Melissa + Stephen | Zion Coffee Bar Engagement Session

I'm completely obsessed with engagement sessions that fall out of my "normalcy" zone. I have scoured Peoria and all surrounding areas for my absolute favorite locations (and believe me, I have many!), but when someone takes me somewhere I've yet to go or suggests something completely out of the ordinary, I will always jump at the chance! For instance, this session with Melissa and Stephen at Peoria's own Zion Coffee Bar.

This is one of Melissa and Stephen's favorite coffee bars that they frequent often, which is why she suggested it in the first place. It's been a dream of mine to shoot a coffee shop session. They're intimate, cozy, and downright gorgeous – but this shop. This shop is light, airy, and so modern it hurts. It's an actual dream! We then made our way through the streets of Downtown, ending with full access to the Peoria Civic Center and a seriously gorgeous pink sequined dress. The chemistry between these two is INSANE and it was such a fun, relaxed evening full of snuggles, smiles, and sunshine!

Keep scrolling to see some of my favorites from Melissa + Stephen's cozy engagement.

Caitlyn + Greg | Colorado Rocky Mountain Destination Wedding

Soul mate /ˈsōl ˌmāt/ noun; a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament

That's the boring desk job, Merriam-Webster version of romance. A better explanation, however, can be found if you dig just a little bit deeper. A soul mate is a person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet – a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before. As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone prior. Your soulmate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness, and happiness when you are around them. You can probably all remember the exact moment you met your soulmate. At college, at work, at a gas station, a bar, or a bus stop. Such a chance encounter, as fate would have it, that would change the course of your entire life. Caitlyn and Greg had just that, which leads us to this chapter of their love story. 

i remember texting caitlyn one summer afternoon, not too long after her and Greg got engaged, asking her what she had in mind for her wedding. she responded that she didn't know, but was open to ideas. so, being THEIR photographer, i took it upon myself to plant the destination wedding idea in her head. "greg really isn't a beach person," i remember her saying when i suggested jamaica, punta cana, and florida. AFTER ALL, EVERYONE IMMEDIATELY THINKS SOMEWHERE WARM WHEN THE WORD 'DESTINATION' COMES UP. "WHAT ABOUT COLORADO?" MY HUSBAND YELLED FROM THE kitchen. LIGHT BULB. "THAT'S PERFECT!" I SAID, FRANTICALLY TEXTING CAITLYN THE IDEA. TO BE HONEST, I NEVER THOUGHT THAT THEY WOULD ACTUALLY GO FORWARD WITH IT – IT'S A LONG DRIVE FROM ILLINOIS (12 HOURS TO BE EXACT), SHE WAS PREGNANT WITH HER SECOND BABY AT THE TIME, AND MOST COUPLES CHOOSE TO STAY LOCAL FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY. OH, HOW WRONG I WAS! WE PLANNED THIS WEDDING IN eIGHT SHORT MONTHS, THEY MARRIED JUST TWO MONTHS AFTER HER SECOND BABY ARRIVED, AND NEARLY ALL OF THEIR FAMILY, HER BABIES, AS WELL AS MANY FRIENDS MADE THE TRIP ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO BE THERE. I WAS SO THRILLED ON THEIR WEDDING DAY, AMONGST THE SNOWFALL, THE MOUNTAINS, AND THE PEOPLE, SEEING EVERYTHING THAT WE WORKED SO HARD ON FOR THE PAST EIGHT MONTHS COME TOGETHER SO PERFECTLY. It's bittersweet writing this post because it means that this adventure has officially ended. we're done with the planning, the texting, the emailing, and the calling. the baking, the sewing, the dying, and the printing. the PACKING, the styling, the googling, and the editing. the sightseeing, the hiking, the lack of oxygen, and, most importantly, the driving.

