Pizza in Santa Fe AKA The Best Engagement Session Ever

In September of this year, Meghan and Ryan will be married at the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. There will be llamas. Llamas, people!

Quite frankly, these facts and the photos from their engagement session below are all you really need to know in order to make you fall in love with Meghan and Ryan. But of course, the story doesn’t end there, and it gets even better with every turn.

We first met Meghan digitally, via email, when she reached out to thank Perfect Wedding Guide for being Perfect Wedding Guide. (So yeah, we liked her right off the bat!) Meghan had been using some PWG-exclusive resources to plan their wedding and engagement session from afar, which would have tickled us either way, but then she told us she was an event planner, too. An expert in our midst!

Which means she was able to, and is proud of, the creative ways she’s conserved their wedding budget and found vendors. She lamented over how much of the New Mexico wedding community thrives on just word-of-mouth, and how often styled shoots are beautiful, inspirational, magical, and completely impossible to accomplish for a real wedding, and we totally agreed.

(Except for Perfect Wedding Guide styled shoots, of course, because we only feature local vendors who could, if you want, literally recreate the exact shoot for your wedding with all the other wedding professionals they collaborated with originally.)

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Kady McKeehan Photography

I love when bridal resources feature real weddings — and none of that Martha Stewart Real Weddings because we all know that’s not really real!

So, despite the wall of exclusivity created by non-digital, word-of-mouth businesses, despite the fact they were planning a wedding and engagement from afar, and despite the fact Meghan and Ryan have impeccable style and couldn’t settle for just any wedding business, they have done it. They have planned a perfect fall wedding in Santa Fe.

Meghan’s parents are immigrants from the Philippines, and Ryan’s family is old-school New Mexican — back to the Don Victor Ortega days. So, as Meghan says, this September wedding will be an explosion of culture, family, and joy! Plus, remember the llamas? There are going to be llamas. Not to mention, most of the couple’s wedding vendors are non-profits, or give back to the local wedding community in some way, too.

An engagement session full of pizza, impenetrable love, and laughter, paired with a wedding rich in color and culture and kindness and llamas, booked solely with wedding businesses who work to make our state better…Well, we warned you that you’d fall in love with these two!

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Kady McKeehan Photography

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Engaged Couples Dish About Wedding Planning in New Mexico

When it comes to planning a wedding in New Mexico, we think its safe to say that we might be getting pretty close to expert status. After all, we have been connecting engaged couples with the local wedding professionals who serve them for over 10 years! But even with a decade of living vicariously through wedding parties and planners, shows and stories doesn’t compare to the actual nitty gritty of planning a wedding as an engaged couple.

So we, Perfect Wedding Guide, look to the bonafide experts of wedding planning — New Mexico’s very own residents — for advice, adjustments to our approaches, and affirmations. DIY or otherwise, we invited several couples in the midst of planning their wedding in the Albuquerque + Santa Fe area to come and enjoy some delicious treats (courtesy of the Street Food Institute!) while revealing one of the industry’s most pondered questions: what’s it like to plan a wedding in New Mexico?

What followed was a no-holding-back, anything-goes, super honest conversation that revealed more about the wedding industry and our local community than any number of sideline observations could have. Which is why we’re such big proponents of genuinely engaging with our community,  instead of staying behind our computer screens making cold calls and creating content.

Because there’s a lot you can learn simply by listening to the people around you.

Of course, it wouldn’t be in PWG style to not share all we took away from our fabulous eat + dish group session with local engaged couples here, with you. So whether you’re a wedding professional looking to answer the needs of local couples, or a local couple yourself — scroll on, lover of love, and hear what your peers have to say about the New Mexico wedding community.

1. Digital Planning

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We’re sure you’re aware of this by now, but in case you aren’t: the internet has taken over the wedding planning process. We were stunned, and delighted of course, to hear that one of the more streamlined aspects of wedding planning was the online tools, like budget calculators and wedding websites.

