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Cozy Kitchen Engagement Shoot

The idea behind this engagement shoot? Well, it’s really kind of perfect. Take two sweeties set in the kitchen with nothing but a recipe for galettes and a whole lot of love. The result is an authentic capture of togetherness…and to be honest, that’s what an engagement sesh is truly all about. The amazing Melissa JillAVE Styles and their team of collaborators brought the vision to life, and there’s lots more sitting right here.


From Melissa Jill PhotographyWe believe that engagement shoots don’t have to be incredibly elaborate. They should showcase the timelessness of a couple’s love for one another. For this inspiration shoot, we wanted to portray love in its simplest form: two people making food together, sitting down to share a meal and delighting in one another’s company – true quality time.

The team of creatives behind this project were ready to simplify things to show our clients that they can achieve a gorgeous, “pin-worthy” photo session in the comfort of their home. We wanted to showcase love the way many couples show love to one another – acts of service and quality time. Cooking for someone is an easy way to show them that you care. Even if your cooking skills aren’t the greatest, simply making a pot of coffee and sitting down together can be a cherished moment.

The home featured in this shoot is actually the home of our prop stylist – Coley from Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market. It’s real. It’s authentic. Love and life happens in this space every day.

Alex from AVE Styles chose simple clothing for Liz and Cesar, focusing on items that many couples might have in their closets: a denim jacket, khakis, a sweet dress, a t-shirt, an a-line skirt, etc. A mixture of pieces owned by the models and of vintage pieces from Grow Op, everything Alex chose felt “lived in” and comfortable. She even gave Liz a mismatched apron and a men’s shirt because that’s what real life often looks like – mismatched, comfy clothes pulled from our beau’s closet, and breakfast in bare feet. Stephanie Neiheisel kept Liz’s makeup very fresh. Many women don’t wear a full face of makeup every day at home, and Stephanie wanted to show brides that they can look naturally beautiful for their engagement photos, too.

Jessica with SEE Salt wanted the food to feel “lived in” as well. Galettes are great because their shape is never quite perfect. They look a bit messy, but they also take some time and care to make, which makes this breakfast more special. And it tasted delicious, too! However, she still wanted to stay simple and authentic, so she chose pressed coffee over a fancy latte.

The flowers were the icing on the cake! Hoot & Holler selected an easy color palette of green and white that added the perfect final touch. All of the flowers used are wild flowers that many can find in their own backyards.

Melissa Jill captured this inspiration engagement session on film to preserve the light, romantic atmosphere. Her photography caught and enhanced the glowing beauty of the everyday.

All of the collaborators in this styled shoot are excited to show our clients that casual and comfortable can be stunning!

Photography: Melissa Jill Photography | Concept And Wardrobe Styling: AVE Styles | Floral Design: Hoot & Holler | Makeup Artist: Stephanie Neiheisel | Food Styling: SEE Salt | Prop Styling: Junk In The Trunk Vintage Market | Wardrobe: Grow Op | Assistant: Alyssa Hodson – AVE Styles Intern | Models: Liz & Cesar Garcia With The Agency AZ | Venue: Private Residence 

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Elegant and Cozy Backyard Wedding

Every love story is unique, and this one gives true meaning to the phrase ‘Home is where the heart is’. From childhood friends, to college sweethearts, to a destined day in Phoenix, their story ends with an intimate backyard ceremony at the house they call home. Maria Del Rio and Alejandra Vidal captured every DIYed detail (like Mom’s homemade cookies), and there’s more to be swooned over right here!


From The Bride…I first met David in Cleveland, Ohio when I was just 9 years old. It’s where both of our families are from and where we have deep roots. We spent our Summers playing together until he moved to Phoenix, Arizona while I was growing up in San Diego, California. After 10 years apart, we re-connected again in college and began to date.

After graduation, we both wanted to chase our dreams and started careers in two different cities. David stayed in Phoenix while I went on to live in Los Angeles and New York. We would date on and off, but eventually called it “quits” and didn’t see each other for three years.

Luckily (as fate would have it) I was in Phoenix for one night for work and ran into him. Shortly after, I moved into his adorable house (but total bachelor pad at the time!) and we began to build a life there together. It’s also where he proposed, so when it came time to pick a venue, our home was the perfect choice.

It was important that our wedding reflect us, as a couple. We wanted it to feel up close and personal, laid back (but still stylish) and unique. Most of all…warm, comfortable, relaxed and cozy. Note: If you ask David, he might tell you that “cozy” was my favorite wedding planning word!

