Should You Have A Photographer At Homecoming? YES!

As a military spouse and a hobby photographer, I have been on both ends of the lens. I hired photographers for both of my husband’s homecoming and have photographed even more homecomings for my friends and referrals.

edit26aMy husband and I’s first homecoming – Afghanistan 2011


My friend Heather’s homecoming – May 2013

I shot a homecoming very last minute on Friday for a friend of a friend.  The woman had been talking to my friend (the red-head featured above) about how she didn’t have a photographer for her upcoming homecoming…the next day! My friend referred her to me and thankfully the timing worked out and I actually have the day off from work and no plans.

When I got to the homecoming and we were waiting around for her and her friend’s husbands to come through, there was a sweet family next to us waiting as well. She had a toddler and a newborn with her, and no friends or photographer to capture the moment. Her husband came though in the first wave (not everyone arrived at the same time) and their reunion was beautiful! I couldn’t help myself and I snapped a few photos and asked for her email before I left so I could send them to her.


Homecomings are such a beautiful and emotional moment in life. How could you not want to capture it?!


How could you want to miss out on having these memories forever?!

My client and her friend were both experiencing their first homecomings, and I was glad to be able to get some shots of both of them. You will want to have photos of this moment! There is no downside to hiring a photographer, IMO




I’ve had some people ask me if it’s awkward to have a photographer at homecoming. To have someone up in your business during such an intimate moment. As a photographer, I try to blend in. There are so many people at homecoming; photographers, friends, family. There will be people taking photos left and right, you won’t notice if they are taking photos of you or someone else. At both of my homecomings I barely noticed the photographer, I was way too wrapped up in seeing my husband for the first time in 7 months!

So the answer to the question of “should I hire a photographer for my homecoming?” is always YES!

Speaking of photography (since I don’t want to make a whole other post), here are some highlight of the other shoot I did this weekend, a maternity shoot for my friend. Can’t wait to take her newborn pictures in a few weeks!




TBT: The Elopement Part 2

Jeremy and I made the 8 hours drive up to my hometown on the Friday before we got married. I had the day off from class and he took leave to have a three day weekend. We both had to be back at school/work on Monday, so no honeymoon for us!


We woke up Saturday morning, February 14, 2008 and got ready together for the big day. I wore my off-white summer dress that I had originally bought for the wedding, and carried my wedding dress with me to the courthouse. We had made an appointment for the morning since apparently Valentine’s Day is a popular day to elope at the courthouse!

We met my parents at the courthouse, along with my sister, my brother and his fiancee, and my BFF and her husband (who brought me a bouquet!). There were a total of 10 guests at our wedding, all of them being my immediate family except for my BFF and her husband (I had actually been a witness for their courthouse wedding a few months before). None of Jeremy’s family had the time or money to fly out to CA for our wedding, which is why we were planning our vow renewal for Wisconsin, so they didn’t have to spend money to travel anywhere.


Getting married at the courthouse is kind of awkward, especially when you are wearing a full on wedding dress! I changed in the bathroom of the courthouse, and then had to wait around in the lobby in my dress before we went into our room. Jeremy stayed in another room because I didn’t want him to see me all dressed up until I walked down the aisle. I am glad I did that, because the look on his face when I walked in was amazing. What I remember most about that day was the smile on his face and when he whispered “you look beautiful” to me when I got up next to him.

My Dad walked me down the aisle, like he had always wanted to. He cried both times he walked me down, at my wedding and my vow renewal.


The ceremony took place in a very ugly gray room. There was a awesome tacky archway they had put up for Valentine’s Day, that really classed up the place haha

It was a simple ceremony, short and to the point. We exchanged rings and when they asked me to say “I do” I spoke too soon. Apparently she wasn’t done reading. Funny thing is, I did the exact same thing when we renewed our vows haha. Apparently I was eager to get married!

We took some pictures in the lovely gray room and then headed out to lunch for the “reception”


After lunch most of my family parted ways and my Dad came with me and Jeremy to the hotel so he could check us in and take some photos for us (my Dad has an art degree). I changed back into my wedding dress and we wandered around the hotel taking photos. It is a beautiful winery, and a lot of people actually pay big money to have their weddings there. My Dad knew the owner, so they let us take photos for free and use the ground as for our impromptu photo shoot.

