Cheers & Beers to Sixty Years!! | Outer Banks, NC

If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting my dad you would know that he is one of the most hardworking and humble people alive. My dad was a career military man who retired as a Colonel in the USAF several years ago after serving 27 years. Yet, I think he is far busier since retiring than he was when he served. He puts his family first, driving my sister to and from school daily and helping my step mom, Donna, with her Mary Kay business. He even opened his house to my grandfather a few months ago. (& we couldn't be more thrilled to have him in NC now!!)

My dad is also shy and doesn't like to be the center of attention. So naturally, Donna & I decided to push him out of his comfort zone so that we could celebrate him in a big way this year! Not only did he turn 60 but he shared the day with Easter Sunday this year. After I suggested that we throw him a party, Donna ran with it. She found an absolutely gorgeous, massive home in the Outer Banks that could sleep 20 of his closest family and friends. 

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I'm slightly OCD so once the beach themed party was underway I had to add my touch. Even though we had the most obnoxious group text going where all of the weekend's details were provided, I decided we needed fabulous custom invitations. I turned to none other than Paper Refinery. I found a wedding suite that was beach themed and had her customized for the birthday. Aphrodite Studio provided two amazing prints for the party, both which my dad loved! They were customized to match the party's beach theme and color. If you are looking for a unique gift, go check out her site! Since there were so many big mouths to feed, we created a Google Doc that listed out every meal and everyone volunteered. I definitely suggest doing this if you have a big event! We had so much food, way too much actually. 

A birthday party isn't complete without decor, specifically balloons. So one of my fails for the party was that the helium tank wasn't large enough but I did get the 1958 balloons up and floating. (I may have lost one to the ceiling but my uncle came to the rescue!) One of my favorite party tricks was LED light balloons. After blowing up 48 balloons filled with LED lights we then attached them to balloon sticks and lined the driveway. It wasn't quite dark enough for the LED balloons to really shine because my parents actually arrived just before sunset. (They're usually late for everything travel related!) My aunts and uncles all arrived early and helped set up & I couldn't have done it without them!

The whole crew was waiting outside on the driveway as Donna kept us all up to date with their arrival time via group text. 7:11....7:10....7:09....7:08....then finally 7:07! As soon as we saw the glorious pink Cadillac we lit up sparklers awaiting his arrival. Wellll, another fail was that the sparklers only lasted 30 seconds, probably less in the windy conditions, and my dad was driving extra slow checking each house number. By the time he was pulling into the driveway, only my Aunt Shelly's sparkler was still lit. Oh well, it was the thought that counts.

My dad is hard to pull anything over on, especially of this magnitude. Donna asked my dad what he wanted to do for Easter this year and he said he just wanted to stay home and not cook. In order to try to conceal the surprise party Donna threw me under the bus and said I really wanted to go to the beach. My dad expected it to just be them and me. Just about everyone in his daily life as well as his extended family knew about the party so I wasn't convinced that he didn't know. It was clear though, when he pulled up to the Outer Banks rental that he had no idea and we truly surprised him!  

The Meixsell family are huge card players, specially a game called Blitz for the last few years. The whole weekend consisted of cards, alcohol and family bonding. I ended up breaking even on Blitz, which was good considering I borrowed the first 3 quarters from my 12 year old sister, Madison. 

The party started Thursday night and we stayed up until about 2:30 am playing cards and catching up. We grazed on BBQ sliders and chips all night long. & we washed it all down with wine and beer. Friday morning my dad woke up very early super sick. He was down for the count the entire day. We never even saw him leave his room. It was strange to be there celebrating someone who was quarantined. We were hoping it wouldn't last the whole weekend and that it wouldn't take out the whole house.

Luckily, Saturday morning when I woke up, my dad was sitting in the living room visiting with his brother, my Uncle Mike, who had arrived Friday. He didn't eat or drink much besides Gatorade the rest of the weekend but we were thrilled he was starting to feel better. Uncle Mike's wife, Aunt Kim bakes amazing cakes and made the cake below which had a very strong resemblance to my dad! It tasted as incredible as it looked! Saturday we celebrated my dad's birthday so that Easter could have it's own celebration on Sunday. He was adorned with golf gift cards and a book he's looking forward to reading.

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The only food we ran short of that we had to run out and replenish was eggs. Donna is hanging on to Madison's last few years of complying with holiday rituals. Maddie reluctantly died Easter eggs. I have to admit, they were pretty and definitely gave us the Easter vibe we were looking for.  Sunday morning we woke up to Easter banners, an Easter selfie station and even Easter baskets.

Most of the family decided to go to church Easter morning. My Aunt Shelly and her husband Gary tried out a sunrise service on the beach. As peaceful as it sounded, I couldn't force myself to set an alarm on vacation so I joined the 9:30 church crew. We found a local church and joined in to praise the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Although, that is not quite the sermon we heard. But, that's a whole other blog post...

