Katie and I have been married for 12 years! (gulp). I think that means we are getting older but I believe that is a good thing. I look back at our 21/20-year-old selves and think about how naive we were in just about every aspect of our lives. There was a reason NO ONE thought our marriage was a good idea, except for us. At the time, we had no game plan beyond that; we would figure things out as we went… and we did, but not without making a TON of mistakes. Thankfully, none of them were very costly, except for a $20,000 tax accounting error. Yes, 4 zeros!!! In spite of our mistakes, God’s grace in our lives and our belief that marriage is a lifelong commitment, we’ve made through nine babies, four houses/moves, one apartment, two dogs, two cats, fair fish, aquatic frogs, homeschooling, three businesses, job-loss, spinal meningitis, countless viral bugs, college, and I’m just scratching the surface. Life is crazy/beautiful. Sometimes more crazy than beautiful.
We wish I could sum up the total worth of what we have learned in what is just a drop in the bucket of the total breadth of our lives, Lord willing, (we want to be those people who annoy our children long into our 90s) however, the only word that seems to fit is PERSEVERANCE.
Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.
Over the last 10 years, Katie and I have had the honor and privilege of photographing hundreds of weddings side by side. Still, we can recall specific memories and couples who brought us tears or made our faces hurt with laughter. In part, we’ve believed we have had one of the greatest opportunities afforded to our generation; investing in marriage.
Frequently, we hear our couples say that their wedding day was a haze of fleeting moments amidst the crowd of family and friends. That is what emotions sometimes do, but that’s where we come in. There is a beauty within those subtle moments and our passion over the last decade has been to capture the phenomenon that is your wedding in stunning timeless photographs that you will cherish for a lifetime and generations that follow.
Together we create a first family’s first heirlooms; blending classic photojournalism with a fine art approach, our goal is to capture editorial-style images that can be displayed in anthology form.
We admit that we haven’t always invested in our marriage. We have only gone away a handful of times together. Each trip has been like a reset point; a moment to just pause. We’re able to reflect, find quiet, and process. This is so crucial and we’re so thankful for that time because it is so rare.
Rest. Something we’ve lost in our culture. Real unplugged rest. We’re finding balance too. How do we juggle #allthethings? Somethings are always in the air while one thing rests in your hand only for a moment. One really can’t multitask. You’re either doing one thing or you’re doing another, however, some of us have found ways to live in alignment largely with the help of technology. But there is a point, we all have it, where the noise and the productivity must end. We must be still. Wait. Listen.
I am so bad as this.
Maybe you’re like me. You feel lazy the instant you sit down and your phone isn’t in your hand or you don’t have a book or journal in your hand.
I was convicted of this as I reviewed my finances for 2019 and began planning for 2020. I’ve tried to set aside time each morning for devotions, prayer, meditation, and reflection and have come across the verses in scripture that speak of living by faith. What does that practically look like as I’m trying to make sense of ones and zeros, spreadsheets, and taxes?
Do I try harder? Should I give more? Should I work more? Should I work less? Maybe, I should stop trying altogether?
The silence only lasts so long in our home and listening for an answer from the Almighty isn’t as epic as I would sometimes like. Followers often don’t get Pauline encounters with Abba Father. Often it is much more subtle after long periods of nothing.
Peace. Joshua 1:9 – A promise that LORD our God is always with us. 2 Peter 1:3 – All things that pertain to life and godliness he has already granted us. This may not mean that everything is going to go our way, it most certainly will not, but when troubles come we are to remain joyful. “Let perseverance/steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
So, I pray. I continue to diligently work unto the LORD who has ordained good works for us to do. I still plan, but I give God the giant eraser, praying his will be done for his glory and not my own.
We continue to look for the beauty that surrounds us each day in the mundane and seek to find ways to remain grateful for all that we have, being content. This in and of itself is a daily struggle as we look to set goals for our life and aspire to bigger and better things.
Paul writes the early church that they are to love one another; even more than what they already had yet their ambition and goal was to live a quiet life dependent on no one. Isn’t that the goal for those of us who are entrepreneurs. We dream of self-sufficiency, free of debt, and make the freedom to write our days, but we can get caught up on the self and forget about the one who made us. We are his and we’re called to love others, not fall more in love with ourselves and the things we acquire.
Self-care is not the same as self-love. Marriages need some of one and less of the other. You can’t just take care of yourself and expect that your marriage is going to thrive, but what you can do is chase after the quiet times with God and his word and look for ways to love each other more, which often looks like the opposite of self-love. My wife is better at this than me. She just serves. Endlessly. But each evening we each take time for ourselves after longs days of schooling, work, meals, kids, and running. We realize this is the opposite for most people, they spend their time together at the end of the day, not us. We’re weird. But it works.
We’re still learning what it means to put God first and our marriage second. We’re still triaging the rest; whatever or whoever is bleeding gets the most attention. For all the ways we are insufficient, grace is enough for us and is enough for you too!
