6 Ways to Guarantee Fun at Your Wedding! | Northern VA Engagement Photographer

6 Ways to Guarantee Fun at Your Wedding! | Northern VA Engagement Photographer

It’s a pretty sure thing that most people want their wedding guests to have fun. Nobody wants a boring even with yawning guests! As a portrait photography studio doing engagement portraits in the Dulles, VA area, we often chat with engaged couples about their upcoming nuptials. How to make a wedding fun is a favorite topic – and not always an easy one!

How do you guarantee a fun event for varying ages and personalities? You can’t, but if you’re having fun, your guests are far more likely to enjoy themselves as well! Below are some ideas for bring the fun for your wedding.

Bring On the Fun!

1) Set an Example Of Fun

Have fun if you want your guests also to have fun! Your wedding is about you. You should design it around your interests, keeping in mind that your guests will be looking to you for guidance. If you aren’t having a good time, chances are they aren’t, either. However, if you’re having the time of your life, your guests likely will as well!

2) Laugh and Dance

When you incorporate humor into your wedding day, your guests will laugh along with you. If you’re having fun, they’ll most likely be having fun. If you want to get your guests out on the dance floor, start dancing! The party goes where you go. So, when planning your wedding, make sure YOU plan on having fun.


3) Create A Comfortable Environment for You and Your Guests

What is a “comfortable” environment? In large part, it depends on you and your guests, but starting with great entertainment is vital. An entertainer (band or DJ) who’s experienced and matches your style will know how to work the crowd so that they’re comfortable and have fun. Playing music your crowd hates isn’t likely to make them comfortable or let them enjoy themselves.

Guests feel comfortable when they know what’s going on and what’s expected of them. Make sure your entertainer guides the flow of the event so guests know where to go and what to do. That sets them at ease and sets the tone for a good time.

4) Be Present

It sounds obvious, right? But, unfortunately, we’ve seen it all too often: The bride and groom DISAPPEAR from their wedding reception. Whether it’s because they step outside for a break or they decide to chat with guests in the hall, they’re nowhere to be seen. And, yes, guests will notice pretty quickly that the bride and groom aren’t around. When the bride or groom leaves their wedding celebration, it’s like the air gets sucked out of the room. They’re the stars of the show, after all. If you want your wedding event to be fun, STAY IN THE MIX.


5) Get Your Wedding Portraits Done EARLY

Speak with your photographer about doing your formal portraits on your wedding day in such a way that you can join your guests for as much of your reception as possible. That means not leaving your reception for portraits, as we said earlier. If you do leave, the party wanes without you. Your guests are there to celebrate you and your special day. It’s YOUR wedding and you should be present to have fun with them, or they won’t have fun either.

We usually recommend doing your portraits before the reception rather in the middle of it. Most brides have strayed from traditional wedding routines, including wedding portraits taken during the wedding reception. Most of our brides today prefer to do their pictures before the ceremony so they too can enjoy their reception!

6) Share Your Story With Your Guests

Personalize your event by sharing your story in a way that fits you!

Here are some tips:
• Share your love and life stories with your guests. Many couples today do engagement portraits so, if you’ve done them, the wedding reception is one good way to share a part of your story.
• A slideshow or montage projected during the reception (after dinner?) includes your guests in your storytelling.
• Then tell them more about yourselves.
• Don’t enjoy public speaking? Then share your story on a card at each table or place-setting.
• However, if you’re a ham with a sense of humor, then play it up.
• Ask your entertainer for assistance and ideas. The more laughs, the more engaged your guests become and everyone has more fun.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips for having a great, fun wedding! Our years as both a wedding photographer and having a portrait photography studio near Dulles, VA have taught us that these tips work! We encourage you to browse our blog for other tips, and we wish you a fabulous (and fun) wedding!

Family Photographer, Portrait Photography Studio

Ever After Portraits is comprised of Mindy Belcher and Joriana Belcher Anderson, a mother-daughter portrait photography team located near Dulles, VA in Northern Virginia. We specialize in timeless and emotive fine art family portraits.

Family means everything and capturing those precious moments to preserve forever will mean family heirlooms for you to share for years to come.


Mindy & Joriana – Contact Us!

