Rustic Winter Wedding in Monroe, MI: Brooke + Ben

Brooke + Ben's Monroe, MI wedding began our 2015 wedding season on a snow covered March afternoon while the warm sun streamed through the skinny tree branches. Brooke and Ben's love story began in high school and 7 years later the ones that got away, came back together more in love than ever as they were truely meant to be. 10 years to the day from Brooke and Ben's first date, this reunited couple stood up in front of their close family and friends and promised to be there for each other for the rest of their lives.

Brooke + Ben you both have beautiful hearts and your love (and silliness) for each other was reflected in all the details and moments throughout your wedding at the Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe, MI and at the reception at the Stone Creek Banquet Facility in Flat Rock, MI. I am honored to have been among your close family and friends on this very special day in your life and relationship.

Love Always,

Courtney Carolyn

(Want to see more of their complete wedding story? See the full slideshow here.)

Brooke prepared for the day at her family home, where her faithful (and adorable) dog, Fred, kept watch by the door.

Brooke prepared for the day at her family home, where her faithful (and adorable) dog, Fred, kept watch by the door.

Wearing comfortable shoes was a must for their wedding day, and their Converse shoes were one of a kind, adorned with their last name, which the Mother of the Bride hand stitched herself.

Wearing comfortable shoes was a must for their wedding day, and their Converse shoes were one of a kind, adorned with their last name, which the Mother of the Bride hand stitched herself.

I had to contain a laugh when Brooke placed - or should I say smacked - her hands over Ben's eyes during the first look, although Ben didn't seem to mind.

I had to contain a laugh when Brooke placed - or should I say smacked - her hands over Ben's eyes during the first look, although Ben didn't seem to mind.

Brooke told me during the wedding planning,   "I still can't believe I am going to marry this man, who two years ago I never believed I'd even get to see him again."

Brooke told me during the wedding planning, "I still can't believe I am going to marry this man, who two years ago I never believed I'd even get to see him again."

It's hard to believe Ben's first pick-up line to Brooke wasn't,   "You have beautiful eyes,"   but instead he lead with,   "So, do you have a microwave?"

It's hard to believe Ben's first pick-up line to Brooke wasn't, "You have beautiful eyes," but instead he lead with, "So, do you have a microwave?"

"I absolutely love Courtney's style. The quality is exceptional and I love the soft and sweet feel she gives to the photos."

"I absolutely love Courtney's style. The quality is exceptional and I love the soft and sweet feel she gives to the photos."

Photos aside, how do you envision your wedding to be like?

"Since it is going to be towards the end of winter, we decided to embrace the cold weather and do a snow/forest theme. Lots of candles, spruce and pine cones with artificial snow. I imagine a very simple and sweet ceremony, and quirky but fun reception. We are a couple of goofs so don't expect anything super rigid and uptight."

"We found our homes in the wrinkled corners of each other’s souls."   - Sarah Schwab

"We found our homes in the wrinkled corners of each other’s souls." - Sarah Schwab

Many (many) thanks to the talented team who were a part of creating this beautiful wedding

Ceremony Venue: Redeemer Fellowship Church, Monroe, MI

Reception Venue: Stone Creek Banquet Hall, Flat Rock, MI

Cake: Cakes by Stephanie

Music: DJ Andrew

Photographer: Courtney Carolyn Photography

Fall Wedding at Concorde Inn, Clinton Township, MI: Samantha + Brent

As a tall, beautiful, young woman walked into the room with her brown wavy hair falling softly around her face, framing her green eyes, Brent thought to himself, "Oh yeah, she's in my league," speaking of Sam and not long after that they shared their first kiss in the basement of the Theta Chi fraternity basement. Sam is one of the warmest, most lovable people I have ever known and I think Brent, who is funny, kind, and laid-back, is lucky to call my Chi Omega sister his wife.

