Ontario, CANADA :: Tama Lynn & Amanda :: Spark Of My Heart // Real LGBTQ Engagement

:: Spark Of My Heart::

Photographed & Submitted by :: {MRSter Approved} Oren & Jones Photography

Local to Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada, these two lovely ladies met online and fell in love in 2007. There was an instant spark, and they’ve have been absolutely inseparable ever since.

With a love for family, friends, and baseball, there’s never a dull moment.

In May of 2015, Tama Lynn, in front of family and friends, played a short video she had put together about their relationship. Chronicling their first date, family vacations, their dog Lacey and cat Sebastian. She then got down on one knee and presented Amanda with a ring. A ring she had specially made out of Ammonite; a rare Canadian gem which radiates a brilliant rainbow.

She was thrilled when she heard Amanda say ‘yes!’

DISTINCTIONS

Same Sex Engagement. Fireworks. Niagara Falls.

THE PROFESSIONALS

Photography :: {MRSter ApprovedOren & Jones Photography

LOCATION

Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Wedding Wisdom Wednesday :: Ways to Announce your Engagement

:: Ways to Announce your Engagement ::

So you two have decided to make it official, and one of you popped the question! Congratulations, that’s great news!

Of course, you probably want to shout it from the rooftops and share your exciting news with friends and family. Here are some of our favorite ideas as to how you can make your big announcement:

1 :: Go Hi-Tech :: Create a Wedding Website. You can start with announcing your engagement with photos and text, and then use the website to keep friends and family updated as you go through the planning process. You can include stories about how you met, a pictorial of your life together so far; details about your wedding registry; who will be in your wedding party, and so on.

2 :: Send a photo postcard :: I know putting something in the mail may seem outdated to some people, but if you have a really cute photo of the two of you, I’d bet that the receivers will be delighted to get it. Besides, it makes a great keepsake for your family and friends. You can get creative with the photo in lots of fun ways. Alternatively, you can simply send a Save the Date postcard with your wedding date and venue on it.

3 :: Throw a big party :: Don’t let anyone know why, and at the end of the evening make your big announcement. You don’t need to spend tons of money; have a backyard BBQ, a lakeside picnic where you assign different people to bring different items, or make it super simple by hosting a potluck.

4 :: Hire a flash mob :: For a truly memorable announcement, and if you’re in a big city where flash mobs are available for hire, this is a truly exciting way to get the word out. You just need to get your friends and family in one place under a pretext like a fake birthday party and go for it! See the video below for an amazing example… It’s still one of our favorites!

4 :: Make a video :: Just a short one – you could make it funny, or sentimental. Then simply send it via text, email, or post it on your social media platforms.

How are you planning to announce your engagement?! Let us know!

Chicago, ILLINOIS :: Cherian & Asha :: Worth The Wait // Real Engagement

:: Worth The Wait ::

Photographed & Submitted by :: Bokéh Studios

Cherian had planned an epic proposal for his girlfriend, Asha, however, she wasn’t going to get just one… She got an elaborate day full of engagement hoaxes that included a dance team, card tricks, Build-A-Bear, an acapella team, drumline and more!

Asha was very patient throughout each (fake) event, but Cherian officially proposed to his girlfriend of four years near the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, where she was finally able to scream, “YES!”

DISTINCTIONS

Engagement Hoaxes. Fun-filled. Worth The Wait.

THE PROFESSIONALS

Photography :: Bokéh Studios

LOCATION

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Querétaro, México :: When Love Is Pure, Magic Happens // Real LGBTQ Engagement

:: When Love Is Pure, Magic Happens ::

Photographed by :: Marcos Valdés Fotógrafo

These two ladies had an engagement session that was nothing short of magical! The shoot took place in Querétaro, México, in a perfect spot that allowed the photographer to capture some beautiful images of these two beautiful ladies.

The session began in the woods, where they were completely surrounded by tall trees; the perfect landscape for some natural and intimate photographs. It was then time to incorporate another element of nature to the session; water.

