It’s easy to get caught up in the doing more, being more, experiencing more trap of being a photographer or even just a creative in general. If you’re on social media at all it feels like you need to measure up, to be all things to all people, to prove your worth in a sea of voices louder than your own. It’s exhausting. Even when you know you have something good to say, it’s often exhausting to even think of trying to say it amidst the noise.

There are so many “shoulds” out there. You should be doing this on your social media or that for your marketing campaign. Your reach is suffering if you don’t have an email list and a weekly newsletter. Have you attended the latest workshops and weighed in on the most recent webinar? Are you collaborating on styled sessions and submitting your work to wedding blogs? Are you up to speed with the latest SEO for your website? Are you blogging weekly?

Sometimes (a lot of times) it becomes too much. We find ourselves spread too thin, neglecting the things that are most important, while trying to please people we don’t even know, and for what? A few more likes? Another email subscriber? Some clicks to your website?

What if what we really need is less? Less noise. Less strategy. Less clamor. And more of what matters. More connection. More soul. More depth. 

Lately Tim and I have been choosing less. We’ve taken a lengthy break from blogging as we’ve been working on a new website, we’ve started growing our family, we’ve shifted our priorities, and in the midst of all this we’ve been learning more of what’s important to us. It’s taken this big step back to see everything – our business, our lives, our relationships – from a distance, to realize the value and beauty of what we have.

Choosing less noise and less busy with our business has allowed for more of what matters in other areas of our lives. More time with our family, more deep conversation, more meaningful connections, and more of exploring the things that give us life.

What we get to do through capturing our couples’ stories is an extraordinary gift. We are so grateful for each and every person that has trusted us behind the camera. Our creative journey has been fun and challenging, pushing us to ask hard questions and constantly learn and grow. Seeing our business from a distance has also helped us begin find some sense of balance between work and rest. Our office is across the hall from our bedroom and next door to the nursery, so it’s hard to feel like we can truly step away from our work to rest. It’s become necessary to rest though. 

And adding a little one to the equation has put an entirely different perspective on our time. We’ve come to value our own time so much more. We don’t want to spend hours upon hours in front of the computer. We’d rather spend them with each other and with Beckett. So we’ve been asking ourselves – how can we use our time well?

One of the best ways we know how to balance our time is to take on less, to say no to things (even ones we’d love to say yes to), and to set a limit on how many weddings and how many sessions we do. By saying no to some things, we can more fully invest in the wedding days, sessions, and projects that we’ve said yes to. Rather than getting burnt out by photographing one too many wedding days, we plan to say fresh and energized, resting well between each wedding, being fully present with each of our couples on their day. This choosing less allows us to dig deeper into each story, to truly experience the heart of a wedding day, to savor and soak in each moment and encourage our bride and groom to do the same. 

In the new year we’re releasing a new website that has been a long time coming. Our friend Matt Daniels has done an extraordinary job creating a new logo and new website for us and we are so excited to share it with you. We keep joking that it’s the grownup version of Grain & Compass. In a lot of ways it’s that “less” we’ve been looking for. Less noise, less of “trying” so hard, less striving to be all things to all people. It’s more of who we really are. More depth. More story. More focus. More confidence in declaring what we are and what we’re not.

We’ve been reluctant to say goodbye to our old brand – in a way it feels like saying goodbye to an old friend. But it has served us well, brought us so many sweet couples, and taught us a lot about who we are and who we want to be. We want to care deeply for each of our couples, we want to work smarter and more efficiently while providing each wedding our full attention, we value our time as a little family of three so we’ll be taking on a limited number of weddings next year and a very limited number of video-specific weddings. Some people would see this as a step backward for our business, as if we should constantly be doing more and more weddings, but we see it as freedom. Freedom to invest fully in each one of our couples, freedom to devote our attention more wholly to each wedding, and the freedom to provide each bride and groom with our undivided care and love on their wedding day and the highest quality photos and video we can give them. 

Letting go of our current identity and growing into this new one feels so significant and we’re beyond excited for this new chapter of our creative journey. We hope you’ll join us!

