Ask the Pro Series – Issue 1: Planning the Perfect Honeymoon with Brownell Travel

I’m so excited to share with you the first issue in my new Ask the Pro editorial series, where experts in their field share inside tips and how to’s with HDP so I can share them with you! I’ve been very selective about my partners in this series because I want you to hear from the very best in the business! Most of these partners are based in Nashville and Birmingham, the cities where I’ve lived and worked the most. However, their reach extends much further.

First up…Brownell Travel. I’m thrilled for you to get acquainted with this company (if you aren’t already),  the leading upscale travel firm in the Southeast since 1887. Brownell is a member of Virtuoso, the world’s oldest and most prestigious leisure travel association. Less than 1% of America’s agencies are accepted for membership in Virtuoso. These select agencies must be able to offer clients extensive knowledge and wide-ranging experience on travel throughout the world. Virtuoso travel consultants create experiences, not just trips or vacations.

Brownell Travel is based in Birmingham, AL, but has experienced advisors all over the world. So, no matter where you call home, they have knowledgeable pros to help plan your perfect honeymoon, destination wedding, vacation or trip to just celebrate life!

“Travel, it leaves you speechless
and then turns you into a storyteller.”
— lbn Batutta


Haisley Smith, CTA Vice President of Marketing and Development,  Brownell Travel (image supplied)

Haisley Smith, CTA is the Vice President of Marketing and Development for Brownell Travel. Haisley joined Brownell in 2005 as the Director of Marketing and now serves as the Vice President of Marketing & Development. She set her sights on a career in the travel industry after studying anthropology abroad at the University of Innsbruck in 1998. Through her position at Brownell, Haisley is able to combine two passions – seeing the world and promoting the amazing travel experiences Brownell can offer.

Haisley promotes Brownell by highlighting travel advisors’ expertise, access to authentic experiences, legendary personalized itineraries, and travel perks that come from Brownell’s strong reputation and relationships with other Virtuoso travel providers. In short – “Travel Beyond Your Expectations.”

Haisley and I have known each other since 2000, where we worked together at a magazine publishing company. We’ve stayed in touch ever since, working together on various projects for Brownell over the years. I’ve even photographed her two beautiful daughters and watched them grow up through my lens. Brownell has also planned amazing trips for me, including Paris and Mexico. Next up on my list is Italy! Haisley has never met a stranger, is passionate about her job and is truly an exceptional person. Here’s what she had to say in response to our honeymoon planning questions.

Q&A with Brownell Travel:

What makes Brownell Travel the best option for all my honeymoon planning

Connections and Experience. We’ve been in business for more than 130 years and we’ve worked with hundreds of resorts since they opened their doors and that opens (otherwise closed) doors for our clients. 

What is the best advice you could give newlyweds on finding their perfect honeymoon destination?

Your honeymoon should be as thoughtfully planned and as personal as your wedding. You wouldn’t duplicate your friend’s wedding, why would you duplicate their honeymoon? The perfect destination and honeymoon is uniquely yours. Use an expert to help you uncover what that is.

What are ten things you need to know before planning your honeymoon? 

1. If you didn’t want a cookie-cutter wedding, a cookie-cutter honeymoon from the Internet is going to disappoint you. 

2. Prices for the same room at the same resort can fluctuate by several hundred dollars per night depending on the time of year.

3. The day after the wedding is not always the best time to depart for your honeymoon. Delayed honeymoons can be even better because you have the luxury of anticipating the trip instead of worrying about wedding details.

4. All-inclusive resorts are not always a great value, but many fantastic resorts have all-inclusive packages they don’t promote to the public.

5. Domestic honeymoons are often overlooked but can be magical with the added bonus that they are easy to return to for anniversaries.

6. Don’t be fooled by pretty pictures on the Internet. If sugar-white beaches and turquoise water are important to you, work with an expert who knows what the destinations actually look like, season by season. 

7. Talk through your expectations of what you want to experience on your honeymoon with your fiancé. You may picture yourselves on a beach under an umbrella all day, but he may be expecting rock climbing and kayaking!

8. Be wary of travel advice from well-meaning friends and family. Their ideal is probably not yours, even if they are great spokespeople for their favorite destinations and resorts.

9. Agree on a budget and be transparent with your travel advisor. A professional travel advisor will not try to “upsell” you and will be very candid about what kind of experience you can expect with your budget. 

