About a month ago, we felt tired. Really tired. We’d been on the road for two straight weeks attending photography conferences. We were running our business from hotel WiFi connections, airport boarding areas, and, a lot of times, our cell phones while walking (or running) from one thing to the next. Don’t get us wrong. We loved every minute of it. We thrive on a fast-paced lifestyle. We’re always up for the next challenge. We love meeting new people, going on new adventures, and pushing ourselves to be the best we can be.

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But, somewhere along the way, we forgot that this is a marriage first and a business second. So, our friend’s timing couldn’t have been any more perfect when, a few days after we got home from the road, he called and invited us to Connect, a Christian marriage retreat for photographers in business together. A Christian marriage retreat for photographers in business together. Pretty niche, right? He gave us a week to decide
if we wanted to go, but we knew right away that we needed to go. For us. An hour later, we’d booked two roundtrip tickets to Atlanta — and it was the best impulsive decision we’d made in a long time, because instead of saying “yes” to someone or something else (which we’re quite prone to doing, sometimes at the expense of our sanity), we said “no” to everyone and everything else, and we just said “yes” to us.

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The WinShape retreat is about an hour and a half northwest of Atlanta in the rolling green hills of Georgia. The locals call them mountains, but we’re from Arizona, so we know better. They’re hills. It was a fully operating dairy farm in the 1930s that, years later, was purchased by the Cathy Family (owners of Chick-fil-A), reimagined, redesigned, and renovated by architects, and converted into a combination of a farm, lodge, hotel, and college campus for the specific purpose of hosting married couples who want to take a proactive step and grow their marriages or, in some cases, who need a last resort to save their marriages.

WinShape’s goal is to provide a place with perfect service from start to finish, from the living accommodations where the sweetest Southern women with the cutest accents in the world “freshen” your room every day while you’re out, to the best camp food you’ve ever had. In your entire life. Including one day when they served UNLIMITED Chick-fil-A nuggets and hot, crispy, waffle fries. YUM! We thought we’d died and gone to food heaven. We kept asking ourselves, Is this real life? It’s probably not a good thing when you just can’t wait for your next meal, but with the Chick-fil-A Ice Dream soft serve machine on all. the. time. who could blame us? We might’ve even snuck in to the dining hall after hours for a late night sugar fix a few times…

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Since WinShape is about 90 minutes outside Atlanta — what Jordan affectionately called HAUGHT-lanta all week while everyone else rolled their eyes — we needed rental car buddies to and from the airport, so we CONNECTED (<<< see what we did there?!) with Alison and Mike from Pittsburgh via Facebook, met for the first time at the airport, and bonded over a mutually, admittedly, excessive love for ice cream on the way. Seriously, we talked for a good twenty minutes about ice cream alone. We even stopped at the original Chick-fil-A in Atlanta for lunch, which was pretty cool, because they didn’t judge us for eating (a lot). We had more in common than we could have ever imagined, and by the end of the car ride, we felt like we’d been friends for years.

Anna and Ryan are the adorable couple on the right from Richmond, Virginia. Ryan’s SUCH a physical beast of a man (did you see those biceps!?) that Jordan felt compelled to announce — during group portraits — that he’d created a new class of humans just for him: women, men, and Ryans. And, if Jordan wasn’t immature enough, Amy decided to sing the theme song from Hercules every time he competed in a challenge. Who puts the ‘glad’ in gladiator? Hercules! 

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Our Pittsburgh-Phoenix family!

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If you’ve been following our blog for the past few months, you already know how much this next couple means to us. We had to stop and remind ourselves that we’ve truly only known Katelyn & Michael for just over a month, but they’re the type of people that make you feel like you’ve been friends your entire lives. They quickly became one of our favorite couples in the universe. We have so much in common and had such an instant connection with them. We were so sad when we had to say goodbye to them after United and WPPI, and we never would’ve guessed we’d get another chance to spend time with them this year since they live on the opposite side of the planet country. We spent the week at Connect sneaking ice cream after hours, talking late into the night, plotting future trips (and maybe a political run) and laughing over meals, laptops and adventures around campus.

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Total bromance right here, ladies and gentleman.