They finished up their engagement session by a small lake just outside of the woods. You can feel the love that these two have for each other, it is captured in each and every image. As Marcos says himself:

“When love is pure, magic happens.”

He certainly captured one magical engagement session.

DISTINCTIONS

Nature. Love Is Love. Same-Sex Engagement Session.

THE PROFESSIONALS

Photography :: Marcos Valdés Fotógrafo

LOCATION

Querétaro, México

Top Five Friday :: Top 5 Questions to Ask a Wedding Planner Before You Hire Them

:: Top 5 Questions to Ask a Wedding Planner Before You Hire Them ::

Hiring a wedding planner is a big deal. Some are great, some are not so great. Some are all about equality, some are, simply put, not! A place to start is right here on MRSter, which lists vendors that embrace high standards and treat all people with respect. Check out our awesome FABuLISTers here!

Before interviewing candidates, be sure of a few basics, for example: your budget, the date of your wedding, and how many guests you are expecting. In the meantime, here are the top five questions you need to ask a wedding planner before you hire them…

1 :: What is included in your services? Wedding planners have a multitude of services they can offer, so you need to be sure they can fulfill your needs. Can they fulfill your vision? Can the planner offer you a timeline of tasks? Will the planner provide a breakdown of dollars spent for each budget item? Ask to look at a typical contract. Be sure you get a breakdown of every service you require. There are planning checklists online that will help you determine what you need your planner to do and what you can do yourself. Take notes.

2 :: What is your level of experience? (and associated questions)? How long has the planner been in business. Does he or she have credentials or awards? Does he or she have a business license? How many weddings does the planner typically do in a year? Does he or she have the proper number of staff to run your event?

3 :: Which vendors do you work with? Are we only able to work with your vendors or can we choose our own? Note that wedding planners usually develop relationships with tried and true vendors who they know are reliable and will charge fair rates. But, if you have a friend who is an awesome photographer for instance, you might want to have the liberty of hiring that person.

4 :: Tell us about a really big complication you ran into in planning a wedding and how you solved it. This will give you some insight into the planner’s ability to problem solve.

5 :: Can you provide us with references? Experienced planners should easily be able to provide references. They should also have a portfolio of photos or videos of weddings they have done.  

After the interview, you need to ask yourself how you felt about the potential planner. Were they open and receptive to your ideas, or were the determined to sway you in their direction? Were they friendly or did you detect a distancing? Did you get the impression that the planner was hearing you? You will be working with this person very closely so you need to feel comfortable with the relationship and confident in the planner’s ability to create a beautiful event based on what you want to do. Be sure to interview several planners. Take a few days to decide. You’ll be glad you did.

What questions did you, or will you, be asking your wedding planner?

Top Five Friday :: Why You Should Consider an Underwater Engagement Session

:: Why You Should Consider an Underwater Engagement Session ::

Guess what? We have a MRSter approved photographer who does underwater photography, even engagement sessions! We thought this would make a fascinating ‘Top Five’ feature. So as a result, we are presenting the “Top Five Reasons Why You Should Consider an Underwater Engagement Session,” featuring photographer extraordinaire Alyssa, of {MRSter Approved} Alyssa Campbell Photography.

1 :: Anyone can have an underwater engagement session. You don’t have to have special skills to be photographed underwater except being able to swim, being able to open your eyes underwater, and being able to hold your breath for brief, intermittent periods of time. Alyssa says, The most important thing in my experience, is that people feel relatively comfortable underwater. If having your head underwater makes you feel panicked, then an underwater session isn’t for you. I’ve found most people who are interested in underwater sessions naturally are “water people”. You definitely do not have to be a professional swimmer/freediver, etc however! I can’t hold my breath that long, so we are generally only under the water for maybe 30 seconds at a time.”

