Ashley Hamm Photography

Part of being a wedding planner is being connected. I "know a guy" that can help with whatever you are looking for. Do you need an authentic cuban cigar roller? I know a guy. Perhaps a master sommelier or someone to hang from the ceiling while pouring tequila shots? I know a guy...or girl. Really, I do!  When it comes to wedding photography, I know Ashley Hamm. When I met Ashley, we immediately connected over having the best name on the planet! Hello, Ashley Squared! :-) Ashley has been the owner of Ashley Hamm Photography for ten years! Ashley was a blast to interview. Please get comfy, grab a cup of coffee and get to know my friend. 

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How did you get started in the wedding photography business?

Gosh, that's a great question! I remember the first time I found a disposable camera in my parents' junk drawer and went out to play with it in the woods. I was maybe 7 years old and I loved the clicking sound of the camera when I pressed the button and the way the light shone through the trees. At first, it was a hobby, just for friends and coworkers, but then it became something I just couldn't live without.

What do you love about being a wedding photographer?

I love working with people capturing their favorite moments. The moment they say I do, the moment they hug their children and watch laughter spread across their face or the moment they hold hands and fall in love all over again. I get to see how people look at each other and love and embrace and cry and just be amazing.

Photo credit: Ashley Hamm Photography

Photo credit: Ashley Hamm Photography

Let's be honest, what do you not love so much about wedding photography?

Honestly, it's the laundry (from working with kids getting on the floor and getting dirty) and finding comfortable shoes. That's it. Worst answer ever? Maybe. There is not much I don't love about this profession. 

You deal with couples on the most important day of their lives, what is something you wish all couples looking at photographers considered or asked?

Full weddings! Before you book, ask to see at least 3 full galleries of the most recent weddings from your photographer! From start to finish, consistency should be a key element when booking a photographer for your wedding day.

Where are some of your favorite engagement session locations?

Downtown Milwaukee, Starved Rock, and The South Shore Cultural Center!

Photo credit: Ashley Hamm Photography

Photo credit: Ashley Hamm Photography

What is your favorite wedding venue? Why?

Wandering Tree Estate, Salvage One and Emerson Creek.

Wedding days can be stressful and over in a flash. What do you wish people considered on the day of the wedding?

I would actually prefer it if they didn't think about it at all. Be in the moment, live it up, smash the cake all over each other's faces. Be present! I am there to document your day just as it is, so be there and enjoy!

Tell me one thing no one knows about you (but you are okay with the world knowing!)

I own 35 cameras (film and digital) and collect them from all over the world when I travel! I'm also allergic to kiwis :)

Thank you, Ashley, for joining me and allowing my corner of the internet to get to know more about you! If you are interested in meeting Ashley, or getting to know more about her, I recommend you reach out directly to her. You can find her corner of the internet by clicking   Ashley Hamm Photography  Tune in next week when I provide my top 5 Engagement Photo tips! 

Vendor Spotlight: Brent Rolland from Fig Media

When planning a wedding, one of the most important aspects is the music. As a planner, I can work on the pre-wedding preparations, the logistics, design aesthetic and timeline for the day. I work closely with all of the hired vendors to ensure a successful event, but once the reception begins, it is really the caterer and musicians who set the tone for the rest of the evening. 

One of these Chicago wedding professionals I want to introduce you to Brent Rolland from Fig Media. He has worked in the Wedding DJ industry for 13 years.

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Please enjoy the following interview I recently had with Brent. He is quite special and I just know you will love him as much as I do! 

Tell me how you got started in the DJ business:

It was a complete accident—but one of the best of my life: I have a background in multimedia and design, and I needed an internship to graduate from college. One of my instructors asked me to check out Fig as they were looking for design interns. I applied and got the internship for the summer (yay!). Part of the curriculum of the tenure is to assist on events; I chose to work on DJ gigs. My first experience was a wedding at the Adler Planetarium. I loved that guests were happy, dancing, and unified. I then started learning from my team and leading my own events. The rest, as they say, is history!

