Cactus Collective | Las Vegas Desert Elopements

It took me well into adulthood to appreciate our beautiful desert landscape in Las Vegas, and even deeper into my late 20's to fully appreciate the scorching heat of summertime. Without getting into my actual age, let's just say I'm old enough now to see the absolutely stunning beauty of our gorgeous desert, it's prickly cactus and spiny trees and burgundy boulders. I think that having sipped a cold Sauv Blanc in the warm late afternoon gazing at the mountains might have something to do with it. 

I promise there's a point to all this, I really am heading somewhere with it. Budding Las Vegas desert elopement company Cactus Collective has stolen my heart. They took all the best fresh, beautiful dusky moments I've come to know and love and made epic weddings out of them. The CC wedding team has dialed into that carefree, let's-runaway-together passion and blended it into our incredible landscape. We here at The 'Co are especially fond of the couples we get to work with who are running away to the rocks; the bohemians who need nothing more than the essentials to get married tend to be very easy to breathe around. Now, as a wedding hair and makeup veteran, I am here to say emphatically that I love me some bougie brides. I'll never turn my nose up at a bedazzled situation, and bring on the gilded chargers if you please! But - and there's always a but - give me that bride who lives in waves and braids, sun flare sneaking through the willow acacia, skin kissed by the sunset and lips kissed by her man, and you'll find me one happy wedding pro indeed. Bliss can be found everywhere when you fully appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. 

Jamie + Mitch, thank you for letting us be your hair and makeup pros for your chic and sweet wedding with Cactus Collective. You two were made to be married out there. 

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The Wedding Vendors that Made It Happen

Coordination | Cactus Collective Weddings

Photography | Taylored Photo Memories

Crazy 4 U - Valentine's Day Styled Shoot at Red Rock Country Club

"Because I'm crazzzyyy for you! Touch me once and you'll know it's true!" You know that moment when you see something and it invokes a memory and the next thing you know, you've got a song stuck on repeat in your head? That's exactly what's happening over here on this cold, drizzly Valentine's Day. Madonna's song was the soundtrack to a short but sweet boyfriend of mine a lifetime ago, long before I met my now husband Chief Dude. Every time I see one of those candy hearts with messages on them that say Crazy 4 U, it brings me back to that time when maturity hadn't quite set in yet, when street-corner roses and drugstore candy were the best you could hope for on February 14th. 

As darling as it is to look back to that time, I'd be lying if I said I wanted to go back. I like to imagine I'm far too sophisticated now to pine for a decorated shoebox full of cards with fun-sized candy stuck in the pop-up flap. My tastes have elevated to more mature desires, or so I tell myself. And then, one day, everything's pink and red and roses all over and here we are, creating a Valentine's Day styled shoot that is every bit as gorgeous as my adult-self craves and every bit as sweet as those younger memories. I'd say it's a match. 

When Sam sent me a sneak peek a few weeks back of her Valentine's Day styled shoot at Red Rock Country Club with Lianna Marie, I was dazzled. From the stunning bridal makeup with a pop of bright lip color to the romantic half-up hairstyle she created, she made Cupid proud. The final images did not disappoint. It's like Lia reached into my heart and grabbed my favorite feelings about the holiday of love to combine them into a wedding design that was nostalgic and sophisticated all at the same time. The end result is nothing short of breathtaking, and it makes me wonder why we don't all just get together drinking full-bodied Cab and exchanging candy-stuffed cards.

The Wedding Vendors that Made It Happen

Photography: Lianna Marie Photography

Planner: I Do Details LV

Floral/Stationary: Cultivate Goods

Dress: Grey Pearl Bride

Cake: Peridot Sweets

Rentals: Bloomingbells Rentals

Venue: Red Rock Country Club

Hair and Makeup: Sam D for Amelia C & Co

Lofty Goals | A Las Vegas Wedding Styled Shoot at The Doyle

You know how in poker games players try to learn the other players "tells"? If you're not hip to the gambling lingo, a "tell" is a subtle sign that gives you a clue about what the other person is thinking. In poker, a tell could mean that the person is bluffing. A seasoned poker player is all up to date on the other players tells at the table. Kinda like a seasoned wedding professional notices the tells of a bride. 

