Erin & Austin’s 10-Year Anniversary Sesh

Categories Photography + Real Weddings

We LOVE {to infinity} Erin and Austin’s 10 year anniversary session! Captured in their photos and in their words, it is obvious that they are still truly, madly, deeply in love with each other. Erin and Austin are also a military couple–with additional stresses that most of us can only imagine. That said, their humility is commendable and their love and respect for each other is a terrific testimony for a lasting marriage. Let’s all take note! Much thanks to Erin and Austin for sharing their story and to Amanda Hedgepeth Photography for sharing their story in pictures. Enjoy!

Meet Erin and Austin:


10 years and clearly, you’re still going strong! Care to share your secret?

{Erin} These past 10 years have not always been easy. We have been separated more than we have been together (Austin is in the Navy). When we got married, we promised to love each other through thick and thin, for better or for worse. Divorce has NEVER been an option, giving up has NEVER been an option either. We have always worked through every bad situation life has thrown at us–from being broke to being separated on and off for 4 years. We have never given up on us!

10 year anniversary session

Virginia Beach photos


So fun and clever, where did your idea for having an anniversary session come from?

{Erin} We did not have a professional photographer at our wedding 10 years ago. We have one “nice” photo of the two of us on our wedding day. We really wanted to do something special for us to celebrate, so we thought an anniversary session would be the best way to celebrate our 10 years!

Virginia Beach anniversary session

Can you tell us a little about why you chose Virginia Beach as the location?

{Erin} We chose VA Beach as the location because that is where we met. I asked Amanda if she would take a photo of us on the exact corner that we met each other on … 21st and Pacific is where it all started!

Erin and Austin's 10 year anniversary session

VA Beach photograpy

Austin, what is it that you still love most about Erin—after 10 years?

Well if I had to boil it down to one thing it would be her sense of humor and her ability to deal with mine. She is still able to laugh at my stupidity after this long and I appreciate that more than anything.

Erin, what is it that you still love most about Austin—after 10 years?

There are so many things that I love about Austin. He makes me happy. He can always make me laugh. He supports me on everything, he believes in me … he has never given up on me or lost faith in us. AND…he is an AMAZING daddy!!! There is nothing sexier than watching your hubby become an amazing father!! :) :) :) Hubba hubba!!

Virginia Beach photographer

What is your favorite thing to do together?

{Erin} Our favorite thing to do together is to snuggle on the couch and watch movies–even though I always fall asleep because I don’t like the movies Austin chooses!! haha

How has life changed for you—since you got married?

{Erin} KIDS!!! We have 3 amazing kids!! We were not even married for a year when we got pregnant with our first and only son. Kids have been the biggest but most exciting change so far.


Erin and Austin, dressed in their wedding attire …
Please share your favorite memory from your wedding day?

{Austin} My beautiful wife walking up the step in her dress.

{Erin} Austin pretended that he lost my ring. He didn’t lose it–he just gave it to one of his groomsmen who was standing beside him. He is ALWAYS joking around! Even during our ceremony!

Virginia Beach photography

Virginia Beach wedding photography- 10 year anniversary

Is there anything you would “do over” if you were to get married today?

{Austin} Nope. There is nothing that we would change. I could not imagine our wedding any other way.

Virginia Beach wedding photography- 10 year anniversary

Virginia Beach wedding photography

Looking back, what “words of wisdom” do you have for today’s brides and grooms?

{Erin} Plan YOUR MARRIAGE. Don’t try to plan the next best pinterest wedding. When we got married, social media was pretty much non-existent, so we didn’t have anything to compare our wedding to. I think that there is a lot of pressure on couples to plan this amazing, over the top event … like if your images don’t go viral, then you’ve failed at planning your wedding. It is sad to me… marriage is not just about the wedding, it is about your new life together. So my advice would be–not to get so caught up in the small details of one day, and to put more effort into planning your future together.

{Austin} This is a challenge and you can always work at it. It’s easy to get into a routine and be the same all the time. That is one thing we always want and try to work on. So always adapt to each other as you grow older.

Virginia Beach wedding photography- 10 year anniversary

By the way Erin, you STILL look fabulous in your wedding dress!! How do you do it?

OMG Thank you! I don’t really do anything special–I am kinda boring on that issue. My kids keep me on my toes 24 hours a day!!

*So fun* Thanks so much Erin and Austin–and Happy 10th Anniversary! And thanks again for sharing your testimony on how wonderful life can be–beyond the wedding day! Oh, and Austin–thank you for your service!!

