All posts by Casey Dokoupil

Jasmine & James

Jasmine & James envisioned a sweet family wedding focusing on the life’s simple joys: good food, good music, and the warmth of those they love the most!  Kept light and bright with Tiffany blues, their spring celebration made every guest feel like part of the family!

Stacey & Jill

Stacey & Jill’s quirky union was the epitome of approachable elegance!  Pops of bright pink were anchored with classic black and white, chilled out by the poolside setting and plenty of local craft beers.  Best of all, guests were treated to the smiles of the sweet brides, who are so genuinely in love we were all practically swooning!

Photography by Shawnee Custalow

The Art of the Matter

There was silence on the other end of the line.  Not an uncomfortable silence, but long enough.  Finally, our client, a wonderfully sharp and hilarious woman in her thirties, spoke.

“Now, when you say artistic photography,” she said slowly, “what exactly does that mean?”

It was one of those moments that drives a person forward, as a professional.  Her hesitation was palpable, and perhaps rightly so.  What is beautiful to one person may be dull to another.  Everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives, looking at a painting, sculpture, or other piece of visual art alongside someone who finds it just as strange as we do stunning.  Finding an artist who represents the world in ways that make sense to a given person can be a delicate task – and when the artist’s subject is us and our singular, unrepeatable wedding day, it becomes a task of incredible personal value.  Which is why the heavens opened up and delivered wedding planners unto humanity.

“Well,” I replied, just as deliberately, “If you can tell me what you find beautiful, we can find the right photographer for you two.”

And after a long talk about other people’s wedding photos, pieces of art in the VMFA, and the colors in the couple’s wardrobes, that is exactly what we did.  But it took something more than time – it took a great deal of bravery on her part.  Although every person on the face of this planet has an artistic voice, not everyone knows exactly what theirs is yet.  Figuring it out for your wedding day can be scary, especially when the wedding industry tends to present only one version of what a wedding should look like.

The best photographers understand that every way is the right way to have a wedding.  Their job is to tell the story of one joyous day of your life.  Your job is to choose the right storyteller.  The one who gets you, and gets your partner, and is excited to create a series of photographic artwork together with you.  Something incredibly unique and memorable.

You know, something like this.

sunset backdrop lovely photo
Image by A Lovely Photo


Or this.

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Image by Imani Fine Art Photography


These superb images come from real shoots by two of our absolute Richmond favorites, Shawnee Custalow of A Lovely Photo and Nadiya Nacorda of Imani Fine Art Photography.  It’s easy to see the story of each wedding, and how the photographer chose angles, colors, shapes, and light to complement the style of the client.  Good photographers listen to their clients and translate a mood onto film this way.

To get a better sense of how this is done, we caught up with both Shawnee and Nadiya to ask more about the art of wedding photography.  We think you’ll be as inspired as we were.  Enjoy!

EQ: How do you artistically approach weddings, and choose locations?

A Lovely Photo: When I talk to my couples about where they want to take their portraits, I always try to find out what really excites and moves them, and figure out a unique location that will work best for them.  

Imani Fine Art Photography: I tend to move off of the vibe of my couples when I approach a wedding.  Not every couple is going to be into my offbeat and adventurous ideas, which is totally fine.  It’s my job to gauge them, get to know them and navigate that relationship.

Under the bridge lovely photo
A Lovely Photo
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Imani Fine Art Photography
EQ: What unexpected locations have you photographed couples in, and how did you (or they) choose them?  Do you think any locations are off-limits?

ALP: No location or idea is off limits (unless of course it is physically dangerous or breaking the law…in a not-so-subtle way).  I’m more than happy to go on an adventure and shoot on the fly with my couples, that’s part of what makes this profession so much fun.  I want their wedding photos to be even more amazing and memorable than they imagined!

IFAP: It wasn’t a wedding, but for example, I recently photographed a couple in the Natural History Museum in Raleigh while we were shooting downtown.  It was mostly inspired by how chilly it was outside and we just spontaneously popped in and decided to explore.  In my mind, the only locations that would be off-limits are the ones in which we would be openly trespassing or the location is physically dangerous.  Even then, if the couple is passionate about the adventure, so am I!

sweet embrace lovely photo
A Lovely Photo
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Imani Fine Art Photography
EQ: What advice would you give a couple that is nervous about taking an artistic approach to their wedding photography?

