Category Archives: Meet the Pros

Happy Sunday Funday friends! Just a quick note to let you know our founder and fearless leader CJ Dickson was recently featured on The Nashville Wedding Podcast.


CJ’s Off the Square owner and creative director CJ Dickson

Just a few of the things they talk about in this episode:

  • Thinking about flow and energy of your wedding
  • How to get hesitant grooms involved with wedding planning
  • Conflicts that come up during a wedding and how to talk through them
  • Setting goals for your wedding day
  • What weddings should actually be about
  • Creating your guiding principles for your wedding

You can listen to that episode here or better yet, open your favorite podcast app and search “Nashville Wedding Podcast” and subscribe.

Today we welcome Nashville’s pet-loving photographer Mandy Whitley to the blog to share her advice on the best way to include your dog in your wedding day. Mandy has worked throughout the Middle Tennessee area for years shooting both weddings as well as pets and knows a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. Oh, and of course she has a treasure trove of incredible images of people and their pets. I have shared some of my favorites below.   – CJ

2.13.16me&petscrop 2

I love it when my couples include pets in their wedding day.  After all, they are family too! Here are a few tips on how to include them in a stress-free way:

  1. Find a pet-friendly venue. Not all Nashville wedding venues are pet-friendly so make sure you ask before you book if you want to include your furry friend. Even if the venue is pet-friendly, be specific about your plans to ensure they can accommodate your needs. If you want your little pup with you while you are getting ready, but the venue only allows him to be outside, it might not be the right fit for you.
  1. Designate someone who isn’t in the wedding party, or involved in the photos, to be your pet handler for the day. This is the best advice I can give, and it really helps takes the stress off you! This can certainly be a guest, but it must be someone who won’t be in any of the formal photos so they can handle your pup without worrying about getting dirty, and they will be able to take them home at the appropriate time.
  1. Include pet decor in your day.  You can add an additional touch of pet love by adding pet decor in your wedding. You could have a pet related theme on your invitations. At the wedding you can add a take home treat table, or you could even have a ‘dog park’ set up for your pup & any of the guest’s dogs that attend your celebration! Consider including your pup in your engagement photos and display them at the wedding location as well.
  1. Know your pet. Not every dog is up for a wedding celebration. Some pups get nervous in crowds and just aren’t going to be a good at walking those rings down the aisle. Please don’t try to force your pup to participate when you know he’s not going to enjoy it. If I’m talking about your pup (and don’t worry, I have one of those as well) and you’d really like to include him consider having that friend we talked about bring him in for a few photos with just the two of you!

Have more questions about how to make it work – feel free to email me at! I’d love to talk more about it and help you include your furry friend in your wedding!



CJ’s Off the Square is a pet-friendly wedding venue! Learn more about how we can help you include your four-legged friend on wedding day HERE.

We’re delighted to welcome Jennifer Rhem to our planning team! She’s organized and creative, with an eye for beautiful design. (See the beautiful tablescape she arranged for our recent style shoot here!) Read our Q&A below to get to know more about her and why she loves to plan weddings. 


What’s your favorite type of event to plan?

Weddings are my absolute favorite! I love being a part of such an important day for a couple and their families. I started out planning corporate events and trade shows but found that planning weddings provides a more personal, intimate setting where I can express my talents and creativity. I especially enjoy adding special details to a wedding that reflect the personality of the couple. Not only do I love the creative side of planning a wedding, but I pride myself on making sure things run smoothly so that everyone can relax and enjoy the celebration.


What do you most like about the wedding planning process?

Getting to know my couples. I love hearing how they met, their engagement story, and their style/vision for their wedding day. I feel honored to have the opportunity to be a part of their special day.


What’s your favorite moment of a wedding?

For me, it’s the first look. Whether it is before the ceremony, or walking down the aisle, I just love when a couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day. All the planning and details have all come together and this is a time where they can just soak in the beautiful moment and their love for each other.


Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do for fun!

I come from a very large family and have always been the person in the family that organizes everyone and coordinated our events. In my free time, I love being with my husband, three children and our new puppy! We love to hike and spend time outdoors as much as possible, and we love music, which is why we enjoy living in the Nashville area. We have lived in Franklin for 8 years and absolutely love it! We have a great group of friends and love entertaining as much as possible.


(Photo credit: Jenna Henderson.)

