Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
As wedding photographers, one of the best parts of interacting with so many couples is hearing their stories. Each engaged couple has such a unique journey that’s brought them to where they are, and it’s one of the first questions we usually ask when we sit down to talk wedding photography with new couples. If you follow our blog, you know that we love to share stories as we show off images from our sessions – both our clients’ stories and stories from our time together.
However, it occurred to us this fall that the story that’s featured the least on our blog and social media is our own! Now that the cold weather is settling in and we won’t be shooting sessions three times a week, we finally have space on our blogging calendar to tell our own love story! As high school sweethearts, it’s a long one, but we hope you’ll join us each Saturday this winter as we share our story.
On our second dating anniversary, Hunter gave me a photobook filled with pictures, ticket stubs, and other trinkets that we had collected since we had begun dating. He called the album, “Remember that Time?” and it was filled with little reminders of fun dates and adventures we had had. Unbeknownst to me, just a few months into our relationship he had been making small notes on his phone anytime we went somewhere new or had a fun adventure with friends so that he could one day give me that book. When we sat down this fall to talk about this blog series, we couldn’t think of a title that was more true to us than “Remember that Time?”
After Hunter and I got engaged, things started to move pretty quickly. We promised each other the night he proposed that we would take the rest of the weekend to soak it all in and enjoy time with our friends and family – which we did! The weekend was a blur of phone calls and celebratory dinners with friends and family.
But on Monday, wedding planning began in earnest. As wedding photographers, we knew as well as anybody how quickly wedding venues and photographers would book up. And as much as we would have loved a fall wedding and taking an entire year to plan the perfect wedding, we were just too ready to be married, and had our eyes set on the summer – barely eight months away.
So on top of Hunter finishing out his time at UVA – working on his “Capstone” engineering project and his senior thesis – and my full-time job as a paralegal, we were now not only running a part-time photography business, but also planning a wedding! All my engaged girls out there know that that can feel like picking up another part-time job!
Within a month of our engagement, we had toured five wedding venues, done three cake tastings, interviewed a handful of caterers, and a half-dozen photographers. We had begun pre-marital counseling with Hunter’s campus pastor and his wife – two people who had had an instrumental role in both of us finding our faith earlier in college. We even had the opportunity to get up on stage at Chi Alpha’s large group in front of almost 400 people and share the story of our relationship – which terrified me right up until the moment we stepped onto the stage.
Although that fall was absolute madness, it was all worth it. By Christmas Eve, only 10 weeks after the proposal, our wedding was almost completely planned and our honeymoon was booked! Now, we could just sit back and relax until the wedding.
We had ended up booking a Virginia Beach wedding photographer named Tonya Volk. She was a friend of one of our wedding photographer friends here in C’ville, and we had heard great things about her! We were beach people, so we also loved the idea of visiting her in VB for our engagement session since she’d be coming all the way to Charlottesville for our wedding.
As the new year rolled in and the wedding was less than 6 months away, we looked at our calendar and realized that there was only one weekend in the entire Spring that we’d be able to make it to Hampton Roads for the session. We set the date with Tonya, and began to get excited! We had never been on the other side of a professional photographer’s camera before!
The day before the session, we drove to Williamsburg and stayed with Hunter’s parents. The day of our session would have a 7:30 pm sunset (which really means 7:00 pm when you’re shooting at the beach on the East coast), so we were aiming to start the session with Tonya around 5:00 pm to leave plenty of time for a full 2-hour session. We hopped in the car a little before 4:00 pm that afternoon to make the drive to VB that we had made dozens of times before.
Not long after getting on the interstate a few minutes from the house… we hit traffic. And I don’t mean your usual, every-day interstate-64 traffic. We’re talking Dead. Stop. For. Miles.
We got a little nervous, but luckily we had left about 15 minutes early, and had planned on a 2-hour session, so if we were a little bit late, it would all be okay. But as the minutes crept by, we started to get nervous. We checked our traffic apps, knowing that Route 143 ran parallel to the interstate, and although a bit slower, could be counted on in such emergencies.
Nope. It was also at a dead stop. We were starting to get desperate – we checked Route 60, a road that also ran parallel to the interstate, but was riddled with stoplights and intersections that made it slow going. Guess what? Also. Dead. Stop.
We started to get really worried. We had been in traffic for almost an hour and had barely moved a couple miles. If the sun set and we missed our session, there would be no make-up. As traffic finally began to pick up, we watched in dismay as our engagement session got shorter and shorter. By the time we were past the wreck and out of traffic we were still miles from the oceanfront.
Thankfully, Tonya is both an expert in VB photography and a total sweetheart, so she didn’t stress, but suggested we move the location to 1 beach that ran along the bay instead of the ocean. It was 10 minutes closer to us and, since it faced north instead of east, would give us 15 extra minutes of light.
Even with that adjustment, when we finally arrived we hopped right into things (after profusely apologizing for several minutes). At this point, it was barely 40 minutes before sunset, and we had to fit an entire 2 hour engagement session in!
But somehow, as you’ve seen from photos throughout this blog, Tonya did it! Granted, she told us we were one of the easiest couples she had ever photographed since, after all, we knew exactly how to pose and react in front of a camera.
But the vast majority of the credit belongs to Tonya! She delivered us dozens and dozens of beautiful images that we still cherish to this day, and all in record time and under the immense pressure of impending sunset! It was a huge testament to her professionalism that she was able to work so well under constraints that would’ve stressed out even the most experienced photographer! Driving home that evening we realized how lucky we were to have hired a true professional and not just one of our “friends with a camera”.
With that near-travesty out of the way, there wasn’t much left to do. Hunter was only six weeks from graduation, and we were less than three months from the biggest day of our lives…
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