The Marley Family

I have known this beauty since our freshman year in high school. Your high school friends offer you a place to return to no matter how much time or distance separates you. With your high school friends you can always return back home to your roots, and I feel my job offers a unique opportunity to peek into the lives of the women I knew when we were teens. I adore being around children, but most of the time when there is a reunion the kids are left at home with a grandparent or a sitter. So, when Lauren reached out to me for family photos, I was beyond the moon excited to meet her little one.

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BUT! TA-DA! Enter Gretchen Bell. Mother. Photographer. Toddler whisperer, and occasional game master.

I find when photographing families with humans this little, a key element is to let the kiddo(s) have an element of control and do some of the guiding. The session tends to be more natural, and, YAKNOW, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most of my clients don’t want upset littles in photos.


With kids a tad older (and many times, excited to meet a new adult that is full of energy and excited to meet them), I normally start the session with a deal: I will totally go there/let you jump/make a weird face/stand on that tree stump BUT! for every time you do thing “x”, you have to do one of MY ideas.

Anyways, can you tell I am just rambling to myself here? This session was so fun, really. It was great to meet Lauren’s new daughter and her husband. We had a lot of exploring, catching up, tickling, and follow-the-leader-ing. Isn’t that smile to die for?

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Parents! And other photographers…I want to hear from you. What are your best tips and tricks for making a family session run smoothly? I’d love to know your thoughts!


The price tag of 2017


It is never easy to talk money, but having a clear budget for your wedding is essential for any couple getting ready to tie the knot.When you think about your wedding, what are the details that stand out in your mind? Do you want to have amazing flowers, over-the-top attire, or a killer DJ?  Sitting down with your spouse to b, and prioritize the two or three areas where you want to give yourself the most flexibility in terms of budget is exactly the kind of conversation you should have in the first months of becoming engaged. According to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study, couples are now spending an average of $33,391 (2017 stats) on their day, excluding the honeymoon. According to my findings on Wedding Report, that number is actually lower, coming in at  $25,764. The average of the two studies is 29,577.50

So, essentially 30k for the average wedding. What is the modern couple spending it on? It looks like couples are prioritizing different details than in years past, specifically personalized elements, guest experience and cultural nods.

In fact, couples are so excited to show their guests a good time that, event though the average guest headcount have decreased (thats right, we are throwing more intimate parties!), the average cost per guest has reached an all-time high at $268 (up from $194 in 2009). Custom guest entertainment has more than tripled, with up to 40% of newlyweds saying they splurged on amusement and reception amenities (think: sparklers, selfie stations and photo booths, lawn games, candy bars and live performances).

So what's with the smaller price tags? Honestly, couples are hosting fewer formal affairs and black-tie weddings—which of course tend to be pricier—and choosing to get hitched in more non conventional ways and locations that let their story shine, require fewer embellishments and call for a smaller budget. Whether it's a low-key barn venue (a super popular trend for my area!) or a historic home with loads of personality, couples seem to favor sites that reflect their individual character. One of my all time favorites was at a wedding where the bride really didn’t care much for cake, so she opted to have a s’mores bar for her guests to enjoy instead!


Finally, while today's nuptials see no short of throwing in some time-honored wedding traditions (like the good ol’ bouquet toss), it's still important to them to infuse their culture, religion or heritage into their day. Almost 25% of couples incorporated some sort of a traditional element. Think  Chinese tea ceremonies, Dutch Wishing Trees, or an Armenian bread breaking ceremony.  

Now more than ever, couples are finding creative ways to delight their guests while doing something meaningful for themselves, which makes for some remarkably gorgeous celebrations. Here's how much, on average, SOME of the the top ticket items in your wedding may cost:

  • Venue- $15,163

  • Photography- $2,630

  • Flowers- $2,379

  • Planner- $1,988

  • Dress- $1,509

  • Invitations- $408

  • Hair and Makeup- $966