I couldn’t think of anything more cozy than getting married right in our own backyard, surrounded by friends and family, dining under Portifino lights and dancing under huge woven lanterns hanging from our trees.

Even my dress had to be “cozy” – I didn’t want anything too grand or formal, but had a vision of long sleeves with an open back. I am forever grateful to Michael Costello for bringing my dream dress to life. He made the most gorgeous custom gown and I can’t thank him enough for making me feel so beautiful.

For bridesmaids, I had them choose whatever style of dress they wanted – shades of cream, off white and blush with gold accessories. And I had my maid of honor wear a different color shoe. (They didn’t actually walk down the aisle, so there wasn’t a need for bouquets.) We all got ready together at the Arizona Biltmore and took first look, family and friend photos at the hotel before heading over to the house. All guests were taken from the hotel to our home, via trolley.

As guests entered the backyard, they were greeted by our adorable little neighbors and enjoyed a pre-ceremony cocktail hour with great music and mingling. Servers and bar-tenders (all wearing matching navy and gold bow-ties) tray passed the St. Germain signature cocktail along with hors d’oeuvres. We also styled bar carts with all of the necessary ingredients, straws and “B” coasters.

Both being creative types, planning every last detail from start to finish was a wonderful artistic process for us. And coming up with fresh, thoughtful ideas led to many DIY projects (and many late nights working!)

We started with our DIY save the date – we actually got on a real school bus for the shoot and then photoshopped a road behind us – a fitting reference since we’ve known each other since grade school and because it really has been a long ride (over 10 years long!) Hence our tag line, “It’s been a long ride. Join us as we make the final stop.”

Next came our DIY invitations. We designed these as pamphlet style, fold out invites with illustrations to map out the whole weekend. We included rehearsal dinner and ceremony information, transportation pick up times, suggested wardrobe, Sunday brunch details, etc. I addressed the envelopes by hand for both the save the dates and the wedding invites to give them a personal touch.

We then created a custom RSVP site (our last name is Baum) so people could easily RSVP for all the weekend events. As a result, it saved lots of paper, stamps and time. We even included a spot for guests to type in a song request that would get them moving on the dance floor.

The gable boxes were perfect for out of town guests. We designed and printed the weekend itinerary for the front of each box (the font, color and style matched our invites and RSVP site) and tied with ribbon. It was filled with a “Lucky Life” AZ lottery ticket, our favorite chocolates from Cleveland, Ohio, Sun Chips, Arizona Iced Tea, my aunt’s homemade nut mixture, Boots makeup removing wipes and poolside essentials for the weekend: Supergoop sunscreen and Burts Bees lip balm.

For our DIY dessert and favors we did cookie bags. David’s mom is famous for her homemade cookies, so she baked them and I had stamps custom made that said, “Homemade Cookies From Baum’s Mom.” This also tied in nicely with our overall “home” theme. I found mini brown paper bags at Michaels and stamped each one. For additional favors, we did matches that had our J&D wedding logo, our wedding date and ‘perfect match’ printed on each matchbook. We also did custom yamakas in our signature colors with our names and date on the inside.

For DIY bridesmaid gifts, I sprayed the bottom half of canvas makeup bags gold and stamped each initial of their first name on the front. I then filled it with some of my favorite things and wrote on the tag “A few of my favorite things for one of my favorite people.”

We hung a huge DIY banner that we designed and printed. David and I hand wrote 5 things about each other and this was something that people said they had never seen before! It was also really fun to see and read what we had written about each other.

Our DIY Ikea hack bar backs were bookshelves from Ikea that we mirrored ourselves and styled with liquor, flowers, glasses, etc. PRO EM then built us a custom navy blue tufted bar to match our color scheme.

For our DIY cake topper, I really thought it would be great to have clay figures of us sitting in the car that we sketched on the invites. That car is actually David’s vintage car, which is his other true love :) It was sculpted, painted and baked in the oven (using FIMO clay) by my brilliantly talented cousin. We will keep and cherish it forever.

For the decor, we were inspired by two of our favorite places: ABC Kitchen in New York and the garden rooftop of Soho House in Los Angeles. In order to give our backyard the same sort of intimate and chic feel, we used a lot of our own patio furniture. We spruced it up with decorative Missoni pillows, fur throws, potted plants and bud vases.