ALP: Unfortunately a lot of people (even if they try not to) have had their expectations of what is considered acceptable, normal, and “right” for a wedding celebration shaped by years of in-your-face traditional mainstream wedding industry nonsense.  Some of my couples are very aware of this, and know exactly what they want, not caring about what society tells them to do.  Others, while they are all about blazing their own path, are worried about the backlash of their more traditional guests, parents, etc.  I tell them that they should do WHATEVER THEY WANT.  You’ve always wanted bright colorful art in the background of your images, you want to see each other before the ceremony and get out all the nervous energy and have a special moment together, and you have a crazy prop that you want to secretly incorporate into the reception?  That sounds amazing, YAS!  

IFAP: My advice to couples is to find a photographer that can manage working on the fly and dealing with a variety of situations.  The truth is that if your photographer needs a ton of prep time and usually works within the same lighting conditions, then taking an artistic or adventurous approach may not be for them (which is obviously fine for the couples that match them).  However, if a couple is interested in or is contemplating an artistic approach, it would serve them to find a photographer that will assuage their nervousness and that could even align with how they feel and work through that with them.  Overall, I think my approach is about collaboration and connection.

Bran and Con Lovely photo
A Lovely Photo
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Imani Fine Art Photography

Their professional advice returns us to the fundamental question: what exactly does it mean to have artistic wedding photography?  The answer is as broad as art itself.  Taking the imaginative route can mean whatever you want!  While it can seem daunting at first, it’s actually extremely freeing.  You are limited only by the laws of physics, and well, by actual laws.  The trick is to find your creative match, when searching for the right photographer.  But hey, you’ve found the right person to marry.  You’ll know when you find the right one this time, too.  After all, these photos are what you will truly treasure, once the wedding is over.  As Shawnee says, “At the end of the day, after all the dessert is gone, you’ve danced your heart out, and kicked your fancy shoes off, one of the few physical things you’ll have left is your photographs.  These are the memories you’ll want to dearly hold on to, so they should represent you exactly as you are and want to be remembered.  Don’t compromise, don’t settle, just do you.”

We couldn’t agree more.

For help finding the perfect photographer for YOU, contact EQ Events!  We’re here to help with as much or as little as you need, from before your proposal to sweeping up when the reception is over! 
Special thanks to our featured photographers, Shawnee Custalow of A Lovely Photo and Nadiya Nacorda of Imani Fine Art Photography.  EQ only features vendors we have personally vetted and strongly recommend.  To learn more about their services, just click the images below! 
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A Lovely Photo
storefront imani
Imani Fine Art Photography

Having a Wedding Without Kids (Or Adults Acting Like Them)

So.  Here’s a topic that can swiftly dissolve into incoherent arguing: The child-free wedding.  If you want your wedding to be a grown-up bash, that is absolutely fine.  Let me say it one more time for the people in the back:  Having A Child-Free Wedding Is Absolutely Fine!  You are not breaking any etiquette rules, and most people understand that couples might be limited by budget, space, or the type of celebration they are planning.  Or perhaps the couple simply doesn’t like kids!  If you’re concerned that an adult soiree might not go over that well, never fear!  We’re here with some tips to help you create a wedding that is kind, fair, and adults-only.

First, some good news: of the 70 folks we surveyed, the vast majority agreed that whether kids are invited should totally be up to the couple getting married.  Most were parents themselves.

Don’t Obsess.

It is SO EASY to get bogged down in an epic search for the one inarguably correct way to approach this.  Dear god, save yourself from this fate!  There really is no solid-gold way to do it, but that’s okay!  YOU are the expert on your family & friends, and you will know the best way to pass on the message.  Some people feel that it’s rude to include a line on the invitation, but we’ve found that it eliminates all confusion from the get-go.  If you’re worried, including the wording on the landing page of a wedding website is a good alternative.  It’s really NBD – just be your authentic self!

Be Obvious and Early.

Lots of engaged people talk about the nicest possible way to inform their guests that their wedding will be 18+.  There are hundreds of suggestions for how that message should be worded or delivered, but the one thing to remember is to be clear.  Being plain is the kindest thing, because it leaves no room for confusion, or worse, guest embarrassment.  That said, being obvious isn’t the same thing as being rude.  Just use a simple, friendly wording and all will be well.  We like, “With respect, we have chosen an adults-only wedding”.

To get the word out even earlier, tell your guests on a Save-The-Date.  Lots of the feedback we collected mentioned that parents might need some time to find suitable childcare, and that’s something you can easily give them!  Keep the focus on helping each other out!  Being awesome in an awesome community is what weddings are all about.