I am nearly fifteen years into my career as a Las Vegas wedding makeup artist, so I feel like I can say I'm seasoned without sounding absurd or arrogant. The reason why they call it a "tell" is because it actually tells you so much about the bride you're working with. If she's getting ready in a gilded suite where every sitting surface is tucked with brocade and piping, she's an elegant modern bride who probably has a designer gown hanging on a custom Etsy hanger in her boudoir. She's going for a stunning classic look that just barely touches the edges of trendy so that she doesn't regret her hairstyle choice in five years. Now give me a different bride in an urban area with tattoos and I can promise you that if you that she will rock your world in a totally different way. 

When my girl Tara over at Scheme Events told me about this styled shoot she was planning with our gal pal McKenzi of Taylored Photo Memories over at The Doyle, I was all about it. Firstly, these ladies make this industry a better place by existing in it, so I always accept an invitation to their play dates. Secondly, The Doyle has been this totally different, ultra rad up-and-coming loft space downtown and I absolutely love it. There's really nothing like it and I knew that Tara was going to make this place into the gem it is destined to be. 

To keep with the lofty vibe of The Doyle and within Tara's crazy good concept, we decided that our bride Steff needed an edgy look. Never a team to underestimate the power of a big, fat well-designed ponytail with attitude, Daileny coiffed her up while Daisy slicked her down. Dewy and fresh skin with a simple eye and dramatically dark lips played nicely with the overall glammy urban vibe of the shoot. In a city full of tells, this concept practically shouted the right hair and makeup look from the rooftops. 

The Wedding Vendors that Made It Happen

Scheme Events - Concept + Design

Taylored Photo Memories - Photography

Doyle Las Vegas - Venue

Javier Valentino - Florals

Epic Event Rentals - Decor

Cake Lava - Cake

Wedding Vows Las Vegas - Officiant

Mike + Steff - Models

Paper & Home - Stationery

La Tavola Linens - Linen

Grey Pearl Bride - Gown

Hair by Daileny S, Makeup by Daisy L for Amelia C & Co - xoxo The 'Co Las Vegas





Chicago Wedding Styled Shoot - Puppy Love

We are just having the best time in Chicago. When we first sent our precious (precious as in the way Gollum feels, not the other less desirable context) Alana to Chicago to start our bridal hair and makeup team out there, I think all of us had some separation anxiety. I don't have kids yet, but I have to imagine this is how moms feel when they drop their kids off for the first day of school. Will the other wedding vendors be nice to her? Will see fit in? Does she miss me like I miss her? Is her lunch packed?

Nearly a year after we sent her off to make our Windy City brides gorgeous, I'm happy to report that all is well in the midwest. In fact, Alana's basically over there living her best life. After finding some incredible top-talent makeup artists and hair stylists, she began working with the fantastic Alexandra Lee on some incredible Chicago-based styled shoots. The best way to get to know a community is to get out there and play with them, and our team isn't holding back. Squadding up with bridal hair stylist Tamara H turned out to be a great life-choice, as you'll see in the photos below. These two have the kind of magic Alana used to have with Daileny here in Las Vegas... but don't tell Daileny that. I think she's still licking her wounds from Alana's departure. 

Speaking of licking, this creative collaboration with wedding photographer Alexandra Lee and 'Co model favorite Anna DeBlecourt features everyone's favorite kind of licking; puppy kisses! Puppy Love inspired this sweet, V-Day-esque styled shoot featuring a hound after our own hearts, Frye. We can't honestly say we've been in an LTR with him, but with a mug like that, do you really need more than a handful of hours to fall madly in love? Us neither. 