The digital takeover, while inevitable, is also great for introverts, busy-bees, and business owners who might not have time to meet with every single vendor or every single couple. By putting reviews, high-quality photos of past work, and clear details on prices and packages, both the business and the couple get to pre-qualify each other before ever speaking.

(And yes, those three things are exactly what couples are looking for when vendor hunting. One couple even decided against booking one of New Mexico’s best wedding DJs, simply because there were no reviews for this company online, despite a stellar word-of-mouth reputation.)

As important as your website is, our couples stated that their preferred way to reach out to businesses and vendors is via social media — and we don’t blame them. Don’t worry shy brides and grooms, the age of phone calling is on its way out the door!

2. In-Person Planning

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We’ve already gone into some depth on why wedding shows are important for brides and businesses alike, but having that reaffirmed by actual engaged couples? Well, now, it doesn’t get much sweeter.

What New Mexico engaged couples appreciate about Perfect Wedding Guide shows here is the organization. You can meet and connect with officiants, DJs, bakers, florists, and pretty much every other service you need to book all in one place.

According to our couples they’re pretty fun, too, what with the giveaways and games and drinks and fashion shows and such.

So, yes, dear internet, we won’t be getting rid of you any time soon. But for when you need to look someone in the eye before handing over hundreds of dollars, wedding shows are the place to go.

On the radar for future events per these couples’ requests: a groom’s night out, perhaps?

3. Physical Planning

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Yes we’re aware that we started this round-up of takeaways praising the internet, and then proceeded to list all the alternatives to planning your wedding solely on the internet. It’s a nuanced thing, wedding planning!

Because, as magnificent as it is to be able to compare vendors price points and aesthetics from the comfort of your bathtub, the rapid evolution of the webscape has lead to quite a bit of digital clutter. How do we counteract this?

Good, ol’ fashioned print. Like the Perfect Wedding Guide magazine!

This collection of couples favored the PWG magazine for a couple reasons: it’s purse-sized, it’s tangible, and it’s local to our beautiful state. Oh, and that it’s free.

What they want more of (AKA, what you’re likely to see hitting the streets soon): more tips, tricks, and industry secrets, projected trends of wedding colors and aesthetics, and sample templates for toasts, vows, and speeches.

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8 Local Wedding Businesses Run by Husband + Wife Teams

We can’t lie. As New Mexico’s Perfect Wedding Guide team, we get to be on the forefront of a whole lot of magic coming from our community. From whimsical winter weddings, to sensational spring styled shoots, to first-time collaborations between wedding professionals, to proposal stories that would make anyone tear up — it’s almost too much love for us to handle! 

While all our wedding professionals are the source of unending inspiration and buckets of love, there is one particular category of businesses, specifically, that warms our hearts and keeps us committed to our local wedding community. That is, of course, the local wedding businesses run by husband and wife teams. 

We’re not alone in this particular penchant either. As much as we like to suggest local couples approach their wedding planning process in a methodical, step-by-step process, we’ve found that they often flock toward these wedding businesses too. Booking them first based on instinct, and then hoping all the other factors — budget, dates, etc. — fall into place.

Which comes as no surprise. Especially as a soon-to-be-wed couple, the comforting familiarity of working with a team that is both partnered in business and in life is totally unparalleled. A lot of these boss-babe, business couples were actually married in New Mexico too, so knowing they were once in the very same shoes as you — well, how much more reassuring can it get? Their wedding was so great they decided to not only stick with this partnership of love, but to jump in on the wedding industry themselves.

So we couldn’t let another day pass without sending some love back to these amazing couples, who give so much of their time and heart to our community. We couldn’t possibly highlight every married duo whose killing the game in the wedding community of New Mexico, but we can pick out a few of our favorites! Plus, we, Perfect Wedding Guide, have had the pleasure of working one-on-one with these businesses, and are totally confident in recommending their magical talents to you.


