A Bible, guitar, a cookbook, even Jenga game blocks! Brides and grooms are coming up with unique and creative ways to remember their wedding day by asking guests to forego signing a typical guest book in favor of something more personal to them. My good friends at The Sonnet House, one of my favorite wedding and event venues (located in Leeds, Alabama) have shared some wonderful and personal variations on the traditional wedding guest book. Here are some of my favorites...

Photo by Alisha Crossley Photography at  The Sonnet House Leeds, Alabama

Photo by Alisha Crossley Photography at The Sonnet House Leeds, Alabama

This bride and groom asked their wedding guests to highlight a favorite bible verse in a family Bible and sign it. Each time they look through the Bible over the years of their marriage, they will be reminded of their wedding day and the family and friends assembled to wish them well.

Photo by Amy Carson Photography taken at  The Sonnet House, Leeds, Alabama

Photo by Amy Carson Photography taken at The Sonnet House, Leeds, Alabama

This couple had their wedding guests sign a guitar which they will hang on a wall in their new home as a reminder of their wedding day.

Photo by LaShay Photography taken at  The Sonnet House, Leeds, Alabama

Photo by LaShay Photography taken at The Sonnet House, Leeds, Alabama

In keeping with the selfie station trend you find at many events these days, using a Fujifilm instax™ Mini 8 camera and smartphone wireless printer, this couple had family and friends take a selfie which was printed on the spot and clothespined to a rustic board for the wedding. Later, the couple will assemble the photos into a keepsake wedding guest album. Find the camera at Michael's, Wal-Mart, Amazon, etc. From $70.

Photos by Rob and Wynter Photography taken at The Sonnet House, Leeds, Alabama

This creative couple will be able to relive their wedding day each time they pull out the Jenga blocks! If you have a large guest list, you may need to provide several games to accommodate all your guests good wishes. Afterwards, these wooden blocks can be fixed to a frame and hung as a piece of art.

Photo by SCB Photography taken at The Sonnet House, Leeds, Alabama

One of my favorite wedding guest book ideas for foodies, cooks and food lovers: have wedding guests sign pages in a favorite cookbook! Love this! Maybe one day, a bride and groom will have guests sign MY cookbook!

Many thanks to Ellen, Jared & Corey at The Sonnet House and all of the couples and photographers for the inspiration.



OCTOBER 11, 2014

Jenna and Jeff wedding in Aspen Martie Duncan

 Photos: James Christianson

 “No matter what your laundry list of requirements in choosing a mate, there has to be an element of good luck and good fortune and good timing”. Patty Duke

Timing was everything for Jenna and Jeff. A little luck and a new job in a new city did not hurt, either. Even though they knew each other during their years at college, Jeff and Jenna never dated. In fact, one or the other was always dating someone else. Jeff’s move to Jenna’s hometown of Houston after graduation landed them in the same city again. When new-to-town Jeff asked Jenna to show him around her city, the stars aligned. Jenna and Jeff fell in love, resulting in a sweet marriage proposal in New York City and an October 2014 wedding in Aspen, Colorado.  


Jeff is from Birmingham, Alabama. Jenna is from Houston. They had mutual friends at the University of Alabama and knew each other. When they both graduated and moved back to their respective home towns in May of 2011, that’s where the story may have ended. A few months later, Jeff got a new job and moved to Houston. He got in touch with Jenna on a whim and asked her to show him around town. They began dating and within a few months, as they were celebrating her birthday, Jeff told Jenna he didn’t want her to date anyone else. The relationship grew and became more serious and when Jeff moved back to Birmingham in 2012, they continued to date long distance but Jeff wanted Jenna to move to Birmingham. Being traditional, Jenna wouldn’t move without a ring so unbeknownst to her, Jeff got a ring and planned a big surprise proposal. 

THE PROPOSAL Jenna’s sister is an actress living in New York City so when the couple planned a January 2014 trip to visit her complete with theatre and favorite restaurants, Jenna wasn’t remotely suspicious. After a horrible day of travel filled with delays, Jenna finally arrived at the airport at 1:00am and Jeff was there to meet her, the ring burning a hole in his pocket. When they got to the hotel, Jeff decided to pop the question and they spent the rest of the weekend celebrating. 

WEDDING PLANS Wedding plans started immediately. The couple decided on a destination wedding. Jenna’s family has a relationship with Aspen and the Roaring Fork Club so the couple decided on an October wedding in Aspen. Jenna enlisted Birmingham wedding planner Neillie Butler of Mariee Ami Wedding Studio in Mountain Brook to help with vendor selection and wedding plans in Aspen. Neillie is a long-time friend of the groom's family.  

Before Jenna moved to Birmingham, she and her mother selected her wedding gown from Nordstrom in Houston. The Lela Rose Couture fit and flare gown with a strapless, sweetheart neckline and beaded belt was the very last gown Jenna tried on. She paired it with a sheer illusion waist length and cathedral tiered veil with a bias edge and drop earrings.  

