6 months of Motherhood, and this is what i've learned

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Stone Brodley Maiuri was born on February 28th, 2019 at 4:24pm. He made his way into the world via sun roof (aka C Section) because it was really cold in Michigan in February and I guess he didn’t want to come out during a polar vortex.

I get it.

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You see, the first thing I learned about Motherhood was that birth isn’t a f*cking vacation. But boy, did I pack like I was going on one. I had my hospital bag ready and waiting to go at 37 weeks. And it didn’t get used until week 41.5. I packed everything every blogger told me was a “must have” for a go bag. And then some. I even brought my Kindle, embroidery, and UNO like I was going to a quiet retreat in the forest for a few days.

I repeat, whatever anyone tells you, birth is not a vacation.

Without going into too extreme of detail, let’s just say Stone was birthed via C Section after a series of vain attempts at persuading him out of my body otherwise. It started with me trying every “sure thing” to go into labor (like eating pineapple and extremely spicy food, bouncing endlessly on yoga balls, and walking miles each day) and ended with me screaming “JUST CUT HIM THE F OUT OF ME ALREADY” in a poor nurse’s face.

God bless nurses.

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Less than an hour later he was laying on my chest in a recovery room and I was officially a Mom. He was tiny. And so cute. Like a skinny little raisin.

I remember as I was getting wheeled to the recovery room after surgery, my fresh baby being pushed behind me by my husband, my mom came out of the waiting area to greet me in the hallway.

“Isn’t he perfect?” I asked her. “I haven’t seen him yet,” she responded, “I wanted to know you were ok first.”

And that, my friends, is pretty much the entirety of what it means to be a mom. All I want to know is that Stone is OK, above everything else that’s happening.

Before I go to bed, I check that he’s ok. When we are taking walks, or I’m wearing him in a sling, or if I’m feeding him, I inspect him to make sure he’s ok. I have notification alerts on my phone from his monitor, so wherever I am while he sleeps, I can check if he’s ok. As I write this, I have another window open of Stone’s monitor so I can see every spastic move he makes in his sleep. Basically, when something is wrong, I want to be the person to help make whatever is wrong OK again.

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I guess it was always difficult for me to imagine what I’d feel like as a mom. I always thought moms were like, beyond wise and always had it together and knew what they were doing and were professionals at caring for others. But moms may appear that way but they don’t know. No one knows what the hell they are doing when they have a baby but you learn and you do the things you think are best for your kid and you just hope those decisions make them turn out OK.

So what have I learned?

I’ve learned the library is my favorite place to bring him. We can walk there and get fresh air and borrow stories I read as a kid and stories that are new to both of us. I’ve learned that I love reading to my baby and that children’s books have some really good lessons and messages.

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I learned that breastfeeding is not easy and if you can’t do it, some people make you feel bad about it. I learned that some babies just don’t latch easily and pumping is the only way to make your milk come in when you have a C section. I learned that pumping is really time consuming and sometimes painful and sometimes it will make you bleed. I learned after 8 weeks of struggling to get even an ounce of milk out of myself and spending hours attached to a machine, that breastfeeding wasn’t right for my family and I’ve learned that’s ok, because my baby is growing and happy and healthy.

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I’ve learned that pretty much everything from my childhood is engrained in the depths of my memory. I hadn’t heard my late grandmother’s lullabies in many years, but I still knew them all by heart. I hadn’t seen Sesame Street in almost 30 years but you can guarantee I knew the entirety of “Rubber Duckie.” As I read Dr. Seuss I had flashes of watching “Fox in Socks and other stories” on VHS.

I learned that Hootie and the Blowfish made a parody of “Hold My Hand” to teach kids how to cross the street and it made me ugly cry the first time I heard it because I can’t handle my emotions when it comes to 90s nostalgia and making sure kids are safe.