10. Even though you may be excited to use your new name, don’t book your airline ticket in your married name!

What are the top places to honeymoon in Europe? 

The hot destinations for honeymoons in Europe now are Greece, Portugal and Spain. Italy and France are always popular and always a good idea.

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Canaves Oia, Greece, (image supplied)
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Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Italy, (image supplied)
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Six Senses Duoro Valley, Portugal, (image supplied)
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Belmond La Residencia, Spain, (image supplied)
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Park Hyatt, Paris, (image supplied)

What are the top places to honeymoon in the US?

Napa/Sonoma Valley, San Francisco, South Florida, Oregon, and New England are great honeymoon destinations.

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Faena, Miami (image supplied)
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Acqualina, Miami (image supplied)

How would you suggest making the most out of your honeymoon when you only have a few days of vacation?

Choose a destination with a short flight or short drive. No need to waste valuable relaxing time in an airport, on a plane or on the road. Don’t overschedule or over-plan and DEFINITELY don’t over pack. Maximize your time by having a plan and not scrambling for restaurant or activity reservations on site.

What are the top three places to honeymoon in the Caribbean?

It changes every year. My personal favorites are St Lucia, Turks & Caicos and the BVI.

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The Shore Club, Turks & Caicos (image supplied)
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Hermitage Bay, Antigua (image supplied)
Curtain Bluff, Antigua.jpg
Curtain Bluff, Antigua (image supplied)
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Amanyara, Turks & Caicos (image supplied)

Do all-inclusive resorts actually save you money in the end? 

I’m personally not a fan of all-inclusive resorts for honeymoons because the experience can be very cookie-cutter and you become one honeymoon couple among hundreds. The “brand-name” all-inclusives give many of the special, independent all-inclusives a bad name with poor service, poor food, and watered-down drinks. There are some gems out there, but in the end, you can’t put a price on disappointment.

“Wedding season” is May-August which is hurricane month for most of the Caribbean…what are other easily accessible tropical destinations?

There are lots of destinations in the south Pacific, South America and even in the Caribbean that very rarely (if ever) are affected by hurricanes. They are each very different with very different price points. 

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The Brando, French Polynesia (image supplied)
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Laucala Island, Fiji South Pacific (image supplied)
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Gili Lankafushi, Maldives (image supplied)  

“We are wanting an adventurous honeymoon in the US”…what are the top places we should consider? 

The American West – we love Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona

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The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana (image supplied)
Amangiri, Utah.jpg
Amangiri, Utah (image supplied)
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The Resort at Paws Up, Montana (image supplied)

“I want to surprise my bride with our honeymoon”…How can Brownell help me make sure I include everything she would want? 

Brownell has a really powerful tool – think of it as Netflix for travel that helps couples rank and rate their travel styles and wish-lists.

Is there a secret trick to getting upgrades?

Yes, a well-connected travel advisor has access to exclusive preferred partner programs with hotels and resorts that give their clients special amenities, perks and put them top of the list for upgrades – some at the time of booking!

Website: Brownell Travel | Phone: 205.802.6222EndCap

Photo by Heather Durham Photography in La Jolla, CA

Whether you are a bride and groom planning a Destination Wedding or honeymoon, or Parents of the Bride and Groom needing a vacation after all the busy wedding planning, if this first issue of Ask the Pro doesn’t get you grabbing your passport and online shopping for new luggage, I’m not sure what will! Thank you to Brownell Travel and Haisley Smith for sharing your expertise with us!



Katie & Matt’s Birmingham, AL Wedding [Vestavia Country Club]

Katie is full of life, with an energy and enthusiasm that is contagious. What else would you expect from a former University of Alabama Crimsonette? She kinda floats around with her head held high, and you smile a lot when you are around her. And, Matt, the University of Alabama law student…he adores Katie! Sometimes he just gazes at her and other times he looks at her with this amused little grin on his face. It’s obvious he loves her spirit and spunk. His personality perfectly compliments hers too. Matt is more reserved and is okay with just hanging back observing while Katie is the life of the party. They really are the cutest couple!

Handley Breaux Designs planned this amazing wedding and Katie and I had an immediate connection at our first meeting over coffee. She LOVES photography and wanted it all…an Engagement Session, Bridal Session and a wedding day full of images. She even had some fun ideas of her own. As you will see, the details matter to Katie and she wanted to take the time to capture them. We got along splendidly.