1. Matt Blasing Photography

The best part of being in business with my wife Amy is that she brings an administrative business balance to my creative side (she’s a Hospital CEO by day), and she seems to quickly connect with just about anyone, so our couples always love her. Working with your spouse is such an advantage when you know you work well together. After being married for years (and after photographing over a hundred weddings together), you start to learn to read each other’s minds.

At weddings where every minute matters and the schedule can be rushed, being able to anticipate what we need to do, often without even speaking, really helps us not only stay on task regardless of the hurdles that might occur on a wedding day, but do so seamlessly and without stress.

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2. Absolute Entertainment

Working together as a couple we discovered we were able to divide up the tasks  serving both of our strengths. We had very successful careers before moving to New Mexico so started out as a well rounded team. Chris & I, Vicky, have successfully worked together for 22 years.
As with anything in a relationship you have to come to workable agreements and this actually becomes a powerful exercise in personal growth.  You always need to nurture your relationship. With communication, kindness and staying out of your Ego you can resolve anything.

3. Shutter Force Photography

The biggest challenge we had to overcome as married business partners was determining how we would build a photography studio with two photographers who have incredibly different styles and “eyes” for photography.
We are both very different people, different artists, different photographers. We learned that this is something our couples like about our style, and we finally let go of the fear that we’re “too different.” After embracing the idea of keeping our independence while blending our styles to tell a story in an exciting way, we learned this is something that truly sets us apart. It took a long time for us to see that the only way we’d find success is to stay true to who we are and to walk a different path than other vendors in the industry.

4. Orange September + Casa Roñdena Winery

Vicki and Jerry are known as the powerhouse duo behind both the well-loved wedding venue, Casa Roñdena Wineryand the esteemed event planning company Orange September. Somehow, they manage to balance being business-oriented creatives as well as life partners, while always keeping the focus on their couples and their special day.


5. Photographic Perspectives

So John & I were married in Villanueva, NM (near Pecos) in the same church that my parents were married in and my grand-parents; and it’s in this tradition and roots in New Mexico that reinforces our role as story tellers.  Our families’ roots in New Mexico has taught us to appreciate the traditions passed down in other families, and we always strive to keep these traditions alive in the photos and videos so that they are not lost for the generations that are yet to come.

If we could get married again, I would have loved to have Lupe from Genesis to help me.  Her creativity and knowledge in lighting & décor can transform any location!

Sandra, Photographic Perspectives


6. The View Event Center by Simply Decor & Events

Akshay and Payal, the married couple whose glowing personalities match that of their stunning venue, The View Event Center, do more than just host weddings and events. They first began working together as Simply Decor, and still continue to fabulously furnish the weddings at their modern and metropolitan wedding venue and beyond. With an unmatched eye for beauty, Akshay and Payal not only continuously support each other, but the couples they work with, too.


7. Kayla Kitts Photography

Anyone who’s ever met Dominic know he has the biggest heart – and it definitely shines through on wedding days!  Things can be hectic – but our job is to stay calm and keep others calm, and it never fails that Dominic comes to the rescue with whatever that couple, that family, or that day needs.  Grandma needs help with the door?  He’s on it.  Kiddo needs a funny dance to smile?  Done.  Groom needs a place for all the things before he walks into the ceremony?  You betcha.  Someone needs the shirt off his back?  Sure thing.  He’s a man of his word, a jack of all trades, and absolutely the guy you want by your side on a special day because he’s for sure gonna be there for ya.

We’re so thankful to call this our job!  It’s a dream, with days filled with love and celebration and so many memories – and we’re so honored to be a part of it all!


8. King Mobile Music

Last but certainly not least, a married duo who we rely on several times a year, Brad and Heather King of King Mobile Music. As the emcees and certified fun-masters who make our wedding shows as successful as they are, we can’t recommend them as a team enough. With a smile and a laugh readily available to anyone and everyone who needs it, their levity balances the weight of a busy wedding day or event.


