12 Wedding Dresses for $450 or less

Six years of photographing weddings has taught me a few things about wedding dresses:

1. You absolutely do NOT have to spend a fortune on a dress. Some of my favorite weddings were ones where the bride wore a dress from Anthro.

2. An expensive dress will not make you more photogenic. Happy, calm, in-the-moment brides ALWAYS look beautiful in their pictures. It doesn’t matter what they’re wearing. Happiness is always beautiful.

3. Accessories can transform even the simplest dress into something spectacularly bridal. I’ve seen brides take a completely plain $125 off-the-rack dress from Nordstrom, add a beaded shrug, beautiful veil, and lovely jewelry and POOF! They’re stunning.

I peeked around online and pulled up some current styles that are all $450 or less that I would LOVE to wear. Or photograph. Of course, they wouldn’t work for just any kind of wedding. But I’ve also come to love simple weddings. Backyard weddings. Destination weddings. Elopements. Ooh, or maybe a wedding on a cliff overlooking the ocean? Or in front of the eiffel tower? Oui : )


ONE Luulla’s Champagne Prom Dress Long // $148.00

TWO New Look’s Silver Premium Sequin Embellished Maxi Dress // $74.50

THREE Choie’s White High Waist Lace Maxi Shirt Dress // $47.99

FOUR Adrianna Papell’s Spaghetti-Strap Beaded Blouson Gown // $299.00

FIVE Mod Cloth’s Outshine the Sun Dress // $99.99

SIX Free People’s Amelie Dress // $450

SEVEN Tadashi Shoji’s Paillette Embroidered Lace Scalloped V-Neck // $428.00

EIGHT Rosewe’s Flare Sleeve High Waist Dress // $25.69

NINE ASOS’s Red Carpet Princess Cluster Maxi // $284.25

TEN Free People’s Mexican Wedding Dress // $198.00

ELEVEN Mod Cloth’s Ethereal Girl Dress //$134.99

TWELVE Tadashi Shoji’s Lace 3/4 Sleeve V-Neck Gown with Grosgrain Ribbon Belt // $388.00


p.s. Check out this inspiration board for a boho wedding in the woods.

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Trying to Beat the Winter Blues


I don’t know about you, but I’m going through major sun withdrawal these days! Last winter was bitterly cold and snowy … but the sun was out quite a bit. This  winter (well, so far at least), we haven’t had too much cold or snow, but lots and lots of gray. It’s a bit of a catch 22, of course, because I wouldn’t wish for that cold and snow to come back this year even if it did bring the sun!

I’m very fortunate in that I don’t tend to get depressed in the winter. Instead, I literally start to feel like I’m going through withdrawal. I can feel my body starting to crave the sun.

I snapped the image above last December when I was out in San Diego. I’m pretty sure that the bark beach is the happiest place in the world! Dogs jumping about and splashing in the water … and sun. Lots of sun. I just keep staring at the picture and wishing I could walk onto that beach right now!

But I can’t. Sooo, I went hunting around for some tips to try to help “brighten” up my life a little bit right now. There are countless articles out there with tips from different sources for coping with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Here are some of my favorite tips.


Five Tips to Help Combat the Winter Blues

1. Set health resolutions and work on them! SparkPeople had this to say on the subject: “A recent study from the CDC showed a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. Women who exhibited healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, etc.) had less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors were less than healthy. Although researchers studied women, the results are likely similar in men.”

When I first skimmed the article in SparkPeople, I thought that the author would tie setting resolutions with positive energy. It feels good when you set a course and start to follow it. It feels good when you hit targets. It feels … dare I say … warm and fuzzy … when you achieve your goals. So while I love the idea of working on healthy behaviors, I also love the idea of working on all kinds of personal and professional goals. It just makes you feel good!

2. Get outside  on sunny days. Here’s what an article on Gaiam’s web site has to say: “Don’t let colder weather chase you inside; it’s what parkas and mittens were made for. Take a walk around the block, eat lunch at the park or simply sit on a bench and relax, advises Mayo Clinic.”

This piece of advice is one I always mean to take. Every year. And then I don’t. And really, it’s failure to plan that trips me up. If I planned to exercise outside with the appropriate clothing, then 10 degree weather wouldn’t be so difficult! It’s a definite goal this year to get outside and exercise in the sun … even when it’s reeeeeeeally cold out!

3. Shut off electronics long before going to bed. An article on Tree Hugger says this: “Ban screen time before bed, since a light-emitting device is a message to your brain to stay alert. People who use electronic devices before bed report not feeling rested in the morning. Read a paper book instead.”

Oooh. This is a tough one since most of the research I’ve done points to TWO HOURS of no screen time before bed. I think this is a tough one for most of us, but I can really see how important it is since deep sleep is such an important part of mental wellness.

4. Get your Vitamin D. There’s conflicting information out there on how much Vitamin D people should take … what’s the best form of Vitamin D … is sun exposure the best way to get it? I personally appreciate Dr. Mercola’s information about Vitamin D and have been following his recommended doses. And I definitely feel better because of it!

5. Try a sunlamp. Here’s what an article on Livestrong has to say about sunlamps: “Light therapy, also called phototherapy, is a treatment that uses an artificial sunlight lamp to simulate the natural light that may be lacking at certain times of the year, like the dead of winter. Sunlight lamps provide a more concentrated dose of UV rays and can provide benefits to your mental and physical health.”

