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National Puppy Day

Taking a break from real work, to write a fun post in honor of National Puppy Day, about our little Chloe and how she found her forever family.

National Puppy DayFor about two years, maybe more, my daughters have been obsessed with getting a dog.  They would ask me on a daily basis.  I didn’t even let the thought enter my brain until we moved into a house with a huge back yard and fenced in front yard.  Still, I didn’t really see how it would be logistically possible to add another member to our family.  It seemed like it would be a huge undertaking, especially with my work schedule and being out most weekends shooting weddings.  I also thought it would be so much extra work, like having another child.  That’s what everyone said!

But my girls were persistent, and slowly, the idea started to feel less scary and more exciting.  Ever since my daughters were babies, we would often frequent the animal shelters to visit and love on the animals – cats, bunnies, dogs, etc. but never consider adopting one.  One day, we were driving past the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter and we decided to make a quick stop.  It was completely unplanned and completely spontaneous.  We visited the cats first, then headed over the the bunny and dog side.  As soon as we walked through the door, we saw her and my daughters fell hard at first glance.  “Goldie”, who we renamed Chloe, ran right up to the fence and started licking and excitedly playing with my girls.  They all just loved each other from the start.  And of course, my girls were begging me, to adopt her!  I don’t know what it was about this day, versus all of the other days that we had gone to visit the animals, but this dog really made an impact, and I decided to inquire about the adoption process.  They told me that if we were even a little bit interested, we should fill out an application right then, because they end up giving the dog to the first application 9 times out of 10.  So we decided to fill out the papers.  And two days later, we were bringing home our baby!

She is a Deer Head Chihuahua mix, and was guessed to be about 1 year old when they found her wandering the streets in Santa Barbara.  We happened to come into the shelter the first day she was available for adoption, and when we picked her up, they told us that three other people had put in applications to adopt her!

And the best part is – Chloe is AMAZING!  She’s such a lover, such an easy addition to our family.  She listens well, plays nicely with other dogs, and is so much fun to have in our family!  Best spontaneous decision ever!


Pure Joy Catering Tasting Event

On Sunday, I had the privilege of photographing the Pure Joy Catering Tasting Event, while also enjoying the food myself!  All I can say is Yum!  I work with Pure Joy Catering quite a lot at weddings and I can definitely say that their food is consistently as tasty as it looks. Everything was so delicious and so very pretty!  And the amazing Terra Malia Designs provided gorgeous arrangements for all of the tables – look them up for your wedding floral needs!

Blood Orange Maragita - Pure Joy Catering

Blood Orange Margarita – Pure Joy Catering

Pure Joy Catering Tasting Event

Roasted Mustard Crusted Tenderloin with Mustard Cream

Almond Crusted Sea Bass with Lemon Beurre Blanc

Grilled Parmesan Rosemary Polenta Triangles with Truffle Oil and Shaved Parmesan

mini sliders - pure joy catering

Mini Hamburgers with all of the trimmings and Mini Fries to go along

Mini Milk Shakes

Orange Chicken - Pure Joy Catering

Somer’s Farm Blood Orange Marmalade Glazed Oven Roasted Chicken

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with a tomato herb vase

Pretty Florals provided by Terra Malia Designs

Pure Joy Catering - Cheese Cake

New York Style Cheese Cake baked in a mason jar with local blueberries and crisp buttery pecan and oat topping

Pure Joy Catering cheese cake in a jar

To see more images and food options from the tasting, pop on over to Pure Joy Catering’s Blog 
Pure Joy Catering - Santa Barbara, CA

I’ve been working with Pure Joy Catering for over 8 years now and they are truly one of my favorite catering companies in Santa Barbara to work with!  Their food is always delicious, served hot, and creatively presented.  Their staff are so kind and fun to work with, and make your wedding their priority!  It’s been fun watching their company grow and change shapes, while all the while, keeping quality of their food, and quality of their service, their number one priorities.  Keeping it real and keeping it fresh – Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market style, these guys are rocking’ it and making Pure Joy as they work!  Love them!

DIY Wedding and Save Money

Weddings have become so expensive, especially in Santa Barbara with high prices on everything from venues to caterers, florists, to makeup artist, etc. but if you really want to, there are many creative ways to have a DIY Wedding and save money.

Before I begin, I do want to mention that having an amazing team of vendors will make your life easier, less stressful, and your wedding will be the perfect dream you have envisioned for so long.  That being said however, there are also ways to cut costs, while still having your dream wedding.  I’ve photographed well over 300 weddings now and I’ve seen it all, from super simple backyard style bbq weddings, to over the top lavish luxury weddings, but whatever your style, there are definitely ways to save some money, at any price point.

