As Featured on Borrowed & Blue || Mike & Whitney

That’s right! Mike and Whitney’s wedding is featured on Borrow & Blue Locally Inspired Weddings. Their family-focused desert wedding with a view is an inspiration for all who prioritize their relationships as the top value in their life and wedding day. Stories of life and laughter filled the air all weekend long over bottles of wine and dinners while surrounded by the serene Palm Springs mountains and desert scape was just perfect!

For the complete stories of their relationship read our past blogs from their engagement session and wedding day.

Casual Laguna Beach Engagement Session

Family Focused Wedding with a View

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Managing Wedding Expectations | Part 2 Mothers and Mother-in-Law

“It’s all about the bride!” We’ve all heard the age-old saying in reference to making decisions about a wedding day. But a wedding day is about far more than the bride or the groom. Yes, it is a day to celebrate their vows and commitment to each other. But another saying is even more apt: “It takes a village.” A wedding is a family event. For most of us, our parents made us who we are today. They helped us get to this point. It might be seen in the overprotectiveness of a father; the listening ear when a new crush emerged, the mother’s shoulder to cry on when a heart was broken, or the words of wisdom and encouragement to seek the best soul mate, and hopefully, an example to follow. Our parents dreamt of this day long before than we ever did. Many of them envisioned it since we were in the womb. Not to mention the traditions surrounding who pays for it all, which may have led to savings beginning years prior. Yes, a wedding day belongs to many more than just the bride. And if you still think it’s only your day, your planning process may be a long, stressful, and difficult road.

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I had already been in the event industry for 7 years when my mom and I began planning my wedding, and we had a lot of insight from my experiences. Over the years watching me, she had learned a lot about involvement and boundaries for the mother of the bride or groom. She had observed that for the majority of weddings, it is not the bride who is a ‘bridezilla’, but rather it’s a mother or a sister or a bridesmaid who is the momzilla/siszilla/maidzilla. My mom and I often discussed traditions and how they have changed. We explored ideas and desires before the actual wedding day was ever official.

mother of the groom, oregon wedding, portland wedding, winery wedding, fall wedding in portland, maysara wineryIn our case, my brother and I were engaged at the same time. This made things both easier and more complicated for my mom. She had two weddings to occupy her thoughts, time, and budget. It was tough to juggle both, but she also couldn’t obsess over one or the other as momzillas often do. My brother and sister-in-law were in Oregon doing all of their own planning and paying for 90% of the wedding themselves. However, my brother is not one to talk or share many details. They did invite my parents up for 1 or 2 weekends to help with major decisions, but we were in the dark for much of their planning process. To make things more complicated for my mom, I had just moved out 2 months before Luke proposed. I was living 100 miles away with my in-laws during half of our engagement. I was maintaining the photography business full time, working another part time job, planning our DIY wedding, trying to diet and work out 5 days a week, and I moved 5 times during the process. I was struggling to stay afloat and think about anything other than what was in front of me at the time. Unfortunately, that meant that I began to neglect my mom and forget to keep her informed about all of the wedding plans.

A few months into our engagement, I was visiting home for a weekend. Sitting across the dinner table from my mom, I could tell she was upset. Soon, it all came gushing out! She was trying so hard not to be the ‘momzilla’. She was waiting patiently to be invited into the planning. But both my brother and I were ignoring her. To make matters worse, I was living with my soon-to-be mother-in-law who was probably there to hear everything, and able to find ways to be involved. My mom—and best friend—felt as if she was left out and being replaced.

Let’s rewind a few months. My brother had just proposed. I mentioned it to my in-laws. My future mother-in-law started mentioning something about being involved in the planning and decision-making when eventually Luke and I were engaged. Her intentions are always admirable, but she often eager to get involved, and we don’t always share the same opinions. I already had a hunch that there would be trouble between us during the planning. Without much thought, I stated “We’re going to fight when it’s time for Luke and I to get married.” My sudden assertion was met with surprise and a gasp.

So, what do you do with two mothers who desperately want to be involved in their children’s wedding plans? 

  • Set your pride aside
  • Let go of control
  • Delegate!!

It helped that we had a DIY wedding which meant there were plenty of crafts to go around.  A DIY wedding always has more ‘DI’ than ‘Y’ can handle, so if you don’t learn to let go of a little control, you risk becoming obsessive, and you still may not get it all done. I gave each mother a job to do. I gave them guidelines for style and execution and let them run with it.