Professional Photographer

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer | Northern VA Engagement Photography

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer | Northern VA Engagement Photography

We’ve come to the last in our series of posts describing how to have an unforgettable wedding! We’ve saved the trickiest topic for last. Of all the vendors you might choose for your wedding, the wedding photographer can be the most challenging to pick. We know this because of years we spent doing wedding photography in the Northern VA area.

So, let’s take a closer look at how you can choose a great wedding photographer, including the 3+1 Method.

• So how do you go about choosing a photographer?
• What should you look for in a great photographer?
• How do you narrow down the choices?

3+1 Method

We suggest using the 3+1 Method for selecting your photographer. This method identifies 3 criteria that your prospective studio should meet, with the final one (the +1) being the deciding factor. Let’s look at the this method, the first 3 first.

(3+1) Pictures, Packages, Price + Personality

In most instances, you can use the first three items, Pictures, Packages, and Price, to narrow your selection down to a small handful of studios that you like. Once you’ve done that, then you make the final decision based on the +1, which is Personality.

To start, you should keep the items in the order we list them as you consider them in a photographer: Pictures first, followed by Packages they offer, and then their Prices. If you get to one of the three, and the prospective studio isn’t meeting that criteria, stop there and move on to another wedding portrait photography studio.


What style do you want? When you look at a photographer’s wedding portrait photography, you are looking at the main reason you’re thinking of hiring them. So regardless of what else you like or don’t like about them, you have to be comfortable “seeing” your event in that photographer’s style of shooting.

If you see your event in your mind as being very elegant and formal, then the photographer’s work should show that he or she can capture that vision accurately.

On the other hand, if you’re planning a big casual party, then their wedding portrait photography style should be able to reflect that.

For years in photographic circles, there has been a significant split between traditional, posed, formal photography and candid, in-the-moment styles of artwork. The truth is there is no right or single way to photograph a wedding. What is correct is simply what the bride wants!

Today, the majority of brides that we talk to say they want about a 30/70 balance between posed formals after the ceremony and candids during the prep and reception. If you fall into that group, then make sure your photographer can switch between both styles. Many can, but there are others who cannot.

Within the limits of their style, many photographers are excellent. However, many don’t like to venture outside of that style. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as the studio’s style matches your needs. If it doesn’t, then they probably shouldn’t be your wedding photographer!

If you’re not sure what your preference is for portrait style, look at other wedding images. Check out friends’ wedding portraits. Flip through magazines. Check out online photos and ratings on WeddingWire.

And when you approach a photography studio don’t hesitate to bring in sample images. By showing the photographer the images, you are providing them with a sense of your style and vision.

However, you should not expect a photographer to copy those images you share with them! They should serve to 1) identify your style and 2) inspire them. They should be straightforward with you about whether they can do the same style of work, AND they should show you samples of their work.

Keep in mind: If you can’t envision your wedding event in that studio’s style, move on to the next studio on the list.

Now, let’s look at packages.


Albums, fine art prints, thank you cards, slideshows — lions, tigers, and bears, oh, my! Most studios are capable of offering you a dizzying array of products, so how do you choose?

To begin with, you are going to want a studio whose offerings are flexible. The base packages should be able to be customized and/or tailored to your needs. Some studios have offerings that others don’t, so shop around on this criteria.

Some of the items that most basic packages should include are:

Album: There are many album manufacturers out there and tons of different options for an album. Make sure the studio has samples on hand to show you.

Keep this in mind, though: Many times, the album manufacturer will give the studio sample albums that are intended to show off that manufacturer’s work but are not representative of the studio’s photographic style. This is perfectly acceptable, but the photographer should be clear on this point.

The studio should offer album upgrades in the following areas:
• Covering
• Number of pages
• Liner (the material that lines the inside of the cover)
• Stamped text on the front/spine
• Page style

Proofs: The studio will have to have some method of proofing your images to you. That can be anything from a CD-based slideshow, web proofing, and actual hardcover books that are yours to keep.

About Web Proofing: This may or may not be separate from the above proofing. If you have a lot of guests coming in from out of town, then web proofing should be a must for you so that those folks can see your images once they return home.