I learned that I could love something more than I love my dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my dogs. But sometimes I’m like, why don’t you smile and laugh at my jokes like Stone does, ya know? Or why do you have to bark at literally anything that goes by the house?

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I’ve learned that everything is more fun when you witness a baby seeing or doing it for the first time.

I’ve learned that I can run on a lot less sleep than I was used to before Stone was born.

I’ve learned that my business is not my life.

I’ve learned to prioritize my personal time with my family.

I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy every single moment I have because already in 6 months he’s grown so much.

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I’ve learned that I wish I could freeze time. I have also learned that I can. Taking photos is the most important way I can hold onto every moment I have with my baby. I’ve learned that despite wanting to separate work and personal time, I find myself taking more photos now than I ever did before February 28th, 2019.

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Finally, I’ve learned that being a mom is exactly what I expected. Although, with less… stress. I mean, I get anxious sometimes and I worry about things but stress? No. Having a baby was the best decision I ever made. He makes me so uncontrollably happy. Every day is just pure joy. And I know that one day he won’t laugh at my jokes or let me kiss him a million times a day or greet me with the biggest smile ever. I know he won’t always want to cuddle. I know he’s going to grow up and move out and be his own person one day.

But for now, before that happens, I’ll enjoy these salad days of parenthood. I’ll soak up every moment. I’ll continue to learn how to be the best mom I possibly can be.

And I’ll do my best to make sure he’s OK.

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6 Things you didn't know you needed on your wedding day

Hi guys, sorry for the *ahem* long hiatus BUT you know, mom life. Having a baby apparently didn’t give me the copious amounts of time to blog whilst nursing a newborn on a tufted pillow in the middle of a summer meadow like I thought it would.

Anyway………

I recently counted how many weddings I’ve been to as a photographer, and I counted 96 as of last weekend! That’s a lot of witnessing the behind the scenes of a multitude of different types of weddings. So yeah, I see things pop up that every now and then someone remembers and I realize— whoa, that just made the WHOLE day run smoother. Or, in some cases, saves the day.

I’ve compiled a small list of things you may not think about needing, but probably do need, on your wedding day:

  1. A Crochet hook

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Does your dress have butttons? Or a bustle? A crochet hook can drastically change the amount of time it takes you to get into your dress. Just hook those little loops over the buttons with ease instead of causing arthritis in your maid of honor’s hands.

2. Safety pins/sewing kit

I remember a wedding where a bridesmaid had to be sewn into her dress because the zipper ripped when she was putting it on. She was stitched in, then cut out of it at the end of the night. Things rip. It’s just the risk of an expensive outfit that is made to be worn once.

3. Your invitations

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If you spent any sort of time or money on your invitations, bring them for the photographer to photograph as a flat lay before the ceremony. Sometimes these can be the most beautiful photos and they are also nice to share with the person who helped you create them. They also help tell the story of the day when you look back through your gallery.

4. Scrap florals

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Your florist has to trim everything to make your flowers perfect. But there is nothing better for your photographer to use to style details than the leftovers from your order. Inevitably, there will be extra leaves, stems that didn’t make the cut, and trimmed buds that weren’t fully in bloom. Petals that fell off. Ask your florist to include some of the trimmings with the delivery to your hotel room when he/she drops off the boutonnieres and bouquets. Your photographer will thank you for it!

5. Shout wipes

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I’ve seen miracles happen because of Shout wipes. The most memorable was when a bridesmaid didn’t notice she cut her finger (I forget at this point on what!) and as we were taking photos in the bridal suite, a mere 20 minutes before the bride would set step down the aisle, we noticed bits of blood all over the back of the bride’s dress! Thankfully, someone had brought along Shout wipes and I watched as those little f*ckers took every last bit of BLOOD out of a white dress. I couldn’t believe it. It’s very important that you only use Shout wipes. I have nothing against other stain removers, but these are by far the superior choice. I am not sponsored by Shout, I genuinely just think it’s an amazing product to have on hand.

