RACHAEL HOUSER » photography for couples & families


Last week’s Our Story post ended after my and Neil’s first “date” – a group movie outing to see Elf. This occurred after talking for over a month, being friends for a couple years, and knowing each other for over 4 years. Would you believe, even after all that time, it took us over 2 months of “dating” before we would finally make it official?

We were together almost every night and I, being a serial monogamous, was ready to call it official from the very beginning. I chalked Neil’s hesitance up to being a typical high school guy – commitment phobia and wanting to “play the field” but I knew him better than that and stuck it out. Years later, I finally managed to squeeze the real reason – why it took him so long to ask me to be his girlfriend – out of him. And I’m so glad he didn’t tell me back then because I don’t know that I would have believed him. Even typing it out here… it’s so dang cheesy!

But I believed him when he told me years later “I didn’t want to commit myself to you because I knew that if I did, I would fall in love with you, and I thought I was too young to fall in love for the rest of my life”.

It’s the cheesiest, more romantic thing I have ever heard.

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Several months ago Allison text me, seemingly out of nowhere, to tell me that her boyfriend of 5 years had finally popped the question! Only several months before that, I had photographed her brother Brandon’s wedding to Kaitlyn and Allison hadn’t brought a date so I didn’t know she had a boyfriend! Back up a little more, Allison didn’t even have to ask her brother for my number OR look it up on the internet because while Neil and I were living in Eddyville, I was her landlord (that much, I already knew)! So, again I say, seemingly out of nowhere, Allison was asking me to save a date for her and they hadn’t even told their family yet!

Allison & Jordyn’s family had gone to church together for a year before Jordyn got up the nerve to ask Allison to “hang out”. At their engagement session this past Monday evening, they both told me that apparently everyone around them knew they liked each other – before even they were aware of it! Isn’t it funny how that happens?! But once they started hanging out their feelings became very apparent and now here they are, planning a July 2014 wedding! And I am so thrilled that they chose little old me to photograph it!


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One of my favorite things I do with my couples between the engagement session and the wedding day is getting together and creating their wedding day timeline. Last week, I mentioned that this is usually done during (or right before) the Pre-Wedding Consultation but it can be done much earlier if you’re like me and like to plan things way in advance. Some couples are even ready to discuss it at their engagement session before they’ve even decided on their ceremony start time….and that rocks my world!


Creating the timeline is nothing to fret over but your photographer should never assume that you know how long it will take them to capture certain parts of your day – and therefore should not add that to your already mile high to-do list. When I am creating a couple’s timeline, I like to start with the areas of the day that are not within our control. A few questions, therefore, will need to be answered:

1. What time can you get into your ceremony and reception venues? What time do you have to be out?
2. Are you setting up yourself or is someone hired to do so?
3. What time is sunset?
4. How long will hair and makeup take for the number of ladies getting ready?
5. How long do you expect the ceremony to last?
6. For how long is your DJ/band contracted?
7. Are you doing a First Look?
8. How far apart are your ceremony and reception venues?
9. Are you having a cocktail/appetizer hour?
10. Are you making a formal exit or dancing until the last song?

Below are a couple sample timelines, just for examples, and are based upon a sunset time of around 8pm (which is when the sunsets in the summer in our area) and a travel time of 15 minutes between venues. Both timelines work really well for the couple, the guests, and all of the vendors!