Want more? Visit Amanda Hedgepeth’s photography blog to see all of this sweet session!


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Doable DIY: Writing Your Own Wedding Vows

Categories Ceremony + Resources

Doable DIY” is our new recurring blog series about easy, affordable DIY wedding ideas. We’ll be taking today’s top wedding trends and translating them into practical DIY projects. Let the creativity begin!

Tips to Writing Your Own Wedding Vows

Below, Truly Engaged writer (and recent bride) Rachel shares a few tips about writing your own wedding vows, based on her own wedding experience.


Writing your own wedding vows: it’s sweet, it’s romantic…and it’s also absolutely, positively terrifying.

Even though I’m a (web) writer by profession, actually professing my love, in prose form, is intimidating. Especially when it’s the words that will seal two lives together. And especially when it’s read in front of my closest friends and family. Throw in a microphone, and a public outdoor ceremony at a park, and you’ve got a giant ball of nerves and pressure. Yet, I knew I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. I wanted the words to come from the very heart it was pledging: my own.

Luckily, Tim has a romantic—and literary—side as well. Two weeks into dating, he wrote me a beautiful little poem (which we ended up quoting in our vows). Therefore, he didn’t completely freak when I confessed my dream to draft our own wedding vows.

Having lived through the vow-writing process myself, I decided to share five tips I discovered, or found helpful, while writing my wedding vows. Perhaps these tips might help you, too! Happy writing. :)



It’s hard to force inspiration or creativity. Give yourself plenty of time to let inspiration come to you naturally, and authentically. How early? Well, I’d say at least 3-4 months in advance. Your vows are one of the most important parts of your wedding day. Honor the commitment you’re about to make by giving yourself the time to carefully craft your vows together.

Tip: Keep a pocket notebook (and pen) with you at all times! You never know when inspiration will strike–in the car, in bed, at work. (You can also use your smartphone, but as a writer I’m old-fashioned and love the look and feel of paper. Use what works for you.)



Our officiant gave use some excellent advice: Keep the vows cohesive and harmonious by agreeing to a general length, tone, and style for the vows.


Do you want your vows to be playful and sweet, or spiritual and serious? Our officiant sat down with us to help us determine the general tone we wanted to set with our wedding vows. We decided ours would be joyful and romantic, with maybe just a hint of humor sprinkled in to reflect our silly side. I’m really glad our officiant helped us define the “voice” of our vows. It really helped shape the words we ultimately chose.


Vows can be a few sentences, a paragraph, or several paragraphs. The length is really up to you and your partner, but it’s a good idea to to agree on a general length together. That said, the vows should feel comfortable and genuine. If you’re not a wordsmith, but your partner is, don’t force the words out–just do what feels natural.


Do you and your partner want to co-write the same vows, or write individual ones? It’s completely up to you and your partner. Sit down with your partner and decide which approach fits your relationship, personalities, and comfort level.

Tip: Make a date out of it! To decide on the essentials for your vows, try going out for coffee, or taking a walk around the local park. Find a comfortable setting to talk through and decide on these important elements to your vows. We had our conversation on a sunset stroll around the lake!



To ignite your inspiration, look back at photos, journal/diary entries, old emails, etc. between you and your partner. Set aside (or make copies of) ones that capture your heart in a particular way. Memories, emotions, little quirks you love about your partner…jot down anything that comes to mind when you revisit these favorite mementos of your relationship. You could also record yourself on your phone, if you’d rather talk than write.



This tip seems obvious, but it’s also important! Once you’ve written your vows, practice reciting them in front of a mirror, or in front of your maid of honor (or best man). While you don’t have to have your vows completely memorized, it’s good to feel familiar with the words. That way, you can frequently glance up at your partner, which is more romantic than staring and speaking down into the index card you’re holding. :) Public speaking is hard–especially when you’re speaking such intimate words as your vows. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel. For me, practicing definitely helped calmed my nerves for the big day.



Should you share your vows with your partner before the big day? That’s a personal question, and it will ultimately depend on what is best for the two of you. If sharing them ahead of time will make the two of you feel more relaxed, then by all means, share. If you’d rather keep it a sweet surprise, that’s fine too–but it’s a good idea to share your vows with your officiant, so he or she can compare the vows the two of you wrote. The officiant make sure the general tone/length/style flow together.

