Three years ago, Jeff and I submitted all the paperwork for a South Carolina Business License. We had been doing photography unofficially on the side for about two months, and were ready to make the plunge.
So we did.
Since then, it's been a crazy journey. On that September in 2014, we dropped everything to pursue a dream that allowed us to live by our own rules and be a meaningful part of people's lives. Both of us had always been excited about the art of storytelling - I studied the performing arts throughout high school and studied Theatre in college, while Jeffrey always had a knack for photography and went to school for Broadcasting. Together, we merged our love for art and people to create Woven Strands Photography.
Sidenote: We wanted to celebrate three years in style! What made sense more then a mini-photoshoot? The whole event was entirely unplanned, hence these fun photos with 25-cent balloons in a toddler's room who didn't get her hair brushed.
In these past three years there has been a lot of learning. So much learning. Discovering (and improving) our editing style, learning what couples actually need from their photographer and putting it into action, being both an artist, accountant, designer, manager and - well, the list goes on. There have been times when we've eaten only peanut butter sandwiches (true story) and others where we've been able to splurge for ourselves and give back to our community. There's been moments where I've felt defeated and worried that we wouldn't be able to go another week without a 9 to 5 job, and times when there was nothing else I'd rather do. This journey of being self-employed is hard but rewarding - especially since we get to do it together.
As husband and wife team, it's been an immense honor to be a part of so many couple's wedding days. Not only have we enjoyed doing what we love together, but it's been amazing working with all kinds of people and photographing their unique love stories. The reason we've continued this long in a competitive industry with all the ups and downs is because of these wonderful people who have invited us to be a part of some of the most intimate and joyful times in their life.
We wouldn't be here, three years later, without them- our couples who make up the heart and soul of Woven Strands. It is our hope and wish that their wedding and their marriage succeeds. It sounds a bit cheesy but I try to emphasize to our couples that we got their back. Wedding planning is hard, but we're here to cheer you on, encourage, and advise as you need to create a wedding day that you truly can enjoy.
So what I want to say today is for every future bride & groom.
Three years is not incredibly long to say the least. However in that time we've photographed weddings of all shapes and sizes, from intimate beachside elopements to fancy, formal occasions with over 250 guests. Although every wedding is so unique, and I personally don't think a blanket check list or suggestions could ever work exclusively for them all, here are three personal observations about what makes a wedding really great.
1. Make the day COMPLETELY yours.
I know, this is what people always say, but it has turned into a wedding catch phrase people use trying to convince you that you need or want something. But listen - the wedding that gets you and your fiance excited is the one you should be planning. Not the wedding your mother dreamed for you, not the one your wedding planner thinks you should have, not the pins you've seen on Pinterest. Yes, there have been happy couple's living their parent's dream wedding and of course there is excitement over beautiful decor. But it is easy to start idolizing your wedding when you are trying to live up to a standard you didn't create. Instead of truly enjoying the months being engaged or even relaxing on your wedding day, every detail becomes of the utmost importance and the joy of your commitment is stripped away easily.
I can't say it enough- the details are important and your wedding is a big deal! But there is more freedom in the process, more joy in each moment when you are creating a day that truly excites you to your core. You'll feel the difference on your wedding day, too - when that day is crafted to genuinely reflect the two of you are as a couple, its okay if things don't go perfect because nothing is theoretically perfect. What makes your wedding day 'perfect' is the commitment the two of you share - and nothing else.
Sometimes creating that authentic wedding means DIY decor and hand-me-down lace tablecloths. Other times, it means hiring a planner and letting them bring your vision to life. In some cases it means an intimate mountainside elopement with nobody except your officiant and future spouse, or it can look like a large celebration with everyone you can think of. Whatever your vision is for your wedding, choose it because it's for you and your person, not for anybody else.
I'm not saying it's easy - it can be crushing reading through traditions and expectations and trying to learn what is and isn't proper wedding etiquette, let alone what you actually want. But focus on the things you know. Isn't every relationship uniquely different? Doesn't every love story move at a different pace? Keeping your unique story as the inspiration of your celebration allows you to enjoy every moment of your ceremony and reception without holding it to someone else's standard.
