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Just look at this image above that was taken in Yosemite National Park.  Should there be any other answer in your mind as to why an adventure elopement is totally the move when you are getting married?  It’s small, it’s intimate, and the images you will get are breathtaking.  People are redefining what an elopement is.  An adventure elopement is when you and your partner decide to choose an experience that focuses deeply on the relationship, on being together for your wedding day rather than spending much of it apart, and on doing something that truly connects you to nature and to each other.  It is intimate, untamed, wild, free, and is honestly priceless.  In my hometown of Asheville, NC I had mostly photographed bigger wedding ceremonies and it wasn’t until I photographed smaller elopement ceremonies that I realized just how intimate and personal they could be.   I had always associated elopements with being cheap, secretive, and for people who don’t have a good relationship with their parents.  Well this dynamic is certainly changing or perhaps I’m just getting “woke” to the fact that eloping is not the dirty ugly stepchild of the bigger grandiose, traditional wedding.  Elopements meditate deeply on the relationship and less on the production.  Perhaps you have always imagined getting married in a big church or at a venue and inviting all your friends and family, so I will start by saying that eloping may not be for everyone.  But if this type of imagery and intimacy connects with you, then pay close attention to what I am about to say.  You can still have a reception and party like an animal with all your friends and family, even if you elope.  There are no rules as far as what you can choose to do when you get married.  Traditional large scale weddings where you spend a ton of money on everything and you are beholden to a schedule and to all the other people and a timeline, is only one way to get married.  You don’t have to do what tradition dictates, and yes your dad can still walk you down “the aisle” if that is what you desire.

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Let me dispel a couple of myths or misconceptions about elopements.  Eloping is not turning your back on your parents, heading off to Vegas and having a cheap ceremony (well it can be, but this is not the type of elopement I am describing).  I am talking about having an adventure elopement.  This is really more of a buzzword within the photography community, but there are loads of us photographers who are trying to redefine what it means to elope.  Your wedding day should be about YOU and the person you are marrying.  It should not be about feeling pressured to do things a certain way, to be beholden to the traditions of generations before us. Eloping should be all about you.  The average amount people spend on a wedding in the US is $25,000-$35,000.  The cost really adds up when you think about all the things you are spending money on: the venue, catering, alcohol, decorations, invitations that people throw away, rings, dress, all the things and the list goes on and on and on.  Let’s just say this amount is high and you are more so dealing with a $10,000-$15,000 budget.  Wouldn’t you love to put that money towards an experience traveling somewhere amazing and having kick ass photos to show for it?  You would be spending a lot less money and the money you save could be spent on you, not toward getting all your gal maids and bros-men drunk.

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If I could redo my wedding day I would head up to Black Balsam and get nasty over some vows with my wife, maybe just the two of us, or maybe us and our families.  The thing about adventure elopements is that they do not exclude family.  You can have your family and even close friends join for a ceremony.  My recommendation is to keep things as small and intimate as possible in terms of number of guests.  My other suggestion is to keep things as grandiose and wild as possible in terms of your location and experience.  You can make the day your ideal day and have a photographer like myself capture it.  You can read at a coffee shop together, or go to a swimming hole, go rock climbing, or just get some ice cream together.  Like I said, there are no rules.  In general I like to help couples find a bomb ass location for the ceremony and sunset photos.  I also like to photograph them doing the things that really make them tick.

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I mean this in the nicest way possible, bump tradition.  Do what you want.  If you want to wear a black wedding dress, do it.  If you want to sky dive, do it.  If you want to climb a fourteener, do it, just have someone there to document it.  I am giving you full permission to be as selfish as you want and to do things the way you want to on your wedding day.  The benefit of eloping is that you get to be untamed, unconventional, and unbelievably yourself.  You don’t have to put on a show for other people, it’s all about connecting to each other and making the most memorable day possible.  If you feel like this is something that appeals to you, then strongly consider eloping over having a conventional wedding.  Feel free to hit me up and we can chat about what you are looking for.  I am based out of Asheville, North Carolina, but I travel all over.  If you are looking to elope in Asheville or the Blue Ridge Mountains, check out my blog post How to Plan the Perfect Asheville Elopement. 