So what did Tim (my husband) and I do? A compromise of both. In other words, we shared a written DRAFT of our vows a few weeks before the wedding, but the FINAL version was saved for the wedding day. We also chose to share them in written form (not spoken out loud). Doing it this way allowed us to get a general idea of our vows to each other, but we never saw the final version until the wedding day, and we never heard the vows spoken until the ceremony itself.


So what did the final draft of our vows look like? Well, some things are best left private. :)  However, below is a glimpse at the intro section to each of our vows:

Rachel and Tim's Vows


As you can see, we’re suckers for sappy romance! :) But that’s our style, and that’s what fit our personalities and relationship. Every partnership is different. As a recent bride, I think the best advice I can give is this:

When it comes to writing your own vows, don’t aim for poetic perfection or grammatical precision. Aim for authenticity. Find the words that truly speak what your heart feels inside. I think if you start from the heart, you can’t go wrong. :)


To end, here’s a photo of Tim pausing to wipe a tear while reciting his vows to me. (Good thing you can’t see my face, because I was a crying mess, too!)

 Tim Reading His Vows to Rachel - Photo by Megan Wendt

Happy vow writing!

Rachel for MagnetStreet Weddings

Rachel for MagnetStreet Weddings

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Wed in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Categories Inspiration + Real Weddings

Most of us witnessed the surging and wreckage of Hurricane Sandy from afar–in warmth and safety. We watched as it tore its way through the Caribbean and with particular vengeance: the Northeastern United States. If it weren’t for detailed footage, it would have been difficult to imagine the severity of the devastation. We saw how small necessities became huge blessings and great luxuries to those in need: a blanket, a bottle of water, a working cell phone. Life was thrown into perspective as Super Storm Sandy wreaked its havoc and caused so much pain on so many levels.

Wed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Mike and Samantha

Last July, we featured Mike and Samantha’s Seaside Heights e-session. Gleeful and on top of the world, Mike and Sam were planning their 11/3/12 vintage-themed wedding–set to take place in a beautiful, historic hotel on the Jersey Shore. Planning was smooth sailing until Sandy came along and altered their wedding course into something frightening and frustrating.

Although their story is outlined below, Mike and Sam kept to their wedding date of 11/3/12 but not in the Art Deco style they had planned, or in the historic hotel in the Asbury Park area. No, not as they had planned, but beautiful and meaningful all the same … in the home of Sam’s parents with their family and wedding party by their sides! They went on their honeymoon and will be walking down the aisle again–and in the way they originally envisioned!

Getting Married: twice as nice! 

Said Samantha, “We are now home and the Berkeley/Asbury Park area is cleaned up and back on its feet. Our new wedding date is 2/23/13. Every single one of our venues was more than happy to let us reschedule and have our special day at a later date. Everyone was so gracious and understanding given the situation. And now I get to wear my dress and we are getting married again–the way we wanted to! I get to marry the love of my life twice! Only this time with all the people I love, just like we planned!”

Samantha & Mike

Here is our interview with Samantha who graciously shared their story of how Hurricane Sandy affected their wedding planning.

Did you already have wedding disaster plan in place? No we didn’t. We were waiting day to day, minute to minute for our caterer and venue to let us know if there was power and if the generator was keeping the food fresh. Finally, they both said “we will make a final decision by late Thursday night.” We were in the dark not knowing what the protocol was for something like this.

What was your initial reaction to learning of Sandy? It will be gone by the end of the week and it won’t be as bad as the media makes it seem. The weather channel said clear skies for Saturday, November third.

How did you prepare for its impact? I had to scramble around to change all my appointments. At the beginning of the week I said to my sister, “we should take a ride to NYC to pick up my wedding dress, because it looks like if the storm hits on Wednesday, we are not going to be able to get into the city.” Thank goodness we did because the area was all flooded in that part of Manhattan! I didn’t have a chance to drop off my favors and other odds and ends that the venue had requested. Also, all of my appointments–nails, pedicure, waxing, hair–were cancelled due to the salons not having power. I got my hair highlighted at a friend’s house in the dark, with no power or hot water. BRRRRR!

Day to day living…

To get anywhere, we had to navigate tons of road blocks–due due to power lines down and trees. And, we could only get gas in our car on odd or even days depending on our license plates–like back in the 70s (as my grandma said!).