DIY Weddings - bride and groom

1. REAL VENDORS = REAL MONEY – DON’T UNDERCUT THEM.  If you want to hire professional vendors for your wedding, than expect to pay professional prices.  Don’t just try to get all of your vendors to cut costs and discount everything.  Some just won’t do it and those who do, probably won’t be happy about it and may not give your wedding the same kind of attention or care that they would if they were getting paid their regular price.  Be respectful and know that our prices are what they are because we take into account our operating costs, salaries, living costs (just like it’s not cheap to get married in Santa Barbara, it’s not cheap to live here either!), etc.

2. In my opinion, there are definitely some vendor categories that you should spend your cash on and hire a professional, and then there are other categories that you might be able to do yourself or get creative with, to save some money.

Here is a chart that I made to help you get started and then read the descriptions below for more details on each category.

DIY Wedding

Venue: There are a few options with this one.

Option 1:  For the most cost effective money-saving option, go with a city venue.  You’ll pay a minimal fee but you’ll end up saving thousands overall.  In Santa Barbara some good options for your     ceremony are The Santa Barbara Courthouse, Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, The Beach, etc.  There are some venues that allow both ceremonies and receptions, such as Chase Palm Park, Elings Park, and some beach areas.

Option 2:  Rent a house/mansion that will accommodate you and your guests for your entire stay (saving tons on hotel fees) AND allow for you to have your ceremony and reception there.  There are many options online on sites like VRBO and some really great places in Santa Barbara such as Villa Sevillano, Ravenscroft Historical Estate, Mediteranean Retreate with Infinity Views, (all of which I have shot weddings at, but make sure to get your wedding approved by the owner before you rent any estate.

Option 3: Splurge on your dream venue.  The venue matters, and if you plan to save in other categories, why not spend the big bucks on the venue that you really want?

Photographer: Ok, you might think I’m just saying this because I am a photographer, but I promise, I’m not.  I cannot tell you how many times I hear the same story over and over from my clients friends (at my clients weddings), that they wish they had hired a professional photographer for their wedding, because their photos are A) awful, B) they never got their wedding photos because the photographer disappeared after their wedding, C) they hired a friend and it was super awkward because they didn’t like the photos, D) their photographer didn’t know what they were doing and took forever to take all of the photos, making the entire day run behind schedule.  But most importantly, other than your actual marriage, this is the ONE TAKEAWAY from your wedding day and the only thing that will keep your memories alive forever.  I constantly have couples commenting on how it was so much fun to go through their photos because we captured moments that they didn’t even know were happening, and others that they had forgotten about.  The day goes by in a whirlwind, and your photos are so important.  The other side to it is that regardless of your budget, you are putting a lot of time, money, energy, effort, and love into creating a really special, memorable day for you and your loved ones, and I think it’s worth spending a little more to get a photographer that you not only like (as a personal /vibe with), but whose style you love.  These are the photos that will will carry your memories of your wedding day for the rest of your lives, so to have your wedding documented in a style of photography that you think is beautiful and timeless, is so important.  It’s worth every penny you spend.

Caterer: Here’s another area that I think matters, but there are ways to limit your spending.  I would recommend spending some money on a professional caterer because they are professionals for a reason and know what they are doing.  Food temperature, timing, menu options, etc. are important things to think about.  But there are also ways to save.  For drinks, ask if you can provide the alcohol (so that you don’t pay inflated prices), and maybe limit what you offer to your guests to one or two Signature Cocktails and Beer and Wine.  For the food, buffet or family style will usually save you some money.  Another option is to go with a simplified menu.  There are some great caterers in Santa Barbara that will work with you to create a menu that fits your budget.

 DJ: Here again, I think it’s best to go with a professional.  You definitely don’t want to deal with sound problems (sound blackouts, shorts, etc.) on your day, and professional DJs know how to connect all of the cords to make sure this doesn’t happen…or if it does, they know what to do to fix it quickly.  I was at a wedding once where the lighting people connected their lights into the wrong circuit that was supposed to be only for the DJ, so as soon as the DJ turned up the sound to announce the bridal party and the bride and groom, the entire system shorted out and the music shut off!  It wasn’t the DJs fault at all but it happened and because they were professionals, they know how to fix the problem and get the music back within a few short minutes.  The night could have been ruined if they had hired a friend or amateur.  I’ve also seen a few disastrous DJ situations, where the DJs were incompetent and playing the same mix of songs over and over, or forgetting to announce the bridal party, or completely butchering the names of the bride and groom when announcing them.

Cake: Alright, here’s where the savings begin!  There are a few great options for cakes.

Option 1: Have the Cake Baker decorate a styrofoam mold, and only make one layer (either the top or the bottom, or both), actual cake.  That way, you’ll have a pretty cake, and you can still cut your cake in front of your guests but you’ll save money on the cake itself.  Have the baker make a bunch of sheet cakes that are hidden in the back for the caterers to cut for your guests.

Option 2: Buy a bunch of generic round white cakes at the grocery store, place them on pretty cake platters, and set them on different tiers around your dessert table.  You can have a friend decorate them with some pretty flowers and honestly, your desert table might end up looking prettier than if you had hired a professional to make your cake.