6. a nice hanger

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There is really no better way to put a proper finishing “WOW” on a wedding dress (I mean, aside from you stepping into it) than to hang it on a nice hanger while you get ready. It can really elevate it from that wire hanger and cardboard torso the seamstress packaged it in. Sure, that is perfect for storing it before the wedding day, but on the day of, consider a nice wooden, metal, satin, or personalized hanger. But, as a last-minute resort, many hotels have wooden hangers in their closets which work well in a pinch.

{Giveaway} wedding party gifts!

The people we choose to stand next to us on our wedding day deserve to feel appreciated for the work, time, and money they spend to make the vision for the day come to life. It shouldn’t take much to let them know how grateful we are that they are a part of our lives.

I stumbled across Bridesmaids Gift Boutique a couple weeks ago, and I came up with a TON of inspiration. This site is perfect for anyone searching for a cute, personalized and inexpensive way to make your crew feel special. I liked the options so much, I’ve decided to partner with them on a special giveaway post to show you just one of many ways to ask your BFFs to stand next to you, or simply thank her/him for being a part of your day.

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I’m big on creating fun gift boxes and mini care packages. I love setting an intention behind what I’m giving to someone. So when I saw these Instagram-worthy travel wine cups, I thought HOW CUTE they would be for a celebratory situation like a wedding day, bachelorette or just plain “will you be my bridesmaid?” type gift.

Personalization is key when it comes to a party favor, so no one gets their drink confused. I also loved the idea of just putting your hashtag on them! These cups also keep your drink cold for up to 3 hours, so you can sip or gulp and no one has to know how many you’ve had…

Here’s what I’d include in my care package for my friends:

A recipe for a fun drink (like my Mojito Limeade below)

A tiny bottle of liquor

A drink stirrer

Simple syrup or a simple syrup recipe

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Here’s a recipe for one of my favorite cocktails, a Mojito Limeade! (I’ve also included a virgin version too for any friends who are staying away from liquor, or if you just want a yummy drink without getting completely hammered!):

Mojito Limeade:

  • 1 tablespoon of simple syrup

  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice (or a half a lime)

  • 12 fresh mint leaves

  • a shot of white rum

  • 1 can of lime LaCroix

  • 1 scoop of frozen Limeade concentrate

Muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup together in the bottom of the glass. Add a heaping spoonful of the Limeade concentrate and the rum and stir. Add the LaCroix and lime juice, and stir. Add ice and a couple more mint leaves for garnish.

If you want to make this beverage non alcoholic, just leave out the rum! It’s still delicious!

Now for the GIVEAWAY!

If you want a chance to win one of these personalized wine mugs from Bridesmaids Gift Boutique featured in this post, go to my Instagram page and find the giveaway post and follow the instructions. I’ll be doing a random drawing of the winner at 10am EST on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019!

PS: if you're looking for unique personalized groomsmen gifts check out Groovy Groomsmen Gifts or for a wide variety of wedding favor ideas and table gifts, there is also Forever Wedding Favors.




Even MORE tips and tricks for natural posing and feeling relaxed around the camera

One of my most popular blog posts to date was this one: my top tips for getting comfortable in front of a camera no matter if it’s your first (or 100th) time posing for photos. I think it’s about time for even more suggestions! Let’s dive right into it, shall we?

  1. play music

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Nothing gets the party started better than a playlist of your favorite music. bring a portable stereo or turn on some music on during your in-home session. it will get you moving and give you something else to concentrate on aside from the person with a camera in your face.

2. practice breathing.

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Do this intermittently during the session: close your eyes and take a deep breath. Upon exhalation, open your eyes and look at the camera or onto a focal point in the distance. taking a deep breath relaxes your face and cheeks, causing you not to look strained from holding a smile.