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  • Holy cow!! This Yosemite elopement is STUNNING. I agree, elopements are sooo much fun!! I opted for a 20-person intimate ceremony myself 🙂ReplyCancel

  • This is the most amazing Yosemite elopement! More people need to do this route for their wedding. Can’t wait to shoot in Yosemite in June!!ReplyCancel

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So you have chosen Asheville North Carolina as your elopement destination and now you need an elopement photographer with an adventurous spirit.  Whether you have decided on Craggy Gardens, Black Balsam, Max Patch or a number of other amazing locations, there is one thing you will want to keep in mind.  I hate to disseminate the goods this early, but you are busy trying to plan so I will boil this down to one simple question.  What do you love to do?  This is all that matters.  This is your wedding day, this is your moment and you decided to elope because you don’t want the traditional wedding day that often times becomes about what others want rather than what the couple wants.  Do you love adventure on a mountainside, do you love coffee, craft beer, are you a foodie, or do you just enjoy cuddling by the fire with your lover?  These are the real questions to ask yourself and to start there.  There are no hard and fast rules for your elopement.  You can make it as chill and intimate as you like. The point is, don’t do what everyone else wants, this is your love story, so make it a good one.

I recommend starting the elopement with a first reveal or first look, which is basically having me capture the first time you see each other on your wedding day.  This creates some real and intimate moments that are truly genuine and it is great to have captured to remember how you felt in that moment.  If you don’t want to deal with the charade of driving separately to a location for the first look, then don’t.  Just show each other the goods, hop in a car together, and bounce.   

Have a contingency plan in place and be willing to adjust on the fly.  The weather may not cooperate, and if it doesn’t you will want to have a solid back up plan in place.  My suggestion is to find a nice covered space and then embrace the rain.  Yeah, the hair and make-up wasn’t cheap, but neither was your photographer, and if you want good photos, the move is to let loose and just have fun.

Amanda and Robbie decided to bump tradition and to do things their own way, to do things they knew they would enjoy.  They love craft beer so they decided to start their elopement at a local brewery that specializes in wild and sour beer.  They hit up The Funkatorium which is Wicked Weed Brewing’s sour pub in the South slope of Asheville.  Robbie is a brewer at Devil’s Backbone Brewing in Virginia, so he has a passion for finding the best craft beer around.  Rather than spending an inordinate amount of time planning, a ton of money, and spending much of their wedding day apart, Amanda and Robbie decided to drink beer, play corn hole, and spend fun and intimate time with the person they were committing themselves to for the rest of their lives.  I don’t need to convince you why you need to elope or give you reasons why you might want to elope.  My main goal is to guide you in having the most baller Asheville elopement possible.  I can actually help you with some of the planning as I was born and raised in Asheville and I know it quite well.  Part of the process is you can select the location you want and have me scout it out to find the place that will work best photographically, or you can go in advance and decide where you would like to say your “I do’s.”  I will have you fill out a questionnaire that can help me to determine what exactly you are looking for.  Planning ahead makes the elopement day so much more chill and fun.  Finding a photographer you vibe with is also key so go with someone who’s work and personality you connect with.  

 

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So when is the best time of year for an elopement in the Asheville area?  Well this somewhat depends on where you are looking to do the elopement.  If you are wanting to hit up somewhere at a higher elevation (6,000 ft) like Black Balsam, Graveyard Fields, or Craggy Gardens, late May to early October is best.  Many people think it will be amazing to get images with beautiful fall color in them, so most people naturally think October is the best month in terms of weather and color.  October is a great month in terms of temperature and fall color at 2,500 ft, but up there at 6K, it can be pretty freaking cold.  It is really hit or miss as to how the weather will be.  Leaves also peak a bit earlier at the higher elevations, sometimes the last couple weeks of  September or the first week of October.  If you are planning a mountainside elopement, September is the best choice in my opinion.  Basically the dude won’t get crazy sweaty in his suit and the bride won’t freeze her buns off.  It is the perfect medium in terms of temperature and nature peacocking it’s glorious color.

