Urban Dictionary defines Friendsgiving as, “the celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends. This usually occurs on the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, since Thanksgiving is usually reserved for family gatherings.” Yet, here at the Venue Report, we define Friendsgiving as, “a time to gather all the crazy characters in your life to sit down at one beautiful table and eat too much, drink too much, laugh too much, and have an epic dance party in a gorgeous setting.” We’re willing to bet that most of you agree with the latter definition and have likely celebrated a holiday or two in this fashion.
And since it’s not every day that we get to hear the scoop behind an awesome brand collaboration, you can imagine how stoked we were to interview photographer Hannah Merritt about this photo shoot she did with stylist and social media darling Mel Denisse. All clothing and some of the decorative accessories were provided by Urban Outfitters, and Mel put together the vision of this Friendsgiving by the lake. We’d say she pretty much nailed it, since now all we can think about is planning our next Friendsgiving. Check out what Hannah has to say about this cool collab.
Words + Photos by Hannah Merritt
When we got our hands on this Friendsgiving at Whiskeytown Lake, we found ourselves instantly looking into the location. A perch on the lakeside, surrounded by mountains, trees, beaches, and wildlife has us using all the heart-eyed emojis we can find. Located in Northwest California, just outside Redding, this lake is situated in a 39,000 acre national park that’s rich in California Gold Rush history.
Tell us a little bit about the shoot you photographed?
This shoot happened in late October and the weather was still a bit warm. We arrived pretty early to set up all the tables, blankets, candles, food, drinks, ect. The theme was “Friendsgiving” a Thanksgiving meal shared by friends. While Jess Deacon worked on arranging the smaller details, Mel and I made a few photographs of her in her outfit that was provided by Urban Outfitters. Once everything was set-up and friends began to arrive, everyone took their seats. It was a real meal full of conversations. All I really had to do was document the occasion.
How did this shoot come about? Tell us a bit about the vision behind it.
Mel was provided some clothing and a record player by Urban Outfitters in exchange for photographs and posts to both her blog and Instagram account. She decided to go an extra step and plan a Friendsgiving meal. The vision was to share what brings people together. In this case, it was a mutual love of food, wine, and Urban Outfitters.
Were there any specific design elements that you loved/photographed extremely well?
My favorite element was the location. We were at Whiskeytown Lake looking out over the water which was surrounded by mountains. Everyone at the meal was so comfortable in front of the camera; it made it so easy to capture real moments.
At that time I had only known Jess for a few weeks. This was the first time I was able to work with her. She is such a talented stylist and florist. Mel gave her a few example photos, but we mostly just let her run with what she felt. Jess really ran with the few parameters she was given and made something truly unforgettable. From the vision to the delivery, Mel and Jess ran the show and created a gorgeous gathering.
What about this venue made it so perfect for this shoot?
Whiskeytown Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Redding area. It is one of my favorite place to photograph. Mel did some scouting and found the perfect spot along the large lake. I could never get tired of looking at those rolling green mountains. It was definitely a treat to eat somewhere with such a beautiful view.
Would this area + venue be a good destination for a group getaway or event? Why?
This lake would be perfect for a group getaway or event because it has so much to offer. There are beaches, rope swings, boat rentals, islands, camping and so much more. Whiskeytown Lake is a National Recreation Area which means it is owned by the National Park Service so just be sure to check in about acquiring the proper permits for an event!
Did you have any amazing eats or drinks in the surrounding area?
Jess made some sangria filled with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. The cinnamon really made it feel like the holidays. I made some pumpkin cake for dessert, and nothing says Fall quite like pumpkin!
Are we loving the way this shoot turned out, or what? This is solid proof that location is EVERYTHING when you’re planning a party with friends. No matter what the scale of the get together, it’s crucial that you’re able to have great background music and something gorgeous to gaze at. It makes such a big difference if you’re able to celebrate in a place that instantly puts everyone in a great mood. Whether it’s Whiskeytown Lake or some other mountainous plot of land, we’re all about that Mother Nature setting.