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A blogging reflection | CB turns 7!

This week marks CB’s 7th birthday! In addition to popping a bottle of champs and letting the confetti fly, I thought I’d do a little reflection post and share a few of the ups and downs of blogging including the mistakes I’ve made, plus a little blogging advice. And I’ve sprinkled the post with some photos from my favorite posts.

THE UPS
I started this blog while I was still working in journalism at a daily newspaper. It began as a hobby and was my personal (but public) wedding diary. I used it to collect and share wedding images that inspired me and ultimately carved out my wedding vision. I remember being so surprised at receiving comments during the first few days of blogging – I hadn’t expected any readers! I remember installing SiteMeter out of sheer curiosity and showing J the stats and being so astonished that all I could do was giggle with wide eyes. That giddy moment marked a turning point in my life. I had discovered a platform and an audience that, in many ways, I would become addicted to. The volume of my posts increased and I loved getting feedback from my readers and interacting with them while sharing every step of our wedding journey. Another ‘up’ happened after our wedding when I found out that our big day was going to be featured in Wedding Style Guide (and later on, InStyle Weddings, Weddings Unveiled and B Magazine). I started feeling more “official” with these features which helped mark another turning point with the blog – I decided to take things more seriously and look at the blog as more of a business. I started answering e-mails about sponsorship and I started featuring more non-personal content (real weddings, engagements, etc.). More magazine mentions and features followed and I started working with photographers on styled shoots. Things were good … for the moment.

classic_2Chic Hamptons Wedding / Photo by Trent Bailey Photography

THE DOWNS
The Mistake: Neglect About a year after getting married, J&I moved to Germany for his job. I was stoked – I had spent much of my childhood living in Germany so, in many ways, it felt like going home. I was lucky to meet a lot of great friends (both old and new) and I soon started traveling around Europe 2-4 times a month. It was a truly amazing time in my life but all the fun I was having left little time for CB. I didn’t have time to sit down and plan out a posting calendar. Instead, the posts were mostly random and lacked consistency. Readers took note and my stats began to slowly drop. I was concerned and I really did miss blogging but I was also too wrapped up in my new life to do much of anything about it. The big European vaca came to an end three years later when we moved back stateside to San Antonio. Even though we made new friends in our new town, the travel opps weren’t the same and it felt like everyone was back to the grind. So I followed suit and started pouring myself back into the blog and it was like I had found an old friend again. I re-dedicated myself to working on it everyday just like I had before Europe but I was in for a nasty wake-up call. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to get my readership back. I was beginning to see the toll my 3-year vacation from blogland had taken. So much had changed with blogs during that time and I had pretty much just had my head in the sand the whole time. In many ways, it felt like I was a beginner blogger all over again.

The Advice: The simple advice here is consistency. You may not always have time to chart out posting calendars for each week but keep your audience in the loop – let them know what to expect. If you know you’re going to be going on vacation, tell your readers and pre-schedule at least a few posts to keep them interested in visiting your blog or keeping up with you. I did this a little bit while I was in Europe but not nearly enough. Looking back, I should have scaled things back and just committed to a less-demanding 2 or 3 blog posts per week. Social media can definitely be your friend when you don’t have the time to post and I wish I had realized this sooner. I had decided to “unplug” while we were in Europe – we didn’t even have smart phones which meant I had no Instagram account and tweets were limited to automatic blog post updates. Looking back, I am seriously filled with so much regret about not having Instagram during that time. I know that sounds a bit dramatic but I really think that would have changed things – I could have included my readers in a much more personal way on my trips, sharing in real-time the cool places and things I was experiencing and sharing honeymoon tips along the way. I also regret it because when I finally did join Instagram in late 2013 (@classic_bride), I was incredibly late to the party. It felt like everyone was already following those they wanted to follow and didn’t have time to follow me. Earning followers on Insta was tough at first and I have a feeling it would have been easier if I had jumped on board sooner. (Next Wednesday, I’ll share my top Instagram tips I’ve learned over the past year!)

