The Ultimate loophole to themed weddings, just ask Daniel and Michael

The Ultimate loophole to themed weddings, just ask Daniel and Michael

Themed weddings can be so much fun to photograph, and even more fun to attend. If done right, themes are the fibers of a wedding that connect people to your wedding experience by immersing your guests in a memorable, joyous celebration. But themes can come at a price, both financially and emotionally, for couples when budgets topple or when venues use strict policies that prevent planners from going all out with a desired wedding theme.

Daniel and Michael, our heroes (and the power couple) of this story, found the ultimate loophole of themed weddings: leveraging the wedding venue their theme. By choosing the San Diego Safari Park as their wedding venue, Daniel and Michael not only gave an unforgettable and breathtaking experience to their guests, but also saved big on time, energy, and cash spent pinpointing specific decor and elements that would have been costly to purchase and set up.

So how did they actually pull off this big secret to a flawless themed wedding? It really only took two major considerations.

1. They remembered their biggest moments together.

Michael and Daniel’s first date was at…you guessed it, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From there, their relationship blossomed into what is now a blissful partnership that will only continue to grow for the rest of their lives. Their story began as a true adventure, surrounded by wild animals and an exotic environment. Their wedding would convey that sense of fun and spark that Michael and Daniel share to this day.

2. Their wedding location was an experience first, venue second.

In selecting a zoo as their wedding venue, Daniel and Michael didn’t need to seek out any extra decor to add to their wedding experience–it was already all around them! From the building architecture to majestic giraffes and rhinos baring witness to their ceremony, this couple had a more authentic and detailed theme than what would have been mocked up at a different venue location. On top of it all, no extra money or effort was spent to recreate what was already embedded within the safari park.

Daniel and Michael pulled off a truly amazing themed wedding. If you’re looking to plan a themed wedding, start looking at the most cherished memories you and your partner share together. From there, find a place that really speaks to you both. It doesn’t need to be a cookie-cutter wedding venue; it just needs to bring a smile and a warm memory to both of you.

And to Daniel and Michael, congratulations to both of you, wishing you many years of love and adventure to come!

The Balboa Park Spark: William’s and Richard’s Love Story

The Balboa Park Spark: William’s and Richard’s Love Story

The Balboa Park Spark: William’s and Richard’s Love Story

-On top of being a historical icon of San Diego, Balboa Park means something different to so many people. For William and Richard, Balboa Park means a beautiful future with each other. In honor of pride month, a sweet love story and for everything love stands for, this post is dedicated to finding the right person and never letting go. This is for William and Richard.

-What began as a harmless, albeit boozy brunch in Uptown, Texas, transformed into spark-filled and spontaneous courting for over a year. Thanks to many more brunches and friends urging the two to get together, Richard and William became an official couple in late 2013.

 The two moved to the sparkling, sunny town of San Diego with their eyes set on the beaches everyone seemed to rave about. Yet it was Balboa Park that really caught their attention. It became one of their most cherished spots to spend time together. On an unsuspecting Saturday, Richard and William climbed the Park’s California tower to catch the breathtaking views of the shimmering sea and San Diego’s skyline. William felt something important was coming…and he was right. Richard took a knee and popped the question, in the most perfect setting possible.

The rest is history–their 1916 World’s Fair-themed wedding brought their friends and family together for a day of love and togetherness. And of course the wedding took place at the most memorable spot in their lives, Balboa Park.

On a personal note, working with these two was a blast! They are a great couple that I was lucky enough to work with, and watching them together is a perfect example of what being in love looks like. And a especial thanks to Courtney from Breezy Day Weddings, who ensured Richard and William’s wedding ran smoothly! All the best to Richard and William, and here’s to many more happy years to come!



Hannah and Ryan: when two people just “click”

Hannah and Ryan: when two people just “click”

“Of myths and legends.”

One of my favorite parts of my work is hearing my wedding clients’ love stories: how they met, their spark, how they proposed, and why they have decided to spend the rest of their lives with each other. I recently worked with Hannah and Ryan as their wedding photographer for their casual ceremony and reception at Twin Oaks Golf Course, and completely fell for their movie-worthy storybook love story.