3. pretend you have a funny little secret

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… like, pretend you just let out a fart that you’ve been holding in. Or think of what you’d rather be doing right at this second. Think about biting into a slice of pizza or what it feels like to jump into ice cold water. Or just imagine the happiest place you could be. Whatever it is, thinking of something funny or enjoyable will make you smile or laugh in a genuine way.

4. if you feel uncomfortable, speak up

“Mom and Dad kissing is so embarassing and making me uncomfortable. Tell them to stop, please.”

“Mom and Dad kissing is so embarassing and making me uncomfortable. Tell them to stop, please.”

I’m not going to lie, I like to push the limits of my clients just to see what works and what they are willing to do. Sometimes I want to try out a certain pose or I’ll take a chance on a prompt. Sometimes i’ll just keep going until someone tells me to stop. I don’t want someone to fall, I never want someone to strain themselves, and I certainly don’t want someone to do something they aren’t comfortable with. So if the pose isn’t you, say so. There are plenty of other prompts and poses that you can do instead.

5. bring a change of shoes

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Sometimes doing something as simple as changing your shoes will make all the difference in your level of comfort. If you have enough time, an entire wardrobe change could be the ticket to making you feel refreshed and ready to keep going, especially if you start to get sweaty or uncomfortable.

6. switch up your location

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If a change of shoes doesn’t do enough, plan a change of scenery into your session. Going to a different location usually will spark inspiration, add some color, and give you motivation to finish the session on a high note.

7. take a break.

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There’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to grab a water (or an alcoholic beverage if you need some liquid courage), take a seat, change, pet a kitten, go to the bathroom, do a touch up, or whatever you need to clear your mind for a few minutes before continuing. I’d rather take a 10 minute break than force someone to push through if they need a breather. Even supermodels take breaks on set.

8. find a photographer that matches your vibe.

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Knowing your photographer’s style of shooting (not just editing!) is so so important. If you like their work and the feeling the images put off, more than likely they will know how to achieve that with you. However, there is always a disclaimer to this. If a photographer has beautiful photos on their website that you LOVE but they are all, say… super dramatic… but you HATE photos of yourself that are serious, then it might not be a good fit. If you’re usually someone who is ready to strike a pose and work the camera, maybe you won’t want a photographer who features more candid, laughing, silly poses. If you LOVE colorful things, maybe don’t choose the photographer that shoots only black and white images. The absolute best way to figure out if you’ll like the outcome of your photos is to ask the photographer for a sample gallery of the type of session you’re after.

Remember: a website is a portfolio meant to display the best of the best of their work, and will usually only feature a small percentage of what is actually delivered to a client.

9. Have a snack

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Bring snacks or plan a location where you can order food. This suggestion is for adults and kids alike. Hangry is a true state of mind and a full belly means a happy face.

10. DON’T Bring a 3rd wheel

Nothing will make you feel more unnatural than Mom standing behind you saying, “Yeah. Kiss her. Kiss her good.”

Nothing will make you feel more unnatural than Mom standing behind you saying, “Yeah. Kiss her. Kiss her good.”

This is important. There is such a thing as “too many cooks” when it comes to photo sessions. You are so much more likely to get comfortable posing and getting cozy in front of a camera without an audience, especially if that audience is someone you know. This is why I discourage parents and friends from tagging along on engagement sessions and watching from the sidelines during first looks. It’s one thing when you feel you have to perform for a camera. Then there’s a totally new added element of pressure when you have someone who potentially has expectations or input on what you should do during a session or moment. The only exception to this rule would be if that person is there specifically to wrangle an animal or child. In which case, be upfront that the photographer is in charge of the session and you are bringing them along to help babysit.

11. shake it like a polaroid picture

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Before you move into another pose, shake out your hips, roll your shoulders, and then come to rest on one hip or the other if you’re standing. If one of your knees is slightly bent, you’ll look more relaxed on camera than if both knees are locked. And it’s also just fun and helps everyone loosen up.

