❤️ Erica & Darnell ❤️ | A Romantic Engagement + 10 Tips to Plan a Debt-Free, Dream Wedding | Atlanta + Dallas Lifestyle & Fashion Photographer / by KSimon Photography

TGIF! Happy Friday loves!

If you and your significant other are newly engaged or if you know a couple that is, you don’t want to miss this inspirational blog post.

Today on the blog: Erica and Darnell’s uber romantic engagement session and tips on how they planned their DEBT-FREE, DREAM WEDDING!

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

I often hear about couples getting themselves into huge debt as a result of their wedding. Not Erica and Darnell. Set to marry this month, this adorable, fun-loving couple paid off their entire wedding before walking down the aisle!

Unheard of, right!? Yep. My feelings exactly. Weddings typically require a lot of planning well in advance and can be quite costly. So what this couple has done is definitely rare and nothing short of purely amazing.

❤️ ABOUT ERICA & DARNELL ❤️

Erica and Darnell met in October 2009 when Darnell came with her best friend’s boyfriend to her house party (during the Magic City Classic weekend). They hit it off immediately. Shortly after Erica and Darnell were introduced to each other, Darnell sat beside her to help look through her CDs and select the next songs to play for party guests. They have spent time together every day since then. So adorbs!!!

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

We had so much fun during their photo session! Erica is such a sweetheart, has a vibrant spirit, and was glowing the whole time. Darnell is cool, calm, & collected and kept the jokes coming. And on top of that, I’m extra silly. We laughed practically nonstop! Lol!

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

These love birds are a certainly a match made in heaven. The way they look at each other and enjoy the time spent together makes my heart sing! They taught me so much about true love and have a special place in my heart.

I can’t wait to photograph their special day this month! So how did their proposal happen!?!? I’m glad you asked. 😉

❤️ THE PROPOSAL ❤️

Darnell’s proposal to Erica was so R-O-M-A-N-T-I-C!!! During Erica’s birthday weekend in 2014, the lovely couple visited her sister, brother-in-law and niece in Chicago. That night, everyone (well, the adults) dressed up for their dinner reservation at the fine downtown restaurant called The Signature Room at the 95th. 

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

“When we arrived at the 95th floor, it was so beautiful up there!”, Erica reminisced. “The entire restaurant was surrounded by glass. We could see all of downtown Chicago. The lights of the city were all around us. It was just gorgeous.” 

Erica thought that they were just going out to have a nice dinner in celebration of her birthday. After all, everyone was relaxing and enjoying their drinks. Well, Darnell had another plan in mind.

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

Once they were seated at their table (by a window with a nice view of downtown Chicago), Darnell called Erica’s best friend (on speakerphone) and placed his phone on their table. It turned out that the best friend could not attend the dinner in person and wanted to hear the proposal over the phone. How thoughtful!

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

At this point, Erica was thinking how strange it was for Darnell to call her best friend and knew he was up to something. It did not cross her mind that he was about to propose. Darnell turned to Erica and said, “Are you having a good time?” She assured him she was enjoying herself. He then said to her, “I just have one more question. Will you marry me?” She said yes and started to cry (tears of joy)!

People dining in the restaurant around them noticed the proposal and joined Erica and Darnell’s family and best friend in congratulating them. And the rest is history.

❤️ 10 TIPS TO PLAN A DEBT-FREE, DREAM WEDDING ❤️

One thing inherently evident about Erica and Darnell’s loving relationship is their solid teamwork. They set a goal to plan their dream wedding and worked together to pay if off before walking down the aisle. The couple achieved their goal three months before their May 2015 wedding!

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

Want to know how they achieved this?

Here’s a list of their 10 awesome tips to help you and the love of your life plan your dream wedding without becoming newlyweds in debt:

  1. Decide upfront whether or not you and your significant other will pay for your wedding. Making this decision will help you set your mindset clearly and avoid possible pitfalls. Erica and Darnell decided to pay for their wedding themselves. Doing so motivated them to get everything booked and paid off early. If you are not paying for your wedding, be careful not to procrastinate and become complacent that everything will be taken care of for you. Your involvement and timely planning will still likely be needed to limit stress and prevent undesirable results for your special day.

