Friday, August 28, 2015

Interview With a Catholic Wedding Photographer: Kate Capato of Visual Grace

About a week ago, I was left awestruck by this article from the Theology of the Body Institute, calling us out of ourselves (and away from our phones!) to walk headlong into beauty, "not as a decorative diversion but an essential need."  A Catholic wedding, with its invitation to grace and beauty through all of our senses, is a profoundly powerful thing.  My friend Jiza and I have been talking about how Catholic wedding vendors, particularly photographers, can capture your Mass, the sacraments, and the chapel in a way others might not.  And, I love the added community aspect of supporting our brothers and sisters as they cultivate their talent.


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That being said, I am so excited to introduce Kate Capato of Visual Grace to you today!  She and I have both worked for the same organization, though not at the same time, and have a handful of friends in common though we haven't met face to face.  Truly, everything about Kate's work exudes authenticity and the Theology of the Body; this girl deeply, deeply pursues and understands our unity of body and soul and the heart's ache for beauty.  Through painting, dance, and photography, she strives, through Visual Grace, to "draw the viewer in to ponder what it means to be human."  Truly, I'm amazed and am so grateful for her insights.  Without further ado...

Your business, Visual Grace, has such an amazingly unique mission: beyond just expressing an image on camera or on a canvas, you strive to capture the good, true, and beautiful in your work, and for that beauty to point us to God and reveal our human nature.  First, how did you even come up with something so great like that?  Second, how does that mission come specifically into play when you shoot engagements and weddings?
As an artist, I have been inspired by JP2, particularly his studies known as The Theology of The Body. As I continue in the work of mission and the arts, I see how much beauty can transform hearts. I also see how much we, as a culture, lack in being able to see and receive beauty. My goal became to reveal authentic beauty, which includes revealing what is true and what is good. They all go hand in hand. Visually, this plays out by using what is authentic. In simple ways this plays out in a photo by using natural lighting as much as possible and really sticking to revealing the personality of the couples. 

Do you work exclusively with Catholic couples, families, and individuals in your business? Regardless, what, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?

While many of my clients are Catholic, I do not work exclusively with Catholic couples. Catholic weddings, of couples who truly understand what they are doing in committing their lives to one another and becoming one, have such a grace about them. You can see it in their eyes. They stand before one another as a gift to behold. The Ceremony is such an important part to them. While their receptions are also gorgeous, they would never want the Ceremony to be something to move quickly through. They get that the sacrament is the moment of great grace. 


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Brides have so much access to visual inspiration when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors.  As a photographer, have you noticed pros and cons to this?
I don't mind this so far. Most couples I have dealt with trust me and, again, are more focused on the joy of the sacrament then having everything specific. Sometimes, I encourage them to look up things they would like to have captured. This helps them visualize for themselves how they would like to reflect back on the day. They have so much to think about so to be honest, I think it has been helpful. 


What's the most helpful thing a couple can do for you as a photographer before and during their wedding day?

Strive to find places with good lighting. Where they get ready, the church, the reception, all of it may be beautiful, but natural lighting is what makes a photo fabulous. Furthermore, account for enough time as possible to allow for the photographer to get the best photos of the couples and bridal party (hopefully outside). 


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I'd love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've shot!  Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you?  Any funny or otherwise memorable ones? 
For most of a wedding day, I am running around with the camera in front of my face. I get to see a variety of structured days. You get to learn about each couple and what is important to them. I will be shooting a wedding in a few weeks that is a full day with different Masses throughout the day, and the reception is at this really cool camp. I think it will be elegant but really down to earth.  

Recently I flew to Canada to shoot a wedding. I forgot that I would have to figure out all the details in regards to currency and phone differences because it's not AMERICA. Anyway, getting off the plane was like playing Marco Polo to find my ride because I didn't have phone service!


You work for The Culture Project, an organization committed to inspiring and upholding virtue, chastity, human dignity, and a life fully lived through a relationship with Christ.  Does this work influence your art, and vice versa?

Totally. With The Culture Project, I am constantly being formed and speaking on the topics of what is true, good, and beautiful. That being said, I am always learning more about what it means to love and how to share that with others. Love is so gracious and generous, much different then what our society portrays. Society points us to a passionate lust. They make lust a goal, when in all it is actually use. Our desires and passions are not bad; however, there is a much deeper peace and joy in knowing that authentic love thinks of what one can give verses what one will get. The union of two hearts and the deep joy that comes from that is so different from focusing only on the pleasure the other can give you. 


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Anything else you'd like to share?  
I am also a dancer and a painter. I really believe that these two art forms greatly influence my photographs, not only the way I take them but how they turn out. I am constantly thinking about composition and how the bodies are facing etc. Really, all the arts go hand in hand. 


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Thank you so, so much, Kate!  Visit Kate's website here to drink in her beautiful portfolio, and check out her latest work (and get in touch if you're looking for a photographer!) on Facebook.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Spirit Rejoices: Theology of the Body-Inspired Wedding Songs

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

A question worth pondering (one I'm still figuring out): just how personal should your first dance song be?  Should you take an opportunity to share your faith or just stick to a conventional love song?