2. Weddings won't ever go as planned - but that's absolutely okay.
Here at Woven Strands, we are big on creating timelines. We work with you months before the wedding to create a stress free, reasonable outline of what you can expect your wedding day to flow like. It's a good idea for you to know when and where you can expect us, and for there to be a outline for your day to help it move along as stress-free as possible.
However, every wedding has hiccups. Usually, it's as simple as traffic between the ceremony and reception, or no cell phone service. But sometimes these little hiccups feel much bigger - a button popping on your wedding dress, a groomsmen with a tux that's entirely the wrong color, no-show flowers, or rain on your outdoor wedding ceremony. These huge mix-ups might feel like the end of the world - after all you put so much work into your big day! But I encourage you to take a deep breath. The circumstances you are going through on your wedding day, although unplanned, are not as unique or unimaginable as you might think. And the sooner you take that deep breath and just roll with the punches, you'll allow yourself more freedom to actually enjoy this day.
I'm not saying that the day will move flawlessly after a huge mess-up - after all, you'll forever notice the groomsman in a blatantly different shade of grey! But your celebration isn't only about the colors and outfits - it's about your love and the people you carefully choose to share it with.
So share it! Laugh at it. This will make a great story at his wedding one day, or at the very least a good inside joke. Take these unplanned, unfortunately common disasters and chalk it up as part of the crazy and wonderful ride that makes your wedding special. Trust me - it's actually possible to have a good time after a wedding disaster! We've seen it time and time again. Once summer, there was a wedding where a flight was delayed coming into town and a van load of relatives were not only late, but also lost. The ceremony got delayed because the bride decided it was more important to get married with some of her favorite people there then to go on without them. What followed was lots of mingling and laughter, with a extra round of champagne. They got married over a hour later then planned, but laughter never left their faces and nobody would have even known the difference.
There are absolutely situations where your foot needs to go down and a issue needs to be addressed - such as a hired vendor dropping the ball or something happening that explicitly hurts you or your fiance. But don't let anything - not human error, not mother nature - prevent you from enjoying and celebrating your partner and the commitment you are making together.
3. Spending time alone with your partner will go a long way.
On your wedding day, you are in high demand! Relatives have flown miles to celebrate with you, people have spend money on gifts and clothing, and there are lots of beaming friends and parents so proud of the journey you are taking. It's good to celebrate and acknowledge and thank the people who have helped your wedding day become a reality. But it's also important to get alone with your spouse- just the two of you- and actually celebrate together.
Don't save it for the night of your wedding! After a day full of schedules and timing and vows and attention and dancing, you are going to be exhausted. Don't wait until after the whole day is over and done with to turn to your partner and say 'we did it'! Much like life in general, it is important to celebrate the small things as well as the big.
tips for enjoying your wedding together when you feel overwhelmed
- Consider a 'First Touch' to hold hands and whisper 'I love you' before the ceremony.
- Run away together after the ceremony to steal a kiss.
- Find a tucked-away location during the reception to see how the other is doing.
- Eat together.
- Get on the dance floor together to let out all the wiggles.
- Sneak outside to enjoy sunset and say this is for real.
You've heard it before, and I'm going to say it again - the wedding day goes by so fast. People and dances and places become a blur, and sometimes the most significant memory from your day is the emotions and feelings behind it. How you felt walking down the aisle, or seeing your partner for the first time, all dressed up. When you did your first dance. Slipping away together, even for a minute, creates a margin and slowness in your day that you won't forget and could never re-create.
After reflecting some on the past three years and what they have meant for us, I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all of the answers. But I do know these three tips - simple and mostly attitude-based - can go a long way with making the simplest wedding the most dreamiest occasion and heart-warming memory. Show off what makes your relationship unique. Embrace the messy with the good. Shower each other with lots of love.
One final thought I have is how weddings can replicate life quite a bit. Isn't that right? Sometimes, it's difficult to be true to ourselves. There will be bumps in the road that we need to face. It can be hard to take the time to show the people we love that we care. So really, as you move into wedding planning and building one of the most important days of your life, remember that this day is just that - just a day. You'll have much harder days (even if the flowers don't arrive!) and better days (the best is yet to come, I promise). But this day is uniquely special and deserves the time, care, and attention you give it- but don't forget to live the rest of them.
No matter where life has you right now - single, engaged, married - I hope you find beauty in the slowness, happiness in chaos, and taste the sweetness of relationships.
xoxo - Veronica