2020: The Hearts that Persist | Steubenville, OH

How does one even begin to sum up the year that changed our entire way of life? Not just for me in my small city of Steubenville, Ohio...no. The entire world has changed.

I cannot begin to speak on the many life-changing and often horrific events that have occurred in 2020 because I have remained mostly safe and healthy at home, only observing the world from behind my cracked cellphone screen. I've had very little personal interaction with the traumas of the outside world...and that thought in itself is quite isolating. To watch and watch and listen and read and read and read, but not understand and not grasp...

...it has been a strange year.

While me and my family have endured our own challenges that we never could have prepared for, they are not comparable to what others have faced. So I will not speak on any of that.

I will say that my heart has ached and I have cried. And I have been scared.

I wrote a blog post on January 1st, 2020 that was very personal and very raw...so I never published it. Though now, a full turn around the sun later, I can't help but reflect on those feelings that I had and sort of laugh at the irony. I thought that 2019 had been bad...and it was for personal reasons, but it almost feels as if 2019 was just the prologue to 2020. However, the years are not defined just by the bad, and just like the year before it, 2020 had beautiful moments as well.

I am not a journalist...not in the typical sense anyway. While I do document stories, they are not the type of stories that are shaking our world this very moment. The stories I document are smaller scale--personal, intimate--stories that speak to individual hearts. Hearts that hope and dream. Hearts that are joyful and compassionate. Hearts that love.

Hearts that persist.

So, while I could talk about the events of the world or how this year has changed me...I'd rather talk about the people who have inspired me. The people who wondered if this year would break their hearts, but wouldn't let it. Those who pushed on and seized their day.

I want to highlight the amazing couples that did what I couldn't imagine doing, planning and having a wedding in the midst of a pandemic.

Bride and groom gaze at each other in Union Church in Robinson, PA

Danielle & Steve

While this lovely couple had their wedding a month before shutdowns began, COVID19 had already reached our shores and was spreading...so they deserve recognition on my list of pandemic weddings.

Their day was absolutely beautiful and may have been the last normal wedding Rich and I will have attended. I don't foresee things returning to normal for some time. We treasure these moments, the calm before the storm and I'm sure that Danielle and Steve are grateful that they didn't have to go through the uncertainty of planning their wedding that many did this year. As their anniversary approaches, I want to wish them the best new year.

Bride and groom look at each other lovingly at Succop Nature Park in Butler, PA.

Cassie & Tim

Only months before their wedding day, the nation started shutdowns. While I was personally housebound as the pandemic escalated and nonessential businesses closed, Cassie and I kept in contact in the months leading up to her wedding. Many emails were exchanged and just a month before the date, Cassie and Tim were uncertain their plans would hold. There was a plan B in place, but we all kept our fingers crossed that their wedding would happen as planned.

June rolled around and restrictions lifted and Cassie and Tim were able to have their beautiful wedding with a smaller modified guest list. These two were so calm and joyful the entire day and even the emails between Cassie and I were full of that same calm energy.

Groom embraces bride under a green tree in Pittsburgh, PA

Colin & Staci

In summer, I had thought that everyone else would be in the clear, but as the Fourth of July approached, it became evident that life was not going back to normal. And then came one of the most stressful weeks in business...and for this couple. Very strict gathering limitations were put in place just two weeks before Colin and Staci's wedding and they were left scrambling to make their wedding happen. Over the weekend, Staci and her mom were able to secure a new venue and a new DJ in order to still have their beautiful wedding.

Their day was absolutely perfect and I have never seen a couple more poised or grateful. They were a dream to work with.

Portrait of bride and groom near bridge in downtown Pittsburgh, PA

Dave & Sarah

This couple was one that I met second shooting for Nadine Photography. While I don't know much about their lives and their story leading up to their 25 person micro wedding, I do know that they were a delight to work with. Seeing what my clients have gone through and the obstacles they've overcome gives me a good guess, but every couple is different and for all I know, a small wedding was always their plan. Either way, 2020 is a weird year to get married so I applaud those who do so happily while adhering to the restrictions in place.

