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vendor meet-up::monica z photography


Saturday evening I had the opportunity to sit down with Monica and Chris Zibutis of Monica Z Photography. They’re a talented husband and wife photography team based out of Michigan City, Indiana. They travel far and wide for weddings, but happened to be in St. Joseph shooting an engagement session. We met up afterwards and had a chance to chat about weddings, the importance of quality photography for your wedding (I can’t stress this enough!) and I got a chance to browse through several of their albums which were absolutely gorgeous!


I think you have to admit, St. Joseph is a gorgeous place even in the dead of winter! And I couldn’t help but post a few of the pics (top) that show how amazing the beach looks in the winter—if you’ve only seen it in the summer you’re missing out on a completely different landscape! The Monica Z website is full of eye candy, so if you’re looking for a photographer (or just want to see some amazing pictures) check it out!

*all photos copyright Monica Z Photography. Visit their blog to see full size images!

vendor meet-up::gregg rizzo photography

(All photos by Gregg Rizzo, click to enlarge)

I love meeting with new vendors and getting to know all of the local people who work in the wedding industry. I feel like no matter how many lunch meetngs I have I can never meeting everyone!

Yesterday I got the chance to sit down with Gregg Rizzo of Creative Design Studios, a lifestyle and wedding photographer located here in St. Joseph. Gregg also does a lot of photography work for Shore and Shore Bride magazine, as well as Blue Star Highway, and can be found at a lot of local events!

Check out Greggs website for more info!

Q+A: tara berghuis of la stellina studio

How did you get started in graphic design+invitation design?
I went to Calvin College for Graphic Design, and have been working ever since as a Graphic Designer for a local newspaper company and more recently, designing wedding invitations. About five years ago I started designing invitations for some family members and then myself, then I gradually had more and more brides ask if I would be willing to design their invitations. And so it started…

Explain your design process+how you work with brides:
After a bride contacts me (either by phone or email), I set up a time to meet and go over ideas, colors, wording, pricing, etc. A $50 deposit is required (cash or check is acceptable). Then after all the details have been determined, I order sample paper & ribbon and put a sample invitation (or program) together and send it in the mail to the bride. The bride then contacts me with any changes and I can either email another sample, or to reassure the bride, I would mail another sample. Then I start printing once I get a final “OK”. The remaining balance is due when the invitations/programs are picked up. For out-of-area brides I can ship the invitations/programs and shipping costs would just be added to the final bill.

What do you like best about designing wedding invitations?
I love to see all the different ideas that brides have for their weddings. And I LOVE that I can help brides with a unique invitation that fits their personality or theme.

Do you have a favorite style or current trend?
I have recently fallen in love with anything and everything “vintage”. I love vintage dresses, decor, and of course, vintage-looking invitations. It’s fun, and I love the challenge of making things appear like they came from so long ago.

What is your favorite way to spend the day when you’re not designing?
I enjoy hanging out with my husband and my son, and I know this sounds crazy, but I love to clean the house!

Thanks to Tara of La Stellina Studio for a wonderful meeting, and for sharing a little about herself and her beautiful work with our readers!

la stellina studio: custom invitation design

(La Stellina Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan)

This weekend I got a chance to meet with Tara Berghuis of La Stellina studio. Tara is creating custom invitations for one of my 2009 couples, and so far the results have been amazing. I had already seen the mockups of my bride’s inviations, but this weekend I also got the chance to check out all of her samples, and I looked through 30+ invitations that were all gorgeous. Truthfully, I had to put the invitations down, or we never would have gotten through our meeting!

La Stellina is located in the Grand Rapids area, but Tara is also available to service out of town or out of state brides, and I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed by her pricing!

You can email Tara at for help with creating your unique wedding stationary.

Stay tuned for a Q+A to get to know Tara from La Stellina studio!

southwest michigan wedding photographer:: monika photo

(click to enlarge)

This lovely 08.08.08 wedding took place on the beaches of Beverly Shores near Michigan City. I love the natural beauty of the location, and how it’s captured in such naturally beautiful photos! Beach weddings are some of my favorites, and they always have such a wonderfully relaxed mood about them! So check out these lovely photos, and for lots more head over to Monika’s website and blog. She shoots lots of beautiful outdoor weddings, so you’ll find a wealth of beautiful locations to browse through!

