Guest Blog Posts

Vendor Visions {Wedding Desserts Advice with Shell's Sweets, Rochester Bakery}

Vendor Visions is a new collaboration between Wendy Zook Photography and various vendors from across the Rochester and Buffalo areas. These posts will feature one local vendor and their advice on planning wedding details in their field. 

Our first in this series features Michelle Crawford of Shell's Sweets, a New York State-licensed in-home bakery based out of Henrietta, New York. 

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At any one time,  Michelle is balancing a 50-pound, four-tier wedding cake (no, literally trying to balance it!), bridal shower desserts and an assortment of birthday cakes and special occasion cookies. 

Her love of sweets became a passion, working desserts as a side job in 2011, which became today's successful Shell's Sweets, established as a full-time job for Michelle in 2014. It's not all fun and ease in the kitchen -- just one tier of an intricate cake can take her up to seven hours to complete. It's all worth it though, as Michelle's desire to meet new people and explore new venues and events comes to fruition with each carefully-prepped and decorated treat. 

"I love the creative aspect," she says. "I love meeting with my customers. It's fun to hear about what they have in mind."

Wedding Dessert Advice

Michelle suggests engaged couples reach out to their baker at least six months before their wedding date, but adds, "less than that may not be impossible."

You should also talk to your baker about your budget and be honest about it. 
"There are ways to have a gorgeous and delicious cake without breaking the bank," she says. "Flexibility and willingness to be open-minded is important."

Other things to keep in mind include coordinating with your venue. A tiny cake, for instance, could get lost in a huge, grand ballroom. There are ways to make it work, with tricks like stacking or using a larger stand to create the illusion of a larger cake. 

Michelle recommends sharing all details of your day with your baker so they can incorporate your overall vision at the dessert table -- recently, Michelle has used multiple tiers with unique looks for each, different-colored cake plates and a window or frame to share flavors and dessert options. 

Also consider the size of your table (a simple cake can look amazing on a smaller table) and the decor on the table (caketoppers, stands, flowers, etc.)

"I love it when they put a picture of their parents on their wedding days or something like that out," Michelle says. "But don't compete with the design of the cake. You don't need a lot, but a little addition is nice."

The background of a cake table is important, too -- just ask any wedding photographer who has cropped out "exit" signs or dealt with reflections and fingerprints on windows. 

In 2017, Michelle is getting the feeling that we'll see a lot less of the rustic looks (less naked cakes, for instance, although we'll still see those beauties, too, etc). It seems like the trends are gearing toward a more sophisticated look, more of an "urban elegance" feel -- gold lace, watercolor, pops of color, brushing with gold, painting buttercream, and more unique ideas. 

Spreads are very popular still -- cakes and cupcakes mixed together with a variety of flavors and even mixes of different types of cakes or pies together for guests to enjoy. A lot of brides are even considering to-go containers for guests to enjoy leftover desserts later that night or even the next day. 

Traditional flavors like vanilla or chocolate are always popular and safe, Michelle says, adding that it's always fun to add another flavor through a kitchen cake or different tiers. 
"Do something fun," she suggests, noting recent requests for Funfetti cake layers and a champagne-flavored cake. "Do what's you."

Michelle's favorite part of the process is watching the cakes and desserts begin to represent a happy, in-love couple and their most special day. 
"Their styles show through," she says. "That's what's so fun about weddings -- you can do what's you."

You can follow Michelle and her delicious desserts here: Website Facebook Instagram

Know a great vendor in the Rochester area? Want to be our next Vendor Visions guest? E-mail wendy@wendyzookphotography.com with the subject "Vendor Visions." 

 

Wedding Photographer Checklist with Sixth Bloom

Over the past several weeks, I collaborated with Erin of Sixth Bloom (a fantastic website with tips for photographers of all genres and skill levels) to create a series of tips for wedding photographers. I'm so proud of what we were able to accomplish and share and I wanted to include it here, too, for all of my photographer and vendor friends to enjoy! Plus, it features some of my favorite images from my amazing Wendy Zook Photography couples in 2015!