Chicago Wedding Vendor Dream Team

Hair by Tamara H, Makeup by Alana G

Venue - Chicago Illuminiating Company

Photographer - Alexandra Lee Photography, Alex Marquardt

Models - Anna DeBlecourt, Patrick Page

Florals - Jackson Floral Design

Cake - The Quintessential Cake
Instagram: @thequintessentialcake

Videography - Claudia Bixler

Dress - Abby Bella Couture

Invitation Suite/Placecards/Calligraphy - Paper Love Club, Ashley Frye

Rentals - Halls Rental Company

Floral Wall - Floral By Emily Jayne

Doggie - BMO Frye! :) 

A toast to new beginnings...

If I could pick and choose the moments to stretch out, minutes I could turn into hours, it would absolutely be the beginning of things. Just the beginning, not even the dead-center moment of whatever it was you were excited about, in the beginning, just the beginning. That sweet, sweet second where the thing you have been looking forward to for so long meets the start of it actually happening. Vacations. Cake. Sex. Love. Careers. All of it... the beginning is the absolute best part. 

Not to say the rest of it isn't good. In fact, the rest of it can be downright wonderful. But it's a grounded, rumbly, deep kind of happiness that you have to sit very still to feel. Its depth is what makes it so profound, but also harder to notice. But in the beginning, it's sharp and arced and it pushes through everything else and it's not just noticeable, it's painfully obvious. Maybe I'm just into theatrics and cheap thrills. Or maybe I just like the exquisite feeling of knowing the best is yet to come. I can't think of anything more delicious then realizing that in the midst of incredible happiness, something even better is about to happen. 

In March, The 'Co website got a long overdue makeover. In my haste to get on with things already, I obliterated our previous website before I had the thought to pull our blog posts from them. Basically, five years worth of witty commentary from yours truly has now gone to cyber heaven, or wherever blog posts go to die. Thankfully, some of my more involved posts I had the good sense to write on my desktop before publishing, and with the help of a few interweb hacks, I was able to recuperate some other posts as well. But still, over 90% of our posts are nevermore. 

That was three months ago, and I've found lots of projects to work on other than actually getting our posts up again. Finally, I decided that rather drag the past into the present with me by trying to regurgitate it all with more interweb hacks and voodoo magic, I would just start over with a clean slate. Sure, some of the saved posts will be coming along with me, but not without an overhaul with a heavily lashed critical eye. 

And because this is a new beginning, and a post about new beginnings, it deserves something more to hit you right in the feels. And boy, get ready to feel all the feels. 

Some of you know about our sweet hair and makeup artist, Melissa F. More than two years ago, she experienced any happily married woman's worst nightmare. As weird as this is going to sound, if anyone was an example of How To Widow, it was Melissa. She did the work, and yes, it's a lot of work to recover from a tragedy of that magnitude. She read and she prayed and she chanted. She saw healers and Jesus and lit candles and joined groups. She danced and she cried and blew off anything that didn't serve her healing. And then, one Tuesday..." her heart started to beat again."

Now listen up, because this is important: here at the offices of The 'Co, we see all the artist's schedules. This is how we know when they are available and when they aren't. So, when her boyfriend at the time was planning to propose, he emailed me and asked if she was booked on the date he had in mind. Then shit got real-real. The ring was gorgeous. He's such a great guy. She is so in love with him. I could barely look at Melissa for the two months in between the time I knew he was going to propose and the time he actually did, I was so, so excited and happy for her! I literally could not even stand it! 

After some scheming and heart pounding and squealing and basically just being a girl about the whole thing, we got to work. Israel, the soon to be fiancé, wanted to pop the question out at the gorgeous Lake Las Vegas. Not wanting to exclude his or Melissa's family, but still wanting to keep the proposal intimate, we came up with a plan that worked beautifully. The proposal would just be the two of them, followed by his and her family joining them at the proposal site, champagne toast, family and engagement photos, an intimate dinner for the ten of them, and then another surprise- a pop-up engagement party with all the friends and family! And, since his family was flying in from the East Coast and her family was driving up from SoCal, it was efficient too... in the space of four hours, Melissa was proposed to, had engagement photos, and had an engagement party. When I'm not feeling all misty-eyed about the thing, I can't help but marvel at the efficiency of it all. 

