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Renee + Mario | Cabo San Lucas | Westin | Destination Wedding Photography

I don’t have enough good things to say about Renee and Mario’s wedding at the Westin on the corridor above Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. From the moment we arrived, we had nothing but fun with them and their awesome group of friends, from karaoke at the hotel bar to a gorgeous ceremony on the beach, to a party that lasted late into the night. Planning a destination wedding is a huge undertaking, but these two managed to pull off an amazing event while never seeming anything but relaxed and thoroughly happy with each other and their loved ones. I love having the chance to spend time around people who are so clearly in love as these two, and I am thrilled to have been their photographer on such a special day. Now, check out this beautiful couple rocking their wedding! (And make sure to look at those bridesmaids’ dresses; they were designed by the bride!)

From Renee: – Describe where you got married (destination and name of the location or resort Explain why you chose that locale. We were married at the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico! We wanted a warm outdoor wedding with a view of the ocean, and this place is incredible – the resort is literally carved out of a mountain and jets right out to the ocean. It’s always warm, always sunny, and never humid!

- What was your vision for your wedding? Intimate, classy and surrounded by nature.

- Describe the activities you and your guests enjoyed at your wedding destination. In the days before and after the wedding, we were able to go ATV riding, golfing, swimming and sailing during the day, and every night we all butchered our favorite songs at the resort’s karaoke bar.

- Where did you hold your wedding (gazebo, beach, historic fort, etc.)? The wedding was on the beach, just a few steps from the ocean.

- What time was your wedding (either a specific time or general time of day like sunset)? 6pm, so that our first dance was at sunset.

- Describe what happened at your ceremony. A guitarist played a few tunes as everyone filed into their chairs, and my husband-to-be, Mario, walked down the aisle with his mother. After our bridal party made their way down, my Dad and I followed, and my Dad spent a moment handing me over to Mario and blessing our marriage. Both of our sisters performed a reading, we had a sand ceremony, a hand blessing, our vow and ring exchange and finally our “I do’s.” Our guests threw rose petals as we ran back up the aisle!

- What flowers did you carry? I had a full waterfall bouquet of fuchsia phalanopsis orchids.

- Tell about any ethnic traditions or customs from your destination that you included in your event.

- Describe the location and decor of your reception. Our reception was on the pool veranda overlooking the ocean and several lit pools. Our guest tables kept our theme of black and white, while each flower arrangement of fuchsia orchids provided our pop of color. We danced under starlight and tons of mood lighting including rope lights around every palm tree, moving robotic lights over the entire reception veranda, and lights all over the sides of the hotel in different shapes and colors!

- What food was served at the reception? Everyone enjoyed a heavy assortment of hot and cold canapés during the cocktail hour. Then for seated dinner after a bouquet of mixed baby greens, served with slow baked tomato, balsamic peach, avocado and goat cheese quenelle over a crispy tortilla, everyone had their choice of main course: Roasted Chicken Breast stuffed with roasted peppers and creamy cheese; Seafood Trilogy comprised of scallops, grilled shrimp and stuffed clams served with tarragon-lobster sauce; or Steamed Mushroom Rolls over a bed of stir fried curried rice vermicelli and match stick vegetables. Dessert was an old-fashioned churro cart that fried fresh-baked Spanish donuts with an assortment of toppings that kept our guests going back for more.

- Describe the look and flavor of your cake, plus any other desserts that were served. Our cake was 4 tiers of pure Southern red velvet, with buttercream frosting under an alternating black-and-white fondant layer, and fuchsia orchids cascading down from the top. Dessert was an old-fashioned churro cart that fried fresh-baked Spanish donuts with an assortment of toppings that kept our guests going back for more.

- What else happened at your reception? Toasts? Dancing? Any funny or meaningful stories? My parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary just before our wedding, and during the evening I took the mic and had everyone join me in congratulating them on their 3 decades of wedded bliss, followed by the playing of “their song” Always and Forever. Karen L. Barnes was able to capture one of my favorite pictures during this song of my parents slow dancing, with me and my new husband slow dancing next to them, two generations enjoying their soulmates. After their song, the DJ immediately put on a dance hit, and still with everyone’s eyes on my parents, my dad lifted my mom above his head and twirled her around for what we now all call “The Twirl!” Every guest was on their feet applauding my parents. It was magnificent, and it provided such a beautiful memory for us, and a vision of what we hope to have 30 years from now.

- Describe any wedding-related events that followed the wedding and reception. After the wedding and reception, which went an extra hour because we didn’t want to stop dancing, we moved the party to the bar/lounge in the resort and karaoke’d and danced until we closed it down!

- What did you love about your destination that was specific only to that place? Our destination was so unique – the resort is literally carved out of a mountain and jets right out onto the beach. The guest rooms are all in two humungous arches that represent the famous Cabo arches. Everyone who came was in complete awe of the architecture and the scope of the sprawling resort.

