We ended 2020 with a blog post wrapping up the year and talking about 2021 trends in elopements. I am so stoked for the year ahead capturing love stories. I want to start this year on a positive vibe level, you know what I mean?! Last year someone asked me on a call, why are you an elopement photographer? I did a lot sole searching to really answer this. Part of my “why” for how my elopement business is structured is “to give people a place and the space to freely express themselves to each other.” I could be doing this with portrait sessions, but I chose working with couples because I truly believe in love and have always been profoundly drawn to marriage/long lasting love. Finding that person that is your forever partner and growing into that relationship as life goes on is the highest goal to me in life. Now I could take this why and this passion and just shoot weddinga, but I don’t, I only shoot elopements. So why? Simple. I truly believe the best way, as in the most authentic, raw and free, way to start off your marriage is eloping. I believe the locations you elope are powerful enough to make hold each other closer, to allow you feel and express yourself. I believe adventure elopements are stress free, emotive, focused on the reason for the day and beautiful.
I want to start off this year with a gift or inspiration you could say. Since strong marriage is something that really pushes me in this business and all of you are entering marriage I wanted to share a blog post of love stories, advice and more from married couples who have made it 35+ years and are still happily doing life together. So I spent the last month or so documenting some of these love stories, chatting and asking questions to these couples. I hope this blog post inspires you, reminds you how to get through the tough times and helps your love keep growing in marriage. Below are my interviews with seven couples I got the chance to speak to. On your elopement day you have a long life ahead of you in marriage, just remember there is always growth and learning to be had.
Listening to each couples stories, spending time with and reading their answers I learned there was a few things they all had in common: they all spent time traveling together, almost all mentioned counseling and being your best self to be the best partner, being able to laugh with each other, having similar values and goals but also having your own activities/self.
A saying I starting saying in revelation to a good marriage after these projects was:
In life you go through ups and downs, you have bad days, bad weeks and maybe bad years. You know what though? You never give up on yourself, you always work to improve. So in a marriage you may have a bad day, bad week and maybe a bad year, but you shouldn’t give up on your relationship or partner. The most beautiful things in life, take hard work.
Married: 35 years
Dated how long before marriage: friends for 1 year, dated a few months before engaged and then married!
How did you know they were the one?
We did things as friends since I was new to the area. I had a personal “rule” to never date someone I worked with. We enjoyed playing racquetball, going downtown Chicago to Jazz clubs & spent time checking out things in Chicago. I was originally going to fix him up with a friend from college, since I never planned to get married. After about a year of doing fun things together, I changed my mind & thought it’d be good to date and move the relationship forward. I had grown in love with him. I had dated many different guys in college and afterward. I knew that R was a guy with the qualities I valued, and we could build a good life together. R had not done much dating, so he wasn’t sure he wanted to get serious. We stopped seeing each other for a month, so that he could figure out what he wanted. After that time, we dated another couple of months, then got engaged in June & married 6 months later.
What is their marriage advice to you?
K: WHEN you’re frustrated with him, let him know what’s going on inside your head/heart with a phrase like “when you do xx, the story I’m telling myself is … because…”. R: Agreed, also be courageous enough to enter your partner’s world. Get to know their perspective, why they see the world the way that they do. Know their hurts, fears, hopes and dreams to provide comfort, compassion and a positive future.
What are things that helped them navigate through the hard times?
K: Going to counseling personally (individually) and working on my own stuff. Being committed to God to work on myself, and be honest with R, about what I’m feeling (and why)
R: Yes! Both of us have spent time on individual counseling. We also spend time building relationships with others who want to work positively on their marriages. Also, notice the “small bids” for connection that your spouse presents, often several times a day. And, manage your self-talk, especially when you are being a jerk. Stop and admit to yourself, and to your partner that “I’m being a jerk right now, I’m sorry.”
Married: 45 years
Dated how long before marriage: We didnt really date, we were living in a communal area overseas. Once we became a couple he proposed in less than 1 month.
How did you know they were the one: When I realized I couldn't imagine not being with her everyday for the rest of my life.
What was your wedding like: We more or less eloped. It was in a little Pentecostal church in Birmingham, England, none of our families were there, but the church members made us feel like they had adopted us. It was my hippy wedding. I wore fresh flowers in my hair, a beautiful lace and Muslim dress, and I wrote the whole wedding.
What is your wedding advice or things that helped you through the hard times?
There is no one answer to it. But, learning how to forgive, be willing to change, and nobody will believe this, but things will be very different than what you imagine. Don't look to your partner to provide you happiness. Counseling, self examination, learning to be honest about my insecurities. Do not let small annoyances build up into resentments by not addressing them.
What is one of your favorite memories together?
An evening in Paris. We were at a small restaurant and it was near closing time. We were sitting next to the bar and we had a meal and a bottle of wine. Music was playing and we stood up by our table and began to slow dance. As we were dancing the bartender lowered the lights and when we finished everyone working behind the bar applauded.