You will need a minimum of 2-3 hours for your elopement.  I recommend 4-6 hours to really get what you are looking for in terms of photography, not feeling rushed, and being able to hit up multiple locations.  

Focus on vendors.  You don’t have to worry quite as much about making a million decisions, but the ones you do make should be good ones.  Here are folks that I have worked with before that I trust and am confident in their work.  These are all clickable links, so you don’t have to do a bunch of research.  

Make Up – Ali Lawless  (Anarie Hair and Make Up),  Blush Asheville

Hair – Andrea Boyer (Anarie Hair and Make Up)

Rings – Marthaler Jewelers

Officiant – Asheville Marriages.  Their website leaves a little to be desired, but their officiants are top notch!!

Flowers – Two Buds and a Blossom, Shady Grove, Flora Asheville

Make sure to check out the end of this article as there are tons of options and suggestions for accommodations and great places to eat while you are in Asheville.  If you are eloping here, hang out for a few days and make the most of your trip.  There is so much to do in our city.

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This is what Amanda had to say about her Asheville elopement process…

“‘Amazing” doesn’t even begin to describe our experience working with Andrew May! My husband and I had quite the adventure elopement in Asheville. It was so much fun to spend a few hours trekking around downtown Asheville for photos before hopping on the Blue Ridge Parkway for our intimate ceremony at Craggy Gardens. The entire process from start to finish was a breeze. Since we live in Virginia, we had to plan the entire day through emails and a few phone calls – but it couldn’t have been any easier. Andrew was very helpful and answered all of our questions promptly. I would highly recommend him!”

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There are little tips that are helpful to know, such as communicating to the officiant to pop out of the shot for the first kiss so it can be as epic as possible.  The shot below was Amanda and Robbie’s actual first kiss as a married couple.  You won’t get this type of shot in a church!!

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Bring loved ones if you like, but make sure they know that we will get the best photos if they hike to the location on their own.  I like to work with the couple on the way up, and shoot until the sun sets.  It can be awkward trying to get intimate if Uncle Frank is there peaking over my shoulder making jokes.

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Here is a pro tip.  If you plan on hiking, bring a backpack and a pair of comfortable shoes to hike in (tennis shoes or hiking boots).  Bring water and snacks and some layers in case it gets chilly at higher elevations.

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Here are my Favorite Places to Photograph Elopements in the Asheville Area:

Craggy Gardens :

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Black Balsam:

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Max Patch:

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If you dig beer and a fun experience to kick things off, here is a list of breweries to hit up (these links are all clickable as well):

Wicked Weed Brewing

Burial Beer

Boojum (Waynesville)

Sierra Nevada (Mills River)

Cocktails:  Nightbell

Dessert: French Broad Chocolate Lounge

If you love coffee, here are some fun spots:

Summit Coffee (River Arts District)

High Five Coffee

Vortex Doughnuts

Where should we eat dinner?

We can do a picnic if the timing necessitates it.  Let’s celebrate with some boozy booze. 

Curate:  Get a reservation at least 2 weeks in advance if you want to eat here.  Spanish style tapas, but you will leave full.  This is my favorite Asheville Restaurant  

The Bull and Beggar:  Make that rezzy.  Sometimes I feel like I can grill my own steak better than most restaurants, The Bull and Beggar does not fall into the category of “most restaurants.”

Chestnut: Great salads, soup and atmosphere.  This place is a staple for us as we have always had a good experience, great food, and amazing service.  We even took our 1 and 4 year old one time and they were quite accommodating.  

Where should we stay?