Wall Art: Wall art refers to large print images for your home. For most homes, you will want at least 16×20 or larger depending on what kind of wall space is available. Make sure you have at least one awesome portrait of you both! Your wedding is a signature event in your life, and you want to make sure you have printed art to remember it. While we’re talking about wall art, you will want to check out the reprint prices.

Many other offerings may or may not be offered: keepsake cards, thank you cards, slideshows, etc. Check with your studio and make sure that you can order what you want out of your wedding portrait photography!



Ah, the big question: How much should I pay?

While you might have thought that price would be the first qualifier, trust us when we say, it isn’t and shouldn’t be. Price is important, but in a wedding market as large as the Northern Virginia area, you will find many studios within your budget. Keep in mind, however, that according to statistics from The Wedding Report, the Washington, D.C. area is one of the top ten most expensive areas for a wedding. Expect costs to be above average in Northern VA.

So how much should you pay? We can’t give a hard answer to that; you will have to decide that on your own. However, we can offer some perspective to help with the decision.

What Matters:
One year after your wedding you will have two (maybe three) things left over from the event. You will have the ring on your finger, your wedding album, and possibly a freeze-dried piece of cake in the freezer. The dress will be packed away in the attic. The flowers will be long gone. The food will be nothing but fond memories, and the music will be distant echoes (if even that).

Years from now when you want to remember your wonderful wedding, you will be reaching for the album or looking at photos on the wall. Am I telling you the photography budget should be the bulk of your overall budget? No, of course not! You still have a significant event to put on, dresses to buy, and other essential things you’ll need to spend on. So, whatever your budget, make sure you have enough to get a good quality album from the best studio you can afford.

While we’re talking budget, let me tell you a story and offer a warning. A few years back, we had a young man inquire about hiring us. He and his fiancée were planning a small event. Because of their budget limitations, (trust me, I’ve been there myself!), our studio was above what they could manage. We understood, wished him the best, and referred him to other photographers we knew who’d be closer to his budget.

Several months later, we ran into him. Unfortunately, he told us he was still “in the doghouse” over their wedding images. Rather than hiring a professional studio, he put out disposable cameras on the tables and had those developed. The guests could take beautiful “real-world” images of the event, right? Wrong! Most guests gave the cameras to their kids to play with them. There is a good reason there aren’t a lot of five-year-old wedding photographers!

Out of $400 worth of cameras and developing they got three good, usable images. Ouch! Disposable cameras might be a good idea to have in addition to hiring a professional studio, but they are no substitute for an established studio with trained staff!

By now, we’ve covered the first three criteria: Pictures, Packages, Price.

You should have started with a large list of studios that have your date available. You initially used Photography as criteria for eliminating some of those studios. Then you started looking at their Packages and eliminated several more, and finally, you reduced the list further based on Price.

At this point, you should hopefully have a list of maybe a half a dozen or so studios that are all in contention. These finalists should be relatively equal on all fronts, perhaps with some differences in package offerings, but overall, they can be considered interchangeable.

Your final task is to look at the Personality of the photographer.

The +1 – Personality

Your photographer is somewhat unique among your vendors because they probably are the only one which delivers a product that is “you.” Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you and your florist don’t get along. The flowers will still smell just as sweet and look just as beautiful regardless. But if you’re angry at or don’t like your photographer, that’s going to show in the final images. No way around it!

To produce a world-class image, the person in front of the camera has to “click” with the person behind the camera. If that’s not there, it will just be a snapshot and, heck, anybody can do that. This final item of the 3+1 Method is based purely on your gut.

Talk to the Photographer

You will need to talk with each of the photographers on your list. If the studio uses multiple photographers, make sure you speak and meet with the one who will be imaging your event.

Chat with them; listen to their thoughts on photography and art. How do they react to pressure? What is their vision for your event?

Then ask yourself, “Will I be able to spend most of my wedding day with this person?” If the answer is “No,” then you should not book them.

Eventually, the list will pare itself down, and a single studio will stand out. Go book that studio. Then relax and dream of the beautiful wedding portraits that artist will be providing to you!

As a former wedding and current portrait photographer in Northern VA, we expect you’ll be pleased with your choice if you use this 3+1 Method of choosing your wedding photographer!


