He pursues her, quietly but fiercely. They never stopped dating- not after he placed a diamond on her left ring finger, not after they promised forever in front of a wedding officiant, not after the birth of their sweet daughter; always dating, always pursuing, he never gives up the chase.

He wouldn’t tell her where they were going, just that she’d need an overnight bag and a gown for an evening out. He’d arranged for their sweet daughter to stay the night with her grandparents, then David whisked Kristy away to DC for a New Year’s Eve getaway. Upon arriving at the Jefferson, Kristy found a hair and make-up artist waiting to doll her to the nines. What for? An anniversary session, of course.

She slipped on her classic black Louboutins with that reserved, quiet grace she so effortlessly possesses, and fastened her silver and crystal necklace, touching it lightly to make sure it lay just right. A slight perfume of roses hung in the air from the soft pink dozen he’d had delivered for her, and next to the vase lay a handwritten love letter to Kristy. Written in Italian, no less. He opened the door to their suite to greet her, and in his own quiet way, stood in wonder at her, savoring the moment of it being just the two of them. The whole evening in front of them, the city theirs to explore together.

David & Kristy, I am in awe of the way you care for one another. To see a man so in love with his wife, and a woman adore her husband as ardently as you do, Kristy, it’s that kind of love that inspires music, poetry and art. It was truly my honor to play a small part in your evening out together, I can’t thank you enough for letting me in on the secret, David! (PS- David’s a phenomenal photographer, you’d love his work!)

Washington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New YearWashington DC black tie anniversary session on New Year

  • Jean - Wow, what a great story! The photos are fabulous! Excellent blog!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - Wow! This is so pretty :)ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany Heidenthal - That’s so romantic! And the pictures are lovely of course. I loved reading this and getting to the bottom and seeing it was David Abel and thinking, oh wait I’ve met this romantic guy!ReplyCancel

  • Shalese - AH I have been so excited to see these!! I cannot get over how well you describe them. I mean . . . it is spot on. The relentless pursuit. David & Kristy are a perfect example of how to keep dating long after the wedding day. And the one focusing on Kristy 5th from the bottom — OH MY GOSH!ReplyCancel

  • David Abel - Thank you so much for being a part of my surprise to Kristy, she loved having you there we’ll probably be framing a few of these on our gallery wall!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn Grace - This is so fabulous!ReplyCancel

  • Lorin Fairweather - Her dress. Stunning photos, Abby!ReplyCancel

I LOVE sparkler exits. They’re my favorite way to send a bride & groom off in style, and any time one of my brides lets me know they’re thinking of having one, the first words out of my mouth are always “DO IT!” They’re the perfect way to end a wedding with a bang, and they make for a killer last page in any wedding album. Having the right kind of sparkler can make your grand exit even more idyllic, so I went on a hunt to find “the perfect sparkler” so that you don’t have to!

The 411 on wedding sparklers- making the most of your wedding exit- Abby Grace Photography

There are several options when it comes to which type of pyrotechnics you can purchase: classic grey sparklers that shoot gold sparks? Or the kind that are wrapped in multicolored paper? And of those two, what length should you buy?

Let’s start with the basic difference: gold sparks or multicolored paper?

The 411 on wedding sparklers- making the most of your wedding exit- Abby Grace Photography

The classic “gold spark” sparklers are typically a bit cheaper than their colorful counterparts, and the effect they give is a bright, short-range spitting of sparks. They’re mostly smokeless, and with a bunch of guests gathered together to see you off, the effect is gorgeous! See what I mean?

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

Then you have your colorful, paper-wrapped sparklers, called “Morning Glory” sparklers. These ones give off SHOWERS of colored sparks and then shoot off a small flame (a bit like a weak blow torch), so it’s definitely best to have your guests back up a bit so the bride and groom don’t catch any sparks on their clothes or hair. They’re also really smokey! It gives a cool, dreamlike effect for sure (see below!), but make sure that’s the effect what you want before you purchase a bulk order. I do not recommend handing Morning Glory sparklers to kids, since the sparks + torch-like flame eject forcefully enough that pointing the sparkler directly at someone in close quarters could result in injury.

Photographers- if you’re shooting an exit with these particular sparklers, know that you’ll likely have to convert many of the images to b&w because of how extreme the color shift is. The sparks/flames change from red to green to white and do a number on skin tones!

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

The next variable: length, and as a result, burn time. I bought a bunch of sparklers last July 5th (discount at the local fireworks stand, what WHAT) to test out the burn time for each, and here’s what I found!