3:15 – Bride gets into dress
3:45 – Bridal Portraits
4:00 – Groom’s Portraits
4:15 – Bride & Groom’s First Look and Bride & Groom’s Portraits, part 1
4:30 – Wedding Party Portraits
5:00 – Family Portraits
5:30 – Bride & Groom hide away, guests start to arrive
6:00 – Ceremony starts
6:30 – Ceremony ends, everyone heads to reception
7:00 – Reception begins with a grand entrance for Wedding Party and Bride & Groom
7:05 – Bride & Groom’s First Dance
7:10 – Blessing of the food
7:15 – Food is served starting with Bride & Groom
7:45 – Bride & Groom’s Portraits, part 2
8:00 – Father-Daughter Dance and Mother-Son Dance
8:15 – Cutting of the Cake
8:20 – Toasts
8:30 – Dancing begins
9:30 – Bouquet & Garter Toss
10:30 – Formal Exit


3:45 – Bride gets into dress
4:00 – Bridal Portraits
4:15 – Bride & Bridesmaids Portraits
4:30 – Groom’s Portraits
4:45 – Groom & Groomsmen Portraits
5:00 – Groom’s Family Portraits
5:15 – Bride’s Family Portraits
5:30 – Guests start to arrive
6:00 – Ceremony starts
6:20 – Ceremony ends, guests head to reception for cocktail hour
6:30 – Family Portraits
6:45 – Wedding Party Portraits
7:00 – Bride & Groom’s Portraits
7:45 – Reception begins with a grand entrance for Wedding Party and Bride & Groom
7:50 – Bride & Groom’s First Dance
7:55 – Blessing of the food
8:00 – Food is served starting with Bride & Groom
8:30 – Father-Daughter Dance and Mother-Son Dance
8:45 – Cutting of the Cake
8:50 – Toasts
9:00 – Dancing begins
10:00 – Bouquet & Garter Toss
11:00 – Formal Exit

Of course, there are a few things to remember:

1. The above timelines do not list my arrival time because I like to come a tad earlier and photograph bridal details (Wedding Wednesday post coming soon!), ceremony decor and reception decor

2. Guests will sometimes comes earlier than 30 minutes before. I’ve been asked MANY times why they show up 1 hour early and my answer is simple. They hope to see the Bride & Groom and chat with them. A blog post is coming where I address this phenomenon.

3. The above times are what I need to document your wedding day accurately. Times may differ for other photographers.

4. And finally, your timeline isn’t meant to be inflexible. Do not freak out if things run a a few minutes behind “schedule”. A good photographer/wedding planner overestimates the time things will take and therefore allots MORE time than necessary.

Have a question about creating your timeline? Even if I’m not your photographer, I’d love to help!

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There is nothing better than a picnic inspired wedding on an early summer day! Kanisha & A.J. had it all! Family, friends, beautiful weather, yard games, a photo booth, a lemonade stand, ICE CREAM, and each other!

So much was going on when I arrived… the girls were getting ready in the church, the boys had to yet to arrive but were on their way, and friends and family were gathered under the picnic pavilion, decorating up a storm!


Kanisha’s bridal bouquet was made with fresh flowers…. boy did they smell amazing! But she made the bridesmaids bouquets AND the boutonnieres by hand! So creative!


Kanisha, sister, you are stunning!


I only had to tell A.J. once and for the rest of the day, we was giving me GQ smiles left and right!


Kanisha & A.J. opted to do a First Look and I could not have been happier! It was important to them that they be able to spend most of the day together.


The short moments right before a bride walks down the aisle toward her groom…


A couple that prays together, stays together!



A.J. is currently in the middle of  police academy training. He was granted leave for his wedding and honeymoon but the day after they return home, he leaves again until October! Not the perfect way to start off your marriage but if anyone can handle it, it’s these two! Love the groom’s cake!



THIS. It was amazing and hilarious!


Would you believe that during the ceremony, when A.J. and Kanisha gave each other their rings and exchanged vows, they didn’t just say “I Will” but follow it by “Challenge Accepted!” I was a great moment!


Introducing Maggie Moo’s! They’re based out of Nashville but cater to all ice cream lovers! I had birthday cake and brownies. YES I did! And oh was it delicious!


Another AWESOME couple – because their’s was an afternoon wedding, they were perfectly fine with shooting their portraits after the reception, when the sun is lower in the sky. Love them!