THE MORAL OF THIS STORY IS THAT THESE ARE MY PEOPLE. I LOVE THIS FAMILY SO MUCH AND I'M ABSOLUTELY OVER THE MOON THAT THEY HAVE THE HAPPINESS THAT THEY ARE SO DESERVING OF. CONGRATULATIONS ON MAKING IT OFFICIAL! I WISH YOU A LIFETIME OF LOVE. WELCOME TO THE FAMILY, GREG!

So, without further ado, you'd better settle in for the long haul. This one is going to be good.

 

From the Bride:

 

"Greg and I looked at a few venues around the area we lived and while they were all pretty, it wasn't what I had longed for in a wedding. I wanted something simple and beautiful, yet unique in regards to its scenery and topography. I first looked into tropical destinations, but they didn't seem to fit our lifestyle or personalities. It just didn't feel right – there was no spark. It wasn't until my brother suggested Colorado that Greg and I agreed within minutes that that would be where we would get married.

We had never been to Colorado, and the thought of getting married in the Rocky Mountains was exhilarating. After some searching, we stumbled upon Black Canyon Inn in Estes Park, which kept me daydreaming about our wedding for the next 7 months. It was absolutely gorgeous – the beautiful log cabins, the perfect little city of Estes Park, and the amazing view from the hillside pavilion where we would be saying our 'I Do's'.

After we chose our destination, it was time to find the perfect dress. I wanted something slim with lace and sleeves. I tried on 4 dresses and the 5th being the last, Oleg Cassini, was the perfect match for our wedding day. It was such a wonderful experience from start to finish and I can't recommend a destination wedding enough."

 

 

Ceremony Venue: Black Canyon Inn | Estes Park, Colorado

Afterparty Venue: The Wheel Bar | Estes Park, Colorado

Wedding Dress: Oleg Cassini

Styled Dress: Buy Dress | Customized + Dyed by Andrea Godfrey

Rehearsal Dress: WHITE Vera Wang

Tuxedos: Men's Wearhouse | Joseph Abboud in 'Navy'

Pearl Necklace: Bride's Great-Grandmother Clara | "Something Old"

Invitation Set: Designed by Andrea Godfrey | printed at Peoria Color

Invitation Envelopes: The Paper Source

Wedding Cake: Felicia Mangieri

Cake Topper: The Duo Studio | Customized

Ribbon: Nettle Textiles | Hand-dyed silk ribbon in 'Blush'

Bouquet Greenery: Right Choice USA

Bouquet Design: Andrea Godfrey

Bouquet Flowers: Michaels | Peoria, IL

Wedding Flats: Princess Pumps | Etsy

Bridesmaid Dresses: Renz Rags | Rose Gold Sequin in Multiple Styles | Etsy

Hair + Makeup: Bella Capelli | Christie Glorioso Nagl, Hair | Adrianne Welch, Hair | Melissa Glorioso, Makeup

Flowergirl Dress: Sophia's Style | Etsy

 

Elizabeth | Richwoods High School Class of 2017

Can we talk about how far behind I am on blogging?! I clearly need to get it together because I have so many gorgeous sessions I want to share with you, starting with Elizabeth's Senior Collection! We had to reschedule her afternoon session once due to rain and our only other option was to shoot in the early morning, just a few hours after she hopped off a plane from a college visit!

When Elizabeth first contacted me, I recognized her name right away. I shot her big brother Winston when he was a senior and had so much fun with their family, so I was looking forward to meeting her for the first time. Elizabeth is sweet, gorgeous, and a totally talented human being. She is an amazing musician and is heading to Stanford University in the fall! (Yes, as in California!) She also brought her BFF along to her session so they could get some shots together before they part ways for their first year of college. Totally sweet, amiright?

You can check out my favorites from Elizabeth's session below!

HMUA: Tierney Cheney-Smithers

Ivey Turns Two | Bunny Brunch Cake Smash

Turning two is a big deal! So, why not celebrate with a gorgeously-styled naked cake, a couple of bunny friends, and a lot of delicious frosting? That's what Ivey did!

