The first big shot we got when we were first getting started was for a wedding in Greenwich (grin-itch. n. the shi-shi part of Connecticut). The first time we went to go meet with this bride, it was at an upscale French restaurant on the water. And she never showed. Two and a half hours we sat waiting for her, spending the last of what was in our bank account on $30 pastries and $15 cappuccinos so the waitstaff wouldn't give us a hard time about staying. We waited and we called and we emailed. And when it was clear that there was no point in waiting any longer, we took our chocolate brown gift box that we had just spray painted in the driveway for her earlier that morning....and we went home.
Eventually she emailed us back and it turned out that, although she had forgotten about our meeting completely, she had coincidentally spent all afternoon lunching at that same upscale French restaurant with friends just three tables away from where we sat waiting. It's so funny, she said, I knew I was supposed to be at that restaurant that day, but I just couldn't remember what for! Awesome. Out of regret, or maybe it was just pity, she invited us back down to her parents house for a second meeting. When we pulled into the driveway, I remember thinking it was the biggest house I had ever seen in my life. Until we realized that this was just the guest house. And the main house was twice its size. As we walked into the foyer there were professional decorators decorating the banister for Christmas, and I could't help but think about the little four foot tree we had just gotten at WalMart. We sat for a few minutes with the bride and her mom, and they asked us questions like if we had been published in this magazine (we hadn't), if we shot film for weddings like the New York City photographers (we didn't), and if we had ever shot at their venue (we never had). The whole meeting took about five minutes. They never once asked to look at single image of our work. And as they showed us the door (literally and figuratively), the bride took our spray painted driveway gift box and said ohhh, isn't that sweet? She may as well have just patted us on our heads.
And as we pulled out of their driveway that day, this one universal truth came crashing down: we were never going to be good enough to hang with the "high end" bride.
And that was the truth that we lived under until about six months later, when without even knowing it, our second big shot came through. We met with a couple for coffee, and they actually showed up on time. We talked for a couple of hours about everything from wine to travel to movies. And at the end of it, they booked on the spot. About a month later as we drove down to do their engagement shoot (they were building a new house & thought it would be cool to do it there), we pulled down a long hidden driveway to see a footprint of a foundation that was easily three times the size of the Greenwich house. And in that moment, I instantly became very aware of the busted up cherry red Neon we were driving (the one that actually wheezed when you started it) and our faded Gap jeans.
Months later after we had already shot the wedding and we were driving back down to their house to go over albums, I confessed to our couple how embarrassed I had been pulling up to the engagement shoot that way. And it was right about then that our bride looked me straight in the eye, and said something that would change everything for us. She said listen, we didn't hire you for the car that you drive or the jeans that you wear. We don't care about that stuff. We hired you for YOU. Because of what we saw in you and your work. And the kind of people we knew we wanted there with us on our day. That's it.
And that was the moment that I realized that I couldn't care less about reaching "the high end bride." Forget big houses....the brides that I really want to go after are the ones with the big hearts. Sure, some of them might also happen to have a bigger budget where we're just a drop in the bucket....some might have to scrimp and stretch and save to be able to get us there. But the one thing that they all have in common, is that they care about other people. They care about us. And we in turn, are crazy about them as well.
I guess my point is, life is way too short to go after the clients or the budgets you think you are supposed to have in order to be successful. And life is way too short to surround yourself with people who make you feel small. Spend your time going after the clients who are really good people, the ones with the really big hearts.
And I promise you, the rest just has a way of taking care of itself.
**This is a gift from our bride Tricia. It's a picture of us at her wedding when she played our first dance song and made us come out on the dance floor & dance to it. :) And she sent it to us in a frame, engraved with the name of our song, Van Morrison's "These are the Days." Tricia has one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen. And it makes me so, so grateful that she is, in every way, our bride.
So the consensus seems to be an overwhelming yes: you brides would like some love too! :) So I have decreed it, let the Piece of Cake Sessions begin! :)
Julia & I have long joked about writing "The Manifesto": a long list of things we have learned (sometimes the hard way) that we wish all brides knew to make their days easier. These are things that seem so simple or maybe even obvious in retrospect, but they are so hard to imagine when you're doing this for the first time. And so the good news is, we have a LOT of material to fuel these piece of cake sessions moving forward. Pretty much until you guys tell us you're bored with them! :)
First up and the very first one we knew we wanted to do is: It is usually so worth the extra money to get ready in a hotel, rather than getting ready at home.
When we hear from brides that they plan on getting ready at home (and in most cases that almost always means their parents' home), they usually give one of two reasons: 1) to save the money and/or 2) for the sentimental aspect of getting ready at home. While both of these reasons are really good in theory, in our experience, in practice it rarely turns out the way you're imagining it.