The Inn at Biltmore Estate

The Omni Grove Park Inn

The Grand Bohemian Hotel

Breakfast:

Well Bred (Biltmore Village) outside of the Biltmore Estate 

Biscuit Head (West Asheville, Downtown, South Asheville location opening Spring 2018)

King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffle (West Asheville)

Another Broken Egg Cafe (South Asheville)

Tupelo Honey (Downtown or South Asheville)

Lunch:

12 Bones (bbq, ribs, amazing sides). The corn pudding is incredible.

White Duck Taco (Downtown, River Arts, South)  Lamb Gyro is the tits!!

Vegetarian/Vegan:

Laughing Seed Cafe (Downtown Asheville)

Rosetta’s Kitchen (Downtown Asheville)

Bean Vegan Cuisine (South Asheville)

Well Bred (Biltmore Village)

 

 

  • Alex

    Wow! These are some of the more beautiful adventure elopement photos I’ve ever seen! I want to come to Asheville now, too!ReplyCancel

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Black Balsam is by far my favorite location to take couples and even families for engagement photos or a fun family hike.  If I were to give one piece of advice to people who have booked a session or a wedding with Andrew May Photography it would be to just be yourself.  You don’t have to perform or live up to some standard of romance.  Just be you…

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  -Gil Bailie.  Be you.  Don’t be what everyone else wants you to be or what they expect of you.  Why is it some daring or bold notion to be yourself?  When you are fully you, without holding back you allow yourself to be vulnerable, your guard is down.  But, it is also the easiest way to let people into your life and to truly connect with others.  I know it sounds cliche to say, however it is anything but cliche to actually implement.

My biggest encouragement to people on a session is to just be yourselves.  I have no problem directing couples, but I have found that some of the best photos are when I totally don’t give any direction and the couple takes control.  You know what makes each other tick, you know what to say to get the other person laughing.  I have found that the more I am myself, the more it gives people permission to feel like they can be themselves.  Yep, I make dick jokes on my photo sessions sometimes in order to get a chuckle out of a couple.  My job is to focus on the connection between a couple, as well as my connection to them.  I can’t connect with them if I am acting like a stiff, or if they are. 

If you have tattoos, roll your sleeves up and rock those bitches.  Josh had some killer tattoos as he is big into fishing.  I don’t know much about fishing and I get super seasick, but we were able to talk about his interests and who he is.  Most people feel a little self conscious when we start a session.  It takes a few minutes to realize that this is just a fun outing that includes a third wheel who actually happens to be capturing the whole thing.  But, why am I capturing it?  Why did you hire me?  Because it is important to remember.  It is important to remember a time when you didn’t have children, or the young googley eyed love you used to have for one another, or the fact that you are worth fighting for and sharing a life with. 

Be you.  There is only one you, and that is who I want to capture.  I don’t want to capture some tame version of you.  Let lose, throw aside the inhibitions and get intimate with your sweet love.  Maybe your not super kissy, or maybe you just consider yourself awkward.  Well, I can capture that as well.  We can focus on the silly side of your relationship, the serious side, and sometimes even the intimate side.   

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  • Stunning and awesome engagement photos!ReplyCancel

    • maypa@mac.com

      Thanks. Black Balsam is one of my favorite places to shoot, and to chill. Cheers.ReplyCancel

 

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Devin proposed to his love and partner Eddie at the Biltmore Estate.  Biltmore Estate proposals have become a bit of a constant in my life as of this year.  Most people who would actually click on the image of two dudes kissing, don’t actually need to hear this message.  My encouragement is that you share it with someone in your life who is completely averse to the idea of two dudes or two chicks being in love.  It honestly feels weird to be doing a blog post about a gay couple in 2017, as if I have some message I need to get out about civil rights.  This isn’t a political post as much as it is a message to those that are close to me that I love who have no tolerance or understanding of why a man would want to be with another man, or why a woman would choose to be with another woman.  I will give you the quick answer right off the bat…LOVE.  Love is the reason why.  No, it’s not to gross you out, to be rebellious, or to piss God off.  It is because they have no choice in whom they love in the same way you don’t have a choice with whom you love.  The heart wants what it wants.