Couple holds hands by a pond at Moon Park in Pittsburgh, PA

Nick & Nicole

This lovely couple is currently planning their wedding. We met at Cassie and Tim's wedding and they contacted me shortly after to book Rich and I for their 2021 wedding. So far they haven't had too much difficulty in getting things moving, but there is always the uncertainty of tomorrow...as is the case in normal times as well. However, their love for each other is strong and whether they are able to have their big wedding as planned or they have to wait longer, they are together and devoted to each other. That in itself is worth celebrating.

I look forward to working with these two more and the celebration that is to come.

Bride and groom lean into each other with sun flares at Rich Farms in Smithfield, PA.

Andrew & Rachel

I don't know if there's a couple that Rich and I connected with more than Andrew and Rachel. There are many we have truly enjoyed working with, but these two felt like they belonged in our circle of friends. I am so glad that we had the opportunity to work together. Beyond the personal connection, I loved seeing the utter devotion and adoration that Andrew showed his wife on their wedding day.

These two pulled off a truly magical CDC guidelines compliant wedding. Masks were worn, social distancing practiced, and it didn't dampen the joy and love one little bit. I would photograph their wedding over and over, it was so perfect.

Groom and bride look at each other in front of mansion at The Market at Ebbert Farms in Belmont, OH.

Beth & Erik

On the other side of the river and my first Ohio wedding in almost a year, Beth and Erik were married. While Ohio went pretty hard on shutdowns, remote learning, and business closures early in the year, the wedding gathering limitation was one of the least restrictive. I actually heard about a lot of Pennsylvania couples looking for venues in Ohio so they cold hold their weddings.

Beth and Erik were able to have their wedding under mostly normal conditions. Their day was gorgeous and full of vivid red and decorations and so many familiar faces. It was such a blast working with them and documenting their emotional ceremony.

Johnna & Mike

This is a wedding I second shot for Cait Wirk Photo. This was another instance where I didn't know much about the couple prior to working with them, but I adored these two together. There was a strong energy of anticipation in Mike as we hung out before the wedding and I saw that same anticipation in Johnna as she walked down the aisle. Their wedding was a joy to witness.

My heart goes out to them, as Johnna's mother recently passed away. I'm grateful that she was there to see her daughter marry the love of her life.

Bride and groom laughing at their elopement in Raccoon Creek State Park, Hookstown, PA

Kira & Matt

These two were a surprise. I only met Kira and Matt because they answered a model call for me some years back, I didn't actually expect to be the one they chose for their wedding. Originally, they booked me for their reception as they planned to elope in Iceland. Unfortunately due to travel restrictions, they were no longer able to go to Iceland, so they asked me if I could shoot their close-to-home elopement. The blog about their day is queued up and coming sometime in the coming months, but for now I just have to gush about how wonderful it was to be completely surprised by their Celtic inspired ceremony. I've never heard more heartfelt vows than what Kira and Matt wrote for each other.

Couple sitting in front of fountain at Oglebay Mansion in Wheeling, WV

Andrew & Laura

Another one whose session is queued for blogging is Andrew and Laura. These two were originally going to have their wedding this year, but decided to push it back to avoid conflicting with Andrew's sister who had a 2020 wedding. With everything going on, they found that their decision worked out for the better. So now they are planning their 2021 wedding and I can't wait to celebrate with them.

I have to thank this couple for booking us during a pandemic. I actually used to work with Laura years ago at McDonalds, and Andrew is friends with one of my brothers, so it was a really neat surprise to receive their inquiry.

Man embraces wife's pregnant belly at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV

Michael & Sarah

My friends (and former coworker) brought their rainbow baby into the world. I am so happy for them and love seeing all their happy family posts on Facebook. I know how difficult pregnancy can be, so I have to give major props to those who went through it during a global pandemic. You are a hero in my eyes.