 

This was a 10-part series of how to best capture the story of your couple and their wedding day, all the way from engagement sessions to a genuine showing of appreciation.

 

Part One: 6 Tips for a Successful Engagement Session -- An engagement session is included in every one of my wedding packages because it offers a chance to truly get to know my couples, understand their styles and get all of the kinks out in a laidback, non-formal atmosphere.

 

 

Part Two: Creating a Wedding Timeline to Avoid a Disaster -- One of the biggest mistakes I did when I was first photographing weddings was not being more involved in creating a timeline for my couple's day and not speaking up when there was something that could disrupt their wishes for photos. Here are some tips in creating a solid wedding day timeline.

Part Three: Brilliant Ideas for Working with Wedding Vendors -- Some of my best friends and biggest cheerleaders are other wedding day vendors and creatives. Here's how I keep my "co-workers" on wedding days happy.

Part Four: The Great Debate: Tips for a First Look or No First Look -- I never push my couples into choosing a First Look. There's pros and cons to each side of the decision and I share some of those here.

 

 

Part Five: 6 Must-Have Pictures to Get of the Bride -- I loved reminiscing about some of my favorite moments with my brides this year. It can be a stressful day for her, so these tips not only help you capture her on her wedding day, but also keep things smooth and easy for her, too!

 

 

Part Six: 5 Pictures to Capture of the Groom -- The spotlight tends to fall on the beautiful woman wearing a white gown, but some of my favorite moments to photograph involve the groom. This section included ideas on how to capture fantastic and memorable images of the guys on a wedding day.

Part Seven: 6 TIps for Quick and Easy Family Portraits at a Wedding -- You want to honor the loved ones that supported your couple individually and together, but you also need to get a lot of people photographed in a short amount of time, sometimes in less-than-ideal settings. Here's some tips on accomplishing that with family portraits at a wedding.

Part Eight: 6 Tips to Keep Bridal Party Photos Smooth and Fresh -- The best ways to keep your sometimes-large group focused and organized and allowing them to leave before the photos really become annoying for them.

 

 

Part Nine: 68 Details to Capture at a Wedding -- This focused on all of the little things to keep an eye out for on a wedding day. It's not all about the dazzling diamonds (although those are so much fun to photograph)!

 

 

Part Ten: 6 Tips Photographers Need to Put the Final Touch on a Wedding -- this one is all about wrapping up your experience with this couple with kindness and surprises. 
 

Dear Future Bride --- Advice from recent brides on creating your dream day - Part One

Dear Future Bride --- Advice from recent brides on creating your dream day - Part One

Dear Future Brides -- Recent Wendy Zook Photography Brides offer advice on planning and preparing for your special day -- what they would have done differently and all of their favorite memories. This is Part One of a two-part series.

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A little Q-and-A with Wedding Planner Candice Mock of Patchwork Planning

Next up for a Q-and-A is my dear friend and insanely talented event planner Candice Mock of Patchwork Planning. Based out of Northeast PA, Candice has a traveling heart. Her magic touch has been found on weddings and special events across the country and I know she's itching for her first international experience! Here she talks a little about her start, what she loves most and why a wedding planner is SO important. 

 Tropical Barn Wedding by Patchwork Planning -- Image Courtesy of Photography by Seneca

Tropical Barn Wedding by Patchwork Planning -- Image Courtesy of Photography by Seneca

 

When and how did PP begin?

I first started giving tips and advice while I was planning my own wedding in 2013. Word was getting out that we were going to have this incredible DIY wedding for $3,500 and people couldn't figure out how. After our wedding went off without a flaw and we had the best day ever, my engaged friends knew I needed to be there for them on their wedding day (and I wanted to!). So, I operated under "Candice Mock Wedding and Events" and did some "partial planning" and "day of coordination packages for some friends. In fact, our first wedding we got to really be a part of was in Georgia, then our second was in Idaho in the Spring of 2014. We were stoked to have one of our first PA weddings at Friedman Farms right here in Dallas (Pa.), which was such a joy to be able to work with actual local vendors. In the Fall of 2014, I knew I wanted to take this on as a serious business and so I rebranded and became officially Patchwork Planning in December of last year. 

