It's one of my favorite places to be during my favorite season.
I love the tulips.
I love the blooming trees.
I love the blue skies that surround it all.
When we shot Haley & Justin's engagement session it was still winter - but the signs of spring coming were there. Budding trees and tulips freshly planted. I couldn't wait. Less than two weeks later everything was on lock down.
It all changed that fast.
The day of their engagement shoot I got on a crowded shuttle with the twins.
You couldn't pay me to be next to strangers right now.
If I had known that their engagement would be my last trip to Biltmore before they closed I would have stood still in the Orchid room and soaked it in a little longer before we headed to church.
If I had known that was my last church service in our church for who knows how long I would have sat with the twins in the pew instead of going back to Children's Church with them and soaked in the message while the sun streaked through the windows closest to us listening to the preacher a little more intently (not that I don't love Children's Church, but it would have been nice to sit in a pew and know it would be the last time for awhile).
We didn't know what the future held while we were there shooting. While we were laughing about how ridiculously cold it was and how we weren't dressed for the walk.
That's the thing about marriage, though.
Nobody really knows what the future holds.
You don't know when the "for better or worse" parts of your vows will be enacted.
You hope never - but sometimes the "worse" happens early on.
"In richer or in poorer" - part of the vows so many couples are struggling in right now. While jobs are lost or furloughed or hours are cut. So many of us are struggling financially.
So many people are in the depths of "in sickness and in health" with COVID-19.
Far, far too many have reached the "Until death do we part."
If there's a silver lining to be found it's that couples like Haley and Justin are going to be stronger after this is all over.
They'll have spent more one-on-one time with each other than they would have otherwise. They'll have cooked more meals together. Learned to budget together.
Couples are stuck at home talking to each other about their fears and their plans and they are learning how to navigate a world of cancelled plans and changed routines.
They are going to emerge from this with an attitude of, "If we can survive a pandemic, we can survive anything."
& they can.
I am praying for my couples - that this pandemic is something that they are stronger on the other side for having had to trudge through it. That even if weddings are postponed they are still a joyous occasion, and that we appreciate them more when they happen.
I hope we all appreciate being able to smile at a stranger without worrying about keeping our distance.
I hope we all appreciate being able to walk through Biltmore's gardens, at any time of year, without having to consider whether it is too risky.
I hope we appreciate dancing at weddings with friends.
Sharing dinner with friends.
I hope when this is all over days like Haley & Justin's engagement session are not a thing of the past - but are instead even sweeter now that we can appreciate how lucky we were to be able to get in our cars, drive to places like Biltmore, share a seat with a stranger, and walk around happily in a pretty place without the weight of the worries we are all carrying around right now.
One day, friends.
One day very soon I hope.
Until then - I encourage you to stay home, stay safe, comply with mandates, and support local companies any way you can.
Biltmore Estate has closed for the first time since 1930 not counting WW11.
I would encourage those of you, like me, who are annual pass holders to renew your passes. If you don't have one - consider getting one here. They are on special right now and it will help The Estate in these difficult times. You can also purchase gift cards for the people in your lives who you know love to go. Any little thing helps - Biltmore employees over 2300 people when they are open. Helping them helps our community in so many ways, especially since it is one of the largest tourist attractions in the area.
Haley & Justin - I cherish these photos not just because of you two but because I will forever look at these and remember a time pre-Corona. I can't wait for your wedding.
[Several of the images from their engagement of florals and Biltmore are available in my "Pay What You Can" gallery that can be found here, for those of you who might be interested in helping my business and family during this time]