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The day Sam and Brent exchanged vows was a perfect September day in the fall at the Concorde Inn in Charter Township of Clinton, Michigan. Sam was surrounded by her closest friends and family as she prepared for the ceremony with the movie "Animal House" playing in the background on the TV - so fitting for this greek bride and groom I think! - as her cheeks were swiped with blush and her lips blotted. Brent started the day off at home with his groomsmen and family and while tying his bow tie and figuring out the complexity that is cuff links, the family's cute Brittnay Spaniel danced around everyone in excitement for the upcoming vows.

Although Brent loves it when Sam wears flats, on your wedding day, shoes are almost as important as the dress and Sam wore Anne Klein heels, customized by the bride herself with a little shout out to her Chi Omega sisters. Sam walked down the aisle with her father to "Can't Help Falling in Love" and happy tears were shared by all as this couple took their marriage vows and exchanged their bling. Then the celebration really began as guests, all family and close friends, danced the night away enjoying the personalized M&Ms and shot glass favors, got silly in the photo booth, tossed bean bags in games of corn hole, and as laughter and an out pouring of love permeated the air.

Sam and Brent...you are two of the nicest, most kind, and lovely people I've had the chance to work with and call friends. Your families are amazing and I can't thank you enough for allowing me to document your love. The love you share makes those around you better. I wish you nothing but the best together...and enjoy Jamaica!

Love Always,

Courtney Carolyn

5 Lessons from Dating my Boyfriend of 4 years

Today, October 23rd 2014, marks a historical day in my personal life. I have officially been dating my boyfriend, Scott, for four years. We celebrated last night by going out to a nice dinner at Red Lobster and I only managed to embarrass Scott and myself once.

Our first big date at the Theta Chi Formal in Canada - Courtney 19, Scott 21

Our first big date at the Theta Chi Formal in Canada - Courtney 19, Scott 21

After we ordered and started digging in to the heavenly garlic butter biscuts, our waitress, Jennifer, asked, "Are you two dining in tonight for any special reason?" and me being me said, "Yup! It's our 4 year anniversary." She wished us congrats and went about to her other tables and we didn't really think it was that big a deal until she returned to announce, "As a special congratulations, we are going to complimentarily give you any of our sharable desserts tonight.", with a very friendly twinkle in her eye. Scott and I sat there looking at each other and then thanked her for that nice offer and said we'd order something once we had finished eating. But then the manager came over.

The manager came out to wish us a happy 4 year WEDDING anniversary. She said, "Wow married for four years congrats!." I quickly corrected her by saying, "Oh no not wedding anniversary, dating anniversary." The words sort of fell lamely out of my mouth, as suddenly it seemed like dating for four years wasn't all that big a deal. It felt this way to me because the manager quickly followed up with an "Oh, Well. Congrats on your four year . . dating . . anniversary. Enjoy your evening.", and she hurried away, but not before I saw her face contort at the word "dating" and the way she slowly stumbled over her response. Scott and I sheepishly hid our faces behind our water glasses and decided we were too full to accept the dessert, and even to full to take it home with us.

Just hanging out at an Adrian College football game - our alma mater

Just hanging out at an Adrian College football game - our alma mater

Scott said, "There's always something with you," referring to me and my incapacity to just have a boring, uneventful evening. I replied, "I said four year anniversary! I didn't say wedding anniversary and besides our hands are sitting right here - no rings. They assumed marriage and now we feel bad."

The whole evening I began reflecting on my and Scott's relationship over the last 4 years - has it been that long? - and what I have discovered about dating the same man for four years and about relationships in general. I have summed these thoughts up into lessons for every year I've been in this relationship (plus 1 for the year I new Scott before we became "official").

We make goofy faces . . .   a lot.

We make goofy faces . . . a lot.

Lesson 1 - You know you have a keeper when your boyfriend doesn't scare easily.

