As many of y’all know, I’m an editor at Southern Weddings Magazine, and I can hardly believe it, but I’m celebrating two years there today! It doesn’t seem possible that it has already been two years since I shared the news with y’all in this post, and I’m so thankful that I get to do work I believe in fiercely and am passionate about every day. I’m asked often how I came to work at SW, and in light of today’s milestone, I figured there was no better time for me to share my story. Many of you followed along with it as it happened (which I’m so thankful for!!), and if you’re new here, I hope this will answer any questions you may have! Hold on to your hats–this post is LONG, and I included all the details for the sake of my own memories, as well as to share with y’all. And, just for fun, I’ve sprinkled in a few of my favorite photos from the past two years. :)
I’ve known, more or less, since I was ten years old that I wanted to work in magazines. The first magazine I ever read was the January/February 2000 issue of American Girl magazine and I thought it was the best thing ever. Some of the articles I remember are “100 Reasons It’s Great to be a Girl in 2000” (chalkboard and glow-in-the-dark wall paint was one of the reasons!), “A Red Hot-Themed Slumber Party,” and their “Shining Star” feature on the girl who raised money to get police dogs bulletproof vests. I was head over heels, and between my two younger sisters and I, we became American Girl subscribers for the next ten years.
Then, I started reading my mom’s magazines—Family Fun, Taste of Home, Southern Living. I eventually graduated from American Girl to Teen People and a small Christian magazine called Brio, and then Seventeen, then Glamour. And somewhere in that time, I discovered bridal magazines as well, and started buying them every once in awhile, just for fun.
I followed my heart to Franciscan University in Ohio to major in English with a writing concentration and a minor in Catholic theology. During the fall of my sophomore year of college, I applied to an internship at Southern Living. The lady in charge of the internship program very kindly called me to tell me that even though she liked my writing, I just didn’t have the experience to intern there yet, and that I should reapply once I had a few other internships under my belt. While I didn’t end up reapplying there due to the path my college career took, the fact that I had aimed so high and been received so kindly gave me a lot of confidence that helped me put myself out there in the years ahead.
Since the location of my small school made it almost impossible to gain the experience I needed, I transferred. I went through the transfer application process during a particularly strange semester—I was studying abroad (where I met my now-husband, but that’s a different story!), my family was on their seventh year of living in Qatar and was waiting to find out if they’d be moving back to the states after the school year, and I just had no idea what my next semester would look like. After getting into my dream school, The University of Texas at Austin, and my backup, the University of Pittsburgh, only 45 minutes away from my school in Ohio, I decided to go to Pitt, simply because I couldn’t figure out how I would move all my stuff in Ohio to Texas without a car. My sister had been accepted to start at Pitt in the fall as a freshman, so that was a big plus as well.
That summer, while googling magazine internships in Pittsburgh, I found that I was one day away from the deadline of an internship at Pittsburgh Magazine. I sent in an application, and much to my delight, was accepted to it a few days later. It was my internship at PM that solidified my desire to work for a bridal magazine. They were putting together their annual Weddings edition at the time, so I expressed to my supervisor that I would love to help with that in any capacity. She very graciously molded the rest of my internship to fit that interest as much as she could, and I even got to write a short article for the issue. That article was about a newlywed couple in Pittsburgh who wrote a blog (sadly, it’s no longer live!), and it was their blog that introduced me to the blogging world as a whole.
A few days after my last day at PM, with the encouragement of my supervisor, I started my own blog. It was originally just a compilation of my favorite things I was finding online (this was pre-Pinterest, after all), but after a few months, I decided to blog exclusively about weddings and turn my blog into a portfolio for myself. I changed my blog’s name to Something Pretty and bought a domain name to make it official. In the meantime, I had started applying to transfer schools again. Other than my internship, I was miserable at Pitt, and since my family had moved to Texas, I was eager to be close to home for the first time in my college career. That’s how, as a senior, I transferred to the University of Texas to study magazine journalism specifically.
The summer between schools, my now-dear friend Rhiannon posted that she was looking for a blogging assistant. I loved Rhiannon’s style and her work, so I jumped at the chance to apply, and was thrilled when she accepted me. I blogged for her once a week for about six months before moving on to a remote editorial internship at Occasions Magazine (now called The Celebration Society).
