A little late to posting this cuteness but now it's time to share!
MOTHER Magazine and the East Fork family invited me along for an afternoon of matching PJs, art on the porch and a stroll in the neighborhood. Connie gave an inspiring (an overused adjective but still applicable) interview for all the parents out there doing the hard work.
In Asheville, we’re fortunate to live in a caring community, one whose members trend toward being proactive citizens. Ashevillians care about the well-being of their environment and fellow citizens, and make an effort to support locally owned businesses and causes.
As a local business owner, I don’t take this culture of caring for granted, and neither should you. Being an engaged, responsible small business owner is just part of the job. In order to create relevant and meaningful relationships with our customers, we as business owners must show our community that we care, just like they do. Here are a few fulfilling ways to put your values into action...
1. Choose causes aligned with your values or company mission. Let’s pretend that you're a graphic designer who consumes a fair amount of printed paper products. Maybe you align with Dogwood Alliance and become more environmentally friendly!
You may need to tap into your personal journey to find the perfect cause. For example, if you’re a clothes designer who started your own company because you could never fit into commonly offered sizes, you might support organizations that boost confidence and self esteem in young ladies.
2. Go out on the front lines for your cause. There are many ways, beyond monetarily, to show up for your chosen cause. Donate time, skills, and energy. Most, if not all, of the nonprofit organizations in Western North Carolina are in need of volunteers to fulfill their missions and to offer critical services. Volunteering comes in many forms. You might walk dogs or clean kennels for a local animal rescue group. Perhaps you can become a coach or mentor with the local YWCA’s youth programs, work in the gardens at Green Opportunities, or clean the French Broad with RiverLink.
3. Make your partnership visible.
Talk it up on your website, shout about it on social media, start a fundraiser or donations-drive, have a money box on your checkout counter or option to donate during checkout, and put a sticker in your window! Let your customers know what you care about and what you’re doing about it! You’ll give them a reason to ask why and get involved. Promoting your support and community partnership surely benefits your cause. A secondary but super positive effect of your philanthropy is the trust and admiration you will cultivate in your customers.
Most business owners and consumers in Asheville think beyond bottom lines and profit margins. It’s common practice and has come to be expected for local businesses to invest in their community in meaningful ways. While helping others is a deeply fulfilling and leads to personal betterment, it’s also a critical way to showcase your company’s values and commitments.
So, go spread the love and find a cause to promote. You’ll be glad you did.
Fall is Asheville’s quintessential season, and there’s nothing quite as romantic as a wedding in the autumn air right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The leaves are vibrant, the air is chilly, and there’s a palpable energy.
Are you dreaming of an intimate fall wedding? I’ve had the pleasure of capturing gorgeous nuptials in this season, and would like to offer some of the area’s most enchanting local spots to tie the knot…
1. An Air BnB of your choosing / that allows small gatherings. Look for a rental with an attractive interior in case of rain and everything needs to be shifted inside. You’ll also want to find a spot with ample parking... or consider a shuttle option! Think through the timeline and make sure you'll have what you need on-site, as most rental homes aren't event-ready as-is and will require some planning. Check out this post for planning your celebration at an Air BnB!
2. The Swag is perfect for very small gatherings. They're new to hosting weddings and have limited availability. The striking mountain views make for an exceptional outdoor venue, and they offer a great dining experience for small groups. If you’re looking for high-end mountain getaway and traditional cabin vibes, look no further!
3. Highland Brewery offers an industrial chic feeling and rooftop views- perfect for peeping the treetops during peak leaf season! Things are likely to run very smooth at Highland. The staff here are absolute pros at setup and provide seamless event management.
4. Vineyard at Betty's Creek in Sylva is a luxurious venue on stunning grounds with impressive views, vineyards and wildlife. This spot might just be my personal fave, because it features several unique elements: a gorgeously designed open-air reception space, and the outdoor chimney near one of the ceremony spots. It’s one of the more exceptional fall venues in the WNC mountains.
5. A mountain top elopement! I highly suggest picking your favorite hiking destination or mountain vista, such as Max Patch or Black Balsam, for an elopement. Be sure to check the Blue Ridge Parkway website for rules. Also consider if your guests can easily hike to location. You’ll want to have Plan B ready in the event of rainy fall weather, and you’ll also want to scheme up a fun dinner party location to celebrate after your dreamy mountain top ceremony.
Asheville and the surrounding towns of Western North Carolina are unquestionably the perfect destination for intimate fall weddings. You’re likely to score dramatic views-- the perfect backdrop for photos-- and really enjoy yourself in this beautiful, fleeting season. If you have any questions about designing your perfect autumn wedding, please be in touch- let’s plan something magical!
Since you're hanging out on this blog, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that you love small businesses, you want to shop local and you enjoy supporting entrepreneurs + artists. Me too, friend!
I also wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's not always an easy option to do so. Pricing may be higher, supplies may be limited, custom orders may take a moment longer. Small businesses are multifaceted powerhouses in a small package with, yes, some limitations compared to Wal-Mart.
So how can you show love when you're not ready to click "Confirm" on that online shopping cart?