10″ classic sparklers: burn time is approximately 37-45 seconds. If you’re purchasing these, you’ll need about three for every guest. Because they’re short, by the time the entire line has one lit and the bride and groom are ready to run through, the folks on the end are already having to light a second sparkler. I don’t really recommend these ones unless you’re having a smaller wedding!

20″ classic sparklers: burn time is approximately 1:30 to 2 minutes. You’ll want to order two for each of your guests, but because they burn a little longer, you’ll have fewer sparklers go out before the bride & groom reach their getaway car! These ones are my favorites- they’re long enough to get the job done, but not so long that you typically need to worry about poking the bride in the eye.

36″ classic sparklers: burn time is approximately 4 minutes. You’ll only need one per guest with these ones, unless you’re having a smaller wedding, in which case I recommend TWO per guests to give off enough light for your photographs! The 36″ sparklers give ample time for the bride and groom to walk beneath, and sometimes there’s enough life left in the sparklers for another run back through if the couple feels like it! They are REALLY long, though, so your guests will need to leave ample room between the two rows to allow the couple to run through without catching sparks on the shoulders.

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

Small Morning Glory sparklers: burn time is approximately 1:20-1:30. These measure 20″ from tip to tip, but have only 8.5″ of flammable material. Again, be careful with these- the sparks have a pretty long, pretty forceful trajectory.

Large Morning Glory sparklers: burn time is approximately 1:45-2:00. These measure 36″ from tip to tip, but have only 13.5″ of flammable material. These LOOK pretty on the outside with the multi-colored paper wrapping, but they’re frankly kind of dangerous to have in close quarters!

Just from my experience photographing sparkler exits, I don’t recommend the Morning Glory sparklers for weddings. They tend to operate more like fireworks and less like a traditional sparkler, and if your guests aren’t aware of the difference, someone’s likely to get singed.

In the end, my top choice is the 20″ classic sparkler! It gives off plenty of light and is long enough that you don’t have to worry about them burning through too quickly! And look at that beautiful bokeh effect. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Wedding sparkler exit 411- Abby Grace Photography

The 411 on wedding sparklers- making the most of your wedding exit- Abby Grace Photography

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

Wedding sparkler exit- Abby Grace Photography

I recommend ordering sparklers from Sparklers Online- they have all three varieties of the classic sparklers I used for my experiment!

Specifically, the ones by Ticonderoga. Because there’s nothing quite as good as a freshly sharpened, yellow-coated pencil with a full eraser, a blank page, and a head full of ideas.

Ticonderoga pencils- Abby Grace Photography

I like the elementary inspiration of it- it takes me back to a place where I wasn’t bound by self-inflicted rules, by silly self-created boundaries that do nothing but hold me back. And I like that if I make a mistake, I can erase it and start over, without leaving a big black smudge all over the page. (Unless you mistakenly bought the Rose Art pencils, which DID leave smudges because the erasers were awful. Amiright?)

Ticonderoga pencils- Abby Grace Photography

I know that mechanical pencils are more practical, and that you don’t have to waste time sharpening, sharpening, sharpening.

But I think I LIKE the fact that I can see my progress, 1/8″ of graphite at a time. Because if I’ve started with a perfectly sharp pencil point and write until it’s dull, I’ve obviously accomplished something (hopefully). And I like the sound of a grinding pencil sharpener- to me, it personifies getting stuff DONE. The more times I have to turn the pencil sharpener crank, the more I’m writing, and the more I’m writing, the more I’m doing. 

Ticonderoga pencils- Abby Grace Photography

Writing it cathartic to me; whether it’s writing a list, filling in my planner, or just brain dumping onto a piece of paper, writing helps me de-stress and de-compress when it feels like my mind is crammed too full. Something about it helps me center my thoughts and clarify, so that I’m more prepared to take on my next task!

(The camera pencil sharpener above is from Paper Source, but you can grab one here!)

Monday Mash-Ups start to get a little bit dicey for me during the months of January-Marchish- it’s when I’m not shooting much, so I have a couple choices: a) use a photo of my dogs, which will either make my audience say “aww!” or “eff, doesn’t she ever talk about ANYTHING other than her animals? or 2) pull something from the archives. Today, I’m opting to pull something from the sort-of archives; I’m still waiting on my film scans from David & Kristy’s anniversary session, so in the mean time, I’ll share another one of their digital images at the bottom of this post!

It’s snowing outside! Today’ weather forecast is snow, alllllll day and alllll night. I LOVE IT! There’s nothing that gets me more giddy than looking out my office window and seeing white fluffy stuff accumulate. Of course, it means the concept of “going anywhere” is out the window, since people in Northern Virginia tend to go bat crap crazy when it snows- like somehow, precipitation means everyone suddenly forgets everything they know about driving and regresses back to the same motor skills they had at age 15. Come on, people- the roads aren’t even slick. Proceed as usual.

