:: 2013 :: The Year of Balance & Vulnerability ~ Chicago Wedding Photographer

Each year I do a year-end summary – mostly for myself to reflect on the past year and to remember everything we did! haha. I wrote one in 2011 and 2012, which I find SO interesting to go back and read. 2011 was a difficult year… lots of growing pains, and LOTS of changes (good & bad). 2012 we thought would be a year of smooth sailing, but it turned out to be a very difficult year in other ways. We were settling into figuring out this full-time business thing together and it was HARD. It was hard on our marriage, it was hard on us each in different ways, and it was hard figuring out how exactly to be full-time business owners and husband & wife! Reading back on my thoughts for last year especially is sooo interesting now. It really amazes me how far we’ve managed to come in just one year!

When James and I were trying to come up with a title for this year’s post we thought of words like… stability, balance, efficiency, and priorities. All of which I think are pretty darn good words!! It seems we are finally, FINALLY settling into this life as small business owners together AND figuring out the fine line of balance between being business partners and life partners. It hasn’t been easy, and we always have places where we could improve (as all of our regular readers know!), but I am SO SO proud of how far we’re come. As it turns out, when you sit down and write down where you’d like to improve your relationship and business – you’re much more likely to make it happen! (Communication… who knew?! haha)

This was also an interesting year for us on a personal front because we had plans in our head that didn’t come to fruition, and I especially struggled with it (which really affected mine and James’ relationship for a few months). I kept it to myself for a majority of the year (and years prior) because I was afraid. I was afraid if I admitted what was wrong, then it would make it true. I felt like if I just kept denying anything was wrong, then nothing was wrong… that it would fix itself. I put my head down and plowed through work. I immersed myself in our business and tried to put my mind elsewhere. Somehow I thought hiding and going through this pain on my own was the best way to handle it. (Boy was I wrong…)

Instead, I realized that when I finally found the strength to be vulnerable and share the depths of my story… the hardest parts for me to swallow… is when I set myself free. I think some of the biggest lessons I learned this year were to be 100% honest with myself (& others)… to be vulnerable beyond what I ever thought possible… to allow others to truly know me… and amazing things will happen. By doing this, you will connect with people in ways you never would have if you had remained guarded and hidden. You will experience new levels of happiness and joy you never knew existed. And in freeing yourself, you are in turn freeing others… letting them know that nobody is perfect… that there is no reason to hide… and that they are not alone.

As it turned out – the way things unfolded this year – it seemed as though everything ended up as it was meant to be (as it always does). In retrospect, it all makes sense.

So let’s get to it and see what really happened in 2013! Between shooting 31 weddings (28 big ones & 3 elopements), and 81 other sessions (4 commercial, 29 mini sessions, 5 proposals, 13 family/babies/anytime, 29 engagement sessions, and 1 Beautiful session)… here’s what we were up to in 2013 (in chronological order, of course)!




  • James and I took a trip just for fun (no work involved… what?!) to attend the 57th Presidential Inauguration. It was my first trip to DC (which I looooved) and was SO amazing to witness! The energy was unreal, and we got to spend quality time with my aunt & uncle, which made it even better!



  • I announced our second round of Advanced Workshops!
  • I let myself get into the ugly comparison trap … left in a heap with tears pouring down my face. Thank goodness I had James to remind me (as always) that we have enough. That we ARE enough. And that our life is unfolding just as it is meant to.







  • I updated you all on how I was doing with my Daily Essentials for Happiness.
  • I struggled with personal things… a theme of last year it seems… (which you later found out why).
  • I updated the website for a fresh, new year.
  • I continued to shoot more film for fun!





  • I got some new workout gear to go along with my “move more” promise to myself and had a ridiculous self-timer session in my kitchen.
  • I remembered how awesome James is and why I fell in love with him in the first place, as I occasionally do. 🙂
  • We had a successful Advanced Workshop in April and got the styled shoot featured on Ruffled!
  • We kicked off our 2013 wedding season in Maryland for Erin & Bret’s wedding, and enjoyed some time around the east coast afterwards (& shot personal photos in film) – taking in the cherry blossoms and spending time with James’ family in DC, Maryland, and Virginia! Then there was a crazy flood in Chicago, leaving us stranded at the Baltimore airport for a day… eventually resulting in a canceled flight and an extra day out east.



  • I talked about self-employment lessons learned the hard way. (My favorite way to learn them, apparently! haha)
  • I shared my love for the book “You Are Here“, which I was introduced to at What If… another amazing thing I took away from that conference!!
  • We celebrated James’ 35th birthday!
  • I continued to struggle with some things personally…
  • I announced the first ever Turning Tides Retreat with Lauren & Jessica!!



  • We had a good day. And it reminded me that all my struggles, worries, and comparisons were SO silly.
  • I started to get frustrated with the state of the wedding photography industry and decided to write a post about what Success Means to Me. I have gone back to this post numerous times this year to remind myself of the path we are on, and to keep my priorities in check!
  • James and I celebrated 4 years of marriage on May 23rd!
  • We rearranged the guest room/office and got James his own desk (which he used approximately 5 times ALL YEAR. haha… But hey, it’s there if he decides to use it! ;))! And I shared our roles in the business and how we came to be a full-time team!!