I will start by saying that I am not gay, but I do love the heck out of the gays.  They are just like you and I, they just want to love and to be loved and to live their lives.  One of my kids could turn out gay and I wouldn’t love them any less for it.  Their lives are not mine to live or to dictate.  Please know that this post is coming from someone who used to be very homophobic.  But, over time I began to soften my heart towards the idea that a man could love another man the way I love my wife.  The problem nowadays is that we live in a time where people with opposing views try to verbally or physically beat the other side into seeing things their way.  We live in the age of outrage culture in which we have a constant need to yell our point and the only way for the other side to hear that view point is to be louder, more obnoxious, and more offensive rather than simply listening to what the other side has to offer.  My only request would be that you read something that opposes the views you’ve come to know.    

The main point I wish to make is that there is so much shame associated with homosexuality and I think it is a travesty.  I don’t want to feel ashamed for loving anyone, nor do I wish to make others feel like they are doing something wrong or that they are somehow infringing upon my rights.  Love is love.  Straight love isn’t more pure, nor is it better, loftier, or holier.  People often think of homosexuality in terms of sexuality rather than romance.  Perhaps we should change the name to homoromance or homolove.  No I am not a social justice warrior getting hung up on etymology, I just want folks to recontextualize how they think about gay people. I am not defined by my sexuality, so why should gay people be defined by their sexuality?  These “gays” are people first and foremost, they are individuals, humans, with rights, thoughts and feelings.

As we have seen from the recent acts of violence in Charlottesville, hate will always be in the world.  Hate is taught and learned, it is not intrinsic.  Hate is easy, fill your heart with enough of it and you leave little room for love, tolerance, and kindness.  To quote the all wise one, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”  -Yoda.  Many people fear what they do not understand, which in turn leads to hatred.  Let’s put some positivity into the world.  Stop putting shame into the world with internet comments, memes, and a general attitude that you are better than someone else.  Let’s stop shaming others and treat everyone with love and respect, because that is what is right to do.  Truest love knows no shame and is a beautiful thing to behold.

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  • Terry

    I’ve read this several times and it brought tears to my eyes. Your words are amazing along with your pictures. I’m proud to call you my friend. If everyone had your view on this the world would be a better place.
    “The heart wants what it wants” That really got to me for some reason. So very true.
    Never stop writing because you are very talented with your words.ReplyCancel

  • Overwhelming idea, and nice photography.ReplyCancel

    • maypa@mac.com

      Thanks for checking things out. My hope is that people can learn to see others as people first and foremost. We have become so tribal and team based, that we sometimes don’t treat others with the same respect and love that we desire. Cheers.ReplyCancel

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Katelin and Todd had an amazingly beautiful wedding at Meadowbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast in Suffolk, Virginia.  But what made their wedding day unique to the other millions of weddings that are photographed every year?  They decided that photography was super important to them so they invested not only money, but time into their wedding photography.

What is the most important thing to you as it relates to your wedding day?  Where are you spending your money?  If you are dropping a good bit on the photography, you will want to make sure to build in a good amount of time for what I like to call creative shots.  Creative shots are a time where all the guests, family, and wedding party are cocktailing it up and you get to be alone for a minute with the person you just married.  It’s important on your wedding day to have some time away from everyone else and focus on why it is you actually got married (because you love that person and want to build a life with them).  It’s a time to cuddle and snuggle and get to just be yourselves.  I recommend having a minimum of 30 minutes for creative shots, but preferably 1 hour (we can always cut it shorter the day of if we feel like we have gotten plenty of images).  Allowing plenty of time will ensure that the evening isn’t stressful and that we aren’t just “getting through it.”  The day will be fun, but the timing of everything and the emotion of the day can be quite draining and sometimes stressful.  This isn’t meant to be negative Nancy, it is just real talk as I have been to quite a few weddings and gotten the full day experience.