My mom isn’t the most artistically-inclined, so the dessert table was hers, because it involved more curation than craft. I showed her my inspiration and what I had in mind. Then she did all of the research, shopping, and work to make it happen to the best of her ability, checking in with me along the way. Most of the project involved finding antique-looking dessert displays and making sure everything would be ready for the imported Costa Rica coffee bar. She even attempted a craft project making hot air balloon decorations, and they turned out beautifully!

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My mother-in-law is great at sewing and fabric crafts. I happened to have piles of upholstery fabric that had been discarded from my other part time job with a textile designer. I watched for any scraps close to my colors that would be thrown away, and brought home bags and rolls of useful material. She made all of our table runners with a couple of rolls of gray fabric and store-bought lace. From bags of purple and blue scraps, she cut and sewed pennants for a photo booth backdrop (which my mom and I strung together later).

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I even got my dad involved. He put his contractor skills to work making our chuppah/sweet heart table backdrop and the wood signs for our ceremony aisle. It was actually most difficult to convey our vision to him than to either of the mothers. It was also the project I couldn’t give up as much control over, so we struggled through some lengthy communication ensuring that his part looked like we had planned.

But what if you’re not having a DIY wedding? What projects can you delegate to parents when there are fewer projects to delegate?  Well, there’s a barrage of decisions to be made for any wedding, and countless hours of research to do and phone calls to make. Try giving each parent a vendor to research, favors to find, or recruit their help with a song list. Let the father of the groom and mother of the bride pick their own songs for the traditional dances. You can guide their input and assistance toward your vision if you provide images for inspiration and a budget for restraint. You can still make the final decision, but it will alleviate so much time, and allow you to focus on something else.

Most importantly, remember that it is their day too. They have been dreaming of this day as long as you’ve been alive and they’ve worked hard to get you here. The mere fact that they are passionate enough to become ‘zillas’ of any type only shows how much they love you. Take the time to honor them. Say thank you!

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Desert Ceremony with a View || Palm Desert Wedding

Months ago, after our Laguna Beach engagement session with Whitney Bonagofsky and Mike Dickman, we blogged, “If their wedding is half as fun and relaxed as they are, it’s going to be a blast!”  On Saturday, May 27, 2017, it was time to put that prediction to the test.

The day was off to a good start at Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert, California.  We arrived to find their pink and gold wedding decor welcoming us in.  The roadrunners had arrived early, lending their support and filling the air with a buzz.  Late May in the Coachella Valley holds the potential for unbearable heat, but the even weather was smiling on Whitney and Mike and their hopes for a comfortable wedding day.

The thing about Whitney and Mike is that they’re not just relaxed and fun-loving.  They’re also two of the most genuine and caring people we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  So we weren’t surprised by the comfortable, fun atmosphere they created, but we should have been even less surprised by the intimacy and authenticity all around.  They kept it close, with only had a maid of honor and best man on either side, as well as a second best man serving as their officiant.  The small wedding party made for a leisurely getting-ready time, full of warm memories and laughter.

Mike waited for his bride in the shade of a palm grove, staying cool and looking cooler in his suit, sporting a watch given by his dad.  But he couldn’t quite keep his cool when he saw Whitney approaching for the first time.  The emotions came flooding in when he saw how stunning his bride looked in her elegant sheath gown with lace overlay.  We allowed them to enjoy their moment together.  Sometimes, couples can be so lost in the details, mishaps, and pressure that they can’t fully enjoy moments alone, but it was clear that these two were absolutely focused on one another.  It was a fitting start to a day full of genuine emotion.

The intimacy of the day was further reflected in their relatively small 50-person guest list (not counting the roadrunners).  Whitney and Mike’s loved ones took their seats on the clubhouse terrace that features one of the best views in the entire valley, making it one of our favorite ceremony sites.  The ceremony was officiated by one of Mike’s best men, Jordan, with maid of honor Courtney and best man Jeremy on either side.  Jordan did a masterful job of weaving in the perfect amount of humor and storytelling into a heartfelt ceremony without distracting from the importance of their bond or the significance of their commitment.  Whitney and Mike soaked it in, never taking their eyes off of each other through laughter and joyful tears, from the entry to the kiss.

Whitney and Mike entered to a room full of bright smiles and cheers.  Once all were seated and fed, Whitney’s dad, Jeremy, Jordan, and Courtney each toasted the newlyweds, recalling funny memories and treasured bonding moments.  The first dance is always a highlight, but for these two, there couldn’t have been a more apt picture of their wedding day—bride and groom swirling at the center of a community of laughter and love.  The blend of celebration and intimacy continued as Whitney danced with her dad and Mike danced with his mom.  Finally, before dancing the night away, Whitney and Mike made sure to redirect attention back to their loved ones with a toast, thanking their friends and family for the cherished support all around.