Blessings to you all this year!
James & Katie Stokes
Even though Summer is one of the biggest wedding seasons of the year, we can still expect to be seeing a lot of Fall and Winter weddings on the horizon. Whether you’re in the midst of planning a wedding yourself or are helping your best friend plan theirs, we all want every wedding to be a memorable celebration. Here are some unique wedding ideas to make your wedding an event to remember!
Have Your Pet Involved
For animal lovers out there who can’t stand the idea of getting married without their fur baby by their side, make an effort in including them on your wedding day. You can choose to have your animal serve as ring bearer, be beside you at the altar or just put him in the crowd as one of your guests. Not only will this be extra special for all animal lovers, but your pet will be a great addition to your wedding photos.
Have From Where You Come From
Did you grow up in Texas with the best nachos out there? Are you from New England where the oysters are also so fresh and delicious? Incorporate food based off where the two of you come from. This can be included in your appetizers or added into your dinner menu. Given that many of your guests will be familiar or have lived in the same area as you once before, this will mean a lot to them as well and will add a special homage to your hometowns.
Have Cocktail Napkins with Fun Facts
Is there a special song that the two of you share? Or a fun story about how your partner or you proposed? Add a personal touch to your cocktail napkins with a fun fact about you and your partner’s relationship. Not only will this serve as a funny and personal anecdote for your guests, but it will also add a more personal touch to your overall wedding experience.
Set Up a Tasting Bar
Are you and your partner both big fans of beer or wine? Set up a fun tasting bar with some of your favorite drinks and have your guests do a tasting of each kind. They’ll appreciate the different varieties offered and it will definitely serve as a fun reception activity.
Incorporate Colors into Your Wedding Look
As all eyes are on the bride as she walks down the aisle, incorporate different colors into your wedding day look for some added flair. This can be with including colored feathers into your hair, having a colored veil or having brightly colored jewelry such as emerald, red or yellow. You can even go as far as to dye parts of your tresses fun hair colors using a color conditioner such as this! No matter how you choose to add in more color, spicing up your hairstyle with additional colors will be just the thing that your guests remember.
Offer your Guests Comforts
Everyone loves a romantic outdoor wedding. But with chilly weather on the horizon, if you’re planning on marrying outdoors, offer each of your guest’s blankets, shades, and/or umbrella’s. The weather will always vary but doing something thoughtful for your guests will be much appreciated and keep them as cozy and as comfortable as possible. Whatever comforts you decide to use can also serve as part of your wedding favors, giving your guests something that’s always a necessity and something guaranteed they’ll use again.
Skip the Buffet for a Traditional Family Style Dinner
Are you planning on having a really intimate wedding? If so, skip the buffet or the typical three-course dinner and opt for a traditional family-style dinner instead. Doing so will only make your wedding feel that much more intimate and will have all your guests interacting with one another.
One of the best ways to say thank you is with a personalized gift. What better than a diamond bracelet for those closest to you. Moms are a huge part of a wedding day and sometimes they can feel lost in the shuffle. Jewelry is a unique way to make your wedding unique and add a little extra sparkle in the eyes of those you love!
Skip the Place Cards
Instead of using paper place cards, write the name of each guest’s spot on the reception table itself. Depending on the kind of wood or fabric used for your reception tables, you can do this with chalk or paint. This will be a fun game for your guests to play and will definitely serve as a unique take on traditional place cards.
Skip the Menu Stationery
The same can go for your menu stationery. If you want to do something different besides traditional menu cards, use something like charcuterie boards instead! You can etch each board with a calligraphed version of what your guests can expect to see on the menu. This will be a nice intimate touch especially if you’re planning on having a more rustic themed wedding.
Spice up the Traditional Guestbook
Even though we often see a guestbook at weddings, more times than not, they end up stashed in the back of a closet and rarely again looked at. If you want to make your version of a guestbook actually memorable and something you’ll admire often, use something different than the traditional guestbook. If you’re both big fans of wine, have your guests each sign a wine cork that’s made into a romantic sign like a heart or of you and your partner’s name. If in need of more ideas, here are some more unique guest book ideas for couples!
Give Your Guests Recommendations
Are you having your wedding in a beautiful and touristy town? After the wedding is over, set up your guests with a fun scavenger hunt or a list of places they should try to visit. Whether it’s restaurants, bars, museums or some decent shopping areas, this will give your guests the chance to enjoy the town and see everything it has to offer.
Have to Go Cake Boxes
Oftentimes, your guests always go the most in on the entrees, appetizers, and cocktails that they hardly have any more room for dessert. Since it often seems as if the cake is the least eaten thing and the biggest of the entire wedding, give each one of your guests to go cake boxes! This will be much appreciated by your guests and also not leave you and your partner with a massive amount of leftovers.