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Having a full hour to photograph Katelin and Todd allowed me to settle into a nice groove and to get super creative.  It allowed me time to actually look around and see the best light or the best angle for a shot.  It also allowed me time to focus in on their beautiful relationship and to take advantage of the amazing landscape they had rented out for the evening.

If creative shots are not that important to you, let your photographer know.  Based on the amount of time I had with this wonderful couple, I felt that I was really able to create images that they will cherish forever.  Whether we have 10 minutes or a full hour, I will get you some amazing shots, however, I will get you way more amazing shots if we have a full hour built in.  Also, the amount of variety I can get if we have allotted enough time cannot be overstated.  This is something you should make your coordinator aware of if you have one.  If you don’t have a coordinator this is something you will want to keep in mind when coming up with the timeline (which I am glad to help with).  I have done several timelines in my day and have a general idea of how long things take.

The flowers will die, the cake will be devoured, and the guests will go back to their lives.  The best representation you will have to remind you of the amazing experience you had beginning your journey together will be reflected in the images your photographer takes.  If a photographer is given a good amount of time with the two of you, they can create rather than simply capture.  It is much harder to settle into a rhythm if you are being rushed by anyone to get to the reception.

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Venue: Meadowbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast

Event planner/rentals: Chic Unique Vintage Rentals and Events

Flowers: Johnson’s Gardens Inc.

Cake: Parkers Produce

Videographer: Riverdale 24 Productions

DJ: Music Makes You Happy DJ Services

Hair: Annai Claycamp

Makeup: Shelby Bybee

Food: Captain Bob’s BBQ & Seafood

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I will most likely dance at your wedding…

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You’ve spent the money, you’ve made all the plans.  You’ve hired the photographer to capture your wedding, Biltmore Estate proposal, or just your special occasion.  Everything is in place, and all of a sudden the dark clouds roll in and it starts to pour buckets of rain.  Most people are super bummed and sometimes folks let it get the better of them.  My biggest piece of advice to those who experience rain while I am taking your photos is to get all up in that rain and play.  It is so great to see a couple be truly unencumbered and free from any boundaries.  Hell, you can strip down to your birthday suit if you want.  The point is that the rain and the weather are going to do whatever they are going to do.  We have no control over what the weather does or doesn’t do, but what we do have control over is how we respond to it.  Krysta was a super smiley gal anyways, but I felt I got to see her true emotion when the rains came.  It wasn’t something that I could pull out of her on my own.  Those expressions of pure joy were from the rain and from her beloved man dude, Dwight.  Dwight is a state trooper and if any of you have been pulled over by a state trooper before, you know they can be pretty stern fellas.  Dwight totally wasn’t, but what was so great about the rain is that Dwight was up for anything and both him and Krysta seemed to come more alive with the rain coming down. 

Look I get it, let’s say it’s your wedding day and you’ve done hair and make up and it took close to 2 hours.  You don’t want to get that dress that you are only going to wear once in your life dirty.  Understood.  But, I implore your to consider something that will last a lifetime…the photos of you and your loved one being adventurous together and letting the heavens open up on your beautiful faces.  Kids get it.  They love playing in the rain.  Us adults get lost somewhere along the way and lose that fun sense of adventure.

I suggest bringing a backup set of clothes to your session or wedding with me.  This is most often the excuse people have for not indulging in the rain play.  I have towels and umbrellas on hand in my car, but I can’t cover the clothes, that is on you!

Many people think that they are up for getting soaked on their wedding day or during their session, but when it comes down to it, they back out or they let their mind do the thinking.  Think with your soul, not your mind.  It is a much smarter entity.  Now, if there is lightning, I am not willing to risk it for a biscuit.  But, if it is just a little bit of rain, or a whole shit ton of rain, you better get your booty out in it and shake what your mama gave you.  It will be like that scene in the Notebook when Noah and Allie kiss passionately on the dock in the rain.   Please don’t tell anyone that I know this much about The Notebook, but it is a mighty enjoyable flick.  And the best line of the whole move is…  

“Do you think our love could take us away together?”

“I think our love can do anything we want it to.”

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