Southwest Michigan Wedding Photographer::MONIKA PHOTO

There are so many great vendors out there, and it would take me a lifetime to meet them all if I waited until the first time I got to work with them! When I started to reach out to local vendors in the area to get to know those I hadn’t worked with, Monika was one of the first to respond and was willing to meet me for lunch and “talk weddings.” So here is a little Q+A so you, too, can get to know Monika Caban of St. Josephs’ MONIKA PHOTO!

How did you get into Photography?
I was born into a photographer’s family, and the gift of art was always part of my life. I was sketching from a young age and began learning photography when I was old enough to understand the camera. My family traveled extensively in Europe and documenting our trips was always a joy for me. From the beautiful scenery of the Mediterranean, to the grand architecture of Italy, there was so much to admire and to capture. I was deeply influenced by all of the beauty I saw when I was young and there was nothing I wanted more than to be a photographer.

What inspires your photography?
As a photographer, there is a constant need to learn from the old masters, as well as the great photographers of today. One of the joys for me is to attend seminars and conventions to see the new advances in technology, to meet new photographers, learn from them and to be inspired. Photography today is changing very fast, and it’s very exciting and demanding at the same time. It is a challenge that keeps my mind sharp.

How would you describe your style?
As far as style, I do not describe my work in words. Photographs should speak for themselves. If my work touches somebody on a deeper level, then you can say they like my style. I can tell you how I approach the wedding—I like to approach it as an unobtrusive observer, and the only time I direct the shoot is during the portraits.

What is your favorite moment during a wedding? Do you have a favorite image to capture?
The time between the ceremony and the reception, when a young couple is alone for the first time as husband and wife is my favorite time of the wedding. It is a very emotional moment and very private. These are the memorable moments when love and passion is expressed. From these images I create an art piece that looks amazing as a large canvas print. What is better than having your own wedding image as a piece of art on your wall, to always remind you of the love you share?

I do my best work when people are comfortable with me, trust me and are free to express their emotions. I do not want the wedding to be about pictures—I want pictures to document the event. I want the family to celebrate this big day and have the best party of their lives. I want to see laughter, hugs, kisses and tears—and when they see my pictures, I want them to cry again.

Thanks Monika! For more pictures of this lovely wedding and more, check out the MONIKA PHOTO website blog! Come back later today for Monika’s featured wedding on the beaches of Beverly Shores in Michigan City!

southwest michigan wedding photographer::ben pancoast photography

Ben has been shooting weddings all over the country this summer, so I asked him to share some of his personal favorites from different weddings this season! Take a look at this beautiful eye candy, and check out his website and blog for more!

(click to enlarge)

I am in love with the rich colors of fall, so I think my favorite is the bride on the right with the golden leaves! I love fall colors, and I can’t wait until it’s here! I love when brides and grooms take a “photo walk” to find amazing locations for their post-ceremony photos like parks, beaches, or even off-beat places like cool alleys or industiral locations. Do you have any special locations lined up for your wedding photos?

southwest michigan wedding photographer::ben pancoast photography

(photo via

Ben shot one of my weddings in April and we had a wonderful time! Not only were the pictures great, but the couple absolutely loved working with him! Here is a little info on this Southwest Michigan native…

How would you describe your style?
Style is a tricky thing—lots of photographers love to say they are one thing or another, but I find it’s important to be versatile and willing to work with each bride to capture what is important to her. As far as a visual style goes, I gravitate towards clean, modern portraiture and candid documentary style moments. Currently, I’m enjoying playing with color in my images.

How did you get into photography?
I’ve always enjoyed photography as a hobby, but never really considered it a career option until I got a job working with a photographer shooting homes for magazines. Eventually I began working as a freelance photojournalist for newspapers, and went on to Columbia College in Chicago where I got my bachelor’s degree in photography with an emphasis in Photojournalism. After graduating, I found my skill set was a natural fit for wedding photography and have been enjoying shooting them ever since!

