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


 

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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
needs? 

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)
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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)
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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

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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!

 

 

Belle Meade Plantation Wedding Inspiration Shoot

Belle Meade Plantation Wedding Inspiration Shoot by Heather Durham Photography

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Photography: Heather Durham | Event & Floral Design: Thorne & Thistle + Silver Celebrations | Venue: Belle Meade Plantation | Wedding Gown: Claire Pettibone from The Dress Theory Nashville | Tuxedo: Street Tuxedo | Vintage China & Stemware: Tea and Old Roses |Custom Invitation: Empress Stationary | Rentals: Please Be Seated | Cake: Dulce Desserts | Hand Dyed Ribbon: Cocoon Silk Ribbon | Models: Chelsea Backman of AMAX Talent & Ryan Kirk | Hair & Make-Up Artist: The Hair & Make-Up Collective, Lynsey Richardson | Styling Assistant: Sara Cederhage

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It’s in the [Wedding] Details

Oh how I love to shoot the details that define each of my bride’s unique and beautiful style. Before the wedding day, I remind all of my brides to bring everything to the getting ready location, so that I can shoot it when I arrive. A bride’s perfume, invitation suite, programs, notes, gifts, jewelry, shoes, garters, and handkerchief are thoughtfully curated and begged to be remembered as part of the wedding day story. It’s also a great idea to set aside lingerie, so I can style it lying on a chair or on the bed to be photographed before the bride puts it on. Pets are family and also an important part of the story I try to include when I can. Often, it’s a family dog, but sometimes it’s the horse the bride grew up riding from childhood.

In addition to the personal and paper details, the floral, cake and reception design set the tone for the day. There’s always a “wow” moment thanks to the talented planners who meticulously think through every important element with our brides. This post features some of the loveliness I’ve photographed over the years. Hope you enjoy. And, what a pleasure it is to work with the planners featured and listed at the end of this post.

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Wedding and Event Planners featured in this post:

Mariée Ami
Handley Breaux Designs
Invision Events
Jayne Bubis Events
M. Elizabeth Events
AK Brides
Laura Burchfield Events
Thorne & Thistle

 

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Megan & Andrew’s Country Club of Birmingham Wedding

Every beautiful detail of Megan and Andrew’s Birmingham, Alabama wedding was perfectly curated by the talented planning team at Mariee Ami. Megan’s gown was by local Alabama designer, Heidi Elnora, and her blush Amsale bridesmaids dresses were some of my very favorite this season.

I’ve known Andrew’s Mom, Sharon, for years, so I was thrilled their families wanted me to photograph the wedding. I first met Megan and Andrew on a beautiful spring day for their Engagement Session at Andrew’s family’s home on Smyer Lake. After spending a short time with them that afternoon, I knew it was going to be a fun wedding day! And, although they didn’t think so, they were very much naturals in front of the camera.

The details of this wedding are truly gorgeous, but my favorite takeaway from this wedding was the way their families stayed together to celebrate. It’s very easy for the families of the bride and groom to get pulled in different directions at the wedding reception: but somehow they made sure to visit with and enjoy guests, while still staying together. I’m not sure I’ve ever shot a wedding where I was able to get the bride, groom, both families and best friends on the front row dancing together in reception shots. And, instead of them using their iPhones all night, the chose to just live the day and let me preserve the moments for them. What a gift to each other and to me! Their love and adoration for each other, being present in every moment, was the theme throughout the day. These families were such a joy and pleasure to work with!

Please excuse this lengthy post, but there’s just so much to share from Megan and Andrew’s absolutely perfect day, that even the rain couldn’t change. One of my favorite shots of them is under an umbrella. “I’m just a fella, a fella with an umbrella, looking for a girl who saved her love for a rainy day.” — Frank Sinatra

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PHOTOGRAPHER | Heather Durham
ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHER | Emily Kicklighter
PLANNER | Mariée Ami
CUSTOM INVITATION DESIGN |  Mariée Ami
FLORAL DESIGN | Hothouse Design Studio
PROPS | Prophouse Birmingham
WEDDING GOWN | Heidi Elnora
 GROOM’S ATTIRE | Mr. Burch
BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES |  Amsale from Bella Bridesmaids
CAKE ARTISTS | Bride’s Cake: Magic Muffins and Groom’s Cake: Olexa’s
HAIR & MAKE UP | Celine Russell
CEREMONY VENUE | Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church
RECEPTION VENUE | Country Club of Birmingham
ENTERTAINMENT | Big Blast and the Party Masters
VIDEOGRAPHER | StoryLive Productions
EVENT DESIGN | Design Productions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BORROWED & BLUE’S Q&A WITH HEATHER DURHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

 Borrowed & Blue

BORROWED & BLUE’S Q&A WITH HEATHER DURHAM PHOTOGRAPHY:

THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Heather Durham Photography was recently asked by Borrowed and Blue, a locally-focused online wedding resource, to give couples everything they need to know about my photography services.