When Ivey's mama came to me with ideas for Ivey's Bunny Brunch (such a seriously cute birthday theme!) I got right to work planning her setup. I knew we just had to have an Ivy backdrop (because Ivey, of course) and a slew of brightly-colored floral elements, but the bunnies were all her mama's idea and it might be the most precious thing I've ever seen. 

I'm so excited to share with you some of my favorites from Ivey's Bunny Brunch cake smash!

Andrea GodfreyComment
Katherine + Aaron | Davenport Country Club Wedding

I am so excited to share this winter Davenport Country Club wedding with you today, not just because it was completely and utterly gorgeous, but also because I love weddings where there is no limit on emotion. Katherine and Aaron are a match made in Heaven (yep, I said it!) and there was no shortage of pure bliss between these two on their wedding day. Katie is a soft-spoken beauty and Aaron is the life of the party wherever he goes. Two completely different personalities that fit so well together, like a puzzle piece of sorts. Behind all of their playfulness, though, lies a sweet sincerity between them that commands the room.

Let's talk about this wedding for a second. Katie's hair. Her dress! The fact that her father got to walk Katie down the aisle and then turn around and marry the both of them is just so special. The amazing weather. The gorgeous venue that was so perfectly decorated. The slew of kind, welcoming, and hilarious people I met throughout the day. The relaxed timeline that gave Katie and Aaron plenty of time to just soak it all in. This wedding was perfect in so many ways.

When I first met Katie and Aaron, it was the day of their engagement session on what I feel was probably the only sunny day in January this year. Katie stepped out of the car looking gorgeous and Aaron stepped out of the car looking handsome and... a little less than thrilled to be there albeit in better spirits than most men getting ready to spend two hours with me taking pictures. The sunshine definitely helped all of us get into the swing of things and we were laughing until our sides hurt before we knew it! Their wedding day followed suit and it was one of my absolute favorites of all time. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and Katie and Aaron were so relaxed and in love. The venue was gorgeous and the food was incredible! 

Katie and Aaron, I had the time of my life and loved every second of it! I can't thank you and everyone else involved enough for making me feel like part of the family. I am so excited to share with you my favorites from their big day!

 

Katherine & Aaron | Cozy Winter Engagement

I'd say you would be pretty lucky to get a sunny, 50+ degree day in January in Illinois. You'd be even luckier to get the same uncharacteristic weather for your outdoor wedding a month later. With the odds stacked against them, Katie and Aaron planned both their engagement and wedding in what would be the coldest months of the year and won the weather lottery! We would much rather pretend to be chilly than actually be chilly, so win-win!

When we met for their engagement session, Katie stepped out of the car telling me how excited she was about the next two hours while showing me wardrobe options. Aaron stepped out of the car much less miserable than most men showing up to their own photoshoot, so I took that and ran, no, sprinted with it. These two have such a brilliant connection, which makes for not only a fun session, but introduces raw, genuine emotion that creates the most beautiful imagery – you can literally feel the love. I challenge you to scroll through this session without smiling from ear to ear!

Keep scrolling to see Katie and Aaron's complete engagement session and, as always, leave them some kind words! Enjoy!

Taryn & Drew | Snowy Lakeside Engagement

Meet Taryn and Drew; a happy-go-lucky couple with a passion for life, music, and, most of all, each other.

When I say a passion for music, I mean it! These two first got together at a Luke Bryan concert years ago, attended their share of concerts together as a couple, and eventually got engaged at the Back Road Music Festival when Drew proposed on stage in front of thousands of people! Not many people have a story like that!

Taryn's parents live out at Oak Run, a large community surrounding a beautiful lake, so when Taryn suggested we use this location for their engagement session I was ecstatic! The thing I was even more ecstatic about? A winter wedding. I don't get many winter weddings; only from those that are extremely brave and have a special place in their heart for a gorgeous, snow-filled day (which we have in common). I mean, how gorgeous are jewel tones paired with snow?! 

Keep scrolling to see more of my favorites from Taryn and Drew's snowy lakeside engagement!