2 :: An underwater engagement session is a truly unique and awesome experience and underscores the specialness of your love for one another. Per Alyssa, “Water has this interesting, almost magical quality of making things look so beautiful and graceful. People often tell me that they are amazed at how graceful and beautiful they look when they see the finished photos. This is due in part to good photography and coaching, but mostly, that’s just the effect that water has! My style is also based heavily on natural emotions and interactions between couples. I have a psychology degree, so I draw on that in observing couple’s natural interactions and personalities, and bring that into the shoot in order to make the shoot reflective of each couple’s unique personalities and relationships.

3 :: Your photographer is highly experienced and will let you know what to do every step of the way. Alyssa states, “ I’ve been doing underwater portraits for at least 5 years, and professionally for about 3 years. I have been a photographer for over 6 years and a scuba diver for half my life. I draw on all of those skills for my sessions.”

4 :: As far as where to shoot, Alyssa tells me: “I currently have a “home pool” in Mesa, AZ where I do most of my sessions, however I am happy to come to clients’ homes if their pools are suited for a session, or travel – especially to places such as Hawaii! 😉 Water clarity is the most important factor for the shoot success. If someone wants portraits somewhere that the water clarity might not be as ideal, there are lots of other options to still get some underwater portraits. For example, let’s say that a particular beach in California is especially meaningful to a couple and they want some beach portraits, then some underwater portraits. Oftentimes on beaches, sand gets stirred up by the waves, making the water clarity pretty bad until you swim out pretty far, at which point that makes most people a bit nervous and uncomfortable because of the water depth. Not to mention it’s a lot more physically taxing. So, in that case, I would do regular portraits on the beach, then move into the water and have the couple be half submerged. It still gives the look and feel of underwater in a location that is meaningful to them and mitigates the issues of water clarity. You could also do this same idea for example at a river, as long as it was shallow and posed no safety concerns. Safety is where working with a professional UNDERWATER photographer – not someone who wants to try it for the first time – is essential. Any time that I am in a place where my clients can’t touch, I have an assistant for safety.”

5 :: Underwater engagement sessions give you an empowering sense of freedom and an ability to express yourself like no other venue. Alyssa agrees. “It’s such a unique way to express your personality and get something different from ANYTHING else out there. That’s the number one reason people come to me – they want their engagement photos to look different. Underwater photography is a very small niche with only a few photographers doing it currently. The possibilities are endless. You can have a simple session with just you and your partner, or you can bring a theme which opens up a lot of potential fun ideas to explore. You can also do a half underwater, half more traditional land shoot as well.”

Well, I have to say that this blogger is impressed. Kinda wish I had known about this a long time ago! Thanks Alyssa, for opening up a new world of photographic possibilities for our readers. How would you feel about an underwater photo shoot?

Wedding Wisdom Wednesday :: Why the Wedding Industry & Engaged Couples Need MRSter

:: Why the Wedding Industry & Engaged Couples Need MRSter ::

We hate to brag (not really), but MRSter serves a valuable purpose to both the wedding industry and ALL engaged couples. We believe that all engaged couples should be treated equally. We recently interviewed MRSter co-founder Cicely Rocha Miller and MRSter Approved Photographer, Justin McCallum of Justin McCallum Photography on the subject of why the wedding industry and engaged couples need MRSter. We thought it was a good idea to present these questions from our point of view and that of a candid vendor, and hope you agree.

MRSter :: What is it that makes MRSter unique?

Cicely :: We vet all of the wedding vendors that want to list with us through an application process; researching them and confirm their marketing materials are inclusive. We also aren’t just about gay weddings, we are about ALL weddings, as we welcome and celebrate straight couples as well.

Justin :: I was thankful to come across MRSter not only as a wedding vendor myself, but as a member of the LGBTQ community. With rhetoric dividing the conversation surrounding same-sex weddings between exclusion or normalization, it is inspiring to see an online resource that presents couples as they are, without judgement or emphasis on the ‘wedding-industrial-complex.’ MRSter is a space for couples to seek out inspirational and aspirational wedding planning resources with real examples and vendors who are actually reflective of them.

MRSter :: What is the most common error(s) vendors make specific to LGBT engaged couples?

