Erik & Kelsey’s Engagement Session Turned Surprise Wedding in Richmond, VA

Images: Denise Van

Meant to blog this for Monday, but here we are. We spent the weekend in Pittsburgh with two of our very best friends, meeting their new son (he’s adorbs). It’s taken me longer than expected to get back into the swing of the daily routine, but here’s hoping it gets back on track soon. We’re gearing up for Fall wedding season and 2018 booking season – while renovations continue on the Brookland home. I have a feeling it’s going to be a crazy few months. Here’s an adorable engagement session in a Richmond, VA park that turned into an intimate, surprise wedding ceremony!

From the photographer:

I was so excited to shoot Erik and Kelsey’s engagement photos turned surprise wedding ceremony! I’ve known Erik since even before my husband and I started dating. Erik is my husband’s best friend, and he was the best man at our wedding. When I first met Erik’s girlfriend Kelsey (long, long ago), she was introduced to me as “train girl”. Soon after, I found out why.

Kelsey and Erik met in the waiting room of an Amtrak station traveling from Washington, DC to Richmond, VA. A mischievous woman offered him the seat she had her luggage on and it happened to be beside her. Erik gathered up his courage, made a terrible pun about the TV show CSI she was watching, and struck up a train-ride long conversation with Kelsey and from there, it was history.

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Alonna & Stephon’s Romantic Engagement Pictures at Gaylord National in Maryland

Images: Megapixels Media

Attempting to return to the normalcy of blogging with a super gorgeous engagement session at the Gaylord National in National Harbor, Maryland. I’m in LOVE with the green lace dress that Alonna wore for the session, and the way it plays off the tropical greens in the interior of the convention center’s lobby. These two are gorgeous but also full of smiles. I was happy to see some great shots of the two of them laughing together in the submitted set – I almost ALWAYS opt to publish those kinds of pictures here, than too many posed ones. They are SO much more infectious in my opinion. Ok enough from here, here’s some love for your Wednesday.

From the photographer: They danced through a tropical indoor garden, although we were in the midst of winter they kept each other very cozy.

We met as kids when we both attended the same Middle School! We met again as adults at Our Godson’s basketball game! How crazy is it that we share a Godson and hadn’t seen each other since middle school!

Let’s Get Personal: Privilege in Action – The Need for White Americans to Act is Now

I think most of my friends in the wedding & blogging industry are struggling to get back to the normalcy of “swoon-worthy” details & cool DC nuptials, after this weekend and the events that transpired in Charlottesville. I watched, I am sure like many of you, as the events unfolded online. I stayed connected to Twitter much more than I should have, but I was horrified at what was happening a mere 2 hours and 25 minutes from my home. A fellow vendor in the wedding industry lives in Charlottesville and was providing live updates from the event via her Facebook feed, and thankfully she was unharmed when the nazi asshole decided to drive his car into peaceful protesters.

As with any time this stuff happens lately, my MO is usually to post articles online and just continue to be inexplicably angry at people that voted for this. I’ve heard the countless stories from Trump voters that insist they are not racist, and maybe they aren’t, but THIS is what you decided was something worth looking over for your conservative judge picks or “economic anxiety” or anybody but Hillary. And that is something I don’t think I can ever understand or empathize with.

Maybe you think this post is too political for a wedding blog. Maybe it is – though if you follow any of my social media, or even older posts here, you know I don’t shy from sharing my opinions on this type of stuff. Because I am of the mindset that we HAVE to talk about these things, as hard, exhausting, upsetting, and yes, even inappropriate, these topics might feel. If there is one thing I am learning since the election results, is how much my white privilege has blinded me. I am learning that I could be blind to politics before I was twenty-something, because my life and safety never felt threatened as a result of it, until now.

There is a thought-provoking picture making the rounds on Facebook and I invite you to read it – especially if you find yourself angered or annoyed that I chose to blog on this topic instead of my usual engagement session feature.  “Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Your wealth, your race, your abilities, or your gender allows you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation, or genocide” –

And so I continue to learn, I continue to read, I continue to speak, and yesterday we decided to do a small action: attending the vigil/rally at the WWII rally with Andy, Evie & my coworker Sam.

