I did it! I failed. I went from 24 weddings in 2018 to 19 for this season. My goal was 20 and I failed. So what happened when I didn’t reach my goal? Not much. To be honest I kind of expected my career to fall apart and the world to crumble around me. But you know what? My career is still there and I’m doing ok.
I’m a goal setter. Each year in my off season I look at my books from the previous year and plan out how I want to do even better. My goal for 2019 was 20 weddings. A goal I thought would be hit by the end of January, but here we are half way through the season still at 19. I think part of why the number 20 was so stuck in my head is the fact that the number of weddings each year is a benchmark for my success. When people who don’t understand the full scope of wedding photography ask about my job the first question is “how many weddings do you have this year?” And I think no matter what that number is people would still be impressed. But, when it comes to the photography community, which can be pretty cutthroat, that number feels small.
So how did I come to be ok with my perceived disaster. I thought about the 19 couples who trusted me. Who chose me. Who are allowing me to be a huge part of shaping their legacy during an important time in their lives. Those 19 couples don’t give a shit how many weddings I have. In fact, having fewer weddings coupled with going full time allows me to invest my time and energy even more into helping them plan their days. I also thought about little Liv. How proud she would be of me, pushing through all the bullshit that made her question if she would even be around to have a career.
Our society is built on hustle. It’s long work weeks, no time off, letting ourselves go uncared for in the name of success. When did it become a bragging right to say you take no days off? I’ve built my career around the life I want to live. Because of my career I’m able to go on vacations with my partner, I’m able to be at home to care for our pets, I’m able to grab coffee with a friend and not miss out on my payday. I’ve been able to take the time to focus on my physical and mental health more. The things I’ve gained from this career, and specifically this year, are not measurable by numbers. It’s the things I’ve gained from my friendships and relationship that truly mark my success.
I know that this year and that goal won’t be the only one I perceive as failure. Life is all about seasons, and without this season of “failure” I wouldn’t be working so hard on making myself better. We can’t fault ourselves for doing the best we can with the resources we have. So take it from me, failures aren’t really failures, they are opportunities to learn and grow. I’m glad I failed.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with mental health. For most of my life I’ve envisioned what my engagement and wedding would be like. However those two things don’t always mesh together well as I’m finding out. I’ve been engaged for about 4 months now and have spent the last 2 of those months really working on bettering my mental health. After the initial excitement of wedding planning died down I found myself bogged down with the depths of seasonal depression, general depression, and anxiety. I know how powerful the words of others going through similar struggles have been so I hope that my transparency does the same for someone else.
I hate asking for help. Like really truly. It’s the reason why I went unmedicated for so long, wasn’t going to therapy, and just told myself this was my life now. That also plays into wedding planning. We didn’t ask for help in searching for venues, picking a date, food, and most other things. I found myself searching bridal shower venues and stressing out about that even though the shower won’t be for months, and as my therapist told me, I shouldn’t even be planning it. It took her telling me I needed to ask my bridesmaids for help for me to even realize that’s literally why they are there, to help. So whether you are stressing about your outfit, guest list, or what salad dressing will be served, you are allowed to, and should ask for help. The people you’ve selected to stand with you are meant to support you not only on the day, but through the process and during your marriage. Even if you don’t have a formal wedding party, family and other close friends LOVE weddings, and I promise will want to help. You just have to ask.