Birmingham weddings are their own brand of gorgeous—filled with Southern charm, refined rustic touches, and natural beauty. Trust us when we say that couples are going to want to preserve that beauty for a lifetime. That’s why today we are talking with Heather from Heather Durham Photography about all things wedding photography.” — Stephanie, Borrowed & Blue’s Market Specialist

Q&A Borrowed & Blue with Heather Durham:  

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How did you first get into photography?  My work experience in the fashion industry and as an art director for a magazine publisher, inspired me to pursue photography. During those years of working with other photographer’s images for catalogs and editorial layouts, I became fascinated at lighting and the power of an image to tell a story, affect our emotions, and influence our behavior. I believe every work experience since college led me to this. I started my business almost 14 years ago and I can’t imagine doing anything else!

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12307335_1146983628662976_9129577270449109560_oWhat single photo sums up your aesthetic?  An image with dreamy natural light and an emotional connection…for the subject and the viewer. Here’s a few of my favorites…
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Heather Durham Photography, Mary Christin & John's fall weddingHeatherDurhamPhotography5
211-hdp-beardenblake-877Cyd & J.'s Wedding at St Stephens Episcopal and Vestavia Country Club, Heather Durham Photography Birmingham Alabama
As a storyteller, what draws you to a particular subject? Whatever it is that makes them unique…whether it’s their dramatic eyes, freckles across their cheeks and nose, gorgeous red hair, or maybe it’s their personality that comes out through their laugh. I just know it when I see it and it becomes my mission to speak that life into their images.
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What is your favorite moment to photograph at a wedding? The First Look and moments right after. I absolutely love seeing the look on the groom’s face when he sees his bride in her wedding gown for the first time. There is so much authentic emotion in that moment. I use a long lens because I want them to completely forget I’m even there and get lost in the moment. This is their moment and their words to each other. I want to respect that.
Katy & Matt's Wedding at Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa in Birmingham, ALHDP-Dunn-W-560_-WEB031blog_048-hdp-dunn-w-434_web1
Katy & Matt's Wedding at Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa in Birmingham, AL

What makes or breaks a bridal shoot? First and foremost, lighting. Beautiful light is the difference between a good image and an incredible image. I especially love back lit portraits. Rim light gives brides a lovely, ethereal glow. Second, a professional hair and makeup artist. They are worth their weight in gold. The best make up and hair artists (MUAH) know how to help brides look their very best, especially on camera. You’ve dreamed of this day all your life, invested in a gown, and so much more. Your hair and makeup should be perfect and last the entire day…from the very first getting ready shot, to the ceremony, thru dancing and finally the sendoff shot. In my opinion, MUAHs should be a non negotiable item in your budget. Yes, I feel that strongly about it.
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046-HDP-HufhamLewis-W-423_-WEBHDP-HufhamLewis-W-367_-WEBHDP-HufhamLewis-W-523HDP-HufhamLewis-W-561What are some of the most photogenic spots for Birmingham engagement shoots? There are so many great spots downtown that are iconic Birmingham…the new Rotary Trail Magic City arch has been one of my favorite’s lately, Railroad Park right before sunset on the elevated bridge with the city skyline lit up behind it, The Alabama Theatre and Lyric Theatre district, Morris Avenue and the BIRMINGHAM sign at Regions Field, just to name a few. I’ve hit all of those in one shoot and love the variety it gives and the story it tells…especially if you’ve lived in Birmingham most of your life. I also love the view of the city from The Club atop Red Mountain. For natural settings, Aldridge Gardens, The Botanical Gardens and The Preserve are beautiful. And, I always love interesting bridges and a good, shallow creek like the one along Jemison Trail. The light that reflects off the water is amazing!

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Leslie & John's Rehearsal Dinner at Regions Field, Home of the Birmingham Barons

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Where else do you love to photograph? The beach towns along Hwy 30A…Rosemary, Watersound, Carillon, Alys, Seaside, Seagrove and Grayton. I’ve grown up vacationing there since I was a young girl, so I know the area well and have seen it grow and flourish over the years into a beach haven. There’s just no place quite like it! I could work there for months on end and never run out of beautiful places to shoot. It’s my happy place!
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What’s your favorite photograph you’ve ever taken? I view every shoot as the possibility for a new favorite shot! I guess right now it’s this one because it made the cover of the current issue of Birmingham Weddings Magazine. There’s nothing more gorgeous than natural light streaming in from a window or doorway. For this shot, I sat the bride on the settee in this amazing wallpapered foyer, grabbed the pillows from another room in the house and opened the front door. My assistant held a reflector to add some fill to her face. I sat down on the floor and shoot from that low angle to make the dress look more dramatic…bigger than life. The shadows bring out the detail and the highlights compliment her dewy skin. So simple, yet so lovely. (Makeup and Hair: Celine Russell | Wardrobe Styling: Mary Beth Wetzel | Photo Assistant: Andi Rice | Wedding Gown: Anne Barge from The White Room)
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What’s your favorite wedding that you’ve shot? Oh! That’s so hard! I love so many! One of my favorites in the past year was Lindsey & Grant’s wedding last August. They got ready at The Tutwiler Hotel, with ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral downtown and reception at Iron City…such iconic Birmingham buildings on a beautiful summer day. And, the chemistry between them was a beautiful thing to watch through my lens. I’ll never forget their First Look in the gorgeous sanctuary at St. Paul’s, and Grant’s adoration through tears as she walked down the long aisle towards him.