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Definitely one of the highlights of the trip was spending time with these two. We started following Zach and Jody‘s blog three years ago, reading their tips and tricks for photographers religiously, watching them teach wedding photographers online and absorbing everything we could. We’ll never forget feeling star struck when we actually saw them speak in person in Phoenix two years ago — or the surreal feeling when we spoke at the same place 18 months after that — because that was the night we made the decision to become a husband and wife team. When we look back on the history of our business, we’ll always point to Zach and Jody as a catalyst for growth and source of inspiration, because we wouldn’t be where we are today and our work wouldn’t be what it is today without them. We’ve always wanted the chance to thank them in person for the huge impact they’ve had on us, and getting the chance to have time with them on this trip meant the world to us.

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Every morning and night, all 40 couples sang worship songs together and, for the record, Jordan complained about the songs all week because they were new to him and he didn’t know the lyrics. (Jordan’s not one for change.) Amy told him that he’d love them once he got to know them, but he whined anyways, until we got home from the retreat and she caught him singing along to the songs on Spotify! Sometimes marriage is about knowing your spouse better than they know themselves!

Sometimes marriage is about knowing your spouse better than they know themselves

After each worship session, we’d hear from a great speaker in the auditorium, then grab something warm to drink, head to one of the lodge’s lofts, cozy up together by the window, and talk with our awesome small group (below) about the topic. Amy and I felt outnumbered since all three couples were from the South (two from Kentucky and one from Virginia) and all three wives had red
hair and darling accents, but nonetheless we found ourselves chatting like old friends from the first night, opening up about our marriages and businesses in ways we’d never expected to, empathizing with and encouraging each other, too. This was our retreat family, and we’ve found ourselves getting sad every morning since we left that we don’t get to see them every day!

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So, the official retreat t-shirts were pretty much THE BEST! We’re thinking about ditching the full suit, tie, heels, and dress, and making them our official Amy & Jordan wedding day uniforms from June through September! Classy, right?

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We took this photo on the first day of the retreat right before dinner. We put them on because we saw that our friends had posted on Instagram and they were wearing them. So, naturally, we thought, Oh, if THEY’RE wearing the official shirts, then WE should wear them, too, because EVERYONE is probably wearing them. Little did we know, they took off their shirts and changed before dinner. They’d just put them on for a quick photo, because they knew something that we didn’t: only the retreat leaders were supposed to wear the official shirts to dinner. So, yeah, we were those people. Nice.

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On the last full day of the retreat, we participated in team building activities for a few hours. All of the photos below (including the ridiculous ones of us that we’re embarrassed about and posting purely for others’ enjoyment) are courtesy of Katelyn James.

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It was ALL fun until the games began!

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This next set of photos REALLY needs an explanation. The husbands were blindfolded and the wives were responsible for getting them across the street and through the woods to the next game station without touching their husbands. They could talk to them but couldn’t touch them. For two people who like to be in control, this was not a good situation. Jordan was terrified of taking every single step. Every. Single. Step. Amy tried to reassure him, tried to get him to trust her, but he just couldn’t get over the mental block of not seeing where we was going, so he crouched, moved like a drunk pirate and kept his hands in a defensive position like a really pathetic ninja the entire time.

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While the activity was supposed to teach trust and teamwork at the same time, the photo on the right represents neither, as Jordan walks the complete opposite direction of Amy’s instructions into oncoming traffic.

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Next up, the most awkward activity we’ve EVER done. The object? Balance twelve people on this seesaw-esque beam of death. Only one person could enter at a time and they had to come on from the middle. After a few failed jump-and-squat attempts, we tried something that, according to our guide, no group had ever tried before, and this is the awkward embarrassment that ensued…

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We decided to have Ryan (Hercules) (see huge trunk legs below) stabilize the board. Then, Michael and Jordan (not to be confused with the Michael Jordan) jumped on one at a time, got down on all fours on either side of Ryan’s legs, and balanced the board by applying pressure each time it tipped too far in one direction. Michael and Jordan had nothing to do with anything that happened from there. They couldn’t see anything. They just applied pressure when pressure was needed. That was it. Not being able to see also created a slight fear of the unknown, evidenced by Michael’s priceless face here.

