Full Circle & Stopping to Enjoy the View ~ Chicago Elopement Photographer

It’s Sunday evening and I’m sitting on the back deck writing this post on James’ laptop with my pup sitting by my side, occasionally looking up at me until I give her a rub behind the ears. She sighs and slowly reclines back until she’s laying directly under my chair again. The late evening sun is shining golden across my hands on the keyboard. The breeze is just right. Enough to cool the warmth of the sun hitting my side, but not so cool that I need any sort of cardigan or sweatshirt.

I feel truly relaxed for the first time in a couple of months. Life has returned to its steady pace and things are starting to feel manageable again after a busy busy June (and playing catch-up afterwards).

We just got back from a beautiful weekend spent in Dubuque for Abby and Brian’s stunning wedding.

I hadn’t realized when we were getting ready for the trip that the route to Dubuque would lead us right through Galena. We hadn’t been there in a few years… but even so, the roads started to look familiar as we made our way west.


galena scenic overlook


James was driving and my mind started to wander as we passed the wide open view of country roads, rolling hills, and farms in the distance.

I was taken back to August 2011, our first trip to Galena where we were headed to shoot Catie and Nick’s wedding at Oak Hill Farms. I remember having to run home from work at the law firm that Friday to get everything in order so we were ready to drive to Galena that night and sleep over before an early start to the wedding the next day.

I had had big dreams of taking our business full-time for such a long time, but was terrified to actually make the leap. I came home from working my day job and cried to James more often than I’d like to admit that year. We rarely saw much of each other in those early days of getting our business off the ground, and struggled to figure it all out.

That particular Friday in August I was at the end of my rope with life at the moment. I was shooting 17 weddings that year, but still working full-time as a paralegal. I was trying to manage it all, but was feeling like I was falling apart inside. The day before I had just (rather spontaneously) put in my 3-weeks notice at the law firm. I was truly exhausted, battling terrible anxiety, and making myself physically ill from all of it – and knew something needed to change. I felt relief after making the decision – while also feeling completely scared out of my mind about how on earth it was going to work out. How on earth we would actually pay our bills.

I remember James driving those winding roads toward Galena, my eyes squeezed shut and my head resting in my hands – feeling like I might be sick. My anxiety was at its peak – not allowing me to eat much of anything… constantly feeling like I might be sick and simultaneously feeling insanely tired – but unable to fall asleep because of the nausea. We drove through the darkness, getting lost on the back roads to the condo where we were staying for the weekend.

We finally found the building along a long driveway and had to drive up and down it a couple of times before being able to spot the unit number on the front, showing us where we’d be staying. I was so excited about the wedding that weekend… working with a couple I loved whose day I wanted to document so well that I’d surpass their wildest expectations. I wished I could only focus on this – but I knew that Monday after a long wedding day on Saturday, and drive back to the city on Sunday – that I’d have to head back to the law firm and give that my all – no matter how exhausted I was … (not to mention face the awkwardness of 3 more weeks of work there after already giving notice that I was quitting).

So as we drove that same route back through Galena this past Friday – I couldn’t help but think about how much all of this has really come full circle. We had the windows down and music up. (I rarely like the windows down when we’re driving fast because my hair whipping all about starts to drive me crazy – but for some reason on Friday I didn’t mind.) I smiled as I breathed in the fresh country air. I was excited but calm… no anxiety or exhaustion taking over my body this time. I looked over at James and smiled through the memories in my mind.

I got lost in thinking about how far we’ve come. I asked him if he remembered the last time we were driving through here and he said of course he did. We reminisced about getting lost driving the dark country roads and laughed recalling how we stumbled upon a crazy looking raccoon outside of our condo in Galena late that night when we arrived. (It seriously looked drugged or drunk… it was the funniest and scariest thing! haha) We chatted about Catie and Nick’s wedding day, and couldn’t believe it has been almost 3 years already. (!!!)




3 years since we took a leap of faith I never thought I’d make until I truly had no more sanity left, and no other options on how to move forward. I was scared out of my mind, but knew it was the right decision. The road ahead was sooo uncertain, and I really had no idea what to expect or what we would go through as we navigated life as full-time business owners together.

85 weddings later… my how time has flown, and things have changed.

Back then I never would have thought our dreams could come true. I never would have thought that years later we’d still be doing this together – day in and day out – making it work through all the triumphs and failures. I never would have anticipated how happy I’d be, and how fulfilling this would be to tackle together. I never would have thought we’d be through so much and after it all – still be standing here hand in hand.

I know the road ahead is equally winding and uncertain… but now I also know that no matter what comes our way – we can handle it. And I hope that in 3 years I am once again looking back – marveling at how far we’ve come.




(And you know we had to recreate the photo from our original time through Galena! This time – amazingly – JAMES SUGGESTED we stop at the look-out and take a jumping pic!! Say what?!?! Clearly our timing was a bit off… haha.)

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