Family and Engagement Photographer

Ever After Portraits is comprised of Mindy Belcher and Joriana Belcher Anderson, a mother-daughter portrait photography team located in Sterling, VA in Northern Virginia. We specialize in timeless and emotive fine art family portraits.
Family means everything and capturing those precious moments to preserve forever will mean family heirlooms for you to share for years to come.

Mindy & Joriana – Contact Us!
Professional Photographer

6 Common Wedding Planning Mistakes to Avoid | Northern VA Engagement Photography

6 Common Wedding Planning Mistakes to Avoid | Northern VA Engagement Photography

As a Potomac Falls, VA photographer, we certainly know that planning a wedding isn’t an easy feat. Sure, it can be exciting to check out all the details, dresses, jewelry, exotic locations and honeymoon destinations! But there is a lot to do, and everyone and their mother (and your mother!) seems to have an opinion about your day.

There are some common mistakes brides make which you can avoid when planning your wedding. Avoid these kinds of mistakes, and you will be more likely to have an unforgettable wedding day with everything running smoothly.

Here are six common mistakes you should avoid making:

MISTAKE #1 – Not allowing for enough time in between the ceremony and reception.

When it comes to weddings, everything takes longer than you think. Be sure to allow for sufficient time for every aspect of your wedding day. Whether you have your ceremony and reception at the same venue, or you will need to travel between locations, you need to allow for more time than you think you will need between the end of your wedding ceremony and the start of your reception. Otherwise, you will feel stressed for time, and that could leave you with wedding photography which reflects that!

Do yourself a favor and allow MORE time than you think you will need between the ceremony and reception. Many bridal couples offer their guests a cocktail hour during that gap between the service and the reception, so that they can relax and do their wedding photography without rushing or worrying about their guests.

When planning your wedding, use your wedding professionals for the expert resources they are, and ask them how long they recommend for getting ready, receiving lines, photos, etc. They have the experience and knowledge, so consult with them thoroughly when planning your wedding day!

MISTAKE #2 – Hiring amateurs or friends, especially for photography.

Don’t get us wrong. We are big fans of including your friends and guests in the wedding. By all means, have Aunt Sally sing “Ave Maria” for your ceremony, or ask your brother to perform a song he wrote on the guitar.

But don’t expect amateurs and hobbyists to deliver a professional-quality performance at your wedding because that can lead to disappointment. Great wedding photography, for example, can take years of experience and thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment. Hiring an amateur for your wedding portraits is one of the biggest mistakes a bridal couple can make. Don’t do it!

Amateurs can sometimes pull it off but, far too often, things go wrong especially when it comes to wedding photography. They end up missing some of the most significant moments of the day, either because they’re getting ready to perform, performing, or were too nervous to pay much attention to anything else!

There’s also the fact that asking a friend or relative to perform or work (whether for free or pay) could be unfair to them because they will be working when they could be enjoying themselves at your wedding!


If you decide to hire an amateur or a talented friend to provide a service for your wedding day, make sure you adjust your expectations. If a less-than-perfect performance in that area is going to make you unhappy, don’t ask them.

MISTAKE #3 – Planning the Ceremony LAST.

Here’s a true story: Jill and Kevin found the perfect wedding location at a rustic winery on the hilltop near the couple’s home. They plunked down a big deposit, booked the photographer and the band, and THEN they started looking at churches.

None of the Catholic churches in the area would agree to marry them because they weren’t members, and the nearby beautiful Methodist Church was unavailable on their date. The only church available was in a run-down schoolhouse with no heat or air conditioning.

Their parents were outraged that Jill and Kevin weren’t getting married in a Catholic church. The couple faced the difficult issue of dealing with angry parents, an unacceptable church, and lost deposits.

If you are planning a ceremony in a location different from your reception, make sure you can find an available (and acceptable) church or space BEFORE you book your reception venue. And, when booking venues, keep in mind your wedding photography!

If you have your heart set on a particular church or minister, make sure they are available before you put down a deposit. Otherwise, you can find yourself facing some tough decisions like Jill and Kevin.

MISTAKE #4 – Not Considering the Weather.

If you don’t carefully consider the weather for your wedding day, particularly as it might affect your specific venue, you can end up with a wedding day disaster.