I was able to do a session with Michael and Sarah back in October and they delivered a healthy beautiful boy just a few weeks ago. I know that they are going to do great, they're already wonderful parents. I can't wait to meet their precious son in person.

Bride and groom smile at each other in front of a river in Bloomingdale, OH.

Katie & Mike

This couple had originally hired two other photographers before they got to me. The first cancelled on them because of covid, the second had to pass because of medical reasons and so she gave them my name. It was only a week before their wedding when we met. They were extremely grateful to have someone able to photograph their wedding, but I was just impressed by how easygoing they both were. If I had been the one scrambling for a vendor only weeks out, I think I would have been a stressed out mess. These two were wonderful and so easy to work with. It seems I'm always learning something from the couples I get the honor of working with.

Adam & Kaitlyn

This wedding was quite lovely. I shot this one for Kara Gwyn Photography and had a wonderful time with Adam and Kaitlyn. They didn't just plan their romantic fall wedding during a pandemic, they planned it in 3 months!

I didn't know these two very well, but from what I gathered while shooting their wedding, they were college sweethearts who came into each others' lives at the right time. The speeches that their best man and maid of honor gave were very touching and talked about how they were the best aunt and uncle. Adam and Kaitlyn pulled off a gorgeous little wedding in such a short amount of time. It was very impressive.

Jaen & Kalista

These two are dear to me as they are my sister and new brother-in-law. This photo was shot by Jessica Buchanan Photography since I was standing beside my sister as a bridesmaid. Along with covid, Jaen and Kalista's wedding faced different obstacles. Jaen is in the Navy and, up until a few months before the wedding, we weren't even sure he would get permitted leave from his deployment. However, the day did come and the wedding was wonderful. Now they must go through their first year of marriage separated since Jaen returned to his deployment. Their commitment and endurance is inspiring.

Groom kisses bride's head in front of sunset at Greendance Winery in Mt. Pleasant, PA

Kevin & Tyler

This couple changed plans a few times in preparation for their November wedding. There was a backup date and a few venue changes, but in the end Kevin and Tyler were able to have their wedding on their original date.

When I met with them for their engagement session back in July (which had been postponed 5 times), they talked about how difficult it had been to plan their wedding. From difficulties with ordering florals to food tastings, they ran into roadblock after roadblock. The ability to create a happy and gorgeous day despite all those challenges is an amazing feat. I'm so glad Kevin and Tyler got to see all their determination pay off.

Bride and Groom smiling at the camera at Union Cemetery in Steubenville, OH

Homer & Molly

The last of our weddings was also held in Ohio. Since the previous wedding, covid cases had surged, which resulted in restrictions and venue policies tightening up a bit. While Homer and Molly were able to have their wedding at their original guest size, they had to remind guests to practice social distancing as well as wear their masks.

Despite the these small limitations, their wedding was amazing and more than just fine...the running joke of the day. Homer and Molly had a beautiful wedding. They really proved that the most important thing was being able to marry their best friend. Everything else was icing on the cake.

Mother and Father hold their newborn son.

Allison & Cody

One of our wonderful couples from last year also had their first baby. It was so nice to be able to catch up with these two and meet their adorable son. Listening to them talk about his birth story was incredible and all I can think is how strong Allison and Cody are.

Each of these people were an inspiration to work with. I'm glad for the people and their stories that I've learned in 2020. These lives and the love they share are precious beautiful things that make hard times worth enduring.

I know that the new year doesn't mean all the hard and ugly and stupid of this world will go away, but I go into 2021 with the knowledge that I and those around me can endure and become better versions of ourselves. Beyond that...we all have the ability to inspire and touch other people, despite the struggles around us. Let's look to 2021 with open eyes and with hearts persistent in showing love and kindness to others.

Happy New Year. May it be the best yet.