I interned for Occasions for a little over a year, writing biweekly blog posts, sourcing products, and writing real wedding features for their magazine. My supervisor, Callie, was incredibly supportive and encouraging, and one of my biggest cheerleaders during college–I was, and am, so thankful for her! The highlight of my time at Occasions was when I got to write all of the text for a spread on author Emily Giffin’s fabulous 40th birthday party. During all of this time, I was still blogging five days a week on Something Pretty, and had started to feature real weddings once a week as well. I didn’t have a big enough following to rely on submissions, so instead, I searched for weddings that had been previously featured and emailed the photographers for permission to re-feature them, trying to keep at least a year’s time between the original feature and mine.
A quick note here–my number one piece of advice for college students interested in the wedding or magazine industry is to intern a LOT!! I think I gained much more experience that I now use on a day-to-day basis during my internships than any of my college classes. Sorry, college :P
Pursuing Southern Weddings
Through all of this time, my ultimate dream was to work at Southern Weddings. I had started following them online shortly after I discovered wedding blogs, and immediately fell in love with not only their style and aesthetic, but their mission for encouraging strong marriage as well. They combined so much online savvy, which I was gaining experiencing in, with a beautiful print product, which was my first love. I read the Southern Weddings blog religiously, commenting whenever specific posts or details struck me, and interacting with the SW team often.
Now that I was living in the amazing city of Austin, I started networking like crazy. I went to blogger events, bridal shows, and anything I could think of that would help me meet the people in the wedding industry that I wanted to meet. One of the first events I attended was Bash Please’s The Cream Event, which is where I first met Camille Styles. I walked right up to her and told her very genuinely how much I loved her blog. She gave me a big hug and we chatted for a few brief minutes. About a year later, I went to an event she hosted at Anthropologie, and was surprised to find that she remembered me. She also introduced me to the Anthropologie social media manager at the event, who I chatted with about how much I loved BHLDN, which was less than a year old at the time. She took my business card, and a few days later, the BHLDN social media manager reached out to me, asking if I wanted to collaborate on something. This was a dream come true for me, and I am still grateful for the relationship I developed with BHLDN as a result. Once my blog’s “BHLDN Week” started in January, I emailed Camille to thank her for the introduction. She wrote back saying essentially, “Congratulations, I’m so excited for you! Also, my spring intern just dropped out—would you be interested in interning for me starting next week?” I couldn’t say yes quickly enough!
So here I was, finally going into my last semester of college, with a big collaboration happening on my blog and an exciting internship with Camille Styles, who I had long admired. It seemed as good of a time as any to reach out to Southern Weddings. I had had an email to Lara drafted since the beginning of November, but after sharing it with my very wise mom for her opinion, she made another suggestion—reaching out to Emily first, who I knew knew who I was, since she had mentioned me on her personal blog before. I emailed Emily to introduce myself a bit more, and I asked her what I could be doing in my last semester of college that would make me the right fit for Southern Weddings, should an opportunity arise. Serendipitously, my email somehow went to Emily’s spam folder, but she emailed me a few days later asking about a book I’d mentioned to her once, which gave me the opportunity to ask if she’d gotten my first email!
Emily wrote back to me very thoughtfully, which I appreciated, and she gave me a few things to think about, as well as asked me to keep her posted on my plans. About six weeks later, I got an email from her, in which she very diplomatically asked me if I could have a “casual chat about my post-graduation thoughts” with her and Lara. I was elated and absurdly nervous, and I skyped with them a few days later. It ended up in them telling me that they just might have an opportunity starting in the summer that I could be right for. From my first conversation with Emily, it took almost five months before they were able to officially offer me a job—an email I got three days after I graduated, during the end credits of The Great Gatsby in the movie theater. I promptly burst into tears, much to the concern of the other people in the movie theater! A month later, I packed up my Honda Accord and moved from Texas to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
In the photo booth with all the SW gals and beaus (plus a baby!) at the V7 launch party (Hot Dog Photo Booth), on set for V8 in Houston with my other half, Emily (Heather Hawkins), and at my work bridal shower (Julia Wade)
Since my first day two years ago, I have worked on the sets of 11 incredible editorials all across the South (and modeled in one!) and many smaller shoots, written hundreds of blog posts, met tons of the wedding vendors I’ve admired for years, watched incredible fashion shows and presentations at Bridal Market, traveled to all different corners of the South, co-wrote the best wedding planner on the market (in our humble opinion :)), attended the Making Things Happen conference four times, and cried tears of joy at the first sight of the two print editions that I’ve been part of on news stands. The SW girls have become like family to me, and we’ve shared not only amazing work moments, but also amazing life moments. My job isn’t perfect–no job is–and I certainly have bad days from time to time, but overall, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I thank God every day that Southern Weddings was part of His plan for me!
P.S. Big hugs to my lovely coworker Kristin, who is celebrating three years at SW today! We share a work anniversary, which makes it extra special :)