Rachel + Mike // A Sea Pines Resort Wedding on Hilton Head Island

Being a good wedding photographer isn't just about taking beautiful photographs. It's not just about knowing how to operate your camera. It's not about knowing the perfect poses to make your couple look like models. It's not about being able to take the perfect detail shots, finding the perfect place to hang the dress, knowing just how to arrange the invitation suite for that perfect flat lay shot. While all of these things may contribute to your ability to capture a wedding day thoroughly, being a good wedding photographer is about so much more than these things.

Being a good wedding photographer is about presence. It's about being aware and present in each moment of a wedding day. It's about noticing. It's about bringing a sense of calm and peace to a wedding day, not being one more potential stress factor on your couple's big day. You are potentially with your bride and groom more than anyone else on the wedding day, so your presence, and the vibes you carry with you, are very important.  Being a good wedding photographer is about pointing toward something greater - a narrative bigger than yourself, and it's about helping each couple see the value and beauty of their own unique story.

Rachel and Mike invited us into their story and allowed us to do just that. It was such a gift to be a part of their day and to know that we had their complete trust. 

In the middle of Mike and Rachel's first look, after we guided them through a time of reflection on the day and the commitment they were about to make to one another, Mike (who is a psychologist, mind you) turned to me and asked, "Do you guys practice mindfulness, or is the way you direct just a part of your personalities?"

Pause. This is one of the biggest compliments we've received in our career (especially coming from someone who is well acquainted with the practice of mindfulness!) We truthfully don't have a steady mindfulness practice, although it's something I've dabbled with and resonate deeply with when I give it the time (and mindfulness - hah!) that it requires. But this idea of slowing down, being present, and noticing the little things is exactly what we hope our couples take away after interacting with us. We hope that they can look back on their wedding day feeling, not that it was a complete blur, but that they were encouraged to soak it all in - the big moments and the little ones alike. We hope that they look back feeling that they were fully present with one another, instead of rushing through a checklist of the day's events.

Sometimes we wonder if being wedding photographers is even what we're meant to be doing, since much of our "why" has absolutely nothing to do with the photos. But, as we mentioned in an earlier post, our cameras are our ticket into this intimate space of a wedding day. They serve as our free pass to enter in, be present, and most importantly to invite our couples to do the same.

Rachel and Mike, thank you for inviting us in. Thank you for letting us do our thing. Thank you for fully embracing the big moments and the little ones on your wedding day. It was truly a privilege to photograph and film your celebration.

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Many thanks to everyone who made Rachel and Mike's day so beautiful!

Coordinator: Tracey Mancini of Sea Pines Resort

Hair and Makeup: Eye Do Makeup and Hair Design

Dress: Pronovias from I Do... I Do... in Morristown, NJ

Invitations: Paper and Lace

Ketubah: Ketubah.com

Other Paper Goods: Minted

Florals: Tracey Inglesby of Flowers by Freshcuts

Ceremony Venue: Atlantic Room at Sea Pines Beach Club

Officiant: Rev. Christopher Mietlowski

Cocktail Hour Venue: 18th Lawn of Harbour Town Golf Course

Reception Venue: Harbour Town Clubhouse

Live Band: We Got the Beat

Catering: Sea Pines Resort

Cake: Sea Pines Resort

Photography and Video: Grain & Compass

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Audreyanna + Aaron // A Duke Mansion Wedding

Audreyanna and Aaron are absolute treasures.

They got married at one of the most elegant venues in Charlotte, and with the help and extraordinary vision of their coordinator, Ashley Snider, were able to incorporate their own fun, whimsical style into the day. Each of the details was simply stunning, from the bouquets and table décor, to the garland over the arbor, to THAT CAKE!

But what we loved most about this day was Audreyanna and Aaron’s continual focus on what was most important to them about their wedding day – their commitment to one another and the foundation of their faith that has brought them both together. At each turn in the day they were pointing back to the Lord and his work in orchestrating their relationship, bringing them together, and surrounding them by the love and support of their friends and families.

We truly see our job as wedding photographers as much more than “just taking pictures.” We take on the responsibility of helping each of our couples slow down, soak up their day, and begin to realize the magnitude and the beauty of the commitment they are making to one another. When we have a couple like Audreyanna and Aaron who already “get” that, we feel like we can help them enter into that even further.

