funes photography

To All Who Serve in our Military, Thank You.

kiyomi photography - virginia beach photographer

Living in Pensacola, Florida, we are surrounded by people in the military.  With active Navy, Marines, and Air Force bases around us, it is very common for us to see people in uniform daily, to pray with friends through deployments, celebrate homecomings, and read about the good times and the struggles.  I remember a couple of years after I moved here, I was on a plane flight returning to Pensacola from a Minnesota visit, and when I walked onto the plane, I was surrounded by people in uniform.  And it instantly made me think "I'm heading home", as it is something I have grown accustomed to as well as love seeing around me.  My dad was in the Air Force and my brother-in-law was in the Marines, and so it has been a part of my own family's life as well.  I have friends whose husbands, brothers, sisters, and children have been deployed, and all that I can think to say on this day are these two simple words.

Thank you.

Thank you for all you have done for our country.  For your sacrifices.  For your bravery.  For so many things that we aren't even aware of as civilians, for having the courage to stand up for this country of ours and fight for our freedoms.  And to those of you who have someone in the military in your life, for the wives and girlfriends who miss special holidays together, the mamas who are having babies and raising children alone at times when their daddies are deployed, and for everyone else who has someone special who has contributed time in their lives to the military, thank you.  The military wives that I have had the pleasure of getting to know, you are some of the strongest women I have met.  And so on this day, thank you too, for everything you have sacrificed as well.

The first photo in this post is of my friend Christina and her husband, captured by Kiyomi Photography when her husband returned from a deployment.  I remember seeing this photo the day that she posted it, I immediately felt the emotion of that moment, and I completely feel that this is the way that homecomings are so many times.  These are the emotions that grasp so many people in our country now, as they wait for the day that their loved ones will come home.

I have had the privilege of planning a few weddings with military couples, and so wanted to take this day to highlight these incredible men and women, and just say thank you, putting faces to a few of the brave and wonderful people who are serving in our military to help keep our country great.


Thank you, Meredith and Eric, for both being as amazing as you are.  To learn when we were planning your wedding that one of you were actually in the Pentagon on 9/11 was heart-wrenching and I was so happy to be a part of your wedding day.  You both are such wonderful individuals and your commitment to each other and the military is incredible to me.

mer and eric - sandestin beach wedding


To Meg and Alex - how in the world you managed to plan your wedding completely while based in Japan, only to arrive here six weeks before your wedding still amazes me to this day.  And the helicopter flyover right after your ceremony?  That was a surprise I'm sure not any of us will forget.

meg and alex - landshark landing wedding


To Ayanna and Milton - whose wedding we planned in 10 days due to an unexpected moved up much-sooner-than-later deployment?  Knowing that you two were so committed to each other and having an intimate wedding celebration to share your love with your families, you will always have a piece of my heart.

ayanna and milton - pensacola wedding


To Leigh and Anthony, your charisma and calm on your wedding day was beautiful.  Especially knowing that you were moving across country to a new base the week after your wedding, and seeing the calm you exuded throughout showed me your strength as a couple.

leigh and anthony - 5 eleven pensacola wedding


To Amanda and Nick - to Nick, who I didn't get to meet until rehearsal due to being stationed elsewhere, and to Amanda for having the strength to plan your wedding with me while he was away, your day was amazing and so many people loved every bit of it.

amanda and nick - old christ church and crowne plaza wedding


And to Kayley and Brian, and all of the other gentlemen who came to the wedding representing the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force, I still remember your wedding day as one of the happiest crowds at a reception that my fellow wedding vendors and I have ever seen (and the most adventurous sword cake cutting I have ever witnessed! ;) ).

kayley and brian - museum of commerce and old christ church pensacola wedding


Thank you to all of you.  Enjoy this day today and know how grateful so many of us are for all of you.  If you are reading this post, whether it is today, on Veteran's Day, or even if it is any other day that you see someone who is in the military, please take the time to thank them.  If you have a friend who has a family member in the military, even sending them a quick text asking them to thank them for their service may just make their day.  For everyone that has served our country, know how much you are all appreciated.  Happy Veteran's Day.