You are worthy of love, celebration, and commitment even when your mental illness tries to tell you otherwise. My depression tells me no one really cares that we are getting married. My anxiety tells me that I’ll have 29734 things to do the few weeks leading up to the day. Those two things are my illness lashing out with a warped reality. When I step back and think about it, none of that is true. I am worthy of being called a bride and feeling special. I am worthy of having the attention be on me. I am worthy of a celebration that costs some money. Myself, my partner, and the wedding are all worth investing in. I remember walking into my dress appointment feeling anxious and unsure. Being a plus size bride I have a lot of anxiety surrounding clothing shopping, especially with something this important. Luckily I brought two amazing people with me and we chose a bridal salon specifically carrying all plus size dresses. Being intentional about making accommodations for my anxiety without giving into it was so helpful. My matron of honor cried when I walked out of the dressing room, in a dress I didn’t even choose. The tears started flowing and I apologized for getting emotional. Why? Because we are conditioned both by society and our mental illnesses that we are being selfish for having attention on ourselves. But in that moment when the amazing stylist told me that tears were all a part of it, I realized that I’m worthy and deserving of feeling like a bride. No matter what size, no matter what type of wedding we are having, no matter what my anxiety tells me. We are all worthy of celebration.
It might seem like an obvious thing but truly, one day is not worth sacrificing your mental health for. If medication, therapy, exercise, meditation, yoga, or more sleep will help you then don’t be afraid to do those things. I think a lot of people assume that weddings will be hard to plan and stressful. While I can agree that parts of it won’t be the most exciting, your wedding is all about you. If there is something that’s giving you anxiety, pass that task onto someone else, or cut it! If there’s a family member giving you problems, or a friend bugging you, you are allowed to do something about it. The best advice I can give is remembering that a strong marriage is far more important than a perfect day. That’s something I tell my wedding couples all the time, and even though it’s easy to say, practicing it takes….practice.
Who said wedding planning had to suck? I think we have this expectation that we aren’t allowed to enjoy the process as much as we should. I know going into it I was told by everyone that it would be hard and I’d hit walls and slumps and just want to elope. I mean the cost of a wedding makes me want to elope, but I’ll be honest, it’s been really fun. Now I know that planning things isn’t in everyone’s wheelhouse, and I have an advantage working in the industry. But often my mental illness lies and says that things shouldn’t be fun, and that sucks. I’ve seen friends planning weddings getting really caught up in details that quite frankly no one but them will care about. If you want to do a sunset ceremony then do it! If you want to have everyone bring a dish to pass then do it! If you want to only invite 3 people to the ceremony and 300 to the reception then do it! Marie Kondo the crap out of your wedding. For me rehearsal dinners don’t bring me joy, so we are probably ordering pizzas and going back to the airbnb the girls and I are staying in the night before. I’d much rather be chill and hang out with our people than go to a stuffy expensive restaurant. Whatever it is, you have permission to change or cut it if that brings you joy.
Weddings are tough. No one gives you a manual and planning one while dealing with mental illness can be even tougher. The main thing to remember is ask for help, allow yourself to do the things that help get your illness to a manageable point, and understand that you can enjoy it! There is no one size fits all for weddings which is really beautiful. Each couple is so unique and you can plan while not letting your illness overtake the joy of this time in your life. It’s not always easy, but remember that you have an amazing partner who sees the best in you and is choosing you. I hope that no matter what you are dealing with that you are able to find a little clarity and recenter yourself to get excited to continue planning this incredible celebration!
2018 has been such an incredible year. It’s been filled with over 60 sessions between portraits, engagements, boudoir, weddings, and elopements. I’ve traveled all over Michigan, to Detroit, Fennville, Eaton Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, and of course tons in Grand rapids. The amount of growth I’ve seen in myself makes me so proud to share this post with you all. I will never stop learning or growing as a wedding photographers, so I can only imagine how incredible next year will be!
Some highlights personally have been buying a house, a new car, and getting engaged to my best friend! This year included a bit of travel too, including Illinois, Indiana, and my favorite, Colorado. All in all it’s been a pretty fulfilling time. So now that I’ve rambled, enjoy my favorite images from 2018!
Check out Liv Lyszyk Photography at her Website Here! To see more of her work head over to the blog posts linked below!
October 15th, 2018. I come home from a chiropractic appointment to have my partner ask me for a security envelope to mail something. We both had the day off and were going to be running errands. I head over to my office and notice the door is closed. Weird, but whatever, I brushed it off and opened the door. My heart skipped a beat and I read the mural on the wall that my partner had painted asking me to marry him. I didn’t cry, I was in total shock, he totally got me good, I said my easiest yes, and proceeded to say “what do we do now”?