The dream team over at PRO EM was at our house for 3 days covering our entire pool! It was much needed space and we could not have had our wedding and reception in our backyard if it wasn’t for them. As a result, it’s where we were able to place all of the pretty wooden dining tables. We decided on no tablecloths – just stripped down wood with gold candlesticks, french tea towels, gold silverware and simple, garden-like florals. All flowers were put together effortlessly by my friend, Jason, who is the special events stylist and floral designer for Neiman Marcus Scottsdale.

We chose to do a massive buffet dinner so there were additional large plates at the buffet. I liked the look of just a small appetizer plate at each setting. And white lights strung from high in the trees to create a tent-like atmosphere over the dining area.

Robert’s Catering provided all of the food and the cake. We have used him for other events in the past because he is simply the best. Every single person who attended our wedding said that it was hands down the best food and most delicious cake they had ever eaten. I swear. Literally, everyone.

Rabbi Barton Lee made our ceremony so special – touching, emotional and funny. He would only marry us after the sun went down, so we strung lights in our DIY Chuppah – a piece of fabric we draped and tied with gold rope on the sides. As soon as the sun went down, the Chuppah lit up beautifully. We read our vows under a full moon and illuminated sky.

As the night went on, we put out baskets of black slip on socks for dancing (mine were white) neon glow sticks, blow up music toys (David’s request) and cigars. We also had a late night delivery of pizza and In-N-Out (David’s request, again) after a packed dance floor for hours. There was not a slice of pizza, burger or piece of cake left when all was said and done!

And to top it all off? The police ending up coming to our house and giving us a noise violation and so we had to turn the music down at midnight (always the sign of a great party, right?) But it did make for a classic DIY thank you card. We sent out copies of our violation/ticket from the city and designed it to say “Thanks for helping us shut it down…xo The Baums”

It was such a special weekend filled with so much love, happiness and joy. To celebrate our long journey with the people we love most, right in our own backyard, gives true meaning to the phrase, home is where the heart is.

Photography: Maria Del Rio | Wedding Dress: Custom Michael Costello | DJ: Knick Knack | Additional Photography : Alejandra Vidal | B Drink Coasters : Sugar Paper | B Wine Glasses : Pottery Barn | Banner Printing : Trademark Visual | Bartender & Server Bow Ties : The Tie Bar | Brides Makeup : Cristina Jaramillo | Brides Sandals : Valentino | Brides Shoes : Jimmy Choo | Bridesmaids Makeup : Stephanie Neiheisel | Bridesmaids Rings : Sterling Forever | Bud Vases : ABC Carpet & Home | Catering & Cake : Robert's Catering | Cubbies/Bar Backs : Ikea | Custom Yamakas : Kippahs Your Way | Decorative Pillows : Missoni | Flowers : Jason Hammer | Gable Boxes : The Packaging Source | Getting Ready Location : Arizona Biltmore | Gold Pots : Anthropologie | Groom's Shoes : Asos | Grooms Ring : Leo & Lynn | Initial Pillows : C.Wonder | Invitation Printing : AlphaGraphics | Ketubah : Jennifer Raichman | Matches : Tie That Binds Weddings | Month-Of Wedding Coordinator : Katherine Thornhill | Mother Of The Bride/Bridesmaid Makeup: Lillian Fogel | Party & Event Rentals: PRO EM | Party Dress : Sarah Seven | RSVP Custom Website Development: Revelation Concept | Ring Dish: Ben's Garden | Something Blue : Leo & Lynn Ring | String & Button Envelopes : Paper Source | Transportation From Venue : Mercedes Sprinters | Transportation To Venue: Ollie The Trolley

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Golden Bohemian Affair in Arizona

I am a self-confessed gold junkie through and through so the second I spotted this boho bride and her glamorous “goldie” dress from Sarah Seven, I was hooked. And the day behind that sparkling gown is equally as fab. It’s a beautiful mix of modern art gallery meets floral halos by Butterfly Petals and glam details planned by Hello Gem. Head to the gallery captured by Elizabeth McDonnell for so much more.


From the Bride… When you marry into the surname Gold, you are basically hand-fed the perfect wedding theme. From there, it was simple: Sarah Seven “Goldie” wedding gown, chunky ByAMT classic gold wedding bands, a neon “Stay Golden” sign, and gold foil invitations. We wanted our wedding to be like our relationship: deeply intimate, frolicsome, and unorthodox. Originally when our creative backbone/day-of-coordinators Hello Gem asked what I envisioned, I told them I wanted our wedding to look like Juliet’s bedroom in Baz Luhrmann’s take on Romeo & Juliet.