Cicely :: Constantly referring in print, social media and on their websites, to their clients as “Brides”.

Justin :: Having mistakenly landed on the receiving end of many a wedding vendor e-blast, nothing makes me hit “SPAM” faster than immediately calling a wedding planner the “bride” and mentioning a “hubby-to-be” later on. To make such assumptions in today’s day and age is so short-sighted, that it immediately makes me call into question whether they can understand the nuances unique to any relationship, let alone a LGBTQ partnership. In a similar vein, however, couples shouldn’t look exclusively for LGBTQ vendors. Just being queer doesn’t guarantee they’ll vibe with you or your boo, so make sure you meet with vendors before you hire them, since they have to be a good fit for every nook and cranny of you.

MRSter :: How can we best assist vendors?

Cicely :: We offer education, tips and ideas on how to attract the new demographic through an email marketing series that will help them BUILD MORE WEDDING BUSINESS. Click here to sign up!

Justin :: Although I think MRSter has a burgeoning social media presence, I have never seen any marketing or other efforts to grow the network. I think it may be a great website for couples to Pin photos or look at the occasional wedding, but it is lacking a bit of the authority necessary to make couples outright book vendors based on being featured or seeing a profile. That could also be improved with sharper web design.

Cicely :: (in response to Justin). We are aware, and that is something we greatly desire to change. We are working with designers currently to try and work out an easier way for our MRSter Approved vendors to be booked. Thank you for your insight, Justin! We are always open and grateful to hear feedback as to how we can make this resource as user-friendly as possible!

MRSter :: How can we best assist engaged couples?

Cicely :: We offer an amazing list of vendor partners through the FABuLIST. These MRSter Approved vendors are those that celebrate your engagement and love; not merely tolerate it. We offer stories of other wedding days and tips on planning as well.

MRSter :: What still needs to be done to engage greater acceptance of LGBT couples?

Cicely :: Practicing what you are preaching. It’s not about adding a rainbow to your website and assuming that will take care of being inclusive in your business. It’s about you, as a professional wedding vendor, being among the first to practice and implement the tips and suggestions we offer to attract more wedding business.

Justin: MRSter is on the right to track to hasten acceptance of LGBTQ couples by presenting their unique love stories and avoiding stereotypes. Similarly, presenting same-sex couples alongside straight counterparts without division legitimates their love as ordinary, and removes the stigma of being “other.” Continued, honest representation of LGBTQ couples is the clearest path to greater acceptance.

MRSter offers heartfelt thanks to Justin McCallum for his forthright and honest responses. If any of our readers have something to add, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Wedding Wisdom Wednesday :: How To Minimize Last-Minute Emergencies On Your Wedding Day

:: How To Minimize Last-Minute Emergencies On Your Wedding Day ::

Yippee! Hooray! Your big day is almost here! It’s perfectly natural to have a case of the jitters. You’ve been planning (with or without help) to have a perfect day, but you know that things can go awry. To reduce worry, there are ways to minimize last-minute emergencies. Here are MRSter’s suggestions to help you address problems that may come up.

:: Prepare an emergency kit :: This kit should contain such items as needle and thread, tape, safety pins, breath mints, brush, comb, hairpins, hairspray, nausea tablets, bottle of water, aspirin or other pain reliever,  spot remover, chapstick, twine, matches or lighter, hosiery, earring backs, tissues, wet wipes, scissors, makeup, small lint brush, tampons, band aids, nail polish, and glue. You may think of some other items, specific to your situation. These items should minimize difficulties for you and your wedding party, and is actually a good kit to carry with you anytime you travel. Place all items in a plastic container or tote bag and you are good to go.

Wedding Day Emergency Kit

Wedding Day Emergency Kit‘ by Emily is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

:: Bring an extension cord and a variety of batteries :: It would be a shame if no one can hear your music because your PA system was too far away from the outlet or your officiant had to practically scream because the mic went dead.