The Howards | Fall Lifestyle Session

This gorgeous film-inspired lifestyle session is one of my all-time favorites! Not just because of the tasteful decor or the airy, neutral colors, but because of this sweet (and let's be honest, perfectly styled) family itself. For those of you that aren't familiar with the Howards, they are Sam, Tim, and Grayson – a perfectly styled, fun, loving trio that I've worked with many times over the past 3 years. I always enjoy their company immensely and Sam always provides me with a perfect setting to make absolute magic.

Keep scrolling to check out my favorites from this lovely lifestyle session!

Diana & Jeff | Sunset Waterfront Engagement
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Meet Diana and Jeff. They are a totally sweet, totally carefree, totally in love couple that I've had the pleasure of knowing for many years. Okay, not entirely. I've only known Diana for many years – this gorgeous woman is one of my biggest supporters and has been around since the very beginning of my interest that eventually evolved into my professional business, going on seven years now. Let me explain.

I met Diana in 2012 which, in hindsight, isn't as long ago as I had thought when beginning this blog post. We ended up meeting at a shoot and we hit it off instantly – it was one of those "we're already close and I don't even know you" kind of relationships. We didn't grow up together, we didn't share friends, yet we felt like we had known each other for decades. That's why, when she contacted me 3+ years later about her engagement, it's almost as if time hadn't skipped a beat. I was SO EXCITED. I was excited to see her again, excited to have a totally fun shoot, and mostly, I was excited to meet Jeff – the mystery man that Diana had fallen in love with. Not to mention we've run into each other at more than a few weddings I've shot over the course of the past couple of years. Basically, it was meant to be!

You wouldn't believe how these two melted together. They were in love, carefree, and absolutely giddy. When I met Jeff for the first time at their session, he was polite and possibly a bit skeptical about the next two hours ahead of him. This session was one of my favorites and it was an absolute joy to photograph these two. Scroll down to see more of my favorites from this gorgeous, color-popped engagement!

The Votes Are In! 2016's Product Favorite Is...
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The 2016 client favorite is IN! Out of all prints and products ordered last year, our gorgeous Luxe Crystal USB came out on top – by a long shot! I really wanted to write this post not only to showcase these luxurious USB drives and their amazing quality, but to also share the new drive design with those that have not seen it yet (because let's be honest, it's one sleeeek little number).

For those unaware, our Luxe Crystal USBs are a fabulous addition to any Collection and are wonderful keepsakes to house all of your images beautifully for years to come. Do they also make great gifts? Yes. Yes, they do. It's no secret why this product shot to the top of the list last year!

Keep scrolling to see this beauty up close and personal.

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Lindsey & Austin | Downtown Chicago Engagement

Meet Lindsey and Austin, a gorgeous couple living in downtown Chicago that requested their engagement pictures be taken where they first met – John Marshall Law School. I was beyond ecstatic when Lindsey asked if I would travel to the windy city for their session. There was absolutely no way I would have EVER said no to that!

I began planning their session out in great detail about three days after out initial contact. I wanted everything to be perfect and I honestly felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to accomplish every idea I had in my mind! It was beyond a wonderful experience and I even faced my fears and took my very first solo cab ride. Mind. Blown. (Guys, I'm from small-town Illinois, I have never taken a solo cab and was super nervous!)

My goal for Lindsey and Austin's session was to make absolute sure that in most of the shots they appeared alone. Chicago is the busiest place I have every photographed, hands down, and I would say that more than 50% of the shots I took had to be thrown out because of extensive crowds. We were literally surrounded by people at all times, so I'm beyond thrilled with the outcome! These two are so in love and I had the absolute best time spending the day with them!

Scroll down to see my favorites from Lindsey and Austin's engagement! 

Breana & Jake | New Windsor Barn Wedding

This is one of my favorite couples EVER. Hands down.

I met Jake through mutual friends back in high school, but we lost touch afterward and that was that. Fast forward 8 years and I get an message from Jake telling me that he and Breana are engaged and would like to have me for their wedding – talk about excited! I had never met Breana before, but upon our first meeting I instantly knew that we were a great fit. Her and Jake are incredibly laid back, goofy, and sweet – my kind of people! Not only do they compliment each other perfectly, but they light up everyone around them as well.