Option 3: Opt for an assortment of desserts like cookies, cupcakes, candies, etc. instead of cake.

Option 4: Have a loved one make your cake.

Dress:  These ideas won’t be for everyone, but they are ideas to consider if you want to save money on your dress.  Of course, if buying your dream dress and spending that extra cash on it is something that is super important to you for a keepsake, then by all means, do it.  But there are other options for those who want to save.

Option 1: Buy your dress on consignment.  I love this option, because you can get a dress that you might not be able to afford otherwise!  If you’re worries about it not being perfectly spotlessly clean, don’t worry about that!  Within the first 5 minutes of walking around taking pictures, even a brand new dress is going to get scuffed on the bottom and no one worries about that!  Plus, it will come dry-cleaned and practically like-new.

Option 2: Another option to consider is renting a dress.  I know, not for everyone, but honestly it’s an option that some brides like.

Option 3: Buy your dress off the rack and have it altered (if need be) by a seamstress or loved one that can sew.

Planner: Many venues require that you hire (at the very least) a Day-Of Coordinator.  You might be able to have a friend play that role but most likely, they will need to get liability insurance (required by most venues for all vendors).  Planners are super great to have and if you can afford spending some cash on one, I recommend doing so.  They will make your life so much easier and reduce your stress level by a lot.  However, there are some couples that are really good at planning and are super organized, and honestly do 99% of the work themselves.  Not everyone really needs a planner.  It’s a personal decision and it’s one of those things that is absolutely necessary for some couples, and not at all necessary for others.

Hair and Makeup: Sure, it’s nice to have a professional come to your hotel room and do your hair and makeup as well as all of your bridesmaids and mothers hair and makeup, but it’s also not necessary and you’ll save thousands if you go to a salon instead.  You can always go with your bridesmaids to the salon in the morning, leaving plenty of time to get back to the hotel and relax before go-time.  You can do your makeup yourself (I don’t really recommend this unless you are really good at it).  You can go to a department store and get it done. Or, go to the Mac Store (or another makeup brand) and quietly ask the employees if any of them would consider coming to your hotel room to do your makeup on your wedding day.  Most of the makeup artist working at the makeup counters do freelance work on the side, and will be much more affordable than your average makeup artists that specializes only in weddings.

Shoes: You don’t have to spend so much on shoes!  First of all, almost all high heels are super pailful after wearing them for a couple of hours, so 99% of the time brides end up barefoot or in flip flops by the end of the night anyway.  Especially NEW high heals!  Ouch!  Why put yourself through this torture?  If you really want those super cute shoe shots, then get a pair of shoes for cheap at forever 21 or H&M and wear them for the ceremony, and then have another pair to change into that you’ve already broken in (that you’ve owned for a long time and know are comfortable), or buy a pair of cute flip flops that will be comfortable to wear all day long.  Your dress will cover up your shoes anyway!

Rings: These are something that will last forever, years past your wedding day, so don’t go too cheap and make sure you get what you really want becuae you’ll be wearing them everyday for the rest of your lives.  Still, there are many options out there.  Shop around.  Consider Etsey or going with a vintage ring.

Videographer:  This is a category that is super important to some and not important at all to others.  It’s totally up to you.  If all you care about is having the ceremony filmed, have a friend operate the videocamera on a tripod in the back or discretely setup in the front, and record it that way.  DO NOT, I repeat, do not, let your friend walk around to get different angles during the ceremony!  I’ve seen some ceremonies ruined by ‘friends’ trying to get creative with the videography and totally ruining the special moment for the couple and the audience by being completely disruptive and obnoxious.  Don’t take that risk – it’s not worth it and could end up ruining all of your ceremony photos taken by your professional photographer.  Something else to keep in mind is that more often than not, you’ll end up watching your wedding video a few times (in your life!) but that’s it.

Groomsmen Attire: One word.  Rent.

Flowers: Ok, heres the deal with flowers and hiring a professional florist.  Florists work super hard and it takes hours to put everything together for you.  They are worth every penny you spend on them because it does take a lot of time, and a lot of thought goes into making all of the bouquets and boutonnieres so pretty and perfect.  Some of my dearest friends are florists, and I’ve seen first-hand, what they do – and it’s a lot of work!  HOWEVER, you can save sooo much money if you Do IT Yourself (or to state it more accurately, enlist a friend(s) to DO IT THEMSELVES).

Step 1: First of all, you will save a ton on flowers if YOU buy them (instead of your florist buying them).  If you’re coming from LA, stop in the Flower District and buy buckets of flowers to make everything from the bouquets to the boutonnieres, to the centerpieces, to the ceremony decor, etc.  You can also utilize the grocery store or farmer’s market.  Flowers aren’t ever cheap, but no matter where you get them, you’ll save tons just by buying them yourself.