Hannah and Ryan first met in their college myths and legends class, where one fateful day, Hannah decided to sit next to her attractive classmate, who excitedly chatted with her until they hopelessly fell for each other. It turned out that their hobbies, hopes, and interests were one in the same, and it seemed destined for them to be together. When Ryan came to the conclusion that he didn’t want to spend another minute without Hannah in his world, he organized a proposal under the magic of a July 4th’s fireworks. With his parents and hers gleaming in the background, he got down on one knee right before the finale. And she said yes.

Their wedding was focused on fun and love. With a casual ambiance and 81 of their closest friends and family, they were wed with a sunset-stained violet mountains as their backdrop.

Hannah and Ryan focused on a maroon, blush, and white color scheme that complimented the natural beauty of their surroundings highlighted with string lights–it illuminated the intimacy of the event and looked fantastic in their pictures. The falling sun painted the reception’s outdoor seating and dance floor, where I witnessed one of the BEST choreographed first dances in my entire career! There didn’t seem to be enough of the happy couple to go around, as practically every photo booth picture included them! Each guest was sent home with a succulent as an easy-growing (just like Hannah and Ryan’s story!) memento of the wedding.

This story sounds like a fairy tale, but Hannah and Ryan are living proof of a dream. It was so much fun capturing their close-knit, lovely wedding and getting to know them personally. Here’s to lifelong, legendary happiness together, you two.

MUST TRY wedding recipe: Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. & San Diego Safari Park

MUST TRY wedding recipe: Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. & San Diego Safari Park

A saccharine adventure to say the least, Stephanie and Samuel recently took the cake for this year’s spectacular wedding, thanks to their ultra-fun personalities, desserts by Sweet Cheeks Baking Co., and their majestically daring venue, the Kijamii Overlook at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Sweet Cheeks and I combined forces to support Stephanie and Samuel in starting an amazing adventure together, beginning with a beautiful ceremony and ending in sentimental sweetness. This couple made the fun at their wedding, where free-roaming giraffes, cheetahs, and rhinos painted an extraordinary backdrop for their relationship and many more years of happiness. The Sweet Cheeks crew crafted personalized desserts for the couple, embodying the exotic yet tasteful fun of the wedding’s location. Samuel and Stephanie noted that their guests “devoured” the goodies provided.

A couple more outstanding vendors at this wedding included entertainment master Music Phreek with Vynce Pham, who ignited the dance floor and painted an exquisite reception ambiance, and wedding planner team Nicole George Events, who weaved together an unforgettable, wrinkle-free wedding and reception full of meaningful details that complimented the overall theme of the wedding.

This wild-yet-whimsical wedding made such a lion’s roar (and a few elephant trumpets, too) that it even caught the attention of, for its creativity, desserts, and even sweeter memories. Consider these “ingredients” for the ultimate San Diego matrimony recipe, when you plan your wedding day in San Diego. Great job to all vendors that helped bring together Stephanie and Samuel, two amazing individuals, and a special shout out to Sweet Cheeks and their incredible-edible work.

Vendor credits: Event Planner: Nicole George Events | Venue: San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the Kijamii Overlook | Florist: Simply Adina Florals | Hair and Makeup Stylist: Susie Beyer McCartney | Caterer: San Diego Safari Park | Cake & Desserts: Sweet Cheeks Baking Co.  | DJ: Music Phreek DJ & Lighting


Wedding photo inspiration: where do you go for it?

Wedding photo inspiration: where do you go for it?

Wedding photo inspiration can come from anywhere.

Brides-to-be scour the globe, usually via internet, for ideas on the perfect event. And while every bride has her own unique vision of matrimony perfection, millions of examples can be found of how it will look with a click or tap of the finger. Those examples are almost always in the form of images, so you can imagine how important wedding photography is in the idea-gathering process. Many of my clients specifically utilize the power of wedding websites, Pinterest, and Instagram for their wedding photo inspirations. Here are the details of their searches:


Instagram is another great wedding photo inspiration source. It offers the added bonus of getting to peak into your potential wedding photographer’s best work not seen on his/her website. Popular wedding-focused hashtags, like #weddinginspo hold all the topics: dessert trays, reception sparklers, altar decor, seating signs, and more. Instagram’s interface makes scrolling through images a breeze, so surf a hashtag until you find the photo that ignites your wedding inspiration. I guarantee you you’ll find it.

