Elyse and I first met years ago when we were each living in Peoria, IL – though we both attended Bradley University, we didn’t meet until becoming co-workers at Buckle. I often think of these as my in-between years: I was between undergrad and grad school, piecing together a bunch of part time jobs, and simply trying out a lot of different routes to see what would stick. I hadn’t seen Elyse in years when I ended up back in touch with a mutual friend of ours, Chloe, for a photo project last year – and since the two of them had remained close friends, Elyse joined us for Chloe’s session. We reminisced about Buckle and Peoria and talked about how we all now found ourselves here in Chicago, and I was happy to have stumbled upon the unexpected reunion, and assumed in the moment that would be the extent of it.
Elyse and her boyfriend, JR, got engaged the following fall, and to say I was pumped to hear from her when she reached out to inquire about me photographing their eventual wedding day would be an understatement. She told me upfront about how she and J are pretty low key, so planning an event as tradition-steeped as a wedding was already throwing them for a bit of loop. And man, do I get this – though I haven’t planned a wedding of my own, I help my clients do so quite often, and I see the elements and the expectations pull at people and make them feel as though there’s a certain way they need to go about this. The thing is, the moment you allow yourselves to let those ideas go and start doing shit the way that feels right to you is the moment the dang magic happens.
So as we started to brainstorm for Elyse and JR’s engagement session, we talked specifically about was (and wasn’t) “them” – Elyse told me they weren’t the overly romantic, gaze-into-each-other’s-eyes type of couple, and that they were hoping for a session that truly reflected who they are and what they’re like together. So I arrived at their home on the afternoon of their session and was greeted by the two of them + their cats, Roo and Pongo. Sometimes people ask me what my favorite kinds of sessions/wedding days to photograph are, and the answer is so straightforward for me – it’s the simple ones. It has nothing to do with some incredible scenery or destination, or some location that no one else has done, or a certain outfit choice or style; instead, it’s based in the simplicity of connection, and people being fully themselves, heads thrown back in laughter in a place that feels like home to them. Elyse and JR poured glasses of bourbon and danced around their home with their cats – not because I told them to, but simply because that’s what they do.
We grabbed some pizza afterward and then went to one of their favorite local dives, and we did all the things they would normally do – we ate some deep dish and had a couple of beers together, and I joined them for a slice and a drink, too. We chatted all things how-they-met and wedding plans and jobs and I honestly just had so much fun with them. As I was editing these photos, I thought back to how Elyse had described them as not really the romantic type, and I thought about how maybe romance isn’t always kissing and deep looks and a serious embrace – I think sometimes, romance looks like rocking out in your living room together, and drinking beers in dive bars, and laughing hysterically while you feed each other pizza. I think sometimes romance is playful and fun and simple, because it’s a reflection of two people who found their own kind of love that lights them up together.