When I first met Scott, I didn't have as clean a break from my ex-boyfriend as I might have thought or that I had hoped for. Scott was there for me at a time that was very stressful and he always reassured me that he wasn't going anywhere and that he didn't care about my past with this guy. A lot of guys don't want to deal with potential "drama" of ex-boyfriends, but Scott said I was worth the inital drama to get to a place where we could just start fresh as "us" Courtney and Scott. (I think I heard Nicolas Sparks typewritter chime in approval of these sentiments.)

Lesson 2 - You know you have a keeper when your boyfriend is good in an emergency.

Remember Scott's thoughts on me never having a dull moment? Well in our second year of dating, my off-campus apartment complex caught fire and basically burnt to the ground. Thankfully I was blessed and my particular apartment mostly only sustained water damage and structure collapse damage.

Scott showed up during this blazing event to help calm me down and also really stepped up in helping me figure out where I was going to live - because I was basically homeless - how to get my stuff out of the building within the alotta 5 hour period the firemen gave us access, and just proved how much of a giving heart he has and that when shit goes down he doesn't run away, he sticks it out.

Lesson 3 - Communication is one of the most important factors in a relationship.

Scott hates it when I say this, but I can talk to him like I talk to one of my closest girlfriends. You have to be able to communicate with your significant other and cannot be afraid to talk about the big stuff; religion, marriage, politics, money, and life goals. You don't always have to agree explicitly with the other person on this stuff, but you have to know where their philosophy on these topics rests. Scott and I are good communicators but as in every relationship, romantic or friend, there are times when you have a difference of opinion and fight. As long as you both can communicate to each other your thoughts and feelings without being hurtful or unfair fighting (low blows like name calling) you are well on your way to having a satisfying relationship.

Lesson 4 - In every relationship there is an inevitable friction point that will make or break you.

In marriage, they call this friction point the first year. While still dating I believe this takes place around the 3 year marker. At this point in the relationship you have to evaluate how the relationship is or is not working and your goals and dreams moving forward. You will inevitably have to have the hard "talk" with yourself and your loved one. Where are we going? Are we happy? What do you want out of life? What do I want out of life?

At this friction point all of the previous lessons/abilities come in handy as your significant other will most likely feel scared, like your relationship is in a state of emergency, and that they need to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Lesson 5 - Celebrate your love.

As a wedding photographer I get to spend my days around couples who are so in love and then make the ultimate commitment to spend their lives together. Marriage is a big deal and celebrating your years together is something you should cherish, but I also think celebrating your years together in general is something you should cherish married or not.

After our night at Red Lobster I told Scott, "It's a big deal to make it four years in the dating world. Why was that manager any less impressed with it because we weren't married?." I in no way undermine the importance of marriage or relate it to dating in anyway but I added to Scott, "Why shouldn't we celebrate this four years? I mean if we get married we have to start back at the 1 year anniversary again and it's almost like we loose these 4 or whatever years."

Scott replied with, "Well, babe, you're right and that's why I love you - even though you are a disaster sometimes."

Cheers to us Scott! And I hope you enjoyed a look back on a small glimpse of our four years together!

Love Always,

Courtney

Our first Chi Omega Formal - Courtney 20, Scott 22

Our first Chi Omega Formal - Courtney 20, Scott 22

Journeying to Kentucky with Scott's church on a mission trip in 2012

Journeying to Kentucky with Scott's church on a mission trip in 2012

A trip to the Binder Park Zoo! I think I'll pet a giraffe.

A trip to the Binder Park Zoo! I think I'll pet a giraffe.

Attending numerous Michigan State Football games together, including this one from 2009 - Go Green! Go White!

Attending numerous Michigan State Football games together, including this one from 2009 - Go Green! Go White!

Doing the college spring break trip to Orlando in 2011

Doing the college spring break trip to Orlando in 2011

Our last Chi Omega Formal in 2012 - Courtney 22, Scott 23

Our last Chi Omega Formal in 2012 - Courtney 22, Scott 23

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What are some things you've learned about dating or marriage? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!