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How long have you been a DJ? How many years at Fig Media? -- 13 years, all of them at Fig! 

What do you love about the job?

I love the philanthropy of the business—bringing people together with music. I believe my calling in life is generating unity and joy in the world, and this is one of the ways that I am accomplishing it. I also love all the long-lasting friendships and relationships that I have made in this profession, and for the number of people I’ve been able to serve and bring joy to. I also am grateful for my team at Fig for their feedback, training and support over all these years.

What do you not love so much about the job?

Aside from the physical (lifting, setting up, etc.), being a DJ can be emotionally challenging: Sometimes, I’m seen only for my job title and not as a guest or an equal. The hospitality of folks at venues varies, as well as the attitudes of the people I meet and their requests or reactions to song choices. Despite this, I still enjoy and love this art form.

Brent has a contagious smile and gives the best hugs. From the moment he meets you, he treats you like an old friend. 

Brent has a contagious smile and gives the best hugs. From the moment he meets you, he treats you like an old friend. 

What is something you wish all couples looking at bands or DJs considered or asked?

One big question that I’d love to hear more of is, “Tell me more about yourself.” I love getting to know all the wonderful people I meet and learning their story, but I occasionally get to tell mine! Relationships are a priority of our process, and I love when I can make the people I meet feel comfortable and like friends. I also like couples considering their vision for their night and their guests critically—that is, who is coming, ages and demographic, and whom in the group likes to dance. Fun groups always lead to an awesome party, and it’s great data for us to have early on.

SONG SELECTIONS

If you had to pick a top processional song what would it be?

       “Perfect” (Ed Sheeran cover) by The Piano Guys  Click HERE to watch video
       "Perfect" (Wedding Version) Featuring Cannon in D --I also love THIS version

If you had to pick a top recessional song what would it be?

       “You Are The Best Thing” by Ray La Montagne  Click HERE to watch video

If you had to pick a top cake cutting song what would it be?

       “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole  Click HERE to watch video

If you had to pick a top first dance song what would it be?

       “At Last” by Etta James  Click HERE to watch video

Tell me one thing no one knows about you.

I have never traveled outside the United States—but want to do so!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Brent! Anyone in the Chicago area looking for a wedding or corporate event Deejay, consider booking Brent or one of his associates at Fig Media. They are professionals, they get to know their clients and they truly want to make your event as awesome as possible. Fig Media also offers photography and video production for corporate clients. You can find out more about Fig Media, by clicking the link below.

Thanks for following along my interview with Brent! I recently got a new headshot from Mary Rose Photography. Isn't it pretty!?! Hair and Makeup was by Blow Bar!

Thanks for following along my interview with Brent! I recently got a new headshot from Mary Rose Photography. Isn't it pretty!?! Hair and Makeup was by Blow Bar!

 

If you are a wedding professional or know of someone who I should feature next, please drop me a note! Email hello@ashleynicoleeventsinc.com 

 

 

Vendor Spotlight: Joy Bijedic from Being Joy Photography

Having worked in the wedding industry for over a decade, I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some amazing talent. As a planner, my job is to share my knowledge and by creating a Vendor Spotlight, I can share some of Chicago's best and brightest (and most coveted) wedding professionals with you! Without further ado, please meet Joy Bijedic from Being Joy Photography

Joy loves nature, water, daisies and butterflies. She even spills the beans about a secret tattoo! 

Joy loves nature, water, daisies and butterflies. She even spills the beans about a secret tattoo! 

Tell me how you got started in the Photography business. 

I have always loved photography.  Growing up my Mom was always taking photos of me and my brothers.  It never really dawned on me that I could make a career out of it until I started "modeling" for a friend who was newer to the photography business.  Then another friend asked me to pose as well. After that I was hooked.  In 2010, I purchased my first nice camera and began learning.

