want to tackle- VENUES!

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(one) Choosing a Venue

Where to start : Choosing to look for venue in an area that holds a special place in your heart can make your day even more memorable – plus you’ll have that sentimental place to go visit over and over again.

Our first date was a camping trip in Allenspark, Colorado at an area overlooking Wild Basin (part of Rocky Mountain National Park) with an amazing view of Mt. Meeker – a prominent 13er in the area. It’s also the same exact spot where Bobby proposed to me and asked me to be his “adventure buddy for life”!

Naturally- this campsite has become a very important place to us. It just made sense to also get married somewhere nearby – so we started our search for venues in the Allenspark/Lyons/Estes Park area.

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What I’ve learned as a photographer :

I knew I wanted a large private residence or a venue that provided lodging to our guests. 

Why? In my experience, wedding days – especially those that involve guests who have to travel – can be extremely stressful for a couple who feels obligated to spend the few hours at their reception making sure to spend time with every single guest. No one wants their guests to feel like they traveled such a long way, and didn’t even get a chance to chat with the couple or give them more than just a quick hug and a “congrats”.

Venues that provide lodging for numerous people for multiple days allow a couple to spend quality time with their guests who are traveling. This alleviates the pressure to spend their entire wedding celebration worrying about whether or not they’ve had time to interact with everyone there. The couple will actually be able to just revel in their wedding celebration, doing what they want without stress or guilt.

What I’ve learned as a bride:

Lesson 1: Take a venue tour. 

The venue we thought we would choose and the venue we went with are so entirely different.

We went to look around at a prominent wedding venue known for lodging, and were treated pretty poorly by the staff. We were ignored and treated like an aggravation, and it definitely didn’t feel like a welcoming place in reality vs. the warmth that was conveyed in the imagery on their site.

On the opposite side of things – we really weren’t sure about the venue we ended up choosing before taking the tour.

The website didn’t quite do it justice, and the price seemed too good to be true! But within the first couple minutes of touring the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Allenspark (though the address is technically Lyons), Colorado- we knew it was “the one”.

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by pine forests and aspen groves, 6 little red cabins and a lodge provide the ultimate Colorado experience to the laid-back outdoorsy type who really just want their wedding day to feel like they’re hanging out with their friends and family at basecamp before (and after) their grand adventure.

It’s perfect for weddings between 60-80 people, but can hold up to 100 and sleep up to 40 overnight. We have the venue for three nights which allows us to hang out with our friends & family before the wedding day, have community dinners/breakfasts, use it as a meeting point for hikes together, hang out by the fire pit in the evening, and there are no worries about folks driving home inebriated.

Not only is the venue just our style, but the owners – Cat & Cory – are the sweetest, and work so hard to make SML a cozy and homey space for their guests.

The cherry on top of it all is that it is just a short 15 minute drive from the campsite where we’ve made so many memories together as a couple, and we’ll be saying our own private vows there before heading back to the lodge for a larger ceremony with family & friends.

Lesson 2 : Consider how inclusive your venue is. 

Because Sunshine Mountain Lodge isn’t a traditional venue, we had to piece our vendors together ourselves vs. just booking one big package. It’s no fault of the venue’s – we chose this path! But we didn’t quite realize how many small logistical issues can arise from doing everything yourself. Do NOT underestimate how much planning can go into building a wedding day from scratch, and having to worry about things like “who will pick up the 18 bags of ice? Where will we store it?”, etc.

All inclusive venues can be really nice for this reason, but they can also really limit you if you want to customize your day.

To  us, Sunshine Mountain Lodge is the perfect venue for us and our crew, and totally worth the extra planning.

Lesson 3: Inform your guests about considerations they need to take given the venue you’ve chosen. 

Sometimes when we live in an area like this, it’s easy to take for granted how much others might not realize. Make sure to inform your guests of pertinent information that they might not think of.

Some examples of things we’ve needed to tell our guests based on Sunshine Mountain Lodge being a venue in the Colorado mountains around 8500′ in elevation :

  • Drink lots of water. It’s incredibly easy to dehydrate in the high desert at elevation, and acute mountain sickness is not fun.
  • Alcoholic drinks will hit you harder here. Keep that in mind and drink responsibly.
  • There will not be cement or pavement of any kind at our venue outside of a flagstone patio. Bring proper footwear.
  • Smoking marijuana is legal in Colorado, but please do not ash or throw anything containing embers on the ground. Forest fires are a real concern here, and it takes very little to get one going.
  • Wear sunscreen at all times. The sun is a lot harsher here and you can burn on cloudy days.
  • Do NOT leave any type of food in your rental cars. Bears are known to pull doors off hinges in pursuit of a Clif bar.
  • If you decide to recreate- beware of ominous weather. Lightning strikes are more frequent here and often lethal.
  • Beware of big animals. Moose and elk are not as friendly as you might think. Keep your distance and be respectful.

