Vendor Spotlight | Her Witness Photography

Much like a camera, the human eye has the ability to detect light, to open and shut as it processes an image, and to hone in on various focal points. Yet seeing goes far beyond the scientific. It’s the sense of emotion of and underlying, below-the-surface realities, that create the truest rendering.

Tara Heilingoetter graduated college with a BFA in Photgraphy and Imaging, then wondered: not what now, but how? How, she wondered, would she create impactful work with a purpose, using her camera to forge deep connections with others? It was true seeing she was after.

Tara began her photography business, Her Witness, intending to use her gifts as a means of capturing beauty; her mission is “creating art for the greater good.” “My faith,” says Tara, “plays a huge role in the mission of my business by providing an internal lens in that way I visualize the world. With whatever the subject matter may be, whether it's photographing the sacredness of marriage, documentary projects, or landscapes I aspire to capture it all in a way that is truthful, authentic and genuine.”

Seeing, really seeing, each human person in his or her uniqueness infuses even the more business-oriented aspects of Her Witness. Rooted in an understanding that each client, and their love story, is different from all others, Tara works to serve each of her couples on an individualized, personal basis, including in working together to create a photography package that best suits their needs and in getting to know them before their wedding day, the better to understand and capture who they are. Available for worldwide travel, with a portfolio of awe-inspiring travel images showcasing her talent and journeywoman’s spirit, Tara’s photojournalistic wedding images, self-described as “a fly on the wall approach,” allows who each bride and groom truly are to unfold in front of her camera in the most organic, emotional way. And in taking this unforced, documentary style approach, she’s able to reveal her clients to themselves, reflecting who they are before the Father.

From Tara: My approach [to photography ] allows me to capture authentic and raw emotions leaving photographs feeling organic, yet timeless. From initial interactions, to the candid forgotten moments, pretty packaging or the one year anniversary card. Her Witness is all about the small details making each couple feel cherished. My work and work ethic is inspired 100% by my Catholic faith. My faith gives me eyes to see the world through a lens of truth, beauty and goodness.

HER WITNESS PHOTOGRAPHY | WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM

Vendor Spotlight | Mili's Sweets

It’s no small matter that earthly nuptials are likened to the heavenly wedding feast. Like the Mass itself, so many aspects of a couple’s wedding day have a sensory element intended to remind us of the singular, sacred nature of the day: candlelight, your best dress, beautiful music, a delicious meal. Including cake! The bride and groom’s sharing of something indulgent and artfully presented conveys the elevated nature of the day and, if they choose to save a piece for their anniversary, invites remembrance in a tangible way.

Milissa “Mili” Takashima’s son had a severe peanut allergy. Where, in 2010--before the boom of now-ubiquitous allergy-friendly food service--could one find peanut and tree nut-free treats? With the support of friends and family, Mili's amateur love of baking became a professional pursuit in the form of a dessert catering business, and Mili’s Sweets was established.

A former vice president of marketing and public relations for an apparel company and a San Diego State University journalism graduate, Mili’s business savvy and gift for storytelling found their perfect outlet in the wedding industry--a field dedicated to helping couples express their love stories.

Her first year in business, Mili’s Sweets won a Best of San Diego award for its cupcakes, and her orders and client list grew. It’s her Catholic clients whom Mili bonds with in the deepest way, enjoying the opportunity to speak candidly about the beauty and goodness of marriage during their consultations. Some of her brides and grooms have stayed in touch long beyond their wedding days, referring Mili to family and friends and placing orders for baby showers and First Communions.

Starting from day one, all of Mili’s cakes, cupcakes, pastries, and other offerings to her native San Diego area have been peanut and tree-nut free, competitively priced, and crafted in small batches. Today, alongside traditional recipes, Mili offers gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan selections. In addition to baked goods, Mili’s Sweets also provides custom styling and settings for dessert tables.

From Mili: When I consult with my clients, I let them share with me what they are looking for. I don't hold back on my own personal experiences and recommendations too. I don't judge the people I make desserts for--we are all loved and cherished. However, when my clients are Catholic, they tend to know that I am and they make that known in our conversation. When I do retain a wedding client, I hope they think to come to me for their baby shower, their friend's wedding, anniversary, and any of their family's special occasions in the years to come. I've been blessed to make desserts with people throughout their family journeys, and even on through parents and grandparents. Providing such a service to my community is an absolute treasure for me.