 Candice & Evan on their wedding day. Photo by Mika McClurkin. 

Candice & Evan on their wedding day. Photo by Mika McClurkin. 

 

Why did you decide to become a planner? 

After seeing how many details were involved, and how costly things can get, I wanted there to be another way: Another way for a single mom who is working to provide for her kids, let alone trying to save for and plan a wedding; Another way for the bride who has planned it all but wants someone there to make sure the days of is as beautiful as it can be. I wanted to recreate the image that wedding planners are only for large weddings that have lots of money. I guest when it comes down to it, I want to help people, couples, families, on one of their most beautiful days of their lives (and what could be one of the most stressful days as well). 

 

Tell me a little bit about what you do for your couples and clients -- what are the different options for your assistance? What's the most popular type of help wedding couples need? 

We start out with three different packages: Full planning, which can start as soon as they get engaged; Partial Planning, which is a customizable package starting a minimum of four months out, and our most popular and most inadequately-named Day-of Package. As mentioned, our Full Planning Package can start right off the bat. It can include anything that it needs to, from recommending and selecting vendors to attending fittings. It includes monthly checklists of things to do (or things couples would like me to do) and a lot more. I call it the "whole enchilada" because that's really what it is. Our Partial Planning Package is for those that might have booked some vendors, but still need help finding some others. It can also include help with RSVP management and other details that come up in the last three months of planning. Our last package, though called Day Of, starts one month out with a meeting with the couple to get caught up on all the planning they've done. After a venue run-through and a vendor list we put together, we put together our most vital part of the wedding day -- the timeline. This ensures everyone will be on the same page, from bridal party to the DJ. It's also called "Month of" Package and "Peach of Mind" Package. Because each wedding day is so different, we want to be as customizable as possible. That way, you are paying for what you need, and not anything extra. Have something crazy we need to do? (Like making sure your dog can be kenneled during your wedding day?) We can add that, and anything else, to the package. 

 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in planning?

As movies have pointed out, there is always the chance we will have a "bridezilla" on our hands -- the most pleasant bride ever, until one small detail can set them off. I think the challenge is, especially because people are so different, is finding what can not just calm them down but bring everything back into perspective. We've dealt with screaming mothers, drunk grooms, late caterers and the list goes on. But at the end of the day, it's reminding the couple that they will be married. And no matter if it was the perfect day they imagined or due to things beyond our control it wasn't the ideal day, they will still be married. 

 

What three words would best describe you/your style/your business?

Organized

Thrifty

Friendly

 

What's been the best compliment you've received?

We've worked with a lot of incredible people, from couples that we've planned every detail with to couples we've met one month prior -- and not to mention some awesome bridal parties that we might only have known for two days but still talk about. One of my favorite compliments was for a couple that I planned almost every detail for while they lived in an entirely different country. Though there's more to it than I can say, after the ceremony, the father came up to me and said, "I can't thank you enough, you've truly brought our entire family closer together." I was flabbergasted and may have shed a tear. What can I say to something like that? It is an honor, an absolute honor, to work with couples on such an important day of their lives. 

 

What is this 100-plus item emergency kit? What are some of the strangest things you've had to find/use?

A fellow wedding planner was gracious enough to send me her emergency kit list. As I bought the different items, (everything from aspirin to fake rings), I realized I was going to need a suitcase. Now, when I head to different venues, I call it my "Mary Poppins bag" and everyone is always surprised when they need something and I say, "Oh, I think I have that." One of the first weekends I had the bag with me, I used almost half a bottle of aspirin, medical tape and an ace bandage. Strange because it was a wedding drinking festival and if I didn't have those items, I don't know what I would have done. I truly feel prepared for almost everything.

 

What about your job brings you the greatest joy?