True story: Sara and Bob planned to get married at the beautiful Mills Mansion on the banks of a river. There were beautiful views, a gorgeous mansion, and amazing gardens nearby. Of course, they envisioned their wedding day on a perfect June afternoon. Instead, they ended up with a monsoon!

They didn’t have sides for the tent, so the guests were drenched. The DJ moved onto the tiny dance floor to protect his equipment, which meant there was no room for dancing. Everyone slogged through the mud for five miserable hours.

Before you choose your location, consider the worst case scenario for the weather. What if it rains? What if it is blisteringly hot? What if it snows?

Make sure you consider every possible weather scenario for your ceremony and reception location and what can be done in each case to deal with the weather. Make sure your dream wedding will still hold up under the worst weather possible. That way you know you will be prepared for the worst, just in case, and your day will be amazing no matter what!


MISTAKE #5 – Having an Unrealistic Day-Of Timeline – or No Timeline at All1

Everything takes more time than you think. Even some of the smartest brides, the ones who are always on time for everything, end up rushed and panicked on their wedding day because they didn’t allow extra time.

If you fall behind schedule on your wedding day, there is no catching up. You can’t get those minutes and hours back. Your party ends at the contracted time. And there is nothing more painful than watching a bride who doesn’t relax and enjoy her day.

Get realistic estimates for the time it takes to do something, then add on some extra time for good measure!

MISTAKE #6 – Trying to Please Everyone

Wedding websites and wedding planning books seem to know just how to plan the perfect wedding. Your family and friends also are more than happy to tell you what THEY think you should do. Everyone has a tip for you on what they think is best! But, trying to make everyone happy or trying to follow all of the advice is exhausting. Plus, it’s an effort that’s doomed to failure.

Choose your battles. If something is very important to you, stick to your guns. You won’t be able to make everyone happy anyway. It’s crucial that you, the bridal couple, are happiest because, after all, it’s YOUR wedding!

Bonus Tip: Be Prepared

Finally, being prepared is the best way to avoid these and other common mistakes. If you’ve already committed some of these mistakes, never fear. Do the best you can to address them and move forward.

Have fun planning your wedding, and decide to make it your best day ever, no matter what. Our years as a wedding photographer in the Potomac Falls, VA area have taught us that, in the end, the most important thing about your wedding is marrying your beloved!


Family and Engagement Photographer

Ever After Portraits is comprised of Mindy Belcher and Joriana Belcher Anderson, a mother-daughter portrait photography team located in Sterling, VA in Northern Virginia. We specialize in timeless and emotive fine art family portraits.
Family means everything and capturing those precious moments to preserve forever will mean family heirlooms for you to share for years to come.

Mindy & Joriana – Contact Us!
Professional Photographer

5 Insider Secrets for a Flawless, Relaxing Wedding Day | Northern VA Engagement Photography

5 Insider Secrets for a Flawless, Relaxing Wedding Day | Northern VA Engagement Photography

As a Sterling, VA portrait photographer, we know that once you’ve spent all that time planning the look, the feel, and the style of your wedding, it makes sense that you want to enjoy the day. If you talk to pretty much any bride after her wedding, she’ll tell you, “It all went by so fast!” It’s a pretty typical response, so we thought we’d offer you a few wedding insider tips to help you relax and enjoy every moment.

SECRET #1 – Allow extra time on your wedding day, including for portraits.

Wherever (or whenever) you can, you should allow for extra time. If you think it will take you an hour to get ready, give yourself two, instead.

For example, many brides forget to allow enough travel time between venues. It takes longer than five minutes to get your bridesmaids to the limo. They will likely pose for portraits, gather bouquets, possibly take bathroom breaks, then pile into the limo, and head to the reception.

You can never have too much extra time on your wedding day. Those breaks and gaps will be a welcome chance for you to relax, breathe and take it all in.

SECRET #2 – Hand over your cell phone.

• Be unreachable on your wedding day! Give your cell phone to your mother or Maid of Honor and let her run interference for you.
• Make sure your mother or Maid of Honor has your phone, but don’t carry it on you. (They don’t make wedding gowns with pockets for a reason.)
• You’ve hired the best wedding vendors and planned for everything. Now let everyone else take care of it so you can relax and enjoy.
• Nobody’s going anywhere without you! You can let go and let everyone else take care of the details.