Jenna’s family owns a printing business so they handled the design for the couple’s wedding invitation and stationery suite with Alexa Pulitzer in New Orleans. The couple flew out to Aspen in July for a menu tasting and to complete the final details. Deciding on an outdoor ceremony, Jenna and Jeff chose a rustic setting overlooking a grove of Aspen trees, their bright yellow color as the perfect backdrop for the deep navy blue bridesmaids’ gowns. The fit and flare floor-length gowns mimicked the bridal gown design but with an added peplum detail.

Jeff, his father, and the ten men in the wedding party wore classic black tuxedos.  

The children in the wedding party were dressed in antique white outfits with vintage lace details. 

The bride’s bouquet and most of the wedding flowers were designed of orchids and roses in all white tones. Arrangements in large vintage white urns decorated the altar. Rows of white chairs looked stunning against the green of the grass meadow and blazing yellow hues of the Aspen grove and mountains in the sunlight. 

After the ceremony, guests made their way to the club for the reception. The rustic wooden beams of the club were draped in tiny white lights and an adjoining clear tent was draped in flowing, sheer white linen. Tables were dressed with antique white linens and set with wooden chiavari chairs and fine bone china. A variety of short and tall containers held lush arrangements of all-white flowers; hydrangea, stock, orchids, and roses filled the room. Jenna’s sleek and sophisticated four-tier wedding cake was trimmed with a delicate jewel-like edge. Jeff’s chocolate groom’s cake was made to look like his favorite brown cowboy boots.  

Neillie helped Jenna and her mom with the perfect items for guest arrival gifts incorporating Texas and Alabama items packaged in wedding colors. The bridesmaids were given beautiful print silk robes as well that they all wore for photographs as they were getting ready for the day.  

Jenna’s Old, new, borrowed, and blue wedding traditions included:  

Old: A 1903 coin from Jenna’s Grandmother.

New: The earrings Jeff gave Jenna as a gift. 

Borrowed and Blue: Jenna borrowed a blue sapphire ring from her grandmother.  

One of Jenna’s favorite moments of the weekend happened as it began snowing as they made their way to the rehearsal dinner party on top of Aspen Mountain via gondola.  

After their hunting safari/wedding trip to South Africa, Jenna and Jeff are enjoying married life in Birmingham.   

Congratulations, Jenna and Jeff! Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness together.

Read more real wedding stories...


Photography: Arden Photography 

September 21, 2013


Real Wedding Arden Photography


As the saying goes… love will find a way. When there is a true connection between two people; time, distance, neither culture nor circumstance will prevent them from eventually finding their way to one another. On a cold and very early morning in 2010, Birmingham photographer and wedding industry veteran Arden Ward walked into William Upton’s show-jumping barn at Windwood Equestrian for a magazine photo shoot that would change her life. Not only did she capture a cover image that day, she captured William’s attention and ultimately, his heart. He began renovations to turn Windwood into a gorgeous European inspired wedding estate and when it was complete, he married Arden in the same spot where they first met. Their wedding- from planning to the big day was captured for the upcoming Bravo television series, Jersey Belle, debuting August 2014.

Arden Photography Real Wedding Arden and William

Read their wedding story:


Arden, being the night owl she is, was truly irritated at the 5:00 AM call time for her Alabama Weddings magazine photo shoot that cold morning. She got up, brushed her teeth, pulled her hair back into a low ponytail, threw on some clothes and made the drive out to the venue. The shoot was taking place at a barn called Windwood Equestrian. Having acquired a love of horses from her grandmother, Arden was looking forward to incorporating the barn’s residents into the wedding scenes that day but even that did not make her very happy about the early morning schedule. When she knocked on the door, William answered. Thinking him rather adorable, she admonished herself for not taking time to put on a little makeup. The two now admit to being intrigued by each other. They became friends; he was curious about her career in weddings and she found his career in show jumping and horses fascinating. Arden began riding lessons and occasionally turned to William for advice. Seeing that Windwood was perfectly suited to host weddings, William looked to Arden for industry insight. After more than three years of friendship, Arden called William one day to talk about riding lessons and he invited her to come over that afternoon to see renovations on the barn. That afternoon became their first date when William suggested a motorcycle ride around the countryside. That motorcycle ride turned into an evening, which turned into a weekend and the couple soon became inseparable. A few short months later, William planned an epic proposal in one of the most romantic places on earth.   

Arden Ward William Upton Arden Photography Paris


Arden and William had instantly become immersed in each other’s lives and spent all of their time together. They both realized it was something serious very early on. The couple took several trips together; from weekend horse shows in the Hamptons and Palm Beach to photo shoots and football games in New York and their two worlds turned into one. They talked about marriage and both knew that it was simply a matter of a diamond ring and a proposal. William wanted Arden to come with him to an International Show Jumping event in France. He planned a romantic getaway for them including stops in Paris and the South of France. Arden suspected a proposal and began dropping hints….but William promised her they were not getting engaged in Paris. With the excitement of the trip and all of the activities William had planned, Arden had completely forgotten about a proposal. William had not. He had the ring in his pocket as they strolled along the water’s edge in the South of France at Saint Jean-Cap Ferrat in the French Riviera one particularly beautiful, moonlight night. When the moment was right, William took out the ring and proposed. When they arrived in Paris, William had an engagement session set up at some of the world’s most famous sights. Even though they had not officially told anyone of their plans, friends and family noticed the ring on Arden’s finger when they posted photos from their trip to Facebook and Instagram. A swell of good wishes, congratulations and talk of a fantasy wedding started even before they returned home.