:: Flash drive and computer :: Bring a flash drive with all your important documents such as your vows, schedules, vendor phone numbers, song lists, and speeches. In this way, if anyone forgets their hard copies, presto! You have them at the ready. A computer can also substitute in a pinch for a failed music system if you can rig up speakers.

:: Prepare for rain :: If you’re having an outdoor wedding, make arrangements with a tent vendor ahead of time to deliver to your location in the event of rain.

:: Double-check with all your vendors :: This should be done a few days before your big day. Make sure they are on top of their tasks. If you have hired a reputable wedding planning firm, all of the above falls to them to accomplish and will relieve your stress level immensely! We happen to know a bunch of professional experts in the field. Check our FABuLIST for MRSter approved vendors who are LGBT and straight friendly.

Did you have any emergencies on your big day?!

Wedding Wisdom Wednesday :: Addressing Invitations 101 // How to Address Invitations

:: Addressing Invitations 101 // How to Address Wedding Invitations ::

The great song writer/poet Bob Dylan sang in 1964, “The times, they are a changin”. These words are truer than ever today. When it comes to invitations to formal events, there are an array of partnerships that need to be addressed.

MRSter offers the following guidelines on addressing invitations:

:: Married couple with the same last name :: 

                        Mr. and Mrs. John Sanders.

                                          Or

                        Mr. John and Ms. Mary Sanders.

Note :: that the term “Mrs” is used to refer to a person’s wife, so technically using “Mrs. Mary Sanders” is actually incorrect, as it literally means the “wife of Mary” when you really mean “the wife of John”.

:: Married couple with different last names ::

                    Mr. Frank Jersey

                    and Ms. Laura Jackson

:: Married couple – both males using different surnames :: Simply list them in alphabetical order:

                     Mr. Richard Campbell

                     and Mr. Frank Sanger

:: Married couple – both males using the same surname ::

                    Mr. David Henderson

                    and Mr.James Henderson

:: Married couple – both females using different surnames ::

                   Ms. Diedra Jones

                   and Ms. Francine Tuckman

:: Married couple – both females using the same surname ::

                  Ms. Betty Frankfurt

                  and Ms. Alesha Frankfurt

:: People who are living together but unmarried ::

   Just use their actual names and title:                             

                   Ms. Samantha Gilbert                

                  and Mr. George Gomez

                                 Or

                   Mr.Seymour Smith

                   and Mr. Henry Bookman

:: Addressing a single individual :: Write their title and first and last name:

                   Mr. Ray Passmore

:: Addressing a family :: Just use : ‘The’ followed by their last name:

                  The Bridgefields

          If the family has two last names, use them both with a hyphen:

                  The Bridgefield-Jacksons  

:: Addressing a single, divorced or widowed person with an invited child ::

                   Mr. Steven Bloomfield

                   And Master Kent Bloomfield

                                        Or

                   Ms. Barbara Delfino

                   And Miss Isabel Delfino

Note :: If you are having an adult only event; etiquette dictates you should not say “adults only” on your invitation. Instead tactfully state on the RSVP, “We have reserved 2 seats (or a seat) in your honor”. Or print the name(s) of the invited guests with a “will” or “will not” check mark by the name. Hopefully this will be enough for guests to recognize that children are not invited.

:: Addressing people with professional titles :: As a rule, the person with the title is usually the first to be addressed.

                     Dr. and Mrs Jose Sanchez

                                        or

                     Dr. Jules Kingman

                     and Ms. Mary West

                                       or

                     Professor Susan Kingston

                     and Ms. Kingston

                                     Or

                     Councilwoman Frances O’Malley

                     And Mr. O’Mally

                                     Or

                     Captain James Goldstein

                     And Mr. William Zeplin

An exception to this rule is when you are closer to the non-titled person, but are inviting the titled person as a courtesy. In that situation, it is okay to list the person your are closer to first. The same is true for the “alphabetical order” rule.

That about covers most situations. If you have a different situation, send us a note in the comments below, and we’ll help you figure it out!!