We were literally sitting around day to day for a week, waiting and thinking: What is the worst case scenario? Do we cancel anyway? Is anyone going to be able to come? Is it the right time to celebrate, knowing people lost their homes and loved ones? … All while sitting around candle light and warming up with blankets, and our food on ice in coolers. We lost power from Sunday night at 7 pm to Friday late afternoon.

Hurricane Sandy Hits:

Where were you? I was at my apartment with my fiance, neighbor and my best friend. Flashlights ready to go.

How was your area affected? The winds knocked down power in Asbury Park and the water destroyed the boardwalk where the venue was. The power being out also left people with little gas to power generators and the generator ran out of gas to keep the food refrigerated.

How were you emotionally—in the wake of such devastation? I was positive in the beginning because the weather channels kept saying that by the weekend, the weather would be good. Everyone else kept saying the same thing to me. But by Wednesday night, we had friends come in from out of state and then it hit me–this might not happen! They are here for no reason and we still have no power!! I then was just a mess. I cried every 5 minutes just thinking of all the money, time and effort I put into this perfect day for us and it wasn’t going to happen. I literally cried in bed for two whole days because there was nothing else to do but wait and the more I waited with no power or anything to do, I just kept thinking about it.

Did you see The Knot’s Facebook page: Helping Brides in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy No I didn’t. I got the email from the site and I was so mad at the situation that I deleted it .

What resources did you use? The radio was the only thing at first for a few days, then we got our cell phones working and I was waiting to hear back from our coordinator. Finally, the TV and newspaper were available, but by that time, the wedding was already cancelled. We were in the dark literally about everything.

How did you notify guests? I was so upset and didn’t want to have that conversation with 200 people, so my wonderful fiance made all the calls.

Keeping the wedding date …

We ended up calling the entire bridal party–telling them that due to the wedding being cancelled, we were going to move the dinner rehearsal from Friday Nov. 2nd to Saturday, the 3rd (the night the real wedding would have taken place.) I told them that this would still be the Rehearsal Dinner and to not wear their dresses or suits. We would be eating, doing a run through and during the rehearsal we would actually be exchanging rings. My uncle is a minister and he was marrying us the whole time so he just did it that night and we had a glorified dinner rehearsal. My sisters and my mother decorated the dining room with candles and lit the fireplace and set up chairs overlooking us. It was beautiful, meaningful, and uplifting. It was important to us to able to still get married on 11/3/12, but we didn’t want to take anything away from whatever the new date would be. Plus, we did not want to cancel our honeymoon. Going away as a married couple was important to us–otherwise, it would have just been a vacation. We needed to get away from all the stress of Sandy.

The happy couple honeymooning in gorgeous Hawaii …

Hawaii honeymoon pictures

honeymooning in Hawaii

hawaiian vacation picures


Our hearts still go out to all those affected by Sandy! Thanks so much for sharing your story and your photos with us Mike and Samantha! Congratulations on your first wedding–even though it wasn’t what you first imagined, it truly was wonderful and memorable. And best wishes on your 2/23/13 wedding–may this be everything you both envisioned and so much more!




Wedding Advice from Real Brides

Categories Inspiration + Real Weddings + Resources

Who better to take advice from… than real brides that have gone before you. Here are 12 of our real brides who have graciously offered their savvy advice on everything from planning for the big day to simple words of encouragement!

Enjoy and be inspired.

real weddings and advice

Amanda on their Vintage Shabby-Chic Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
Don’t let anyone else’s opinion persuade your decisions, It’s your wedding!
Advice I’d like to give:
Have a guest book! I did a scrapbook guest book to go with a photo booth and I’m disappointed that if they didn’t do the photo booth, I don’t know exactly who was all there. If you have a guestbook, then you’ll be able to look back and know exactly who was there. With all that goes on, it’s possible to not get a chance to talk to everyone there!


Kimberly on their Garden Arizona Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
Seeing the groom before the wedding ceremony. I was so much calmer and more at ease seeing him before all the craziness started!
Advice I’d like to give
The day of your wedding–just RELAX! You have been working so hard and for so long planning your perfect day. Trust that you have made all the right decisions and just go with the flow! No matter what happens, it is your day and it will be amazing!


Chandra on their Cultural Outdoor Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
Make the day yours and don’t worry about anything — it WILL all be perfect.
Advice I’d like to give:
Invite people YOU want there, not just who your parents think should be there. If you’re an intercultural couple or a bride of color, make sure to share your story! There wasn’t a lot out there about our type of wedding but we do have beautiful stories to share!