I love the photos my Dad took and I am so glad that we have beautiful memories of our wedding day.


Too be continued…


A fellow social worker and military spouse that I follow posted on Instagram a picture of her new Lexus and her husband’s new motorcycle with the caption of (I’m paraphrasing) “Embracing being a DINK”

DINK being an acronym for Dual Income, No Kids

It got me thinking about my own life, since my husband and I are also DINKs

I find myself struggling to embrace our childless life lately, not because I want to have a baby right now, but because I’m worried that we might not be able to have children right away when we do decide we are ready. What if we wait until we are 28/29/30 to start trying, only to find out that one of us can’t have children, or that it might take years of trying to finally conceive?

A few of the bloggers I follow are currently going through infertility issues, and the whole topic scares me.

I wish there was a way to know now if we can conceive. So I could put my mind at ease and fully enjoy our time as DINKs.

Because there is so much to enjoy. Sleeping in, spending our money on fun toys, taking spontaneous vacations.  I want to fully enjoy the phase of life that I am in right now, and not worry about the future phases as much.

Picking the Perfect Ball Dress

Since the Marine Corps Ball is coming up in November and a lot of ladies are searching for dresses right now, I wanted to share my personal advice for buying a dress for military balls.

Although I am not the most seasoned wife out there, I have been to 3 Marine Corps balls; 2 with my husband and 1 with a friend in college who was in ROTC


When I went to my first ball with my friend who was in the Navy/Marine Corps ROTC, I had no idea what the ball was or what I should wear, and neither did he. I was told it was “formal”, which to me brought to mind a wedding or a cocktail party (like I had ever been to one of those at 18! lol). So I dug through my closet and put together an outfit (I’m the one in all black on the left).

When I got to the ball, I realized that I was very underdressed. The woman around me were in beautiful floor length gowns, more to the style of prom than a wedding. I felt uncomfortable, out of place and very awkward as I sat with my date at the ROTC table. So trust me, you don’t be that girl! Pick an appropriate dress.

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When Jeremy and I started dating and he invited me as his date to the ball, I had a much better idea of what I was supposed to wear because of my pervious experience the year before.. Jeremy was also very informative and he told me that the command dress code was for women to wear floor length gowns. (Some commands do have strict dress codes, be sure to ask your FRG  leader or FRO if you don’t know how formal the ball is. I’ve seen women kicked out for not being dressed appropriately!)

I’ve since been to one other ball with Jeremy, and at all of the balls I have been to the majority of women wore full length gowns. They key word here being majority. I know that everyone has different opinions and all balls are different, but what I will speak to in this post is what the majority of women wear to balls, and what is the average and appropriate attire.


The first thing to keep in mind is that the ball is a very formal event. The men (and women), wear their dress uniforms, which for the Marines are the blues. That is equivalent to a tuxedo, your dress should reflect that.

So let’s take about some main dress criteria:

#1: Length

Ball dresses should be floor length. It’s not prom, and just because it’s sold in the “formal dress” section of the store, doesn’t mean it’s okay. This is not appropriate:

I’ve heard some women says that a knee length dress can be appropriate, if it’s the right style/fabric/etc. For me personally, I always go with long. In my experience, 98% of women will be wearing floor length dresses, which to me is a clear signal that floor length is best. But, if you are going to go with a shorter dress, make it at least past the knee and make sure it’s very formal. If you would wear it to a wedding, it’s probably not formal enough. 

#2: Patterns

I have never really had much of an opinion on patterns or sparkles. I think if it is done tastefully then you can make it work. I also don’t feel that you have to match your man’s uniform exactly as far as color. Finding an appropriate dress for the ball doesn’t mean you can’t show off your personal style, but don’t go too over the top. This night is about your service member, not your own personal fashion show.

I would probably say “no” to these two, but patterns and embellishments isn’t a hard fast rule like length, in my opinion.