 

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Hidden Gem Photographers in New Mexico

Yes, it’s true — we just said earlier this week that the fickle weather of spring had given way to steady sunshine and…..then it rained. So it goes in this beautiful, mercurial desert state! While we might not be able to rely on the weather for consistency, we can at least know that whatever rain comes to New Mexico won’t last very long. Plus, because temperamental weather is often on the horizon, local creatives have learned how to work with and around it, especially our wedding photographers.

We all know that rain on your wedding day is good luck — what with the symbolism of cleansing, renewal, and fertility and all — but what about the wind? Or the blazing New Mexican sun that occasionally becomes a bright and shining nuisance? Despite how perfectly you may plan your wedding, there are always a few uncontrollable weather variables. So, if you can’t control the weather, you’ll need a team of wedding professionals who aren’t afraid of a little Mother Nature.

Which is why we’ve put together a list of our 5 favorite hidden gem photographers. With years of experience in rain and shine, these local wedding photographers have been put to the test and come out on the other side with gorgeous visual art, a fine-tuned understanding of lighting, and a considerable dedication to their craft. So, if you maybe want someone you can count on to capture your wedding day — take a peak below.

1. Beth Waldron Photography

We’re starting out strong here with the creative known as Beth Waldron Photography. Like an amazingly talented fly on the wall, Beth photographed our Bridal Board + Vendor Mixer just a few weeks ago, and totally captured the essence, fun, and special moments of the event. (Not to mention, the photos were beautiful despite coming from a dimly-lit ballroom.) With an expressive edge that comes through in each shot, her wedding photography should be properly classified as works of art.

 

2. Jared Kellogg Photography

I feel life has a soul and there is nothing more beautiful than capturing it in a smile or in the twinkle in some one’s eye.

We couldn’t have described the creative driving force behind Jared Kellogg‘s photographic art any better than he does himself! With a unique blend of digital and film photography in his portfolio, Jared has come to understand the medium on a personal and artistic level, which shines through in his business. His clean and even approach to each couple makes his work feel comforting and familiar, with a kind of timelessness to last through each and every anniversary.

 

3. Chandelier Studio

It’s hard not to love Shannon, the creative powerhouse behind Chandelier Studio, from the first moment you meet her. All of her photographic work — weddings and boudoir — comes from a deeply artistic, deeply collaborative place, and it shows. The focus of her lens and creative practices is on making sure the women and couples in front of the camera feel beautiful, and know they’re beautiful. It’s no small wonder then, that each shot comes out looking comfortable, crisp, and perfectly balanced.

 

4. Rick Saul Photography

Rick Saul approaches each engaged couple in New Mexico with a keen awareness of the fact that his photos will long outlive the ceremony, reception, and even the honeymoon. It’s this knowledge that motivates his work, and ensures his talents are used to encapsulate all the most important moments of the day, whether they are precious and heartfelt, or silly and fun. His photographs are, essentially, his way of cementing your story in time forever, so that they may remind you of your unique love for decades to come.

 

5. Shutter Force Photography

To finish just as a strong as we started, we’re wrapping up here with Shutter Force Photography. Although we just did a special feature on the husband-and-wife photographer duo, it’s worth reiterating that their fun and loving approach to photography is totally unparalleled. Meagan and James, as they’re also called by, cultivate real, genuine relationships with their couples. It’s with this connection that they are able to express the inexpressible emotions, details, and depth of each love story within their photography.

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What Local Engaged Couples Have to Say About Planning a Wedding in New Mexico

So, if we’re being honest with ourselves, most people in New Mexico know Perfect Wedding Guide for our wedding shows. Which makes sense, considering how many hundreds of engaged couples and local wedding professionals come together to make shows like the Diamond Dash, Bride’s Night Out, and the Wedding Gallery possible. We’re not really complaining, promise, but we actually have a lot of love and appreciation from some of our smaller events, like the Bridal Board + Vendor Mixer!