For Easter breakfast we had a delicious Breakfast Before Casserole made of eggs, bread, sausage and cheese. It's one of my favorite holiday traditions. Only a few hours later we had a massive Easter spread provided by Boston Market. If you are traveling over the holidays ever and want a quick but full meal, consider their heatable party sets. We had ham, sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy along with cornbread. More than anything though, we had desserts! Sugar Bomb Sweets made custom cookies that went along with the beach theme and they were amazing. I'm pretty sure I ate more than anyone else. The proof was on the scale Tuesday morning! Oh well, totally worth it. I made a pineapple upside down cake that my dad requested, but it wasn't pretty enough to be included in the pictures. He also loves Nothing Bundt Cake's White Chocolate Raspberry so I brought one of those along too. Sadly, we had so many desserts that the Apple Pies didn't even get touched.

My dad comes from a large family. Four of his siblings travelled from far and farther to come celebrate his birthday. My Pappy is my last surviving grandparent on my dad's side. It was so special to be able to spend time with them all. Since it's rare that we are all in one place, I broke out the camera Sunday afternoon and forced some group photos. The first one below is my Pappy with all of his biological children. Below that you will see our party crew! (Thanks self timer.)

Someone drank more milk than the rest of the siblings growing up. Your typical sibling photo where everyone cooperates but one can be found below. Oh and I see you being rebels with those sunglasses on ladies! 

It's rare that couples have their picture taken after their wedding day. So I may have forced everyone to take couples and a family portrait while they were there. Next time when we all get together the cousins need to come too! But, we may need several houses for that one!!

Clearly by Sunday my dad was feeling back to his 60 year old self. My step mom was feeling a little feisty too. I love watching them let loose and leave work behind for a few days. It's a rare occasion as a small business owner to unplug.

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It was sad to leave the beach on Monday but my cup is full! The good thing is I won't have to wait years to see everyone again since my cousin Mike is marrying the love of his life, Liz, in Virginia in just a few weeks. Until then Meixsell crew!

Puppy Proposal | Kaitlyn & Brandon Get Engaged

I only have a few must haves when it comes to proposals and portraits of it happening is definitely one! So when I heard that Brandon was going to proposal to his girlfriend Kaitlyn, I jumped right on it. 

Kaitlyn's & Brandon's sisters rode over to the barn with me where Brandon had set up for the proposal. He made signs for the walkway to the barn that he would lead Kaitlyn down.

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Oh and the best part? Not only was Brandon going to propose, but he was using a puppy to do it!! This adorable little unnamed golden doodle was Kaitlyn's proposal present. I mean, if that's a thing, I'm not hating! 

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The little puppy had a t-shirt on that said 'will marry my daddy?'. So stinkin cute! She also had a little tag 'he would like to know if you will say yes'. Brandon covered every last detail.

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Kaitlyn was so wrapped up in the moment that she didn't notice anyone other than the puppy and Brandon down on one knee. It was absolutely perfection. I was just out of view, hiding behind the barn and some bushes! 

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Of course, she said yes! 

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I'm not sure which Kaitlyn was more excited about, the ring or the puppy.

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To top it off, Brandon brought Kaitlyn sunflowers, her favorite flower which her grandfather used to give her when she was a little girl. Bravo, Brandon!

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The puppy is officially named Hazel! & the three of them are now planning their happily ever after.

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Also check out this proposal featured on The Knot, How He Asked

12 Days of Christmas Small Business Edition | Day Two

Day Two

Gifts for the dog lover. 


If you're like me, you may like your dog more than you like most people. I mean, my dog is pretty awesome. There isn't anyone else in this world that gets as excited to see me as Bentley does. He wags his little tail, jumps up in excitement and smothers me with kisses overtime I walk in the door, even if I just walked out two minutes before. It's a pretty incredible feeling! Even if you aren't currently a dog owner, I'm sure you know one. 

I would buy Bentley, my sweet baby Beagle, just about anything for Christmas. The problem is, he owns most of it already. Every week when he goes to Petco for his training sessions he gets a new toy so there ins't much he doesn't have. However, I came across these custom dog collars by Clara's Collars, a small business out of Pennsylvania, at the Southern Women's Show and just had to have them. The collars are not only beautiful but also so durable. I may have already let Bentley wear the Christmas one. The Panthers collar will be in his stocking from Santa Mimi. Clara's Collars makes not only dog collars but custom leashes and harnesses too. Definitely go check them out and buy one, or two like me!  

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12 Days of Christmas Small Business Edition | Day One

Day One

Gifts for the fiancé.

