February 18, 2019

How We Met | Alex & Steph’s Story

I’m Stephanie, a wedding + lifestyle photographer based in Destin, Florida and Warrenton, Virginia. Whether I’m by the mountains in Virginia or the ocean on the Florida Gulf Coast, my soul feels at home, surrounded by rural living and the raw beauty of nature. I genuinely love what I do, and feel so passionate to share the enthusiasm and joy of these celebrations with you!

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The Beginning | Alex and Steph

We are switching things up from the “Coffee Talk Mondays” today! I’m currently designing our wedding website and thought the blog was a great place to share the start of our story. Having the beginning documented/recorded will be a great reminder for us to reflect in the future when we need to be reminded of God’s goodness. I hope you find this uplifting and encouraging, especially to those who have suffered from heartache in the past. May this bring you peace knowing that life isn’t always according to our timing.

It’s funny how God works in times when we least expect it, he will bring “the one” into your life when you least expect it. I remember having a personal talk with my Dad around Thanksgiving just days before my last first date.  Anyone who knows my dad knows he’s not the sentimental type, but he was a trooper hearing my girl talk. HA! I ranted how I was over the dating scene and just wanted to take some time for myself. I would consider dating again after the New Year. “But you better believe I’m not going to sway on my standards ANYMORE!” I explained to my dad. That meant a man who loved the Lord, had goals, ambitions, and could lead me, as well as a future family. I wanted someone who wanted a family, a man who was respectful, funny, adventurous, attractive, kind, understanding, mature. Likely a list of attributes every girl deserves to find in a man. As I typed out this list and think of my Alex, I really hit the jackpot!!! It is difficult to find someone who meets the unique definition of our “soul mate.” Some couples find each other in their childhood years or during college or further along in life. Both Alex and I had our fair share of relationships and heartache, but God was preparing our hearts for each other to find each other at the right time. Our definition of the right time is most of the time, “right now!” But it takes patience, faith, and trust in God’s provision.

During my “me time” before I considered trying the dating scene, I thought I should zone in on what standards I needed to keep in mind when I eventually decided to date. So a week before Alex’s message, I bought and started reading a book called, “31 Prayers for my Future Husband.” Single friends, I have the book if you want me to pass it along. 😉 Anyways, that night chatting with my Dad led to a FB message from Alex asking me out for coffee, and during that time I didn’t really know what to think. First off, I didn’t like guys who tried to message over social media because it was something like, “Hey! Did you know you looked like Gal Gadot? We should get together sometime!” HA! That was an easy, “I’ll pretend I never saw that.” But Alex’s message was sincere and didn’t use some corny pickup line … Which anyone who knows Alex, would expect some sort of funny pickup line. 😉 Alex and I attended good ole’ Liberty High School back in the day, but I didn’t really know him too well since we were in different grades. I stayed up late with my friend, Michelle, one night and after she did some background investigating on social media, he was worth the coffee date! And little did I know that our Deja Brew coffee date was the last first date of my life. <3

The Beginning | Alex and Steph

Fast forward to that Sunday, Alex drove out of his way after spending Thanksgiving with his family in Massanutten to meet with me at Deja Brew (my FAVORITE hang out spot) in Warrenton, VA! That day was crazy for me as I was in the midst of 12 Christmas mini sessions, church, and the Nutcracker with my mom that evening, but we managed for find a couple of hours to meet for a casual coffee. As soon as Alex walked in … I couldn’t help but smile SO big. I thought, “Gosh, he’s handsome/charming/HOT!!!!” We walked up to the counter to place our order, but a second later, we heard a crash behind us and found a lady on the ground. Alex immediately rushed to her and I thought … “Ohhhhh, Lord. I’m being pranked. Am I supposed to woo him for saving someone’s life?” … Naturally, I was a little on guard/pessimistic after what I had been through in my past. But thank goodness for Alex being there because it turned out that the lady had multiple sclerosis. She tripped trying to walk into the coffee shop and Alex picked her up and carried her to her seat.  You think that’s a crazy first date experience, just wait till you hear the second date. 😉 We continued our date and I noticed that conversations were effortless as we talked about our faith, adventures, family, friends, etc. With only an hour to spare, Alex asked to continue the date next door for lunch at Black Bear Bistro.  You’ll see where this is ironic on the second date! During that time, I knew something was different about him. The hour flew by, and I had to rush off to my next mini session appointment, but I was excited and hopeful by the potential of seeing him again!

