last year, i made a business decision to hold a contest for a wedding photography giveaway. the goal was to use my photography and the gifts i’ve been given to bless the socks off a very deserving couple on their wedding day. all i asked for as an entry was to share your story as a couple and to be careful to not leave any bit out. i wanted to feel like i knew each couple already after reading their stories. i wanted to fall in love with the love story of a couple. i threw the contest out there into the universe, not knowing what kind of response i would receive. i was delightfully surprised by the stories that started flooding in and the contest turned out to be a huge success. there were so many wonderful entries and so many couples that i wish i could have worked with. but, alas, i could only choose one.
chelsea wrote to me and shared the story of her and her fiance, dan. after reading her story, i felt like i knew both of them. she told me all of the juicy details, all of the significant and insigificant moments. by the time she emailed me, they had been through the ringer on securing a wedding venue, with nearly all plans falling through. even through all of the stressful moments in planning she wrote,
“while it was easy to get wrapped up in the hopes and dreams of the perfect wedding, we agreed early on that we never want to lose sight of the end goal (being a marriage). we have tried our best to continue to grow our relationship and get to know each other better in the midst of an oftentimes stressful season. we are committed to regular “wedding-free” dates as a way to soak in the sweetness of our engagement. while our wedding day is important, we are doing our best to keep our eyes on the prize of a healthy and deep marriage.”
i knew that i desperately wanted to capture their wedding day because of the kind of people that they were. even through everything, their spirits remained positive and their prize after the wedding day was a healthy and deep marriage. i just knew that their day was going to be exactly the kind of wedding day i had to be involved in. and it was. all of the details were handpicked and handcrafted. the magic these two were able to pull out of such a strict budget was so inspiring. it was such an honor to drive down to portland, oregon and be a part of their unforgettable wedding day. chelsea & dan – i couldn’t have picked a more deserving couple as contest winners. :)
this is their story //
Dan and I met at a Young Life camp in Central Oregon in the Summer of 2008. It’s safe to say that at the sweet age of 21, neither one of us were thinking about planning our wedding. In fact, it’s also fairly safe to say that were both completely preoccupied with other love interests. Dan was working as an intern at the camp when I came out to volunteer for the month. While neither of us can recall the exact moment that we laid eyes on each other, we agree that it was unremarkable. There were no sparks, but thankfully enough of a connection to establish a friendship on Facebook. That is how things remained for the next five years.
In September of 2013, a week after individually swearing off the opposite sex and giving up on our frightful dating lives, our stories crossed again. What began with a random run-in at Trader Joe’s turned into a Facebook message and an invitation for a first date. We spent that first evening wandering around downtown Portland with ice cream cones in hand. After six hours of story-telling, music sharing, and mutual intrigue, the evening ended. On some level, I think that we both knew that it was just the beginning of something great. Our first year together ended up being full of big adventures, a handful of messy conversations, crazy amounts of laughter, and the formation of a sweet and deep friendship.
When Dan proposed in the Fall of 2014 with Central Oregon as the stunning backdrop , my answer was an obvious and confident “yes”. With plans for a six month engagement, we jumped right into the wedding planning process. We decided early on that we wanted our wedding to be infused with our personalities, but it took another few months for us to decide how we were going to do that. Both Dan and I value creativity and consider it to be an important part of our stories. Because of this, we were insistent upon designing our wedding from start to finish. We ended up writing our own vows, engaging in countless craft projects, and writing individual notes to all 200 people at the wedding. With the help of friends and family, we designed and created everything from signs and planter boxes to our invitation suite and a 25-foot trellis. It was an insane amount of work, but at the end of it, we knew that we’d poured our hearts into it and it represented “us”. The entire day was full of personal touches including; serving a special blend of wine made by my father, having our ceremony music performed by Dan’s unspeakably talented brother and sister-in-law, and a “bucket list photo guestbook”.
We also agreed early on that we didn’t want our wedding to solely be about us, but about our amazing community of people who had surrounded us both individually and collectively. Our desire was always to thank them for loving us, pushing us, and challenging us to be better and love better. It was incredibly special for us to have the large wedding that we’d dreamed of and to be able to involve all of the people who are invaluable members of our “tribe”. One of the highlights in the days leading up to the wedding was seeing the amazing army that came together to help us execute our vision. We had a dream team consisting of about 30 friends and family who pulled off the unthinkable in transforming a blank canvas of a space into the picture that we’d housed in our heads for the previous six months. It really was something spectacular.
By the time that June arrived, we were beside ourselves with excitement to marry each other. And as people promised, the matching signs and perfectly executed favors began to matter less and less as the day got closer. When our wedding countdowns had finally expired and June 20tharrived, we were ready. We spent Saturday with our bridal parties and tried our best to soak in every detail of the day. Dan had surprised me by placing notes and gifts in the hands of everyone with whom I would interact on the day of the wedding. My sister and Maid of Honor started the morning by bringing me a coffee in a new mug from Dan. The coffee came with a sweet card reminding me to be present in the day and take mental snapshots of all that was going on around me. I was given more cards throughout the day with the last one given as I walked up to meet Dan for our first look. The cards and gifts were simple reminders of an obvious truth. I was about to marry the man who was perfectly suited for me.
Our wedding day was more joy-filled, sacred, quirky, and genuinely meaningful than either one of us could’ve predicted. We were surrounded by “our people” and felt so honored to share in a new beginning with everyone we love. We had a handful of really special moments spent with just the two of us as well. One of the greatest choices that we made was choosing to leave the ceremony in a pedi-cab. While it initially seemed like a small detail, it gave us 15 minutes to just sit together and soak in the gravity of what had just taken place. We loved having a chance to take a deep breath and take in everything that was flying by at a million miles a minute.
When we look back on June 20th in the years to come, it’s hard to predict which moments will play in the “highlight reel”. I imagine that we will think about the look on each other’s faces when we saw each other for the first time and the moment we were greeted by a cheering crowd of our favorite people when we walked out of the church. I am certain that we will think about the weight of the carefully selected words in our vows and we’ll laugh about the moment when I impaled a dear friend with my bouquet. We learned throughout the process and even more in the days since the wedding,that it really was about so much more than we could grasp. Our wedding day wasn’t about the perfect color palette or the right music. It wasn’t even about a new last name or new living arrangement. It was about saying “yes” to the greatest partnership and adventure that we could’ve imagined, and that has been the sweetest of all realizations.