Offer What Help You Can.  If You Want.

Helping the parents comes wrapped in many packages.  Maybe you and your beloved can afford to hire an onsite babysitter, and having the kids *nearby* doesn’t bother you.  Or maybe that makes you want to cry.

Other ideas: gather contact details for babysitters your local parent friends use, so out-of-town folks will know they are vetted, awesome childcare providers.  Maybe a couple of them can team up and provide care for all of the kids in someone’s home while the grown-ups are partying.  If that sounds daunting, don’t worry.  You’re not obligated to do any of that – it’s just a nice extra if you want to make it happen!

Be Super Chill.

Kindly accept the regrets of parents who decide not to come to the wedding because of childcare issues.  They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.  And that is 100% okay.

Keep Your Eye On What’s Important.

You’re inviting these people because they genuinely bring value to the life you and your beloved share, and because you bring value to them in return.  You are honoring them with an invitation, and they are honoring you by trying to attend.  Those relationships are what matters in this life.  If someone gets upset, or refuses to come, take the time to patiently reiterate your decision not to have children at the wedding, and your kind understanding that the guest will not attend.  You don’t owe anyone an explanation, nor should you change your decision.  But remember that if a relationship is otherwise healthy and awesome, you’ll still need each other long after the wedding is over.  Save them a cupcake and a great big hug, and enjoy having the wedding you planned!

Sweethearts for the Arts: An EQ Event

Here at EQ, community love is a way of life…and OH MY GOD, this weekend was like one giant valentine! We were so proud to once again join with our local business and non-profit friends to create Richmond’s favorite fundraiser: Sweethearts for the Arts!  The glorious ladies of Richmond Burlesque Revue were on hand to entertain the crowd with class – and guests brought the house down with their gorgeous costumes.  Supported entirely by local donors, and benefitting RVA’s own Art On Wheels, this is one event we look forward to every year! Travel back with us to the WWII era, when strong women took America by storm, from manufacturing to sports.



Deepa de Jour of Richmond Burlesque Revue, Show Producer


Styling this event meant finding a venue that exudes the late art deco aesthetic of the day.  Our city is rich with architecture from just about every era, and in the end, it was the gorgeous plasterwork and glamorous marquee of Robinson Theater that sold us.  Seriously, how perfect is this?!


Robinson Theater, located in Church Hill


Focusing on the homefront experience during wartime, we developed handmade pieces that felt cozy, but sparse.  We worked with a combination of rough and refined materials, like unfinished wood pallets juxtaposed with hand-lettered antique wallpaper, and real advertising from the time period.

bar menubar front

For patriotic good measure, we added weather-worn bunting and an Americana-themed photo booth, courtesy of the outstanding PD Murphy Photography.  Period-appropriate nibbles from delicious spots like WPA Bakery rounded out the guest experience.



Guests’ costumes never fail to impress


As if the hypnotic burlesque performances weren’t enough, guests were also treated to a full cash bar that we built onsite to benefit Art On Wheels, handmade midway games, a classic raffle and silent auction featuring amazing prizes (almost all of which are donated from local businesses, of course!), a costume contest, and a Women’s Land Army-themed audience participation game to win a beautiful night out at Graffiato and the Richmond Marriott.  To top it all off, the evening was hosted by the hilarious Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside!

Sherrina & Magnolia

Hostess Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside, accompanied by a gorgeous guest


It really was a magical time machine, taking us all back to a time when fresh produce was scarce, but fresh thinking was emerging.  We were so proud to once again work with Art On Wheels, to assist their mission to bring mobile art classes to our Richmond friends and neighbors without regular access to the arts. The big band music is still ringing in our ears, so we’ll leave you with these gems from the photo booth!

NicoLiamgogo factorygirls

americangothic cutecouple


VENUE: Robinson Theater

PHOTOGRAPHY: PD Murphy Photography

CATERING: WPA Bakery, Comfort, Red Eye Cookie Co., Rudy’s Exotic Mushrooms

BEVERAGE: Strangeways Brewing

ENTERTAINMENT: Richmond Burlesque Revue, Deviant Dollz Go Go


For more on this great organization, check out their newest project: a word record collograph honoring the strength of cancer patients.

