Valentine’s Day. Very few know the reason for the Holiday, so being the history buff I am, I looked it up only to find several conflicting stories all deeply shrouded in mystery from antiquity. Thanks to some surviving hagiographical records, we’re able to compile the various records of a man or men named Valentine and combine them into one identity and merged with a pagan fertility festival which we celebrate today in the form of pink and red hearts and roses, chocolates, and possibly engagement rings!
I like to think that there is always a bit of truth in legends. In short, we celebrate a day named after St. Valentine who allegedly married young Christian couples in secret due Emperor Claudius II outlawing marriage because he thought that married men made poor soldiers. Accounts state that Valentine broke the law and also attempted to convert the Emperor to Christianity. This ultimately culminated in his demise outside the Flaminian Gate.
In later years, the Roman Catholic church would turn the story of a priest & a bishop into a patron Saint for bookkeepers and lovers alike. In an interesting personal twist, a common ancestor of both Katie and myself, poet Geoffrey Chaucer (16th great grandfather), may have single-handedly created the romantic tradition we know today with his work “Parlement of Foules,” in which he stated that birds and human find a mate on Seynt Valentine’s Day.
For whatever reason, we like to remind those closest to us that we love, care, and are thinking of them on this special day in February. I always look forward to the vintage cards my grandmother sends my children, a tradition she started with me and has kept over the last 30 years. I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have been loved by so many throughout my life. This is a gift I have often taken for granted. Not everyone is so fortunate and blessed to love and be loved in return.
My wife, Katie, knows wholeheartedly that I am not the biggest fan of this American Holiday, but maybe that was because I never understood the story behind and the personal attachment to its origins. As a believer, we embrace the very real possibility that our faith will have negative earthly ramifications for following Jesus. We’re blessed to live in a country where we’re able to worship how we like and marry whom we love.
Special thanks to all of our 32 Couples from 2016 for reminding us why we love what we do so much and Happy Valentine’s Day! – The Stokes
From Minneapolis to Chicago & just about every region in between, we have captured couples this past year. One common thread that ties them all together is their mutual love for each other and thrill of a great adventure. Many of them have a great passion for the outdoors and enjoy taking in every moment of it together whether it be fishing, hunting, jogging, hiking, or camping. While some live in the big city, they often have roots here in the Northwoods or Central Wisconsin and it is their down-to-earth personalities that make them all so easy to get to know.
Katie and I are an open book. We may share with you much more than you ever hoped to know when it comes to life, marriage, and raising a family during one of our meetings; our story stretches back over nearly 20 years. Many of our couples met online or through mutual friends while in college or grad school. In our initial hangout dates with our couples, I like to ask how our couple met and more often than not, one will look at the other and hesitantly say, “Online!.” I then reassure them that they are not alone and it isn’t weird. We think online dating or long distance relationships are great! They’re often driven by strong communication and algorithms designed to match people based on their personalities and interests. Gotta love psychology!
Dating can be rough. I know that Katie and I wouldn’t know where to start. We’re so very thankful that God matched us when we were pre-teens to become best friends and it wasn’t until nearly a decade later that we would say, “I do.” It is so neat getting to have conversations with couples from around the country who are willing to open up and share a part of their story with us. Even more so, it is is an honor when couples entrust us to capture one of the most important days of their lives. We feel privileged to be able to spend our weekends with such extraordinary people who place a premium on their wedding experience and their marriages as a whole. They know this [marriage] is a once in a lifetime event and they want to embrace it for all it has to offer and hold dear to every passing moment; because they know it will fly by so very quickly.
You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
Hold on to one another and invest as much time in your marriage as you will on planning your wedding day! Life is truly made up of all the little moments and you will remember the times that you slowed down and intentionally reflected. Make time, better yet, schedule time to be alone without your phones, screens and the like and simply be present with one another. Listen. Be quite. Just exist in one another’s presence. That feeling of complete comfortability combined with butterflies is what we all wish for in a soulmate. Take a walk, ride a bike, go on the trip you always wanted. Sometimes life gets a hold of us and once it does it is hard to step off the merry-go-round. If you’re the journaling type, which we hope you are, take a few moments out of your week to put pen to paper. Write it all down, the good with the bad. When you look back and reflect, you will want to be as true to yourself as possible – and to your future generations who read your words you will want to provide wisdom. Share your mistakes, your frustrations, your passions and your regrets. Life is short, but also precious – so cherish and revere it. #liferevered. Make memories and dream big!
“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
Love is our greatest Adventure!
If there is anything Katie and I have learned over the course of our marriage, it is that love is dangerous. It is uncertain, messy, and complicated – it requires sacrifice and compromise. This isn’t a message we hear often in our culture or even during a commitment ceremony. There are famous words quoted and bible verses read, but what does any of it really mean? Can any words really prepare us for what lies ahead?
Love, like a hike up a rocky mountain, takes hard work, preparation, perseverance, and a the right equipment, but most of all it needs endurance. The type of endurance that is steadfast and determined to reach the top. We’re not always sure of what we will discover on our journey, but we know that what we will be shown is better than staying at the bottom looking up only imagining the incredible view.
For those who reach the top – enduring the climb together, there is a great reward! In part, it is the life we dream of – that of growing old together, seeing our children have incredible adventures, and seeking their own mountains to climb. But when we look back down the path that brought us here what do we see?
For us, we see mistakes. Our failures – our skinned knees, backsliding, and rockslides. In our brokenness, our oneness – there is beauty. It is part of a story woven in grace and rooted in Truth that surpasses all understanding. “For two are better than one.” It is in this design that we seek after the one we want to spend our life with – the one we would die for – the person we’re desperately trying to become.
This feels heavy. A weight beyond which any of us are capable. How can we ever measure up – filling the needs of another? Our souls long for something – Someone greater. We seek because we were made to search – made to climb – made to follow. It is written on our hearts. It is more than a feeling or an obligation, somehow it is hardwired into every fiber of who we are. Marriage is a covenant, a promise, that while there is breath, we continue to point each other upward towards the prize.
As you begin your journey together, we encourage you to prepare for an incredible adventure – you’re in this together and you’re part of a story bigger than ourselves filled more beauty than we ever could imagine.
Special Thanks to Jake Andersen & Forest Springs for allowing us to shoot on location.