#3: Cutouts

I’ve heard this debated almost as much as the length issue. I love when women have the defense of “your just jealous of my nice body, if you were skinny enough to wear a dress with cutouts then you would”. Umm, actually no. I don’t see anything remotely classy or sexy about wearing a skirt and a bikini top held together by some sequins. The ball is a formal and CLASSY event, showing your stomach, back, thighs and boobs all at the same time will never be classy.

With that being said, cutouts by no means should automatically disqualified for a dress. Cutouts can be done in a classy way, as long as they are placed appropriately and not over the top. A low back or a small side cutout is fine, everything in moderation. Skin does not automatically equal sexy, there are plenty of dresses that cover all of your assets and are still very sexy. A little cleavage or an appropriate slit is fine, just remember that you are meeting your husband’s bosses, do you want to do that with your girl on display?

My final advice is that just because your man likes it doesn’t mean it automatically gets the stamp of approval. I know for a fact that my husband has absolutely no fashion sense when it comes to women’s clothing, if I let him dress me I would be a disaster, so why would I rely only on his opinion for the ball, where it is so important to be appropriately dressed? Most men do not know women’s fashion or what is appropriate, and that’s just the reality. Of course, you want your man to think you look good, but I just wouldn’t let him be your only guide when it comes to picking out a ball dress.

I think my favorite rule of thumb that I have heard this season is that if Mrs. Obama or Kate Middleton wouldn’t wear it, then it’s probably not appropriate. Think gown, think classy, think elegant.

You can’t go wrong with a full length gown with no/minimal cutouts

Basically the opposite of this lol:

All of these photos (other than my own personal ones) were take from Unique Vintage, there formal dresses start as low as $32! The ball doesn’t have to break the bank! The dress I wore to my first ball with Jeremy (the red one) was $30 from Ross!

TBT: The Elopement!

So Jeremy and I were officially engaged as of December 26, 2008!

I posted it on my Facebook that day (of course!). Remember when Facebook statuses had to start with “Alison Hettema is….”? Yep, old school! My status read, “Alison Hettema is ENGAGED!”

We drove back down to San Diego after the Christmas holiday and started to talk about picking a date for the big day.

We knew we wanted to do it fairly soon, for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, we wanted to live together. My lease was up in May and Jeremy and I were ready to move in together, and since he was an E-4 at the time, we had to be married in order to get BAH (housing allowance).

We thought about having a small wedding in April over Spring Break, but that was shot down because Jeremy’s brother was deploying to Afghanistan in January for a year, and if we were going to have only one wedding, we wanted his brother to be up there with him. But that would mean having to wait at least a year and a half, and we didn’t want to wait that long to live together.

So we decided to just go to the courthouse and elope, and then have a big wedding the next summer when his brother was back from deployment. It seemed like a fabulous idea to me at the time, best of both worlds! We get to live together and start our lives together, but have time to plan a “real” wedding where all of our families could be there to celebrate with us.  (If you’ve read my previous post, I have come to somewhat regret that choice). But at that moment in time, it sounded like a perfect plan, and I was 100% on board.

I started planning a small elopement. I bought an off white summer dress, Jeremy got some slacks and a dress shirt. We found a nice restaurant to go to lunch at with my family after the ceremony. We set a date for Valentines Day, 2009 (which sounded super romantic at the time, 100% regret that decision now lol. Ever tried to go out on Valentines Day?! Everything is over crowded, over booked and over priced!)

My family, however, were not on completely on board. My Dad expressed that he was disappointed that it wouldn’t be a “real” wedding. He said that he had always dreamed of walking his daughter down the aisle in a white wedding dress. He laid on the guilt hard core. I see now that he just wanted to give me a perfect wedding so I didn’t have any regrets, but at the time I couldn’t appreciate that and I found his opinions to be incredibly frustrating and “unsupportive”.

But as a result of his incessant comments, I caved and bought a wedding dress off the rack a few weeks before the big day (which I am forever grateful for since our photos from that day turned out like actual wedding photos thanks to that dress and my Dad’s photography). I also let him get Jeremy and I a hotel room at a fancy winery for our wedding night.

So less than 2 months after we officially got engaged, Jeremy and I drove back up to my hometown and eloped at the courthouse on February 14, 2009.