At the end of the night, hearing the "We couldn't have imagined the day without you" is something that always resonates with me. We hear it at every single wedding we have done, and sometimes multiple people at the event repeat it. It's such an honor to be a part of someone's most special day. Sometimes you might not have known you needed a planner, or maybe you are a bride-to-be and don't think you need an extra hand. You will never know how much easier, smoother, peaceful, etc, your day could be with one. 

 

What does your Instagram feed look like? (www.instagram.com/thepwplanner)

My Instagram is a mix of curated posts of inspiration from others in the wedding industry, our own weddings and shoots, our English Bulldog, Stacy, and adventures with my husband. Every day is different!

 

Why is photography so important on a couple's wedding day? What questions should people ask of a potential photographer?

Professional photos (keyword: professional) are unforgettable. So what if you don't think you're the photo type, or perhaps don't necessarily see the need right now. There may come a time that you wish you could see those photos, or that portrait of your grandma that passed away recently. You're on a tight budget? Generally, photographers will be willing to work with you to capture exactly what you want for a price you can afford. 

Definitely ask first and foremost what their style is. So you like alight and airy photos? When you see heavily-edited, saturated photos, you know they are not a good fit. Ask about a payment plan! Ask how long they are there for your wedding day. She if they've been to the venue beforehand. Discuss having a second shooter. The more you know, the more you'll feel comfortable with trusting them to capture your special day. 

 

What's your favorite part of a wedding day and why?

The end. Ha! That's kind of true (because that means everything went well and now the couple gets to focus on their marriage and not just their wedding day). But really, I would have to say the First Look or the recessional. That moment where the bride and groom see each other for the first time makes me forget the frustrated mother-of-the-bride, the jealous bridesmaid, etc. It puts everything into perspective for those few moments that really at the end of the day, no matter if the caterer is late, the flowers don't arrive or there's a hurricane outside, they are married and get to spend the rest of they lives loving each other. The recessional gives me a similar feeling, exuding so much joy surrounded by the people that love you the most. 

 

What's the future looking like for PP? Any changes coming to your services?

Well! We have been booking 2016 for a while now and even have a few weddings in 2017. We are working on a few "full planning" engagements, which is really like planning an entire wedding. In the midst of weddings, traveling and more weddings, we are also teaming up with some of our favorite vendors (Forget Me Not Vintage Rentals and Photography by Seneca) to do at least one styled shoot a month until November. 

There's a good chance we might need to hire an intern for next year's wedding season, which is exciting. We want to rewire the idea that wedding planners are only for the wealthy bride and will continue to work with brides according to their budgets and needs. 

 

Clockwise from Top Left: Mel and Jesse from Alexander x Pat Furey Photography (http://www.longbrookphotography.com and http://www.patfureyphoto.com) / Kaiti and Jon from Mika McClurkin / Sweetheart Table from a Tribal Wedding, photo courtesy Photography by Seneca / Nell and Chandler table set-up courtesy of Forget Me Not Rentals and Kelley Spurlock Photography. 


Be sure to visit Candice and Patchwork Planning at:

www.patchworkplanning.com

www.facebook.com/patchworkplanning

www.pinterest.com/patchworkplanning

www.instagram.com/patchworkplanning

E:mail: patchworkplanning@gmail.com 





A little Q-and-A with Boston Newborn Photographer Nicole Starr

As you may know, in a "past life" I was a journalist. It's what I studied for years and what I did for quite some time right out of college. I love asking the "why" and luckily, I get to tell stories now, through my images and through my relationships with my clients. 

So I thought it would be fun to do the occasional q-and-a with some of my favorite people -- professionals and small business owners across many different facets who I've worked with or known and who can offer some insight into a similar field. 

In this next installment of my Q-and-A series, I chatted with another dear friend, Nicole Starr (formerly Schwalm) of Nicole Starr Photography, a full-service boutique studio specializing in newborn, baby and family portraiture in the Boston area. Today seemed a great day to do this since she's offering a special promotion in honor of my son Zack (A complimentary session for every family with a child with DS in the Boston area that contacts her) for Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

Nicole Starr. Image courtesy of Cassandra Lauren Photography.