- What was the best idea you had in planning your destination wedding? The best idea for our wedding, was having it in a beautiful beach resort in Cabo – everyone who came was able to turn it in to an extended stay and make a vacation out of it. We were so excited to have all of our friends and family in one place for a week and were able to enjoy their company the whole time instead of just one day. Many of them live out of state and having them all there at once was an amazing gift in itself.

- Best advice to future brides and grooms of destination weddings: If you can, try to schedule a visit to your destination where you can meet/interview/audition any vendor you might want to participate in your ceremony and reception, all at once. Our wedding coordinator had us sit in a ballroom at the hotel and brought in soloists, florists, ministers, photographers, lighting/audio designers, chefs, bakers, etc, to show us what they would offer us if we picked them as a vendor for our wedding. We got so much done in that one weekend that we were able to iron out the details with each vendor over the phone or emails afterwards.

- Best memory of the wedding: I remember my Dad walking me down the aisle… well actually I was apparently almost sprinting down the aisle – my poor Dad was trying to subtly slow me down, saying “slow, walk slower” under his breath. I was just so excited to get to the altar with my husband-to-be that I nearly forgot to take my time! When we finally got to the altar, all I remember is looking into my husband’s smiling eyes and seeing our future. I’ve never in my life been as absolutely blissful as in that moment. I’ll have that memory, that feeling, for always.

- Where did you and your guests stay? Did you find a lot of resorts and hotels offered good group rates? Our guests stayed at the same resort where all of our wedding events took place. The Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos offered us a great group rate. In fact, all of the resorts in Cabo that we originally considered offered great group fares. We found you could really work with them, too, to get even better deals, like a percentage off of food/drinks for all of our guests, etc.

- Did you use a wedding planner? If yes, how did he or she contribute to the event? If no, how did you organize a wedding that was so far from your hometown? Thankfully, our resort has a wedding coordinator on staff that helped us with every detail of the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony and the reception. We visited the resort for a weekend, and our coordinator arranged for us to interview/audition soloists, florists, ministers, photographers, lighting/audio designers, chefs, bakers, etc, to show us what they would offer us if we picked them as a vendor for our wedding. We got so much done in that one weekend that we were able to iron out the details with each vendor and our coordinator over the phone or via email afterwards.

- What obstacles did you face in planning a destination wedding? How did you overcome them? The downside to planning our destination wedding from afar was the inability to talk face-to-face with our wedding coordinator during most of the planning phase, and see for ourselves how it was all coming together. We knew how important it would be for us to see everything firsthand in the days leading up to the wedding so we flew out a week ahead of time and worked with our coordinator and vendors every day until the wedding itself. Since we came out early, we were able to fit in many of the things we would have done earlier in the planning phase if it had been held closer to home, like the hair/make-up trial, table décor mock-ups, floorplan layouts, etc. Thankfully we were able to fit most of it in, albeit a little bit rushed at the end.

- In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently in the planning? In retrospect, we probably would have planned one extra visit to the event space a month before the wedding to be able to see firsthand how everything was coming along, as well as being able to schedule hair/make-up trial, and another face-to-face meeting with all of our vendors to go over their plans for the day.

Wedding Venue: Sunset Beach at the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico (

Reception Venue: Pool Deck at the Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico (

Wedding Coordination: Juan Pablo Colmenero, Wedding Coordinator at Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos, Mexico

Wedding Photography: Karen L. Barnes Photography (

Second Photographer: Elisa Ahlin

Floral Design: Emporio Arte Floral, Los Cabos, Mexico (

Officiant: Maye Cortinas (

Bakery/Dessert Preparation: Cabo Dessert Diva (

Lighting: PSAV® Presentation Services (Sales Manager: Oscar Sánchez Ceballos) (

DJ: DJ Ricardo Patino (

Wedding Dress: Enzoani, purchased at La Soie Bridal, Torrance, CA (

Bride’s shoes: Betsey Johnson

Hair and make-up stylist: Suzanne Morel Face & Body Care, Los Cabos, Mexico (

Bridesmaid dresses: Designed by bride; Handmade by Armida Acoba (seamstress, San Diego)

Groom’s suit: Zara

Groom’s accessories: Watch is Tag Heuer (Carrera), Sunglasses are Persol

Rings: Bride’s engagement ring by A. Jaffe; Bride’s wedding ring by Bloomingdale’s collection

Invitations: Designed by bride and groom; Printed by Lala Press, Los Angeles (

Martha - 09/03/2012 - 6:27 pm

Beautiful photos! You did such a wonderful job capturing the lovely location and the vibrant personality of the couple.

summer - 09/03/2012 - 7:45 pm

These photos are incredible. You’re so good at what you do. What a great set of subjects, too!