Challenging the Status Cake

A wedding cake is a traditional symbol of fertility and good luck.  Plus, it’s amazing and pretty much tastes like heaven on a plate.  But here’s the thing: not everyone cares about traditions – and not everyone likes cake, or sweets at all.

If a cake simply doesn’t express who you are and what you like, never fear!  Food is an art form, and there are endless ways to treat your crew to something awesome without going the traditional route.  Here are some sweet (and savory) ideas to seal the deal after the meal.

Literally a cheese cake.

If you’re more into savory treats, stacking a couple of wheels of good cheese and decorating with flowers is incredible.  It still gives everyone the chance to photograph a cake, and you can even do a cutting ceremony.  Plus, it’s CHEESE.


Yes gawd.  Most doughnut shops will gladly ice several dozen in your wedding color.  Stack them up on a couple of cake stands, and you’ll probably end up with wedding crashers.




For a luxurious wedding, or just a Mediterranean touch, go for cannoli.  They are crazy photogenic, and easy to stack into a really beautiful display.

An espresso bar.

The best thing about hiring a mobile coffee unit is that your squad can customize their treat.  Whether they like sweet or savory, an espresso service will put a smile on their face.  It may also encourage your older guests to stay longer!  If you’re going all out, do this along with the cannoli.  Yum-o.


Bubble tea.

Sweet.  Refreshing.  Awesome in every way.  And available in numerous flavors – you could even offer signature flavors that match your wedding colors.  So much yes.


If you’ve never had one of these, prepare for your new obsession.  A stroopwafel is two thin waffles sandwiching a sweet caramel filling.  They are popular as desserts or with afternoon coffee in Holland.  Not sure where you’d find such a thing in Richmond?  Got you covered.


Shaved ice.

For a warm-weather event, this is the most refreshing thing in the universe.  The e n t i r e universe.  Plus, it is zero maintenance.  The company will take care of everything, from syrups to paper products.  Just arrange for a shaved ice food truck to pull up at the right time, and watch everyone’s eyes light up.

A wedding keg.

Some beers truly drink like dessert, especially in the craft-beer-rich scene in our city.  If you and your beloved share a love of a strong rich brew, consider purchasing whatever size keg is appropriate for your guest list size.  It can be decorated just as beautifully as an actual cake, and is hella memorable.

Studio Uma kegs


Cotton candy.

This is so cute, we want to hug a puppy and cry our eyes out.  It’s fun for guests to watch sugar being spun, it’s customizable to your wedding colors, and it’s great for adults and kids alike.  Bonus points if you use a cotton candy artist!

Panna cotta.

Cool and classy.  This beautiful dessert would look fabulous as individual portions on a cupcake stand.  It’s also much more affordable than you think, if you wish to make it yourself (or have some kind family member create it).  If not, some grocery stores regularly offer panna cotta in their dessert case.  Just place an order and enjoy!

panna cotta

Letting Your Geek Flag Fly

One of the best things abut modern wedding celebrations is that couples are free to express who they are and what they love – besides each other, of course.  But is it okay to include your deep love of Deep Space Nine?  Your undying obsession for The Walking Dead?

YES.  A thousand times yes!  It is not just okay to make your fandom passions part of your wedding, it’s AWESOME.  Most of the fandoms are incredibly rich in sentiment, philosophy, and inside jokes.  All of those things are perfect for creating an environment that expresses who you are as a couple.

If you want to feature your loyalties without making the entire wedding theme about a fandom, there are a few keys places and special touches that will help you create that.  If you see something here that you just have to have, never fear – all of these items are available on Etsy.  Just click the images.


The cake is the most-photographed thing at your entire wedding reception.  That makes it literally the perfect place to show your love for…well, whatever you love.  Like this Harry Potter-themed topper that evokes All Of The Feelings.

Always cake topper


Bouquets don’t have to be made from living flowers.  If one of the other loves of your life is the printed page, it can provide a classy, unique accessory that doesn’t need water and will last long past the wedding.  If nobody’s planning to carry a bouquet, consider using them on tables. This one is made from a copy of The Hunger Games. Real or not real?  Real.

Hunger Games bouquet


Speaking of the tables, they give you an awesome opportunity to set the mood for your guests.  While lots of couples go for candles because of the romantic mood they create, you can go a step further and use candles that illuminate your love for famous smarty-pants (and sociopath), Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock candle


As tempting as it is to feature The One Ring here, we’re going with these genius Star Wars bands instead.  They are way too cool to ignore, which you’ll soon see as you go into your married life with rings that make everyone rethink their own life choices.