The 2019 edition of the Bridal Board + Vendor Mixer flew past us just this last week. (Of course months of planning, collaborating, and designing goes by in a dizzying but beautiful flash!) All we want to talk about is all the amazing nuggets of knowledge we learned, but wait…

What even is the Bridal Board + Vendor Mixer?!

Great question, reader! This particular event was conceptualized to fill the gap between local engaged couples and the wedding professionals who serve them. (Sound familiar?) Essentially, the Bridal Board + Vendor Mixer is oriented like a research or focus group. We invite around 10 engaged or recently married couples from the local community to come share their insights, triumphs, complaints, compliments, woes, worries, and wonders about the wedding planning process in New Mexico. 

Then, with bellies full of a complementary, gourmet dinner, the wedding professionals from all over New Mexico take note, adjust their practices, ask questions, and, hopefully, grow! It’s one of the few opportunities you have in any business-client relationship to truly hear and communicate with one another. It’s how we’re able to keep the eclectic New Mexico wedding market moving and evolving in the right direction.

Ready to learn what the engaged couples who have come before you have to say about the wedding planning process in New Mexico? Let’s jump in with our 3 main takeaways.

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1. Inclusivity is Key.

Another word for inclusivity here could be clarity. When we asked the couples, “What is the most important quality you are looking for when hiring a wedding professional?” the conclusion was the same across the board. Couples look for those who exude kindness and personality, and vendors who actually listen to their vision without imposing their own ideas on the couple. 

When we asked the couples what the vendors they choose did to earn their business, what we heard reaffirmed these values. They appreciated (and went on to book) the professionals who didn’t exclusively brag about themselves, whose websites were clear and communicative, and whose work accurately represented the couples they want to work with.

For example, if a wedding professional exclusively promotes straight couples on their website and social media channels, the chances of reaching LGBTQ couples are pretty much nil.

To sum: be clear, be kind, be inclusive, and listen well.

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2. Stick to Email, Folks.

Yes, the digital world is ever changing, and it’s so tempting to make texting your main form of communication. (You can do it from bed, from the gym, from the couch with Netflix playing in front of you, so we totally get it.)

But, because lots of couples create a specific email address for wedding planning, keeping all communications in one place is best. There’s higher visibility of conversations in email as well, so accountability comes much easier.

Also, hate is a strong word, but our couples felt strongly about this: they hate phone calls. Like, really and truly. Most couples are at work during a business’s hours of operations, or they’re at home with their partners and families.

Remember: stick to email.

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3. Yes, Social Media is Still Important.

Your website should still be the home of your business, but social media is where the vast majority of couples look for wedding inspiration. The two top contenders, which you might be able to guess already, are Instagram and Pinterest.

Instagram is a great platform to utilize, according to the local couples, because it’s easy to return to feed posts for references — though they love seeing stories, especially of behind-the-scenes previews for styled shoots and weddings. Pinterest is beneficial for businesses as well because it’s so visually-oriented. Then, there’s always the concept of pinfinity, too!

(Pinfinity = the fact your pins continue to be recirculated by pinners long after you post them, whereas Instagram posts are usually only seen within the first 48 hours of posting.)

Here’s your excuse to log on, friends, and show the world what you’re working with.

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A very special thank you to all the incredible local businesses who made this awesome, collaborative event possible: Embassy Suites, for generously hosting us and feeding all our guests a marvelous meal; De Novo Pastoral Services for being our informed and entertaining emcee; Beth Waldron Photography for capturing all the fun above; Estella Floral Design for our darling centerpieces; Funky Olive Designs for our pretty little invitations; Cello for Weddings for serenading all our guests with delightful live cello music; and Black Swan Events, for transforming the ballroom into a conducive, inspiring space.

