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
One of the most challenging aspects a photographer faces on a wedding day is finding the perfect location for portraits. Ideally, we like to shot these images in nice even overcast light, however, most times these images have to take place during the middle of the day when the light is most harsh. In the Northwoods, if you are outdoors, you fight the elements which include flying insects of all kinds, humidity, and heat during the summer. I personally am always thinking about how others are feeling – I want to make sure that brides and grooms that are in front of us are not only comfortable but look great too! You want their dresses 7 tuxes to stay perfect and yet at the same time want to take them on a hike through the woods. It is our preference to do these after the ceremony and as close to sunset as possible.
We work directly with our couples to help them plan their day around photography to ensure the best uses of their time and so they don’t feel like their entire day was spent in front of our cameras. We want them to have fun and come away with some gorgeous photographs that will stand the test of time and live on their wall or in their Heirloom Album. Similarly, this is why our collections include these options, because we want our couples to print their images so they don’t just live on their thumb drive or in their gallery.
I photograph my subjects how I would want to be photographed if I were them. In fact, that is how I do just about everything. How would I want this done or how would I want it to look if I were on the receiving end? I very much enjoy not only taking photos but being in them with the people I love. Life goes by too fast to not be photographed regularly and I don’t mean with your iPhone. When we do, we make tens of copies to share with family and friends to ensure at least one makes it to the next generation. As a curator of old personal photos, I have learned the value of a printed photograph and it is often the ones that were stored in the Family Bible that we have the privilege of holding one hundred years later. My wife grew up an oval convex framed print of her great-great grandfather on the wall, presumably a wedding portrait taken shortly before he died of the Spanish Flu around 1919. There was so much mystery behind the photograph; how did he die? Who were his parents? Where did he come from? It wasn’t until recently that many of those questions were answered. Had it not been for that photograph, his only living descendants might never have known he even existed. His own daughter new knew him.
I think of stories like these and realize that there are many such cases out there scattered throughout people’s family trees. It is our hope that our clients would realize the value of family and history and preserve their story for their descendants. We want your portraits to spark great conversations about the past and tell of a love that created an entire branch on your family tree.
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.”
Wedding days are filled with a bundle of emotions and often ones you can’t really predict. They wait right beneath the surface and it isn’t until we see the faces of the ones we love the most do they spill over. These are the moments we want to candidly capture and have it as though we were never there. Being present doesn’t mean the shutter has to be clicking but waiting and anticipating those moments. Katie and I both have our strengths and this is certainly Katie’s. As a wallflower, she lives for moments like these, just anticipating the perfect moment when the father of the bride sees his daughter for the first time in her wedding dress. As a father, this moment gets me every time. I think about what it will be like when my own daughters get married and how I will be a complete mess and for good reason, they are my babies and I will be giving them away… it will be a happy day and at the same time I will be missing them before they are gone.
Marriage is big, scary, & filled with the unknown. Weddings are a celebration of what it means to dedicate your life to another for life in spite of those fears. This summer I have the chance to give the message at my brother’s wedding. It is something I have been planning for almost a year. Does anyone really remember what was said at their wedding? Maybe not without the help of a videographer, but I know how I want him and his wife to feel; loved and supported. Marriage takes work and families are not off the hook, while they are to take a back seat in letting their children make decisions, it is their right as parents to support the marriage and no longer the individual child they raised. This is hard. Parents can either be absent or overbearing, but for the fortunate, they are encouraging, transparent, and honest. This is worth more than its weight in spiritual gold.
As believers, this means that we will point our children and their spouses to Christ always! There is no greater example of a servant than that of Jesus Christ and our marriages should reflect the glory of our creator. Understanding that marriage was designed to serve as a union within a fallen world breaks the notion that marriages themselves should be perfect. Indeed, we try and make our weddings as flawless as possible, but marriage will be filled with highs and lows and a million imperfections. In those lows and through those mistakes, what will bring us back to a place of contentment and surrender? What will point us back to our promises? We believe that with God’s help and through scripture you will be reminded of your vows and commitment to one another. Psalm 77:11-12 – I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Over the last nine years of marriage, it is so evident how God has poured out His mercy and blessings on us in all His forms. Over time, I am afraid that we will forget all the goodness and trials he has given in order to have us draw closer to him and each other. I like to think that photographs and journals help protect against that. We are reminded every day of His goodness and the blessings we’re surrounded by. Our marriage is not perfect and our children are not angels, but God’s Grace is sufficient for all our failings as spouses and as parents. It is our hope that our couples would know Jesus personally and lead God fearing lives that raise up disciples for the Lord.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labor in vain.