First of all, and maybe the biggest, is just that things get really crowded really fast at home. Besides your parents and you, you'll have your bridesmaids, your makeup artist, your hair person, the photographers, the florist dropping by, the sandwich delivery guy, friends & neighbors who just want to drop by, etc. And pretty soon it starts looking like that scene at the beginning of Home Alone where they're all racing up and down the steps trying to get out the door for the airport. Chaos. :) Whereas on the other hand, if everyone is getting ready at a hotel, typically the bridesmaids will have their own rooms they can go back to to hang out if the room starts getting too crowded.
Which leads us to the second thing, although you might imagine it feeling like this calm scene out of Father of the Bride where you stand in your room in front of three floor length mirrors while you hug your parents goodbye....typically getting ready at home is a lot more stressful than that. If you think about it, getting ready at home (which really means your parents' home) means that you are putting them in the role of playing host. To ALL of those people. And typically, more often that not, that means your mom spends all day running around making sure everything and everyone else is taken care of instead of being able to sit back and really soak in the day. Which means she misses a lot. And she feels frazzled. Which of course means you feel frazzled. And those "put your veil on it's time to go" moments become a lot more of a blur than a memory.
And finally and selfishly, the getting ready pictures are just usually a lot better in a hotel for one major reason: no STUFF in the background. Sure in any getting ready situation there is going to be stuff from the day, but getting ready at home means there's a whole lifetime of stuff on top of that in the background and therefore the pictures. If it's just some suitcases and makeup bags, we can move that. But rearranging an entire home becomes a lot more difficult. :) Plus, hotels just tend to have more modern furniture to shoot portraits on/good surfaces to shoot the details on. And it just sets a more serene, elegant back drop.
Now, here comes the major disclaimer time: There have been exceptions to this rule! I can think of a few good cases, Katie & Colin's wedding in particular, where getting ready at home was everything they imagined it would be. Everyone was calm and happy, and the furniture & background was clean, beautiful & serene, and Katie's parents Brenda & Bernie were the perfect hosts. And those pictures at home made up a huge part of the story.
So definitely, take this with the grain of salt that it is intended to be, and ultimately do whatever is best for you and feels most like your day and what you've always imagined. But just know that there are other options out there that, in our experience, tend to be a lot less stressful for everyone involved and make for really incredible moments & memories of the day.
AND a big congratulations to Brittney Melton!! You just won yourself a copy of The Knot Weddings Look Book!! Email us your mailing addy to email@example.com!
So...Photographers? Brides? What are your thoughts? We'd love to hear them!
Soooo, we've been tossing around the idea of starting a new series here on the blog for all you brides out there. We realized we were giving the photographers a lot of love with things like the Pancake Sessions, but not so much for the brides! So we're thinking of starting "Piece of Cake Sessions" for all you guys with tips & tricks on planning a much more stress free day. But before we get going with it we need to hear from y'all that this is something you'd even be interested in. So go on all you J&M brides out there....let us know what you think!
Justin & Mary Brides (& Grooms): Crazy Generous!! :)
So it's official. We have picked our bedside lamps.
I know, right! Because you were all just WAITING with bated breath for us to announce our boudoir illumination of choice. And now that day is here. I mean seriously, I bet the suspense was killing you! :)
And now to the real point of this post. We want to give a HUGE thanks to our bride & groom, Stacey & Charles, for making it all possible. See, keeping true to what we've found to be the case with so many of our incredible couples, Stacey & Charles are crazy. Crazy generous that is!! Because a few days ago we got a thank you card from them with four (count em, four!) gift cards in it: Lowes, Pottery Barn, Starbucks and J. Crew. And the card said this:
1. Just a little something to keep building the love in your home.
2. Something to make sure it's accessorized. :)
3. Something to keep you going strong and ...
4. J. Crew for &J2
Yea, it's official, we have the most amazing clients in the UNIVERSE. And that trend continues tonight as another of our couples, Kristin & Bill, are coming over to cook dinner for us. :)
So we have to run now, but we hope you all are winding up an amazing weekend. And be sure to tune a LOT tomorrow, because we have a jam-packed day full of shoots coming your way!!
Crazy gratefully yours,
Justin & Mary Brides (& Grooms): Cool Under Pressure
Yesterday we shot the absolutely beautiful wedding of Stacey & Charles. The weather was perfection, the flowers were delicate and timeless, and Stacey & Charles were a vision of Old Hollywood glam. It was the kind of day every girl dreams of. Except that it almost wasn't.
Five days ago, these two got a call that their venue, Monteverde, had gone bankrupt and closed its doors. That's it. Done. Wedding is off.
Except that it wasn't.
Because more than anything, all Stacey & Charles cared about was getting married. They would get married in a backyard if they had to. BBQ & BYOB. But come Saturday and come what may, they were starting a life together. So they stayed cool under some extreme pressure and...they went to work. And in just five days, with the incredibly generous help of Guy Dimeo and Unique Affair Catering, they pulled together an even more beautiful day than anyone could have imagined.
Stacey & Charles, it was an honor to watch you laugh together. To dance together and smile together and raise your glasses together. To see you soak in the most perfect day celebrating the start of the most beautiful life together. Always love the way you do right now. It is an inspiration for the rest of us.