To be continued….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy last minute off the rack dress + the winery my Dad got us a room at + a bouquet from my BFF/Maid of Honor = amazing wedding photos ❤


The Typical Military Wife

When Jeremy left for his first deployment in 2010 I made friends with a group of wives from the unit he was attached too. We all met on Facebook, by joining the same support groups and seeking out other wives from the unit that we could relate to and bond with over the course of that 7 months deployment.

There were 7 of us total, including me. All ranging from 20-25 years old (at the time) and from all across the country. 1 from Michigan, 1 from Wisconsin, 3 from California, 1 from Texas and 1 from South Carolina.

After the guys came home in 2011 we all kept in touch via Facebook. I was never super close to any of them, but we would hang out occasionally, kept up with each other’s lives and commented on each others post.

It is now nearly exactly 3 years later (end of October is when they deployed in 2010), and we are all in completely different places.

I bring these ladies up, because I realized that the group of us are almost a perfect representation of the “average” military wife.

We are all young and from every corner of the country.

Out of the 7 of us, 6 of us are still married (although another is “separated”, legally she is still married). Of those 5 who are still with our spouses, 3 have babies. Only 4 of us have spouses who are still in the Marine Corps. Of those 4, we have all been re-stationed at least once.

Some combination of marriage, divorce, babies and moving. Yep, that’s the ingredient of a typical military life!

We could make our own Lifetime show. Instead of “Army Wives”, we can be “Marine Wives” haha

The Evolution of Relationships

Last night my husband and I got into a “fight”. I put it in quotes because we don’t ever actually fight, at least not what normal people consider fights. What we have are more like discussion. Neither of us is hot-tempered and we have never yelled, cursed or insulted each other.

But we did have a disagreement last night, which continued into the morning via text message.  Most of what the issue was related to communication, we weren’t understanding what the other person was trying to say (the whole men are from Mars, women are from Venus thing)

We were still in the midst of our text message “fight” when I went to lunch. I was talking to one of my co-workers over lunch about how men don’t make any sense and don’t seem to be able to communicate effectively.

She is dating a guy who turns out to be very similar to Jeremy (very much a manly MAN), and completely agreed with me. We spent pretty much the entire lunch hour venting about how men are so confusing and how we don’t think we are asking for much in relationships, but they don’t seem to get what women want. We feel like we are communicating clearly, but it doesn’t seem to get across to men.

She told me a few stories about her and he boyfriend and what things he did to cause disagreements in their relationships.

A lot of the things she talked about were things that I had experienced with Jeremy as well, but they didn’t bother me much anymore.

I realized then that I actually do understand men, or at least my man. Things that used to bother me about Jeremy (his grumpy moods after work and lack of physical affection) are things that I have come to understand. I know why he does the things that he does, and it doesn’t bother my anymore because I have accepted him the way he is.

Our relationship isn’t perfect (clearly, we just had a fight! lol), but it has come a long way since we first started dating over 5 years ago. We have learned each others quirks and personalities, and we have tried to accept them and not make them an area of conflict in our relationship.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like our relationship has grown, especially when we are disagreeing about something. It can feel like we will never completely understand each other and will always have conflicts. But if I could go back in time and compare our relationship now to what it was when we first started dating, I think I would be surprised at how much has changed.

Because we are both always changing. Individually and as a couple. In another 5 years we will probably be fighting about something else, probably relating to babies. And in 10 years there will be something else. Because life goes on. And our marriage goes on with it. I just hope it keeps getting better and doesn’t start going downhill!

^^^ This right here says it perfectly! lol ^^^

TBT: The “Official” Proposal

It was December 2008. Jeremy and I had decided to get married. We had purchased a ring and just needed to get my father’s approval before we made it official.

Jeremy asking my Dad for permission to marry me wasn’t that important to me, to be honest. I love my Dad, but he gets on my nerves a lot and can be controlling. I know now that is just his way of showing love and that it was hard for him to let me move in with my Mom when I was a teenager, and even harder to see me move to the opposite side of the state for college.

Jeremy is very old-fashioned though. It never occurred to him not to ask my Dad, even though he had only met him one time. 