Step 2: If you really want to have a friend help you put together all of your bouquets and boutonnieres for your wedding party, them make sure you get all of the necessary materials and watch Youtube how-to videos so that you make them right.  You don’t want them falling apart on your wedding day.  Still, it’s not rocket science, and anyone who wants to, can easily put some nice looking pieces together.  Also consider having them made a day or two before the wedding (store them in the refrigerator) so that you don’t have to worry about them coming out nicely on the day of.  MAKE SURE, to get flowers and greenery that will last and won’t wilt or fall apart right away.  Start to make a mental note of flowers you see in wedding bouquets, so that you get flowers that will withstand the day.

Step 3: Centerpieces and Ceremony Decor.  You can really fnd almost any type of vase you are looking for if you shop the thrift stores.  It’s so popular these days to have mix-matched centerpieces anyway, so getting different bottles, vases, and bowls, can really add to the look and style of your tables.  You can also consider using succulents and rocks to make arrangements right on the tables themselves.  Get creative and have fun!  Pinterest will help you come up with the style you want.

A few things to keep in mind:

1: Have whoever is helping you with your flowers (referably multiple people) start setting up as early as possible.  Since they are not professionals, it might take longer than it would take a florist to setup.

2: Consider the weather.  If it’s sweltering out and your reception/ceremony sites are in full sun, you can’t setup too early because your flowers will all wilt by the time your guests arrive.

3: Make sure to start on the personals (bouquets and boutonnieres) at least a day early.  And, make sure you have ALL of the nessary materials for making them and attaching them.

4: Do what you can ahead of time.  If you have a cool place to store your centerieces in, make them a day or two before the wedding as well.

Stationary: There are tons of options here.  There are so many easy online do-it-yourself options for putting together your own invitations, etc.  There are also couples who opt for the Online-Only Invite ‘green invitation’ and there are some classy websites that take your online invite to the next level.

Groom’s Attire: Most grooms rent their tux or suit.  Department stores also have affordable options if you’re going for a little less formal of a look.

Bridesmaids Dresses: It can be fun to let all of your bridesmaids choose their own dress (with a color genre and style).  This way, they all feel comfortable in their dresses and usually they pay for their own dresses.  Make sure to ‘ok’ all of the choices ahead of time, if you’re worried about it.  You can also choose an affordable dress at a department store, instead of going with a bridesmaid-specific option.

That’s it!  You’ve just learned how to save a killing on your wedding and now might be able to put more money towards the vendors that matter most to you.  It takes some organization and creativity, but it’s totally doable and totally worth it!

I often get inquiries for photography and they say they’ve allocated $2,500 for the photography, when really, if they got a little creative, they could easily allocate $5,000 or more, and get the photographer that they really want but think they ‘can’t afford’.  I cannot afford to shoot weddings for $2,500 in Santa Barbara (but I’ll save that explanation for another blog post).

Hope this post helps you save a little money and have some fun along the way!  YOU CAN DO IT!

DIY Weddings - simple bouquet

 Simple, easy-to-make bouquet

DIY Weddings - mix-matched bridesmaids dresses

 Super Cute Mix-Matched Bridesmaids Dresses

DIY Weddings - simple boutonniere

Simple, easy to make Boutonniere

DIY Weddings - toast and tablesettings

DIY Weddings - Table Centerpieces

Super simple and affordable centerpieces

DIY Weddings - Homemade welcome sign

 Homemade, hand-painted welcome sign

DIY Wedding - florals



10 Tips When Shooting a Destination Wedding

Designation Weddings are super fun to shoot and it’s always exciting to travel to a new location, but there are a few dos and don’ts that I’ve leaned over the years.  Here are 10 tips when shooting a Destination Wedding that will help you get started.

Destination Wedding Photographer worldwide

1. I can’t stress this enough – Never part with your gear!  I think this is probably a no-brainer for most professional photographers, but it’s worth mentioning.  I’ve seen some miserable travelers with lost checked luggage, and I can’t even imagine what it would be like as a Wedding Photographer with missing gear.  There’s not always a camera store where you’re flying, and even if there is, there’s not always time.  Although I prefer to arrive a day or so before my scheduled shooting time (usually at least two days before the actual wedding day), I have gone straight from the airport to the hotel, to shooting within a few hours of arrival.  So making sure your gear is with you at all times is an absolute must!

2. Along those lines however, if you are traveling Internationally, you might run into some taxation issues if you have too much gear on you.  Think about what you want to do/say ahead of time.  You can pay the tax (for working in that country) or you can come up with an excuse like ‘one of the cameras is for a friend you are meeting’, or ‘you’re worried about one of your camera breaking so you brought two’.  Just be ready to answer questions, whichever route you decide to take.

3. Pack your shooting outfit in your carry-on.  Okay guys, I made the mistake of not doing this once – and that was the first and only time that my luggage got lost!  I arrived at 10:30pm and had another 2 hour drive to my destination in the middle of nowhere, and there wasn’t anywhere to buy an outfit to wear.  It was not my favorite moment.  I ended up making friends with someone who literally lent me some of their clothes to wear – so that I didn’t have to show up to the wedding in jeans!  That was a close call and I learned my lesson!!