Did I mention that at one time Katie worked in the Gus Mayer Shoe Salon? This girl loves some shoes…especially Christian Louboutin heels. In fact, there was a collection of Louboutin shoes and Burberry rain boots in the brides room for her to choose from on her wedding day, which called for a high chance of rain. I prayed that the rain would hold off because Katie had dreamed of having all outdoor photos, with only her First Look in the sanctuary. God answered that prayer. We only had a short sprinkle while we were driving from one location to the next for wedding party portraits. It cleared and we even had a minute or two of sunshine for Katie and Matt’s portraits at the scenic overlook in Vestavia.

I’ll let the images tell the rest of the story. And, I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but it was an 11 hour wedding day full of fun. It was just too hard to leave out some of Katie and Matt’s story. And, you don’t want to miss the reception at Vestavia Country Club, where the bride’s cake was suspended from the ceiling and her Crimsonette friends performed a few of their dances and the Alabama fight song. Roll Tide! Best wishes you two!





Photographer: Heather Durham | 2nd Shooter: Jana Sobel | Planner: Handley Breaux Designs | Wedding Gown: Martina Liana from Ivory & White Bridal Boutique | Bridal Shoes: Christian Louboutin | Groom’s Tux: Mr. Burch | Floral Design: Lagniappe Designs | Church: Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church | Reception Venue and Caterer: Vestavia Country Club | Cake Artist: The Cakerie Birmingham | Invitation Suite: Annabelle’s | Hair Stylist: Kaitlin Eaton | Makeup Artist: Eva Crockett | Band: Nu South Players | Videographer: Bradley Whittingham

Katie’s Bridal Session [Birmingham Botanical Gardens]

Katie was a dream to work with! From our very first meeting at Starbucks, to she and Matt’s Engagement Session at Morris Avenue and Railroad Park, then finally at their amazing wedding and reception at Vestavia Country Club, she knew exactly what she wanted. And she has such a fun, vivacious personality with a confident and contagious energy! You’ll see in her images. I wanted to be friends with her the minute I meet her!

Katie is a also a former University of Alabama Crimsonette, so she floats, twirls and moves in a way that dancers naturally do…and with her amazing 2-piece Martina Liana gown with layered skirt, we did lots of twirling. This tiny dancer was a stunning bride! Planner: Handley Breaux Designs | Wedding Gown: Martina Liana from Ivory & White Bridal Shop.HDP-B-Kilpatrick-63_-WEB.jpgHDP-B-Kilpatrick-296_-WEB.jpghdp-b-kilpatrick-178_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-265_-webHDP-B-Kilpatrick-206_-WEB.jpghdp-b-kilpatrick-260_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-313_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-312_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-311_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-306_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-305_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-220_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-197_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-140_-webHDP-B-Kilpatrick-115_-WEB.jpghdp-b-kilpatrick-131_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-136_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-70_-webHDP-B-Kilpatrick-217_-WEB.jpgHDP-B-Kilpatrick-254_-WEB.jpghdp-b-kilpatrick-170_-webhdp-b-kilpatrick-57_-webHDP-B-Kilpatrick-86_-WEB.jpg


Natalie + Eric [Douglas Manor Wedding, Birmingham AL]

I’m excited to post some of my favorite images from Natalie and Eric’s wedding I photographed as a second shooter for my friend, Jana Sobel of 205 Photography. We have photographed many weddings together and always have fun! I appreciate her asking me to shoot alongside her on this beautiful July day at Douglas Manor. I enjoyed getting to know Natalie and Eric. What a sweet couple! And…oh to have a perfect hair day just like Natalie… even in the Alabama summer humidity!

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Bridal Portraits at Shoal Creek Golf Club

Last fall, my good friend, Stacy Richardson, and I photographed Abbie’s bridal session. We had a fabulous time, roaming around the prestigious Shoal Creek Golf Club that has hosted several PGA events here in Birmingham. It was a perfect afternoon and Abbie was a vision, surrounded by gorgeous fall color and amazing golden light. Not surprisingly, she attracted alot of attention from the late afternoon golfers, since she was not in the usual golf attire of a skirt and spikes! Her dress was magnificent with it’s unique lace and peplum waist; and it was so sweet that Abbie wore her mom’s veil as the finishing touch.

Here are some of my favorites from our afternoon together.