What Wedding Planners Do ...

what wedding planners really do - grace and serendipity

Many times, I am asked what my job really entails.  Yes, it is picking pretty flowers and linens to make a wedding beautiful, but that is such a small part of a planner's job in the overall scheme of everything.   This post may sound like a "hire me" read, but that is not my intention at all ... almost everyone that reads my blog is planning or looking for wedding advice, so that's what this post is for.  I want to just give you advice as to why hiring a wedding planner is important.

When you get engaged, you spend the first hours in total excitement, calling family, friends, and dreaming of what the day may be like, gushing over the new sparkly ring on your left finger, and feeling like you're floating on a cloud.  Then, the next thoughts pour in ... the date, the place, the people, the style, etcetera.  When you decide to actually start planning, you probably either pick up every wedding magazine you can find, tearing out pages and ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything you love, buy a "all things wedding planning" binder, or start to pin, pin, pin, pin all...the...time.  As those things are fun and make you feel giddy about the fact you're getting married, when you start to look at the lists of everything you need to do, you realize just how much work a wedding can really be, and it can quickly become overwhelming.

Don't think of it as an "I have to plan this wedding!", it would be great to think of it as "I get to plan my wedding!" It is the only time in your life that you will get to do this, so you might as well enjoy it as you go along, right?

Unfortunately, a lot of times, a planner is not in a bride's initial budget.  I have had quite a few brides contact me and say "a planner isn't in our budget, but we want to see if you possibly could be."  I want to explain to you a few reasons why a planner should definitely be in your initial budget, and why it can be really hard and stressful for you not to have one.

Offer insight, suggestions, andadvice.  I plan weddings.  It is my only job, which I do full-time.  I know what it takes to plan an amazing wedding, can recommend fabulous local vendors, and I know what is happening in the wedding world.  Why would you put it on yourself to plan a wedding, which requires so many little things, when you can have someone by your side to guide you along the way with a lot of experience?  I give professional recommendations and services based on the weddings I have planned and have learned over the years.

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Vendors, Contracts, and Management.  I know a lot of local wedding vendors, that have personalities that will blend well with yours, and are within your budget.  A budget is one of the first things you want to set when you are planning a wedding - if you spend more than 75% of your budget on catering alone, that doesn't leave much for everything else.  I can work with you to find the vendors that you'll love based on your personalities and vision you have of your day.  That alone can save a lot of time and stress - rather than going to meeting after meeting with vendors before you find the right one, your planner may know *just* the right one for you from the beginning.  Also, many have different payment times - I can keep track of that for you and remind you when your next payments are due, to help you stay on top of things.

One thing I want to add to that - I recommend vendors that I work with that are amazing and professional, that I would recommend based on those factors.  I am not paid by vendors to recommend them, and if I do have a relationship with them that gives a discount, I send that discount right on to my brides.

what wedding planners do - grace and serendipity_0044

Your wedding weekend should be the best weekend of your life.  NOT stressful.  I tend to not sugar coat things, and be honest and realistic with you rather than tell you everything always goes perfect.  Unfortunately, sometimes (not always!) things do go wrong leading up to the wedding day or on it.  You need two extra linens, a vendor is late, or the box with your cake and knife server, favors, and cake topper is missing.  You have a lot on your plate on your wedding day already, and you don't want to think about those things.  I can sometimes handle things without you even knowing - I can call a vendor that carries linens in-house, have my assistant go and purchase your missing accessories, and worry about the late vendor for you.  You don't have to do any of that.  Sometimes things happen that no one can control - the weather, traffic, and human honest mistakes (yes, we all make them), but a planner can help with all of those things and sometimes you don't even need to know I'm fixing them until after the day if you ask and really want to know.

Mediation.  This is a big one!  Grandma wants you to wear her veil, your mom wants you to use lilies, and everyone has their opinions on what they think you should do.  This can be a lot to take in to try to make everyone happy.  And sometimes, although their intentions are good, you want to please everyone which can cause a lot of stress for you.  I can help work with you on those pieces so that your relationships stay great.  If you are lucky enough to have your mom or another close friend or family member here with you when you're planning, you want to keep that relationship beautiful, and planning your wedding shouldn't cause it to become a strain.