Over the years, my hands have made thousands of cupcakes, hundreds of cakes, and many assorted desserts. My most fulfilling work accomplishments have been fundraising for several organizations and charities via my sweets. I do some public fundraising work, as well as other donations at my home parish. One of my greatest joys is making and donating birthday cakes for my friends who are priests. I think of my son possibly becoming a priest one day, and that motherly love for them pours out. They deserve a handmade treat, especially when they give so much for us every day.

Any gifts I have are given by God, and I find fulfillment in using my time to share those gifts.

My favorite place to be is with my husband and our kids at the beach. Our family life is a total team effort, and my own parents have influenced where I am. I loved my dear dad, who recently lost his battle to cancer and was raised as a first-generation American with influence from my mom and her big Italian family. I share my mom’s love of faith, family, food and all things homemade. One day I hope write my parents’ life stories and a cookbook or two.

What I'm offering through my business was given to me as a gift, and I acknowledge that every time I finish a cake. I literally thank our Blessed Mother for helping me when I'm done.

Even after all the experience I have, I still get nervous, because I want everything to be as perfect as possible. The only thing that truly calms me is prayer while I work. I'll pray at least two Rosaries while decorating a cake.

If I know my customer, they will probably be my friend. With that, I try to think of them and their intentions while I work. It calms me and focuses my hand. Non-Catholics would think I was absolutely crazy, and that's all right! I guess it is a little crazy, but prayer works for me and I believe it shines through in my work, which I totally take personally and to heart.

Mili provided desserts and styled the tables in the following images, from Meaghann and Fawaz’s Catholic wedding. Her take on these vintage-inspired details:

Throughout my eight years of professional wedding dessert catering, this reception is one of my all-time favorites. I think it’s because I know and love the bride and groom and their families so dearly. Meghann and Fawaz have been happily married since day one, and their family has since grown to include two beautiful sons. This match is like a dream come true in the eyes of their parents and friends. Their first official date was going to Adoration! Their devoted Catholic parents, on both sides, were just gushing about how true and beautiful this sacred union is, and it’s all so easy to love since they hold a special place in my heart. The reception was truly special , filled with hand-crafted and vintage details.

I set three large dessert tables with plating and vintage linens and tea cups from my personal collection. The wedding cake stood at the center, surrounded by the bride’s vintage glass bottles. All of these pieces were filled with beautiful arrangements by Meghann and Fawaz's florist and friend, Danniel.

The cake was covered in vanilla buttercream and each cake layer was a different combination of cake to include fresh fruit flavors. I arranged flowers to cascade down the cake, along with real lace. My favorite part was the floral and gold cross design I made at the back, where Meghann and Fawaz would be standing for the cake-cutting ceremony.

I had the honor of working with my dear friend Anna of Anna’s Fruit Carvings, a true artist who makes the most gorgeous carved fruits and melons. Her hand-carved watermelon and cantaloupe were the centerpieces for the side table, and made the fresh fruit buffet absolutely stunning.

To the sides of the center cake table were my creme brûlée cupcakes, garnished with fresh raspberries. I styled the additional items, including fresh-cut fruits and family desserts.

Meghann’s mom collected all of the different tea cups and matching saucers and they made planters out of them for the succulent wedding favors. I think what I love about this entire reception is that vintage elements are relevant, classic, and timely all at once.

MILI’S SWEETS | WEBSITE + ORDERING | BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST

Photography: Milissa Takashima and George Street Photography | Nuptial Mass or Engagement Location: St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church, Valley Center, California | Reception: Keys Creek Lavender Farm, Valley Center, California Dessert table catering, setting, styling, + plating: Mili's Sweets Fruit: Anna's Fruit Carvings, El Cajon, California Florals: Danniel Cunningham (friend of the bride and groom) Succulents: The Succulent Source, Valley Center, California

Vendor Spotlight | Red Fern Photography

How incredible that God himself is a master craftsman, creating each and every human person so uniquely and making his diving love visible in the physical, embodied nature of men and women. And when this profound beauty of our human nature is captured with an artist’s eye, we see it all the more clearly.

Rebecca Fougerousse, a fine artist trained in painting and art history, combined her love for art with her professional experience in project management to start her photography business, Red Fern Photography. To her surprise, what started as a side job intended as a simple creative outlet soon became a labor of love. “Little did I know,” shares Rebecca, “that I would discover a hidden love for people and their stories.”

Rebecca’s artistic background is evident in her soft, dreamy images. Inspired by the aesthetic of classical painters like Mary Cassatt and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as the muted tones of film photography (she shoots both film and digital), Rebecca strives to be intentional about image composition and capture a natural softness in her couples’ poses. That natural sensibility translates to true emotion--another reminder that we are made for total integration of body and soul, for the exterior to reflect the interior.

