Bliss & Bokeh :: Part One

Cottage Hill Charleston Bliss & Bokeh

Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Bliss & Bokeh retreat in Charleston. Not only was it wonderful to catch up with artists like Jen Huang, who photographed our latest cover, but also meet other creative professionals and aspiring artists. 

Betsy and Katie, the hearts behind the retreat, shared some of their thoughts on how they started the retreat and how it is different from other workshops. You can read more from them below between the photographs by Jen Huang from the retreat's hands-on styled shoot day at Middleton Place. Next Wednesday, we will be sharing more photographs from another aspect of the shoot captured by Elisa Bricker

Share with us why you started Bliss & Bokeh. And why do you call it a retreat?

The vision for Bliss & Bokeh has always been about giving photographers an experience that will not only help them learn and grow professionally but also one that nurtures them creatively, leaving them refreshed not only through an abundance of inspiration found in our styling, our setting in gorgeous Charleston, South Carolina and the overall Bliss experience but also through the meaningful connections made with other photographers and creatives. I know well the feelings of weariness and isolation that many photographers face at one time or another, and in an effort to create something far more valuable than anything you can receive in an online forum or a classroom, we have made very intentional decisions at every step to create something that goes beyond a workshop. Bliss & Bokeh is at its core a retreat that is centered around community and the attendee experience. Our desire to exceed expectations has influenced so many elements of the Bliss retreats, including our unique dinner parties, a favorite of Bliss attendees and admirers. 

What do you feel is the most valuable part of the retreat for attendees?

We understand that Bliss & Bokeh is a significant business investment, so we are always striving to bring the best of the best in terms of speakers, content and hands on learning. That said, we feel the most valuable takeaway from our retreats are the relationships. Time spent and memories made with other women who share your passion and your struggles, who understand well the many intricacies of this business that so many others in your life may not, and the opportunity to leave with a sisterhood of women you can lean on for advice, encouragement and support is priceless. Since our first retreat in 2013, we’ve been able to watch those relationships grow and the collaborations and success that have grown out of that first retreat fire us up and keep us inspired to continue doing what we do. Another powerful outcome of these relationships formed at Bliss with other attendees and our speakers is confidence - the confidence to take your business to the next level, to take a risk or a leap of faith, knowing you have so many incredibly talented, successful women cheering you on! 

Cottage Hill

Tell us about the setting, Charleston. It’s one of my favorite cities, but why did you choose this location for photographers?

It’s our home! Charleston was the perfect choice for us because of our many relationships here and our knowledge of the city and everything that makes it so unique and inspiring. Charleston and its neighboring communities offer such a complex variety of inspiring backdrops for photographers to do what we love most - capture beauty and tell stories! From the enchanting spanish moss that drapes the live oak trees to the way the light dances along the water and colors the marsh grass throughout the creeks and harbor to the historic cobblestone, texture and charm of downtown, it would be a true challenge to exhaust the beautiful spaces and vignettes here in Charleston. 

Cottage Hill

What is your favorite moment or moments from the entire experience?

Hands down, our favorite moments always occur around the dinner table. Everyone has absorbed so much information and experience during the day and the evenings are all about connecting in ways that go beyond presentations and tricks of the trade. It’s a time to really get to know one another, both speakers and attendees alike, gathered around a beautiful meal. We are so intentional in creating an atmosphere where everyone is equal and can engage in a meaningful, honest way. The “walls” that typically separate attendees and speakers in other situations or settings simply don’t exist at Bliss. It’s around the dinner table, where the sounds of laughter flow as easily as the wine, that we see the first spark of this close knit community of women who will go on to support and encourage and celebrate one another long after the retreat ends. 

Tell us about the sister retreat Bliss & Bespoke, what is the difference?

When we began marketing Bliss & Bokeh, Katie reached out to wedding planners in markets all around the country as part of our initiative to reach photographers outside of Charleston. We knew that in order to create the open, honest, non-competitive and encouraging environment we aspired to create in Bliss & Bokeh, it would be best to draw photographers from all different markets versus many from the same market. As we would describe our vision for the retreat to each of these wedding planners and event designers, the overwhelming response was, “We want to go!” Hosting our first retreat confirmed for us the value of this intimate retreat experience for creatives, so we were more than happy to oblige and create a unique retreat for planners, too! We are so grateful for that next step in our journey! We absolutely love the planners who attend our Bespoke retreats! Many who attended our first retreat returned for our second, and even more plan to do so again this year! It’s a very close community, and such a beautiful picture of what we envisioned for Bliss! After attending our first retreat, one of our sweet attendees Denae Brennan sent the sweetest thank you gift, a paloma’s nest ring dish that reads, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this,” a quote from Joan of Ark. We definitely feel this is something we are meant to do! 

What can we expect in the future from the Bliss Retreat? 

We’re announcing our next Bliss & Bespoke any day now and look forward to planning another Bliss & Bokeh! We love seeing this community grow and our attendees thrive! We’re excited about opportunities to continue fostering community through the Bliss retreats and connecting creatives in this incredible industry! Anyone intersted in joining us can sign up to be added to our growing waitlist by emailing with subject: “Waitlist for Bliss!” or stay tuned to our instagram accounts, @blissandbokehretreat + @blissandbespokeretreat for announcements and updates! 

Photography by Jen Huang :: Styling by Ginny Au :: Food & Table Styling by Ginny Branch :: Gown by Samuel Couture :: Calligraphy & Invitation Suit by Script Merchant :: Floral Design by Gathering Events :: Table & Chairs provided by Snyder Events :: Hair & Makeup by Dannon Collard