10 Things I Wish I Knew 10 Years Ago - A Personal Share

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Life can throw some real challenges at you but it’s funny how life always seems to sort itself out. We are resilient people with busy schedules. After reflecting over the past 10 years (that means all of my twenties) here are the top 10 things I wish I knew back then:

  1. It’s OK to Want to Do Every Career Imaginable - In my twenties I went through so many phases. My lucky husband was a witness to this. I wanted to be everything from a Social Worker, Baker, Peacekeeper, Bank Teller, Teacher … honestly, you name it and I’ve probably wanted to try it out. If it wasn’t for me wanting to pursue so many different career paths, I would have never landed here, as a couple and wedding photographer. I love trying new things, enjoy a challenge and get bored very easily with mundane tasks. Shooting weddings every weekend is a perfect fit.

  2. Letting Go Is Hard but It Gets Easier - This was a real struggle for me. I got married at 20, had our first child at 21, moved across the country (away from my own family at 21), had our second child at 23 all while trying to find and maintain who I was as an individual. I had a very difficult time missing my family while starting my own. I didn’t picture having a family of my own, away from my parents and sister. I struggled and despised our first posting. It wasn’t a fairytale, easy as pie beginning. I had a lot to learn about myself, parenting, and being a good wife in a new province away from everything I knew. It was a lot of new roles in a very short period of time.

    Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I’m happy to say we are 10 years into our marriage with the military (anyone that tells you that you aren’t marrying the military when you marry a military person is straight up lying to you), raising our 2 boys, starting and maintaining my own personal career which I built by myself (with the support of my husband), we’ve purchased our first home, first vehicles, traveled the world - I could go on.

    My heart is grateful for the struggles early on. It allowed my husband and I to learn to really work as a team. Do I miss my family on the West coast still? Every.single.day. But I know, what I’ve built here in Ottawa is worth it.

  3. The Weight Comes and Goes - Over the past 10 years my weight has fluctuated a lot. I gained 60 lbs with my first son and another 60 lbs with my second son (without losing all of the weight from my first pregnancy). I’ve been a size 2 but I’ve also been a size 10. I’ve tried fad diets, working out a ton, relearning new lifestyle choices. I’ve tried it all. At the end of the day it’s been challenging for me to put me first. As a mom of two and an owner of two businesses that need my attention, taking personal care of myself has been set low on the priority scale. I’ve learned that when life slows down a bit to take advantage of the time and give myself the healthy attention I need. When life is busy, try not to beat myself up over it. There are only so many hours in a day.

  4. A Little Sacrifice Lends Unimaginable Gains - While in my twenties, I didn’t really worry about what we spent our money on. If I saw a cute outfit for the boys, I bought it. If we wanted to eat out at a restaurant because, well, it was my turn to cook - we did. We spent frivolously most of the time. It wasn’t until we were posted to Ottawa that I could see myself setting any sort of roots down. I didn’t picture a home in our last posting because I didn’t want to feel stuck there (remember, I wasn’t a fan).

    Quickly, we fell in love with everything Ottawa had to offer. It’s a wonderful city to raise a family boasting with so much opportunity to grow together. We finally found a house layout and style we could agree on (this is a story for another day) and decided now was the time. We were not the starter house type of people, we hate moving and didn’t feel the need to grow into and out of a home more than we needed to. Are you ready for this? We created a budget and actually kept track of where our money was going and when we’d meet our financial goals. We were able to pay off all of our debt while saving for a downpayment in only a year. It was both shocking and a little insane to see how much money we were wasting before. We were able to purchase our house, refurnish the entire thing, buy brand new appliances and two new vehicles all in the same year. Small sacrifices like not buying that cute outfit or actually cooking from home makes a huge difference. Promise.

  5. It’s the Experiences that Mean More - I absolutely love gift giving. It just makes me feel good giving someone else a gift - especially my children. We had such lavish Christmases (and sometimes still do) but looking back, our family doesn’t often remember a single gift we got. Seriously. If you asked what we got for Christmas or a birthday a year or two ago, we likely wouldn't remember. What do we remember? Sledding down the toboggan hills in Kanata, cuddling up watching movies as a family, swimming in the hotel pools, making sandcastles by the beach and jumping over the waves, or feeding the deer carrots outside of the truck windows. My children still talk about their favourite memories when we go away and what they liked the best. The smiles on their faces when we go new places and try new things will always mean more to them than an actual gift. They’ve even suggested canceling Christmas and doing something as a family instead. Yes, our kids are only 9 and 7 and already see the significance in memory making vs. gift receiving. I wish I had known this then.

  6. Trying New Food Doesn’t Always Suck - OK this one might seem really silly compared to all of the rest but it’s a lesson I’ve learned over the past 10 years. I would describe my tastes in my early twenties as immature and childish. I liked “kid” vegetables (of course not cooked), if it looked gross of course it likely was and if I didn’t know where it came from - well, it just wasn’t happening. All this was true until Josh took over our home chef duties and stopped catering to my picky wants. I’ve grown vastly in my tastes over the years thanks to him pushing me to try new things. Some things do remain the same though - I am not a fan of sushi and thankful my oldest son is so they can do sushi dates without me.

  7. Stop Trying to Make Bangs Work - Every time I get my haircut and add in the idea of bangs I get excited. Something different is always fun. Nope. I always end up hating it so it’s time to face the facts and not go down the whole bangs are cute on Stephanie route.