As predicted, Whitney and Mike had a wedding day that was comfortable and enjoyable for everyone—photographers included.  But more importantly, they had a day full of intimate connection with the people they love most. They made sure that the focus was right where it should be, perfectly exemplifying what we love most about weddings.  You might have wedding decor that dazzles.  You might have loads of unique entertainment planned.  You might have an open bar and a packed dance floor.  You might throw the party of the century.  All of those things are wonderful (and we love to have fun), but nothing can replace the genuine love and connection shared between a bride and groom and their most cherished friends and family.

We’re so happy for you, Whitney and Mike!


Wedding Vendors:

Ceremony & Reception Venues: Desert Willow Golf Resort

Hair and Makeup Artists: Sitting Pretty Beauty Lounge

Florals: Jensen’s Floral

Cake & Cupcakes Bakery: Over the Rainbow Cupcakes

DJ: Music Media Entertainment

Photographers: Jennifer Yount Photography





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Managing Wedding Expectations | Part 1: Your Own Expectations

Congrats! You got a ring. You have now been promoted to CEO and head hostess of a minor non-profit organization called ‘My Wedding Day’. If leadership is new to you, this is your crash course. Warning: it’s a rollercoaster of emotion!

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I am the type A who has always had a plan for my life, and I create more plans within that plan. However, after 10 years in the wedding industry, having seen a wide range of styles and having realistic expectations for the wedding planning process, I was not as certain of what I wanted for our wedding. I had just as many uncertain decisions as anyone else. I was NOT expecting all of the comments that came flooding in: “Wow, You’ve seen so many weddings! I can’t wait to see what yours looks like! It’s probably going to be the wedding of the century!”  Cue the sound of a balloon being robbed of its helium.  My excitement quickly gave way to expectations demanding the best wedding anyone had ever seen. And my fears of disappointment and failure went into overdrive. I didn’t have the budget for such an incredible trend-setting wedding. Enter Bridezilla! It took a few months, and more than a few stressed out discussions with Luke before I finally began to rein in my expectations, get my priorities straight, and learn to be happy with the wedding we were planning.

I see this all the time with new brides. We’re bombarded with expectations and pressure for that perfect wedding. We’ve all seen the movies about little girls planning their weddings the moment they discover what a wedding is. We’re confronted with wedding magazines in the supermarket. The pressure is especially strong in Southern California, where image is everything. And then there’s the worst offender… Pinterest. Before the ring—or even before the man—girls have Pinterest boards planning their big day. (Some even go so far to marry themselves, just so they can have their dream wedding. Seriously!?) So we rummage through millions of pins, imagining them for ourselves and feeding this expectation of what our day will look like. If our groom (like Luke) wants to be involved and help make decisions, we approach him with bouncing excitement over the amazing pins we’ve found. Of course he’s going to love everything we love, right? Not always. We just spent hours and hours pinning, only to find that he had something completely different in mind. We fight the urge to get mad, storm off, and tell him, “Too bad! It’s the bride’s day anyways!”elegant romantic wedding at Miramonte Resort and Spa. wedding rings, invitation, bride and groom photos, romantic wedding photography, palm springs wedding photographer, reception decor, centerpieces, cocktail decor, menu, table setting, wedding signs, escort cards, candles, lanterns,

Well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s not just the bride’s day. It’s also the groom’s day, the parents’ day, the flower girls’ day, and so forth. (But those are coming in parts 2 & 3 of this series.) The most important focus is on the couple.  This day is about the marriage of a bride AND groom, and celebrating who they are together.

Luke likes to mention to couples that the engagement season is a special time to kill two birds with one stone. You get to plan your wedding and work on your communication skills at the same time.  Now begin the wonderful lessons in communication and compromise that will carry through to the rest of marriage. It’s a time of peak excitement about this new chapter in your lives. But it is also a time of peak stress, too much unsolicited advice, and not enough sleep. (Didn’t I say it was like raising children?)

Finally, a compromised vision begins to form. It’s time to begin pricing it all out within in a realistic budget. And then there’s the slap in the face—sticker shock. Once again, deflated expectations. [Industry secret: half of the ideas you see on Pinterest and in magazines come from planned style shoots. They use models and the best of what the vendors can offer, hoping to entice you to the highest dollar. Not all of them are real weddings with tight schedules and moderate budgets.]