Leave a review for any place you've shopped or any service you've received in the recent past. Maybe you splurged on a tarot reading session this summer and you know you won’t be able to get another session for a while. For now, leave them a review on Facebook, Google or spread the word on Instagram about them. Word-of-mouth is everything. I just left a review for my dentist because the service was so great!
Maybe you can’t afford to buy that $300 dress a local artist handmade but maybe your best friend can + when she’s looking for a new outfit, you can send her to that maker. Friends love referrals, it takes away all that time Googling things, you're giving them a shortcut - yessss.
Follow + engage!
Just because you’re not a current customer doesn’t mean that you haven’t been or that you won’t be in the future. Encouragement and support can fuel someone to keep working, keep improving and keep providing their best work. Your support goes a long way to a small business owner.
If you inquire with someone about their services and you find that they’re simply out of your price range or the scheduling won't work, don’t be afraid to let them know that. I’m not saying that they owe you a discount or that they'll be able to open their schedule but all feedback is helpful to small business owners. Maybe they'll let you know that a sale is coming up, maybe they'll let you know about a local discount or maybe they'll collect that feedback and realize a pattern they can fix. If done with care and good intention, all feedback is useful, don't be shy!
Cheers to buying, browsing, reviewing and supporting small businesses no matter what!
We love wedding day hair and makeup. It's that simple.
Choosing a wedding day beauty look can be overwhelming, we understand! We love helping navigate by incorporating the overall vibe and theme of the day! We keep choosing your wedding day beauty looks personal and individual.
We understand how important it is to look in a mirror and see yourself. To love how you look and feel!
We customize each experience and truly get to know our brides and clients. We tote our beauty thrones with our fully professional hair and makeup kits, and when you're in the chairs, your vision matters to us. We listen so we can enhance your natural beauty, your way. We love to be the calming force in the room. Each team member always goes above and beyond with providing service and care when it can feel chaotic before leaving for the big event.
Let's talk about getting wedding day ready.
Get ready for the big day:
1. Drink lots of water! We always recommend upping hydration intake around any special day. It does wonders for your skin, hair, and overall health!
2. Start a gentle cleansing skincare routine and be very consistent with it two times a day! Once in the morning and once at night. It will help keep your skin balanced and prevent stress breakouts around the big day. Please feel free to always reach out if you have a concern before the wedding day. We are here to help!
3. Ask questions! Are you thinking about extensions? Please ask us for recommendations! Are you thinking about buying a specific lip color to keep in your clutch? Let us know. We love beauty products and we love helping our brides find what will work best for them! We love to answer questions and offer a peace of mind.
4. If you see a dreaded break-out, do not pop it! We can help with some gentle skincare advice or make sure any nerves are calmed by letting you know it can be covered easily. We recommend staying away from facials or waxing for at least a week before the wedding, we don't want any skin reactions. However, we have definitely covered up some breakouts for brides and their bridal parties!
5. Book trial runs with us! We love getting to know our brides and their love stories! Trial run appointments are a great way for us to meet and perfect your wedding day hair and makeup. Our hairstylists and makeup artists work together on a regular basis and it's great to be styled before the big day to see the whole look!
We love weddings! We so enjoy walking into a room and helping the bride feel her absolute best before walking down the aisle.
Whether she's surrounded by family and a bridal party, or there by herself for quiet moments before her elopement, AnaRie is committed to providing an excellent experience to help keep the day calm and magical, even before that first glance to her future partner in life. Check out more of our work via links below!
-Ali, Andrea, Erika + the entire AnaRie team
The Knot: www.theknot.com/marketplace/anarie-brevard-nc-1087349
Ever journey through the interwebs in search of something specific, only to land on a company’s website with images of awkwardly posed models who are very clearly not the employees of said company? Perhaps you’ve come across a perfectly captured high five between (fake) colleagues or hell, even a bemused professional carrying a handful of balloons and a briefcase, enjoying the breeze.
Of course, not all generic stock images are as bewildering as the ones above.
In fact, most are bland.
Entrepreneurs and business owners who choose to use generic stock photography in their online marketing are playing a game of “what fits best,” rather than acting intentionally and strategically to form relationships with their intended audiences. It’s hard to evoke curiosity or loyalty in potential customers using cold and corny images that are likely replicated all over the internet. So, what’s the answer?
Custom stock photography. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?
Why Are Brands Using “Custom Stock Photography”?
Custom stock photography tends to have the opposite effect of generic stock photography. Brand-specific, custom stock photos differentiate businesses from their competitors. When used consistently, custom stock photos will convey a brand’s personality and values, enhancing a brand’s ability to genuinely connect with their customers. Custom stock images bring clarity to a company’s expertise, services, and the intended customer experience.
Capturing Images with Intention
A typical custom stock photography shoot may include environmental shots (your office or workspace), product shots, and shots of the company's team engaging with others, serving clients, and generally doing the things they do best.
Let’s dive into the benefits of custom stock photography, using my lovely client Caroline Sanney as an example.
Using her own home office as the setting of this shoot, Caroline conveyed competence, organization, and expertise without saying a word. She has the necessary tools for the job, a functional pragmatism, and a clean aesthetic. The information conveyed in these images builds a relationship with her potential clients before she’s even approached by them.
