It’s true. These two met on Instagram. But don’t let that fool you. Just saying that Elisa and Craig were “meant to be together” might be true, but it kinda sounds cheesy and it doesn’t actually express the depth of their relationship and their love for one another.

Sometimes when we meet couples we simply know we’re meant to tell their story. Elisa and Craig are two of those people. We Skyped with them one Sunday afternoon – us in dreary NC and them in sunny California. We heard their story and fell comfortably into conversation. The entire next week we couldn’t stop telling people about this amazing couple we’d met – how she attended the Passion conference in Atlanta and started following one of the pastors she’d heard speak over on Instagram, how she got curious when Craig commented on a photo she liked, and she hopped over to his feed and started following him too. How Craig followed her back (who wouldn’t?!) How their Instagram friendship eventually turned to a Facebook friendship, messaging and chatting, eventually exchanging numbers, FaceTiming from opposite sides of the country, and then meeting in person in NYC where Elisa was interning at the time.

“When did you know Elisa was the girl you were supposed to marry?” I asked Craig during their engagement session. “On the second day. We were in Chipotle. I looked across the table at her and I had that feeling people talk about. This is it.” Craig described it as one of those things that’s hard to put into words, and yet he told us one of the most beautiful comparisons I’ve ever heard. If you’re a person of faith, this will make sense to you – it just scratches the surface at explaining what love is. He said realizing Elisa was “the one” was like realizing that God is real. You know He is real. And you feel that He’s real. But explaining that to another person – putting it into words – leaves you feeling extraordinarily inadequate. You know the truth. It’s something you feel and believe, but words just don’t do it justice.

That’s also how I feel trying to sum up Elisa and Craig’s story – words don’t do it justice. When we met up in Durham for their engagement session last fall, Tim and I both felt like we’d been friends with them for years. We are beyond excited to be photographing and filming their day in just a few weeks!

PS – if you like that sweet key Craig is wearing, check out The Giving Keys! Elisa works for them in LA – they do incredible work providing jobs for the homeless and creating products that spark conversations and invite you to share your own story and be a part of someone else’s.

A few weeks after Lee and Meredith’s wedding, they wrote us a sweet note thanking us for photographing their day. We’d only delivered a few “sneak peeks” for them to enjoy, and in the note they reminded us of something they told us about their photos on their wedding day. “Take all the time you need. We’re in no rush. We’ll have them for the rest of our lives.”

This brought me to tears when I read it. These two get it. Those words perfectly sum up Lee and Meredith’s character to me. They are genuine and they love deeply. They’re fully present with and truly care for those around them. They make a point of making each person feel important and loved, although I don’t know if they even realize it’s something they do. It’s simply a part of who they are.

Just to prove my point – Lee and Meredith wrote mini biographies of every single wedding guest that attended their celebration. Every. Single. One. Us included. These tiny bios described each person, their connection to Lee and Meredith, and some fun facts about them. Just take a moment to imagine the time and care that went into that.  These biographies were hung on bunting all around their wedding reception, and many of us found ours and took it down to keep at the end of the night. What an incredible way to make your guests feel so loved and appreciated. A thousand times better than any wedding favor. Although Lee and Meredith’s favors were also awesome.

They had a friend create a beautiful logo for their wedding invitations – three crowns to represent Sweden, a place that is extraordinarily special to Meredith, and the place Lee proposed to her. And oars and the ocean waves to remind them of the sea kayaking trip they took right before he proposed. For the wedding they had the logo printed on beer glasses for each of their guests to use for the night and keep afterwards – they were a huge hit. Lee and Meredith met at Half Acre, the Chicago brewery where they both work. So beer glasses were the perfect favor to share with their guests.

This is really just one of those wedding days we look back on and say – seriously?? We got to capture that? Lee and Meredith chose us to capture their day? Man oh man do we love our job. Between the unique venue, the insanely delicious food (that appetizer table!), Lee’s college band – Tim Dennison and the Creepers playing at the ceremony and reception, and the dancing – ALL the dancing, this was a celebration beyond what we could have imagined!

One of my favorite moments of the whole day was toward the end of Lee and Meredith’s first look. Tim and I always like to create a space for our couples to reflect and really soak up the depth and beauty and sacredness of the day. Lee knew Meredith was on “Mission Don’t Cry,” so when he saw sweet tears welling up in her eyes, he did everything he could to keep her from crying. References were made to the Sahara as well as Prohibition, as Lee tried his best to make Meredith laugh instead of cry. If you know Lee, you can hear his distinct voice, “Girl! Your eyes are so dry – it’s like the Sahara Desert up in here!”