  • Busy season got busier and busier and we (mostly I) started to forget to be husband and wife, and not just business partners. Things got tough and we started to battle… and so an impromptu afternoon & evening off was required (no business talk allowed) to get back on track.
  • It was hard to believe 2 years had passed since we said goodbye to Phoenix. I reflected on life lately and my lifesaver (ahem… James).
  • July was BUSY. We were pretty much shooting non-stop while simultaneously planning and prepping for the Turning Tides Retreat… and I forgot I wasn’t in fact Wonder Woman (surprise)! Thankfully I learned one important thing this year… to show myself grace and keep on keeping on. And I learned that these kiddos (& ice cream) make everything better!



  • I took a night off and headed to see Justin Timberlake and Jay Z at Soldier Field! One of the best nights of my summer! We had the best time acting 25 again! 😉
  • I had a moment of panic about our bookings for 2014 and started to feel The Fear settling heavy on my chest again, but I chose to push forward.
  • Just in the nick of time, Turning Tides Retreat happened and my mind was blown! It was more amazing than I could have ever anticipated, changed me in the best ways, and I made lifelong friends with women who attended!



  • One gigantically important thing that Turning Tides did for me was help me realize that I am not alone, and that no one should have to go through anything alone. If you are open and you are vulnerable to others – amazing things can happen. And so with newfound bravery from the retreat and the women surrounding me – I finally had the courage to share something James and I had been going through for years… and that I had been especially struggling with this year. I poured my heart out in a blog post about our aching to have a baby and our fertility struggles. It was not easy to share – but the response was absolutely unbelievable… and made me SO happy that I decided to share.



  • And once again, just as if it was meant to be … a pre-planned visit from my sister’s family was the perfect timing to cheer us up after an emotional time!
  • I decided to make a big step with James and got my first ever tattoo! It is tiny, but it means the world to me… and reminds me every time I look at it that James and I are in this thing together.
  • I turned 32 a couple of weeks later and tried to keep myself in check by making a list of all the things I was thankful for.
  • My birthday was immediately followed by celebrating 2-years of being full-time photographers together! I shared some self-employment tips on what we’ve learned over that time. (It’s amazing all we’ve learned – and continue to learn – since taking our business full-time and being completely immersed in getting things in order!)
  • On September 22nd we celebrated 2-years since we rescued our crazy Chloe pup from PAWS! Wow how time has flown!



  • James and I modeled for a conceptual shoot for Caroline Ghetes, an amazing photographer (and now friend). We were surprised how fun it was to be on the other side of the camera and hope to actually make a point to get professional photos done more often! (And she was so sweet to shoot some ‘normal’ photos of us in our regular clothes too that I’m obsessed with – like the one below!)





  • October was just as crazy as we anticipated, which meant James and I once again struggled a bit with being husband & wife – and not just business partners who happened to live together. (Well, maybe I struggled a bit more with this than James… as usual.)
  • We announced our 3rd annual Advanced Workshop in early November and it sold out! I’m so excited for March!
  • I talked about the scramble to get everything wrapped up before Off-Season, and listed our To-Do List for slow season this winter… including Rebranding and a website/blog update!! Eee!!! (A little sneak peek below!)



  • Even though it makes my younger brothers uncomfortable when I talk about REAL marriage issues (haha) – I shared a little behind the scenes of a tough day James and I had when our expectations and communication got crossed a bit. (Because all the “happy happy perfect perfect” that people post on blogs, Facebook, and Instagram – just isn’t true 100% of the time, people!)
  • After talking with LOTS of women about their fertility issues after I shared what we were going through – I finally had an “aha” moment and realized I should start a hidden Facebook group where we could all come together, share our stories, and support each other! It has been absolutely amazing to watch all these women from different parts of my life (many who I didn’t even know were struggling with infertility) come together and become friends and supporters of one another. Simply amazing.



  • And what I’m pretty sure James and I both saw as the highlight of our year… we closed out our 2013 wedding season shooting Tanya and Greg’s beautiful wedding on the Big Island of Hawaii! It had been a dream of ours for a while to go to Hawaii, but we were just never able to make it happen. So when this opportunity came to us (at about the same time we realized that our dream of starting a family was not going to happen this year)… it felt like someone was throwing us a bone. And so we took full advantage of the opportunity, and made a trip out of it to close out what turned out to be a truly amazing year and wedding season! You can see all the film photos from our trip HERE and the breakdown of exactly what we did and where we went, along with a million iPhone photos HERE.






If you made it to the end of this epic post – CONGRATULATIONS!!! haha! 🙂 It has been quite the year, and so much happened that I didn’t expect or anticipate – and it ended up being better than we could have ever planned ourselves! James and I grew even closer this year through the struggles and I’m so SO thankful to have him by my side for every minute of it.

Here’s to 2014 and being pleasantly surprised when things don’t go our way, but end up much better than we could have imagined! 😉


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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!