Actually showing Caroline immersed in her work and smiling warmly creates a genuine first impression; rather than randomly styled models pretending to have the best business meeting of their lives, she offers her own face, furthering the notion that she is a real professional and that she can back up the claims she makes about the services she offers. Her personality shines through in her decor and the way she carries herself. It’s clear that she's calm, intelligent, and careful in her work - keywords to describe her brand.
Ultimately, investing in custom stock photography is about harnessing the power of intentional imagery and cashing in on your authenticity. It’s about being crystal clear in your communications to customers and future clients.
And, it’s about standing out and being memorable in a sea of cheesy handshakes.
After the party, it’s the after party… and when you’re celebrating a love like yours with an intimate wedding here in Asheville or the surrounding mountains, there are plenty of interesting spots to turn up in the wee hours. After a vibrant and exhilarating nuptials, it’s time to let your hair down and keep the good vibes flowing. Is your crew looking for some late night fun?
Check out this list of my favorite after hours spots:
Ben’s Tune-Up - Open until 2AM, this craft sake brewery embodies South Slope grit and Asheville foodie culture. Enjoy the menu of delicious snacks made with locally-sourced ingredients, and a creative, intentionally curated cocktail, wine, and beer bar. Cozy up in the meandering courtyard or one of the many nooks throughout this venue. The pineapple jalapeno sake comes highly recommended.
Sovereign Remedies - For the dreamiest farm to table late night menu, with perhaps the most ambitious and hyped up craft cocktails in town, make your way to Sovereign Remedies! It’s in the middle of downtown, on a quaint cobblestone road, and offers perhaps the most authentic gourmet Asheville experience!
The Walk - For those looking to get a little wild in West Asheville, there are several places that come to mind, but in order to satisfy hunger pangs AND enjoy some festive dranks, your first late night WAVL joint should probably be The Walk! With a pool table, room to dance, and array of eats, you will definitely keep the party goin’ with a visit to The Walk.
Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro - Another downtown bar and restaurant open until 2AM, Storm is classy, so if you’re after slightly fancy party vibes, Storm is a great fit for you! You could also book Storm for an event, if you’d like your after party to be a private, planned affair!
MG Road Bar & Lounge - Cocktails and Indian food on Wall Street, in the heart of downtown? Need I say more? This may be one of the most festive joints in Asheville, with a year-round glittering display of Christmas lights on the ceiling. The drinks are as delicious as the aesthetic and atmosphere is cozy. This is another rentable establishment, if you’re pre-planning after party shenanigans!
The Double Crown - If you are looking for a funky bar with live music, you must put the Double Crown on your post-wedding reception list. This spot is graffiti-ed up, full of characters, and certainly emits that I don’t give an F, “are we in Brooklyn?” anything goes type feeling. Don’t expect craft cocktails with locally sourced ingredients; this is an unapologetic dive! Come to this spot for an adventurous post-wedding experience!
Ole Shakey’s Getaway - Sometimes, you just wanna party in an uber-local, kinda secret, been-here-forever kinda spot. Well, this is it. With a rare French Broad River location, Ole Shakey's is a THE place to get a little crazy. With pool, darts, live entertainment, an open mic, live bands, and karaoke, you’ll be entertained and inspired to keep the energy high and the good times rolling...
With small + intimate weddings, it is often the case that the ceremony and reception venues are not booked out for an entire weekend block. Because this type of nuptials in Asheville is my speciality, I know that couples and their besties are often looking for a place to keep making memories, long after the reception venue closes. I hope you’ll be inspired to make your way downtown and enjoy a spontaneous night on the town-- the perfect ending one of the best days of your life!
Don't forget to Uber or Lyft your way home!
Let’s start by throwing away the trigger phrases "finding balance" and "we can have it all."
Perhaps you can do these things, but honestly, that needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to your self-employed hustle in Asheville, the same answer does not hold true for everyone. That being said, I would love to share some of my experience and tips with you on how to make your small business your full-time livelihood (if you want that!) and stay sane as a creative, maker, or artist in a town that we all love ...but that certainly has its own unique set of challenges.
1. Protect yourself from the “working 24/7” burnout.
I put my phone away after dinner 90% of the time to allow my brain to clear. Since my phone connects me to Instagram, Facebook, and email, the lines are blurred between work and play/relaxation.
Accepting that Instagram (for example) is equal parts work and play for me, I decide to stay away from it altogether when I need a work break, because the boundary is too blurry (because, for instance, I could be scrolling for fun and then get 2 DMs about potential sessions).
Personally, I’ve tried to accept only 2 shoots per week. As a self-employed photographer, I have found that understanding my working capacity affects everything else in my life in a positive way. It also gives me structure and familiarity.
By giving myself this work rhythm, I know there are days every week when I can focus on admin tasks or editing or having a full day off. It’s when I overcommit myself and agree to 3, 4 or 5 shoots in a week that everything else starts to fall behind, and I feel really overwhelmed. What boundaries can you create that will have a positive domino effect elsewhere?
3. Earning money, supporting yourself and feeling secure financially is important.
Don’t be ashamed of that, and don’t force yourself to let go of part time work before you or your business is ready. Release yourself from judgment about working on your art OR having a side gig. Both are important, and both are fueling your future. Accept the situation you’re in, and embrace it for all it is. I worked a second job up until 2 years ago, and I firmly believe it’s the only reason I got to where I am today.