I’ve heard people say that a sunlamp on their desk helps improve their mood throughout the work day. I started researching them last year (there are a lot of choices out there!) but just never pulled the trigger. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear about them!


Hopefully these tips will help calm the sun withdrawal symptoms I’m experiencing right now. Oooor, I just may find myself on a plane out to San Diego! Or Mexico. Or Florida. Or anywhere I can find some sun!!!!

Happy weekend!

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Links I love


1. I enjoy cooking for people. But I always get scared. Panicky. I’m always nervous they won’t like all my allergen-free recipes. Or that the meat will be ready but not the sides. Or … or … or … or. If you panic about your sides, too … here’s Martha to the rescue with tips on how to create simple side dishes that you can’t mess up. (Obviously Martha doesn’t know me!)

2. Have you visited the Refashionista’s site yet?! She’s so fun. And I’m so envious of her sewing skills. I buy stuff all the time at thrift stores that don’t really fit me. But all I can do is belt things that are too large, and stretch things that are too small. I’m a huge fan of vintage housecoats. I belt them. Their fun colors and patterns make me happy! Check out what she was able to do to this fun green poppy print housecoat.

3. Confidence. Oy. I’m one of the least confident people you’ll ever meet. I’m trying. Really trying. So the other day when I googled “how to be confident” just on a whim, I clicked on the very first thing that appeared … a WikiHow article. I smirked thinking it would be ridiculous. But you know what? It’s a really fabulous little how-to article. I’ve nailed the first part of it … fake it. Now I’m working on the rest of the tips. Maybe it will help you, too.

4. Ok, these are so cute. Photo soap bars over at A Beautiful Mess.

5. It’s rare that I have studio envy. When I see artists’ studios, I usually think … “ooh, pretty.” But then I instantly think about the overhead and I’m like, “nah … not for me.” Some studios, though, make me think, “overhead smhoverhead.” Like this beautiful studio.

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tea, sweats, and blocks

How do you know you’re turning into a Grandma? It’s simple, really. It’s when you come home on a Friday, look at your mailbox, and instantly know you’re going to have the best Friday night ever …


Yes. Me, my peppermint tea, and gray sweats were living it up.

My favorite article had to be the one about a company that makes toys for little girls. I’d never heard of GoldieBlox before … but I’m just in love with the story behind the company. In a nutshell, the founder, a young woman, realized that the field of engineering was absolutely male dominated. She had been encouraged to study engineering when she was younger, but when she looked around her classes at Stanford, she noticed that few women were among the engineering students. She thought back to all the pink barbies sold for girls and colorful building blocks sold for boys. And she decided that it was high time little girls got their own building blocks, too!

Interestingly enough, through research, she found that little girls LOVE playing with building blocks. But unlike little boys, the girls like having a story to go along with their building project. And so GoldieBlox was born. A building kit with a story. I’m just in love with the idea and was so incredibly inspired by the article.

I can’t find the Real Simple article online, but you can read a bit more about Goldiblocks here.

And of course, you can visit the GoldieBlox site here.


p.s. 5 fun projects just perfect for Grandmas on a Friday night … in their sweats.

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Hope. Love. Laughter.


That picture above? I hope my friends don’t kill me for posting it. It’s far from the most flattering shot of any of us. And yet, I have a framed copy in my kitchen and I smile every time I look at it. Yes, I have eight chins and the camera is at an unflattering angle, but we were laughing. Really, truly laughing. It’s what we do best … so that’s why I like the picture so much. (Eh hmm. And I just might have been a little extra excited that night because we were at a Jason Mraz concert … and of course, I’m going to marry that man one day.)

I pulled this picture out because … eight chins and all … it represents what I appreciate most about my friends. I’ve been more blessed than I can say with so many amazing friends. Just a few weeks ago I drove home from a weekend with my best friend and my abs hurt. They actually hurt. That doesn’t say much for my weak abs. But it does say a lot for my friend. We have fun together.

Laughter and Health

These days my health is really well, but that wasn’t always the case. My friends, however, were always there to make me laugh. My best friend pushed me around in a wheel chair at The Louvre, the mall, and even all over the neighborhood  – and while you would think that would be a dark memory for me … what I remember most was how we laughed. And laughed.

These days, no more wheel chairs : ) But I’m always looking for ways to support my health and be good to my body. It’s the gift that accompanied the loss of my health: I learned deep appreciation and have a drive to care for and nurture my body.

I’ve had the book “Anatomy of an Illness” by Norman Cousins on my must-read list for a while now. I stumbled on this quick 10-minute clip from Mr. Cousins and his words resonate so deeply with me:

“Ten minutes of good belly laughter would give me two hours of pain free sleep.” – Norman Cousins

Here’s the full clip:

In the clip he mentions hope, love, and laughter … and how they have the power to change one’s anatomy. And that makes perfect sense to me. Flooding the body with happiness and hope can only do us good. And as for laughter, the list of benefits are impressive! The Mayo Clinic lists a whole host of benefits; here are my three favorites:

  • “Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.”

We need to laugh

If you’re like me and live in a gray, cold area of the country right now, then you could probably use some belly laughs. After all, if it can improve your immune system, then it might help fight away all those cold and flu germs! So add a light-hearted romantic comedy to your must-watch list. Jump around and be silly (I want to go to Bounce!).

Watch this silly little clip.

Or this one.

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” ~Milton Berle


p.s. Three books that changed my health.

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