Meet Alyssa Mcelheny, a photographer and soon-to-be owner/founder of Lamb Bride. She's a dreamer in so many ways, all of which relate to weddings. Read more below to get inspired by this passionate dreamer!
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO RIGHT NOW?
First of all, I'm so excited to be featured here on Pieces of Me. I'm a wedding and portrait photographer from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I photograph about half of my work here in the Midwest and the other half around the rest of the globe (Japan, California, Florida, New York, Mexico, Colorado, etc.). Come May fifteenth, I'll be embarking on a new (but still wedding related) adventure. I'll be opening a bohemian bridal salon - LAMB BRIDE! In my free time, I also coach cross country and track.
WHEN DID YOUR CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR JOURNEY FIRST BEGIN?
I'd like to think my creative journey started in the spring of two thousand eleven. I was living in a small coastal fishing village on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. This city held such incredible beauty and I was frustrated with my ability to document and describe that beauty. Thankfully, I had brought a camera with me and I started to use that camera more and more frequently on my walks through the city and travels through the rest of Europe. Once I returned to the United States, I was so, so blessed to be able to intern with Jill DeVries Photography (www.jilldevries.net). This woman was and always will be one of my favorite photographers. Her knack for photographing light and emotion is unreal. She's also one of the most genuine people I've had the pleasure of knowing. This internship sparked my interest in and love for wedding photography. I also credit Jill and this work experience with my ability to branch out and to start booking weddings of my own. Today, it's my full time job and I wouldn't have it any other way. Being able to work with so many beautiful, unique, head-over-heels-in-love couples on their big days is such a dream.
WHAT'S YOUR DAILY ROUTINE LOOK LIKE ON A TYPICAL WEEKDAY?
I'll wake up early with my husband, Daniel, (he's a high school history teacher) and drive into work with him. We live on a lake about thirty five minutes outside the main hub of Grand Rapids so we really like to use just one vehicle during the day (for fuel efficiency's sake). From there, I usually go to a coffee shop to work on editing, send emails, or meet with a client. During this time I'm also running other errands - currently ones that deal with the opening of Lamb Bride in about two weeks (Yikes!). Once three o'clock comes, I'll rush over to the school where my husband teaches, pick him up, and we'll head over to another area high school to coach track and field and cross country for the afternoon. It's a blast to be able to do that together and the girls I coach are fantastic. I swear they're all so much cooler and more mature than I was as a high schooler. Once practice wraps up, Daniel and I head home (often grabbing a burrito on the way home). Once there, we'll watch some Netfilx, hang out on our lake, and hit the sack. It's a dream existence.
TELL US MORE ABOUT LAMB BRIDE AND HOW IT STARED? WHAT INITIALLY INSPIRED YOU?
I've always been in love with weddings. I love the photos, the flowers, the desserts, the dancing, the love, and - of course - the gown. I've also found the wedding gown market here in Grand Rapids to be lacking (So much so that ordered my own wedding dress online from Stone Cold Fox - check them out!). That's why, in just a couple of weeks, I'll be opening my own bohemian bridal salon and event space, Lamb Bride, here in my hometown. I hope to offer brides gowns and designers (Rue De Seine, Daughters of Simone, Houghton NYC, Samantha Sleeper, Sarah Seven, Emily Riggs, Anna Campbell, Elizabeth Dye, Odylyne the Ceremony, etc.) that they'd currently have to travel to New York City or Nashville or Los Angeles to try. I'm so inspired by other bridal salons in bigger cities across the country like Alice in Ivory, Bash Bozeman, Lovely Bride, LOHO Bride, The Dress Theory, and Schone Bride. I hope to make LAMB the most unique, precious, boutique bridal experience possible. We'll also be renting out our all white, huge windowed, eclectic furniture filled space for bridal showers, wedding mornings, and small receptions. If you can't already tell, I'm besides myself with excitement.
WERE/ARE THERE ANY OBSTACLES THAT YOU HAVE HAD TO FACE SINCE STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
There have totally been obstacles I've had to face in starting my own business. I've learned to be SO okay with asking questions. I've had to navigate the fun world of taxes and legality. These aspects of owning your own business are NOT fun to me so I've learned to pass those off to other professionals. Overcoming these obstacles was really quite simple once I learned to let go of my pride and need to do everything myself. I'm quite the type-A individual so this was no small feat for me. Delegate and ask questions, people. All day long.