I hope these give you some fresh prompts to use during your next session (or selfie!). I’d love to know what works for you and what doesn’t. Leave me a note in the comments if you have more suggestions that have helped you bring out your inner model!

Let's get this straight: Someone else's wedding is not about you.

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts for two years.

Two. Years.

I have felt this way for over two years, and have been too afraid to hit publish because of some preconceived backlash. But I feel the need to get this off my chest. Maybe I'm being judgmental to everyone and I should take a dose of my own cynical medicine. Maybe I'm being hypocritical by writing it in the first place. In which case, you are free to disagree with me accordingly.

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There is a certain tension between brides and the wedding industry. Or maybe I should say between engaged couples and literally everyone else involved in the wedding. But for the sake of this post, I’m calling out the wedding vendors specifically.

On one side, you have a couple who has never planned a party on this level before and suddenly realizes that planning a wedding is really expensive. The sticker shock is real, I know. It caused many stressful days while I planned my own wedding and forced me to get creative with my vision for the perfect day.

On the other side, you have people who charge these prices because owning a small business is f*cking expensive and they want to sustain themselves and pay their taxes and feed their family and do all the things that go along with the freedom of being your own boss.

Both sides are stressed and both are passionate and when you have the added pressure of needing to be unique in a saturated market and the feeling of pleasing your guests or making a statement or being creative mixed into an event that is so deeply personal, naturally, opinions are going to fly and frustrations will be had on all sides.

So it shouldn't surprise me that I often see dumb articles like this or I hear a vendor complain about a certain trend they see over and over, or see an entitled rant on social media about using someone else’s wedding or work to further their own business. People will use any excuse to complain about anything at a wedding in general. It might be my biggest pet peeve of the industry as a whole.

we all need to calm down and realize: it's not about us.

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Let's start with the article. What exactly is the benefit of telling couples that whatever idea they want to include in their own wedding is a fad, tacky, or a "mistake"? Why, year after year, do publications like Vogue and every other wedding blog on the planet feel the need to focus on the negative and ridicule someone's style choice? Why can't we simply focus on the positive, and instead of writing articles about "passé" trends, wedding day don't's, and "mistakes" brides make we write about things that aren't superficial and highlight the do's, the positives, and the direction we want to see from the industry as a whole?

The damage happens when someone puts a year into planning one day, then halfway through the process, after signing contracts and spending time and money on a certain aspects of their wedding, they read some BS article like this and suddenly feel judged, shamed, or unoriginal. Brides are made to feel bad about a choice they have made that makes them happy. And these people they interview are literally complaining about the presence of a donut wall. It’s a freaking wall of donuts!

Leave it to industry professionals to find a reason to hate on donuts.

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Who are we (as anyone who is not the couple making the decisions and writing the checks) to say what is a mistake for someone else's wedding? Just because we have seen it before doesn't mean we should discourage it. If I have to read one more article from some random person complaining about a damn donut wall or a photo booth being at someone's wedding, I'm going to scream. Or write an angry, ranty article like I'm doing now.

Now, on to the vendors. We love our job. Many even use the hashtag #lovemyjob on a regular basis. Some days we say it like a mantra to remind ourselves that it's worth it. Some days we are able to put things in perspective and realize that there is a reason we're doing it. We, for the most part, genuinely do love our jobs.

But like any job, we get tired of routine. We get tired of being undercut. We get tired of seeing the same thing over and over. Sometimes we just want to shake our clients and let them trust our visions and do something -- anything -- they haven't already seen on Pinterest.

It comes from a place of love, it really does. But it's also the thing I dislike most about our industry.

It all started over burlap.

Don't rain on our metaphorical parade.

Don't rain on our metaphorical parade.

You guys, when you are planning a wedding, you get unusually attached to anything that is affordable and multi functional. So when I found some amazing gray burlap runners on Amazon for CHEAP, I got them to use at my wedding. My guests loved them and they are still used by multiple family members for their dining room. I may venture to go so far as to say that those damned runners were the best investment I made at my wedding.

