When I decided to run this contest, I had NO idea the feedback I would get. Really fantastic stories and such great people from all over the country and I wanted to shoot all of them for free. Honestly. As I started reading the stories and trying to choose the best candidates, I brought Matt into the equation and we debated, rated, and debated some more. To all of the couples who didn't become a finalist, I really enjoyed hearing the great love stories and wish you the absolute best for your special day. And if you are still interested in EyeSpy shooting your wedding, please let me know. On to the finalists. I was floored by all of the submissions, but these really spoke to me. I would love to be a part of any of these celebrations and meet the couples who lives are spelled out on the pages. So the decision is in your hands. Below are the stories of the finalists, read them all and vote for the couple who you think deserves to win. Oh yeah, and I picked 4 finalists. :) Couple #1, Molly & Matt cow Hello Stephany, Matt and I are getting married in April near Easton, Maryland at my grandfather's old house right on the Miles River. The house has been the center of family activity for decades and one of my favorite pictures is a black and white one of my mom outside the house with a huge piece of taffy hanging out of her mouth on Thanksgiving day in 1949 when she was 7 years old. My mom died when I was in college, so having it here makes her all the more part of the day. Matt and I live and work on Africa (Rwanda) and so you can imagine planning a wedding from so far away is challenging. We also just got engaged (we came home for Thanksgiving and Matt proposed so I could be around my family to celebrate!) so we are planning the whole wedding in just 5 months! As a result, this wedding will be one gigantic DIY, team effort! I am hoping to grow all my own wildflowers on the property (I am planting seeds this week before I fly back) to just cut the day before and throw into bouquets and old glass jars I have collected from my grandmother's house (I have contacted a local wildflower farm for backup in case none of mine grow!), one of my bridesmaids will sew all our table runners/napkins which we will send over from the fabric markets in Rwanda. Our food will be sourced from regional (maryland, virginia) farmers, my uncle will bake all the bread and a cousin will make loads of goat cheese (she is an apprentice on a goat farm) and instead of a cake we'll be doing a big table of desserts, homemade by friends, of old family recipes. Our officiant is a great friend who is a zen buddhist monk, which we are most excited about! And our wedding bands will be made by an iron worker in the village where I work in western Rwanda. About me and Matt: We are both 33 years old and have been together for four years, this time! We also dated briefly in college. He was a good friend of my cousin and we were all very close to my grandmother. One day I was at my grandmother's house and she snuck away and called him and made up an excuse for him to come over! Anyway, when we started dating again this time, I was in San Francisco and he was in graduate school in Athens Georgia. We dated for a year long-distance and then both moved to NYC for two years. I worked with an urban agriculture organization that helped low-income communities get access to fresh food and he was doing a post-doc at the Earth Institute at Columbia. He was occasionally traveling back and forth to Rwanda with his work and after going with him on one trip, we decided to move there. He does economic development work with an organization that builds hospitals and I am helping to build a school. It is an incredibly challenging life, but it is also incredibly rewarding. The main reason I want to win your photography, other than thinking it is awesome, is because it would make it SO MUCH easier for us to have that decision settled since making phone calls and figuring all this stuff out from Rwanda will be quite challenging in the coming months! Also, as everyone is, we are trying to keep our wedding expenditures as low as possible. It is really hard to spend large chunks of money on any of this planning because all I can think about is how many people that money would help where we live. When my cousin told me last night that a photographer would cost a couple thousand dollars, I almost fainted. Then I saw your contest this morning! Of course I want wonderful photos from my wedding, but spending that kind of money is a huge dilemma for me. I could help SO many people with that money. I would love to win the contest and then take some of the money we would have spent on photography and put it toward one of the programs we work for in Rwanda - an idea that just popped into my head! Anyway, that's our story. Thanks for having this contest, and good luck! **************************************************************************************************************** Couple #2, Viv & Rick WioletaandRich Hi Stephany, My name is Viv and my fiance's name is Rick. We are planning our wedding for July 3rd in Roslyn, NY - up north long island. Here's our story. I was born in Poland in 1986, came