You will never guess that this wedding took place in a cemetery...the couple met at Mortuary Science school...how AWESOME is that!?!?!

You will never guess that this wedding took place in a cemetery...the couple met at Mortuary Science school...how AWESOME is that!?!?!

How long have you been running Being Joy Photography? 

Starting out I had three jobs. I waited tables, bartended and worked on building my company.  In 2014 when I relocated back to Chicago from Oklahoma I cut down on waitressing in order to really make a go of my company.  In May of 2015 I went full time.

What do you love about the job?

I think what I love most about my job is being able to give other people those moments frozen in time that they will be able to look back on years later.  When my father passed in April of 2014 it made all those photos I have of him even more special.  I think everyone deserves photos of their loved ones as well as each important moment in their lives.  No matter how busy we get.

What do you not love so much about the job?

Being a photographer owning a small business is a rollercoaster ride.  You never know if you are going to book the next year.  You never know if you will have the income to pay your bills.  You never know if your company will survive in an industry that is surging with talent.  It's hard.  Keeping the faith.  Believing that what I do matters and that I am impacting the lives of others.  Every time I meet a new couple it's like going on a blind date.  You chat on the phone or exchange an email, you seem to hit it off so you set up a "coffee date".  Afterwards you leave on a high, filled with excitement and anticipation of working with them. However, all you can do is wait.  Wait and hope that they felt the same way.  Wait for the phone to ring.  Wait for your email to pop up with a new message.  Wait and hope that they want to book you.  Just wait.  That is the hardest part of the job.

Every time I meet a new couple it’s like going on a blind date. 
— Joy
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What is something you wish all couples looking at professional photography considered or asked?

Don't just look at the price tag.  I understand how easily the price of a wedding can escalate, however, keep both eyes open.  Meet with your potential photographer and see if you both like one another.  That is step one.  Next, ask to see an entire wedding.  As artists we all try to display our best and favorite pieces, but that doesn't always tell the full story.  Ask to see a recent full wedding so you can see how your potential photographer handles different lighting situations.  Know what you want going in.  What is most important to you from your photographer.  Do you want two photographers?  Do you want a wedding album?  Do you want an engagement session?  Lastly, don't be scared to ask questions.  We know you probably haven't done this before.  There is no stupid question.

Where are some of your favorite engagement session locations?

If I had to pick just one in Chicago, it would probably be Montrose Harbor because it gives me the best of everything I love.  I love water!  Lakes, rivers, oceans.  I will always find a reason to take a photo there.  I also love nature with the greenery as well as the city skyline.  Montrose Harbor offers all of that.  In the burbs I think I would say Fabyan Park is my favorite (along with many other photographers).  It's close to downtown Geneva to get that urban vibe.  It's  on the Fox River (again water!).  It has gorgeous stone architecture and an iron gate that makes me drool.

What is your favorite wedding venue? Why?

There are so many gorgeous venues in the Chicago area, many of which I haven't even seen.  My favorites are always changing.  At this moment in time if I had to choose my favorites it would have to be Emerson Creek Pottery & Tearoom and the Monte Bello Estate.  Both of those venues take my breath away.  I never get tired of photographing there.

What do you wish people thought of for photography on the day of the wedding?

One of the biggest hiccups I run into on a couple's wedding day is timing. Early on, when setting the times for your ceremony and cocktail hour think about how much space you leave in between for your photographer.  The more time you give them, the more photos you get!  Plus, it gives us a little more flexibility to be a little more creative.  I have done portraits in only 15 minutes more times than I like to say and at the end of the day they are nice, but I am always disappointed I couldn't give them a little more.

A good photographer makes sure everyone in the bridal party looks their best...including the littlest members. 

A good photographer makes sure everyone in the bridal party looks their best...including the littlest members. 

Tell me one thing no one knows about you (but you are okay with the world knowing!)