With slouching shoulders and hanging heads, we go right back to Pinterest for those DIY alternatives. Our hopes begin to lift as the DIY projects look super cute, and we can totally make this work! But these ideas are all by those super crafty people without a full time job or other responsibilities. Can we really make ALL of this happen? Do we have the time? It looks easy enough, but it never is. And the material costs add up to FAR more than they should have! Time is starting to run out and we’re only 10% done. And we’re back in panic mode again.

AHH!! Being engaged and planning a wedding was supposed to be fun! What went wrong?! Unchecked, uncommunicated, and unrealistic expectations. Is there anything that came be done to avoid the rollercoaster of disappointment and heartache?


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Yes, there is. As a couple, before anything else, hash out the questions below until you come to an agreement. If you can do this, it will become your wedding mission statement and a filter for all your wedding decisions. Filtering decisions helps to make them easier and ultimately helps to create a unified vision and execution for your wedding plans. You may need to make some adjustments along the way, but as long as the two of you communicate and come to an agreement, it will be fine.

  1. Identify your priorities or values for your wedding day: Is it having Pinterest-ready pictures? Is it the open bar to keep friends happy and on the dance floor? Is it the overall guest experience? How about the ceremony: Is it quick and funny? Do you want the depth and seriousness of your vows to be conveyed?
  2. Describe your wedding style: If both of you close your eyes, envision your dream wedding, and describe it in 5 adjectives or less, are there any that you share or differ? How can you come together on your expectations? Filter your decisions through these adjectives.
  3. Make sure to communicate this with ALL major players involved. Taking this initiative will help to block out the unsolicited advice, and it will help you stay focused on what you agreed upon.


And at the end of each day, Remember…. Yes, it is a big special day that you will look back on the rest of your life, so it’s ok to do a little more. But it’s still only 1 day and it’s the marriage that matters most. The engagement and wedding day are just the catalysts and public declarations of love and commitment. Forever begins the next morning. You will live with the financial decisions you have made, the words you have spoken, and the relationships you have formed. So take care of them now. The relationships are the highest priorities!

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DIY Country Club Wedding with a View || Monterey, Ca

For months we’d been looking forward to Gavan and Ashley’s wedding with more excitement than usual.  We love to travel anywhere, but if it’s for a destination wedding in beautiful Monterey, California, count us in.  Even better—Gavan’s brother, Will, is one of our closest friends, and a handful of our favorite people would be there!  Will, along his wife, Bekka, and daughter, Evelyn were all in the wedding party. We drove up with our awesome friend, Natalie, who was helping with cake and cupcakes baked by our other awesome friend, Kristen.  What could be better?!  This wedding was poised to be a culmination of anticipation for us, but it was bound to be an even more resounding exclamation point for Gavan and Ashley.Laguna Beach, Orange County photographer, Laguna Beach weddings, creative engagement portraits, engagement session, Crescent Bay Beach, couple, beach pictures, piggy back ride, beach portraits, beach engagement session, posing

Ashley Merchak and Gavan Young met in college.  On the last day before summer break, they discovered that not only would they be returning to the same hometown, but that they had summer jobs at the same place!  Naturally, their school-year friendship blossomed into a hometown bond.  You might think that this would lead straight into a summertime romance.  And you’d be right… if you thought that the romance would begin three years later when Gavan asked Ashley out… and Ashley finally agreed.
Five years after that, they found themselves ring shopping on the day before Ashley’s birthday.  Ashley is the kind of woman that knows exactly what she likes and doesn’t like, so when she found a ring she liked, Gavan didn’t take any chances.  He managed buy the ring right then without her catching on.  He surprised her the next day with a birthday proposal, and a few months later, we were taking engagement photos of them along the shore in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.  We love their story, and have loved coming to call them friends.


Fast forward to April 22, 2017.

Ashley is a meticulous planner and pensive decision maker.  She slaved over every detail of her country club wedding and ballroom reception, and created a natural and simple, yet elegant affair with splashes of blush, maroon, navy, and gold. She designed a top-notch wedding website using, featuring full profiles of everyone involved, interactive details, and lots of photos.  Of course we’re always excited about any well-designed platform for our photography.  This wedding was to be a masterpiece of DIY coordination.  Ashley and her minions assembled scores of decorations and set up a fun homemade photo booth.  Gavan’s contractor-guru dad built a handful of pieces including the arbor, the dessert stand, and all the table numbers.  Will brewed the beer.