Frantically call my mom, who didn’t pick up the phone (it’s ok she was working), proceeded to call my friend Zoey, who picked up on the second ring. I texted and messaged and called everyone I could think of that might care. It was really exciting to have such exciting news to share! We went to lunch to celebrate and I basked in the newly engaged glow. It’s totally a thing y’all. We made it Facebook and Instagram official and just enjoyed the excitement!
Yep, the day after we got engaged I happened to be seeing my friend who we had decided we wanted to be our photographer. We had talked about who we might want to photograph, I’m a wedding photographer, it comes up haha. We both loved her work and her husband also does video! It was a perfect fit and we signed the contract and paid the deposit that day. Is this the most conventional order of things? Nope! But for us, hiring them was on the top of our priority list even before a venue. Luckily we are friends and so we were able to talk all about our tentative plans and she was willing to put us on the books without anything being super official. Photography and videography is 1/3 of our budget, so getting that settled was huge! Even if you don’t do things in this order, photographers and videographers book quickly. As a photographer myself I’m almost halfway booked and it’s not even engagement season for 2019 couples. So if you think you know who you want to book, and even if you don’t, reach out sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment if they are booked.
Budget is one thing no one wants to talk about. It’s tough to think about how freaking expensive weddings are. Working in the industry I totally understand why they are so expensive, but being on the other side of it as a bride, it sucks. Either way we picked 3 things that we wanted to be perfect and the rest is just bonus. I always tell my couples that as long as you are married at the end of the day the rest is just details. For us the three things we are going all out on is photo/video, venue, and florals. Breaking down a budget given those things made it so much easier for us. We snagged a free online budget planning spreadsheet from Bridechilla (shoutout to my current favorite podcast and facebook group! Go check them out). Sitting down and working on it together ensures that we are on the same page which is so important. No matter who is taking on the bulk of planning budgeting is key for both of you to be involved!
Having an idea of time of year, month, or even the specific weekend you want is helpful when researching venues. For us we are planning for Spring 2020. My books are filling up for 2019 and I want to make sure I can devote enough time to my couples, and then have time to plan for ourselves. The date was super important for us logistically so figuring that out right away allowed us to narrow down options for venues especially (and give people an answer when they all inevitably ask when we are getting married).
Maxx and I have some pretty specific desires as far as venues go. We know what we like (it helps seeing venues almost every weekend for half of the year) and have a budget to follow narrows it down. We also had it in our plans to have a small wedding i.e. less than 100 people. Knowing the season, size of the wedding, and area we wanted to look in got us a few great options. We emailed almost 10 venues that we initially liked and were interested in, only 2 were in budget and included our requirements. It’s honestly better to only have 2-3 options to tour and seriously consider. Touring too many venues can get tricky when envisioning your wedding in so many places. I know a lot of people struggle with choosing and writing a list of things you can’t compromise on, i.e. parking, location, style, price, and then take those things into consideration. Pros and cons lists are our best friend lately!
Overall we are still in the very early stages of planning. There are so many things to think about that it can get overwhelming but communication is key. The first 5 things we did, announce, hire photo and video, do a budget, pick a few dates, and email and tour venues has set us up for success! We have a lot of the main things pretty much figured out and we can rest and enjoy the holidays and save up even more! I definitely do not regret planning for a longer engagement! I’d love to hear in the comments what some of those first things you did after getting engaged were!
One of the best things about having friends who are also photographers is getting to do fun little projects! This shoot was basically me just tagging along with Sydney Marie Photography while she worked with my other friend Chloee for a shoot. It was so refreshing not having to create images for anyone but myself and it’s something I definitely want to make time for more this year. I played around with some editing and focus that I don’t normally do and I’ll be honest I LOVE it! Y’all might see some more grainy black and whites this year. Anyway, here are some of my favorites!