From Rebecca: My personality is laid back, so my clients never feel pressured or stressed, but I understand the importance of timelines and details, so I'm happy to help my clients make sure that we get the most beautiful photos that we can on their day. My aesthetic is inspired by [painting]. But my clients inspire the story.

Through the years I've meet so many different kinds of couples, but they all share the same passion to commit themselves to each other through marriage. Catholic weddings in particular move me, because, as a married Catholic, I understand the gravity and the beauty of the sacrament they are entering. The start of a new family, of two becoming one, is such an inspirational part of weddings for me and makes them my favorite thing to photograph!

Vendor Spotlight | Keara Anne Weddings

It could be argued that God’s mercy encompasses not only his bottomless forgiveness, but his particular will for each human person. His will--his every grace, plan, and intention for us--is a unique gift of love. A gift of providence specific to each of his children.

 It could be claimed, as well, that providence and timing are inseparable from vocation: the Father’s fingerprints cover each of us in his plans, and his path, for our sanctification and ultimate homecoming. The first time Keara Mooberry--a wife, mother, and former high school math teacher--dove into wedding coordination, she’d fallen in love with the process of creating a peaceful, intentional day for her own nuptials and, later, for her brother’s big day. Except she was working full-time while pregnant with her second child, her husband was about to go back to school, and they were making plans for a cross-country move from Phoenix to Philadelphia.

After settling into her new home in Pennsylvania, the Holy Spirit continued whispering to Keara’s heart for planning and service. Recognizing her gifts for calmness and foresight, an old friend reached out to Keara, asking her assistance in planning a Catholic wedding. Excited to work with her first non-family client, Keara and her friend began monthly meetings. It was a time of professional self-discovery, with Keara carving out a supporting role to the bride’s planning as she prepared to take over final responsibilities during the month of the wedding.

Above all, the experience was marked by creating a sense of peace. In this busy season of couples’ lives together, Keara understands the need to identify opportunities for calm during wedding planning, and strives to cultivate that calmness and peace with each of her clients.

Doing God’s will brings peace to the heart. As you journey to the altar, there is an abiding contentment and joyful anticipation at having found the one who will sanctify you for life. If, like Keara, your life’s work brings that same sensibility, it’s beautiful to glimpse the delight he takes in showing us our strengths, opening doors to put them at the service of his love. 

From Keara: Sometimes I think the role faith plays is easier to see after the fact. I can see now how God was telling me, not yet, Keara when we were still in Phoenix. I can see how he kept my desire for serving brides on my heart as I made other major life transitions. I can see how he reconnected me with my friend so I could support her in her wedding and marriage preparation journey. At the same time, my friend served me with the opportunity to get my hands wet in this joy-filled field.

Now, I feel encouraged working with brides, particularly Catholics who love working with a planner who shares their faith. It’s a benefit both for logistical reasons--like planning a timeline for the day around the wedding Mass--and for the purpose of working with a vendor who will be praying for them and supporting them in their discerned vocation.

I like to think of brides more as friends than clients. I love to walk next to them in a supportive role as they prepare for their wedding day and marriage. I also take a very logical/logistical approach to helping them manage their wedding details, because I believe that without a logical approach or good logistical planning, the beautiful details of a wedding can get muddled and overwhelming. My goal is to provide peaceful planning to brides and grooms and their families so that all they have to focus on is the joy and beauty of their wedding day.

KEARA ANNE WEDDINGS | WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | CONTACT

Vendor Spotlight | Stanley Murzyn Photography

It’s surprising how vocation can be a constant source of change: within a certain call, the Lord often continues to whisper still to our hearts. Stanley Murzyn gets this. A former seminarian turned husband and father-to-be, and former hurricane recovery worker, conservationist, and homeless shelter operator turned photographer, Stan’s professional and personal pursuits speak to pursuing the smaller calls within the larger ones, and putting them at the service of others.

A lifelong lover of taking photos, Stan first began pursuing photography more seriously during a study abroad program in Taiwan. Years later, after documenting a cross-country motorcycle trip using only his iPhone, he desired to grow in technical skill, and learned to shoot with a DSLR camera for the first time. Before long, at his wife Justina’s encouragement, his hobby became a business as of 2016.