We had the most beautiful summer day for their wedding. We were drenched in sunlight and not a cloud was to be seen. And the werewolf mask! Oh, the mask. You'll see that a little farther down. It was a huge staple of the evening and nobody could keep a straight face when it was around! 

I absolutely loved this wedding and all of the amazing people involved. I am so thrilled to have amazing clients like these – they are the reason I love this job so much!

Scroll down to see my favorites from Breana and Jake's gorgeous day!

Chloe | Alwood High School Class of 2017

I only spoke briefly with Chloe and her mother before officially meeting them at the salon before her session. Chloe chose to include our talented HMUA, Courtney, to get the most out of her session with several hair style and makeup changes throughout her collection. 

I almost cried when she pulled out this darling little hat to use with her (what I kept calling) palm tree shirt. Don't ask me why. I have no idea why. I suppose it was the colors and pattern that reminded me of a cruise through the Bahamas or something fancy like that. Now that I type that out, I'm pretty positive I sounded a little crazy because it literally looks nothing like a palm tree. Ha!

We ended up traveling around Wyoming since we chose to incorporate the studio for her last outfit and I am SO happy how every single one of these shots turned out! I'm basically obsessed with her contagious smile and her wardrobe choices!

Scroll down to see my favorites from Chloe's session.

Abbe & Allen | Sommer Park Destination Wedding

When I first spoke with Abbeleigh about her wedding, I was so excited to hear that she was planning a destination wedding back home in Illinois with her closest friends and family. Abbe and Allen are currently living in the beautiful state of Texas, so I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Abbe until a week before her big day (and Allen a mere two hours before their 'I Do's'), but I loved them both instantly. You just know when you meet people who are your people and I was over-the-top excited to spend a whole day documenting their love for each other.

During our conversations back and forth, Abbe and I instantly connected with our love of gorgeous, romantic, and whimsical details. She made it clear that her photographs took precedence over everything else and she would do whatever she could to make my visions a reality that made me THE happiest photographer in the land. Abbe and Allen, you were a dream couple (seriously!) and I am so ecstatic that you chose me to capture this special day for you. I am in love with every. single. picture. which makes for an insanely long blog so grab a cup of hot chocolate, put on your fuzziest socks, and enjoy!

See more favorites from Abbe and Allen's big day below!

Aliza | Post-Grad Mini Session

This was my THIRD session with Aliza and I feel like every time we shoot together we have more fun than the last. She contacted me wanting pictures in her totally gorgeous prom dress and in her cap and gown (Hello! Valedictorian!) and I was so excited to work with her again! I am so in love with her look – I'm sure she's sick of me telling her how much I love it – and I feel like she was totally giving off some modified Cara Delevingne vibes this time around! You're gorgeous, Aliza, and I wish you would stay a Senior forever so I could work with you infinitely. Good luck in your future and all that you do! I know you will rock it!

Scroll down to see more of Aliza's post-graduation mini session!

Carter & Kaley | Mommy & Me First Birthday Session

I got to know Kaley a little over a year ago at her maternity session. We met at Jubilee Park and spent the entire evening shooting a gorgeous styled shoot (seriously the cutest pregnant person I've ever seen!) and gushed about how wonderful baby girls are. Fast forward a year later and here is miss Carter; a spunky, beautiful little babe that is one of the sweetest little things I've ever seen. She wasn't too happy about her cake smash at first, or maybe it was me, but after a little coaxing she eventually warmed up to the idea of being the center of attention and was all smiles.

I loved that Kaley wanted a Mommy + Me session for Carter's first birthday rather than just a cake smash. It's so important for you mothers out there to get in front of the camera with your babes! Plus, it made for some seriously cute poses! The flower crown that Carter wore outside was made by mama and I was in love! She brought the cutest rompers and had the cutest ideas, though I expected nothing less; this girl's got style! I mean, seriously. 