HOW DO YOU REPRESENT THE TRAIT DREAMER?
Lamb Bride is the perfect example of the dreamer in me. I was in Brooklyn, New York last fall for a couple of engagement sessions with my close friend Erika DenHoed Griffith (www.maydenphotography.com). We were sipping on wine and downing some pizza under the stars and some little white lights when I first began to hash this idea out. We had worked on a styled bridal shoot earlier in the week (with Samantha Sleeper (www.samantha-sleeper.com)) an
d were gushing over her incredible gowns and the shop where they were housed (Schone Bride - www.schonebride.com). At that point I began imagining what such a shop would look like and do for the Grand Rapids wedding scene. Over our drinks and bites we began hashing the idea out. About six months from that day, the Lamb Bride concept is almost realized. I am making this dream a reality and it's still so unreal to me.
SO, YOU ALSO HAVE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE TWO BUSINESSES?
I guess we'll see, won't we! That might be the biggest unknown in this whole situation. Again, I'm realizing that I'm going to have to enlist a miniature army of help during the summer months (my busiest months, photo-wise). I'll be relying greatly on my sister (Carlie Penning) and mother (Jen Penning) this summer to help me get Lamb off of her four little hoofed feet. Once again, it comes down to letting that control freak side of me go a little bit and being willing to put my faith in others - super capable others, but others none the less.
WHAT KIND OF HOPES AND GOALS DO YOU HAVE FOR THE FUTURE OF LAMB BRIDE?
Aside from being a unique, destination bohemian bridal salon and event space (for small receptions, brides getting ready on their wedding morning, bridal showers, workshops, etc.), I would love for Lamb bride to be a gathering place of sorts for the modern, alternative wedding vendor community of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids has bridal shows. That's for sure. However, these shows are ones that I myself and vendors similar to me in style have little to no interest in attending. These shows are fantastic and still, 1000% have merit; they just attract a more traditional sort of bride. I hope to host quarterly events for brides and vendors alike that want to work with and create a more bohemian, natural, effortless, organic wedding. I want to unite this community in Grand Rapids.
YOUR LIFE REVOLVES AROUND OTHER PEOPLE'S WEDDINGS, WHAT DOES YOUR DREAM WEDDING LOOK LIKE?
SUCH a good question. It would take place outdoors in the fall. The dress would be designed by either Houghton NYC or Odylyne the Ceremony. The ceremony would take place under a huge tree, decked out in all it's fall colors. The guests would be seated on wooden benches. There would be Moroccan rugs everywhere. The flowers (by Damsel Floral Co. (http://www.damselfloral.com/)
) would be over the top and cascading. The groom would be in a dark emerald green suit. The men would each wear a suit (in black, navy, or a dark maroon) of their own choosing. The ladies would be in floor length, off-white bohemian gowns themselves. The bride and groom would be married under the tree. All guests would hold long, floral tapered candles. There would be so much love and laughter and happiness in this intimate space. The reception would be just next door in a grove of trees. Long strings of cafe lights would be strung between the trees. Mismatched tables and chairs would be sprinkled throughout the clearing. The tables would be full of dark greens and fall-hued blooms. Guests would feast on mac and cheese and brisket and wine and doughnuts.The party would last until the wee hours of the morning here. The bride and groom would then make their exit in a tiny white VW bug. I love pretty much all aspects of weddings, if you can't tell.
ASIDE FROM BEING A DREAMER, WHAT ARE THREE OTHER PERSONALITY TRAITS THAT DESCRIBE YOU AND EXPLAIN HOW SO?
I identify with being a leader. I'm the oldest child in my family and have always been the most like my father. I love to plan, take charge, and get things done. I'm creative. I like to come up with new, fresh ways to do things. I like to be on the cutting edge of my industry. I am most certainly passionate. I can't imagine doing anything else but what I'm doing. My job is NOT work to me. It's my (second) greatest love (second only to Daniel). I'm the luckiest girl in the world for getting to do what I'm obsessed with on a daily basis.
WHAT WOULD YOU BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE BE TO A YOUNG GIRL CHASING AFTER HER OWN DREAMS?
Take that leap, lady! I'm more nervous than I can ever express about embarking on a new business venture. It's freaky - that's for sure. However, I knew that I would regret never trying. That's why I dream and do and lead and work and create.
Check out more LAMB BRIDE and Alyssa below!