One thing no one knows about me, butterflies and daisies are two of my favorite things.  My freshman year of high school I broke both bones in my right forearm during gymnastics practice.  I had to have surgery to have two plates and 12 screws placed so that my arm would heal.  They are still there to this day.  A year or so after the scar healed I noticed that if I flexed my arm the scar moved in one spot.  I use to draw butterflies on that spot and flex to make it look like it was flying.  Eventually I wanted a butterfly tattoo there.  However, as I got older I decided I wanted it in a more subtle place.  No bigger than a quarter.  It's something I drew that's for me. I love my little butterfly tattoo.

Thank you, Joy, for being the first Vendor Spotlight! I know that couples all over Chicago would love to meet you, see your beautiful work and have you capture the moments that matter most. One side note about Joy, is she is a fur momma to not one but three adorable fur babies and she has seen every Disney movie ever made! She takes an annual pilgrimage to Disney World and loves to run. Please check out her amazing work!  

Joy and I at a Wedding Convention this past October. 

Joy and I at a Wedding Convention this past October. 

Series Finale: Part 3 of Ask A Wedding Planner Anything!

During the past three weeks, we have walked this path together while I have been answering all of your burning questions about wedding planning. We are in the home stretch and I am so happy to have taken this journey with you. My goal is to set your mind at ease during this crazy busy time in your life. Let's get to it, shall we? 

Q. How do you handle difficult family members?

A. Unfortunately, we live in a world of divorce, remarriage and lifestyles that not everyone agrees with. I would hope that for one day, people could put their differences aside. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. If it is two parents who are divorced and do not get along, it could be as simple as placing them at separate tables. Each situation is different and I am happy to listen and work together to find a mutually agreeable conclusion for all parties involved. I have dealt with every situation imaginable and am happy to offer suggestions on a case by case basis.

Weddings bring family dynamics to a whole new level! Photo Credit: Wyn Wiley 

Weddings bring family dynamics to a whole new level! Photo Credit: Wyn Wiley 

Q. How do you deal with difficult vendors?

A. This generally does not happen if my client has selected someone off of my preferred vendor list. I reserve the right to remove any vendor off of my list at any time for actions that do not best represent me or my brand. If there is a specific situation, I work it out with that vendor individually. If and only if the client needs to become involved would that conversation happen. Most of the time, it was all based off of a simple misunderstanding and all can be resolved to provide you, the client, with the best service possible.

Q. What happens if the wedding gets cancelled or we have a change of heart?

A. It would break my heart to see you cancel your wedding for any number of reasons. I understand sometimes, things happen and you might no longer need my services. I do require a non-refundable deposit upon signing the contract, which guarantees you are my only client on the date of your wedding. This ensures that I begin working right away and do not book another client for the same day. Depending on the payment structure you have chosen and when the wedding has been cancelled, would determine if you owe any additional money beyond the deposit.

Look at that happy couple! I would have been so sad if they changed their minds! Credit: Wynn WIley

Look at that happy couple! I would have been so sad if they changed their minds! Credit: Wynn WIley

Q. What happens if my planner is unavailable?

A. This is a great question! You are hiring me to do a job for you and I will in good faith be there to accomplish the vision we have created together. If for some reason beyond my control, I am unable to attend to the duties set before me, three things would happen. First, I would reach out to you and let you know the situation. Second, just like the relationships I have created with vendors, I have the same relationships with other event planners. At any given time, I have 6 planners I can call who would step in for me during an emergency. Third, I would connect you to the planner and you would approve the change.

Q. What happens if something goes wrong on my wedding day?

A. If we have had clear and constant, open communication throughout the planning process, this generally does not happen. People are human and make mistakes, such is life. It is my job to divert any issues that might arise before you ever knew there was a situation to begin with. This is why you hired me to be your planner and not your Mom/sister/friend/aunt.  For example, if by mistake, your caterer ordered the wrong number of chairs and you were 10 chairs short you would never know I had to do an emergency chair order. I wouldn’t bother you with the little, but necessary details unless it was a dire emergency.  I offer a debriefing after each event with my client to go over all of the details of the wedding. This allows for open and honest communication between myself and my client. I am always looking for ways to improve and it is only through client feedback I am able to improve my service.