This year has been so incredible. I’ve photographed 12 weddings, helped 3 other photographers for weddings, done over 30 portrait sessions, graduated college, traveled to my first conference, made incredible friends, gained confidence in myself and my work, and all around grown. The world was pretty murky going into 2017, I wasn’t sure how we’d do this year as a country, and while I’m baffled at the choices made by our leaders, my own community has risen above and provided great support and shown love to each other.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I could do this. I’m not sure what “this” is, but I’ve been so lucky to have such amazing people to work with and making my job easy. It doesn’t feel real. Getting to work with such a diverse group of people is more than I could have asked for. You all have showed up in the best ways and made 2017 one of the best years yet.
While choosing my favorite photos of 2017 is like asking me to pick a favorite child, I’ve compiled a few of the ones that have moved me the most this year. They might not all be technically perfect, but I always aim for emotion over perfection in my work anyway. I hope that you enjoy looking through these images as much as I do and help me in celebrating all of the victories in 2017 and get excited for what’s to come in 2018!
Congrats on your engagement! Chances are you are here for some advice on the daunting task of wedding planning and what your next steps should be. I’ve heard countless couples talking about how knowing where to start is the hardest part so I’ve compiled a list of the first 5 things you should do now that you’re engaged! This list might not give you all the answers but will help answer some questions, and even give you some vendor ideas for the Grand Rapids area!
1: Set a budget!
This sets the tone for the rest of your planning and gives you an idea of what vendors you can work with in your budget! Consider guest count as a factor into that budget as well, but more on that in the next step. Budgets of course can be flexible but knowing a ballpark can ensure you don’t go broke all in the name of love. When thinking of budget it helps to break it down by vendor as well. What is most important to you? Would you like photos but no video? Fake DIY flowers as opposed to real from a florist? These factors can factor into a budget that is comprehensive and an easy reference point when reaching out to possible vendors.
Not all beautiful weddings are high budget! So don’t let a small budget discourage you, tons of couples pay for everything on their own and remember, a strong marriage is far more important than a perfect day! If you’re looking for some helpful advice on budgets consider looking on A Practical Wedding that gives some sample budgets and other great resources.
2: Figure out the size of your special day!
Small elopement sound more like your cup of tea? Maybe 20 guests will be the way to go. Want a party with everyone who helped you get to where you are now? Maybe 300 guests is more your taste. No matter what the guest count it will still be amazing, just remember this is a key part of planning. Venues range from elopement size only to huge oversized spaces. Getting a ballpark for your guest count will make venue hunting so much easier in the long run! You won’t waste time on a small venue if you decide you want 200 people. The guest count also varies on budget, so these two steps go hand in hand!
3: Pick some dates or time of year!
Yes I say dates! Many venues book over a year out and so having a time of year or multiple dates makes it easier to coordinate. If you’re planning a wedding in 6 months or less it might be a bit trickier but don’t let that discourage you! There are tons of great times of year to get married and all have a different feel. Another thing to consider is weather, holidays, and if people will have to travel far. These things can all factor into the perfect wedding date for you!
4: Visit and pick a venue!
Pick 3-4 venues to go and look at. I wouldn’t only see one or two and more than 4 can be hard to pick between. Looking at 3-4 gives you a variety without being overwhelming. Things to consider when visiting are parking, accessibility, limitations on catering or decor, length of rental, and size. These things can all make or break a venue. Also ask if day of coordination is included, if it isn’t that might be another cost to factor in. Try and visit the venues during the season of your future wedding, snow or heat can make or break a location. The venue is one of the key factors in a wedding so this step should be taken very seriously. If you are in the Greater Grand Rapids area here is a small sample of my favorite venues!
5: Pick your photographer!