Obviously our job as wedding photographers is to take beautiful photographs, and to capture the moments that happen before our lenses. But we’ve found that if we were just capturing pretty pictures we could be done shooting weddings tomorrow. That’s truly not what it’s about for us. The photographs are the means to an end. They are our ticket into the intimacy of our couple’s story and relationship – the free pass to step past small talk and get to the good stuff.

Audrey and Aaron – thank you for trusting us completely and for letting us “get to the good stuff” with you.

 

Vendors:

Venue: The Duke Mansion

Coordinator: Ashley Snider of Events Without a Hitch

Hair: Lizzy Rivera of Ups and Dos

Makeup: Pam Dalpiaz

Dress: Monique Lhuillier from Hayden Olivia Bridal in Charlotte

Florals: The Place for Flowers

Officiant: Wes McMurray

Cake: Sky's the Limit Bridal Sweets

Catering: The Duke Mansion

Band: The Royal Suits

Photography: Grain & Compass

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Christine + Daniel // A Fishermen's Inn Winter Wedding

Christine and Daniel. Their day was like something from a dream. Visually it was simply spectacular - from the winter decor and the beautiful snow that began falling during their ceremony, to the gorgeous florals by Summit Street Blooms, to their take on a unity candle ceremony - with a nod to Christmas Eve candlelight services, to Christine and Daniel and their bridal party and the way everything came together. But the visual beauty of their day is not where it ends.

Christine and Daniel's day had an almost poetic quality to it. The way their story has been woven together since before they knew one another, the words they shared with us about each another and how those were echoed so strongly by the words her sister and his brother spoke over them during the reception, even the smallest of details such as Daniel's ring - significant and meaningful in so many ways.

Daniel chose a ring that was inlaid with wood, something he always knew he wanted. You'll hear his brother share an analogy that fits so well with even that small decision. The wood in his ring is Koa wood, which is native to Samoa, where Daniel's dad is from. The surrounding metal is called Damascus steel, named after Damascus in Syria, which is where Christine's father was born. It wasn't until after they had purchased the ring when they were picking up their marriage certificate, and were asked where their fathers were born, that they realized the connection to both locations and Daniel's ring.  To Daniel, having his ring crafted from these two materials symbolized the blessing and guidance of both of their fathers on and for their marriage. What a beautiful story woven into such a small detail of their wedding day.

Truthfully, it's hard to do justice to a story like Christine and Daniel's. Our attempts to share every detail and piece of their story seem to come up short in what is a bigger and more beautiful narrative than we can explain through our photos and video. When we celebrate with a couple on their wedding day, it's a celebration of so much more than those few hours. It's sharing the joy with them of all that has led up to that day, and hoping with them in all that they will get to experience and share together each and every day after that. We're so grateful these two invited us into their wedding day, trusted our process and the time it took to tell their story right, and we are beyond thrilled to share their day and their story with you now.

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Vendors: 

Ceremony and Reception Venue: Fishermen's Inn

Hair/Makeup: Frank Gironda

Paper Goods: Saints & Charley

Place Cards and Calligraphy: Callie Geeslin of Calliegraphy

Florist: Summit Street Blooms

DJ: Music By Design

Officiant: Gabe Mulitauopele & Rob Bugh

Cake: The Cakery in Wheaton

Photography and Videography: Grain and Compass

 

 

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Molly + Johann // A Gloucester Wedding

Molly and Johann's story is such a special one for us to share. These two met at a wedding we filmed a few years ago - you may remember Juliana and Jeremiah's wedding film. Johann is Jeremiah's brother and was one of his groomsmen. Molly is Juliana's best friend and stood up with her as a bridesmaid. Molly and Johann "snuck off" for their first date after Jeremiah and Juliana's wedding, and the rest is history. What a joy for us to have been there right at the beginning (and even to have captured a glimpse of what was to come).

Molly and Johann had their first look upon the rocks overlooking the ocean - I think her words were, "I can scramble up the rocks, and I don't care if my dress rips! I want to get great photos!" What a gift to us as photographers! This day was such a treasure to photograph. Molly and Johann have such a sweet love for one another. We especially loved the time they took right before their reception to reflect on the day, take a little breather before the party, and to soak up a little time together in the middle of it all. That's what it's all about. Not all couples think they have the time on their day to do this, but it's well worth setting aside a few minutes to simply be together.

We hope you enjoy this immensely special love story.