4. Being discerning and knowing your bandwidth.
Unfortunately, sometimes you have to say no to some things in order to say yes to others. Are you talented and wanted, but refuse to turn down offers for fear of missing out or disappointing? In saying yes too much, do you overextend or sabotage yourself? If this sounds like you, my best recommendation is to read Essentialism by Greg McKeown - a recent fave business-yet-lifestyle book.
Here’s an example of mitigating your self-employed hustle: There’s a high expectation for you to make homemade cookies for your daughter‘s elementary school bake sale, and you would love to do it. It sounds fun and you wish you had a free afternoon to really enjoy that activity... but the only afternoon you have available this week really needed to be devoted to your work on a commissioned piece of art. So, maybe you decide to focus on the commissioned work, because you have a deadline and someone is paying you. Then, you can buy premade cookies from Whole Foods, Short Street, or Ingles. It’s about making that decision and letting yourself be OK with whatever decision you make.
5. Know your rhythms.
I know a few people who light up right around 9 PM and start having all kinds of inspirational ideas and energy to really work on their side gig/art/whatever. Some of us feel that jolt in the morning. Understand how your rhythms and natural energy works, then do your best to build around that. Of course, that’s not always possible and we have to be flexible, so that we can tend to other responsibilities as professionals, parents, or community members. Simply start by observing your natural tendencies and trying to make yourself available to them.
There’s no secret to becoming a self-employed hustler, but giving yourself the routines and habits to induce creative productivity will go a long way. And once you’re productive, it’ll show up in your experience. You’ll build a portfolio and/or track record of success. Then, with a little focused effort in self care and setting boundaries, you’ll build a sustainable foundation and hopefully, you’ll avoid the dreaded “burn out,” too. Eventually, you will find yourself in a place where you are doing the thing that is so close to your heart, and getting paid to do it, with only yourself as your boss. And that, my friends, is fulfillment.
As an agency director who has helped grow a lot of brands (including a Fortune 500 brand--yikes), I have so much love for small business owners. Whether you are a “company of one” or managing a small team, it’s not easy to work in your business and on your business at the same time.
Raise your hand if any of the following thoughts have crossed your mind:
I’m so burned out on social, it feels like everyone is using the same IG filters, I hate social media, I don’t know what to post today, it doesn’t even matter because no one buys from social media posts, Facebook keeps changing everything up and my posts don’t look as good as my competitor’s on Instagram. I’m just gonna skip it. Again.
Here’s the harsh truth: we live in the Attention Economy. And without your consistent social media posts, you will hand over your share of that attention to some other brand.
You need an average of seven touchpoints or interactions with a prospect before they’ll buy from you. Social is one of them.
Social is being social. That’s it.
Don’t let all the marketing “gurus” scare you into thinking it’s about measurement and algorithms and big ad budgets and posting times. (Yes, all those things matter, but not as much as your sanity.) Social means providing a visual and textual look into your world. It’s the art of conversation. A word or two to your audience. Let them get a word in edgewise. Listen. Continue. Laugh. Cry. Maybe add an animated gif or emoji. Repeat.
Don’t let writing social media posts bog down your day.
The more you practice, the faster and better your posts will become. But if you avoid practicing, you’ll remain stuck in the social media creation mudpit. Keep in mind: the average lifecycle of a social post ranges from a few seconds (Twitter) to a few hours (Instagram and LinkedIn). Your time is worth money. One Twitter post that will only last a few seconds is not worth half your day composing it.
Repeat after me: this social media post is not sacred.
But you know what is? The interaction and the human connection you’ll forge in the comments and DMs after you post that social media message. THAT is why you need to post consistently. It’s a way to start the conversation that leads to connection. There are people silently watching your brand, wanting to interact with you. Give them that gift. Start that conversation.
Many years ago, when I was a young, inexperienced marketing coordinator, I started out exactly where you are: floundering through social, slinging captions against the wall whenever I was inspired, and noting what resonated with people. I had many tasks to juggle and social media was one. It was difficult to come up with ideas on what to post and how to do it fast, so here are my tips and prompts to get you rolling.
My challenge to you: complete the prompts below in 30 days and see how you feel afterward. I bet you’ll see an increase in followers, engagement, or revenue, and most of all--you’ll feel aligned with your brand’s purpose and storytelling technique.
5 Tips From a Content Strategist
You’ve just received that highly anticipated link to your new photo gallery! Your adrenaline is pumping and you cannot wait to level up your brand’s visual identity game. You open the gallery, and…..YES! You're ready to share and post and promote!
But now what?
Well, now it’s time to start curating stories with intention. Photo is one huge piece of the puzzle, but what you do with these photos and the content you generate to support your storytelling is what gives the photos LIFE.
For most of my clients, photos serve as one part of their marketing strategy, and specifically their social media plans. Visual storytelling is an integral part of social media, and resonant photos are the key to winning hearts Instagram and Facebook. I’m offering a few of my favorite social media best practices to give your photos excellent mileage, from one small business owner to another:
-Once you receive your online gallery, follow the download instructions. These are very important because you need the image to be formatted to fit your intended use, otherwise it could come out pixelated. If you notice any issues with how the images are displaying, reach out to me! I can resize them to fit your needs.
