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Tips from Our Brides


Earlier this week we met with one of our newly married couples, and the bride mentioned in passing that her one piece of advice for future brides is to hire a makeup artist. Her makeup rocked, so I can totally see why she recommended it! But it got me thinking that maybe our brides had some great advice they’d be willing to share. So I posed the question in our private Facebook group for our brides (yes, we have a FB group for them and it rocks!  I love seeing them talk back and forth). The response I received from the question was overwhelming! So many of our brides came back with amazing advice, and some of our engaged couples were thanking them for the tips! I thought since they had such wonderful expertise that it would be selfish to keep it all to myself : )

Here was my question: “We met with one of our newly married couples last night, and the bride said her best piece of advice to other brides is to get your makeup professionally done. For all of you already married, what are your tips for those in the planning stages?”

And here were their responses…un-altered, just the way they wrote them:

Sarah: Absolutely agree! If you’re on a budget I suggest makeup over hair! Both are important, but I think it relieves a lot of stress not to have to worry about that on your wedding day.

Kelsey: I think one of the best things we did was hire a day-of coordinator. She took care of SO many things and come two months before the wedding, she took everything off of our plates and we had zero worries. She was also always willing to email, text, meet in person whenever we wanted! Worth the $$!!!!

Lea: Go ahead and get stuff done. If I bought, made, researched, or made reservations with half the time I thought about doing it, my wedding would have been planned within a month. Don’t procrastinate and it will save a TON of stress!

Kristy: Make lots of time for pictures!

Ashley: Leave your bridal gown in good and trusting hands when it comes to alterations. Do your research, word of mouth is really your best tool. AND whatever you do…do not take your dress to David’s Bridal! I made that mistake and it cost me big time! Long story short, they ruined my dress and since my dress was last season, it could not be replaced. I had to find a brand new wedding dress a week and half before my wedding!!! Since this has happened I have heard even more horror stories.

Mary Clayton: Fake eyelashes! 

Alison: Plan for unexpected guests at the ceremony and reception. People will show up that didn’t RSVP or that RSVP’d “no” and could suddenly make it. Have a few extra chairs and food on hand just in case. Oh! And eat something before the ceremony. Time flies by and you’ll barely have enough time to eat at the reception! 

Moe: Depending on the look you’re going for, it can be really easy to do on your own. I’m glad I hired one (a makeup artist), but after the wedding I got really into makeup, and I’m pretty certain that now I could probably do the look myself (I had a very simple, no-frills look). YouTube is great for tutorials! I think money is better spent on hair, which can be difficult to do if you want a more intricate style. I never could have done my own hair. Oh and another–don’t spend money on fancy jewelry you’ll wear for one day! I wore a Nadri crystal bangle and drop earrings (I have no balls to attend any time soon) that retailed for something like $500. I rented them for $60 for the month at! Came in perfect condition and a timely manner.

Erica: Hire great vendors and you will be able to relax the day of! AJ and Kyle plus Brian (Unlimited DJ) ended up being a wedding coordinator and we were able to enjoy the whole day. But most importantly, do the things that fit you and your partner, if you like funky colors, go for it, it is after all your wedding

Elle: # 1 advice: don’t give any information to David’s Bridal, they will harass you for long after your wedding. # 2: don’t try to craft too many things (I made all my candles) it can sometimes be nothing more than added stress at a time when you least need it

Cory: Totally agree with what someone wrote above, trying to craft too much can get a little overwhelming. I like Coco Chanel’s advice about accessorizing – “before you leave the house, take one thing off.” For me, it helped a lot to skip the complex centerpieces, floral arrangements, and a bridal party, and suppress my crafting instinct!

Hope this helps someone out there struggling with wedding planning! I know I learned a ton from their experiences : )

*I in no way am intending to de-fame David’s Bridal. These are direct quotes from our brides with no influence or opinion from me. 

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9 Years Married


9 Years ago today this happened!

On some levels it feels like we’ve been married forever, and then on others it feels like this was yesterday. Still when I say that we’ve been married 9 years, I almost don’t believe it myself. We were so little, so clueless, and so totally in love. And if I could go back and do it all over again, I would…in a heartbeat. I definitely have been blessed with the best man for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that we were made for each other. I need him. He holds my heart.