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If you’ve been in a wedding or two, you’ve probably received your fair share of fabulous (or not so fabulous) bridesmaid or groomsmen gifts. As a bridesmaid, perhaps you’ve received jewelry to wear at the wedding and as a groomsmen you may have a great collection of ties and socks and pocket squares filling your dresser drawer. Are those gifts useful and much appreciated? Yes. Are they likely to see the light of day after the wedding? Mmmm…Debatable.

Now, don’t get me wrong – Tim and I gifted our girls earrings and our guys the ties for our wedding, so no hard feelings if that’s what you do! But we recently came across this great site called UncommonGoods and it’s full of super fun, creative gifts that would make unique alternatives for gifting to your ‘maids and ‘men. The great part is it’s a one-stop shop with a company focused on sustainability, supporting entrepreneurs, providing fair wages for their employees, and fostering a community of makers and customers that celebrate creativity and craftsmanship.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff! First, it’s time to decide what your wedding personality is – we’ve divided gift ideas into categories to make this easy on you. You’re planning a wedding and have to make decisions about drinks and decorations, musicians and the order of ceremony, the last thing you need to do is over-think one more decision. So, are you having a boho/hipster wedding, a casual backyard celebration, a swanky city affair, a garden wedding, or a cozy winter celebration? We’ve got ideas for you. Don’t fit in one of those categories? You can find more gifts for your guys here and ones for your girls here.

Your bridesmaids and groomsmen are your people – they’ve probably seen you at your best and at your worst, and they deserve a little thank you for loving you through it all and for buying that $300 dress and donning a fancy suit to stand up with you on your big day. We’ve even included ideas in case you have a flower girl or a ring bearer – those little guys deserve something special too!

uncommongoodsgifts1For the Bohemian/Hipster Wedding

We have to start out with a few of our favorite items we came across in our bridal party gift search. This wooden bow tie looks just like one Tim has and would be an amazing look for your groomsmen. You could gather your bridesmaids together to drink wine and make these gorgeous flower crowns before the wedding. And lastly, imagine how cute your little nephew would be with this mustache pacifier – it’s almost too much.



Casual Backyard Farm Wedding

Having a relaxed backyard wedding? We loved this drink sling for the guys and this farm inspired spa experience tin for the ladies. And for the little ring bearer and flower girl – these adorable veggie teethers would be perfect!



Cozy Winter Wedding

If you’re cuddling inside with a warm cozy fire for your wintertime wedding, imagine how great this gift would be for keeping your guys’ beards looking spiffy. And for the bridesmaids you could find a beautiful scarf or shawl to go with their dresses and pair it with one of these candles that crackles like a fireplace. The kiddos in the wedding party would love this cute log cabin and it would fit perfectly with the wedding vibes.



Spring Garden Wedding

These scotch-infused toothpicks don’t totally fit the theme of a springtime wedding, but how cool are they anyway? The girls would love having one of these gorgeous terrariums to take home and enjoy on their window sill. And these personalized children’s books with beautiful watercolor illustrations would be such a thoughtful gift for the little ones.



Classy City Wedding

These etched city map glasses would be a great gift to add to your groomsmen’s bar collection. The bridesmaids will love learning a new skill with this calligraphy kit. And the little ones will be entertained for hours with this super cool magnetic tablet – I kinda want one for myself!


UncommonGoods compensated us for this post, but all thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

We are beyond thrilled to share that Mallory and Michael’s DIY celebration on Martha’s Vineyard has been featured in Island Weddings Magazine. You might remember their photographs and film that we shared here on the blog last fall. It just makes it all the more special that their wedding is now in print as well! The ladies at Island Weddings did a beautiful job writing Mallory and Michael’s wedding day story, tying our photographs in, and honoring all the special details Mallory and Michael included in their celebration. What a joy to have this sweet magazine feature in our hands!

And a fun fact: they even showcased Mallory and Michael’s wedding story signage that I hand lettered that weekend! You’ll be seeing a lot more where that came from as I’m currently working on a hand lettering book to be published in the near future!

If you’d like a copy of the magazine, you can pick one up for free at the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine website! To see more photos, watch Mallory and Michael’s film, and see the full list of vendors, family, and friends that helped make their day happen, check out their blog post.