SECRET #3 – Take your photos before the ceremony.

We know it’s traditional to not see each other before the ceremony. But, have you ever asked yourself where this tradition came from and why people practice it? The tradition was born in the days of arranged marriages. The bride and groom’s first meeting was actually AT the ceremony and the first time they laid their eyes on each other was when the bride walked down the aisle. The two were kept from seeing each other before the ceremony to keep the groom from running away if he did not like the way his soon-to-be bride looked!

Today, not seeing the bride the day of the ceremony also means you’ll have a very tight timeline between your ceremony and reception. That can also mean you’ll feel rushed, stressed and anxious about getting through your wedding portraits before heading to the reception.

One idea is to arrange for a romantic “first look” before the ceremony with just the two of you. Your photographer can capture those private moments from a discreet distance during your portraits. Instead of being on display in front of 300 guests when you first see each other that day, your groom will be able to wax poetic about how beautiful you look as he can actually talk to you when he first sees you! You don’t need to have that moment standing quietly at the altar.

Doing the portraits earlier means you’ll have time for relaxing, fun portraits in the location of your choice. Then, at the ceremony, that “first look” will have a new and special meaning in front of your friends and family.

If you can do it, take your “first look” portraits before the ceremony. It will have a HUGE impact toward making your day more relaxing and stress-free.


SECRET #4 – Visit the “important” tables first.

A lot of couples want to do the “right thing” and visit each table at their wedding reception. The problem is that visiting 10 to 20 tables can take a very long time! Before you know it, you only have 45 minutes until the end of the party and wedding day.

Rather than visiting every table, consider stopping by the tables where your close relatives and older guests are seated. The same could be said for out-of-town guests. These are the people who would be the most hurt if they didn’t chat with you at your wedding. Visit those tables first and then skip the rest. You’ll see your friends at the bar or on the dance floor instead!

It’s your wedding day. Use your time for having some fun!

SECRET #5 – Take a moment for yourself throughout the day.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the rush of your wedding day. Before you know it, the wedding day has come to an end, and you’re left wondering where the time went.

Instead, be sure to steal a few quiet moments with your honey throughout the wedding events. Be sure to sit and just soak it all in. Look out at the party and your guests and enjoy the moment!

One of our couples made a pact before the wedding. Whenever one of their special songs was played, they would stop what they were doing and meet on the dance floor. Those quiet moments you take throughout the day will help you remember later that your wedding day was absolutely spectacular!

We hope you’ve enjoyed these insider wedding tips! We’ve gathered them from our own experience as wedding photographers, from the comments of past brides, and other wedding professionals. As a Sterling, VA portrait photographer, we wish you the very best for your wedding and your new life together!


Family Portrait Photographer

Ever After Portraits is comprised of Mindy Belcher and Joriana Belcher Anderson, a mother-daughter portrait photography team located in Sterling, VA in Northern Virginia. We specialize in timeless and emotive fine art family portraits.
Family means everything and capturing those precious moments to preserve forever will mean family heirlooms for you to share for years to come.

Mindy & Joriana – Contact Us!
Professional Photographer

Top 5 Gorgeous Engagement Portrait Locations | Northern VA Engagement Photographer

Top 5 Gorgeous Engagement Portrait Locations | Northern VA Engagement Photographer

Location, Location, Location…it’s not just important in real estate! Even if you can’t hold your wedding at the Ritz Carlton, you can still have beautiful wedding portraits. A gifted portrait photographer can take your bride and groom portraits at countless places across Northern VA and the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) or elsewhere in our state!

The gorgeous places we list below also make wonderful places for engagement photography! Whether you are looking for beautiful views, an urban beat or a vintage feel, you won’t have to look far in our state to get any of them!

What follows are our Top 5 spots where you can best capture your cherished memories, either dressed in your wedding finery or during an Engagement Session.

National Arboretum – Washington, D.C.

The U.S. National Arboretum is a unique venue not heavily frequented. Only ten minutes from the Capitol Building, portraits taken there will have character and charm, while still allowing your personality as a couple to shine through. Our favorite spot within the Arboretum is the Capitol Columns, but there are 446 acres with everything from Bonsai trees to herb and rose gardens.