Star Wars rings


Shoes are a favorite spot to do something cool and different.  They can perk up an otherwise monochromatic wedding outfit, and make for some rad photos.  There are versions of Tardis shoes for all kinds of people, from these stiletto heels to rubber-soled Chucks.  How do you like your Doctor Who?  As always, do you.

Tardis shoes

Top 5 Ways to Include Animals (without wrangling them at the wedding!)

1. Brand your wedding with their silhouettes

An animal family member can inspire your whole event! Love greyhounds? They have regal silhouettes that look amazingly classy on invitations, menus, and more. Bird friends are super cute, and their shapes can brand your wedding into something fun and romantic. If you have lots of pets, consider using their silhouettes instead of table numbers!

2. Raise awareness and give back

Some people like wedding favors, and others loathe them. Find a happy medium by making a donation in your guests’ name to an animal rescue organization! If you really want to skip the idea of favors entirely, try including a donation option in your wedding registry so your guests can make their own contribution if they wish. You’ll be doing something that matters with a little bit of your wedding budget, and seriously, who doesn’t like animals? Nobody, that’s who.

3. Show them off!

The cake is the most-photographed object at your entire wedding. Put a tiny version of your beloved pet right on top, and everyone will know how loved they are – tiny people optional! If that’s not your thing, or you’re not having a cake, ask your photographer to include your pet into an engagement session so you can surround a guest book or other focal point with pictures of the whole family. This is really unexpected if you have snakes, lizards, or other scaly friends.

4. Be punny. Very punny.

Lighthearted couple? Set the scene with a save-the-date or engagement announcement that tells your guests to expect the fun. “We’re getting meowied!” is delightfully nerdy.  If applicable, follow it up with a Hiss & Purrs shower. Meow!

5. No pets? No problem.

If you love animals but cannot have pets for whatever reason, you can still show a love for all creatures great and small! Check around your area for well-managed zoos, sanctuaries, farms, or petting zoos that will allow you to host a wedding. They could probably use the money, and your guests will have a chance to get some awesome photos with all kinds of animals they may not frequently get to interact with!

Five Unexpected Ways to Celebrate Your Engagement

It’s engagement season!  We’re so excited for a brand-new year to work with all the joyful engaged couples out there.  If that includes you…congratulations!!  But before the real planning starts, take a moment to really bask in your betrothal.  Here are some less-traditional, totally fun ways to celebrate this supremely exciting time.

1. Do something nuts with your future spouse

What better way to keep the engagement adrenaline pumping?  Go skydiving!  Buy the cheapest ticket available to who-cares-where!  Dress as clowns and visit the childrens’ wing at the hospital!  One of our favorite couples told us that they were so excited to include their dogs in the wedding that they bought a pile of $5 wedding-themed gift cards and spent an entire day handing them out to random strangers who were walking their dogs.  “It just did my heart good to see other people’s love for their animals!  Why not, right?” the bride explained.  Why not, indeed.

2. Do an engagement selfie-shoot

You don’t have to go all out to have memorable photos of your engagement! Pick a few of your favorite spots around town, dress in something that makes you feel amazing, and spend the day recording how much fun the two of you have together.  Get matching tattoos. Walk (carefully) out on the rocks in the James. Have drinks at the Jefferson. Check out a burlesque performance. Selfie, selfie, selfie.  Selfie.

3. Host a for-real dinner party

There are no finer people than those we have chosen. Plan an intimate and elegant evening meal for the friends who have supported you through your relationship, and include them in the joy of your engagement!  Go modern and relaxed, or choose a vintage affair complete with tablecloths, evening wear, and grandma’s china.  Either way, you’re sure to have a wonderful memory of celebration.

4. Prepare an epic social media announcement

Before you tell anyone, get creative and figure out how the two of you *really* want this news to hit home.  There are hundreds of ideas out there, inspired by everything from the fandoms to clever puns (or even better…incredibly stupid puns).  The truly committed could even create a short film that ends, of course, in the announcement of a lifetime.  You said YES!

5. Brunch it up

If a traditional engagement party isn’t your thing, just evite everyone to your favorite brunch spot at some leisurely time on a Sunday morning!  You won’t really have to plan anything.  Portions are filling, drinks will flow, and the stuffiness factor is exactly zero. Everyone will clamor to see the betrothed couple and hear the proposal story, and you’ll get to graciously oblige between bites of waffle.  Win.