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Craig and Elisa initially invited us to capture photos for their engagement and their wedding day, but goodness are we grateful they decided to have us do video as well! It’s so special for Tim and I to be the creative team documenting our couple’s days together, but when we get to do both photo and video it’s such a unique experience and a fun “end product” for us to deliver. We’ve been holding Craig and Elisa’s photos hostage from the interwebs for far too long, but we felt it was only appropriate to share them together with their wedding film.

There are moments captured in their video that are simply better told through that medium. The exchange between Elisa’s father and her soon-to-be husband as they opened their gifts from her together, way Elisa sighs with a sense of contentment right before she and Craig are announced for the first time, Craig mouthing the words “I love you” to her during their moments alone together before the reception, and the words of Craig and Elisa’s fathers as they share stories and bless the two of them as they begin this next chapter of their story together. The story wouldn’t be as full without these.

And then the photographs share the same story of their day, but from a different vantage point. As you watch the film and look through the photos you’ll see that Elisa’s dad has a deep and beautiful love for his daughter – what a treasure to capture those emotions and particularly the moments he took to pause throughout the day and soak it all in. Craig and Elisa also had the most enthusiastic bridal party we’ve ever had the pleasure of spending a wedding day with – from the way Elisa’s bridesmaids loved on her throughout the morning to the hilarious and spontaneous song Craig’s groomsmen performed for him – this group definitely takes the cake for our most memorable bridal party! And at the end of the night – one of my favorite moments as Craig’s grandmothers looked incredulously upon the dance floor. Everyone’s mad dance moves were truly something to behold.

Overall Craig and Elisa’s day was full of so much joy – not just for the fact that they’ve “found one another,” but a joy that was filled with gratitude to the Lord for His plan over their lives. Although they met in an unexpected way through Instagram, it’s clear their story goes back far beyond a simple app on their phones. The stories told throughout the day consistently point back to the Lord’s hand in every piece of their story – from the way their parents raised each of them to the promises they made this day before Him.

Craig and Elisa, thank you for inviting us into this season of your lives. It was such a pleasure to walk alongside the two of you on your wedding day and to capture the excitement, the happy tears, the emotion, and the celebration for you two to remember and look back on for many years to come.

Elisa + Craig // An Instagram Love Story from Grain & Compass on Vimeo.

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Coordinator: Tia Jones-Nusbaum from Erin McLean Events

Venue: The Carolina Inn

Hair/Makeup: Samantha Ray from LULA

Bride’s Belt: Yes Dear & Co

Flowers: Barbara Long

Officiant: Pastor Matt Slate

Cocktail Hour Music: Grant Terry

Catering: The Carolina Inn

Rentals: CE Rental

Cake and Cupcakes: Blue Moon

DJ: Chad Hines from The Local DJ

Photography and Videography: Grain & Compass

This film is a project of ours that we’ve had in the works for about three years now. Courtney and Ryan have become dear friends of ours as we’ve walked alongside them through this season of their story. We originally asked if we might film a bit of their adoption story – we thought it might be a fun and beautiful story for us to tell. Perhaps one that might encourage other families considering adoption or give hope to those going through the frustrating waiting period before being given a referral for a child.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that God has been writing a much bigger story than we could have known or imagined. This story takes place throughout the past five years as Courtney and Ryan decided to pursue adoption, waited nearly three years for their referral, finally were able to bring Nara home, and experienced an incredible transformation in their daughter as she has flourished into a fun, spunky, confident, beautiful young lady.

The past few years have been a wild ride for the Thomas family, but looking back now they can see how the Lord has been preparing the way for them to serve as full-time missionaries with Make Your Mark in Ethiopia. They’ve seen such a beautiful transformation in their own daughter over the past couple years, and now they hope to see that same transformation in the street kids they’ll be working with in Ethiopia. It’s been such a privilege for us to walk alongside these friends and watch this part of their story unfold. Their faith and trust in the Lord is truly extraordinary.

Courtney, Ryan, and Nara are moving to Ethiopia in just a few short weeks, on July 18th, but they’re not entirely funded to go yet. If you wish to join us in supporting them, follow this link and designate your giving in the “Thomas Support” box – If you want to read more about their story or follow along as they begin their ministry in Ethiopia, you can check out their blog: Our Weapon Is Love.

Lost & Found from Grain & Compass on Vimeo.

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