Julie - 09/04/2012 - 9:04 am

These are gorgeous! Wow!

Bita - 09/04/2012 - 9:11 am

What a beautiful destination and couple! Awesome job capturing it all, Karen

Zoe - 09/04/2012 - 12:29 pm

Absolutely gorgeous!!!

Heather J - 09/04/2012 - 1:30 pm

Gorgeous photojournalism!

Kellee Walsh - 09/04/2012 - 6:10 pm

Simply stunning Karen. I love the way you’ve captured the location in all the environmental shots. Just lovely.

Justin - 09/04/2012 - 9:07 pm

Amazing destination wedding, great job!

Kristian - 09/05/2012 - 2:42 am

Absolutely stunning – this is beautiful work Karen, I’m sure Renee and Mario were thrilled with these.

Tab McCausland - 09/05/2012 - 5:41 am

Pretty cool destination wedding. Awesome work.

Walter Burks - 09/05/2012 - 6:20 am

Really beautiful work! I love the shots of them on the beach!

small - 09/05/2012 - 6:44 am

Wow! I love all of the photos with that pink building!

Veronica Varos - 09/05/2012 - 6:49 am


ayesha - 09/05/2012 - 7:21 am

holy wow… gorgeous light from morning through the night – you got skills! the colors are amazing… beautiful portraits and candids alike!

bryan - 09/05/2012 - 9:16 am

seriously incredible set! amazing story telling. great stuff all around.

Elisa - 09/10/2012 - 3:53 pm

Such a beautiful wedding- amazing job!!! :)

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Pablove Shutterbugs Tumblr

I was honored to be asked to be the guest blogger for the Pablove Shutterbugs Tumblr blog this week. You can read the original article here.

My son and I were walking down Sunset Boulevard one evening when he stopped me in front of the Pablove mural and asked, “what is this place?” We stopped and read Pablo’s name and the dates that marked his physical time here, and we talked about how sometimes children get cancer. We talked about how Pablove is “fighting childhood cancer with love”, but we didn’t know exactly what that meant, or really, how one even goes about fighting cancer. Just a few days later, I randomly encountered an online call for Pablove Shutterbugs mentors and spent the next several nights reading everything I could find about Pablove, and about Pablo. A week later I was sitting in the Dangerbird office learning about my new role as a photography mentor.

As a mentor, it turned out that my role in fighting childhood cancer wasn’t really about the cancer; it was more about the child. My student wasn’t just “a kid with cancer” he was a young photographer. We spent an hour together each week exploring his apartment and how to see it in new ways. We talked about the quality of light. We talked about how the beauty of photography is that having a camera in your hand is a key to seeing things that no one else sees. We crawled on the ground while he turned tiny garden figures into huge monumental statues and fence patterns into abstract art. We looked excitedly through his photos each week while he made up elaborate stories about the stuffed animals and family members depicted in his images. When he didn’t put enough effort into his work, I reminded him to expect more of himself. Our meetings were about seeing things as a child does, about building confidence, and about not shirking the work duties that ultimately develop skill and provide the freedom to make art.

One of the founders of the Shutterbugs program, Cath Berclaz, said in a recent interview regarding Shutterbugs that “in this room, cancer has no place”. That is exactly what this part of fighting cancer is about. It’s about spending time not giving the cancer attention or strength. Although the cancer has tried to take many things from them, it has not taken their creativity or their spirit. The Shutterbugs program gives these kids the skills and inspiration to use photography to see differently. Photography teaches us to notice things that we would otherwise miss. It teaches us that a split second can be something remarkable, if we stop and take the time to see it. It gives us the opportunity to live our lives in a way that is filled with miraculous seconds, simply through seeing. What better gift to give to these children and their families?

Yesterday I was walking down Sunset with my son and our friend, and we stopped in front of Dangerbird while I told my friend about Pablove. It seems to be a conversation I have constantly these days.

You can read more about the Pablove Shutterbugs program here.

Cheryl + Danny | Laguna Canyon Engagement Photography Session

Cheryl and Danny are both avid hikers/outdoorsy-type people, and wanted to do their engagement session somewhere we could take advantage of the spring flowers. We decided to meet in Laguna Canyon, at a nice, easy-looking trailhead. Luckily Cheryl had brought some comfortable shoes, since we missed the trailhead entirely and ended up on a much steeper hike than we anticipated. It turned out to be an enjoyable accident, since we found some really beautiful spots and got some lovely shots of the two of them.

Thanks for spending such a fun afternoon with me, and I’m looking forward to seeing you both at your wedding!

Mary - 05/23/2012 - 9:11 am

Oooh, these are lovely. Nice captures.

Joni - 05/23/2012 - 9:12 am

Great shots, as usual, Karen. They look so happy.