Ceremony Venue | New Hope Baptist Church
Reception Venue | New Hope Baptist Church
Bridal Gown | David’s Bridal
Bridesmaids Dresses | David’s Bridal
Suits | Calvin Klein, Men’s Wearhouse
Stationary | David’s Bridal
Florist | West and Witherspoon Florist
Hair Stylist | Michelle, Attitude’s
Makeup Artist | friend of the bride
Ice Cream Caterer | Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream
Cake Artist | Sweet Designs by Marilyn
DJ | Epic Music Service <- definitely a FAVORITE to work with!

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Rebecca Ricks -

Totally loved this wedding but more than that love the couple. Such a fine young example of love as as God intended. These pictures are an amazing recollection of a happy and indeed fun wedding.

Kanisha Parrish -

Oh my goodness Rachael!! I love love love these pictures so much! You perfectly captured our wonderful day and I could not have asked for a more amazing photographer and friend! Thank you :)

Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV / For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV / Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Psalm 46:10 ESV / “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

Ephesians 2:10 ESV / For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Acts 1:7 ESV / He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.


God’s timing is a funny thing. It’s taken me YEARS to come to grips with the fact that God’s hand is in all things, big and small, and when we try to push ourselves onto a path, things can often go wrong. My and Neil’s story is not about things going wrong, thankfully, but things going right…. just not when we thought they would.

There are not many moments from my past that I can relive in perfect history like the moments I had with Neil before we started dating. Looking back, I know that it was God working in our lives.

I was in eighth grade choir; Neil was in seventh grade choir. The two choirs only practiced together when it was time for concerts, therefore I had only seen him a few times from across the room. I had heard about him, however, many times from my best friend Emily, who was also in seventh grade. She had a middle school crush on him and I couldn’t blame her – he was adorable! Neil and I formally met on the school bus, on our way to a middle school choir competition. Emily wanted to sit behind him in the bus during the trip and so, we did. He asked me to tickle his neck. And so I did – only for a minute before I felt funny, and then stopped. He smiled. I smiled. Some time later, Emily mentioned liking another boy and I felt slightly relieved – but of course, eighth grade girls don’t like younger boys.

My sophomore year, Neil’s freshmen year in high school. At a choir competition again, during a rehearsal break, two boys were flirting with me by stealing my slip on shoes (flip flops, flats, I can’t remember) and tossing them back and forth to each other. One of those boys was Neil – a short time later, the other boy became my first boyfriend.

Neil and I were in choir together all throughout high school and both “dated” other people. Every relationship, for one earthly reason or another, fell short.

My senior year, Neil’s junior year in high school. Early December, we started talking again in choir. That’s the only class we had together so it was completely casual. Finally, the last day before Christmas break he asked me for my number. Did I have a cell phone back in 2003? I don’t really remember which number I gave him but I do remember thinking that he probably wouldn’t call me – he was popular, starter for our winning basketball team, and I was a total nerd, band geek and all.

December 22nd, 2003. I was wrapping presents when he called. He was finishing up a basketball tournament in Lexington but wanted to know if I’d like to see a movie when we got back. I said sure, again thinking he probably wouldn’t follow through. Still completely giddy all over!

December 24th, 2003. I had spent most of the day celebrating Christmas with my family and right before I left for the Christmas Eve Service at my church, he called!! After the service, my parents dropped me off at the movie theatre where I met Neil and a couple mutual friends to see the movie Elf. Our first date! After the movie, we went to a friend’s house to watch a televised concert our choir performed earlier that month. Neil drove me home and walked me to my door. It was only a few hours and it might seem like a bore, but to us it was perfect.

Four years pasted between meeting each other and our first date. Had we started talking back in middle school, our relationship either wouldn’t have developed at all or it would have died before it really started. We were both far too immature to start anything lasting in early high school. God knew neither one of us were ready for the other. He used every relationship leading up to ours to prepare our hearts. We had to see what didn’t work before we could recognize what would work. Neil and I are both trial and error kind of people like that. God knew all of these things.

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