So we drove up to my hometown for the Christmas holiday, prepared to ask my Dad the big questions.

My Mom knew about the engagement, I had told her when it happened. I remember arriving at her house (that’s where we stay when we are in town) and she excitedly asked to see my ring. I took off my ring for the rest of the visit and gave it back to Jeremy to keep hold of.

We decided to get it over with as soon as possible, the whole thing was stressing me out. I knew my Dad would not be happy, I was 19 years old and he barely knew Jeremy. My Dad also saw me as his “little girl” still, he didn’t like that I was so independent and didn’t seem to need him.

The next day I arranged to have lunch with my Dad. Jeremy and I were going to meet him at this work and then walk over to my favorite restaurant. His work was right by the local mall, so Jeremy dropped me off early to do some Christmas shopping and he drove over to my Dad’s work to have “the talk”. He wanted to do it alone.

I don’t know what he said, but I gave him about 20 minutes before I walked over to my Dad’s office to interrupt. I remember it being very awkward, I didn’t know if he has asked or not when I walked in, so I didn’t say anything. My Dad eventually said “Jeremy and I just had a talk, did you know about this?” and then I told him that I did know that Jeremy had asked for his permission to propose to me.

That lunch was probably the most awkward meal I have ever had, until breakfast a few days later with my Dad and Stepmom.

My Dad had a lot of questions. When were we getting married? Why so soon? Were we sure? Was I giving up school? Where we only doing it so we could live together?

Jeremy and I answered all his questions as best we could. We had our reasons for the choices we made, but it is still unsettling to have to defend your choices to your parents. To have to justify our decision to get married, a decision that was based in love and happiness.

The next day was Christmas, which was uneventful compared to the previous day!

We were leaving two days late and my Stepmom and my Dad wanted to have another conversation about what they viewed as our “not the best” idea to get married. We arranged to have breakfast the day we were planning on driving home (the aforementioned most awkward meal of my life).

So the day after Christmas we didn’t have any plans. Jeremy still had my ring and I had told him before that I still wanted a “real” proposal. Knowing me, I am sure I told him to do it ASAP ha.

So that night we decided to go star gazing (that was kind of our thing when we were dating. I was taking Astronomy in college and I would take Jeremy out with me at night to do my homework and look at the stars). We parked at the local Community College and went out to one of the many grassy fields. We laid there together, just enjoying the solitude of each others company.

I knew he was going to officially ask. I had been dropping hint and practically planned our this “romantic” moment for him (I am slightly controlling, it’s something I’m working on). After about an hour of staring at the sky I finally asked, “are you going to propose to me or not? Because I’m getting cold!” (we were in CA, but it was still December!). He laughed and pulled out the ring.

I don’t remember exactly what he said, most of it was him telling me why he loved me, and I do remember when he called me a nerd ha. Then he asked me. Those four little words. Will you marry me?

“Yes” (not that he had any doubt!)

And that was it. He slipped the ring on my finger. We kissed and then drove back to my Mom’s house.

It’s not the most exciting proposal. It certainly wasn’t a surprise. But it was very “us”. A mutual joint decision. And very “me”. Under my control and in my timeline (Like I said, I’m still working on that!).

The next day we met with my Dad and Stepmom for breakfast, to go another round of 5,000 questions.

I remember my Dad stopping in the middle of his question and grabbing my hand, he had finally saw the ring. He looked at it for a while, and eventually smiled.

I would like to say that my family approved of my choice to get married, but they did not. They supported me in their own way, but they did not hide their concern or disapproval.

Looking back, I get it. I was very young and very naive.

I love my husband, and I am happy in my marriage. I would go back and do it all again, because it has lead me to where I am now, looking back on 5 happy years with Jeremy and looking forward to many more.

But I certainly don’t think every 19 year old is ready to get married. Nor should every couple who has been dating for 6 months rush down the aisle.

Every couple is different. Every relationship is different.

And with a lot of luck, love and work, our marriage has been successful and filled with love.

1685_41229511818_7145_nMe and my Dad the same day he met Jeremy for the first time, a few months before he proposed to me


Family & Homecoing

Who should be at a homecoming?