The new spring season also included a new addition to the team at CJ’s Off the Square – we are thrilled to finally introduced you to her today!  Passionate and dedicated, Jennifer Bland joined our staff in March – we asked her a few questions below to help everyone get to know her a little better…

Jennifer, Wedding and Event Planner, CJ

Q: So, tell us a little about what drew you the weddings and events?
A:  I have always loved planning and organizing social events, and there is no social event more important or enjoyable than a wedding!

Q: Favorite type of event to plan:
A: Weddings are certainly my favorite, especially summertime weddings, because the weather is so warm and welcoming! In my spare time, I love planning and hosting dinner parties.

Q: What do you most like about the wedding planning process?
A: I love meeting with a newly engaged couple to learn more about them and their objectives for the wedding: How did they meet? What are they interested in personally? What is important for them in their wedding? This gives me a great perspective on them as a couple and allows me to help make their vision come together!

Q: Favorite detail of a wedding:
A: Flowers, flowers, flowers!

Q: Favorite moment of a wedding:
A: For me, the exchanging of vows will always be the most powerful and meaningful part of the wedding. While the reception and party are always so much fun, it’s great to remember the reason we’re all getting together!

Q: What trends are you looking forward to in 2014 (and beyond)?
A: I am seeing more and more couples embracing less traditional customs and opting for more unique strategies that highlight their personalities and individuality. One example is using the couple’s favorite deserts instead of a wedding cake.

Q: Do you have any advice for couples or companies who need a venue for an event?
A: I always tell couples or companies to think about the style and feel of your event prior to venue searching. Not every venue will fit your style no matter how you decorate.  It is also helpful to have a good idea of your guest list prior to venue searching. You will want a venue that can accommodate all of your guests comfortably at your reception.

Q: What do you do for fun (outside of work)?  Other personal tidbits you would like to share?
A:I enjoy traveling with my husband, reading, running, and playing with my dog Fenway. My friends and family mean everything to me, and I’m always thinking about the next iteration of my home’s interior design!

We are thrilled to welcome her to the team… You can connect with Jennifer at the number and email below.  Looking forward to sharing her talent and passion for events with all our clients!

615-216-7576 ext 102

Thanks to Jenna Henderson for the great photo!



Kristyn Hogan – Matt & I have know each other since we were 13 years old and have been married for 6 years. We love being partners in life and in our work but because of our business name, I get most of the credit, which he seems to be okay with. 🙂

We’re Known for: 

Sprited, Fresh & Timeless wedding photographs.

What we do for fun (when not working):

We love a good strategy game, comedy or book. But right now most of our free time is taken up by our sweet little 11 acres in the countryside, where we are building our home and learning how to raise a few chickens!

Favorite Nashville Area Hang:

Percy Priest Yacht Club! Matt & I love to sail and often when there is good wind and free time, you’ll find us there.

What got you in to photography? And what interested you in shooting weddings?

My mom always loved photography when I was a child so I started learning in the dark room when I was about 12. I fell in love and ended up studying photography in college and photographed my first wedding at the age of 18. It’s been 10 years since that first wedding and it’s been such an incredible journey doing something I love so much.

What should a couple look for in a wedding photographer? 

First & foremost, I think you should connect with your photographer. Not only their work but their personality. They’ll be around you a lot on one of the most important days of your life, so you want to enjoy being around them, just like every other guest at your wedding! Beyond that, a solid reputation, professional business practices and a respectful, joyful attitude are invaluable when it comes to not only your wedding photographer but all your wedding vendors. It’s a day you can’t just do over and having professional people who care about you and make you feel well taken care of is priceless. 

Do you have any advice for brides and grooms who are uncomfortable in front of the camera? 

I always say being uncomfortable in front of the camera at first has no affect on our photographs because we are not photographing poses or “looking good.” We’re documenting relationships, love and honest joy. While you may feel awkward in front of a camera and not know what to do with your hands or how to look, you know how to love each other and that’s all we need to capture beautiful memories. Plus, we like to laugh a lot, which helps!

Where is the most unique location you have shot a wedding?

We’ve photographed weddings in Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica, Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut, all over the Midwest and of course, home sweet home Tennessee, so it’s really hard to pick one! As much as we have loved traveling the world to photograph weddings, some of our favorite wedding memories have been of our amazing couples here in Tennessee. Nashville welcomed us with open arms when we moved here years ago and the people & weddings here have truly stolen our hearts. 

Your brides seem to always have the BEST wedding shoes! What are some of your favorites?