Ok ok ok, I’ll be honest, I’d loveee for you to pick me as your photographer, but all that aside I know I’m not right for everyone, so let me break it down. Photography is the only thing that lasts after your big day, you do not want to skimp on hiring a professional photographer. Finding a family member or old friend might not be the right choice if they aren’t a professional, do not leave this huge responsibility to someone without experience. Think about your preferred style, do you want posed classic images? Bright and airy? Darker and Moody? Candid and authentic? some combination of all of those? Search on Instagram for local wedding photography hashtags to get a glimpse at some of the talent and an idea for preferred style. If you have an idea of some photographers you love reach out to them to ask about pricing and options. Average cost for a professional in Grand Rapids area is about $2,500. Also think about your venue and maybe find some photographers who have worked there before. If you are going to have a darker reception venue or late night reception make sure to see their work with flash and other lighting. Most photographers will send full wedding galleries if you ask!
Don’t be intimidated or scared! We are really nice and often have a ton of suggestions for the little things you’ve been worried about. If you need help with a timeline or searching for vendors ask your photographer! They will have lots of suggestions to help you put together the perfect day!
All in all wedding planning doesn’t have to be intimidating, follow these simple steps to get on the right track in the beginning and the rest will fall into place for you! Do your research, look on social media, and ask previous couples for advice. Remember that this is a special time and not a time to stress out! Talk with your partner and work together as a team, now is the time to get an idea of what you both are looking for out of the wedding day! So Congratulations again and I hope that this special time goes smoothly for you both! If you need any suggestions or any help feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment and I’ll gladly help any way I can!
The holidays can be a tough time for the LGBTQ community. So this styled shoot celebrates the warmth of love in the midst of darkness! Samantha and Brianna were the perfect models, their relationship is so sweet and Samantha’s sense of humor is perfection. When dreaming up this styled shoot I wanted to layer warm colors with both vintage and modern style influences. The dresses provided by BIANKA Bridal coordinated so perfectly without matching. I loved the layers of softness on Brianna’s gown with the more structured texture of Samantha’s. The tablescape had elements of nature brought in that set off the gold chargers and place settings from West Michigan Rental Company as well as soft hand lettering done by Zoey Devine! We can’t forget the amazing florals from Posh Petals that were even more gorgeous than I could have imagined! To round everything out the small but mighty gold lead semi-naked cake baked with love at The Cakabakery tasted just as luxurious as it looked.
This whole vision came to life so perfectly and I’m immensely proud of all of the vendors and people who helped it come to fruition. The idea that people experience such a hard time finding inclusive vendors in this day and age breaks my heart. We literally have a supreme court case that is deciding whether people can be turned away simply because they are LGBTQ and planning a wedding. If anyone in the area is looking for progressive vendors who embody diversity please hire the vendors used for this shoot! Everyone deserves a beautiful day filled with love ones, no matter who they are.
On the eve of my 22nd birthday I find myself reflecting on all that I’ve learned, accomplished, and failed at so far in life. I figured since I love lists so much I might as well compile one and share it. So here we go, 21 things I’ve learned in 21 years.
1: Age is just a number
It might surprise you, depending on how well you know me, that I’m only turning 22. I’ve often used the “twenty-something” descriptor in order to be taken more seriously and hide the fact that I’m so young. But honestly, screw that! I’ve accomplished a lot in my 21 years and that number doesn’t determine my worth or legitimacy.
2: Find your voice and use it
This year I’ve been very vocal about my shift into being a visibly equality minded business. As a queer woman (see point 6), it’s important to me to use my voice and stand tall for my beliefs. It does no one any good by keeping quiet.
3: Sometimes you still need your mom
My mom and I have had a shift in our relationship as I’ve moved away, and even though we don’t talk constantly (mostly because my life is pretty boring day to day) I still find myself needing her. We took a mother daughter trip this summer (see photo below) and it was such a fun experience! No matter how old I get I know our bond will be special!
4: Taking a day during the week to refocus is key
Wednesdays are generally my days where I don’t look at work stuff. I focus on recharging during the middle of the week and quite honestly it’s what keeps me somewhat sane.