I am here to work for you. On your wedding day, I am there to work.  I will mix and mingle with your friends and family, but my primary goal is to make sure that your wedding day goes smoothly, and any issues that may come up are handled quickly, quietly, and that you and your guests have a great time.  You don't want your mom, or friend, or anyone else there as a guest to have to do that.  They want to enjoy you getting married - not have to work.  This comes back to my own wedding day - I, sadly, didn't have a planner (and the day I returned from my honeymoon, this business was born) and my mother-in-law was setting up on the day of the wedding.  She barely got to enjoy the time before our ceremony - because she was working on centerpieces - and that is one of my biggest, biggest regrets from our wedding day.  It breaks my heart now when I have to hear a bride wants to put that on their mama that day.  Just as this is your only wedding day, this is the only day that they get to see you get married.  Let them enjoy it. Let me do the work.

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Setup, timelines, and breakdown.  What time will the cake arrive?  When can you get into the venue on the wedding day?  Who will run the rehearsal? A wedding planner can help you with all of those things.  There are certain venues where they have chairs and tables for you to use, but you need to set them up.  On the day of the wedding.  When there are 200 ceremony chairs, 200 reception chairs, and 16 tables to set up, do you want to have to do it?  And then after the wedding take everything back down?  Probably not.  Also, it is a fine art to balance a timeline, from what time you need to get your hair and makeup done so that your getting ready photos are done in time for the photographer to take those of your bridal party before the ceremony, to determininig the time for the caterer to arrive, and florist, and decor designer to make sure that everything goes smoothly and one vendor isn't waiting on another to do their part.  On wedding days, we all work together as a team to make sure that everything flows.  While you're sitting back, drinking champagne and getting pampered, I'm setting up tables, steaming linens, placing chargers, arranging placecards and putting out favors.  And then at the end of the night, I'm working with those vendors again to clean everything up, so that you can go on to your after-party or go and relax.  Who wants to clean up after enjoying a party, the night that it took place?  Probably not most people.  That is what I'm here for.

what wedding planners do - grace and serendipity_0041

And finally, I love what I do. I did not start out my career as a wedding planner.  I was a teacher for five years, until I had my own wedding (that's me with my husband in the photo above on our wedding day!).  Once I discovered this world, it has become such a passion of mine that I do not feel like I go to work everyday.  I get to do this job, and I have such a big love for weddings it's crazy.  I love working on wedding designs, new ideas, and figuring out just how to incorporate your family traditions into your wedding.  I get to be a part of the most important day of people's lives, seeing their love and happiness for each other on their wedding days, and working with them to create the wedding that has their personality all over it.  I love getting to know my brides and grooms, and think of them as my friends.  And you only want the best for your friends. When you meet with vendors, ask them simply why they do what they do - and hopefully it's something like that above.

It's incredibly important for you to find a wedding planner that you can picture yourselves as "friends in real life" with during your initial meeting.  They'll be the one you go to with happy, excited ideas, or sometimes teary bride-to-be moments.  You want to be able to trust them and know you're in good hands.  With me, I want you to know that you are always in good hands.  Again, I know that not every bride that reads this will hire me, and that's okay!  On the same spectrum, I know that not every bride that contacts me will click with me.  We have to be a good fit.  There has to be a level of trust you have for your wedding planner.  So whoever you hire, make sure they love what they do, you can have a great relationship, and you love them for it!

With Love,



The photos shown above were with weddings we planned with now married and amazing couples. The first photo shown is by Cook Images, and all other photographer credit is below each photo.

{Liz and Garry} 5eleven pensacola wedding

{Liz and Garry}  5eleven pensacola wedding

Liz and Garry are one of those couples that are just absolutely fun to be around.  They are happy, easygoing, and were really fun to work with.  They were married on 11/20/11 at 5 Eleven.  Liz wanted everything fall-like.  Everything was in beautiful fall colors and really beautified the space for them.  The whole day was beautiful, and we wish them many more years of happiness!

{Ayanna and Milton} a wedding with a serendipitous reminder for everyone ...

{Ayanna and Milton} a wedding with a serendipitous reminder for everyone ...

Do you think that everything needs to be perfect and go just as you have planned it when it comes to your wedding?  At the end of the day, what matters is that you are married to the man or woman that you love ... read on to see how we truly got to use the word "Serendipity" for one of our recent weddings ...