Nicole's photography style is light and whimsical, her sessions are easy and playful and she truly focuses on capturing children just as they are and letting their personalities shine. 

"As a full-service studio, I help my clients every step of the way as they discover the best way to showcase their memories," Nicole said of her business. "The families that I work with absolutely adore the signature heirloom products that we offer to preserve these moments together."

Nicole shares how she started photography and what the future holds for NSP below. 

 

When and why did you begin photography?

Photography is something that has always been with me. I've had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was constantly bringing rolls of film to the drugstore to develop them. Later, when I traveled the world, my camera was permanently attached to my hand, the shutter finger clicking away at my surroundings. I would come home fro my travels and pore over every minute detail in the photos. I found myself always looking at the people in the background: the head poking out of an upstairs window, the couple laughing under the umbrella. I knew that the stories I wanted to tell were with the people in my photos, so I started focusing my efforts more on portrait photography. I found that I LOVED capturing these stories and these memories and I haven't been able to get enough of it ever since!

 

How did you decide to specialize in children?

I have spent nearly half of my life working in classrooms with young children, so it was a natural transition to child and baby photography for me. I learned early on that I loved capturing their laughter, their toothy smiles, their nose wrinkles, their curiosity and their sense of wonder. Childhood is pure magic and I love that I can capture that on camera and hold it in time for an instant. Seeing how much families I work with treasure these photos of their growing and changing little ones means the world to me. Once I started focusing more on newborns and babies, I was hooked! There's something so incredible about capturing a newborn during his first days with his new parents, or a nine-month-old showing off her new sitting skills and that bubbly trademark laugh of hers. These sessions are magical. 

 

How would you describe you/your work in a few words?

Whimsical, Light, Authentic and Classic. 

 

What's in your bag?

Nikon D610

Nikon 85mm 1.4

Nikon 50mm 1.8

Nikon 24-70mm 2.8

Nikon 105mm macro 2.8

 

What will you be adding to your bag next?

I'm excited to upgrade to a 50mm 1.4 and purchase a 35mm Sigma Art lens. 

 

What challenges do you face in working with kids/babies?

Their changing moods and schedules can always be tricky, but our sessions are relaxed and calm so that the babies have time for a snack break, playtime with Mommy and cuddles. 

 

What is the best compliment you've received? 

Lately, it's been all about the dads. Husbands are occasionally more reserved when it comes to our photo sessions, but two recent sessions stand out where the dads had so much fun during our session, loved seeing their babies in front of the camera and when it came time to order their photos, they were all in. One husband sat behind his wife and told her how long they had waited and prayed for their little baby to arrive and how they deserved the album with every single photo from our session capturing their daughter's first days with their family. For him, it was a celebration of their daughter's arrival. Another husband knew how much his wife loved the album idea and the way it wove together all of the photos from their session to tell their family's story, so he secretly contacted me to plan an album gift for his wife. We designed it, ran the proofs and sent it out to their home. It arrived just in time for their daughter's first birthday as a gift to his wife. What amazing guys! It's when you see the whole family excited about the session and eager to showcase their memories in their home that I love my job the most. 

 

What's the future hold for NSP?

I left my teaching job this year to focus on my photography business full time, in addition to opening an in-home studio last winter. The next year will be spent growing my business and improving the services and products that I offer to the families that I work with. I have so many plans that I am thrilled to finally be able to bring to life now that I will have the time to really focus on them! This Fall, I have opened my studio doors and started teaching others through workshop experiences, which has been so incredible. I'm also doing a lot of networking with local small businesses to support each other and help each other reach others in our community. Within five years, I hope to be running a successful storefront studio that keeps me just busy enough doing what I love, while letting my creativity fly. 

 

You can follow Nicole's journey and work here:

www.nicolestarrphotography.com

https://instagram.com/nicolestarrphotography/

E-mail: nicolestarrphotography@gmail.com