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What’s your favorite out of all the Birmingham wedding venues to shoot? I’m not sure I can name just one! There are so many amazing venues in Birmingham. The Club atop Red Mountain and Vestavia Country Club have beautiful ballrooms and views. The Tutwiler is such a beautiful historic hotel with a lovely terrace and courtyard for photographs. Iron City are B&A Warehouse are wonderfully roomy venues for big crowds and guests who enjoy a good party and love to dance. I also love Swann Lake Stables for an outdoor refined rustic setting and look forward to shooting a wedding there again in a few weeks.

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173-hdp-chochran-76_-web217-hdp-chochran-989_-web213-hdp-chochran-986_-webWhat is the first thing you ask couples when they approach you? I always ask how they met. I love to hear their story, so if possible, I can incorporate that location in their Engagement Shoot. The couple below had their first date at City Cafe in Tuscaloosa while they were in college at The University of Alabama, so I was excited to be able to include that memory in their Engagement images. I also want to know the couple’s expectations for their photographer and details of their wedding plans and wedding style to make sure we are a good fit.

hdp-daniel-es-284_-webWhat’s the biggest mistake that couples make when choosing their photographer? Not looking at a photographer’s entire wedding day gallery from getting ready to departure. I encourage all couples to look at a full gallery, not just the select shots photographers post on social media and portfolio websites. It’s important that a photographer know how to perform in every lighting situation that’s thrown at them. A photographer may have beautiful natural light photos, but then when they find themselves in a dark, candle lit reception room or outside at a dark sendoff, they don’t have the skills or lighting equipment to make those images look beautiful too. By looking at an entire wedding gallery you can make sure there is a consistency in the photographer’s work.

135-hdp-daniel-878-2_-web1 140-hdp-daniel-930-2_-web145-hdp-daniel-949-2_-webHDP-Daniel-1137-2HDP-Daniel-1151-2What makes Heather Durham Photography different from other wedding photographers? Wedding photographers are with the bride and groom more than anyone else on their wedding day. And prior to the big day, we exchange, emails phone calls and texts about details. I’ve become friends and still keep up with so many of my brides from over the years. To me, it’s about more than just doing my job as a photographer. I’m a storyteller, a problem solver, a fixer, a stress reliever, a veil attacher, a dress bustler, a face blotter, and a tie straightener. I’ve even let a mother of the bride borrow my earrings for family portraits when she forgot hers! I’m whatever a bride and groom need me to be on the wedding day to help them relax and enjoy the day. I think brides would say that my attention to detail and willingness to serve sets me apart from other photographers.

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What tips do you have for couples who have never been photographed before? Relax, have fun, don’t always look at the camera, look at each other a lot, talk to each other, and don’t be afraid to move. Flip through magazines and see what shots/poses you are drawn to. Movement and shots where you are unaware of the camera feel more natural and editorial. Even if it’s doesn’t feel natural or come easy for you, it’s my job to make it look like that way.

hdp-daniel-es-330_-web-1hdp-daniel-es-87_-webDSC_2219HDP-Bearden-7_-WEBDSC_2586What are some of your upcoming projects for the future? I just returned from France where I was shooting for a commercial client. I can’t wait to finish editing the images. It was a dream job! Stay tuned for the blog post…

Also, two months ago I moved to Nashville after living and working in Birmingham all of my life. I will still be shooting wherever in the world my camera takes me, and I’ll always shoot in Birmingham, because that’s home and where all of my family is; but my goal for now is establishing and growing my business in Music City. My focus will be on editorial and commercial assignments and weddings. For years, I’ve had this secret little career goal to document behind the scenes of a musician’s life on tour. I guess I’m in the right city now to pursue that dream. We’ll see what happens…I’m thrilled for new adventures with my camera and new locations to shoot in this exciting town!

Feeling inspired? Book Heather Durham Photography today.

For the rest of your wedding planning needs, be sure to check out Borrowed & Blue.

Caroline & Daniel [Vestavia Country Club, Birmingham AL]

Caroline and Daniel’s wedding was planned to perfection by Anita Kanellis of AK Brides. She curated elements of southern charm, sophistication and gorgeous floral design by Carol Riley of Lillie’s, to create a beautiful day for this fun couple who met at The University of Alabama. You can see their Tuscaloosa Engagement Session here.

From her blush Badgley Mischka shoes and her “something old” emerald estate ring to her exquisite “something new” Augusta Jones gown from Carriage House Weddings, Caroline was a lovely southern bride with so much grace and beauty.

A few sweet takeaways from the day…Caroline’s relationship with her mother was a precious one to watch, her bridesmaids were best friends that rejoiced and celebrated every single detail that excited Caroline about her wedding day, and finally, Daniel and Caroline are the truest of romantics. That will serve them so well in their married life.

Best wishes for a lifetime of health and happiness for the Harbaughs. Thank you for choosing me to be a part of your day!

(Forgive the lengthiness of this post. I loved this wedding and all of its blissful moments.)

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