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week:

  • We had a lock-in with our small group on Friday! For those of you who didn’t grow up attending church youth group, and lock-in is basically a big old sleepover where you stay up all night and play games, eat your weight in junk food, and emerge the next morning in a state of extreme sleep deprivation. Now, try that as an adult, and add in a few games of Cards Against Humanity and a glass of wine? Recipe for an AWESOME night!
  • And now that it’s Monday and I’m feeling the crushing guilt of a weekend spent eating raw cooking dough, Cheet-os, and dessert quesadillas (peanut butter, chocolate chips + banana slices on a tortilla), it’s time to purge. Back to Paleo I go.
  • Only I refuse to give up milk in my tea/coffee. I know you can substitute with almond milk, but have you had almond milk in tea? It’s disgusting!
  • Somehow, we lucked into having the only two German Shepherd mix pups that don’t shed. And praise the LORD for that, because me and vacuuming? We don’t have what you’d call a “close” relationship. Neither do me and sweeping.
  • Can I get a show of hands? How many other people out there only clean house when there’s company coming over?

Heeere’s David & Kristy! I’m crossing my fingers that my scans come in this week, so I’ll be sharing their entire session soon!

Washington DC anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

  • Jean - Beautiful photo! So classy! Yes, cleaning house before company is something we all do. Glad you are enjoying the snow, but also glad we are not getting it this go round!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - We had that exact discussion about our cleaning habits this weekend! It seems like things pile up and then suddenly someone wants to stop by to say hi and we go into extreme cleaning mode. I just say it makes us efficient when the time comes :)ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - The only reason I now vacuum regularly is because of our corgi. He is ADORABLE in every possible way, but he does shed like CRAZY.ReplyCancel

  • Taylor - Our Rottie/Pitt mix sheds like crazy! When we get done bathing her, hair is waist high on the tile walls. How, how does she have so much hair to lose?! Luckily, we have hardwoods throughout the house, so hair doesn’t get stuck in any carpeting. Sweeping is still a pain in the butt, but I’m working on my relationship with it lol.ReplyCancel

  • Camille - Yay! Our lock-in/game night made it onto the blog :) Oh..and no…you’re not the only one who only cleans when people are coming over…ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field/Mom - Since we’re selling our house we are keeping it clean and using the Roomba a few times per week. But, when the phone rings with a realtor coming, we slide into frantic mode and clean to make it all look like perfect. I’m glad your lock in with your small group went so well!ReplyCancel

  • Morgan D. - **slowly raises hand**ReplyCancel

  • Monday Mash-Up » Modern International Wedding Photographer - […] that time I said our dogs don’t shed? HA. Sirius proved me waaay wrong on that one. That dude’s fur falls out at such a rate […]ReplyCancel

One of the first things Kylie told me that day was “we’re both really, really awkward in front of the camera.” I love it when my couples say that kind of thing at the beginning of a session- my response is always “challenge ACCEPTED.” Because honestly, looking through their images, have you ever seen any two people look less awkward together?

Wedding photographs aren’t about putting on your best Tyra Banks model face, and they’re not about capturing perfection. Wedding photographs, at least, the way I choose to capture them, is about freezing genuine moments in time through the click of a shutter. It’s not about forcing your relationship to look a certain way that it would never look in real life,  it’s about giving you the opportunity to interact the way you already interact, framing that in the best possible light/composition, and pressing the shutter. So when it comes to Abby Grace couples, there’s no such thing as “awkward in front of the camera.” Because you just have to come prepared to be you, to love authentically, and to kiss with abandon. That’s all.

Zac & Kylie, it was an absolute joy to spend this time with you both. I know the weather was awful and that it seemed like the forces of nature were actively working against us, but you both absolutely rocked it. I can’t think of a better way to have spent that afternoon than with you two!

Washington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington DC wedding photographs at the National Portrait Gallery- Abby Grace Photography

  • Sarah Beth Tapanes - These are timeless, Abby. I love how the city lights are reflecting on the rain-slicked ground- it’s luminous! And that bridal shot in front of the window? Doesn’t get much classically beautiful than that <3ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - You’re right! They look completely natural & beautiful together. Great work!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - So beautiful and classy!ReplyCancel

  • kaitlyn phipps - Can’t believe I missed these last week! So gorgeous Abby. I feel like you excel in all of the times when a lot of photographers have trouble. Like shooting indoors and in storms! Goodness these are wonderful.ReplyCancel

  • Rici - Love the shoulders of that dress!ReplyCancel