4. Double check your gear – make sure you’ve got extra batteries, memory cards/film, card reader, backup cameras, etc.  Also, if you shoot digital, bring an external hard drive to backup your cards before you travel home.  You want to travel as light as possible, but some things are absolutely worth bringing.  Again, there’s not always access to a camera store, so you need to bring everything you need with you from home.

5. If you are traveling Internationally, don’t forget to pack power convertors or International plugs if you need them for the country you are traveling to.

6. Double, triple check your departure/flight times!  Ok, this is really embarrassing but I actually missed a flight once for a destination wedding!  Luckily, I had scheduled my arrival time an entire day early before I was to being shooting but this was not ideal and it was super scary!  There were no more flights that day, so I had to wait 18hours for the next flight!

7. Research the area you’re traveling to.  Is there a cool place that’s not on the beaten tourist track that you can bring your couple to for photos?  I find that most couples are into adventure and are excited to take photos in a once-in-a-lifetime location.

8. Have a printed copy with you of all directions, locations, timelines, etc. There was one time that I was unable to access the Internet/email and I was really glad I had printed all that stuff out ahead of time.

9. I know I keep talking about your gear, but it’s not only your livelihood, it could also mean a lawsuit if something happens to someone’s wedding images.  Make sure that your gear is safe, even in your hotel room.  If there is a safe, use it for your cards/film.  If not, make sure that your gear and photos are safe in your hotel room.

10. This depends on your style, but I find it much more rewarding for myself and my couples, when I actually hang out with them and capture real moments throughout our stay.  I tell couples that we’ll do multiple mini (10 minute) shoots throughout the days that we are there in a more spontaneous fashion – like when the light is perfect, or I see a perfect shot.  I like to work off of what I’m already given, but to make a ‘perfect shot’ usually, some direction is needed (not always – and when this happens, I’m a happy happy girl!).  What I mean by this is, if they are hanging out by the pool and I see a cute photo to be had, I might have a friend in the background move, or I might slightly change the angle of their bodies to create a more flattering look, but I usually see the shot with my eye and creative mind first, and then tweak it to make it work for the camera.  I mean, who doesn’t want amazing, editorial shots of themselves in an incredible location on their wedding week/weekend!  But, I’m also very mindful of people’s time and relaxation and am good at keeping it balanced, so that they don’t constantly feel like they are having to take photos.

10.5 Lastly, Have FUN!!!

Thank you for reading my post and I hope these 10 tips for shooting a destination wedding were helpful!  And please leave a comment below with other tips you’ve learned through your experience shooting destination weddings!

10 Tips When Shooting a Destination Wedding Destination Wedding Photographer Willa Kveta

Click here to see some of my favorite places on earth and ignite your travel bug!

The Jam Event 2015

The Jam Event 2015,  was an incredible way to kick start this new year and work with so many incredible event industry vendors!  Produced by Wild Heart Events

The Jam 2015 - Santa BarbaraEpic Stagecoach Tablescape

The Jam Event 2015 - Santa Barbara

Woodstock tablescape by the amazing Sweet Emilia Jane, Record Background created by the one and only truly talented Wild Heart Events, and gorgeous cocktail table centerpieces by the lovely and equally talented RowanOak Events

The Jam Event

The Jam - Willa Kveta Photography

The Jam - Santa Barbara - Willa Kveta

The Jam Event 2015 - Willa KvetaIn collaboration with: No Frills,  Dart DJ – spinning the epic tunes, Elan Event Rentals – who provided most of the unique looking tables, chairs, Milk & Honey Farm, Otis + Pearl Vintage Rentals – who provided some of the beautiful glassware and table settings, SCOUT Rental Co – who provided some of the epic animal hide rugs and unique furniture, Ventura Rental Party Center – who provided the awesome dance floor and disco balls, Confetti Gram – making the party festive with fun confetti filled balloons, My Tat – providing super fun removable tattoos for fun party thrills, Ella & Louie, Sweet Emilia Jane - who designed the woodstock themed tablescape, RowanOak Events – whose work is pretty much everywhere – florals and designs throughout the rooms, Coco Rose Design – who designed the epic Riot Fest Table with pink and black accents, Oak Barrel & Bloom Co, tenley erin young - whose work is seen on the beautiful table with yellow and blue accents, Figueroa Mountain Brewing – Santa Barbara – providing epic beer, Rasta Rita Margarita and Rasta Taco – food and refreshments, Catering Connection – providing scrumptious bites, Pure Joy Catering - providing yummy donuts, Simply Cocktails, Juice Ranch Designed by Nature – epic juice mixes for cocktails, Coveted Cakery – yummy deserts, Bella Vista Designs – providing all of the epic lighting, Jamie Ellen Paperie, Wittyboth! – fun Photo Booth, BlueStar Parking, Willa Kveta Photography - yours truly – providing photography, Sustained Harvest Farms – yummy stylized salads, Shanna Spencer Style, La Tavola Fine Linen, Soiree Center, Holly Foster – on acoustic guitar, Tony Matrimony & The Dearly Beloveds – fun wedding band – providing epic entertainment, Firestone Vineyard and Winery, and Flutter Magazine, The Goodland – A Kimpton Hotel, and El Capitan Canyon – providing awesome hospitality.