To really get in the mood for the story of how he asked, kindly locate the song "Kissing You" from Romeo & Juliet, and have it playing in the background before reading on... I'll wait...

With the help of Ashley over at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas, we chose their stunning old-world chapel for the proposal site. We also fed Melissa a story about how the venue was doing a demo reel showcasing the property, and that they wanted to have their professional wedding partners come in and speak on their respective parts of the wedding business. This way, we had an excuse to make sure she wore a dress and did her hair and makeup lavishly for the cameras. Brilliant, right? 

Tucked into the candle-lit chapel was Israel, standing up at the altar, and the superb Norina Kaye, camera at the ready to capture all that was about to happen. I waited at the chapel doors while Ashley walked Melissa to the "interview site", and while she fiddled with the "lock" on the door I pressed play (and prayed my phone reached the bluetooth speaker in the chapel) and suddenly the song swelled out and filled the space right as we opened the big, wooden arch doors. 

For as long as I live and breathe, I will never forget that moment. Her head turned slowly to me and she blinked once. She didn't budge. I'm not even sure she drew a breath. For what seemed like ages, Melissa just stood very, very still, and stared at me. She was suddenly facing a wedding chapel, an aisle lined with candles, a romantic serenade filling the space, and at the top of the altar with his back to the door, Israel. I gave her the awkward, neck gesture that people use when they want to say "well, go on then" but without actually having to say it. Twice. And then she stepped forward, and we closed the doors behind her. 

And if I could have stretched this moment out for them, this dreamy beginning, made it just a little longer, the sweetest part of the whole thing, I would have done it in a heartbeat.


How He Asked- Hilton Lake Las Vegas Proposal. Photography by Norina Kaye
How He Asked- Hilton Lake Las Vegas Proposal 2. Photography by Norina Kaye
How He Asked- Hilton Lake Las Vegas Proposal 3. Photography by Norina Kaye
How He Asked- Hilton Lake Las Vegas Proposal 4. Photography by Norina Kaye
How He Asked Hilton Lake Las Vegas Proposal. Photography by Norina Kaye
How He Asked Lake Las Vegas Proposal. Photography by Norina Kaye
How He Asked Proposal at Hilton Lake Las Vegas. Photography by Norina Kaye

Thank You...

Norina Kaye for a) being as lovely as you are gorgeous b) driving halfway to the ocean to get this unbelievable moment caught on camera and c) being such a photo-taking-ninja-bad ass. But, most importantly, thank you for being a friend. Norina Kaye Photography

Ashley Arnal... for keeping your cool when I was a frantic, sweaty, mess. For your beautiful chapel and generosity. For being an involved, behind the scenes stud.  We literally could not have pulled this off without you. Hilton Lake Las Vegas Weddings

Brittney Belanger... for the sweet and stunning cake that made the pop-up engagement party feel so official. Mad Batter Cafe

Daileny S... for being a great co-conspirator, a cooler-downer when I was getting all weird and anxious, and the best teammate a girl could ask for. 

Courtney Everard... for telling me it was going to be beautiful when I was second guessing myself and worried that I'd find a way to screw it all up. And for the timeline template.

Israel... for Operation #wifemelissaup. For letting me be the hyper, bossy, clip-board carrying, over-zealous planning, checklist making, quasi nut job that I know I can be. In all truth, you letting me part of this incredible moment was such a gift, I won't ever be able to thank you enough.

and to Melissa... who showed us all that love is for real, Jesus knows what's up, and mountains can be moved. I love you


Amelia C