William and Arden Ward Upton Paris


One would think that planning a wedding as a wedding professional would be easy. Well, that is true to some degree. You know what to do. Imagine if many of your friendships have evolved from working relationships that have spanned over a decade. How do you choose from your many friends and colleagues who to hire for your own wedding? That was the dilemma facing Arden and William. As it turned out, their schedules only permitted one Saturday to marry in the remaining days of 2013 so selecting a date was easy.  Since the date was only a few months away, many wedding vendor friends were already booked. Here’s the team Arden assembled to help her create her fairytale wedding to William, complete with miniature pony, magnificent photographic elements, two receptions and a helicopter flyaway!

Arden Ward Marries William Upton Sept 2013 Arden Photography Image

Arden turned to the wedding designer who was responsible for the photo shoot the day she first met William, Christopher Confero, to help coordinate the details. Arden’s friend, legendary Birmingham caterer Kathy Mezrano of Kathy G & Company created the menu for both the private, family reception immediately following the ceremony and also for the big celebration with more than 300 friends and family. Guests dined on a farm inspired menu featuring Steak & Cake: Steak with Kathy’s signature Crab Cakes plus Risotto, Local Greens and Tomato Salad and Individual Peach Cobbler for dessert. William’s favorite drink, Tennessee Lemonade was the signature cocktail.

Event Rentals Unlimited (ERU) was invaluable in helping the couple set the tone for the evening with the perfect tablesetting and chairs.

Another longtime friend, Melissa Hill of Weddings Etc created the entire wedding stationery suite including invitation, thank you notes, and placecards, and menus.  

Sybil Sylvester of Wildflower Designs created the ceremony flowers. Carole Sullivan of Lagniappe designed the reception flowers using roses in every hue and shade of pink. A massive wall of roses and flowers was constructed for a photography element.

Arden’s team of photographers handled the task of capturing the wedding of a photographer who has photographed hundreds of weddings over the years. Arden has long been one of Birmingham’s favorite wedding photographers and her work is found within the pages of many local, regional and national publications and her work often graces the cover of Alabama Weddings magazine. Arden’s good friend and frequent collaborator Lance Holloway of Holloway Productions captured the moment with on video which Arden absolutely loves. “He really managed to get the emotion and sentiment – which is not always that easy to accomplish,”

Having your own wedding venue complete with beautiful horses certainly comes in handy when planning a wedding. William included Windwood’s prized show jumpers in wedding photos including L’ami Noir, decked out in full wedding regalia, sporting a rose garland. Phoenix, the mini horse who rules the farm at Windwood was everyone’s favorite.

Since Arden is lucky enough to have several friends with wedding gown boutiques, she selected two gowns for her big day. For the ceremony, Arden wore a Lela Rose Couture gown from her next door neighbors at Ivory & White in Crestline Village. She changed into a Jenny Packham gown from the Carriage House for the reception. A strand of opera length pearls from Bromberg’s given to her by William as a wedding gift was her only accessory.

Arden’s attendants were the children of her best friends. Alaya, Brooklyn, Brody, Annabelle and Lily all wore custom designed outfits for the occasion.

If you know Arden, you know she loves cake and dessert so the wedding cakes were of particular importance to her. Gia’s Cakes of Crestline Village designed her wedding cake with sugar paste roses and flowers that looked authentic and perfectly mirrored the wedding flowers. William’s chocolate groom’s cake from Diane Olexa featured elegant chocolate show jumpers etched into the cake’s icing.

William coordinated beautiful tuxedos for the wait staff from Arden’s friends at Mr. Burch Formal Wear in Mountain Brook.  

Arden Ward Upton Wedding reception Arden Photography image
Arden Ward Upton Wedding First Dance

The courtyard was draped with tiny white Italian lights and looked like a scene from a movie, especially when the world’s #1 Michael Jackson impersonator took the stage. Arden hired him to surprise William and their guests since the King of Pop was one of their favorite performers. “Michael” had everyone dancing the Moonwalk to his classic hits. This was just one of many surprises the night held. William’s uncle David surprised the couple when a helicopter landed in the middle of the farm as the reception came to an end and they were whisked away on a private midnight tour of Magic City landmarks.

Arden Ward Upton Wedding Getaway Car

After a wedding trip to Maya Koba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the couple is at home in Birmingham and enjoying life together.

I’ve known Arden for several years now; she’s responsible for many of the beautiful images on this site. Not only is Arden an amazing photographer, she’s also a good friend. I wish her all the happiness she deserves.