-Next, backup your images. Friendly reminder: USBs and computers don't last forever, and sometimes they get lost or stolen - yikes. Using a cloud-based storage service is going to give you flexibility and peace of mind!
A personal fave of mine is Dropbox, which can be used to transfer images from computer to phone using the app. A basic Dropbox account is free, as is the app. This could be your convenient backup source!
As an added bonus, you can access your photos from the Dropbox app on your phone for easy posting.
-When choosing a time + day to post, don't spend too much energy overthinking it bc it's not that predictable. Instagram offers some guidance on your audience under your "Insights". Click the Audience tab then scroll down for busy times based on day of week. Other than that, loosely track it. I've noticed when I post on weekends my posts fall flat so I avoid that but it's not a strict rule, just a guideline.
-Once your photos are backed up and you’ve uploaded them to your social media platform, it’s time to tag, tag, tag!
If there are featured products or services related to other vendors or organizations in your photos, do tag them! Maybe you're using an East Fork plate, or maybe you’re featuring your products in a national park. Tagging those associated with your brand’s photos is social media courtesy and networking, plus they may reshare!
Feel free to tag Chelsea Lane Photography. I certainly appreciate the help in spreading the word about my services, but I definitely don't require it if you prefer to keep some mystery alive.
-Use hashtags! Seriously, use 'em! It's my understanding you can use up to 30 so you have room to experiment. Take a lazy evening at home (bottle of wine...Netflix on in background...who knew hashtagging could be so romantic?) to find the tags that are right for you by doing some research.
Think of the type of images you share, then do some digging from brands you admire. Think of what your ideal customer may search (#Ashevillebar #handmadejewelry). You can search that hashtag to gauge how active and popular it is. Pick active tags, and consider using a tag that no one is using, so that you can begin to dominate it with your own branded posts and user-generated content from brand loyalists!
Once you’ve got your bevy of selected tags, save the list in your phone Notes so that you can easily copy and paste the list each time you post! Notes has become a living document on my phone for Instagram caption drafts and hashtag groupings.
-Use Instagram stories! This feature has blown up and people LOVE it (even more than posts these days)! You can get creative with it - share vertical images, videos, live stream, and ask your audience questions! Use this informal way of communicating however you feel comfortable. Make it personal and fun, or keep it strictly business.
-Engage. The biggest "secret" to success on social media is liking + commenting on others’ posts. It helps with the dreaded algorithm and creates community with your followers, peers, and those you admire. If you're just posting and leaving, your engagement will be lower than if you stick around to reply to comments, share other people's posts, comment or DM others you admire.
-Show up as you. We're all camera shy, but nothing creates more connection with your followers than simply showing up as yourself. I'd say we all pretty much expect it now. I find it strange when I happen upon a biz account with zero trace of the owners. A portrait, a candid moment, a TBT memory, you playing around with your kids on IG Stories... however you want to do it, people will love it!
-Be sure to answer your Direct Messages as they come in. You’ll be generating buzz with your visually stunning and content-savvy posts, so expect some great leads to come in the form of DMs! Timely responses increase your chance of true connection with potential new customers. Pop in to your inbox regularly because you won't be notified if someone who you don't follow messages you.
-Post relatively consistently. Establishing a loose rhythm to roll out your new photos and tell your brand’s story is key. 2 posts a week is a healthy social media post rate for most businesses and organizations then pair that with active Stories.
-Encourage interaction and user-generated content! Showing off a gorgeous shot of your product? Offer a branded hashtag and ask your audience to post a photo enjoying the product, too! Then, routinely check the hashtag, and engage with your brand loyalists by liking and commenting on their branded photos.
-Follow these pros for the best advice that's always up to date: Tyler J. McCall, Jenna Kutcher, Jasmine Star
I hope you’re jazzed about your photos, and that you’re ready to conquer the world with your social game!
Before I sign off, here’s a little ode to all of my fellow business owners:
You’re doing the damn thing, and although it is impossible to be an expert in all facets of your business, that’s what is somehow required and expected of you in order to thrive in a bustling, noisy market landscape. Luckily, with great content, you’ll go a long way in your marketing goals! Stay focused, embrace your creativity, and enjoy the ride.
Guest Post: Why This Wedding Planner Says ‘Heck yes, and here’s how!’ to Small Weddings with Alex Fisher, Owner/Head Cheerleader of Lucky Penny Creative
Y’all, I’ve gotta be honest, yes...large weddings pay my bills. But if I could share one thing with the world on a universal level it would be this: intimate weddings and elopements are 10,000% allowed and amazing! And if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably in the same boat or looking to get on board.
I get it, giant weddings -- even 100 person weddings -- can be super overwhelming for some folks. Maybe because you’re introverted. Maybe because you’re working on a budget. Maybe because you’re just not a fan of big parties. Whatever the reason, I want you to know, it is completely acceptable to have an intimate wedding or elopement. My only suggestion: know your ‘why’ and know your ‘who’.
I’ve worked with hundreds of couples planning every shade of wedding you can dream up over the last 5 years of running our business and before we ever dive into napkin colors and photographer recommendations I always ask the following two questions:
“What is most important to you on your wedding day?”