A few years prior, after discerning he wasn’t called to the priesthood, Stan left seminary with a conviction that the best thing he could do with his life was to imitate Jesus and St. Joseph, particularly in their example of a simple, holy life and of practicing a craft. In this sense, he has a love for the technical aspect of the art of photography. That attention to technique, combined with his past experience in the non-profit and service world, lends itself not only to beautifully captured images, but to a client experience rooted in relationship. After all, it’s through relationship that we’re able to hear the Father’s voice and embrace our callings.

 From Stan: [My wife] has really kindled the creative flame within me, giving me courage to pursue that aspect of my personality. Since a child, I've always had a camera in my hand and loved telling stories. Now I'm dedicated to capturing and telling those stories for solid Catholic marriages. Christ has made himself so very present in our marriage and it's a daily gift. It's an amazing thing to be a part of and witness in others’ marriages.

STANLEY MURZYN PHOTOGRAPHY | WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER

 

Catholic Photographers Share 4 Tips for Your Engagement Session

BERNADETTE AND STEVE DALGETTY

 

For some--if not most--couples, getting your photograph taken can be unnerving! It’s not a common or normal experience. An engagement session is often the first time a couple has ever had professional photographs taken. From us to you, here are four ways to make the most of your engagement portraits so that, first, you and your fiancé receive images you're truly happy with, and second, that you have an incredible time during the actual session. In fact, the second point--having an amazing time--is critical because it directly influences the first--receiving photographs you’ll always cherish.

It's mutual.

Your photographer is going to bring the artistic vision and necessary equipment to create a session that delivers portraits he or she hopes will truly connect with you as a couple, providing something lasting and meaningful for your relationship.

That being said, it’s important to realize that you are co-creators in this process. For your photographer to truly capture amazing images of the real you, the real you needs to show up, ready to join in. In a big way, that means being willing to let your guard down: be vulnerable and share your love, your joy, your laughter, your tears, and your honesty.  

Consider: when it's just the two of you alone, and you feel truly connected as a couple, how do you act? How do you laugh? How do you embrace? How do you hold hands? How do you kiss? How do you look at one another?  

Focus on those questions instead of on posing or how you think you look. The couple "poses" that look absolutely amazing in final images are usually the ones that simply show a couple being truly themselves, letting their love shine through. Authentic love is about as natural as it gets, and you don’t need to be professional models to convey that.

You just need to be you. Sometimes that's incredibly serious and intimate. Sometimes that's silly jokes and laughing to the point of tears. Whatever it is, let it be you. If you're willing to show that level of vulnerability with your photographer, we promise you are giving them an incredible starting point to create meaningful engagement photos.

Prepare emotionally.

We have been married for eight years. One thing we've realized about our own relationship is that it's crazy hard to just flip an emotional switch, quickly changing from being wrapped up in our individual busy lives to being truly present to one another. There have been times we've gone out on amazing planned date nights, yet haven't connected at all because we weren't in the right state of mind. If our minds are stuck on work, kids, or other life obligations it's impossible to switch on the spot to romantic date mode. The result is that those dates ends up mediocre, at best. For us, as a couple, to go on amazing dates we have to proactively enter into the right state of mind and leave everything else behind.  

It's the same for photos. We just advised that you to show up and be your vulnerable, loving selves in front of the camera, but true to our own experience, we don't expect you to flip a switch at the start of your portraits and be able to do that on the spot.  

Our best tip for making that transformation a natural one is to consider making the entire day of your session about the two of you, letting your portraits just serve as an extension of an already amazing time. Better yet, make the entire weekend about you! No wedding plans; no talk about work or school or family obligations. Think about the days that have been most incredible for the two of you as a couple, and and identify ways to recreate them.

Spend time doing some things you love, and you’ll show up to your engagement session in that state. It will help you be more present and connected.  

Be you.

Dress like you. Be comfortable. Fit the environment.  

In other words, if you're going to be exploring fields and trails in the woods, leave the heels at home. If your session will feature a classy evening in the city and you love to dress up, then by all means, get dressed up.

At the end of the day, your clothing choices are not what the session is about. Yet it is important that your attire complements who you are as individuals, without diminishing your comfort level and emotional state.

Unplug.

Leave your phones in the car (unless there's a real emergency reason for you to be on call). Nothing kills being present like getting texted!

Images by the authors, via An Endless Pursuit Photography.


