When is a place too scarred to move on?

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When is a place too scarred to move on?

It's a warmer February day, I am walking with Dakota and Pacho on the footbridge toward Belle Isle, a little piece of Richmond that pokes up from the tumbling waters of the James River. Richmond, is an old, American City. Sometimes, when you're surrounded by busy, city murals and bars, it is easy to forget that the city was founded in 1737; that it's history is both as beautiful and dark as the poetry and writings of Edgar Allen Poe, who considered Richmond home for much of his life. But, for once, I am not thinking of poetry as I walk the windy bridge to the little island. I am thinking instead, of war.

Earlier that week, after a cursory bit of research about the Island, I found that it had roots far darker than my friends had ever told me. Most of the people I knew in Richmond raved about the island. They talked of swimming and sunbathing on the rocks, sneaking a flask between them if there weren't too many people around. They talked a little of ghost stories. But, to be honest, you can find ghost stories all over Virginia. With it's colonial history so old and violent, its native-american history stretching far beyond that, it isn't difficult to stumble onto tales of ghosts and spirits, benevolent or violent.

But, walking to the island, that research is fresh on my mind. And, suddenly, I find myself standing on the site of a Civil War POW camp. I am standing on the site where, one winter, 1,000 Union Soldiers died because there wasn't adequate food or shelter for them. And, if you don't take the time to read the signs (which, as I know from working at a museum, most people don't read signs) you would never know about this horrible history. Sure, someone made a bike rack that slightly resembles a tent to "draw attention" to the conditions of the camp. But, honestly, it falls short of its goal and just appears to be a weird bike rack if you don't know better.

On that day, I stand before an open field where so many men died, mountain bikes and parents tugging children in wagons whizzing past me, wondering if a land ever heals from such scars. I ask myself that question a lot. You see, my whole life, I've walked and lived on scarred ground - everything from my parent's' neighborhood, which was the site of a colonial plantation that undoubtedly had slaves or indentured servants, to the city I live in, which has been burned by wars and racked with disease and turmoil at various times.

I grew up near the site of the Battle of Yorktown, where on October 19th, 1781, British Lieutenant General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington, prompting negotiations to end the American Revolutionary War. There, hundreds of men died, hundreds were injured, and thousands were captured as prisoners. There, too, hundreds of people gather every year to celebrate Independence Day. There, we celebrate joyously on a field of battle and death.
(Learn more about the Battle of Yorktown from the National Parks Service)

The site of the Siege of Yorktown, and Manassas Battlefield park in Northern Virginia, which commemorates the site of the First and the Second Battles of Bull Run during the American Revolutionary War, are also popular destinations for another reason: taking engagement photos. Thousands of people died during the Battles at Bull Run. And, thousands of joyous couples jump off of cannons and laugh lovingly at each other lovingly to the click of a camera. My friend, Sarah, who works at a historic battlefield site, brought the Manassas example to my attention. (Thanks, Sarah!) Is it really appropriate to take our lovey-dovey engagement photos there?

While we're on the topic of weddings, venue picks can be even worse. This article, from Salon goes into the disturbing trend of being married on a plantation. Even stating that the websites of some of these plantations, including Tuckahoe Plantation here in Virginia, do not mention the word slavery at all. I remember planning my own Virginia wedding, and being horrified at the thought of saying my wedding vows at such a place. The beautiful grounds can't mask the horror of colonial history.

So, is it appropriate to laugh and hike and play at Belle Isle, is it appropriate to laugh and play on a battlefield, is it okay to get married on a plantation? The joy and the horror are so incongruous, I feel paralyzed at sites like the POW camp at Belle Isle and the site of the Siege of Yorktown. Maybe, we shouldn't celebrate love at these places. The answer for the plantation is definitely, concretely NO, it is not okay to glamorize that history. I just don't think those deep wounds heal. It is disrespectful to glamorize it at all.

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Wedding Pros Need to Show up, Stand up, Speak up against cultural appropriation.


Wedding Pros Need to Show up, Stand up, Speak up against cultural appropriation.

The cultural appropriation has got to stop. People who "borrow" ideas for ceremonies from other cultures that aren't a part of that culture have got to stop.

Today, I came across an Instagram post from Barcelona Bridal Week. The designer paraded svelt, white, female models wearing white bridal looks. Some looks were completed with big, white warbonnets (feather headdresses that are a tradition of some Plains Indian tribes).

I almost dropped my phone. WHAT!? You take a piece of war tradition from Native Americans, plop it on a white woman's head and call it cool? I knew this was common in festival circles, but now it's breaching European Bridal fashion? How about some respect?

