WHOA. This year flew by faster than we could’ve ever imagined. With only one day left on the calendar, we sit here in awe of everything God has brought us in the last 364 days. Soon, we’ll be sharing our engagement & wedding favorites, but before we do any of that, it’s become a bit of a tradition around here to reflect on all our highlights of each year on our blog, so we’re really excited to share them with you today! Here’s our “14 in ’14” in no particular order!

Our 5-Year Anniversary European Adventure
We saved and saved and saved since we first got married just over five years ago, because we wanted to go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure together, and, like Dave Ramsey teaches, we wanted to pay cash for it all the way, so that our dream vacation wouldn’t follow us home! And from the rolling hills of Ireland and the streets of  Paris, to the beaches of Barcelona and the Greek Islands and beyond was everything we’d hoped for and more. Every day, we were up at dawn, out until dusk (or later), criss-crossing Europe, hitting seven countries and more than 20 cities in just over three weeks. The best part? Besides the Italian gelato and French crepes? We live-blogged the entire way, so our friends and family members got to experience it with us! Our favorite thing we heard when we got back? I loved waking up in a new place with you guys every morning! I felt like I was along for the adventure, too! How cool is that?!

Venice Photographer

Our First Calendar Year of Full-Time
At the end of 2013, we celebrated making the leap from being full-time elementary school teachers to full-time wedding photographers. It’s been almost two years since we made that decision, 18 months since we traded out our day job for our dream one, and after our first full calendar year as our own bosses, we’re thankful for so much: like the fact that we don’t have to walk our clients in straight lines anymore or give them a pass to use the bathroom. We’re not sure bridal parties would be super in to that. Yep, 2014 was a pretty amazing year.

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Attending Photography Conferences for the First Time
Before this year, we’d never actually been to a photography conference. In person. Ever. We’d sat at our teaching desks eating crumpled sandwiches during the short lunch period in between math and our afternoon read-aloud to the kids and watched other photographers hashtag from cool places with cool people from the photography world — and we lived vicariously through them — but we’d never actually been. Until this year. And do you want to know the craziest part? We got to teach at one in Santa Barbara and speak at one in Las Vegas! God had incredible friendships waiting for us at those conferences, and we are so thankful for them.

The Simple Farm Arizona Proposal_0044

The Simple Farm Arizona Proposal_0045

Volunteering as Camp Counselors
Are we CRAZY?! Yes. The answer is “yes” most of the time anyways, but in this episode, here’s why: we volunteered to be counselors at our church’s summer camp for the second year in a row right at the end of wedding season! It was a week jam-packed with mess hall eating, rock wall climbing, bunk inspections and more! Sure, it might’ve cost us some much needed sleep and a whole lot of energy, but we know that Jesus loves children, so why not serve the little people He loves, right? Right! Plus, we got to wear neon-colored bandanas and shoot paintball guns (at targets, not children). Plus (and this is the important “plus”), we believe with our whole heart that when you go to work for God, God goes to work for you. We know this is true, because the first year we volunteered at camp, we had three brides email us and ask to book without even meeting us in person (the first time that’d ever happened).

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Workshops, Coaching & A Newsletter 
When we met with our financial advisor for the first time five years ago, he told us that the best investors are consistent investors. “A little bit at a time over a long period of time adds up,” he said. The same applies when investing in people. From the time Amy first held a camera until now, we can’t even count the number of photographers who have invested in the growth and success of our business, never expecting anything in return. So, ever since we went full-time, we committed ourselves to blogging free tips and tricks for photographers at least once per week.

This year, though, we took it a few steps further, writing a free weekly newsletter for photographers called The Monday Minute, opening up online and in-person coaching sessions for photographers looking to tackle specific pain points in their businesses, and launching our first two-day photography and business workshop that sold out so fast that we decided to open up a second round of dates (and those sold out too!) and teach two in back-to-back weeks! Teaching will always be in our blood, whether we’re in a physical classroom or not, and we’re just so honored and humbled by the photographers who have (and will) place their trust in us to get from where they are to where they want to be.

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Connecting at the Connect Marriage Retreat
When we told Jordan’s brother that we were going to a retreat for a) Christian b) married couples c) who are also photographers, he remarked, “That’s one heckuva Google search!” Smack dab in the middle of our spring wedding season, some friends invited us to join them in Atlanta, Georgia for a few days of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation — together. We bought last-minute plane tickets, met another conference couple (from Pittsburgh) at the airport who we’d never met before, drove to Chick-fil-A’s Winshape Retreat, and had one of the most life-changing weeks of our marriage. Not because of what we did (although when unlimited waffle fries are involved, that’s pretty life-changing in and of itself), but because of who we met: the sweet friend who’d take our anniversary photos in Venice just a few months later, couples we instantly clicked with and the mentors who inspired us to become a husband and wife team.