Whew, that was a lot of really great questions! I am so glad you stuck it through until the end. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to ask. I absolutely love making sure you are comfortable in this process. Weddings are tricky, but they don't have to be. 

Thanks for coming on this journey! Catch ya on the flip side. Photo Credit: K+B Photo 

Thanks for coming on this journey! Catch ya on the flip side. Photo Credit: K+B Photo 

Q&A Series Part 2: Ask A Wedding Planner Anything!

I couldn't keep you hanging for long! Here is round two of Ask A Wedding Planner Anything. Clients ask planners these questions over and over (and over) so I figured, I would answer my most FAQ here!

Q. What happens if it rains on my wedding day? I am having an outdoor event!

A. I LOVE rain. Should I say that again? I LOVE rain on a wedding day. In many traditions it is good luck. In my family alone, it has rained on three generations of wedding days. Mine included! However, I understand not everyone has the same affinity for rain on weddings as I do. There is not much we can do to control Mother Nature; as best we try. If you had an outdoor wedding, it would always be advisable to have had a backup location built into the day well in advance. If we don’t need the rain location, then fantastic. If we do, then rest easy that I have the entire process of rearranging everything and everyone to the new venue all figured out. It is never a good idea to not have a back up plan. Any professional planner would be ill advised to not have brought up a plan B. Not to mention, most Photographers, DJ's and bands are not willing to plan an outdoor event without a back up plan as they won't want to risk damage to their equipment which costs thousands of dollars. 

Did I mention I love rain on weddings? This was my wedding...just a little biased! Photo Credit: Jazi Photo

Did I mention I love rain on weddings? This was my wedding...just a little biased! Photo Credit: Jazi Photo

Q. Why do we need to use vendors off of your preferred vendor list?

A. I have spent the better part of a decade cultivating relationships with some of the best vendors in the industry. Each client has a different vision, budget and idea of the perfect wedding. There is a photographer, videographer, caterer and DJ to go along with every client. If you just typed “photographer” into Google, you would get a thousand different results. You would have no idea if they are in your budget or if they “get” you and what you are trying to accomplish. It is my job to make sure they fit you and your fiancées style. Also, a side note, I DO NOT take a commission from any vendor on my list. I reserve the right to remove a vendor at any time for anything that does not match my brand or my expectations of a professional in the wedding industry. I ask that each vendor who would give me a commission, defer that back to you as a discount.

This was an actual event I attended...needless to say, I would not work with this company... Photo Credit: me. 

This was an actual event I attended...needless to say, I would not work with this company... Photo Credit: me. 

Q. Will you consider using someone who is not on your preferred list?

A. This can be tricky. Refer to the photo above.  If you have hired a professional vendor (insert category) before you hired me, I would need to review their information before I attach my name to them. If you want to use your “friend” who has a nice camera and enjoys taking photos at family parties, then unfortunately, we might not be the best fit. As your planner, it is my job to make sure you get the best possible professional vendor for your budget. You only get one chance to make this right and I would hate for you to not be thrilled with each vendor you choose. I am happy to consider each situation on a case by case basis, but generally, my answer is no.

Q. How do you handle the gifts and cards we get at the reception.

A. I immediately go shoe shopping! ☺  (not, really! But if you want to surprise me, I'm an 8.5 and Christian Louboutin's are my jam) In our extensive pre planning, we set a point person who will be responsible for taking the gifts and cards home at the end of the night. We also find a safe location for them to be stored until the point person leaves. This location could be in the locked bridal suite or in a someone’s car, etc. I do not take any gifts or cards in my vehicle at any time for any purpose. 

Thanks for checking in for round 2 of ask Ashley anything! Stay tuned for round 3...