to the States when I was fourteen, so I suppose I'm fairly young to get married, but when I met Rick it clicked right away. Of course being the fools that we were we didn't see it right away. Picture this: a rainy night in February driving down the highway from New York to Virginia to pick up a guy I don't even know - best buddy of a new friend I met a month ago in class. Fairly crazy to go on such a trip, but I guess we have to do crazy things in life sometimes. Coming up on the seventh hour of driving we are almost there and bam, me and Steve hit a pothole and our tire bursts one exit from where we're supposed to get off. We have a spare tire but not the right equipment to change it, we despair. Rick anxiously waiting our arrival calls Steve to ask where we are and he explains the situation, Rick says he'll be right there. He takes a cab to the middle of the highway to meet us. He arrives five minutes later and I meet him, drenched, cold and scared. He flashes his brilliant smile and says: "Hi, nice to meet you, it's going to be okay" and I believe him. Fast forward a few months, we sit on a bench sipping coffee, still just friends, oddly comfortable with each other. I suggest we should get married. He laughs nervously and asks what do I mean, I explain that I came to the States on a Visa that has expired and the only way for me to become a citizen is to marry someone. He gives this about three seconds of thought and says ok. I question whether he's in his right mind, as I was half joking, but he explains that if it was him in such a situation he'd want someone to help him just the same way, and he doesn't doubt whether I'd do it or not, he knows I would. I dismiss his agreement to such a thing and life goes on. More months pass and this marriage proposal doesn't seem that difficult to pull off. As simple as living together and pretending a little. We've certainly got nothing to lose. Well perhaps me getting deported, but I'm already half expecting that every day. We speak to my parents and they give me a consent and I ask about his parents and he tells me he's lost them when he was five and that his aunt raised him. My heart breaks a little, but I start caring for him more. We ask his aunt and she's a bit reserved but ends up agreeing. So we go into an office and get a marriage license. Fairly simple procedure, we walk out and I suggest we should practice our fake kiss, and right then and there by the elevator in the office building he gives me a kiss. We're both fairly gitty at that point but we think nothing of it, we're still good friends. I go home that night and can't stop thinking about our kiss. It still burns on my lips. I think I might have fallen in love. A couple of weeks pass and we go to the office to say our I do's. It feels like the happiest day of my life, marrying this kind stranger. More months pass and we are closer than ever, we decide to move in together. Both poor college students but we feel we can do it with our part time jobs. We spend time with each other every day and finally realize hey we're in love. We finally admit it, a few more months pass and on the one year anniversary of us getting married, he proposes to me on top of the Rockefeller Center in nyc, complete with a ring and his amazing smile he's irresistible, I savor the moment while he's down on one knee and he says: "hurry up, it's cold!" I say "yes yes!" and we kiss while the brilliant lights on nyc brighten the night sky. We fell in love after we got married...We set the date and hope we can make enough money in the coming months to pay for it all. Me a recent graduate and him still in school with a part time job this seems a bit difficult, but we are willing to cut costs wherever possible so we consider not having a professional photographer at our event. My parents can help us a little too, but not much, so here I am today applying for this contest hoping we can have a nice photographer since I know those pictures are forever. Thank you Stephany for your consideration and reading our story. I hope to hear from you soon. Have a great day. Thanks again. **************************************************************************************************************** Couple #3, Pamela & JD _DSC0419_jdpamela I am writing to nominate my daughter for your free wedding photography contest. Its hard to believe that my little girl, Pamela, is 27. Although I may be prejudiced and quick to say that Pamela is a wonderful person, you would in all honesty be hard pressed to find anyone that would disagree. Through the years I’ve watched her grow and transition from the little girl who often said “Mom I don't ever want to grow up- I want to stay your little girl forever." into a teenager, and later into a grown adult. Her unwavering faith and trust in Jesus even through the darkest moments has been inspirational to the many friends and family she loves and cares for. Her tender spirit is always available to lend a listening ear or a comforting word. As she grew and matured in life, she attended college, where she received a degree in Graphic Design, and then went on to pursue a career. And, as most girls do, she looked forward to finding “someone