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Brooke and I chatted over coffee about a month ago about how a bride and groom are, in a way, responsible for their guests in the way they plan their Mass and reception.  Although, obviously, not every aspect of your reception requires heavy-handed theological discourse (I'd argue, actually, that nothing should be heavy-handed so much as simply done with love, truth, and invitation), the choices made regarding things like alcohol and music can have an effect on your guests' behavior and the way they remember the day.  As first dances go, there's a natural desire to choose a song that's meaningful or sentimental to you as a couple, yet at the same time, there is an awareness that the song you pick will send a message to everyone who's there watching and listening.  Or is that just over analytical me?

Maybe it's my lifelong reading habit or my poetical husband, but more so than sound, mood, or any other aspect, lyrics are what almost always draw me most powerfully into a song.  Something about the precision of capturing a certain emotion or experience with beautiful language matters a lot to me, and Andrew and I wanted to reflect that in our first dance song.  Unfortunately, we chickened out on our first choice (too intimate) and second (too long) and settled on this, which you can read more about here.

Looking back, I sometimes wish we had been bold enough to choose a song more personal and reflective of our spirituality.  I have an entire playlist of secular songs I constantly listen to that, in my opinion at least, cry out lyrically of the Theology of the Body--songs that speak to the longing of our hearts for something more than this life, the glimpse of heaven pure, sacrificial love affords us, the constant battle to allow love to prevail over lust and selfishness, and the perfecting love of the Father, who rejoices simply in the fact that we exist.  It's a tall order, cramming all that into one song, but if you're on the hunt for a TOB-inspired first dance, I offer you these.

What do you think about loving responsibility and evangelization through your Mass and reception?  Did any of your favorites make this list, and which ones did I leave off?  Would you choose one, or a similarly-minded song, for your first dance?

P.S.  Did you catch my book title reveal yesterday?  I'll be announcing it on the blog next week, but you can catch it right now, ahead of time, on Facebook and Instagram.  Follow along and share it with a bride-to-be!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Major Book Announcement….


...But You Won't Find It Here First.

Friends, I'm so excited to tell you that my wedding planning book, now almost 3 years in the making, now has an official title!  I absolutely love it and can't wait to share it with you.

I'll be announcing my book title here on the blog in about 2 weeks, on September 1.  BUT!  I'll be sharing it a week early on Facebook and Instagram, next Monday, August 24.  Follow along here and here for the sneak peek!

While I of course want this longtime project to do well, the most important thing to me is that it guides, inspires, and enlightens…hopefully that's not asking for too much.  So, in these months leading up to the book's release, I would so deeply appreciate your prayers for me and for the brides and couples who will eventually read my words.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rite Resources: My Favorite Free Design Resources for Wedding Invitations

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Natalie Franke Photography
Ever given any thought to designing your own wedding invites? Andrew's and my wedding plans were blessed with considerable financial help from our parents.  I felt so thankful, yet vaguely guilty, so I tried to express our thanks by finding ways to cut costs wherever we could.  I love design and can fake my way through Microsoft Publisher pretty well, so I wanted to try my hand at creating our own invitations, programs, and stationary, but I knew I wanted something with a little more flair than your standard ivory paper and black script.

Side note: this was about 6 months before Pinterest was around--much to my benefit, I think, if only for the reason that I probably would've gone full-on wedding cray cray if I'd had access to that much inspiration and that amount of bridal stuff at that time in my life.  Good for other peeps, and I love looking at wedding things online still, but I know myself too well…it would've complicated, rather than simplified things for me; I'm sure of it!

Anyway, with just archaic Google to help me, it took a little time to scour the internet for pretty design resources I could use for our stationary, and after finding some I truly love, I want to share them with you.  Here are some of the sites I used before my wedding, as well as a few others I've stumbled onto since then:

For fonts:
DaFont.com: This site is great as a collection of varied, free, simple to download fonts that are divided by categories, like handwritten styles, brush scripts, and calligraphy.  Definitely check out the Dingbats and Holiday sections for "fonts" that read as images, like decorative flourishes, hearts, and flowers--truthfully, there are some pretty cheesy ones to wade through, but you can find some sophisticated designs, too, if you're willing to click around.  Even four years after my initial invitation project, I use this site all the time to help me create blog graphics.  A few faves:

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Lost Type Co-Op: Seriously gorgeous type, created by independent designers, that has a wonderfully professional look.  Free downloads are permitted, or you can make a donation when you download a font, and 100% of your donation goes to the designer.  If you're nerdy about this stuff like me, Lost Type sends out a fascinating e-newsletter you can subscribe to when you download.  Everything really does look beautiful, but I'm particularly partial to these:

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For images, borders, and other design elements:
We Lived Happily Ever After: Elegant wreaths, Parisian flowers, rustic antlers…whatever theme you're going for, I feel like there's a good chance you'll find something to fit from Hannah's amazing collection of images, most of them hand-drawn.  It's simple to download her collections, and she even offers this handy tutorial on how to change the graphics' colors.  Some inspiration:

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For backgrounds:
Design Love Fest: While I'm betting you don't want your wedding invitations to say something like "Get It Girl," this site does have a huge collection of backgrounds you can download for your phone or desktop, ones I'm betting would also look mighty fine as a backdrop for your invitations.  There are plenty of florals, geometric shapes, and watercolors like these to browse through (images are linked to the download pages):

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Pattern Cooler: I'm ready to admit that some of the designs here are straight-up gaudy.  But the concept of customizing practically any design you can imagine (stripes, circles, Greek keys…) with any colors you like is unbeatable.  A sampling:

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If you like the idea of free, print-your-own invites but would rather leave the design up to someone else:
Wedding Chicks: Type in a search for "free printable wedding invitations" and a lot of clunky designs with few customization options pop up.  These are different; I think they're truly pretty, and what's more, the site offers a great collection of design-your-own monograms you can use as a starting point for your own designs, as well as signs and other printables to use at your ceremony and reception.

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I just recently learned about this beautiful couple who did ministry together with St. Paul!
One thing!  Be sure, when you're getting ready to print your invites and other materials, that you've saved them as a PDF.  If you try and print straight from a Microsoft program like Word or Publisher, it will usually try to convert downloaded fonts into a Windows-friendly version, and any pretty calligraphy or block type will show up on the screen but not on the final, printed version.  PDFs also just simplify things if you're taking your documents to a print shop or a place like Staples, because the formatting can't change depending on what operating system you're using.

What do you think?  Have you thought about going DIY for your wedding paper?  Is there a free design resource you've used and loved that I left off of the list?  Share away.


More design, DIY, and template stuff from this here blog:
Mass Program Templates  |  Design-Your-Own Puzzles for guests  |  A post from the early days on the more technical aspects of invitation design  |  Erika's pretty DIY invitations  |  Printable Calling Cards to share your new married address  |  Printable Prayer Cards


Friday, August 14, 2015

Why I'm Okay With Simplicity.

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A while ago, a friend and I were talking about date nights.  Like me, she's a mama and has been married for a while, with a husband whose job involves irregular hours.  "It's so hard to think of stuff to do for dates," she said, and went on to describe their efforts to make a meal together after their kids were in bed, to set aside time to watch a movie, or to sit and pray.  As she talked, I found myself thinking, "Oh, that's date night?  That's just what Andrew and I do a lot of nights."

The point is, every relationship is different, and one person's special occasion is another's typical evening.  More and more lately, I've been realizing how content Andrew and I are with simplicity.  We celebrated our 4 year wedding anniversary last month and, as I often do around times like his birthday or our wedding day, I found myself scrambling to think of a creative gift and out-of-the-ordinary date, a feeling that's heightened after becoming parents since our opportunities for dates are more limited these days.

In my eagerness, I tend to ignore or forget the fact that my husband isn't into all the bells and whistles.  Impossible as it may sound, the man just does not like getting gifts.  And, even without the threat of a single Instagram post in sight, he sometimes struggles to feel at ease with things that, on the surface, seem more like something fun a couple should do, rather than what they actually want to do.  I have to admit, I used to think this was boring of him, or purely for the sake of making a statement against the falseness that can sometimes accompany social media.  But truly, the more time we spend together, the more I find our once-different viewpoints becoming more similar in certain areas, and this is one of them--not because Andrew has forced his opinions on me, but because joy is a fruit of putting another before yourself.  It's taken me so long, and I still struggle--gift giving is one of my love languages, and I really do love picking things out for him!--but now it actually makes me happy to not give my husband extravagant presents or plan elaborate nights out, and he finds happiness in the occasions where we do go out for something fancier, knowing that I enjoy it.

"Authentic" is a word that gets tossed around often in the name of craft beers and Facebook fasts and artisanal donuts or whatever.  And yet it does carry real weight, I think, when it comes to truth and self-knowledge.  Knowing yourself is a way of understanding truth, because God, who is truth itself, reveals to you who you are, the more you come to know Him.  

In the same way, I feel like the more I know and love Andrew, the more I know myself.  Our lives are so shared that it doesn't feel possible to know one of us better without knowing the other.  I am incredibly blessed by a man so intentional, critical, and discerning in his choices, all made in the name of virtue and a deeper closeness to God, and so comfortable and un-self-conscious in them.  Like in the fact that for our anniversary, we got burritos at Baja Fresh and then hung out at home.  Andrew wrote a beautiful poem that made me cry.  I love his quiet creativity and I loved the entire day.  There are definitely times when I wish we took advantage of more photo ops for our future selves (my husband is also not the biggest fan of my ideas for impromptu photo shoots!), or that we documented some of the recipes we've tried or places we've gone, but on the whole, this is our simple, non-Pinteresty, kept-to-ourselves life, and it feels peaceful and perfectly suited to us.  Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote, "love alone is credible," and he was right.

Thoughts? Are you a lover of the fancy date night or more suited to the simple?  Even though more planned out, photogenic romance isn't really our style, I still love hearing about other couples' sweet and creative gestures!



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