Later that evening after I finished hustling, Alex texted me during my Nutcracker date with my mom asking me on an Old Rag hiking adventure for our second date! 🙂 I squealed and talked to my mom about the amazing first date I had with him at Deja Brew! During that time, though, I was gearing to leave for Paris and Alex was going to San Diego. Time was of the essence! I looked at my calendar and thought there was NO WAY I was going to be able to squeeze in a long hike before heading out of the country. After admitting to myself that I would have to wait a half month before seeing him again, I looked at my calendar one last time to find that my flight departure date was a day later than planned! So I excitingly texted Alex back with, “Let’s do it!!”

We met at the Yoders Parking lot in Madison after he asked to come up from Richmond to pick me up! So chivalrous. 😉 But I convinced him to meet halfway at  Yoder’s. Alex was very confident routing us to Old Rag without a GPS and no service. HA! We ended up on the fire trail side of Old Rag, but I thought, “I’ve always wanted to do Old Rag backward and make it a new challenge!” So we decided to make the most of it and start our ascent! As we approached the first mile marker, I was too busy chatting away and looking down at the rocks beneath my feet to ensure I wasn’t going to face plant. Moments later, Alex in a sharp tone cautiously said, “Stephanie”  and threw his arm in front of me to guide us to a halt! I looked up and there was a HUGE, full-grown black bear staring at us on the path. I could not believe it. I anxiously looked around for an escape plan. The bear started walking towards us.  I also thought about getting as big as possible and yell, but I also didn’t want to scare Alex away. HA!  And we were worried that there were cubs nearby. Alex pushed me behind him, picked up a huge stick, and guided us backward. The bear kept getting closer, and closer, and somehow Alex stayed calm. We kept walking backward further, and further for what seemed like forever. Finally, the bear stopped. We picked up our pace and walked away. It was a crazy experience, yet I felt so protected and assured with Alex by my side. What made it comical was when Alex tossed down the huge stick, it immediately broke in half. HA!

The Beginning | Alex and Steph

The Beginning | Alex and Steph

After hiking a mile back down to the car, we navigated our way to the real Old Rag entrance and started our ascent again. It was SO gutsy of us to go there on a second date, but conversations were again effortless! We made it to the peak to watch a little bit of an early sunset and enjoy a nice beverage/yummy snacks that Alex thoughtfully packed for us. 🙂 It was PERFECT. Being a photographer, I naturally wanted to get a photo of us together on top of the mountain, but then thought that it might be weird to ask him. Again, I needed to be on guard and protect myself. As I turned my back to start walking down Old Rag, Alex stopped me and asked if we could snag a photo. He pulled out a gorilla tripod and made our first photo together happen. 🙂 I’m so glad he did that because it’s one of my favorites!!! After making it down the mountain safe and sound and enjoying dinner at Pig N’ Steak (so good), we had enjoyed a 10-hour second date together! Glad we liked each other enough to make it through a long day like that. 😉 We said our goodbyes, and I just hoped that we would have many more adventures like that in the future. Later that evening, I received a phone call from Alex.  He was on I-64  and hit a deer. My first instinct was to drive an hour south to him, but fortunately, he was okay and his car, good ole’ Clarence, survived (barely)! I thought I was going to be able to sneak in another bit of time with him, but again, patience is key.

The Beginning | Alex and Steph

Weeks went by, but we made plans as soon as Alex got off the plane to get together. We picked up right where we left off, and excitedly told stories of our recent travels. He came to my place for dinner one night and I prepared a meal of stuffed portobello mushrooms, he scarfed them down and seemed so content. Months later, he admitted to me he does not like mushrooms. A few weeks later, I was invited to go to a Christmas party down in Richmond with him and got to meet some of his friends. After chatting with them about JMU and NFL football, we all hit it off! Oh, and I guess the homemade cookies weren’t a bad addition. 😉 It was the best time, but then I started to wonder what his intentions were since he had just received news he was going to be stationed in Florida in May. I was just about to leave Richmond to head home, but I needed to know. So I asked Alex to go on a run with me around Belle Isle. As we recovered from the run on the side of the trail taking in the beautiful scenery of the water rushing by and RVA skyline in the distance, I decided to crack the shell. He was pretty hesitant opening himself to vulnerable conversations regarding the past, but it was in that conversation when I KNEW he was worth the wait. It turned out that both of us had been through similar hurt from past relationships. I’ve always encouraged friends who had been through the heartache that they would eventually find a man who would understand and empathize. It’s funny to think that my preaching came back around in a full circle. 🙂 Since that point, we both never looked back! During that conversation on Belle Isle, I knew that God brought us together with a purpose. I hope that our story can now be an encouragement to friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.  When you focus on the Lord and his timing you will run right into your future spouse!!

If you want to read our proposal story, check it out HERE!!!!



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