Anyways- that’s all for now! I hope that some of this advice has helped you think more about your venue, and if you’ve already booked it- what else you might consider when it comes to utilizing it. ūüôā

I love shooting at all different types of venues, but am so excited to spend my own wedding day at this one. It’s a gem.

I’ll make sure to post a follow up blog and let you all know how it went! Only 22 days now!

xo,

Jenny

How We Chose Our Venue | A Wedding Photographer’s Perspective Allenspark, Co

If I could always shoot couple’s sessions like this one, I would every. damn. day.

Christin & Craig are pretty much the prime example of a Boulder couple- active to the core, driven, passionate, independent, and of course – they incredibly admire those traits in one another.

Couples’ sessions are not always snuggles and kisses – they should represent you as a couple- who you are together & what you like to do. Just a few days before this session, these two ran the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim together. Therefore a mini-trail running session up off of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder was the perfect fit.

Check out this adorable athletic duo having fun together in the foothills. ūüôā

 

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Song : Furr – Blitzen Trapper

A Trail Running Couples Session on Flagstaff Mountain | Christin & Craig | Boulder, CO

This was the very last session I did before having my baby, at which point almost everything I did- including simple tasks like walking up a flight of stairs- was pretty uncomfortable. However, working with these two was so. damn. easy.

Not only are they incredible friends to Bobby & I, but it’s very clear that they are so happy together, and not at all afraid of being their weird selves (aka their best selves) in front of the camera. It probably doesn’t hurt that they’re both incredibly talented photographers (HOLLA >>> https://www.ali-v.co/ & http://www.iammattkennedy.com/), so they know that just letting go and being who you are is the best way to tell a love story vs. stuffy, unnatural poses.

I could go on and on about how much they’ve done for my little family, how we are so lucky to be their friends & neighbors, and how my life is definitely better with them in it, yada yada yada, but I’ll just let you see how freaking awesome and hilarious they are via a few photos from our shoot. ūüôā Enjoy!

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Song : The Weary Kind – Ryan Bingham

Ali & Matt | Modern Mountain Home Couples Session outside of Boulder, Colorado

Lynelle & Matt were one of the first couples I worked with upon making my way out to Colorado, and I knew too much time couldn’t go by without repeating that king of magic.

This dynamic couple/ex-van-lifers/avid travelers are the owners and talent behind Denver Rummage Shop where you can find all the cute vintage-wear that you could only stumble across in the thrift shop of your dreams. Suffice it to say they showed up to our meeting spot at Gross Reservoir for the shoot rocking vintage denim and I. was. THRILLED.

That evening, Colorado brought the sun, but L&M brought the love. (Cheesy, I know-  but look how damn perfect they are together!!!!!)

Enjoy this care-free duo being cute in the Rocky mountains! And leave a comment- I always love seeing what you think!

Click here to see their full gallery! 

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Song : Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka

Lynelle & Matt | An End-of-Winter Couples Session near Gross Reservoir at Golden Hour

Somehow the annual Shoot & Share competition has already come and gone, leaving me with what it usually does- a bunch of inspiration from other photographers amazing work, and a little bit of affirmation that I don’t suck at what I do. lol For those of you who don’t know what this competition is, it’s the worlds largest fair & free competition where images are shown by category in groups of four, and voters choose which image they like the most. All of this is done anonymously as to avoid the popularity contest that is so often present on social media.¬†

So here are my results, for those who are interested!

This year I entered the max amount of photos allowed (50), and 39 of them placed in the top 30% or higher in their categories!