This seems to be a common debate/topic of discussion among military spouses as deployments start to come to an end.

I saw a debate online about it today, as I have seen many times in the past. There are typically two sides to the argument, immediate family only vs. extended family and friends okay

For those who think only spouses (and children) should be at homecoming argue that they are the most important and most affective by deployments. They are the ones who give the most support, sending care packages and letters. They argue that the nuclear family needs time together alone after deployments to reintegrate, away from extended meddling family. I’ve heard the argument that parents and siblings have had their whole life with the service member, and that spouses deserve to have their future time.

I fall on the other side of the argument. I feel that extended family and friends are more than welcome at homecomings. I understand the above point of view, and maybe if my family or my husband’s family were difficult then I might not want them there, but they are great, so I am more than happy to have them at homecomings if they want to come.  My husband’s family was in his life long before I was. His parents raised him, his siblings grew up with him. I would never presume to think that they love him any less than I do. It is a different kind of love and a different relationship, but they are still a huge part of his life, and I recognize and respect that.

I can’t imagine how I would feel if one of our children, who we loved and raised for 18+ years came home from a deployment and his/her spouse said that we couldn’t be there. I would be very hurt, and to be honest, would probably think less of my child’s spouse for not supporting or understanding how important family is (to me and my husband, it is very important).

I acknowledge that many people have had in-law homecoming horror stories. Bing pushed out of the way by a mother-in-law for the first hug. Family staying at hour home for weeks. There do need to be some boundaries when it comes to families and homecomings. Who gets the first hug. How long family will stay in town. Where family will stay (with the couple or in a hotel). All those things need to be worked out and agreed to by all parties before the big day.

We have never had family at either of my husband’s homecomings (they couldn’t afford to fly out). However, if we did, I would want the first hug/kiss and I would expect them to get a hotel and stay in town for less than a week. Other than that, I think it would be wonderful if they came. More people to take pictures for us (haha), and I know my husband would love to see his parents and siblings and would appreciate that they came out to be there for him.

Now, it’s a different story if the service member doesn’t want their family there. In the end, I believe that homecoming is about the service member. They should be able to request who they want or don’t want for that special day. I think spouses need to respect their service members choice and honor it, because it is their day just as much as (if not more than) it is yours.

Work vs. Family

My work had a staff retreat recently, during which I overheard a conversation between a few of my supervisors. They were talking about an employee who was out on maternity leave. Before she left they created a new part-time position within her department, and she had expressed an interest in the job. My supervisor said that her comment was “is this your way of saying you want to come back part-time after the baby is born?”, and the woman responded, “no, I want to do both jobs”.

The response to this story was very positive. It was seen that the woman was dedicated to her job and passionate about her chosen career field.

My reaction, in overhearing this conversation, was negative.

I have a negative impression of this woman (who I have never meant), for volunteering to spend additional time away from her newborn baby. I have a negative impression of someone choosing work over family.

I love my work. I spent six years in college, earning two degrees, to be able to do what I do everyday. I am passionate about social work and I want to help people.

I also love my husband. I love my home life. I love my “me” time.

When I am at work, I give 100%. But when my workday has ended, I immediately head home and give 100% to my husband.

So what if I had to chose between work and family? What will I do when we decide to have a baby? Will I give up my career, or will I give up time with my child?

Although I can’t say for certain, since I am not in that situation yet, I plan on choosing family.

But why does my choice being different from another woman’s choice make her choice wrong? Why did I have such a negative reaction to hearing about that woman wanting to take on extra work instead of being with her child?

Her choice wasn’t wrong, it was her choice. She lives her own life, and the choices that she makes are the right ones for her. Just like the choices I make are the right ones for me.

There is not right or wrong answer to the choice of work or family, only different.

But can there be a middle ground? Why is a woman seen as strong, independent and modern if she keeps her career and old-fashioned if she stays home? Why is a woman who goes back to work and put her child in day care seen as a bad mother, and a woman who stays home a good mother?

So lets put aside society’s opinions. Put aside our own personal beliefs. Let each woman make her own choice, and give her the freedom and respect to do so, without judgement.