Here are the particulars:
• Location: Entry is at 3501 New York Avenue, NE or at 24th and R Streets, NE, off of Bladensburg Road Contact: U.S. National Arboretum or (202) 245-4543
• What you should know: Wedding photography for couples who aren’t planning to have their wedding at the Arboretum requires an application and $30 fee. Parking and entrance to the Arboretum are free. The Arboretum is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Christmas. However, you must send your application in at least two weeks before your event date.


Meadowlark Botanical Gardens – Vienna, Virginia

If you are longing for portraits by a body of water with flowers in bloom? Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is a gorgeous place and perfect for photography! The grounds are manicured year round and flowers of different varieties are always in bloom. Bridges, walking paths, and a large lake with a gazebo in the middle are everything you could hope for if you’ve dreamed of timeless portraits.

Here are the particulars:
• Location: 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, Virginia 22182
• Contact: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens or (703)-255-3631
• What you should know: The entrance fee is $5.

Glen Echo Park – Glen Echo, MD

• Glen Echo Park is full of magic and whimsy. Situated on the Potomac Palisades near Bethesda, Maryland, there is an amusement park, complete with carousel and bumper car pavilion, wide-open spaces, and romantic backdrops that beg you to “cuddle up.” There’s a charming vintage trolley car still on the tracks! Overall, the park is an idyllic location!

Here are the particulars:
• Location: From downtown Washington, take Massachusetts Avenue in the northwest direction, to its end at Goldsboro Road, turn left, and continue to MacArthur Boulevard. Turn right on MacArthur Boulevard and take an immediate left onto Oxford Road where you will see the parking lot.
• Contact: Glen Echo Park or (301)-634-2222
• What you should know: There is no entrance fee to the park. There are lots of great places to shoot, and there is no location like Glen Echo Park if you’d like a vintage feel for your portraits. If you like bold colors and unique backdrops, there is no better place!

Washington National Harbor, Maryland

Located on 300 acres along the scenic Potomac River in Prince George’s County, MD, National Harbor is the newest gateway to the National Capital Region. Spectacular views of the waterfront combine with the urban feel to provide uniqueness. Whether it is a sunset on the pier or hip street scenes, portraits taken at this location will be spectacular!

Here are the particulars:
• Location: National Harbor is directly accessible from the Capital Beltway, I-95, I-495, I- 295, and the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, and is minutes away from all three area airports. There are interchange and multi-lane fly-off ramps exiting exclusively into the community from Maryland, Virginia, and D.C.
• Contact: National Harbor or (301)-634-2222
• What you should know: This is a popular spot, and there are activities planned most weekends so parking can be at a premium.

Vineyard Photography at any of our local Virginia Vineyards

Whether you and your groom want to frolic through the fields and feed each other ripe, succulent grapes or just breathe in the fresh air and mountain views typical of Virginia, a local vineyard might be right for you. Rows of grapevines and breathtaking landscapes can provide gorgeous backdrops for your once-in-a-lifetime portraits. Don’t forget to stop by and get your first sip from the vine as a married couple!

Just search for the vineyard closest to your ceremony location!
Virginia Wine

Wait, there’s more!

As we started to think of the best places in D,C, to have a portrait session, we were overwhelmed. There are so many great locations, so here’s a tip:

If the timeline on your wedding day won’t allow for travel to and from a site, you could plan to return with your photographer on another day for a “Day After Session”!

Check out these locations:

Outdoor Locations:

Air & Space Museum – in DC and Virginia
Roosevelt Island
Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD
Collingwood Library and Museum
National Mall – any of the Smithsonian museums and gardens, particularly the garden behind the Castle
The Capitol
Meridian Hill Park
Great Falls Park, Maryland or Virginia
Georgetown (waterfront, canal, everywhere)
Old Town Alexandria
Washington National Harbor in Maryland
Rock Creek Park
Lafayette Square – White House can be seen
Bartholdi Park


Indoor Locations:

National Gallery of Art
Union Station
Library of Congress
National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum
Hirshhorn Museum
Willard Hotel


Buffalo Billiards
Eastern Market
U Street
Lucky Strike

No matter which location you choose for your engagement portrait session, be sure to contact Ever After as your Northern VA portrait photographer for beautiful portraits that are unique as you are!