  2. Start planning EARLY - at least 6 months to 1 year in advance (preferably 1 year). For many couples like Erica and Darnell, planning a wedding is something they have never done before. A wedding typically involves many moving parts that take time to determine and secure. Consider the following, for example. The dresses to be worn by the bridesmaids must be determined and fitted. Alterations take 4 to 6 weeks on average. Vendors (like professional photography) must be booked well in advance or they will likely not have availability for your wedding. Plus, life throws unexpected curve balls. Planning early will allow you to deal with unexpected setbacks and rebound.The list goes on. If couples plan in a short amount of time (such as less than 6 months in advance), then they must have the capital to pay things off quickly to avoid debt. Many couples unfortunately do not and end up in a huge amount of debt as a result.

  3. Set attainable goals. Decide what you and your significant other want for your wedding. Then map out what needs to done (such as bookings), determine when each item is due, and meet your deadlines. This will help you become organized and put things in order that should be completed. Also, if you both set a goal (such as buying a new home) after the wedding, this will further motivate you to pay off items before your wedding.

  4. Have realistic expectations and a good support system. You are getting married, and you will get excited. Want an ice sculpture? Your supportive family and/or friends will pull you back in when they feel you are going overboard and help you think through things with a level head. For instance, that expensive ice sculpture will be in a hot & humid climate and melt into a puddle of water before the wedding starts. Hmm. Perhaps some things are not worth being a part of your wedding after all.

  5. Get help from others and include someone that has experience planning a wedding. Ask family/friends and hire or appoint a wedding planner to help divide and conquer your needs and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Erica’s sister had previously been through planning her wedding and was able to serve as her wedding planner. She provided key guidance to Erica and Darnell along the way on what was needed and when things were due.

  6. Pay items off little by little. Work with your significant other as a team to pay off each purchase before moving to the next one.

  7. Use whatever extra money you have to help pay things off. This will limit your stress and prevent you and your love from becoming Bridezilla and Groomzilla. For example, your income tax refund can come in handy for paying off wedding items. It did for Erica and Darnell to help them pay off the remainder of their wedding.

  8. Save up for the things you want. Budgeting what you spend and avoiding frivolous shopping will help save the money needed for wedding purchases.

  9. Be patient. Planning your dream wedding will take time. After all, Rome wasn’t built overnight. Moving too quickly to make wedding purchases will not allow time to think things through, plan properly and pay things off. The end result of not being patient? Debt, debt, and more debt.

  10. Stay focused on each other and have fun. When you and your love are bogged down with wedding details, you can lose focus on each other. This puts stress on your relationship as a whole. Staying focused on one another will help keep your wedding needs in perspective and avoid becoming consumed with your wedding details. Don’t forget to just have fun and enjoy each other!

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

“There were some stressful moments when planning our wedding but we got through it together,” Erica and Darnell encouraged. “Couples CAN get what they want for their wedding and avoid being in debt.”

❤️ THE ENGAGEMENT PORTRAITS ❤️

I can’t say this enough - I have the most amazing clients ever! Here are my remaining favorites from this adorably romantic engagement session:

Lifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCimageLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLCLifestyle Engagement Portrait | Dallas Fashion & Lifestyle Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer | ksimonphotography.com | © KSimon Photography, LLC

What tips did you and your significant other learn or use to eliminate debt and/or ease the process of planning your wedding? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

It is my hope that you not only enjoy the content that I write on my blog and the pretty pictures, but also become inspired to live your best life and inspire others to do the same.

Interested in booking a session? EMAIL ME today and tell a friend! And be sure to check out the all new referral program so you don’t miss out on receiving awesome freebie rewards. ;-)

Until next time,

Kimberly

📷 Atlanta + Dallas Fashion, Lifestyle, & Business Portrait Studio and Outdoor Photographer


As of Fall 2017, wedding photography services are no longer offered at KSimon Photography.