A New Year…a New Look!

I like change. Change is exciting, especially when you are a very visual person and creating something feels almost as important as breathing. I like change in my home decor, my clothes, my shoes, my music and my workouts…but my business identity is not something I want to change often. However, 2012 brought some new and exciting changes to the content of what I was shooting. In addition to my core business of portraits, in 2012 I second shot more weddings than ever and added national sports events to my portfolio, with more to come in 2013. After 10 years of the same logo, it was looking tired and did not represent my personal style or the style of my photography anymore; so I decided it was the perfect time to make a change.

I asked my talented friend Holly Hollon for her help because I knew she could create something from the ideas and styles that were swirling around in my head. I wanted a modern, clean look, playing off my initials, while keeping the same color palette . Turquoise has always been my favorite color because it reminds me of the beach. Just like the ocean water, it’s a place for my eyes to rest and makes me relaxed and happy…exactly how I want my clients to feel when I photograph them!

Here’s to a new year and a new look…cheers!

Arrington + Clay

I’ve been waiting to share Arrington and Clay’s amazing wedding with you until the February issue of Birmingham Weddings magazine came out. It hit mailboxes last week and will be on newsstands the first week of February. I’m thrilled to announce that their wedding will be featured in this issue! I’m also excited that in the same issue, I photographed an 8 page editorial piece on bridal luncheons. I had so much fun working with the art director, food editor and stylists on this issue!

Lacey DellaPace of the award-winning Scobey Photography in Atlanta, contacted me to second shoot Arrington and Clay’s wedding and reception with her.  Scobey Photography has been voted Best of Weddings by The Knot for 2012, one of the 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography in 2012, Junebug Weddings List of Best Photographers in the World, Southern Weddings Blue Ribbon Vendors and Style Me Pretty’s Little Black Book, just to name a few. So, needless to say it was such a compliment that Lacey asked me to shoot with her and I jumped at the opportunity! We had talked on the phone and seen each other’s work, but didn’t meet until the morning of the wedding. We hit it off immediately and had the best time shooting together!

Arrington and Clay’s love, excitement and anticipation made it fun to watch the day unfold. And, no detail was left undone for their nuptials and celebration. From custom designed letterpress with their own stamp and a bagpipe processional at the ceremony (always a favorite for me), to custom wine labels and homemade pralines stirring in a copper pot at the reception. It was a beautiful day, rich with southern tradition and flavor.

Now I’ll let the images tell the rest of the story. And, don’t forget to check out the latest issue of Birmingham Weddings for more!

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Lacey’s friend Courtney ran the photo booth.




I had the best time watching this groomsman and his girlfriend dance! It was like watching Dancing with the Stars! They were fantastic!
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Ceremony Location: Meadow Brook Baptist Church/Reception Location: The American Village/Event Coordinator: Carol Burns/Bride’s Hair: Emily Hurst of Morgan Ashley Salon/Bride’s dress designer: Marisa/Bridal Salon: The White Room/Groom’s Suit: Mr. Burch/Invitations & Programs: Holly Hollon Design and Calligraphy/Cake Designer: Doris Patterson of Cake N Eat It 2/Florist: Susan Huff of The Kings Garden/Caterer: Epting Events/Band: 4 Barrel Funk

Published in Birmingham Weddings new issue! [Heather Durham Photography]

Earlier this month I photographed an article for the new issue of Birmingham Weddings magazine. Years ago and before my babies, I was an Art Director for a magazine publisher; and I thoroughly enjoyed my days in the editorial world. But this time, instead of designing layouts I was shooting them!

I will post the full layout later; but for now, here is a photo I took with my iPhone as I was flipping through my copy in the car right after I got my hands on it. I was squealing with excitement at the surprise that what was originally planned as an article, turned into an 8 page feature! After a few minutes of studying each page, my husband looked over and asked me how it feels on Cloud Nine! I’ve been published before, but this just felt different. I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life and I love it. So, being published with several other photographers and vendors I respect in this great city, just feels good!

And, to add to my excitement, it was also featured on today. Stay tuned for the full feature post and an additional post of Arrington and Clay’s wedding I shot with Lacey DellaPace of Scobey Photography (Atlanta), which is also in this issue of Birmingham Weddings. It’s been a good day! A big thanks to my friends at Birmingham Magazine.

Update to this post. Full feature is posted here.

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