Pivotal MomentsWeddings

dear bride who emailed me…….

By March 12, 2015 19 Comments

Dear Bride who emailed me last week,

You mentioned that you would love for me to photograph your wedding …BUT…you felt like your wedding wasn’t “fancy” enough. You said you saw so many beautiful, model worthy brides on my site and you were self conscious about asking me to document your big day because you were afraid you wouldn’t meet “beauty” standards. You said how you weren’t rich but that you valued photography enough that you would give up other things like fresh flowers and replace them with artificial flowers just to be able to afford to have me at your wedding. Then made a comment like “but who wants to photograph fake flowers?” You said your family isn’t “fancy” and the venue you chose was never published in a magazine….I’m about to keep it real with you because your email made me sad.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, I grew up in a trailer……a single wide trailer to be exact. Ok, eventually we moved into a double wide but that wasn’t until I was in high school. I was POOR. My parents were teenage parents-kids raising kids….I’m going to be honest with you when I say this…when I first starting shooting weddings and got to visit the “magazine worthy” venues, I felt SOOO out of place. I felt like I didn’t belong there……and quite honestly, it intimidated me. I went to weddings in my Payless shoes while the bride wore her thousand dollar heels. I thought someone would “find me out” and realize I didn’t belong to “the club” so to speak.

I do remember very vividly walking away from some of the weddings thinking to myself “ohh my gosh, they paid so much for the cake and no one ate half of it or the favors were left behind, etc. This is how I learned that for me, weddings weren’t about the details…..it was about the people, the celebration and the love. Give me a couple that REALLY loves each other so much that it seeps out of them and a crappy venue ANY DAY compared to a huge production 100K dollar wedding with a bride and groom that have to be forced to look like they are in love. My job as a photographer is to bring out the best….and trust me when I say that not all of the weddings I shoot are at “magazine worthy” venues…it’s my job to make them look like they are!

Let me also tell you that Pinterest and wedding websites can be the devil. They show you all these little details or style their shoots which make it look like a legit wedding. I’m here to tell you…it’s all a lie. “Styled Shoots” are often set up by photographers or other people in the wedding industry in an effort to try to sell their products, publish them in a magazine to high lighting their: venue, rentals like chairs/tables, gowns, flowers, <fill in the blank>. Not only were they given a designer to design and coordinate (in most cases) but they are supposed to be for inspiration…….not something you are supposed to compare yourself to. As they say, comparison is a theif of joy.

Deep inside, I’m a small town girl…I will always be the girl from the trailer park that had big dreams and I will NEVER forget where I come from and neither should you. Don’t you EVER be embarrassed about what kind of wedding you’re going to have……don’t you ever be ashamed. You are gorgeous and you are worthy of gorgeous wedding images.

Fake flowers?! You go on with your fake flowers GURL….. but not having wedding cookies is where I draw the line! hahaha!  It’s a Pittsburgh thing! haha!


a photographer who keeps it real

signature-jen mcken




  • Lee Hawkins says:

    Amen to that, Jen. We photographers always put our best work out there…but we often have the skill to make everything look even better than real life, which is great when you’re looking back at your own wedding, bad when you’re comparing it to your own wedding. No matter what, the people are the most important…and the photography lasts forever

  • Carol Dellafiora says:

    OMG! You made me cry!

  • Lisa Karlin says:

    :'( so true and my opinion I like the smaller type and not over the top wedding myself keeps it more personal

  • Becci Nicoletti Colla says:

    What a blessing you are.

  • Ruth Seiler-Jackson says:

    Well stated! I am in awe of you Jen!!

  • Gretchen Giles says:

    What a wonderful response. She’s going to have a great wedding memories because of you.

  • John Ickes says:

    I first met my cousin Jen when looking online and finding the story of her and the “mean girls”. I am delighted and proud that this intelligent, capable, caring and insightful woman and I are related – she is a first-class individual in every singe respect. You rock, Jen!

  • Cara Hindman McGrady says:

    Could NOT love this more. Lots of love happening here!

  • Donna Kelly Carnahan says:

    Well said Jen. Some of the best weddings I’ve been to have had their receptions at a firehall. Stryofoam plates, plastic untensils, red solo cups , and fake flowers ………….who cares? We all had a blast and will remember that wedding forever. I really don’t like sitting at a table with three forks, two knives, four plates and centerpieces you can’t see over. I hope she will have you for her photographer. She won’t regret it and I know she’ll have AMAZING photos.

  • Jen Byers says:

    How would you feel about coming to Canada? You’re definitely my go to when I need it!

  • Krista Marie Gibson says:

    FYI, some of the most expensive weddings I’ve attended were also the biggest disasters. My wedding photographer was a friend of a friend that I used to save money. I never got my wedding photos and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Still makes me teary eyed.

  • Gail Lang says:

    well said Jen – and oh so true. I hope the ’email bride’ gets back in touch and has the most blessed marriage, after the wedding – which is what really counts! Having your amazing pictorial record of the day is literally the icing on the cake (or cookies!!!)

  • Ashley Durham says:

    Amen to this, sister!!! In my experience – the down-home weddings that are all about the LOVE between the couple are SO MUCH BETTER than high-end weddings where the couple is so stressed out over things that they can’t enjoy their wedding. I hope this gal books you, so she can see what an amazing, beautiful person she is!

  • Nancy Travis Conner ت says:

    Jen, beautifully written and I shared this on my Pinterest…now before anyone raises eyebrows, I shared it on my “U Oughta Know” board, where I put all articles that I think people should read, because they are important (yeah, yeah, imho, I know). I want to shout this blog entry from the rooftops! Seriously! Brava!!!!

  • Cherie Livolsi says:

    God bless you Jen!!! Beautifully said! <3 Love is beauty!
    A bride getting married shouldn't be bullying herself!
    PS - I think it's time for you to write your first book!

  • Nicola Amy Brewer says:

    Well said Jen well said

  • Karen Iman says:

    Following this…I hope she changes her mind and let’s you take the photos. Then I can’t wait to see how great they look in them.

  • Debbie Catherine says:

    Beautifully written article!! 🙂
    I so agree

  • Jillian Evelyn Schweigert says:

    I love this post! When I first got engaged my biggest worry was that my venue wasn’t going to be nice enough or my decorations wouldn’t be pretty and having to do fake flowers instead of real ones was a real worry. I was so stressed trying to make my wedding perfect so no one would judge me that I forgot that my wedding is about me and my fiance and as long as at the end of the day we are married it’s a success. I’m so glad you posted this because I’m totally guilty of left comparisons steal my joy.

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