About a week after I had purchased these runners, after meticulously pricing out alternative table decor and planning how I wanted to present my tables to my guests and the neutral palette I wanted to have, I checked Facebook and came across something I wish I had never seen as a burlap-using bride-to-be.

A wedding planner posted an update in a Facebook group complaining about a client's choice to use burlap in her wedding; it wasn't her ideal style and she didn't want to waste time planning the wedding if it wouldn't fit in her portfolio. She also complained that the bride wanted baby's breath and mason jars. She asked if there was a way to tell the bride her ideas were tacky and overdone.

Maybe I took her post a little too personally. She awoke the Bridezilla within. I probably started writing this post because of her post. But I see it over and over, vendors getting upset because someone else paid for something that didn’t serve their business in the way they expect them to. Caterers who get angry over a photographer not taking enough photos of their food. Florists who demand the photos weeks before a gallery is set to deliver to the clients, just so they can submit them for publication. A photographer who refuses to work with a couple because their “look” or vision for their wedding doesn’t fit what they want to put on Instagram.

But, whether an opinion about burlap hit a nerve with me or not, it doesn't change my opinion. If you're in the wedding industry you are going to see trends come and go. If you want to see something different or be creative, the best solution is to coordinate a styled shoot of your own to execute your own ideas or do whatever the hell you want. You can't rely on someone else to spend their hard earned money on your perfect ideal vision. When it's your dime, your project, your event, you can be picky and tell people what they can or can't do. But if you're being paid handsomely to execute another person's vision, it is not your place to complain or mock them for their choices. 

If something makes you that unhappy, don't do it.

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Vendors are constantly after the "ideal client" yet no one can grasp exactly what that means to them. Vendors can spend their careers chasing an ideal for bragging rights, instead of appreciating the ability to do the work itself.

I realized early on that not every wedding is going to grace the pages of a magazine. Not every client is "ideal." Weddings are inherently unique and cliche all at the same time. It's the paradox of partaking in a social tradition that has gone on for centuries. Ultimately weddings are all the same: someone gets married.

some people don't care that burlap is trendy. Some people just want to have a party and get married and not be in debt afterwards.

It is the vendor's job, after all, to guide and execute a client's vision for their wedding instead of tear it down. If one didn't want another wedding featuring mason jars and burlap, one should present an alternative with a similar budget (because let's face it, most of the reason to use burlap and mason jars is because they are perfectly rustic and affordable) or turn it down altogether.

No bride wants to work with someone who isn't excited to be there.

Your clients aren't your pawns to fill up a portfolio. Stop thinking of them this way, or you'll never be happy.

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And finally, I want to talk to the guests. Yes, the people who are neither the bride or groom nor being paid to attend the event. These are people who (in theory) love the couple who are graciously hosting them, feeding them, and entertaining them for the day. It's not about you, either.

It is not your place to complain about the food, or the music, or the signature drink the couple chose to serve. Yet I know it happens at almost every wedding. It isn't your place to roll your eyes at anything you see. All you have to do is be grateful that you have people who love you enough to buy you dinner and drinks and want your company on the best day of their life. 

Is it so much to ask that you keep your opinions to yourself if they are negative? You literally have an out when they send you the invitation. If you are the type of person who will complain or is never happy, do everyone a favor and check the "no" box on your RSVP.

There should be no place for negativity at a wedding.

OK, now to myself: I recognize that people will always have opinions and there is no amount of sass in a single article that will change the industry as a whole. But, my God, it feels good to release this tension. Two years of holding this in and F*CK it feels good to release it.

To my clients and anyone who is planning their wedding: keep doing you. Make your wedding day the way YOU want it. Don’t listen to the magazines or the vendors or the guests or Pinterest. Do what makes you happy.

And to all the articles and opinions (including mine), this is the best way to handle negativity:

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