I’m so excited about 2015 – and this event was the perfect way to start the year off with an epic bang!  Thanks so my incredible clients, I have so much to be grateful for and events like this remind me what it’s all about!

Couples Choice Awards – Wedding Wire

Once again, we are lucky enough the have been chosen for the prestigious Couple’s Choice Awards! Every year I am humbled by this honor and so very thankful to all of my amazing clients who recommended me for this award. Thank you deeply! 2015 is going to be an exciting year full of so much inspiration, love, and fun photography sessions!

Couple's Choice Awards 2015 willa kveta

Willa Kveta Photography is a recipient of WeddingWire’s prestigious Bride’s Choice and Couple’s Choice Award – since 2010


The WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards™ recognizes the top 5 percent of local Wedding Professionals from the WeddingWire Network throughout the United States and Canada that demonstrate excellence in quality, service, responsiveness and professionalism. Unlike other awards in which winners are selected by the organization, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards™ are awarded solely based on the reviews from over 200,000 newlyweds. Awards are determined by a combination of excellence in four factors: overall rating (quality), total number of reviews (quantity), review performance (recency), and consistency of reviews from year to year (consistency).

The esteemed annual awards program recognizes the top local wedding vendors from the WeddingWire Network who demonstrate excellence in quality, service, responsiveness and professionalism within the wedding industry. While many industry awards are selected by the organization, Willa Kveta Photography was selected based on its stellar reviews from past newlywed clients.

Willa Kveta Photography is recognized as part of the top five percent of wedding professionals in the WeddingWire local vendor community, comprised of over 200,000 wedding professionals throughout the United States and Canada. The Bride’s Choice Award recognizes the best local wedding vendors across 20 service categories, from wedding venues to wedding photographers, based on their overall professional achievements throughout the past year.

“WeddingWire is thrilled to honor the success of the top-rated wedding professionals within the WeddingWire Community,” said Timothy Chi, CEO, WeddingWire. “Since the launch of the Bride’s Choice Awards™ program four years ago, thousands of outstanding wedding professionals have been recognized by the bridal community for their supreme service and dedication to the wedding industry. It is with great pleasure that we congratulate Willa Kveta Photography for their continued professionalism and commitment to enriching the wedding planning experience for engaged couples.”

We are happy to announce that Willa Kveta Photography is one of the very best Photographers within the WeddingWire Network, which includes leading wedding planning sites WeddingWire, Project Wedding,, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Weddingbee. We would like to thank our past clients for taking the time to review our business on WeddingWire. Thanks to their positive feedback we were able to receive the WeddingWire Bride’s Choice Awards™.

Press Releases from WeddingWire for Bride’s Choice Awards Winners:
Brides Choice 2013:
Brides Choice 2012:
Brides Choice 2011:
Brides Choice 2010:

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Wedding Season is in Full Swing

It’s hard to keep up with everything when wedding seasons is in full swing. I’ve clearly neglected my blog for months! I’ve always done everything on my own, but it may be time soon to hire someone to help me out with certain tasks since I don’t seem to have enough time to stay onto of it all. I absolutely love my job and I am thankful everyday that I am busy enough to be able to support my family doing what I love to do – taking photos! I sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am! If I sound at all cocky, I don’t mean to be at all, I truly feel so blessed and the gratitude I have for everyone who has helped me get to this place in my life is overwhelming. It took a lot of years of very hard work and living paycheck to paycheck to get to this place that I’m at now, and believe me, I don’t take any of it for granted. Wedding season is crazy, it’s also summer and my daughters are out of school, which makes it even crazier since they are 6 years old and all they want to do is spend time with me. Luckily, I work from home (when I’m editing and not shooting) so they get to be around me, even if I’m working. I also play hookie as often as I can since I know my daughters will grow up quicker than I can even imagine and spending time with them is always worth it. It’s been hard, but I’ve figured out how to balance life, keeping on top of my client obligations while spending as much time as possible with my family. I have to say, blogging has fallen short of the must-do list, but I strive to be better. If you want to see my latest images, please check out my Instagram: @willakveta
Thank you for your support and for stopping by.
Santa Barbara Engagement Session - Hendry's Beach - Willa Kveta Photography