special” to love and to love her in return. Then came the big moment she had been waiting for – a knight in shining armor. They were engaged and were to be married beachside in the Caribbean. It was the wedding she had planned and thought about as a young girl. Then, suddenly, without warning two days before their anticipated departure to wedded bliss, the knight called off the wedding. He left no forewarning and no apologies, but instead insisted they go ahead and go anyway and have a good time. Devastated, bewildered and crushed she went along. Still holding hope, she hauled her wedding dress and had to endure the many well wishes of excited travelers along the journey. The knight, enjoyed a free trip and quickly departed from her life afterward. She was left to cry herself to sleep at night and pay nearly $6,000 in expenses besides leaving her physically and emotionally wounded. Although she was very wary of men after being left at the altar, the next three years two additional men came and went in her life and left her disappointed and disillusioned. Through it all she maintained her trademark happy, cheerful personality. Her heart broken under the smile and her mind left wondering if she was ever meant to have a true love of her own. Unconditional love – someone to care for her the way God had intended. She devoted herself to her job and church and family. Then, without planning or thought, while helping at church a new guy showed up – JD. Previously engaged and disillusioned himself, they both wondered about each other. JD had never quite met anyone like Pamela. She is very adventurous, traveling, hunting, camping, fishing, and owns a motorcycle, yet she maintains a very feminine and creative side. JD is the son of a Pastor and grew up in Montana. A few years ago, his love of music lead him to Minneapolis. He thought he would never meet the "right girl" and would have to settle if he was ever to marry, however, as the two of them grew to know each other, it was obvious neither would need to do any settling. There was a spark that ignited over time to a full blown fire. This past summer JD asked Pamela’s father and I, for her hand in marriage. Several weeks later, they planned a trip to his home in Montana. There on the mountain side overlooking God’s wondrous creation, he knelt down and uttered a proposal that took her breath away. With his promise to love, cherish and always be there for her, she accepted. All this leads us to the present. Pamela did not give up her dream to be married “on the beach.” She paid off the previous loan and over the past years has scrimped and saved enough to once again be able to have her dream wedding. They made arrangements to be married on the island of Antigua in January. They have chosen to have a few of their close friends come along to witness the joyous event. You may be wondering, "if they are getting married in Antigua, then why would they need to enter this contest for free wedding photography?" Although they are getting married in Antigua they will be having a wedding reception here in the states a month later. The reception will be held in Monticello, Minnesota. Pamela and JD will be in their wedding attire as well as all their bridesmaids and groomsmen. There will be a wedding vow renewal service performed by JD's father, as well as a dinner and dance. JD and Pamela will have minimal pictures taken in Antigua as they are so very expensive, therefore they will still need photography for the reception/service. Due to all of the other expenses involved already they cannot afford to hire a professional. Further, although Pamela’s Father and I would very much love to hire a professional we have both been laid off from our jobs. There is no money left in the budget, thus, their current plan was to ask friends to take pictures and hope for the best. I am not the best at writing, as you may well see, but when I saw your advertisement and it said "Unique Photography" it caught my eye. Pamela and JD certainly are two very Unique people, a one of a kind couple I 'd say. Her wedding is very Unique – Everything from the invites, down to the hand made gifts, jewelry, and fabric boutineers, wedding rings and decorations, are all being designed and created by Pamela. Everything will be unique to their style. Pamela would never write about herself like this so I took the chance that you might consider them and Bless them with your gift of free Photography. Warmest Regards, Mother of the Bride ************************************************************************************************************* Couple #4, Malika & Stefan sm_contest Hi Stephany, Our background info. I was born and raised in Seattle, although my immediate family has all since moved away. Stefan was born in Mexico City and moved to Seattle when he was 8, all his family has also since moved away. We each have a degree in Visual Communication with an emphasis on Illustration. Stefan has worked in the computer game industry for the past 15 years. I worked as a graphic designer for 5 years and am currently going to school for interior design. We live in a 1922s bungalow in Seattle with our two little dogs: a miniature