We listened and watched, cried and sat together in solidarity to show our feelings on what happened this weekend.

And what I am left with most from the weekend is realizing that my disbelief that something like this could happen in 2017, is attributed solely to my privilege. I tweeted things like “this is America 2017” – in shock, and things like “this is not America” – but here’s the thing, this actually IS the America that we live in. Our history and present day, is crawling with racism & bigotry, it just hasn’t impacted me as an upper-class white woman. Need more proof? Check out SPLU’s Hate Map. There are over 20 hate groups currently functioning in Washington, DC. TWENTY. In 2017 America. As some of the people I follow on Twitter quickly pointed out, from our nation being founded on Slavery, to Jim Crow, to Trump’s Muslim Ban, there’s nothing more American than racism.

So, where do we go from here? Well, first I think we need to define “we” because this problem is a MAJORITY White problem. I won’t pretend to be an expert on this, but look only at the statistics from our 2016 election, and those in attendance at this weekend’s Nazi rally – this is a white person problem. Renegade Mama wrote one of the best articles I have read yet that quite clearly laid out not only who is to blame, but who is responsible for leading the fight against racism: white women.

They say the truth will set you free, but first it will really piss you off. The reason it pisses us off is not simply because we are wrong, but because the truth – the great truth – sets aflame everything we thought we knew about ourselves. It uses us up and spits us out into a pile of something we never imagined could exist in us, let alone thrive at the core of our being.

Do we believe we are responsible? That we must speak? That we must call out the fifty racists in our families–oh come on. I know they’re there. Even in Portland–that we must RAISE CHILDREN WHO UNDERSTAND AMERICA WAS BUILT ON RACISM?

We are not post-racial. We have never been equal. And it is an outright delusion to convince ourselves “This is not us.”

> Renegade Mama

This means acknowledging that as a white women, I still benefit from white supremacy. This means acknowledging that this problem relies on me to fix. This means getting uncomfortable, challenging friends, coworkers & family members. This means calling out racism when I see it, but also finding ways to elevate women and people of color.

Complacency is a literal killer – we, White Americans must take ACTION over words and the first action you can take is to accept this reality, that racism is very much alive & well in 2017 America.

Eco-Friendly Wedding Inspiration & Ideas at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Images: Dragon Studio

We’re fighting some illness here in the Ryback household. Evie seems to be on the upswing (after some serious non-sleeping and coughing earlier this week) but Andy is totally done. I woke up feeling like I was starting to head down the cold hill too – so fingers crossed I can fight it with copious amounts of Vitamin C, Zinc, and spin class later today (sweat it out, right?!).

From the styled shoot vendors:

Working with a company called Joyful Send-off, a nonprofit organization aimed and showcasing the harmful effects that balloons can have on our environment, and providing fun and gorgeous eco-friendly alternatives, Dragon Studio & I worked together to design and implement something that showcased just how beautiful your wedding can be, while still being environmentally conscious. We hope you love the details – from the use of recycled paper, to even using a gown that was hand-beaded and created locally.

Nancy & Matt’s Fun, Urban-Chic, Modern Winery Wedding in Norfolk, Virginia

Images: The Girl Tyler via Two Bright Lights

Guys you are gonna LOVE this one. I’ve never seen someone do a modern/urban-chic take on a Winery (especially one in Virginia) – but there was no burlap, no mason jars, no burlap in sight! Instead this amazing couple (with the most infectious smiles) use lights, minimal decor & a stunning metallic wedding dress & bridesmaids dresses, to take a super fun twist on a winery wedding. And did I mention how contagious their smiles are in these pictures? Well fine, don’t just take my word for it – I guarantee you will be smiling too by the end of this post!

Our mantra for wedding planning was “nothing has to be anything.”

We wanted to throw a party with good food, good drinks and good music. Nothing had to match anything else or fit any certain theme. Nancy is a hardcore introvert and we wanted to have a celebration with just enough pomp and circumstance for it to feel like a special day without there being too much pressure. We got a friend who is a local sketch and improv comedian to officiate, and our friend who is a graphic designer gifted us the design for the invites.

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