It’s no secret I think a bride should have a fabulous pair of shoes on her wedding day. 🙂 There is just something about having an amazing pair of shoes on your wedding day and I love that while you don’t really have an excuse to wear your wedding dress out ever again, certain occasions allow for those shoes to be brought out again. A piece of the wedding day that carries on with you. A few of my favorites…


We’ve seen some great engagement shoots from you – how do you choose such unique locations?

I love engagement sessions! I love that these sessions give our couples a couple hours out of the craziness of wedding preparation and working to just be together. To soak in this time in their lives and celebrate who they are together, as they are about to embark on a crazy wonderful adventure together! With that in mind, we always pick a location that reflects who they are together…what they enjoy doing together, what is meaningful to them. Sometimes it’s as simple as a beautiful field and other times it’s more extravagant, but it’s always, always a reflection of some part of them. When they look back on the photographs years from now, we want them to remember what this amazing time in their lives felt like and what great love they share. 

What shots would you share with us to best represent your wedding work?

On a wedding day, our focus is always to capture the amazing details, classic portraits and true relationships. While our portfolio is full of gorgeous details and timeless portraits, what I think is most important is the story of love on a wedding day. These photos represent that to me…a girl from South Africa & a boy from Australia meet on a boat in the Caribbean and elope in Nashville. The bride’s grandmother who just turned 102 years old resting her legs after doing a zumba workout right before the wedding. Priceless. The first look between two of the sweetest people you will ever meet. That kind of love lights up the world. And one of my favorite moments on a wedding day, right before the bride is walked down the aisle. We are so very honored to capture these memories. 





My website:

My blog:






Nashville Silver Strings

The Company:  Silver Strings

Name: Linda Davis

I’m Known for:  Bringing a fresh approach to today’s popular music with a string trio or quartet.  I started arranging classic rock songs in 2001 after a friend asked me why I wasn’t playing things like “Purple Haze” with my quartet.  When I said that nobody arranged that kind of music for string quartet he simply said, “Duh!”  The light went on and I responded with, “Oh, I can do that!”, and the result has been a CD and a burgeoning library of classic and contemporary rock, many of which were requests for wedding ceremonies.

What I do for fun (when not working):   I absolutely love theater.  There are quite a number of wonderful acting companies and small theaters in the Nashville area that put on the most amazing performances.  I happen to be partial to playwright Sandy Smolen, whose labor of love, a musical called “All For A Song”, will be premiered at Chaffin’s Barn in Nashville starting July 11.  I can hardly wait for the opening night.

Favorite Nashville Area Hang:  I’d have to say my favorite hang is my own house, over a glass of wine and a fabulous dinner with friends.  I love putting together eclectic groups of friends to see where the conversations go.  With the friends we have conversations are always interesting and stimulating.

 Favorite Music: Duke Ellington said, “If it sounds good, it is good.”  From the teen thrill of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” to the Beethoven 5th Piano Concerto, my favorite music is whatever I’m listening to at that moment.  It’s all good.

What do you enjoy about doing weddings?  While I might grouse about arranging Radiohead, I actually love the choices and creativity of today’s couples and the challenges of breathing new life into their requests.  That adage “the customer is always right” still holds.  And what other job can boast so many smiles and so much joy?

What should every couple think about when choosing musicians for their ceremony?     When you interview musicians ask what is their repertoire and  experience and do they take requests.  Ask for examples of their work and then ask for references.  If you could see your wedding the way we [professionals] see it, you would know there are three things that set the tone for a wedding.  1)  How the bride looks in the dress. 2)  How the venue looks.  3)  How the music sounds .  Most of us take music for granted but music is so important, especially in a wedding where beauty and timing are everything.  This is the area where you need musicians who know what they’re doing.  Professional musicians may come with a higher price tag, but for good reason… They’re worth it!

What advice can you share to help couples pick the right kinds of songs for their special ceremony moments?  Go with what your heart tells you.  Here is your chance to showcase who you are as individuals and as a couple.  Music is the one element of a ceremony that can tweak the emotions, elevate the excitement of the moment and bring smiles as nothing else can.  Heck, if I had it to do over again I’d probably choose the aforementioned “A Whiter Shade of Pale” as part of my ceremony music just because it has meant so much to me over the years.  Some of the tunes we’ve performed at recent weddings include “Just Dance” (Lady Gaga), “Soul Meets Body” (Death Cab for Cutie) and “Come Away With Me” (Norah Jones).  Let your imagination soar.

Contact info (website, email, phone):  Visit the Silver Strings’ website at  Email:   Phone: 615-293-9730