Cindy on their Asian-inspired Traditional Wedding:

Advice I’m glad I took:
Not having the bachelor/bachelorette party the night before your wedding–instead, get a full night of restful sleep.
Advice I’d like to give:
This is a very special day that took months/years of planning to come to, which will however be over in a matter of hours. That said, try to embrace every little moment of it, and remember every detail, and every word, because I can honestly say, it will be over in a blur. By the end of it, you’ll be thinking … “what just happened?” Also, eat your food.


Chelsea on their Destination Beach Wedding in Mexico:

Advice I’m glad I took:
Not to sweat the small stuff
Advice I wish I’d taken: 
To not worry about the little details as no one will notice. This may be different because I had a destination wedding … but I had a certain vision of details i.e. chairs and table clothes. I spent extra money to have the fancy decor and no one really paid attention at the reception and the day went by so fast for me–that I didn’t really either! haha
Advice I’d like to give:
Remember this day is about you two and that is all that matters, you will not please everyone.


Danielle on their New York Wedding {in a hurricane}

Advice I’d like to give:
Remember what this day is about–you can’t make every single person happy, but you are marrying the love of your life . . . and really, that’s all that matters in the end, so treat it that way!


Yasmin on their Floridal Beach Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
Renting a Photo Booth
Advice I’d like to give:
Create timelines for your photographer, DJ and Hotel Coordinator – this will save you headaches.


Vicki on their Dominican Republic Beach Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
Using lots of hairspray – it was REALLY windy but my hair stayed in place all day … -Not wearing extremely tall heels (mine were 2.75 inches and I kept them on all night) … -Strolling hors d’oeuvres versus self serve (so much more elegant).
Advice I’d like to give:
For destination weddings, try to go to the resort at least 6 months prior to the wedding to see the venues, meet the wedding planner and get a vision. We did this and it helped tremendously.


Irene on their Multi-cultural Wedding in the U.K.

Advice I wish I had taken:
Check and double-check bookings over and over to ensure people who say they were going to do something don’t let you down at the last minute. Relying on family and friends helps to cut costs but sometimes it can cause more stress than it’s worth.

Advice I’d like to give:
-Compromise as much as you are willing to–in order to keep family members happy–but once you have reached that point don’t budge, or you will end up having the type of wedding you never wanted. Keep it simple and don’t let people pressure you into doing what you don’t want. People are still shocked that we managed to have a small intimate wedding considering my Nigerian background. Weddings in Nigeria are usually like carnivals!
-Don’t lose sight of what the day is really about and remember, it’s yours and your spouse’s day. You can’t please everyone, so just stick to what you want as a couple.
-Also, ask for money instead of gifts. You can request contributions towards your honeymoon for example. It’s much better than getting random gifts that you may not need or may not go with anything in your house. We had to move to a new country so we didn’t want a lot of stuff.


Jessica on their New Year’s Eve Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
To just enjoy the moment … really take it all in. Just relax and eat the food and cake that we took forever to decide upon!
Advice I’d like to give:
-Don’t stress about the little things, something might go wrong, but you will look back and laugh later. (Our “disaster” was our programs were accidentally loaded into a car that wasn’t going to the ceremony. By the time we realized they weren’t at the church, guests had already begun to arrive. Luckily, the day was saved and they were delivered and passed out in the middle of the ceremony. Better late than never!)
-Also, splurge on a photographer!!!!!!! That will be your best investment, because the pictures will last a lifetime!


Chrissy on their Niagra Falls Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
On the day of the event, I let other people take over and just enjoyed myself even if something wasn’t just they way I had planned it–I just let everyone else handle it.
Advice I’d like to give:
Take a second during the wedding and reception to really be present–to take it all in and have fun–it’s your day!


Carin and her Elegant Black and Red Wedding

Advice I’m glad I took:
Sneaking away to the beach during the reception while our guests enjoyed dinner, so that we could take some additional bride/groom photos on the sand. These are some of my most favorite shots!
Advice I wished I’d taken:
I wish we had hired a videographer for the entire day, rather than just our ceremony. I regret not capturing our first dance and all of the toasts/speeches on video. It would have been great to have these included in a video highlight reel of the entire day.
Advice I’d like to give:
Take photos, including a “first look” before the ceremony. It relieves some of the anxiety and makes for a great intimate moment between bride and groom before walking down the aisle. Also, the more photos you can take beforehand, the more time you have to enjoy at the reception with your guests.

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