  8. Amazing True Friends become Family - These are the people you can always count on regardless of how busy they are or what they have going on. These are the people that don’t need to be asked to offer help but just know when you do (because sometimes you just suck at asking for help). These are the people that become your family when you don’t have your extended family around. These are the people that you celebrate birthdays and holidays with and the people that celebrate your achievements with over the years. These are the people that don’t expect anything in return and don’t create drama in your life. Keep these people close. They mean the most.

  9. It’s OK to Unfriend People - It has taken me a good 8 years to realize I don’t need to be (or even want to be) everyones friend. Everyone has their own interests, passions and way of life which is what keeps life interesting. What isn’t ok is to keep people in your life that are toxic to your growth, mood, or the true relationships in your life. It’s ok to out grow people and move on. Saying goodbye to toxic relationships allows for the good vibes only type of people to share more of your time. Meet more of those types of people and create a genuine circle of close people in your life.

  10. It’s Perfectly Acceptable to Say No - This one has also taken me years to learn. I always found myself saying no to someone followed by an excuse. I felt like I needed a reason behind my “no” answer. Do I want to go out after a long weekend of weddings? No, I can’t say I do. Saying no doesn’t need to be negative. In fact, I wish more people would say “no”, say how they feel rather than commit to something only to bail later. If you aren’t interested in joining activities, purchasing something, or something of that sort - just say so. We are all adults and respect someone that can make decisions on their own and stick to them.


Top 5 Tips for the Best Wedding Day Photos

1. Choose Your Prep Location Carefully

When you are thinking of your getting ready photos, think about how much light that area receives. If you are dreaming of bright, light and airy images of you and your besties getting gorgeous for the big day, my biggest suggestion is to look at the space first.

Some of my absolute favourite places in Ottawa for getting ready locations are: Stonefield's Bridal Suite, Andaz corner suite (windows galore with minimal decor keeps the focus on you!) or Brookstreet hotel in Kanata. 

Make sure you do a site visit before booking and arrange a viewing of the room. Once inside, turn off all the light switches, open the curtains so that you can see how light and bright the room actually is. The more light the better! If you are unsure, take some quick photos with your cellphone and share them with your photographer.

Tip: On the morning of your wedding, make sure you keep the room you are getting ready in as tidy and clutter free as possible. Not all photographers are as OCD as I am or may not have the time to tidy it for you!


2. Allocate a Boss Babe or Wedding Planner

Think about the bossiest person in your life. You know we all have them! Do they know all of your immediate family? What about your grooms? If the answer is yes, allot them to wrangle these people for the family photos portion of your day. 

Tip: I always recommend to my brides to write a list of all the family photos that they want, so that this portion of their day can be run smoothly and efficiently. If there are elderly people or children in these groups, we always start with them so that they can be dismissed to go off and party first. 

Not sure how long these types of photos take? Check in with your photographer with the list prepared!


3. Take Some Time Out With Your Husband

One of the most important parts of the day are the bride and groom portraits. Not only for the photos, but for the time away from the crowd as newlyweds to enjoy some time together. It's a great time to reflect on the ceremony and take in this moment, your first day as husband and wife! 

Make sure you allow 45-60 minutes for the bride and groom portraits - just the two of you! You will look back on these photos and be thankful you took the time to do these. I recommend to all of my couples to schedule this time together the hour before the sun sets. If you are looking online for sunset timings, make sure you are aware that the time listed is the time that the sun is down. Best yet, if you are unsure - check in with your photographer! Our team is always happy to help.


4. Light, light, light

When it comes to your wedding reception, lighting has a huge roll to play in how your photos will look. If you're having a completely open-air reception, under the stars, I recommend using as much extra lighting as possible, such as strands of festoon lights and candles in hurricane vases.

Tip: Fairy lights are not enough on their own. Festoon lights are a larger and better option.

The extra lighting will help warm up your photos and add a prettier, more dynamic element. I would also recommend if your reception is indoors, that you investigate the lighting before you book. If your venue has ugly fluorescent lights, it will be worth the investment to hire a lighting company to install alternate lighting for the evening.


5. Timeline Prep is Crucial

Planning your timeline is a huge tool that all of your vendors, guests and wedding party will use on the day of your wedding. A few things to keep in mind while planning your timeline.

Details Help Tell The Story. Every photographer is different as are their styles. Some photographers are sticklers for the details (like us!) while others don’t quite pay attention to them. Details are huge and what you’ve been planning for the past year (or so). When it comes to creating your wedding day album, these detail shots really help tell the story of how your day looked and felt. If this is important to you, make sure you see lots of details in photographers wedding portfolio to ensure they care about the details just as much as you.

Leave buffer time and be realistic with travel times
. Feeling rushed on your wedding day is no fun and what is even worse is missing key events altogether because other portions of your day ran longer than expected. If you are traveling from your ceremony site to a reception site or alternate photo locations - actually do the drive during the time of day you will be traveling. Are you traveling through rush hour traffic? Are there any special events happening on your wedding that need to be considered for road closures? Some things can be out of your control but hiring vendors that know their timing and are seasoned pros will help keep things on track to avoid this rushed feeling on your wedding day.

Consider when sunset is on your wedding day. Not taking advantage of the stunning golden hour (hour before sunset) for bride and groom portraits is really sad. I've never had a bride regret taking that time out of their day to capture these magically lit images of her and her new husband. Things like speeches, dances, cake cutting etc. can be done at any time during the reception but you cannot bring back the sun and the romantic environment it makes on your wedding day.

Vendors That Helped Create This Beautiful Wedding

Venue: Evermore
Photography: Stephanie Mason Photography & Team
Planning: Styled with Love Weddings
Florals: Capital Florist
Make Up: Artistry by Jacquie
Dress: With Love Bridal
Earrings: Sarah Walsh Jewellery