View More: http://katelynjames.pass.us/connect2014

Friendships
We look back on this year and feel incredibly thankful for our friendships both new and old. Our year of travel introduced us to what has quickly become some of our most cherished friendships and as we reflect back on 2014, our brains can barely register that some of these people weren’t in our life even just last year! As silly as it may sound, we are so thankful for the power of Instagram, Skype and FaceTime because we’ve been able to stay connected to friends who we instantly fell in love with who live in all different corners of this continent. This has also been an amazing year with our best friends who were with us before this photography journey began, and all the ones we’ve met along the way. We’re so thankful for all the game nights and weekend getaways, the cozy nights by the fire, the dinner dates and all the good conversations. From proposals to parenthood and everything in between, we’ve journeyed with our friends through a really exciting year.

Surprise Proposal Arizona_0001

The Publication Tour with Showit
This year we had the honor of traveling around the country with Showit, speaking to groups of photographers on our 5 Steps to Publication. The Showit community is full of amazing photographers with big hearts and a determination to continually strengthen their businesses and serve their clients better every day all over the globe. We got to visit Showiteers in Richmond, Seattle, Dallas, Denver, Vancouver and, of course, Phoenix. The hardest part about this job was that every time we met with a new local group, we wanted to stay!

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Time with Family

This has by far been the busiest year of our lives, and for as much as we loved all the travel and the constant pace we ran this year, it made us cherish time with our families even more. This year was full of family dinners, mini-getaways, holiday gatherings, celebrating birthdays (A LOT of birthdays!) and serving together.

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Serving on the Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA) Board

Because we’re not busy enough, right?! Why not join a board?! But truly, we are honored to be serving on the local board of WIPA as the Directors of Education. Once per quarter, the most respected wedding professionals in Arizona gather for a gala to become better as people and professionals. Even though we’re always looking for something to cut from our calendar, this won’t ever be one of them, because being part of a group of industry professionals committed to serving each other and our clients with excellence is something that’ll always be our jam. Other than than, we just get dressed up, eat more than we should (dessert bar, anyone?!), spend time with our favorite industry professionals and always hit the photo booth before we leave. If they have glasses or fuzzy boas, we’ll hit it twice.

WIPA board

Our Gilmore Girls Pilgrimage 
We’ve been together for ten years (4 dating, 1 engaged, and 5 married) and seldom has a day gone by without us jetting off to the imaginary (but in our hearts and minds oh-so-real) Stars Hollow to spend a few hours getting lost in conversations and charades of characters that have, over the years, become like family to us. It’s been on our bucket list to visit the real Stars Hollow (the town the show was originally based on) for quite some time, so when we found out that our friends, Justin and Mary, lived less than an hour away, we booked flights and took off for the East Coast! Luke’s Diner isn’t a real thing (though we’d franchise it if we could!) but Dan the bulldog IS a real thing! And we’ve got pictures to prove it! But the funny thing is our favorite moments had nothing to do with Gilmore Girls, and everything to do with spending time with friends we love.  We also snuck over to New York City and did our first engagement session in Central Park, so looking back, this trip was definitely a highlight of the year.

Amy and Jordan in New Haven_0023

Becoming Homeowners

After living in the same condo in Scottsdale since we got married five years ago, our landlord offered to sell it to us this summer and we officially became the owners this fall! Renovations and redecorations have been in full force for about a month and Jordan’s already assembled more furniture from Overstock than he’d care to remember! And forget about Fifty Shades of Gray! Who knew there were about a thousand shades of white! We settled on Swiss Coffee for the cabinets. It’s white, as our designer told us, but not hospital white, whatever that means! Phase 1 (that sounds so official) should be complete early next year, and we can’t wait to share the before and after photos with you when we’re done! Hint: it’s going to be shades of soft creams and warm grays with accents of navy and hints of blush.

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Our AJ Brides
We are so incredibly thankful for each and every AJ Bride, past, present and future, and this year, we got them all together for the very first time. We never could have imagined how cool it would actually be to have so many faces we love in one place! It felt like OUR wedding! Everywhere we looked, we were seeing the faces of people we adore! Even though all of our couples were technically strangers to each other as the party began, it truly felt like one big family from the moment each couple arrived, and we had a night filled with laughter, games and the most epic self-timer group shot we’ve ever attempted.

AJ Brides_0001

Feeling a little nostalgic? Us too! You can catch up on our other 2014 review posts here:

Best of Weddings 2014

Best of Engagements 2014

Behind the Scenes in 2014

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