Family Portrait Photographer

Ever After Portraits is comprised of Mindy Belcher and Joriana Belcher Anderson, a mother-daughter portrait photography team located in Sterling, VA in Northern Virginia. We specialize in timeless and emotive fine art family portraits.

Family means everything and capturing those precious moments to preserve forever will mean family heirlooms for you to share for years to come.

Mindy & Joriana – Contact Us!

Professional Photographer

How to Find the Right Vendors for Your Unforgettable Wedding | Northern VA Engagement Photographer

How to Find the Right Vendors for Your Unforgettable Wedding | Northern VA Engagement Photographer

Before you feel completely overwhelmed trying to find the best vendors to hire for your wedding, let us offer you a few important tips. As a former wedding photographer in the Dulles, VA area, we know the importance vendors can have on the success of your wedding.

We also know how stressful it can be to put a great team together. First of all, selecting vendors is not an easy task, and it’s totally normal for couples to feel overwhelmed, frustrated or confused. Wedding planning is probably new to you, so be patient with yourself.

Consider these questions before you begin

* How do you find the right match for you?

* How do you know whom to trust?

* Where do you go for advice?

First of all, STYLE, PERSONALITY, and PROFESSIONALISM are the most significant things when interviewing vendors. You want to hire someone with whom your guests will feel comfortable because the more comfortable your guests are, the more fun they will have. Each vendor should also match or understand the style and vision of your wedding.


To decide if a potential vendor is a good fit,
ask them these questions:

1. How many weddings do you do per year? How much experience do you have?

These are fundamental questions. Ideally, your wedding professional should have a lot of experience with weddings for two reasons: They will be better skilled in their craft, and they will be a valuable source of information. Those two things will help ensure that your wedding day goes smoothly.

2. How much do you cost?

Price can be relative, especially when you factor in experience, reputation, and expert skill; and paying more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting something better. However, typically the most talented professionals have a higher price tag because they are worth it.

If you’re not sure what the going rate should be for vendors or you want to make sure you aren’t overpaying for a professional vendor, plug in the zip code of your reception venue at Cost of Wedding.

You should also ask about deposits, including how much they are, and what is included in their pricing (including deposit).

Keep in mind that photography pricing often varies according to the package offered, and it can be challenging to compare packages. You might need to go through a vendor’s pricing and compare details rather than overall costs to get a more accurate comparison.

The lowest pricing isn’t necessarily the best deal. Some higher quotes include services that you have to pay extra for in less expensive packages. Make sure you take this into account.


3. What happens if I cancel? What happens if you, the vendor, cancels?

Ask if your deposit is refundable under any conditions or under what specific circumstances. Does the wedding professional have a backup plan if something happens to them?

4. Do you use a contract?

If the answer is “no,” RUN! A contract is designed to protect both you and the wedding professional. Never settle for a verbal agreement that won’t hold up in court!


5. Are there any additional fees?

Taxes, service charges, and travel fees can add up quickly. Make sure you understand exactly what is included in their pricing, and if there are any other fees for which you would be responsible. This should be clearly defined in your contract.

6. Do you carry liability insurance?

Work only with vendors who carry liability insurance! It protects you in case an unfortunate accident should occur on your wedding day. Carrying comprehensive coverage is the sign of a reputable business since most “fly by night” operations won’t invest in insurance.

Lastly, one final bit of advice:

Read the contract!

Make sure you understand everything that’s written, and ask questions if you do not.

There is no silly question…except the one you don’t ask. Make sure you know the price as well as their cancellation and refund policies.

Go with your gut! If something feels “off” about the vendor, you’re probably right. Walk away.

Remember: the right wedding vendors can offer expert help, guidance, and advice on every aspect of a wedding – that includes the wedding photographer in the Dulles, VA area!


Family Photographer, Engagement Photographer

Ever After Portraits is comprised of Mindy Belcher and Joriana Belcher Anderson, a mother-daughter portrait photography team located near Dulles, VA in Northern Virginia. We specialize in timeless and emotive fine art family portraits.

Family means everything and capturing those precious moments to preserve forever will mean family heirlooms for you to share for years to come.


Mindy & Joriana – Contact Us!

Professional Photographer