Wedding Websites

Wedding websites are great ways to look at broad topics that shape the specific vision you’re dreaming of. If you are looking for inspiration specific to your area, check out local wedding inspiration websites for the best and most feasible ideas. Many of my clients check to see what has to say about wedding trends, colors, venues, etc. For example, top sites like and contain a surplus of wedding blogs and photos specific to their styles, like rustic, casual, and modern. Reviewing these sites can help you determine the kind of wedding photos you want to collect during your wedding.


Couples utilize Pinterest for inspiration two times more than any other social media platform ( Why? Because Pinterest covers it all, from napkin rings to entire venue locations. Searching the small things such as “wedding table settings” will bring as many relevant photos as wide-ranging topics like “wedding photo ideas.” Wedding photo inspiration is easily found here, where you can mold your own thoughts on your wedding photos with Pinterests’ detailed search results.

Bernardo Winery: a wedding venue as timeless as you two

Bernardo Winery: a wedding venue as timeless as you two

Where love flourishes, so do grape vines.

Mary and Anthony officially tied the knot at one of San Diego’s most dazzling hidden gems, Bernardo Winery. Tucked away in inner San Diego, the winery is a local must-book for couples aspiring to a one-of-a-kind wedding that takes guests on a extraordinary ride back in time. Operating and family-owned since 1927, this wedding venue offers aged wine barrels, lush vineyards, romantic privacy, and authentic heritage. See for yourself in the gallery below.


wedding at winery brant bender photographyCan you say holy shiplap? Bernardo Winery is as current with the times as ever, by maintaining its vintage wine-country appeal and showing off its historical roots with its wooden build and wrought-iron decor. Anthony and Mary complimented their surroundings by hanging bright lanterns from exposed beams, using aged wine barrels as table tops, and dancing in the gleam of vintage patio lights.



sun hitting bride picture at bernardo wineryThe winery’s romantic element may be its biggest draw. Vines equipped with blossoming grapes let just enough sunlight in so that visitors glow during the twilight. Wine-soaked barrels resting in their antique storage rooms bring out a mysterious yet sultry aura that creates an intimate getaway for bride and groom. This stunning bride stuck with a form-fitting yet intricate dress that completely embodied the romantic vibe of the venue, Meanwhile, her handsome groom sported a more modern blue suit, but held on to a gentlemanly look with complementary white and red floral tones. Both of their ensembles epitomized the romance of the winery.





bernardo winery photo boothWhile the winery has held hundreds of ceremonies and receptions, each celebration has and always will be unique and fresh. Bernardo Winery is constantly growing its vineyards, so depending on the season, the weather, and even the wine stains, every wedding has its own special look and feel. These two utilized eclectic nick-knacks as table toppers and accessories throughout the venue, and modeled a vibrant color scheme of dark cherry red and royal blue to create a classy, romantic mood at their Bernardo Winery wedding.


candid bride and groom dancing bernardo wineryOriginally founded in 1889, the winery has withstood over a century of societal changes and technological shifts. Yet, it forever remains a popular place for visitors to forget what time they live in. People from all over the west coast come to trek through the vineyard, sip some wine, and fall in love. Bernardo Winery is a sought-after wedding venue, but no celebration is forgotten. Each wedding burns its memories into the floorboards, leaves its dancing footprints in the dirt, and carves its story into the barrels. Mary and Anthony aimed for a laid back, fun, and dance-filled celebration. With this venue, they hit the bullseye. Enveloped in greenery and lights, the two and their guests felt at ease, smiled brightly, and poured their joy out on the dance floor the entire night. You can bet not a single person checked their phone or watch during the reception.



For those looking for a getaway that is as rustic as it is beautiful, check out Bernardo Winery. Whether stopping in for a casual glass of Cabernet or adding it to your list of potential venues, it’s one of San Diego’s most prized destinations. Mary and Anthony, and their guests, will reflect over the many sweet memories made from their time spent at the winery. Will you two?

Want to learn more about a Bernardo Winery wedding? Email directly or call 858-487-1866.

Wedding planner: Terry Lowrey

DJ/Band: Sunset Mobile, Dominic Meyer

Florist: Branches (Onsite)

Make-up: Desiree Delatrre

Hotel: Rancho Bernardo Inn

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