What is your favorite moment during a wedding? Do you have a favorite image to capture?
I love to shoot fun bridal portraits, but my favorite part of the day would have to be the preparations before the ceremony! The anticipation, nerves, the details—it’s just so much fun to be a part of the excitement as the day builds up to that life-changing moment when the bride and groom finally exchange vows!

What inspires your photography?
When I’m shooting a wedding I think the locations are really what inspire me. I love the challenge of coming up with surprising images in unexpected places. It’s easy to shoot something beautiful on a beach or in a vineyard, but what about the basement of the church where a bride is preparing? What about the alley behind the church, an underpass down the road, or the parking lot at the reception venue? I love finding a locations’ artistic potential and then pushing it to the limit!

What are you doing when you’re not snapping wedding pics?
When I’m not shooting pictures I’m working on my computer with the pictures I’ve already taken! One thing many people don’t realize is how much time photographers spend working on images after they have been taken. Even when an image is shot correctly it must be sorted, converted, backed up, prepped for printing, then you design the album. A typical wedding may only take 1 day to shoot, but that same wedding will require many, many days of work on the back end!

Thanks Ben! For more pictures of his weddings, information on booking and availability, visit Ben’s website and blog…And stay tuned later today for his photo feature!

southwest michigan wedding photographer::lvl photography

(click to enlarge)

(All photos copyright LVL Photography)

Leda gave me my choice of 2 amazing weddings to showcase—one was bright and dramatic, and the other soft and subtle. While I’m normally a sucker for some bright, beautiful colors, I was completely smitten with the gorgeous tones (and beautiful setting) of this wedding! Everything is so subtle and subdued, yet still so very, very beautiful!

Check out Leda’s website and blog for more beautiful eye candy!

sw michigan wedding photographer::lvl photography

(photo courtesy Terry Johnston-GR Flikr)

I worked a wedding with Leda of LVL Photography back in May, and she is such a fun and energetic person! She’s currently located in Cedar Springs, Michigan, but she’s a Southwest Michigan native, and you can find her here all summer shooting weddings. Here’s a little Q+A to get to know Leda!

How would you describe your style?
Fun. Real. Natural. I love capturing life as it happens.

How did you get into photography?
I can blame it all on two of my favorite guys. My dad and my son. Photography gave my dad and I a common interest when I was a kid, and it was also a way for him to challenge me and my eye. I took a break during college, got married, then our son was born. Tyler re-inspired me.  No training, just many hours of trial and error. The best part of photography is the learning is never over. Oh, wait…I do have training. I have a college degree in sales and advertising and many years of experience with customer service. *giggle*

What is your favorite moment during a wedding? Do you have a favorite image to capture?
I love the uniqueness of every wedding. There is always a favorite capture, but never the same one. I LOVE details. All the planning and creativity of each bride’s vision. I also love the romance and goofiest of wedding parties. That first meet, the “almost” kiss, a tender touch, and glances across the reception location.

What inspires your photography?
The search for something new, different, unique. I shoot because I love the capture. I’ll never forget my first “walk” around MSU’s campus looking at architecture as a subject and learning about long exposures downtown Grand Rapids. What it truly comes down to is I am inspired by my friends and family. They are a priceless tool to success.

What do you love about wedding photography?
I get to experience months of personal touches that go into every wedding. I love the locations, the details, first looks, incredible families, fabulous bridal parties, and the unexpected moments as the day flows. Seriously, what better “job” could I have? I get to spend the first most important day of a couples life with them! Would this also be the area where I can admit that weddings are a great means of exercise? *giggles*

What are you doing when you’re not snapping wedding pics?
I am spending time with my family. Playing with my kids, road trips, days at the lake, and projects around the house.  I love date nights with my husband, girls night out, and kicking back with a movie and ice cream at home.

Thanks Leda, for starting off Photography week! I’ve got to give a huge “Thanks!” to the photographers we get to feature this week! Stay tuned later today for Leda’s beautiful photo feature!