  • One placed 17th!
  • 5 placed as “Finalists” which means they were in the top 500 images in their category.
  • 16 placed in the top 10%
  • 11 placed in the top 20%
  • 6 places in top 30%

Above each image, I included where they placed and how many total entries were in the listed category. ūüôā

Thanks to all of the awesome clients & friends I’ve worked with in the past year for being so freaking wonderful in front of the camera! It’s you who people are truly interested in, I just document your beautiful selves!¬†

17/11,412 РThe Wedding Party РTaken at Blackstone Rivers Ranch, Idaho Springs, CO 

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131/18,829 РWedding Details 

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153/11,412 РThe Wedding Party 

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481/45,058 – Wedding Couple

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404/11,696 – Ceremony / Reception

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226/7,593 – Phone Photography

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2,518/27,467 – Lifestyle / Documentary

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1,729/17,868 РThe Bride 

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1,122/18,829 РWedding Details 

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700/11,412 РThe Wedding Party 

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611/11,696 РCeremony / Reception 

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4,274/45,058 – Wedding Couple

1,028/10,613 РEmotion / Excitement 

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782/17,868 РThe Bride 

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1,384/17,868 РThe Bride 

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1,552/45,058 РWedding Couple 

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851/41,257 РFamilies 

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1,273/45,058 – Wedding Couple

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819/17,868 РThe Bride 

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1,243/18,829 – Wedding Details

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3,353/45,058 РWedding Couple 

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2,266/45,058 РWedding Couple 

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2,717/18,829 – Wedding Details

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7,694/45,058 – Wedding Couple

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8,880/45,058 – Wedding Couple

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2,144/18,829 – Wedding Details

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1,075/10,613 – Wedding Couple

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2,929/25,034 – People Portraits

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6,254/39,479 – Newborn

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5,577/39,479 – Newborn

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6,836/41,257 РFamilies 

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5,018/45,058 РWedding Couple 

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2,753/25,034 РPeople Portraits 

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6,103/27,467 РLifestyle / Documentary 

8,525/41,321 – Babies / Toddlers

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10,194/48,578 – Engagement / Couples

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10,695/48,578 – Engagement / Couples

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10,934/41,257 – Families

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8,761/41,257 – Families

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SHOOT & SHARE CONTEST RESULTS : 2019

As per my self-imposed tradition, I felt it was time to make my year-in-review slash “Best of” blog post for 2018.

Most years I put a decent amount of pressure on myself to truly put time into this post and pick out my single favorite photo from every session/wedding/personal moment I shot throughout the course of the year. This year I’ve decided to give myself grace and just include a bunch of favorites vs. the very best of the best. There are also so many deeply meaningful photos that I missed including as well, because to be honest- I have to give myself a mental break this holiday.

Here’s a quick recap of my 2018:

Professionally, I worked with :

21 wonderful couples on their wedding. I started shoot weddings at the very end of July this year, so 21 between what was essentially August – December was quite a wild ride.
My weddings too me to :

Lake Tahoe, California |  Denver, Aspen/Maroon Bells, Vail, Estes Park, Dillon/Silverthorne, Idaho Springs, Colorado Springs, Grand Lake, Steamboat Springs, Ridgway, Littleton, Beavercreek and Gateway, Colorado  |  Orlando & Winter Park, Florida  |  Phoenix, Arizona

9 couples/engagement sessions. This needs to be higher next year as couples sessions are my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!!!

10 beautiful families in various stages (maternity & with kiddos)

11 amazing local/small businesses (some multiple times).

Personally : 

I had a baby.

Honestly that could kind of sum up my entire year in the most general terms, as it seems to be a process that has consumed my entire life for the last year+. It’s kind of insane how much your life changes when you have a kid, but not in every way.

We’ve already taken Bryce on 15 flights and many road trips with us to my weddings and on various other adventures. It’s been really exciting to see how well he travels and that my job allows us to all explore so many areas together as a family. Next year we already have travel planned for weddings at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and even St. Croix USVI!

A couple other notable things from this year : – Got out to Utah (Moab & Bryce Canyon) several times. – Watched Bobby & my friends ice climb in Ouray. – Hiked in the Brainard Lake area for the first time, and also got back on my FAVORITE trail in Colorado (4th of July Trail). – Saw the incredible Gregory Alan Isakov and shed many a tear when he played mine & Bobby’s song- “Idaho”. – Spent Thanksgiving weekend away, visiting the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs with friends who also just had a baby. – Visited friends & family in Ohio 3 times. – Lost a lot of sleep, gained a bunch of weight… yay parenthood!

Anyways, please enjoy scrolling through my year as captured in photographs. These make my heart happy.

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A YEAR IN REVIEW : BEST OF 2018