As we begin this new stage in our marriage, called parenthood, it almost feels like we’re starting over (that and the fact that we both just got our rings re-polished so they definitely feel new again!). The last 9 years have been our foundation, and now we get to build a new level in our future. It’s crazy how much more in love I fall with him every time he talks to the baby or kisses my belly. We always thought we wanted kids earlier than this, but we’re so glad we waited. This is the perfect timing for us. We needed to grow up, develop in our relationship, and build that foundation together. Now that we’ve gotten through all the bumps (and trust me there were a lot in the early years), I feel confident that we’re bringing this baby into a marriage that’s rock solid. She’s going to grow up in a happy household full of love, laughter, and fun. It won’t be perfect, but that’s what makes life entertaining for us.

Kyle, I just want to take this time to tell you thank you for the life you’ve built with me. I love you. With all my heart and soul. You are my best friend, and I don’t know what I’d do without you. I can’t wait to see what the next 9 years hold for us! It’s going to be exciting and challenging, but I’m ready for it. You’re going to be the best dad a girl could ask for. I can’t wait to see you hold her for the first time…I’m pretty sure my heart will melt. Happy 9th Anniversary darling!

*Wedding Photo by Alpine Photography

Tierre Peterson - April 23, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Happy Anniversary to you both!!

Kristen Hill - April 23, 2014 - 1:54 pm

Happy Anniversary lovebirds!! Seeing you two work together has been an absolute blessing and inspiration :) Here’s to many many years to come!

Priscilla Kylee Erwin - April 23, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Happy Anniversary! You guys are so awesome and I’m thrilled for both of you. Congrats!

Barbara Pollock Readling - April 23, 2014 - 3:47 pm

Happy Anniversary to you both! Love you!

Alison Collins Saunders - April 23, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Happy Anniversary to you both!

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

Kristen & Adam | Caffe Luna Wedding | April 6, 2014


When I arrived at the hotel the morning of Kristen’s wedding, I was greeted with the biggest smiles from her family and wedding party. I’ve never seen a calmer, less stressed, and completely happy crowd than this group. They were so thrilled just to be experiencing her day with her. She wasn’t nervous a bit, just cool as a cucumber, as she got her hair and makeup done. I drove her over to meet up with her groom before the ceremony, and not once did she seem tentative. She was ready and excited to see Adam.

Their first look was special. Just the two of them, in the middle of downtown Raleigh. It was so peaceful for a Sunday afternoon. They laughed, snuggled and took their day in together. We moved from their portraits downtown over to Cafe Luna for their ceremony, which was completely customized to what they wanted. They even included a hand fasting ceremony, which is where the phrase “tie the knot” comes from! Then they spent their reception celebrating with family and good friends over dinner and dancing. It was a perfectly lovely wedding day!

We wish you both the happiest of marriages! Thank you for choosing us as your photographers! It was our pleasure, and we hope we captured your memories exactly the way you wanted : )

0004 0005 0011 Kristen wore two pairs of shoes!  0015 0016 0052 0045 0072 0074 0086 I am in love with her bird cage veil!!  0098 0099 0100 0101 Their super sweet first look… 0110 0112 0118 0122 0137 0140 0146 0147 0152 Gorgeous bride! 0157 0161 0168 0173 And the back of her dress…STUNNING! 0176 0182 0185 0189 0195 0203 0207 0212 0208 My favorite downtown Raleigh iconic spot! 0222 0224 0227 0230 0239 0243 Small wedding party are so much fun! They’re so intimate! 0250 0261 0265 0272 0285 0289 0296 0299 I love the light that streams into Caffe Luna for their ceremonies!
0302 0303 0345 0350 0371 0382 0374 0387 0389 Married! 0401 0402 0403 0404 0439 0440 0453 0495 0500 0515 0528 We snuck outside mid-reception from some photos right around the venue! 0565 0568 0569 Thank you two for braving the middle of the street with us : ) I know those cars whizzing by are scary! 0575 0581 One of my favorites from their day! 0584 0530 0594 0623 0674 0678 0703 0705

Congratulations again! Hope you enjoy all your photos!!

Ceremony & Reception Venue and Catering: Caffe Luna
Flowers: Daniel’s Florist
Cake: Cinda’s Creative Cakes
Hair: L.J. Bailey & Kathryn Carlton
Bride’s Makeup: The Makeup Culture, Stephanie Sevilla
DJ: Danamare Productions

Jenny Herrera - April 22, 2014 - 1:40 pm

Great pictures :) I love Stephanie Sevilla, and I love you, AJ and Kyle– What a great combination!

Linda L. Landers - April 23, 2014 - 1:59 pm

Beautiful pictures! Hope to see you again one day in Kansas City visiting your grandparents. I know they absolutely hated missing the wedding.