“Who do you want to share that with?”
I know it seems funny and like a total no-brainer but the answers are sometimes surprising.
If you were born and raised in the U.S. within the last 50 years, your brain has probably been inundated with a million and one “must-dos” for your big day. The rabbit hole of Pinterest can be totally overwhelming to some. And I’m pretty sure we all have that one well-meaning friend or relative that “knows what they’re talking about” and has ideas for every detail of your wedding and absolutely no issues telling you about them. But let me be the one to reassure you -- none of that shit matters.
What you and your partner want on your wedding day does.
If you’re reading this blog and follow Chelsea’s work then you’re probably already seriously considering a more intimate wedding and my advice to you is the same as any other couple: I encourage you to make a list of ‘Must Haves/Non-Negotiables’ and ‘Would be Nices’ along with a list of things that totally do not matter to you in the slightest. And then I want you to own every single one of those desires while also remaining flexible. Because sometimes, shit just happens.
Once you have those lists, start putting dollar amounts to those Non-Negotiables. Or, at the very least, a percentage of your budget that you want to allot to each item. For example, if you desire the most delicious cuisine with perfect wine pairings and for the day to be beautifully photographed but you could care less about music -- put the majority of your budget into food, drink and photography and hook a spotify playlist up to a speaker system and call it a day!
I know, it’s more involved than that, but approaching your planning with that mindset can truly save you a lot of headaches along the way.
The beautiful thing about intimate weddings and elopements is that your budget has to stretch to far less people so you can really treat those special few to an incredible wedding experience while also staying in tune with your own desires as a couple.
I know what I’m about to say is absolutely easier said than done, especially if some of your budget is being provided by a family member or friend who may have some say in the guest list. BUT the one thing I really desire for every one of our couples is the knowledge that, if you really don’t want someone at your wedding, you don’t have to invite them. Plain and simple.
I am fully aware that this is really tough. Almost every couple we’ve worked with has struggled to make peace with who they’re inviting to the wedding. I completely understand. I was one of those people too. Family dynamics are tough and maneuvering them during wedding planning can be completely overwhelming sometimes. A friend of mine said it best (and so gracefully) when she shared, “I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I don’t invite my mom and I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I do invite my mom.” Either way, it’s going to be a little extra work on your part to attempt to stay sane. But at the end of the day, what matters most, is if you and your partner will be able to be present with each other the day of your wedding.
Which brings me to my final point regarding who you involve in your wedding: KNOW. YOUR. VENDORS!
You’re not just ordering cake and music and photos and a timeline -- you’re hiring all the people that makes those things happen. If you’re not jiving, it’s gonna feel funky. If you feel in any way not cozy with someone you’re looking to work with -- I’m talking gut reaction here, not just “oh my god, we’re paying this person a lot of money” not cozy -- it is completely okay to say “We’re going to keep looking.” and move along.
Ultimately, your wedding day should be a celebration of you, your partner and your coupleship. You deserve every bit of grace, joy and connection that a wedding day brings and your wedding crew should reflect that to you. Cheers to you and the process, my friend! And have a look at our Ultimate Intimate Wedding Checklist to get started on your planning!
It really is quite a treat to be drawn into a photo that seems to tell a full story. I love an invitation to ponder the clues and details of a scene, or imagine the dynamic of a couple. Visual storytelling is enticing, and that’s exactly why lifestyle photography is such an engaging tool to be used in professional settings (like selling your products and services), or personally (for instance, in milestones like your wedding).
Lifestyle photography can be defined as a style of photography that aims to capture real-life events in an artistic way. For business owners, this means that your products, services, and brand experiences are grounded in a setting that conceptualizes how wonderful it might be for your potential customers to have you in their own lives. It invites the viewers to imagine what it’s like to actually engage with your brand.
There are a number of national and local brands doing away with the white backdrop and perfectly styled products in favor of real, raw, and less stylized images of their offerings in application. And that’s because sterility and perfection are hard to relate to, and don’t do much to give your viewers’ imaginations the fuel they need to invoke the other senses.
And how about these images? Are they enticing you, inspiring you to imagine the smells, the taste, and the feeling of a warm mug of herbal tea in your hand? Do you begin to envision the sunshine on your back as you read a book and pour yourself a second cup of earthy black tea infused with the floral sweetness of calendula flowers? Are you starting to crave a lingering chat with your best friend, and the sound of birds chirping serenely as the mug rests in your palm?
It’s pretty clear that the second set of photos accomplish so much more than the first, because it offers a pretty excellent experience along with the featured product.
Similarly, using lifestyle photography in your personal shoots to document your wedding, engagement, or other personal milestones provides intimate context, sparks memories, and becomes much less about the aesthetics and so much more about the personal connections.
Today I'm chatting with local graphic designer Katie of Rotanz Design about all things Branding + Logos + Website design for the small business people out there! We're in a different situation than the big guys, we're not rolling around in money so we make tough decisions about our investments, especially in the beginning.
Let's get her profesh opinion to help guide you through your choices!
Katie! Give us a quick run-down of what you do + who you are!