It’s truly an honor when dear friends invite us not only to be wedding guests, but to be fully present on their day, capturing it for them to remember for years to come. In the days approaching their wedding, Lee urged Tim and I to not just “work” their whole wedding day, but to truly enjoy the celebration. Did we ever. If these photos can capture just a fraction of the intense joy and the amazing celebration that was Lee and Meredith’s day, then our job is done here.

Grab a beer (a Half Acre one if you’ve got it) and enjoy this sweet sweet day.

Vendors:

Venue: Co-Prosperity Sphere

Hair/Makeup: Hannah Williams, bridesmaid

Dress: BHLDN

Flower Crown: Fleur

Officiant: Josh Hiben

Meats & Cheeses Appetizer: Publican Quality Meats

Beer: Half Acre

Coffee: Intelligentsia

Pot Pies: Pleasant House Bakery

Pies: Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits

Band: The Creepers

Jordan and Matthew. My heart is so happy thinking back to your early morning engagement session on the lake and dreaming about your wedding this coming spring. It’ll be the first wedding we’ve photographed back where Tim and I got married. I can’t imagine photographing anyone but you two in a place that is already so special to us.

Jordan and I went to high school together – she was one of those girls I admired from afar. She embodies grace and beauty and confidence. And she always has – even in high school when most of us were trying to figure out who we were, Jordan already seemed to be so rooted. She is just as beautiful on the inside, and if you know Jordan, you know the depth of her love and care for all those around her. You know that she is one-in-a-million – genuine to her core. And somehow she and Matthew found one another. Matthew – if it’s even possible – matches her deep, loving, gentle character.

Together they love deeply. They breathe life in and soak it up with every fiber of their being. It’s rare to find a couple that lives life as wholeheartedly as Jordan and Matthew. These two are something special. We are so very grateful we get to tell their story.

We arrived at sunrise to Jordan’s grandparents’ little lakeside cabin. We sipped coffee and enjoyed the foggy morning together. We laughed and chatted and took photos. Then Matthew and Jordan made breakfast for us. And we drank lots of coffee. And ate so much good food. And then we went to church and worshiped together – at the church where Jordan and Matthew met. It was a privilege to worship alongside them in a place that is such a huge part of their story.

Jordan and Matthew – we are so grateful for you two. Thank you for inviting us into your lives and into your story. It’s hard to express how excited we are about your wedding this spring without sounding like little kids anticipating Christmas morning. It is such an honor that we get to walk alongside you through this beautiful and sacred season.

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We are so thrilled to announce that we are participating in the Weddings for Freedom SET | RAISE | MATCH campaign this month. We are teaming up with wedding vendors across the United States to raise awareness for and combat human trafficking right here in our own backyards. If you don’t think modern day slavery has anything to do with you, we urge you to read on.

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Why should I care?

Reason #1:  At least 100,000 children are sold into sex trafficking every year in the United States

Reason #2:  There are fewer than 250 beds available for underage victims

Reason #3:  13 is the average age of entry into prostitution in the US

Reason #4:  The United States sex trade is a $9.8 billion industry

Reason #5:  The average American lives within 19 miles of daily sex trafficking

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So how does it all work?

We have SET a goal of $1000 to be raised for Wellspring Living, an organization in Atlanta that provides safe housing and holistic restoration programs for victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. We’re asking you to help us RAISE that money and reach our goal through various means (read more below). And we are personally going to MATCH each donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $1000 for a final total of $2000 (or more!) in support of Wellspring Living.

How can I participate?

Give directly! Go to the Weddings for Freedom website to learn more and give to Wellspring Living with us. Every dollar helps, so whether you can donate $10, $50, or $500, we so appreciate you taking a stand alongside us. Don’t forget that each dollar you donate will be matched by us until we reach $1000!

Book a wedding! For the month of February, we’re giving each couple that books with us $100 off their wedding deposit if they’re willing to make a $100 donation to Wellspring Living. It’s a win-win!

Spread the word! Use the hashtags #weddingsforfreedom and #setraisematch to spread the word and take a stand with us. Know other wedding vendors who might like to start their own SET | RAISE | MATCH campaign?? Send them to www.weddingsforfreedom.com to learn more and sign up!

