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So after much deliberation by our judges, and some last minute vote submissions. We’re ready to announce our second free wedding photography contest winners! This year it was truly down to the wire, and we honestly didn’t know who the winner would be until late this afternoon.

We’ve been blessed with some amazing stories from our four finalists, and desperately wish we could shoot each and every one of their weddings! Obviously we can’t, but hopefully we can help them out in some smaller ways. So we’re offering our runners up either a free engagement or bridal session, or 24% off any of our packages. I know it’s not much, but hopefully it’ll help make their amazing wedding days that much more special!

All talk aside, we’re excited to announce that our big winners for the Free Wedding Photography Contest 2.0 are Jessica and Mark! They entered the contest a few months back, and their story immediately caught our eye. We wanted to share just a small excerpt of their submission!

“I met the wonderful man I am marrying three weeks before my world turned upside down. I was back home from Auburn University for Christmas break in 2008; my now fiance, Mark, was also back home for Christmas break from the University of Illinois- Chicago. We had never met before, but we had mutual friends. Mark use to go to school in the state of Georgia and spent many of this weekends at UGA where he became friends with my close group of high school friends. Although we had heard of each other before through stories shared with our friends, we had never met.

Mark and I were finally introduced on this break during an outing our mutual friends. Right away there was an instant attraction and an interest to get to know each other more. We went on our first date two days later. It was a great first date of dinner and a movie. The conversation flowed easily and it felt like we had been friends all along. Despite the distance that would separate us when we headed back to school, we decided after our first date to hang out more since we enjoyed each other’s company so much. The break came and went very quickly and we made some wonderful memories together in a few short weeks. It made it very hard to leave when the break was over, but I had to go back to Auburn. We left unsure of exactly where we stood just because of the distance involved and the short time we had together. We did know one thing was for sure though, we would be in touch.

I settled back to Auburn talked to and first day classes on Tuesday, January 8th. Tuesdays were a long day for me and I didn’t finish until about 2:30 that day. When I got back from class I came back to my place to rest for a bit before I headed to practice ( I was on the track and field team at Auburn University). As soon as I went to lie down, my phone rang. It was the head track coach at Auburn asking me to come into the office as soon as possible. He sounded urgent and upset, and I tried to play back in my mind what in the world I would “be in trouble for” with the coaches ( there was nothing ). I was very confused. Being a distance running, the head coach was not the one who worked with him.

I walked into the office and the coaching staff broke news that would change my life. My Dad had suddenly died of a heart attack that afternoon and my neighbors were coming to get me so I would not have to make the drive home alone. Any death is hard, but when it is unexpected it knocks you down like a gust of wind from a tornado. My Ada at 54 was healthy, vibrant, and full of life. I was in disbelief. Of course there is no right or wrong way to grieve or handle this kind of situation, but I honestly didn’t know what to do, or how to call, or what to say. On the way back as I had time to process what had happened, the thought ran through my mind to call Mark. Only knowing him about three weeks, I was afraid that this was too intimate a family situation to call him and let me know. As my close friends slowly found out and starting calling, I knew that he would find out, especially because he was still in Atlanta (his classes started much later than ours).

I came home to find Mark waiting for me on our porch and when I saw him I knew that he was my angel in disguise. It takes a lot of grace and compassion to be there for someone who you have only known for three weeks in the way that he was there for me. It would have been very easy, and understandable, to walk away when this happened. That week he saved me. He stayed up with me all night until I could find some peace to go to sleep. He met my entire family and friends in overwhelming circumstances and handled it all so well with respect towards my family and our privacy as well.

It was that week that I knew Mark would be in my life forever. When you go through something so emotional like that, and you make it through, you know that you can survive anything. Not only did we go through the emotional ups and downs of my grieving, but we did it from a distance with me in Auburn, Ala. and Mark in Chicago, Illinois.

Mark proposed this past January, a little over a year after we met. He proposed at one of our favorite spots in the city of Atlanta, Intermezzo Cafe and we celebrated that night wit our families over wine and cheesecake. In less than two years I have experienced the saddest point in my life and one of the happiest (the engagement). With the combination of grief and distance, I believe that Mark and I have overcome a lot of odds. With a lot of cards, a lot of love letters and a lot of phone calls, our love has grown into the greatest love of our lives. We truly cherish each other, respect each other, and know what it means to stick with one another through thick and thin. Forever. ..

Although I know there are many people who experience sadness and obstacles in their life and people who are very deserving, Mark and I would be forever grateful to win this package. Since my Dad’s passing our financial situation has changed drastically and we are trying cut costs for my Mom. We plan on helping my Mom pay for the wedding, but with the economy the way it is Mark and I are having trouble finding jobs as of right now. This would mean so much.”

Jessica and Mark, we feel so privileged to be part of your big day. We can’t wait to meet you in person and get to work shooting pictures! In the meantime, good luck with all the rest of the plans, and we’ll talk to you soon!

And one more big “thank you” to all of our entrants this year!

– Brandon and Stacey

3 Responses

  1. Southern Wedding Photography | Gresham Photography » Jessica and Mark | The Wedding | Madison, GA [...] refresh your memory, Jessica and Mark were the winners of our Free Wedding Photography Contest 2.0. Their story was touching … and after getting to [...]

  2. Ross Burns Brandon and Stacey, I think you made an excellent choice with the winner. My dad is currently in a tough battle with cancer, so their story hits home. I don't know the magnitude of her grief, but I can only imagine. Jessica you are in my thoughts and prayers!

  3. Karen and Steve LaMarsh Thank you so much for choosing Jessica and Mark as the winners and giving them this fabulous gift! We are so thrilled for them! They are a beautiful couple and we look forward to their big day and wonderful life together. What an awesome blessing this is! Thank you!