Montecito Sequoia Lodge ~ Our Family Vacation

Last week, we packed up the van and headed up the mountain to Montecito Sequoia Lodge, a family friendly lodge in Sequoia National Forest. A group of our friends have been going to this spot every year for the past few years but this was the first time we made it. I have to admit, I’ve been in Hawaii for the past couple of years around this time, and for me, there was no question which option I liked better. But this year, I asked my twins, who are now 6 years old, which option they preferred and of course, they wanted to go to a lodge with a bunch of their friends, so that’s how we ended up there. Honestly, even though all of our friends who had been there before just raved about the place, I didn’t have very high expectations. I even read the reviews on Google, which weren’t so good and made me second guess my decision, but I couldn’t change my mind at the last minute because I knew my girls would be so disappointed. Anyway, we knew not to expect snow because this year has been so dry so we just figured we’d go, hang out with friends, and enjoy some time in Nature with the giant trees.
Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Mountains_SunsetGorgeous View from the lodge at dusk.


I’ve never photographed fire like this before!  It was so much fun!  The sparks were amazing to capture with my 50mm 1.4 lens!

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Kids When we arrived, the girls immediately went off with their friends and a ‘kids camp leader’ and within an hour, we were hiking with friends (adults only) to an incredible, gushing, icy waterfall! It was amazing and I started to feel excited about being there! Don’t get me wrong, I totally love the friends who we went with, sometimes I just have a hard time letting go of my Hawaii time, because Hawaii is truly my place. It’s where I feel most at home (in the states). I’d say Costa Rica is truly ‘my place’ if I count everywhere I’ve been thus far, but that’s another story. Anyway, we got back to the lodge and the girls were sooo stoked and having so much fun and the self-serve hot chocolate with marshmellows all day long was an added bonus. The dinners were amazing – actually all of the meals were amazing and all included in the very affordable price! My favorite was the self-serve tea all day long! Sooo nice!Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_girl Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_FriendsSome of our sweet friends!

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_FussBall Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Playing Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Music Some things were definitely unexpected – no phone service and very very little internet service – it look about 15 minutes to send an email and another 30 minutes to download the received emails! I quickly had to scrabble to add an out-of-office reply email – which actually didn’t happen ‘quickly’ since it look about 2 hours to complete the task with the slow connection and all! But, in the end, it was such a blessing to be unplugged for 5 days! I NEVER stop working so being forced to take a break was soooo nice!!! And, the most exciting and unexpected thing that happened – it snowed!!! It snowed 10 inches and we woke up to the most beautiful winter wonderland! They are so set up there – with sleds, skis, snow shoes, etc. It’s awesome! The girls had a blast playing with their friends in the snow and it was so magical to experience all of it with some of our dearest friends! Truly a treat! At night, we would put the kiddos to bed upstairs and then slip downstairs to the fireplace with baby monitors listening in on our kids and play awesome adult games – “Things” and “Cards Against Humanity” drinking wine and laughing by the fireplace till 1am or later! Sooo fun!!!
Terra_Malia_designs_in_the_snowIt started to snow!!!

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Snowing_Happy_Boy Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_HappyTwins Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Snowing_twins

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_in_the_snowThe next morning…

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Happy_to_see_Snow Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_SleddingFunSoooo much fun!!!

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Sledding Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Family_PhotoFun Family Portraits in the Snow!

Mom and daughter in the snow Throwing snow up in the air

Family Christmas Card 2014 Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Loving_the_Snow Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Snowball_FightLove this spread of mom and son in a snowball fight!

Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_CampfireMan Montecito_Seqoia_Lodge_Nature
So after all of my hesitation and internal resistance to this trip, I now want to make it a yearly adventure with our friends!  It’s so set up for kids and with ‘kids camp’ everyday for 5 hours included, there’s time for everything that adults might want to do without the kiddos (like extensive hikes, etc) but there’s also so much time to spend as a family and together enjoying each other’s company!  Every night had a different kid-friendly activity and the camp leaders were so cool making it so fun for everyone!  One night was a disco party dance with balloons and awesome music, another night was movie night with popcorn, it truly was such an awesome experience for all of us!
The only thing I’d say, is if you don’t have kids, this place might be too loud to handle!  There are some really nice cabins that you can rent that are separate from the main lodge, but as soon as you enter the main lodge to eat or hang out, you’re definitely inundated with kids everywhere!  So, it’s perfect for families because they totally embrace kids and it’s super set up for the littles :)

Rehearsal Dinners at the Wine Cask

Rehearsal dinners at the Wine Cask are intimate and beautiful, embodying the ultimate purpose of bringing your closest family and friends together for scrumptious food, incredible wine, and sharing of memories with laughs and maybe a few tears. The space is perfectly designed for a family-style event and has such a wonderful atmosphere. Here are some images from a rehearsal dinner we photographed there last summer – designed by amazing planners Colette and Kaitlin of La Fete Weddings.















