MJ Mendoza spotlight

Get to know Monica Mendoza with MJ Mendoza Photography on our blog. Learn how she got started and why she loves weddings!

If you care to share, how did you get to where you are now?
It started long long ago… kidding! I was always interested in photography growing up as my dad was into photography and videography so it definitely rubbed off on me and I loved the creativity! I never really thought of it as a career or something I wanted to pursue until late my junior year in high school and I decided to follow photography. Wedding photography wasn’t even a thought until a family friend asked if I would photograph her wedding in 2015 and I said yes. After that I was hooked! I knew weddings were what I wanted to shoot but I had trouble choosing to make the leap to actually call myself a wedding photographer and make it a business. My husband was the one who urged, pushed and cheered me into making it a business and following my dream. So after a brief time of living in North Dakota (thanks Air Force!), we settled back home in Virginia and I dug in my heels and started photographing more weddings and the rest is history!

What makes you or your business stand out and why should a couple hire you?
During the hustle and bustle of the wedding day, I’ve had so many of my brides say that I’m the cool and calm that helps keeps their nerves down. I have a bubbly personality and I love to laugh with my couples but I’m also that calm presence for them when things feel crazy. My grooms like to say that they don’t particularly enjoy photos but they always leave the engagement session saying “That was actually fun!” which is my goal. Getting my couples comfortable in front of the camera and getting to just have that relaxed and joyful friendship with them is what helps make me and my business stand out.

MJ Mendoza spotlight

What’s your favorite thing about working in the wedding industry?
I love getting to meet everyone! It’s always a joy working with new couples, especially when so many of them become friends as we go through the wedding journey together. And getting to work and serve our couples alongside other vendors is the best! I’ve met so many vendors through social media that I get the joy of working with professionally during weddings and also personally. The wedding industry has some of the best and most friendliest people I’ve ever met and I’m so thankful for every relationship I’ve built with vendors and clients.

What’s your best piece of advice for couples planning a wedding?
Your wedding doesn’t have to be anything you don’t want it to be. Traditions are great but if you don’t want to do something, then don’t! Traditions are meant to be broken 😉 Bring in aspects from your relationship to make your wedding unique. Do you both prefer donuts over cake? Cut a huge donut instead of cake! Have bridesmen and groomswomen, let your puppy be the ring bearer! It’s YOUR wedding and you can bring those fun unique touches into it.

What’s your favorite moment during a wedding?
From a photographer standpoint, the details! Styling the bride’s wedding details has always been my favorite part of the day. But from a personal standpoint, my favorite moment during weddings are the parent dances. I shed a tear almost every time! I just picture myself dancing with my son on his wedding day one day and my husband dancing with our daughter. I feel a connection to my couples’ parents when they dance with their kids to a song they picked out for them. It always touches my heart and it’s hands down my favorite moment.

MJ Mendoza spotlight

What are your favorite wedding trends right now?
Honestly I really enjoy the micro weddings! I eloped myself with my husband and we’re planning a vow renewal/micro wedding and they hold a special place in my heart seeing couples decide that ultimately they just want to be MARRIED and say their vows just the two of them or with their closest family and friends. Plus when you’re not spending the money on hosting hundreds of people, you have space in the budget to put into some incredible areas like a breathtaking floral installation, a fun extra like a gelato cart or dessert food truck. There’s so many ways to make your micro wedding incredible!

If you were to meet any celebrity, who would it be?
Sophie Turner! I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and Sansa is one of my favorite characters. She just seems like a really funny person to talk with and drink wine together.

What’s the coolest thing you’re working on now?
I made a goal to get back into film photography and shoot film for personal work. I did film photography in high school and I loved the art of developing my own film and while I don’t have that kind of equipment, I’m enjoying the fun of exploring it again. In today’s instant gratification age, I’m learning to just look forward to seeing scans come back in instead of obsessing over what the photo looks like when I can’t see it instantly on the back of my camera. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to see the scans from my first few rolls of film!

MJ Mendoza spotlight

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
OneRepublic! They came to Virginia Beach on their Native tour and they had American Authors, The Script (I was SO excited) and of course, OneRepublic. It’s definitely my favorite concert so far!

Do you love to travel?
If so, what are some must-see destinations? YES! I will always always always recommend people go to Japan. My husband flew me out there for two weeks in April years ago and I immediately fell in love. The people are so friendly and helpful, the food was the most delicious (I’ve been on the hunt for a ramen that tastes just as good as the one I had in Japan) and it was so beautiful especially during cherry blossom season. Also definitely recommend the Keys in Florida and New York City. I’m hoping to travel more this year within the US and head out West!

MJ Mendoza spotlight

Do you have a pet? 
We have a 5 year old Siberian Husky named Blaze! He’s a goofball, nap professional and has the funniest faces. Blaze is a surprisingly very chill husky! He has his moments (like when he broke out of his kennel, pulled up and destroyed the carpet and busted out of our bedroom in our ND apartment) but for the most part, he is such a well behaved husky especially for having my wild child toddler all over him. I’m pretty sure Blaze misses his only child days but he’s really enjoying eating the food that my kids end up dropping on the floor!

MJ Mendoza spotlight dog

What’s your favorite family tradition?
Growing up, my favorite tradition was eating my mom’s cheesecake while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning. When I moved to North Dakota, I called her and got the recipe, made myself the cheesecake and ate it while watching the parade. My husband and I are working on new family traditions to share with our kids, especially now that Luca is older!

You can find out more about Monica here. Or follow her Instagram!