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Photos courtesy of Paper Antler

2014 for us could be summed up by a few words – refining, stepping into the unknown, and adventure.

This has been the year that we’ve done the most refining of our business. What do we want Grain & Compass to be, where do we see ourselves in 5, 10, 20, 50 years, how do we want to leave a lasting impact on each and every one of our couples we work with, how are we different from the other photographers and filmmakers out there, how to we tell stories in a way that is honest and beautiful and honoring to each person’s story? These are all questions we’ve wrestled with and begun to find answers for this year. We’re stoked about where those answers are taking us.

2014 was also the year of stepping into the unknown for us. We thought the day we both stepped into working full time for our business would come with great fanfare and perhaps even a dramatic Tim-standing-on-his-desk-and-giving-a-passionate-speech-to-his-students-about-following-your-dreams scene on his last day of teaching. But it didn’t happen that way. I’ve been full time with our business for a couple years now, and we’ve been praying and waiting ever so impatiently for the day when we could work side-by-side full time, not just on the weekends. We wanted God to give us a big sign that said “it’s time to quit your day job!!!” but for some reason he just doesn’t always work the way we want. He’s a little more subtle, a lot more mysterious, and this year He let us learn through the craziest circumstances. In the end we had to make our own decision about whether we’d trust Him to provide us with a few more weddings to round our our year, or wait in fear, clinging to what we already knew. After some paperwork mixups and a whole lot of frustrating miscommunication from our school system’s county office, it became clear that it was time for Tim to step away from teaching and bid adieu to the school and people that truly supported and loved on him for the last three years. It was a little bittersweet for him to leave, and a grand mix of terrifying and exciting for us to leave the stability of a consistent paycheck. But we can sit here at the end of the busiest fall of our lives, with gratitude and the knowledge that going fully-full-time with our business was the best decision we made this year.

Between shooting weddings and visiting friends and family, we traveled away from home more than 100 days this year – nearly a third of our year. We sat down last night and counted all the adventures we had and the places we visited for the first time this year. This year held our first time to Detroit where we discovered fantastic brews at Great Lakes Coffee and we filmed the most epic dance party ever seen at a wedding reception. A week-long inspirationcation with my best friend – we locked ourselves away in a cabin in Asheville to work on her writing and my photography. Next up was a trip to Arizona to visit friends and take Tim to Sedona and the Grand Canyon for the first time. Tim’s first time in Green Bay where we attended my cousin’s wedding, got to tour Lambeau Field (my family will turn Tim into a Packers fan yet,) and Tim’s first trip to Door County. In September and October we embarked on a three week road trip to attend, photograph, and film Tim’s cousin Mallory’s wedding on Martha’s Vineyard, and two gorgeous weddings outside Chicago. Along the way, we visited New York City for the first time – a day packed with over 12 miles of walking, hitting up a few touristy spots, discovering amazing food throughout the day, stumbling upon the Chelsea Market, and a stroll along the High Line, to name a few. After Mallory’s wedding we had a whole day to explore Martha’s Vineyard, stayed with dear friends in Massachusetts, camped near Niagara Falls – my first trip there, and then hop-skipped our way to Chicago, visiting friends and family along the way. This fall we found ourselves traveling for numerous weddings and engagement sessions across North Carolina, and we took one more trip to Chicago to photograph one of our dear friend’s weddings – it’s always a treasure for us to capture a friend’s wedding day, and I’ll have a hard time putting words to how special it was for us to photograph this one.

We’ve still got so much we’re working on and excited to share from this past year, but for now, here’s a look back at a few of our favorite photos from this year – some you’ve seen and some you haven’t!

Our dates are booking up quickly for 2015 and we’re beginning to book 2016 weddings as well – if you’re getting married or know someone who is, send us an email to inquire about our availability! Along the lines of refining our business and our vision for Grain & Compass, we know that we’re not the photographers and videographers for everyone. And we’re okay with that. We know that the couples whose stories we capture best aren’t just looking for someone to take pictures and video of their day. The couples we want to work with are passionate about storytelling, they’re looking to have beautiful photographs and video of their own day, and they’re not afraid to open up to us and let us into their story. When a couple trusts us, when they let us into their lives, when they are curious and genuinely interested not only in having great photos but in the why behind what we do – that’s when we’re able to capture the most genuine, beautiful images. If this sounds like you, don’t hesitate to contact us. And if it sounds like someone you know, please send them our way! We’re always on the lookout for a good story.