Hello! I’m Katie Rotanz, Owner/Graphic Designer of Rotanz Design in Asheville. I help small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs stand out in the market with beautiful, modern, minimal designs. I design logos, websites and print pieces such as brochures, catalogs, rack cards, business cards and labels. I strive for simplicity and clarity in all my work and enjoy the challenge of finding the best solution both visually and functionally.
I moved to Asheville about 6 years ago and worked as a waitress until I was able to land my first design job. I’ve since worked for two agencies in town and have been working for myself full-time for a little over a year now. I’m super excited to be moving into a shared office space with some other freelancers in the River Arts District!
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
One of my favorite parts about this job is the relationships I’ve made with my clients. There’s something really special about working with other local business owners and creatives that are passionate about what they do. The energy that surrounds them is contagious and it’s so fun to be part of their business journey. I have to say my favorite moments are seeing my logos and designs out in the wild on t-shirts, hats and cars… I have to hold back from fist pumping in public!
What's the value in a branded identity that includes a logo and custom website? What are ways a website can make or break your small biz?
Having a strong brand can improve recognition in the marketplace as well as build trust amongst your target audience. If people see that your brand is consistent across all platforms, there’s a sense of quality and professionalism that not only helps your reputation and referral network, but it helps you stand out from your competition.
A website is such an important tool for your business! Think about how often people are on their phones and computers, Googling and researching exactly what they are looking for. I think the best thing you can do for your website is be authentic and provide as much information about your business and services as possible. It’s also important to make sure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and is up-to-date. If visitors struggle to find information or can’t easily understand where to go on your site, they’re going to bounce right off and find another website.
What advice do you have for small biz on a budget? They have the same goals but maybe lack funds this year.
While it’s ideal to have a logo, website and all the things when you get started, I can totally relate to the financial anxiety of starting a business and prioritizing your funds. If you have to pick one thing first, I would suggest building a website. A website is an incredible tool to hold all the information about your business and can work for you 24/7. If you can’t afford a web designer then I would recommend starting a Squarespace site on your own. Squarespace has a wonderful library of video tutorials and guides that can help you get started. When you’ve saved up some money, you can hire a designer to begin the logo/branding process and then take your website to the next level.
Another important piece is a business card. I have those things on me all. the. time. You never know who you are going to run into in a coffee shop, bar or networking event who may need your services or products. I’ve worked with people to design a card before they dive into a full brand design and can charge for an hour or two to put together a nice “interim” card before they begin the branding process. You can also design cards on Vistaprint or other online services if necessary (although some of the designs can be quite cheesy).
The goal here is to have something to hand out to people AND have a place for them to go to learn more about you and your business. These two items are great first steps.
What if a small biz has no ideas on branding and needs help from all angles, what should they nail down before working with you?
While you don’t have to have a business plan, a marketing strategy or a mission statement to get started, I do I prefer to work with people who can quickly and easily tell me what their services are and who they do it for. In order for me to create effective design, it’s important to focus on who we’re targeting so I can design accordingly. It’s difficult for me to work with clients that are indecisive about their business goals because if their mind changes after finishing a brand, they may need to start over depending on the new direction of the business.
I also don’t specialize in business naming, taglines or trademarking so my clients will definitely need to have their business name figured out and legally checked prior to working with me.
*Side note: I highly recommend taking classes at Mountain Bizworks if you’re just starting off. I took a class called Foundations and it really helped me figure out the direction I wanted to go with my business.
On the flip side, if a business already has a website but they want to hire you and switch to a new host based on your recommendation, do you help with the transfer over?
Absolutely! I only work in Squarespace, but if a client has a website in Wordpress, Wix or another platform, all I need to do is point their domain (url) to the new website I’ve built. I’ll then give them instructions on how to cancel their old hosting. If someone already has a Squarespace site then all they’ll need to do is invite me as a contributor and I can hop onto their site and make specific changes or find a new template and redesign it completely.
What advice do you have for someone worried they'll change their style + branding within the next year or so? They're still figuring it out!
I think the most important thing to do is be consistent.* Oftentimes businesses will change their mind on design direction and branding and will make little changes here and there which causes brand confusion. My advice is to own your brand, stick with your color scheme, fonts and style and if/when the time comes to rebrand, then you can make that decision and go for it intentionally.
If you’re new to your business and not quite sure which direction you are going to take, then it’s okay to be patient and wait to invest in branding when you have a better idea of where you want to go.
*Chelsea note: Check out this video from Marie Forleo all about consistency - it's SO important when developing an audience!
Do you have a certain style you like to stick with when it comes to design or do you love a variety?
I definitely prefer simplicity in design. I find that minimal design catches my eye and stands out against the noise of the streets, screens and magazines. My logos are especially minimal, but that’s to ensure they work across all platforms from large billboards down to a tiny Instagram profile picture. The more complex the logo, the harder it is to be effective in really small applications – and harder to be remembered! I work with lots of different types of businesses and can still accomplish a very different look and feel for each, but I certainly have a modern style and always make sure potential clients have checked out my logo portfolio to make sure my aesthetic is what they’re going for.
My websites also have a minimal look to them and while that’s clearly my preference, functionality and usability is always what I focus on first. You can land on a beautiful website, but if you have no idea how to navigate it, then it’s not doing the job.
Who's your dream client?