If you're anythign like me, you agonize over just the right gift to buy for each person on your list. For me, that's a lot of people! I decided to help you out with the twelve days of Christmas, small business edition. I'm going to tell you about one product a day for twelve days, made by small businesses, which just may help you come up with the winning Christmas gift. Why small businesses? Well, being a small business myself, I know not only how hard it can be to get noticed but also that the quality that comes from small businesses often times far exceeds the big box brands. 

Since I'm a wedding photographer I decided the first two days of this blog series will be dedicated to gifts to give your fiancé and fiancée. Let's start with the boys because I found not only a super fun but also very practical gift for the favorite man in your life. This custom cufflink and money clip set comes in a wooden box and is personalized with your man's initials. Groovy Guy Gifts can make this for the all of the groomsmen as well. Definitely go check them out at the link below. If you love this product as much as I do, order now as it takes 8-12 business days for delivery!

Courtney & Leif Say I Do | Hickory Wedding | The Crossing at Hollar Mill

If you ask me, Courtney & Leif's wedding day was perfect from the beginning to the very end. I'm usually a huge fan of texture and lace on wedding dresses but from the very moment I saw Courtney's wedding gown I knew it was going to be just the right dress for her. Courtney's something blue, those adorable shoes, complimented the dress in all the right ways.

I like the trend of the bride & bridesmaids in robes during the getting ready process but I really LOVE this idea of the ladies in monogrammed denim button ups. I'm positive they will all wear these again!

When you have 5 bridesmaids, it can be a hectic morning during hair and makeup. I love to steal my bride's away from their entourage and only bring the Maid of Honor and the bride's mom when it's time to put the wedding dress on. Not only did this give Courtney a moment to take in the moment but also to show off her full wedding look to her ladies afterwards. 

In a hotel not too far away, Leif began to get ready with his groomsmen. He was a bit more serious than I had seen him in the past. To be honest, this is just how I like to see the grooms, taking in the gravity of the day and being anxious to see their blushing bride.

Courtney and her bridesmaids were ready first so we headed over to their venue, The Crossing at Hollar Mill, to grab some pictures before the ceremony. 

After the ladies were hidden away, it was time for the boys to step into the spotlight. After the serious shots I let them goof off a little. & I decided to share those images, because I mean they're way more fun! 

Courtney wrote a letter to Leif for him to read just before the wedding ceremony was to begin and I can't say enough about how I love his raw, honest feelings as he is ready the letter form his bride to be!

This was my first time photographing a wedding at the Crossing at Hollar Mill in Hickory, NC. I love going to new venues and letting my artistic freedom flow. I especially love indoor venues that allow ample natural light to flow but also have amazing outdoor spots for portraits and formals. This venue hit all the check marks.

The ceremony was short and sweet. Courtney is very close to her mom so she walked Courtney down the aisle. (Don't tell my mom, she's been begging to do this forever!) Leif was truly excited and overjoyed when he saw his bride in her wedding dress for the first time as she walked up the aisle. 

As the ceremony finished I whisked the family and bridal party just outside of the venue for portraits. The sun was lowering and the lighting was absolutely perfect. We started with a few pictures of Leif & Courtney with those that matter most, their family. 

Next it was time for wedding party portraits. Who knew the whole wedding party could turn into models with a little breeze and backlighting.

As much fun as I had with the wedding party, which was a lot, it was time for my favorite portraits of the night, the bride & groom! I can't say enough about how much I LOVE these portraits! Courtney you are a natural girlfriend and Leif you look so dapper! You two will make beautiful babies & I can't wait to photograph them. =)

When you have both an amazing veil and wind, you use it to your advantage!

From the moment Courtney saw the train tracks she was dying to take pictures on them. I convinced her not to do the bridal party pictures on them but instead wait for pictures with Leif. I'm sure she will agree, it was well worth the wait! 

Let me introduce for the first time as husband and wife, Courtney & Leif Demmink! 

When you are raised by a single mom, she deserves extra love and attention on your wedding day. This special moment of Courtney's dance with her mother had everyone emotional. Afterwards, Leif kept the emotions running deep when he danced with his mom. They are both very proud of you!

If you know me at all, you know I'm a HUGE dessert person. I feel like every meal needs dessert, even breakfast. So when I saw Courtney & Leif's dessert table I was in heaven. There were cookies and cupcakes and brownies! 

The night was full of love and laughter, dancing and even a little karaoke. 

Some of Leif's best friends began to serenade him with both song and questionable dance moves.  So afterwards, it was only fair that the ladies had a turn. But, I have to say in the end, the boys stole the show!

The DJ made the call for the last dance where everyone joined in to celebrate the union of this beautiful couple.

Everyone lined up, sparklers in hand, to see Courtney & Leif off towards the rest of their lives.

Your wedding was perfect and we can't thank you enough, Courtney & Leif, for choosing HOH to photograph your big day!!