About the Authors: Steve and Bernadette Dalgetty are the husband and wife photography team behind An Endless Pursuit. For the past eight years they have documented stories, celebrating marriage and families throughout the greater Washington DC area and around the country. Steve and Bernadette currently live in a 125 year-old home in Leesburg, Virginia with their three kids. They met in college at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and named their photography business after their dating relationship that took a few tries to get right. They love the world of wedding photography because of the incredible witness it has been for their own marriage, observing the love of couples each weekend and seeing their joy as they make their vows.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM

The Spoken Bride 2017 Gift Guide, Curated by Our Vendors

Last year, our team shared with you our favorite gifts for fiancés and spouses, family, and friends. Today, with our gratitude, we've turned to our vendors. Here, some top picks from their gift lists:

Lindsay Trezza, Artist, Just Love Prints

Handmade Wooden Pocket Rosary: This shop, Catholic Woodworker, is one of my favorites! Owner Jonathan Conrad is a talented craftsman who uses his woodworking skills for the glory of God. Any one of his creations would make a great gift for a husband, but this pocket rosary is definitely my top pick.

Customizable Wedding Vow Print: If you someone you know is celebrating their first, second, tenth--or 50th--Christmas together as husband and wife, this hand-painted 8x10 print will make the perfect keepsake. Give to a friend or create one for yourself! It's customizable with names and a wedding date to make this a truly unique gift that will be treasured for years to come. 

Lighthouse CD of the Month Club: With this subscription, a different Catholic CD is delivered to your mailbox each month. The discs cover a wide range of captivating topics that are great for long car rides and daily commutes. I think it's a perfect gift idea for parents and in-laws!

"Love Begins at Home" PrintThis hand-painted print of St. Teresa of Calcutta's words makes a lovely addition to any home, as a holiday housewarming gift or any time of year. 

JUST LOVE PRINTS | WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | PINTEREST

 

Brianna Fitzpatrick, Videographer + Photographer, OC Media

Artifact Uprising Photo BookFor a recently married couple, Artifact Uprising allows you to personalize your books to make them special. We often give these as gifts to our photography clients, and they LOVE them. Another great gift idea from the same company is a personalized photo box, accompanied by prints. We also love these wedding memory boxes from Etsy, or these glass keepsake boxes.

JORD watch: We were at a wedding where a bride gifted this to her soon-to-be husband the day of the wedding. Not only was it a beautifully crafted wooden watch, but it made for some great pictures during the wedding day! It was a great cue for my husband, who ending up gifting me with my own for Christmas that year. I absolutely love my watch!

Martin Family IconThis can be a very beautiful gift from children to their parents! The Martin family holds a special place in our own hearts because they represent a whole family of saints.

OCULI CORDIS MEDIA | WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

 

Emily Ricci, Designer, Gloriam Marketing

Engraved handwriting bracelet: I actually gave this engraved bracelet to my mom as a thank you present at our rehearsal dinner, but it is such a sweet idea for any occasion to give to the awesome women in your life! The jeweler actually takes your handwriting and engraves it onto a bangle, necklace, or ring, which adds a beautiful touch of love and personalization to the gift. I love the idea of  aiding in creating a piece for a loved one!

Catholic Planner: This planner is perfect for just about anyone. It includes Scripture passages, Mass readings, and even space for journaling. For someone like myself who likes to be super organized, it's nice having that reminder right in my planner pages to let go and offer my busy life to the Lord.

GLORIAM MARKETING | WEBSITE I FACEBOOK I INSTAGRAM

 

Mel O’Keeffe, Photographer, Mel Watson Photography

The Night Sky Custom Star Map: I ended up giving this as a gift to my husband for our first anniversary this past August. It serves as the perfect Christmas gift, too! Want to see what the night sky and constellations looked like the night you had your first kiss, got engaged, or held your wedding reception, in poster form? All you do is enter the month, day, year, and location of your significant event and BOOM! The Night Sky finds the coordinates of that location, making instant constellation awesomeness to remind you what the stars looked like on a super meaningful and important night. You can also add a quote or words at the bottom of the poster.

The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the HomeThis book is worth its weight in gold. My best friend gifted it to me right before I got married, and it's been so helpful for me and my husband in creating an intentional, prayerful environment in our home. The authors cover everything from praying the Rosary as a family to living liturgically to how to create an altar or "little oratory" in your home! It's perfect for a girlfriend who is engaged and is preparing for marriage, or friends who have recently gotten married. It truly is an aid for those striving to create their own domestic church.

MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY | WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK


This season comes down to letting "earth receive her king"--heaven come down to us in the Incarnation, the ultimate act of spousal self-gift. Know of our prayers for you and your beloved during this sacred time of Advent. Be sure to check out our vendors' most recent work and to share your favorite gift ideas in the comments and on our social media!