My dream client is a small business owner, entrepreneur, or creative in the Asheville area. My favorite clients have gone through my logo and website process and then check back any time they need other branded materials such as signage, brochures, stickers or other print pieces. I love that aha moment that I see in my clients when everything starts taking shape. There’s a real sense of pride and excitement when they can SEE it coming together.
Where people can find ya to keep following along your work, journey and tips?
Thank you for including me on your blog, Chelsea! I’m honored to be featured and hope these answers can help new or existing business owners understand the world of branding and web design a little better.
If anyone has additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! My email address is email@example.com and you can check out my website at rotanzdesign.com and find me @rotanzdesign on Instagram!
“Will you Photoshop this out?”
A common phrase we hear often.
Cultural standards on appearance have skyrocketed with social media. We all sit around thinking others look perfect and put-together all the time (no way, not true!). We get down on ourselves for being human and real. This is a problem I have to address and contemplate a lot as a photographer.
I think it’s time to draw boundaries when it comes to how we edit and the impossible standards of Photoshopping + Instagram filters + weird apps that alter your face in a photo (WHAT?!).
Let’s get to it and break down the most common scenarios:
Well I edit out your freckles? No.
Will I edit out that blemish that’ll be gone in a week? Yes.
Will I edit out scars? Not unless you asked me to.
Will I edit out grey hairs? Sometimes! If it's clear you're going for your natural hair color then no and if it's clear that you color your hair to cover up the grey then yes.
Will I edit out wrinkles in clothing? As much as I can without making your clothing appear plastic!
Will I edit out that t-shirt stain that appeared after lunch? Yes.
Will I edit out the flyaway hairs? If they're distracting. If they're showing the wind blowing through beautifully, then no.
Will I edit out that piece of trash or water bottle near your feet? Yes.
Will I edit out that distracting tree branch, bugs flying by, stranger in the background? Yes. I have no problem editing out environmental distractions to an otherwise lovely photo.
Will I "fix" your stomach or arms? Only if it's my fault because I captured an unflattering angle or didn't direct you quick enough. Overall, I never plan to flatten a tummy or remove a bump in the nose in every single image I will deliver though. More below...
I will guide you into flattering poses under beautiful lighting. I will give clothing tips and recommend you only wear something that makes you feel HOT. That being said, not every image gets set up for flattering angles.
If your spouse makes you laugh out loud or if he/she says something so sweet that your cheeks flush, I’m not worried about you looking like a model. I'll make tweaks in editing to create the most flattering final result and I’ll be sending that pic your way because of that special moment.
How do I make those decisions and why does it matter?
1. I would have to charge twice as much to accommodate editing time for extensive and timely Photoshop requests. I'm not interested in offering that service but there are many out there that do!
2. I don’t want to perpetuate impossible beauty standards by making you look like anything other than you. We need to collectively work towards highlighting the beauty of all people, not highlighting the beauty of over-Photoshopped skin or mimicking celeb Insty posts. A light touch-up here and there is as far as I go.
It’s hard to define your role in this as a photographer because it’s my goal that you enjoy your experience and the results.
When you're 80 years old and showing your wedding photos to grandkids, I want you to recognize your beautiful self from so many years ago. I want you to be reminded of exactly how you felt that day. I don't want you to look back on a plastic figure.
Tips for a photo session you'll feel great about:
One final thought: You're great just the way you are, I promise.
One of the hardest parts of photographing couples on their wedding day is if one or both of them gets stressed out.
Stress is an unfortunate part of the wedding day. It's why wedding planners are so awesome!
When you're hosting a small wedding or elopement, a planner may not be in the cards and it's likely you're getting a lot of hands-on help from family and friends. It's wonderful to see family helping you create a beautiful wedding but that alone can cause tension.
Things don't go to plan... rain happens, someone forgot the mimosas, a vendor is running late and did I mention rain?
Most of my clients envision an outdoor wedding in the mountains. Rain is most common here in the spring (March-May) and then it's unpredictable the rest of the year.
So what's the plan?
1. When to check the weather: The weather changes like CRAZY here in the mountains. If possible, wait until 24-48 hours out to make the call.
2. It may only sprinkle or you can't wait any longer to decide: You have the decision of what's more important - peace of mind or being outdoors?
Some couples like to wing it and don't mind a little rain. Some couples can't be bothered with not-knowing. No right or wrong answer here, imagine yourself in each situation and choose the one that makes me you feel most at ease.
3. It's gonna rain: Are you going to let rain ruin this special day? Hell nah!
-Reschedule. Some weddings are small enough that it's possible to reschedule the whole thing to the day before or after. It's uncommon but I've had 2 couples go for this option in the past 2 years and I was able to work with the schedule change. You never know!
-Umbrellas. Maybe the rain is coming but it's not a downpour. Maybe you'll be outside on a patio/not a spot that'll get muddy... Worth investing in cute clear umbrellas for all your guests? You can buy cheap throwaways or higher quality umbrellas and consider them a favor to guests!
-Indoor venue. Can you move the whole thing indoors at the B&B you're staying at? At a local hotel? Air BnB? Friend's house? Studio space?
These options depend on your budget and number of guests so think it over ahead of time to save yourself stress during the week before the big day!