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New Mexico Wedding Photography with Shutter Force

We were particularly impressed with Megan and James’ infectious enthusiasm, which made the day even more fun and memorable. They are truly adventure photographers and are up for anything to get a great photo. It is obvious that they enjoy their jobs and love spending time with their couples while providing great pictures.

-Amanda, local + engaged

One of the many things that makes New Mexico oh so special — besides the green chile, intoxicating desert landscapes, and mañana mentality, of course — is the variety of people, cultures, and communities coexisting here together. There’s no one, dominant kind of person here, but rather a collection of different experiences of the world, values, stories, and lives.

When it comes to choosing the wedding professionals you’ll work with to make your dream day come true, then, the options are endless. Taking a look at even just the range of skill we have from local photographers, and those who have come from all over the world to be ceaselessly inspired by New Mexico, your choices are definitely not limited. Which means you have the opportunity here to spend time with your decision, and choose the photographer or photography team that matches your aesthetic preferences and personality. How lucky is that?!

Every photographer in New Mexico is talented in their own unique ways, too, so there really is no wrong decision when it comes to choosing someone in-state. But there are a few who we can say, from personal experience, go above and beyond to capture your celebration of love in all its grandness — and all the important, tiny moments too — with collaborative hearts and full dedication. You see where we’re going here?

Meagan and James are the husband and wife duo behind the respected name, Shutter Force Photography, and when we say dedicated, we mean dedicated. Now, of course the couple had their own wedding photographed, so they’ve been on both sides of the lens and know how to move and operate within the bustling business of a wedding day without being obtrusive or missing a special moment. This, paired with their adventurous and fun-loving personalities, makes Shutter Force Photography feel more like a couple of your close friends, Meagan and James, who happen to be supremely skilled behind the camera. Which you can see, through the candid smiles, comfortable postures, and wide open hearts of everyone who collaborates with them.

We could talk endlessly about Shutter Force Photography‘s particular strengths and aesthetic style, but no matter how heavily we lean on the thesaurus, nothing comes close to describing their ability to capture sweeping landscapes and delicate details like, well, their photos of sweeping landscapes and delicate details. So we’ll let them take it from here.

To book Shutter Force Photography for your wedding, you can contact Meagan and James here.

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Outstanding, caring and enthusiastic photographers, who do an amazing job of catching the big and little details that make up a special day!

-Mark, local + newlywed

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Wedding Details Big and Small: Occasion Services Spotlight

You’d think that after watching the magic unfold from the Occasion Services & Events team at so many of our wedding shows, we’d be a little bit used to it by now, right? Wrong. Even via the digital world, we still find ourselves trying to catch our breath when we stumble across one of the many seemingly impossible, absolutely fantastical weddings Occasion Services & Events manifests all the time like it’s no big deal.

So, honestly, it’s pretty understandable that we do some occasional, light stalking of their team’s Facebook and website. Now, we agree, it’s a completely different experience to sit back and watch many hands flurrying about in unison as they, somehow, turn ballrooms and backyards into dreamscape wonderlands. But having the option to be spoon-fed photos of their mesmerizing decor at our fingertips? Well, now, maybe the internet isn’t such a dark place after all.

There you have it, the whole truth. We happened upon this fresh and fanciful wedding when we were Facebook stalking Occasion Services & Events, and we’re not afraid to admit it. Lively vines serpentining down long, farmhouse tables; accents of eucalyptus and greenery tucked in every possible corner; a delicate wooden arbor to frame the happy couple during their vows. How could we not share it?

With not a cloud in the sky, but plenty of rainy eyes, Brenna + Landon were married in our very own Santa Fe. Occasion Services + Events, with the help of some dedicated local wedding experts, made their wedding day as pure and invigorating as the couple’s love story. To book their team for your own celebration, you can contact them here.

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Photographer: Kayla Smith Photography

Florist: Bloomstream Flowers

Cake: American Pie Bakery

Venue: The Club at Las Campanas

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