A Golden Affair was structured around the idea of throwing a modern, industrial bohemian party in the desert. We chose the Icehouse as our venue for it’s exposed brick walls and ceiling ducts. Our florist Butterfly Petals, assembled a bougainvillea trellis to serve as an alter piece, and we lined the open-ceiling ceremony space with an ombré runner, candles, and wooden pews to create the illusion of an old, deconstructed cathedral. The white column room allowed us the creative space to hang a light installation that pooled onto the concrete flooring and suspend hand crafted, dimly lit clouds from the ceiling beams. White geodes and terrariums were collected to create the centerpieces. The head table was lined with forty Louis chairs to seat our bridal party and their respective dates and faced the dance floor, naturally delineated by family-style wooden picnic tables, adorned with wildflowers and candles.

Perhaps our favorite element of the wedding was the ceremony. I walked down the aisle under a cotton candy-colored Arizona sky to “You’ve Got the Love” by Florence + the Machine live at the Royal Albert Hall. The ceremony itself, inspired by a traditional Buddhist wedding, incorporated mindfulness and a collection of readings we felt captured the intellectual spirit of our meeting and union. We chose Chito’s cousin, Tara Martell, a yoga instructor and a close friend, to officiate our wedding, for her positive energy and free-spirit. We wrote our vows together, based on the virtues we believe make for a blessed and happy union. In the beginning we collectively settled on three components which we believe make a wedding enjoyable for others: good beats, toothsome food, and a limitless open-bar stocked with the holy trinity of booze-whiskey, tequila, and champagne. By far the most difficult task for us was finding a DJ; we wanted Erykah Badu meets Adventure Club. We ended up flying out DJ Smiles Davis from Los Angeles and were enamored with her beauty, energy, and ability. Our very talented and close friend, chef, and restaurateur Aaron May of BLTconcepts designed a menu of gourmet comfort food items served buffet style. In lieu of a wedding cake, we opted for a dessert table of our favorite confections including: lemon meringue tartlets, doughnuts, strawberry rhubarb pies, and très leches.

I wore “the Goldie” dress by Sarah Seven from Lovely Bride in New York City; a headpiece of purple peonies; Olcay Gulsen lavender suede scalloped pumps with gold piping; a favorite vintage gold cross my deceased mother purchased in Santorini, Greece one summer during my childhood, as well as her gold Rolex watch, paired with a Cartier love bracelet that was a wedding present from my father and his current wife. Chito, the groom, wore a midnight blue tuxedo made-to-order from Brooklyn Tailors in Williamsburg, and Dsquared2 patent shoes. Each of the ten bridesmaids wore a unique white dress, because, honestly, what is sexier than a woman in a sundress? The maid-of-honor, my sister, wore a vintage floral kimono from our parent’s wedding in the 1970’s. Half of the bridesmaids wore floral headpieces, and the other half metal headpieces made by Pamela Love and Jacquie Aiche. Our friend Alexis, owner of Avenue Boutique, in Tucson, gifted each bridesmaid a unique necklace, bracelet, or set of earrings. Each girl carried a simple bundle of lavender, cabbage, or wildflower. The flower girls wore apron dresses, caftans, and rompers by Tutu du Monde with floral headpieces. Former brides always give you terrific advice for the day-of: take time to eat something, don’t get too hammered, embrace the madness, etc. At the end of the day, we really felt like we put such a tremendous effort into creating this gathering of our most beloved and intimate kin, and we made a pact to be present in the moment and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We sat down and ate together, had conversations with the people we love, danced, and sipped champagne. Afterwards we sat and discussed our favorite moments: His was our un-choreographed, puerile first dance to the Montmartre remix of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” because he said it was the only time he felt alone with me; mine was him sprinting outside insisting that I come dance because Smiles Davis was playing “Flawless” by Beyoncé (do you see why I married him?).

Photography: Elizabeth McDonnell Photography | Event Planning: Hello Gem | Floral Design: Butterfly Petals | Wedding Dress: Sarah Seven | Cake: Aaron May | Invitations: Jay Strehlow | Ceremony Venue: Ice House | Reception Venue: Ice House | Catering: LTB Concepts- Aaron May | Make Up: Glam Lounge | Hair: Lisa Fresa Palacios | DJ: Smiles Davis | Bridesmaid Gifts: Avenue Boutique | Photography - Assistance: Kelsey Shirley Photography

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