schnauzer (Rosco) and a chihuahua (Pico). Our friends are like our family, many we've known since childhood. So like you, family (and friends) are very important to us, as are our dogs (we LOVE dogs!) and design (interior, graphic, fashion...all things pretty!) We feel like you would be a great asset to have capturing our day! Why I think we deserve to win? Stefan and I just celebrated our fourteen year anniversary...and six year engagement anniversary, November 4th. With each passing year, since we’ve been engaged we’ve watched friends meet people, fall in love, get married, have multiple wedding anniversaries and other friends get married, get divorced and get remarried. Now it’s finally our turn to tie the knot. Our location is still in negotiations. We are debating between The Colony, in Palm Springs for a destination wedding weekend or staying local in Seattle. As you know weddings can cost a small fortune so we are trying to see what makes the most sense for us and our loved ones financially while still allowing us to create the memories we want with the people that matter to us most. You may be wondering why we’ve been engaged for so long. Well it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. We looked tirelessly at venues for the first year we were engaged. And as a new bride to be I was blinded with visions of grandeur for the location, the dress, the flowers, the food and every other detail. Finally we decided to have a destination wedding in Vancouver, B.C. We paid our deposit and booked our date in August 2005. However, difficulties in dealing with an absentee planner who was preoccupied with her own upcoming wedding and other complications caused us to call off our wedding and start the entire planning process over. October 2005 we bought a 1922 cosmetic fixer upper and started a remodel. The more we got into the project the more fixer and less cosmetic the remodel became. And the home we thought we would start our new happy family in became our own little money pit, going through our entire savings and all the money we had set aside for our wedding (since my fiancee and I aren’t receiving any help from our families it has been quite a blow.) A month after we bought our house I was laid off from my job making it next to impossible for us re-save our depleted wedding funds. Here we are four years later, the housing market is in the toilet, the job market is in the dumps...but our remodel is almost done, at least on the main floor :) and we are still in love and still can’t wait to be married and add to our family. They say a remodel can ruin many great relationships. And I can most definitely say it has tested us, as did my layoff, my return to school and so many other things in the past fourteen years but the serenity in knowing we can get through it all and have, as long as we’re together, supporting one another has been a priceless gift. We’ve loved each other unconditionally through it all: good and bad, rich and poor, laughter and tears. My wedding priority list has changed over the past six years. I thought the designer dress was a must, insane amounts of flowers a necessity, a band, 5 star dining, elaborate cake, all essential to my dream day. Now I know, that what I care about most is being able to hold Stefan’s hands and vow to him to continue to love him unconditionally, through good and bad, rich and poor, sickness and health, laughter and tears...until forever...and for us to be surrounded by the people who really love us and who we really love...and for there to be someone amazingly talented there to capture the moments between us and our loved ones so we can look back and remember the feelings regardless of whether I wore a designer dress, ate filet mignon or walked beneath a ceiling dripping with crystals or orchids. All of which, of course, would be nice to have. Stefan and I both have artistic backgrounds and careers, as well as creative talented friends, so we hope to pool our resources and skills in order to create a special event rooted in sentiment and love (hopefully not breaking the bank) that will result in something very “us.” Thanks so much for you time and the opportunity to be a part of your generous contest, Malika & Stefan *************************************************************************************************************** Time to Vote! Voting will be open until December 23rd and only 1 vote per IP address, so tell your friends and get voting!!
Karie McLain Says: Friday, December 18, 2009

What an awesome gift you are giving :) Any person would be lucky to have you as their photographer!

Kathleen Says: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stephany we are happy to hear you too like to travel. Creative photo shots!!!

What a clever idea. It's a generous offer you've come up with. Know that eyespy and you are in the awareness of people living in countries 'around-the-world' as we've sent it to everyone we know.

Who knows what the future holds, we are trying to convince our Couple of choice to have their wedding in some exotic get-away. However, money and time continue to be the primary factor.

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