Jen&Nick(368of882)Coastal Maine Wedding / Photo by Sarah Jayne Photography

The Mistake: Postponing migration
I began my blog on Blogger. It was what most all wedding bloggers were using back in 2007 so I didn’t even look into other options. And it was great! It was incredibly easy to use and it was free. I was a happy camper and when I watched blogger after blogger migrate over to WordPress, I never even thought about following along. I was still happy on Blogger. Well, over the past year, I started wanting more out of my blog and realized WordPress may be the answer. Just this month, I finally took the plunge and made the migration. I’d had a custom design + custom domain on Blogger for awhile so I don’t think many people even realized I was still on Blogger but I totally felt like a grown-up sitting at the kid’s table at Thanksgiving. And moving was really scary. I felt like a little kid inching out into the deep end of the pool. But I hired an expert and she helped make the move way less scary. I still ran into roadblocks and the site still isn’t exactly up to snuff (so many images in my old posts came through blurry and icky and sized all wrong and my text is mostly all wonky in the old posts, as well) but I’m slowly figuring it out and so far, I’m really happy I made the move.

My advice? Blogger is a terrific platform and let’s not forget it’s free. So if you’re just getting started blogging and you’re not sure that you’re going to be in it for the long haul or you just don’t want to commit to paid hosting, go with Blogger. But if you realize you’re dedicated and start wanting more from your blog, don’t wait 7 years to make the switch. I really wish I had made the move sooner if only because then I wouldn’t have to spend countless hours fixing my old posts. Ugh.

classic_4Charming Nantucket Wedding / Photo by Brea McDonald Photography

The Mistake: (Not) Knowing your focus
Looking back, I will readily admit that my blog’s focus has been more than a bit blurry at certain times. My blog’s theme stemmed from my own wedding’s mission: a classic + timeless aesthetic with meaningful details. The problem with a “classic” theme is that everyone seems to have a different idea of what that word means. As I began accepting submissions, I noticed there was no set style. Some submissions were beautifully timeless, some were vintage, some were overly prop-styled and then some were so boringly cookie-cutter that they looked like they were mass-produced. The tricky part for me was learning to be highly selective. Obvs, I never shared what I considered to be a cookie-cutter wedding but it got tougher when I’d receive a truly beautiful submission that didn’t entirely mesh with CB’s timeless aesthetic. I started losing my focus. To top it off, I experienced a personal shift when we moved back to Europe that highly affected my fashion and design tastes. My signature preppy American look has never worked for me in Germany. Even though there’s a few stores that cater to that distinct aesthetic, it always ends up feeling too costume-y and foreign and sticks out like a sore thumb. So my wardrobe switched from cable knit sweaters and pearls to skinny jeans, scarves and leather. European living made me more interested in trends and I started straying from french manicures to crazy colors and sparkles. I featured the idea of hair chalk for your wedding (honestly, WTF was I thinking?). To put it simply, things were getting cray in the land of Classic Bride. But I think my slight detour off the ‘classic’ path just represents life in general. No one’s a perfect mold and it’s fun to experiment and try things outside your comfort zone – I call it my “classic with a twist” period. But I also realize my little detour probably lost some readers. Since moving back stateside, I’ve really reclaimed my old signature preppy + polished style and I’ve worked hard to sharpen that focus on the blog. I’m more selective than ever with submissions and I seek out photographers and vendors who embody CB’s style.

My advice? Create a mission statement before you even begin blogging (although it’s never too late!). Outline what you want your blog to be about and describe the certain style that represents your brand best. It’s hard to stay loyal to a distinct niche when your personal life steers you in a different direction but if you’ve created a mission statement, you can lean on that and let it remind you of your direction.

If you blog, what are your best blogging tips? What mistakes have you made? What have your ups been?

ps. So how do I define the Classic Bride today? Tune in Monday for my answer(s)!

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