Archive: ‘Guest Contributors’

Reading Is For Awesome People…and Shannon’s Especially Awesome!

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read ALMOST as much as I love being behind the camera. Seriously, is there anything better than snuggling up on the couch with a soft blanket, a hot mocha or cool glass of lemonade, and a good book? The only person in the world who I think knows this better than me is my super-awesome sister Shannon. She’s my go-to gal when I’m looking for a new book for my Kindle, so I’ve invited her to join us once a month or so and clue us in on what she’s been reading. If it’s on her reading list, it should be on yours! So without further ado….here she is!

Shannon Loves To Read_0001

Hi, everyone! My name is Shannon and I’m a book-aholic. I have spent all of my life (or a lot of it) with my nose buried in a book. When I was a teenager, I would happily reject plans from friends to curl up on my bed with a book. I always thought that books could take me further away than the plans of teenage friends. Yes…I was a little bit of an introvert. As I’ve gotten older, my love of books has not diminished. However, I have learned to add some balance in my life. Once you’re married and you have three kids, there isn’t nearly as much time to read as you would hope. When my sister Christa asked me to be a guest blogger for her, I was stoked! I get to read books and write about them. The second part of this kind of had me panicking for a moment…so I decided to (as Nike would say) “just do it”!

For my first contribution for the blog, I went back and forth and back and forth with what book I should write about. I have read so many and there are so many that I still have in my must-read list. And then I started thinking about an idea that has been bubbling around in my head for quite a while. What if I went back and reread some of the books that we had to read in school. (In my opinion, being made to read books in school is the best way to take any enjoyment out of the act of reading. I know that it is necessary but still…). So here goes…

The Giver by Lois Lowry: I remember having to read this book in middle school. This book is only 200 pages or so. It is something that can be read in very little time. (I remember that it took much longer in school. LOL!) The beginning of the story is presented as a utopian society. Gradually throughout the story, you realize that the “utopian society” is not necessarily the term that should be used to describe this story. I remember that in school I was able to read the book, do the work that went along with the book, and actually receive a decent grade to go along with it. I DON’T remember being so moved by the plight of the main character, Jonas. As an adult, I feel that I appreciated this book so much more than I did as a child. I would definitely recommend picking this book up and reading it even if you have read it before as an adolescent. I just think that there is so much more that this book has to offer an adult. So get going!

The Giver By Lois Lowry


Want to read it? Get your copy here!

And if you’ve already read it, be sure to leave Shannon a comment and let her know what you thought!

Wedding Planning 101: First Steps

Friday, February 24th, 2012

If you’re newly engaged, first off, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I couldn’t be more excited for you — your wedding day is sure to be one of the most memorable and wonderful days of your life, and that is definitely reason to celebrate! I remember being in your shoes about seven years ago, and of course everyone was so happy for us. But then came the questions. When’s the big day? Where are you getting married? Who’s in your wedding party? Have you found a dress? Umm…no, we literally got engaged 5 minutes ago, but I quickly realized that I was staring down the monumental task of planning the biggest, most elegant party I ever had…and probably ever would. Wow…talk about overwhelming! But somehow I figured it out, our wedding was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be, and I’d do that day all over again a million times over (if only I had access to unlimited funds)! If you’re feeling anything like I did in those first few weeks after getting engaged, never fear! Gwen Wilson, owner and founder of Nuptiae: The Wedding and Event Planners, has graciously agreed to join us and share some great advice for how to get started! Read on….



Engagement RingJust engaged?  Where to begin?

The proposal was perfect, the ring more beautiful than you imagined and you are already dreaming of walking down the aisle and the great party afterward.  The only problem is figuring out what to do between now and then.  How do you get from the excitement of your groom slipping the ring on your finger to waving goodbye to your guests on the way to the honeymoon of your dreams without losing your sanity, or making the people around you crazy? Here’s my advice for taking the stress from the process.

If you can afford to hire a planner and your wedding is likely to involve many guests and wedding service vendors or will be outdoors in a challenging location it can be money very well spent.  From making plans, to coordination and implementation of those plans, a planner can do much of the work for you and guide you through the many decisions you’ll be making.  We can also help you locate vendors known for excellent work and for those who fit into your budget.

If you cannot afford a wedding planner to help guide you through the myriad details of planning, the best place to begin is by figuring out what the total budget for your wedding will be.  If one or both sets of parents will be helping with the costs take the time for you and your fiancé to sit down with your parents alone so they feel free to speak about finances.  It is very important to understand what they are willing to provide up front so you don’t have any surprises later (when we said we’d pay for the alcohol we meant a champagne toast, not an open bar…).