This is from one of my favorite chapters in Psalms which reminds me that children are a heritage from the Lord. What a gift we have to be able to marry the one whom God has chosen for us and to live in a place where we can serve and worship him freely. God ultimately wants us to delight in Him and to chase after him. So very often we misplace God for our spouse and our spouse was never designed to replace the creator of the Universe. We simply are not big enough to fulfill the needs of the human soul, we cannot be the happiness source of another. This is freeing! You don’t have to be EVERYTHING to your other half, you simply have to show them who is worthy of all of your praise. John 1:3
So, rejoice. Breathe. Laugh. Cry. Be silly. Your wedding day should be filled with hope and joy, much like our blessed hope in the day Christ will return in all His glory. Titus 2:11-14
Photographing Bridal Parties is one of the most intimidating aspects of wedding photography. How good are you at speed dating? You have 30 seconds to make them like you or at the very least listen to you. If you can do that then you have to make them smile or even better have a good time! People are more interested in how you make them feel and the experience you offer for the short 30 minutes to an hour than the ‘quality’ of images you produce. If you can combine fun, beauty, and speed to your bridal party photos people are not going to forget their experience with you.
For Katie and I, we generally attract outgoing, down-to-earth, laidback couples who have friends and family who know that their wedding photographs mean a great deal to them. Very often our couples request that their guests put their phones and cameras away so they can simply be present. Your bridal party is there to enhance their overall joy and excitement for the day. While I take the lead when it comes to bridal party photos, Katie is able to capture the in-between moments that happen on the side. These tend to me some of my most favorite images when culling through a wedding. Ideally, we like to overlap our coverage as much as possible. When Katie isn’t photographing the reception site directly after the ceremony, she is alongside me with her trusty 50mm.
A suggestion to our couples would be to come with ideas of where you would like to go and give us the freedom and time to create some great candid and posed bridal party images. We love suggestions and Pinterest boards to get a feel for the types of images the really speak to you as a person. For us, we like images that feel natural and unforced, yet have a stylized feel. Movement and location are really key. We like to shoot portraits a few hours before the sun goes down. As you can image, during the midday it can be difficult, especially for those who are sensitive to light or the heat. We want to keep everyone looking a feeling great. Secondly, we don’t want you to feel like your entire wedding day was spent in front of us! We like efficiency and truly want to focus on the two of you! Those are the photos that are going to grace your home and fill your album. Let’s make some fun memories and ensure that everyone has a great time. Wedding photography isn’t what it use to be!
After a full year photographing more weddings than we ever have before, we’re finally getting around to blogging some of our favorite images. Capturing details is one of our most favorite aspects of a wedding day. We realize that couples, wedding planners & stylists spend a large amount of time and resources perfecting the details that go into a wedding day. Katie and I like to start roughly 2.5 hours before the ceremony to ensure we have enough time for photograph not only the dress, shoes, and jewelry but also your venue and ceremony site decorations. Our goal is to capture all the details before our brides begin to get into their dress and to fully capture the locations sites before guests arrive and begin to make it their own. (That’s a kind way of saying completely demolish everyone hard work before the bride and groom even get to see it.) Maybe it’s a midwest thing, but couples should really make great strides to try and view their reception spaces before their guests arrive. Some venues have separate cocktail and serving areas which make this a possibility.
This year was the year of glitter & gold, which combined with rustic tablescapes, burlap sack coverings & vintage glass telephone insulators was a dream to photograph. Large bright florals with silk ribbon accents by our favorite local artist, Fawn Mueller, made for some incredible wedding bouquets that included elements and plants we had never seen before. Succulents and non-floral elements made their way into many -a- groom’s boutonniere in 2016. We expect this trend to extend into 2017.
The key to photographing wedding details is finding even diffused light in an area that is slightly removed from the getting-ready-area. Since most brides want to keep their wedding dress a surprise for the aisle, we have to work quickly and often under specific guidelines when photographing the dress. No pressure. You have 5 minutes to find a location, position, photograph, and deliver the dress back to the bridal suite without so much as a popped stitch. We always love a good challenge and default to keeping the dress in mint condition. Keep in mind that a wooden hanger makes a world of difference.
Lastly, don’t forget the rings and the invitation suite. We like to use these in conjunction with floral elements and items from various arrangements and accents from your wedding decor. Ultimately, we want all of your images to cohesively tell your story in anthology form. This really begins with the details. If all of these elements can be captured before the hustle of the day really begins, we can naturally focus on documenting the rest of the day as it unfolds. We encourage our brides to keep all of these details in a shoe box. This keeps everything in one place and ensures we don’t have to seek out items upon our arrival.