I have known Chelsea and Derek for as long as I can remember. Chelsea and her siblings were just kids when we all went to the same church, and I remember the surreal recognition of time passing when I shot her senior photos years later. Derek’s older brother was one of my (many) junior high boyfriends, so I first knew him simply as the kid brother of a 7th grader I was crushing on. Since I had known them both as children, and because we grew up in a small town where nearly everyone knows the details of each other’s lives, I remember being excited to hear these two were dating once they were in high school together. While many couples grow up and grow apart over the transformative teen years, Derek and Chelsea’s relationship grew stronger – they both eventually graduated from high school, went to college, worked hard for their degrees, bought a house and a dog, and took on the title of high school sweethearts.
While knowing everyone’s business in a small town can definitely get a bad rap, there’s something more positive I’ve noticed about it upon growing older. When I heard Derek and Chelsea had gotten engaged, I felt genuinely excited for them, and beyond that, there was a way in which I felt invested in their relationship, simply because I’d seen and known them for all these years. I didn’t know them well as adults – but I knew their parents and their siblings and their K-12 teachers, and I had driven past the houses they’d grown up in countless times, and we had all called the same county’s soil home from the time we were young. Community can bind people in a way that allows for a certain level of closeness; in a way, it’s as though sharing the same roots makes you all part of a very particular team.
When I met with Derek and Chelsea for their engagement session, I finally had the chance to see what they were like as adults. I met their dog, and they told me about their wedding plans, and their jobs, and their dream starter home. I watched as these two people who had grown up together and learned to love one another even better giggled and drank wine, and basically just was happy to simply be on their team.