Children at this age are challenging, it's nothing out of the ordinary. They sprint, they cry, and they usually want nothing to do with me ;) I basically run around like a mad woman and it makes me laugh when I think about what I look like from someone else's perspective. Ha! But Carter was so wonderful – she barely cried and made plenty of eye contact with me which is definitely welcome! Carter is one of the sweetest (and prettiest!) little girls around and I had so much fun shooting with her and her gorgeous mama.

Scroll down to see more of Kaley and Carter's Mommy & Me Session!

Courtney & Patrick | Country Film Maternity Session

Just look at this adorable family! Throughout Courtney and Patrick's session, you could feel how in love they were and how excited they were for their new addition. I love when couples involve their children in their maternity session. It's so special to me to include everyone in your family for something this important and exciting – plus they also serve as amazing comedic relief! Thankfully, we had Brayden there to keep us laughing and smiling the entire time! 

I had something so special in mind for Courtney and Patrick's session. Courtney had expressed to me a specific style and session of mine that she had admired so I made it a personal challenge to recreate that to the best of my ability and I'm so pleased with how it turned out! Plus, you can't go wrong with a good-looking couple. You just can't.

Courtney brought along a GORGEOUS flower crown to use with her lace dress and I about died when I saw it. She had it custom made from a florist and I was blown away at how amazing it looked (I adore real flowers more than anything in this world) and it went perfectly with the scenery and overall 'feel' of their session. I'm so happy they found me and let me capture this amazingly special time in their lives!

Scroll down to see more of Courtney and Patrick's Country Film Maternity Session.

Brooke & Michael | Waterfront Rock Island Maternity Session

There are certain times in the initial photography inquiry process when you know right off the bat that you are speaking with someone that trusts in you and your visions wholeheartedly. When I first spoke to Brooke about her maternity session, she was incredibly sweet and open to all of my ideas. Her only request? That I travel to them in Rock Island, an opportunity that I immediately jumped on. There's nothing more enticing than the challenge of shooting in a new location for the first time.

I had never met Brooke of Michael prior to their session, but I knew that Brooke came from an amazing family that I have worked with several times in the past and absolutely adore. I worked with her sister, Jamie, on her senior collection this past year (shoutout to my girl!), her mother has been an incredible help at every session, and I even got dad in the mix holding some gear for me in my time of need. In short, these are my people!

I left the location planning up to Michael and Brooke because they were way more familiar with what Rock Island had to offer. My favorite stop was the old Lodge Museum, a gorgeous brick building that resembles a castle in a sense. There's nothing prettier than a golden/raspberry color palette, and I love the pop of lipstick she added to pull it all together!

Keep scrolling to see more of Brooke and Michael's gorgeous waterfront maternity session!

Nicole & Jacob | Mid-Summer Farm Wedding
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I adore shooting weddings, there's no question about it. I consider it the best part of my job. A wedding really gains brownie points for me when I get to work with those that I know personally in life. I remember high school events with Nicole, riding the bus, and passing her in the halls never dreaming that one day I would play a key role in the most important day of her life.

There was something so special about the quiet looks Nicole and Jacob shared with one another when nobody was watching. There were plenty of these looks throughout their big day – during their ceremony and among their friends and family, of course – but my favorite was a particular moment when the ceremony had ended, the bridal party had gone, and they stood there, alone in a field, holding one another as a married couple for the first time, and it was as if time had stopped. The smiles on their faces and giddy laughs couldn't have been wiped away for anything which gave me the opportunity to photograph a perfect range of the rawest emotions of pure joy and happiness.

As with any wedding in the middle of summer, there's always the gamble that it will be incredibly hot. This just so happened to be the case on Nicole and Jacob's big day which I halfway expected considering this summer has been unusually steamy compared to last year. I was really impressed with how well everyone in the bridal party handled it considering I made them stand in the sweltering heat to snap nearly all of their photos. Sorry again, guys!

Scroll down to see more of Nicole and Jacob's gorgeous farm wedding!