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

Off The Hook

A.J. Dunlap Photography NC Wedding & Family Photographer

Let it go! Let it go!!! You know it’s a good Monday when you start out by singing Frozen : ) Ok, back to reality now. I promise that line does pertain to what I’m writing about though! Not only is it a good statement to live by, but it also applies to us as wedding photographers. There are so many things we need to just let go of…like say uncle bobs, or demanding family members, or things getting off schedule maybe? Most of all we need to let go of trying to capture everything. It can’t be done. It’s not possible to be every where at every moment on a wedding day, and we need to stop feeling guilty because of it. That’s why we work as a team at weddings, so that hopefully we can capture more. But even then we still miss things. And that’s ok. As long as you don’t miss something major (like their first kiss), don’t worry about it. So what if you turned around to see the last 1/10th of a second of the bride hugging her niece. If you can see it, process it, put your camera up to your face, and capture it in that time then I’m seriously impressed (and also want to know how you got your superpowers). If you’re human and your brain doesn’t work that fast then just revel in the fact that you witnessed a sweet moment, and move on. Don’t let it get in your way the rest of the day!

It was a hard lesson for us to learn, especially my perfectionist husband. He wants to be everywhere and capture everything, which I totally admire about him. His work ethic is amazing. Seriously, ladies. I married the hardest working man I know…sorry, he’s taken : ) But because of that work ethic, it really got to him when he missed a moment. After several years of being a wedding photographer, he now realizes that was an impossible goal and let’s himself off the hook when he does miss something like the couple dipping opposite of where he’s standing during their first dance. There’s no way to be in two places at once so now he lets it go. We don’t let moments slide by us either. Our jobs as the hired wedding photographers are to capture as many of the couple’s memories as possible. And we try to do just that. We just don’t beat ourselves up anymore if we happen to miss something.

So I’m letting you off the hook too. It’s ok if you’re not perfect! It’s ok if you miss a small moment, or don’t have your settings perfect when it happens. There will be more, and as long as you capture the majority of the couple’s day they’re going to love you and the photos you took! Do your best, that’s all anyone can ask of you!

I mentioned above us teaming up at weddings. I highly encourage every wedding photographer to shoot with a second shooter. The photo above is the perfect example of why. It’s from a wedding almost 2 years ago, and is still one of my favorite photos that Kyle’s ever taken. I was off taking the family portraits when it happened, which is a super important time of the day, and so I physically couldn’t have seen this moment happening too. But Kyle was able to see it, and take this photo of the flower girl and ring bearer playing. A priceless moment that yes I wish I would have seen, but I didn’t, Kyle did. If he hadn’t been there with me, none one would have captured it. Together we try to do it all. We’re not perfect, but working as a team we can get more accomplished for our couples…and that’s the goal.

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

Our 7 Year Old


Our little Baxter is 7 today!!! Part of me feels like he’s still such a puppy (probably because he acts like one), and part of me feels like we’ve had him forever. He’s crazy, unpredictable and a tad bit stubborn but we seriously couldn’t imagine our lives without him. He’s such a little snuggler, and now that I’m pregnant he’s become my little shadow following me every where I go. : ) We’ve spent the last 6 months re-training him because of some epically bad running away problems, and are so proud of our little man. He’s become SO responsive, obedient, loving and a really, really good dog overall. I know he got tired of me at times, but he put up with me making him go on 8 training walks a day up and down our street, and not letting him be alpha dog any more. He still runs the house and gets whatever he wants, but at least now he comes when I call him! And there’s no doubt he keeps us entertained.

We should have known from the start though. Before we got him, we had Allie and another puppy, both of which I picked out of the litters. Sadly, our other dog got hit by a car at only 10 months old, but she left a space for Baxter to join our family. We’d heard about his breed but didn’t know much other than they were energetic and gorgeous. We thought we did enough research, but we quickly learned they’re one of a kind dogs. As we were driving out to pick him up, Kyle made the executive decision that he would get to choose the puppy this time. I just had one stipulation…his gray and brown markings. We played with the litter trying to decide which one was ours when Baxter came running around his pen using all his might to carry a 4 foot long stick in his tiny 7 week old body. He was all legs and ears and pretty much the cutest thing you’d ever seen. Kyle pointed at him and said that’s the one!

From then on he’s been ours. It may have taken 6 1/2 years to train him into an obedient dog, but it was worth every second. We are so blessed he’s ours! Every morning I wake up looking forward to his morning kisses (he only kisses when you have morning breath, haha). Every evening I walk up stairs anticipating the crazy position he’s gotten himself in trying to get cozy on the bed. He’s ours, and we love him. Happy Birthday buddy! Thanks for making our lives better and definitely more entertaining!

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!