I called them out, and they responded that they were trying to "share" culture and that they admire diversity.  Friends, colonialism is alive and well. I told them that cultural practices are not props for their boho brand. They haven't sent me a reply.

Let's stop this. It makes us wedding pros look like ignorant, mindless people out for the next big trend - no matter that we're trampling other people in the process. 

#ResistRacism and cultural appropriation in the wedding industry. Show up, stand up, speak up when you see something wrong!


In case you're wondering what I wanted for Valentine's Day.


In case you're wondering what I wanted for Valentine's Day.

Dakota and I happen to pass the jeweler today. So, we go get my ring cleaned and inspected. While I head to the bathroom, the salesman asks Dakota what he's going to pick out to surprise me with.

Dakota says, "nothing."

The salesman is probably surprised. It is Valentine's Day, after all.

I return from the bathroom, silently remarking at the fact that they actually have free tampons and pads in there; wondering if it is partly to make sure women don't leave prematurely as a result of surprise menstruation. Dakota asks, "So, what do you want from here?"

I answer honestly, "nothing."

He asks, "what do I want from here?"

I answer, "some really expensive watch."

He grins and turns to the salesman, "see?"

We walk out of the store, with no new purchases.

Little did I know, Dakota would buy me a ring for Valentine's Day: a big, cheesy, saucy ring from heaven called pizza. And that was way better than jewelry. Pizza, my friends, is perfection.


Vintage Romance Wedding Inspiration


Vintage Romance Wedding Inspiration

A Styled Shoot with Cross-Country Vendors

It's always exciting, getting an inquiry from a place you've never been. I've never been to Portland, but that is the base for photographer Gina Neal, who reached out to me last year for a styled shoot. Isn't the internet wonderful for making cross-country connections with others?

She described all the passionate little details to me over email, and I knew it was going to be a great, unique shoot. And, I wasn't wrong. I don't have anything like these images in my portfolio (until now). I can't tell you how hard it's been not to share every little image on social media.

The Details


Let's start with that venue! Deepwood Estates looks so beautiful! Can someone invite me to to a wedding there, please? It seemed very romantic English countryside. But, Gina selected other details that made it more modern. Check out the vintage rentals and the naked cake!


I absolutely loved the favors she picked! Air plants as thank you notes or favors: yes please! I found a link where you can buy them here. They definitely played up the more modern feel. I choose gray washes of sumi ink on handmade paper to up the modern but romantic effect.


I really think the washes of pigment created a unique, elegant effect. And, Gina captured it all so beautifully. I mean, just check out this flat lay below! I loved so many elements about this shoot. I bet you want to see more!


Publication on Artfully Wed!

Well, you're in luck! This shoot was published on Artfully Wed. I want to give out a huge thanks to them and to the vendor team involved on this unique shoot:

Photography: Gina Neal Photography | Florals: Bramble Floral Design | Bridal accessories: Miss Clemmie Bespoke Bridal Accessories | Cake: Just a Dash Cakes | Doughnuts: Pip’s Mobile Pip’s Original | Hair and Makeup: Makeup by Whit | Stationery:  Letterlyn Studio  | Dresses: BHLDN | Plates:  Anthroplogie





Snow Weekend Recap!

Hey East Coast! How was your snow day? This doesn't happen too often here in South East VA, so we certainly took advantage of the winter wonderland that took place this weekend. Pacho's first snow was a major success. He had a great time running around the back yard. He came on a Jeep ride with us around town on Saturday, and on Sunday he played with his puppy friends at the dog park.

As you might imagine, Nixon is not a huge fan of the snow. I bundled him up in three layers of doggie jackets so that we could get some photos, and he is still mad at me over it. But, he does look cute, doesn't he!?

Jezebel definitely belongs in the snow but, at 13, she is moving a lot slower and not enjoying it as much as she once did. I do think she looks like a beautiful snow creature but she was struggling with her footing.

You won't know from the photo, but our house is still under construction. In fact, Dakota masterfully took photos of the house that hide the fact that the siding is missing on every other side of the house! Fortunately, the house is wrapped tight with tyvek, so we are warm and dry inside (thank goodness! since it is 18 degrees right now!)

Sunday, we had a relaxing morning, and headed to take photos in the snow with Molly Lichten. I can't wait to see how they turned out. A lot of ice had been cleared, but what was left was no trouble for the jeep! We finished the evening with a night on the couch and a big pot of chili!