Once you have a dollar amount in mind you can start to decide how to divide the budget among the categories you’ll be spending on.  Deciding how many guests to invite will likely have a big impact on the cost unless it is a very small wedding.   Knowing the per person cost for providing food and beverages for your guests will help you to see if you have to trim the guest list to fit your budget.  From there shop around to find the items you want that are in your price range.  Be sure to set priorities about what is important to you and your groom.  If some items turn out not to be important to either of you and won’t make a difference to the comfort of your guests then think about doing without and spending more on the things that are important.

Once you know what you have to spend on your wedding start interviewing vendors and visiting venues.  Try to get an idea up front what range vendors offer services in to avoid falling in love with a  great reception location or a photographer only to find out they don’t fit into your budget.

Take time to think about each step before moving forward.  Trust your first impressions, and don’t forget to talk to your groom. He may surprise you and want to be involved the planning too!



Gwen Wilson founded Nuptiae: The Wedding and Event Planners, a full-service wedding and event management company, in 2003. Prior to forming Nuptiae, Ms. Wilson worked as a wedding coordinator in Champaign, Illinois. Over the years, she has established strong connections to many area vendors, who offer a wide range of wedding and event-related services. Past Nuptiae clients say Ms. Wilson’s organizational and planning skills, as well as her attention to detail created beautiful and memorable events. Her experience includes everything from small, family-only ceremonies to large, destination weddings.

10 Tips for Getting the Most of Your Bridal Show Experience

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

As a wedding photographer, I love all things bridal, but I hold a special place in my heart for DIY weddings. I was a DIY bride, and those handmade, homemade details that brides incorporate into their weddings just sing to my heart! For all you DIY brides out there, I’ve decided to incorporate some fun wedding planning tips and ideas into my blog from time to time. Here to kick us off is guest contributor Ashley Plunkett, owner of The Elegant Bridal Expo, with some great tips for navigating those upcoming bridal shows.

Attending a bridal show can be overwhelming. There are so many vendors to talk to that it can be hard to know where to start. Just remember that these shows are for your convenience, not to add stress. Visiting with different wedding vendors in one convenient location only makes it easier to be able to compare prices and services and in turn, save you time and money. Follow these tips if you want get the most out of your bridal show experience.

1. Pre-register for the show.
Save yourself some time by registering before the show. It only takes a few minutes and it will save you from having to fill out a registration form at the show. Some shows will allow you to print discounted or free tickets online if you pre-register.

2. Set up a wedding email account.
This will be helpful in keeping your regular email free of spam or unsolicited mail.

3. Bring supplies.
Bring a notebook, pens and clipboard or even a wedding planner if you have one. This will help you take notes and jot down any ideas that come to mind. Bring a camera if you have one. This will allow you to quickly remember some of the fabulous things you saw at the show.

4. Bring pre-printed address labels.
Print labels that include full name, address, phone number, email and wedding date. This will save you a lot of time and writing when you are entering to win giveaways and raffles.

5. Arrive early and don’t forget your checkbook.
Most shows will offer prizes or giveaways to the first couple hundred brides so make sure you arrive early. Many vendors will offer a “bridal show only” discount and this can help you save even more money if you are able to find your wedding vendor at the show.

6. Bring the groom.
It’s his day too and he could be a lot of help in planning. If you find your perfect wedding vendor then you will most likely want his opinion before making arrangements. (Drive separately if you don’t think he would want to stay for the entire show or the fashion show portion.)

7. Wear comfortable shoes.
You will be on your feet for a few hours, so it will definitely pay to wear comfortable shoes. Also, leave your coat in the car so you don’t have to carry it around with you all day.

8. Bring your color swatches or pictures.
This will make it much easier to match linens, flowers, dress and cake and other wedding items to your color scheme.

9. Stay for the fashion show.
This is the highlight of the bridal show and it is usually the time when grand prizes are given away. You definitely won’t want to miss out!

10. Make a day of it!
You should plan on being at the show for several hours. Keep in mind that drawings and prize giveaways are typically made near the end of the show and you must be present to win. This will allow you to visit all the vendors and find everything you need for you big day!

The most important tip is to have fun! 🙂

Ashley Plunkett is a bridal show producer based in Springfield, IL, and the owner of an online bridal guide, When she is not working on her bridal shows and website, she enjoys spending time with her long-term boyfriend, and their miniature dachshund, Jeter.


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