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We arrived at Corral de Tierra Country Club near Monterey, California the evening before, and we were delighted to discover a lush valley with majestic trees, bridges, and blankets of wildflowers.  The clubhouse featured a stunning vista of the course in the valley below.  Gavan’s childhood home was located conveniently right on the other side of the course.  There, he and the groomsmen learned to fold pocket squares, played pool, shared a toast, and laughed hysterically.  Meanwhile, the ladies were primping and prepping at another nearby vacation rental.  Like the boys, they shared a toast, but with mimosas rather than scotch and clad in matching bridesmaids robes rather than suits.  The scenery made for a nice backdrop, but Ashley stole the show.  She was equal parts feminine softness and sassy glamour in her Essence of Australia blush pink mermaid wedding gown with ruffles and flare.  We knew that when Gavan first saw his bride, he would find his heart full and his vocabulary empty.

Gavan awaited their first look in a picturesque tree-lined meadow.  Ashley tiptoed out to meet him, embracing him from behind, and when he turned to see her, it was as we suspected—he was speechless.  After a few moments oblivious to the the world, we took advantage of this year’s California “superbloom.”  A patch of wildflowers adds romance to any wedding portrait.  The setting only required some light manual upkeep, and Luke was happy to oblige, adding comedy to the romance, dragging away some unwanted fallen branches.  Gavan added even more romance (and maybe a little more comedy) lifting his bride and carrying her across the uneven ground.  But who can argue with the result?  The atmosphere of romantic fun was perfect.

So was the ceremony.  DIY signs and programs welcomed guests as they took their seats on a terrace overlooking the valley and awaited the big moment.  Fresh flower petals lined the aisle.  The arbor, built by Gavan’s dad, framed the landscape perfectly and featured a gleaming chandelier.  The bridal party filed in, followed by Evelyn, who had nailed her flower-girl dress rehearsal the day before, but needed a little extra assistance with so many eyes watching her.  Then all the eyes turned to Ashley, but there was only one onlooker whose eyes mattered.  The expression Gavan had worn during the first look returned to his face when he saw Ashley approaching with her dad.  Their ceremony was officiated by a friend, a reading was shared by Ashley’s sister, and loving affirmation was given by all.

The love and affirmation carried into the reception.  The evening was full of moments of high emotion, both tender and uproarious.  Ashley cherishes a special bond with her dad and siblings.  And as the oldest of four, she is especially close to her younger sister, Laura.  Those bonds were unmistakable during the traditional dances.  Ashley and her dad couldn’t help but sing along to every word of their father daughter dance as they made their way around the dance floor.  Then as Gavan took the floor with his mom, Laura joined Ashley at the sweetheart table.  The sisters shared an almost-secret moment of affection that only they will understand, holding each other close as everyone else watched the mother-son dance.

The generations dance is an oft-overlooked tradition that holds extra significance for us.  We love how it highlights life-long commitment!  Gavan’s maternal grandparents—married for 74 years—stayed on the floor for as long as they could as younger couples trickled away.  Eventually, however, they simply couldn’t dance any longer, and seceded the generation dance title to his paternal grandparents (soon to be celebrating their 62nd anniversary).  But after the song was over and all the other couples had been seated, everyone in the room stood once again to applaud the aged lovebirds and their 74 years of marriage.  Few things are more moving for us than seeing faithful marriage celebrated, and we hope Gavan and Ashley will treasure that memory as fuel for the longevity of their own marriage.

But no reception is complete without some craziness.  Will and the Groomsmen (sounds like a 60s rockabilly group) saw to that with a surprise… uh… performance.  They sat the “lucky” couple down in two chairs on the dance floor and proceeded to dance ludicrously to “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Suede, bellowing along with the words.  They certainly succeeded in their goal of causing embarrassment, though it’s unclear who ought to have been more embarrassed; bride and groom or dancing monkeys.  The performance was complete with air-guitar and air-trumpet, as well as each groomsman stepping out for his own solo moment.  It was a memorable end to a memorable night.

So we photographed a destination wedding, exploring new places with some fun people.  But the things we anticipated the most didn’t turn out to be the things we remember the most.  We’ll remember the loving moments shared between friends and family.  A sisterly embrace.  A goofy surprise.  A dance 74 years in the making.  A community full of love.  We hope that Ashley and Gavan can look back on their wedding and remember moments like these.  When the last song has been played and the last cupcake eaten and the last drop of beer consumed, these are the things that make a wedding memorable, and these are the things that make a marriage last.

Congratulations, Ashley and Gavan!


Wedding Vendors:

Cake & Cupcake Artist: Kristen Pluhar
Band/DJ: DC Events & Design Dominic (DJ Jonathan)
Makeup Artist  Trish from MAC
Hair Artist  Jessica Balesteri
Bridesmaid Dresses David’s Bridal
Wedding Dress: Essence of Australia
Officiant: Friend, Blake Strait
Rentals: First Impressions,  Suzi Rodriguez
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