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Once the guys has secured and balanced the board on all sides (and on all fours), the girls jumped on one at a time and formed this cute little train. The best part? This entire time, Jordan had absolutely no idea what was going on around him, which is why he looks so happy even though he’s unknowingly in quite a compromising position. Ignorance truly is bliss.

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The next game was like dodgeball (dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge) except that your only job was to defend your spouse. Again, Mike looking cool (left) and Hercules (right) doin’ his thang.

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Jordan was pretty proud of his spiderlike Matrix moves during this game.

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In the next activity, we had to figure out a way to stack ten paint buckets on top of each other, only touching our own bucket. As you can see by our fierce faces, we were obviously ready to take on the challenge with a gazelle-like intensity.

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Not even sure why Jordan (left) is standing like a first grader in this photo, but he is, and Amy clearly thought it was funny. Our first strategy was to give Hercules (right) all of the buckets and let him carry our entire team to victory.

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That didn’t quite work out, so we came up with a new strategy, and actually ended up stacking twelve buckets, beating the campus record of 10! Literally seconds after we stacked the final buckets and posed for our team photo, we heard a creaking sound, kind of like the one your hear in the movies just before the tornado hits or the monster eats everyone. Our tower was toppling over! It happened in slow motion, we swear, and by the expressions on our faces, you would’ve thought we were all gonna die! Timbeeerrr!!! 

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We have a new respect for the guy who tightrope walked the Grand Canyon, because we could barely hold ourselves up with ropes to hold onto and we were only a few feet off the ground! Amy even fell completely off at one point and had a nice view of the Georgia sky from her back!

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But, with some help from our friends holding us up, we eventually made it to the middle and almost achieved a victory kiss before we toppled over! Thanks again, Katelyn, for documenting the ridiculousness of it all!

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After the crazy teambuilding challenges were done, we scrubbed off the dirt and we got all dressed up for “date night,” and did what married photographers do: took photos of each other!

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It felt like we were at homecoming again!

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The week was full of powerful messages from great speakers. They challenged us to focus on the things that are most important, and we walked away from the week with so many takeaways. This photo below is from the last night, when Katelyn and Michael delivered a powerful sendoff presentation about finding balance between your personal and professional life. One of the biggest gifts for our marriage and our business that we brought back home was blocking off at least one day every week where we don’t have to be anywhere except home with each other. We have a tendency to run at a non-stop pace, and we’ve realized we can’t serve our clients the way that they deserve, and we can’t keep our marriage as strong and secure, if we never take any time to recharge.

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Even with all the amazing scheduled activities, one of our favorite parts of the trip was all the free time we got together. We stayed up late at night talking to friends, connected with each other, and enjoyed the beautiful views of the Winshape campus. We took a walk through the woods, and thanks to Mike’s cell phone, had a full-on sing-a-long listening to Frozen’s “Let It Go” on repeat and probably scaring little woodland creatures everywhere. Of course, we didn’t make it very far before we were all stopping for photos.

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Group photo! Thanks Allen Adams!

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Even though this trip was last minute and wasn’t in our plans, we know it was in God’s plans, because He knew how much we needed it even before we did, and it reminded us that if we’re going to be true difference makers in the wedding business, God and our marriage have to be our first orders of business, which is why we were so thankful for a week of resting our bodies, reconnecting our hearts, refocusing our minds, and restoring our souls.

We feel recharged, reloaded, and ready to go!

UPDATE: We got our spring portraits done while at WinShape! You can see them here!

We l-o-v-e traveling! Wanna catch up with our adventures around the world? You can do that here!

International: Ireland • England • France • Spain • Italy • Greece & Turkey • Anniversary Photos: Venice

Domestic: Nashville • Denver • Phoenix • Vancouver • Seattle • Vegas • Atlanta • Santa Barbara • Florida • Virginia • New England/New York • Sedona • San Diego • Nantucket • Boston • San Diego • Virginia • Arizona

1 comment
filed in: Personal, Travel

    Megan K. Marcus

    Came across this on a random Google search! I so want to do this with my fiance, Justin, someday when we are married!! :)