Married: 60 years
Dated before marriage: We met in college and started dating for 2 years before our engagement.
How did you know they were the one: We just realized we wanted to go through this journey of life together.
What was your wedding like:
Our wedding was in August of 1960. It was with a small group of family and friends. We gather for the reception in the church parlor.
Advice to Newly Weds:
Be patient and let the new relationship grow and strengthen. Keep a sense of humor too. We each have continued to have our own activities outside of the paired interest in our relationship. Inertia moved us through the tough times - just keep moving forward. A backward look helps you to see how far you have come.
What are some thoughts on have on marriage today?
Some people come to marriage thinking it’s all sunshine and roses it is NOT always great - you have to preserver, but, if you do, now we can look back at 60 years of marriage. We are enjoying our retirement with half of our family here with us in AZ. We have four grand daughters, two of which who are completing their second year of college. Their younger sisters are headed in the same direction. It is one of the greatest joys to wonder what they will achieve. We are hoping to do more travel while we can still manage it.
Married: 35.5 years
Dated how long before marriage: We dated one year before getting engaged. We lived together another year before we got married.
How did you know this was the one?
I decided that F was the one because she was an amazing person. M was very international, born in Spain and raised in Venezuela. I was enamored with this mysterious aspect of him.
What was your Wedding Like?
M: We were living in Ft Collins, CO going to graduate school and the wedding was in Grand Junction where her Mom lived. Some of our friends drove across the mountains to attend.
F: Our wedding was relatively simple as compared to weddings today. We attempted to blend our two cultures and languages by saying vows in each other’s languages. We also chose a variety of Latin and country music. It was a little unconventional, but fun.
What is your biggest relationship advice to newly weds?
M: Be prepared for tough times and don’t throw in the towel when things get rough.
F: The marriage is more important than the wedding.
What do you think is something folks dont talk about when it comes to marriage, but is important to creating a long lasting relationship?
M: We are very different but we have similar values and goals. I think identifying this before is important.
F: Yes, I agree that similar values and goals are important. Having an understanding about how the other manages money and spending/ saving habits is something that we did not talk about when we were young, but it would have been helpful.
Married: 42 years
Dated before getting married: 5 years
How did you know this was the one?
After 1 1/2 months into our relationship, we knew we wanted to spend our lives together. It wasn't a conscious decision, but something we both just knew.
What was your wedding like?
We eloped to the mountains, picked wildflowers for my hair by the side-of-the road, and were married in a small town. My brother and his wife were our only attendees. It was a very simple wedding, it was the happiest day of our lives.
What words do you have to say about Marriage and making it last?
Husband's comments: Marriage is not about you and what you want - it's about loving your spouse. Always be protective of your spouse. Don't come into marriage with expectations.
Wife's comments: Treasure one another, for your spouse is the most important person in your life. Give each other the freedom to be their self and to continue growing. Support their dreams and interests. Be committed - working together you will come through the rough times. Apologize when you should and forgive one another. Your words and actions have a lasting impact on your marriage. Being married to my husband is the best thing that ever happened to me. He is the love of my life, my best friend, my soulmate, my home. He still takes my breath away and I can't believe how blessed I am. Even though we have both changed a lot through the years, our love for one another is stronger than ever and continues to grow and deepen.
Married: 36 years!
Dated before marriage: We dated roughly 3 1/2 married before marrying. Engaged for little over a year.
How did you know this was the one?
I think within the first year or so of dating, I knew this was the guy. Neither of us had dated much before so we didn’t have much relationship experience. What we both did have were great parents, who themselves had long successful marriages, as roll models. Mark was respectful of me and my family. An example: Before we started dating, (we had only just met ~ he was a college senior, I a freshman and we had mutual friends in our dorm), he drove through my hometown to go visit another friend in a neighboring town during spring break. He found my house, no one was home. He left a note for me, and a box of chocolates for my mom! Mark moved out of state for a job after graduation, about 8 hours from college. He’d drive down after work on a Friday night, stay Saturday, and head back on Sunday ~ just to see me! By the way, he’d stay with friends, never in my room! As I said, respectful! He was so kind, treated me like a queen, and always looked at me with such love. Mark was fun to be with and we shared so much fun and we could always make each other laugh! I knew from watching my own parents, laughter would be key down the road! I knew by the way he was with his parents, especially his mom, he’d know how to be a good husband and father. I always felt warm and safe when I was with him ~ my heart skipped, and still does!
After 36 years of surviving many joys and several sorrows, what is my best relationship advice?
My first bit of advice ~ Don’t take it all too serious! Do listen to each other, do respect each other’s views and opinions. Always have each other’s back! Be each other’s best friend. Make each other laugh every day and be ok with laughing at each other. Humor will get you through a lot. Enjoy having mutual interests & doing things together, but give each other space for your own friends and interests. That being said, honestly, it’s ok to go to bed mad. You will have arguments, he/she will make you nuts from time to time, and it’s very stressful trying to fix it quickly so you can go to bed. Sometimes it actually is good to sleep on it ~ morning can bring a whole new perspective!