5: It’s ok to let go of toxic relationships
I’ve learned that letting go of relationships that do me more harm than good is the best act of self care. I need to be the best me in order to serve others well and if I find myself worrying over a situation in a relationship for too long I let it go. Not to say I stop talking to friends without reason, but if I feel in my gut that it’s not serving me in any way then it’s ok to move forward.
6: Identities shift and change as we age
When I first came out in middle school I had no idea that my identity would shift and change so much. Essentially I’m back to where I was when I first came out, but I had to remain open to myself and my identity as it changed. There is nothing wrong with growth!
7: It’s ok to have Taco Bell breakfast if you’re having a bad day
8: Even if you don’t like wine now eventually you’ll probably find one you love (St. Ambrose Cellars Secret Beach)
9: Holidays are still the best time of the year
10: Learning your Love Language is life changing
If you haven’t heard of the 5 Love Languages drop everything and google it! My love language is acts of service (I literally asked Maxx to clean the house for my birthday present). It helps me communicate my desires and needs better as well as understand where I might be missing the mark for my partner’s needs.
11: Get a good night of sleep every night
I’m already over the stage of staying up late and sleeping in. I’ve learned I’m most productive in the morning (see next bullet point) so it’s way healthier for me to be going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time every day. I feel refreshed and know exactly how to plan out my day.
12: Have a morning routine and stick to it
My morning begins with the same things each day. It helps me prepare myself for the day and get the most important things out of the way first thing.
13: You will “fail”
14: You will “succeed”
15: No matter what find a lesson in all that you do
16: Sometimes you’ll be scared
If you feel scared to do something, most likely it’s super worth it. Take chances on life and do the things that terrify you. Obviously don’t put yourself in real danger, but my best moments were often the scariest! I have an amazing support system so the scary things become pretty easy. Even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, refer to bullet point 15.
17: Don’t compare your life path with anyone else
I often find myself wondering when I’ll be able to go full time into photography, when I’ll get married, have kids, but I have to remind myself my timeline in life is different than everyone else. The internet makes it nearly impossible to stop the comparison game, I’m getting better, but it’s often a daily struggle.
18: Mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of
As someone with an assortment of mental health “issues” I’ve learned to not be afraid of it and embrace it. Will I always have some sort of level of depression? Maybe. Will I always have anxiety? Most likely. I’ve tried to learn my triggers and combat them. One thing that I struggle with a lot is the changing of seasons. I got a sunlight lamp for my desk and I’ve noticed it helping already!
19: Always say thank you
I’ve gotten further in life by saying thank you than anything else. Sending thank you notes for referrals, treating someone to coffee, sharing photos with vendors, the list goes on. People recognize kindness and gratitude and it will come back to you ten fold.
20: Always say “I love you” at the end of phone calls
In my life I’ve lost a handful of close family members, some very unexpectedly. I always end phone calls with an “I love you” because I don’t know when it will be the last time I say that.
21: Celebrate everything
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day things, but I try and remember to celebrate victories, no matter how small. This year I graduated college, jumped into my business head first, celebrated 3 years with an amazing partner, made so many new friends. All of these things are celebration worthy! I think that’s why I love birthdays so much, it’s a time when everyone remembers to celebrate!
So if you’ve made it to the bottom of this list kudos to you! I’m thankful for the space to share my thoughts and even more thankful that people read it! It’s been an incredibly exciting year and I have so many fun things planned for my 22nd year of life. I hope that you’ll stick around for the journey and share in all of my celebrations!
So I had a crazy thought back a few months ago. What if I had an intern? I love mentoring and I knew how important it was to get my first few weddings under a well known photographer. I started thinking of students at Kendall, where I just graduated, and Gabby came to mind. She had expressed an interest in learning more about the commercial side of photography and more specifically, weddings. I contacted her and we quickly set up a time to meet. I loved her energy and we clicked instantly. Gabby will be coming with me to 4 weddings, one of which was the amazing wedding in Grand Ledge this last weekend.
I asked her a few questions to introduce her to you and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming her to the team!