PAN SEARED WHITEFISH - artichoke croquettes, crispy fennel, exotic citrus & wild arugula salad, green olive tapenade, blood orange marmalade









From the Wine Cask Website:  “DOUG MARGERUM and MITCHELL SJERVEN’S Wine Cask, located in downtown Santa Barbara in the historic El Paseo complex, offers the best of all worlds to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner in a stylishly relaxed setting. Their passion is great food, the highest caliber of service and bringing back the comfort and nostalgia of one of Santa Barbara’s favorite restaurants. Indulge in great foods featuring the freshest local ingredients and select from the best wine list in town, not to mention signature cocktails that change regularly. Whether you’re looking for a casual drink and shared plates al fresco on the patio lounge or nestled up in front of the fireplace, or feel like a lively dinner in the main room, you’ll find what you’re craving at the Wine Cask.

Wine Cask is a locally owned, multi-faceted restaurant with an iconic reputation as Santa Barbara’s culinary and wine landmark. It’s food and wine central for aficionados; a full sensory experience from the historic setting the restaurant occupies to the innovative cuisine balanced with the warmth of personal service. Wine Cask Chefs shop at the farmer’s market every week and feature local seafood, produce and wines in support of Santa Barbara industry.

Repositioned and reinvented to meet the modern-diner movement, the Wine Cask concept consists of several elegant spaces, all offering a different ambiance and experience. The ‘Gold Room,’ our main dining room, offers an up-scale yet approachable lunch and dinner experience famous for its majestic oversized fireplace and its historic vaulted wood beam ceiling adorned with gold leaf. The ‘Margerum Wine Tasting Room’ is branded after the original and now current co- owner and wine maker, offering a dual use space as a tasting room and event venue. ‘The Riviera Room’ is a private banquet/dining room that is sophisticated in nature with the ability to accommodate mid-sized events or groups. Intermezzo is the colloquial ‘bar/café’ of Wine Cask, a favorite after work and evening haunt for locals and a comfortable, quaint place to sit by the fireplace and enjoy fine wines and flat breads with friends before a show. Lastly, the courtyard between the Gold Room and Intermezzo, delicately draped with whimsical, retractable sails high above the space, offers an al fresco experience. We are delighted to provide the same exceptional cuisine and service for private and group dining that you would expect as a table for two.

Wine Cask has personality, soul, deep community roots and is a full sensory experience. Staff carry themselves with personal and professional pride, and offer the highest standards of guest service.

Our Mission Statement: to surpass guest’s expectations for service, food and wine in an inviting setting, such that every customer who comes through our doors leaves impressed by Wine Cask and excited to return again tomorrow and thereafter.”

To see more images and what’s new at the Wine Cask – check out their BLOG

El Encanto Hotel – Gorgeous Riviera Venue

El Encanto Hotel is one of Santa Barbara newest additions – an incredible venue on the gorgeous Santa Barbara Riviera overlooking all of Santa Barbara and the ocean beyond.  The sunsets are unreal from this hilltop estate!  Last night El Encanto treated some of the Santa Barbara Wedding Industry’s top vendors to a special “Vendor Appreciation Event” where we experienced absolutely wonderful treatment from the staff while nibbling on scrumptious appetizers and sipping on delicious wines.

El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_View El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_IceCream_Bar El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_DessertEl_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Icecream El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_IceCream_Dessert

The hotel actually has been a long-time Santa Barbara destination, however just last year it re-opened its doors after being closed for seven years, with a revived look and vibe, while keeping to its traditional feel.  It is now one of the top wedding venues in Santa Barbara with its unbeatable location, friendly staff, and incredible cuisine.

El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Colette_Lopez El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Tomato_app El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Appetizer El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Vendors El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Camera_man

It’s always a blast when all of us ‘wedding industry vendors’ get together since we essentually speak the same language and can gab for hours about our weddings and clients.  Since we all run our own businesses, we truly understand one another, and working together as a community of vendors and friends is so rewarding.  So many great friends were there – Colette and Kaitlin of La Fete Weddings, Jill from La Fleur Wedding and Events, Nico of NLC Productions, DJ Scott of Scott Topper Productions, Sophie from Amazing Days Events, Armando and Shauna of Alegria by Design and wonderful photographers Melissa MusgroveBaron StaffordBrandon and EricaMichael and Anna Costa, as well as so many other great vendors.  Special Thank You to Kathleen Murphy at El Encanto for hosting this very special event. El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Nico_Cervantes El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_App El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_YummyEl_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Evening_GlowEl_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Jill_La_Fleur El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_La_Fete_Weddings El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Wedding_Industry_BestiesEl_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Willa_Kveta_Photography El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Colette_Lopez El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Chillin El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Yum El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_FunTimes El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Armando_Martinez El_Encanto_Wedding_Venue_Alegria_By_Design

For more information about weddings or to see more wedding photos from El Encanto Hotel, please contact me at Willa Kveta Photography

Santa Barbara Wedding Photographer Willa Kveta Photography

420 E Carrillo St Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-633-4633

Our service area in santa barbara, california: 93101-93103, 93105-93111, 93116-93118, 93120-93121, 93130, 93140, 93150, 93160, 93190, 93199