We have definitely had our share of tough times, some came with lots of discussion and arguments and some due to the heartaches of life. For us, we often slept on it, rethought our positions and discussed again. Honestly, looking back, I’m not sure how we navigated and survived the toughest times. I just know that at the end of the day, there was mutual love and respect and a desire to have the best outcome for whatever the problem. I will say, while not wealthy people, we’ve never had money issues, which can be a huge source of tough times. Raising children is another area that can cause issues. Whatever the issues, it helps if you can decide on what you want the outcome to be, have a common goal and work toward it.
Often, couples are in love, the relationship is new and exciting and they just want to get to the wedding. Couples don’t necessarily talk about long term expectations for their relationship and their views on the big things that can cause issues down the road. Money, raising children, religion, jobs, relocating, aging parents, illness, etc.! It’s important for the success of a long lasting relationship to talk about your views on the major issues that WILL pop up in most people’s lives. Make sure you are somewhat compatible!
Is there anything else you want to share on Marriage?
My husband & I waited till we were married to sleep together. Yes, a bit old fashion, but it was 1984, and we were raised Catholic, and I still had a healthy fear of my mom! 😂 I mention this because so often I hear younger friends & co-workers discuss dating today. They say by the 3rd date ~ you sleep with the guy/girl. They seem to put a high premium on sexual compatibility being a sign of overall compatibility. I’ve heard, “if the sex isn’t good, it’s a no go”. Don’t get me wrong, sex IS important, but great sex comes when you find great love! When the real issues arise in a marriage, sex is not going to fix things.
I thought on our wedding day I loved my Mark as much as I could ever possibly love him. So wrong! My love was one dimensional in the beginning. We were young and healthy with not a care in the world! Once we had to navigate the tough times, the sad times, the joyous times ~ my love grew and grew exponentially! Our shared experiences, good and bad, have made our marriage special and long lasting.
Married: 31 years
Dated before marriage: We met in 1989 while in school, we dated until January 20, 1990. We got married as Seniors in High School. We lived with my parents in Cullowhee and drove over 30 miles each way to attend school until we graduated high school.
How did you know this was the one?
When I got saved (gave heart to Jesus) at her dad’s church. Her answer: Within a c couple of dates; I knew. There were so anything we had in common.
What was your wedding like?
Our wedding was…..borrowed. lol Literally the wedding dress, the bridesmaid dresses, etc, was borrowed from another couple; and our first set of rings belonged to my parents. The reception was given to us by my dad’s church (he was a Pastor). Yet everything matched and was beautiful.
What is your advice to newly weds?
Her answer: Don’t stress over small stuff! Everyone disagrees, everyone has fights; it’s not the end of the world nor is it the end of your marriage. If you have a solid foundation where you truly love each other you will make it. And continue to date and court each other. His answer: Happy Wife; Happy Life! Remembering God, family and friends in the hard times helps. The realization that “this too shall pass.” And “Joy comes in the morning.”
What do you think is something folks don’t talk about when it comes to marriage, but is important to creating a long-lasting relationship?
I think one of the biggest challenges is “we are all different.” We don’t necessarily want or need the same things. However, just because my list of wants and needs doesn’t exactly match Kevin’s; it doesn’t make his needs less important than mine. (Those can be sexual needs, physical, emotional or material needs)
One of your favorite memories together?
I remember when we got married as Seniors in high school; I was pregnant. Kevin was earning $150 a week! Within a year of our marriage we bought our first home. It was small but perfect for us. We brought three girls home from the hospital to that home. Years later, we sold that home and built a new house. In January of 2012 we received a phone call asking if we were ready to bring a new baby home from the hospital. Even though we were in a very different place in life at this point (we were expecting a new grandbaby and our youngest was about to graduate from high school) we did not hesitate. We prayed and sought God’s advice and direction over the next few days. We knew if God had truly sent this baby to us then we had an obligation to go get her and to raise her. Ever since that day I can not begin to explain how God has turned our lives around. Not only has this little girl brought so much happiness to our whole family and everyone who knows her; but God has blessed our family in ways I cannot explain. He truly showed us once again that if we will attempt to serve him and obey him he will take care of our needs; he has done that and then some!
Read “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman. Here’s the short video overview: https://youtu.be/knBJGNisJS0
Books by Louise Hay on loving yourself and life.
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson
5 Love Languages
I am an elopement planner and photographer based in Sedona, AZ, but I travel all over the Western part of the states in my van (with my cat, Indy) capturing wildly authentic wedding days. Your story deserves to be told in the most real way and you deserve a wedding day dedicated to your relationship in a way that celebrates the bond you have over what society tells us the day is supposed to be <3