Ceremony Venue: 1st Congregational Church of Hamilton
Reception Venue: Cruiseport Gloucester
Hair/Makeup: Libby Pepin
Florist: Nature's Design
DJ: Eduardo Alves
Officiant: David Horn
Catering: Vinwood Catering
Photography and Videography: Grain & Compass

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Choosing Less to Allow for More

It's easy to get caught up in the doing more, being more, experiencing more trap of being a photographer or even just a creative in general. If you're on social media at all it feels like you need to measure up, to be all things to all people, to prove your worth in a sea of voices louder than your own. It's exhausting. Even when you know you have something good to say, it's often exhausting to even think of trying to say it amidst the noise. There are so many "shoulds" out there. You should be doing this on your social media or that for your marketing campaign. Your reach is suffering if you don't have an email list and a weekly newsletter. Have you attended the latest workshops and weighed in on the most recent webinar? Are you up to speed with the latest SEO for your website? Are you blogging weekly? Fill in the blank with whatever nagging advice you feel you should be doing right now.

Sometimes (a lot of times) it becomes too much. We find ourselves spread too thin, neglecting the things that are most important, while trying to please people we don't even know, and for what? A few more likes? Another email subscriber? Some clicks to your website?

What if what we really need is less? Less noise. Less strategy. Less clamor. And more of what matters. More connection. More soul. More depth. 

Lately Tim and I have been choosing less. We've taken a lengthy break from blogging as we've been working on a new website (update: this is the new site!), we've started growing our family, we've shifted our priorities, and in the midst of all this we've been learning more of what's important to us. It's taken this big step back to see everything - our business, our lives, our relationships - from a distance, to realize the value and beauty of what we have. 

Choosing less noise and less busy with our business has allowed for more of what matters in other areas of our lives. More time with our family, more deep conversation, more meaningful connections, and more of exploring the things that give us life. 

What we get to do through capturing our couples' stories is an extraordinary gift. We are so grateful for each and every person that has trusted us behind the camera. Our creative journey has been fun and challenging, pushing us to ask hard questions and constantly learn and grow. Seeing our business from a distance has also helped us find some sense of balance between work and rest. Our office is across the hall from our bedroom and next door to the nursery, so it's hard to feel like we can truly step away from our work to rest. It's become necessary to rest though. 

And adding a little one to the equation has put an entirely different perspective on our time. We've come to value our own time so much more. We don't want to spend hours upon hours in front of the computer. We'd rather spend them with each other and with Beckett. So we've been asking ourselves - how can we use our time well? 

One of the best ways we know how to balance our time is to take on less, to say no to things (even ones we'd love to say yes to), and to set a limit on how many weddings and how many sessions we do. By saying no to some things we can more fully invest in the wedding days, sessions, and projects that we've said yes to. Rather than getting burnt out by photographing one too many wedding days, we plan to say fresh and energized, resting well between each wedding, being fully present with each of our couples on their day. This choosing less allows us to dig deeper into each story, to truly experience the heart of a wedding day, to savor and soak in each moment and encourage our bride and groom to do the same. 

In the new year we're releasing a new website that has been a long time coming. (Update: You've found it! Welcome!!) Our friend Matt Daniels has done an extraordinary job creating a new logo and new website for us and we are so excited to share it with you. We keep joking that it's the grownup version of Grain & Compass. In a lot of ways it's that "less" we've been looking for. Less noise, less of "trying" so hard, less striving to be all things to all people. It's more of who we really are. More depth. More story. More focus. More confidence in declaring what we are and what we're not. 

We've been reluctant to say goodbye to our old brand - in a way it feels like saying goodbye to an old friend. But it has served us well, brought us so many sweet couples, and taught us a lot about who we are and who we want to be. We want to care deeply for each of our couples, we want to work smarter and more efficiently while providing each wedding our full attention, we value our time as a little family of three so we'll be taking on a limited number of weddings next year and a very limited number of video-specific weddings. (Update: we are no longer booking additional video weddings. It's time for us to focus on just photography again.) Some people would see this as a step backward for our business, as if we should constantly be doing more and more weddings, but we see it as freedom. Freedom to invest fully in each one of our couples, freedom to devote our attention more wholly to each wedding, and the freedom to provide each bride and groom with our undivided care and love on their wedding day and the highest quality photos and video we can give them. 

Letting go of our current identity and growing into this new one feels so significant and we're beyond excited for this new chapter of our creative journey. We hope you'll join us!

This post also serves as a look back at 2016. These are a few of our favorite images from this past year.

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