11 Years as a Firefighter’s Wife: The Things No One Tells You.


I met my husband 12 years ago. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He was interviewing for a position as the pastor of our church, giving the sermon that morning. I walked into church expecting to see our regular minister, but instead was greeted by a strikingly handsome man with blond hair, blue eyes, and muscular arms for days. If I’m being honest, I didn’t care for his goatee but I could let that go for those arms. Ahem, I digress.

I had no expectations of ever finding Mr. Right as I was single parenting my one year old son then. I had a lot of baggage that I was carrying around with me and I didn’t feel worthy of a partner who would love and cherish me. How could anyone love me with all my imperfections and flaws?

God had plans and boy was I ever wrong.

There he stood that day.

Right in front of me.

Welcoming me to the church with open arms and secretly crushing on me at the same time.

Little did we know that his interview with the church would turn into a lifetime commitment to each other just a short year later. I had no expectations of what marriage would be, other than what you see in the movies. Romantic dinners for two, white linens, clean floors, brunches with friends, and long walks on the beach. And while some of those things happen occasionally, they do not make up even the majority of our marriage. It isn’t snuggling by the fire drinking wine every night or even those sappy interactions that you see in the movies. and to be clear, there was no honeymoon. I had a baby that could not be left behind.

When I met him he was in graduate school progressing through a masters degree in divinity. I had no idea he was also a firefighter. I mean, being a pastor’s wife doesn’t sound so bad. Right?!? Well, he decided that he could not support a family on a pastor’s salary and God was leading him to something else entirely. At the time he was trying to be a firefighter and a pastor and it wasn’t serving him or anyone else well. So, he put down his bible and took a job with Cal Fire. and friends, the rest as they say, is history. Oh, no? Not quite.


From the outside looking in, one may think we have it made in the shade, it’s easy street, we’re the lucky ones. I have been asked more times that I can count if I married him for the uniform. Clearly not. Those arms, maybe, but not that uniform. and if I’m being honest at first I despised it for taking him away from me for extended periods of time. I felt like he was married to the job more than he was to me. So today, I want to quash those pesky fantasies of what being married to a person in uniform is like by telling you my experience with it for the past 11 years:

  • Marriage is taking out the trash yourself because he’s stuck on shift again.

  • Marriage is piles of laundry that will never get folded.

  • Marriage is Netflix and chilling alone at night because he’s on duty.

  • Marriage isn’t sexy abs and biceps, but it is a choice to be selfless and understand that the needs of the many outweigh my own.

  • Marriage is knowing that even though he’s well trained for his job, things can and will go sideways. It’s the reality that one day he may walk out that door and never come home again.

  • Marriage is taking care of the kids when he is away. It is listening to them ask over and over when he is coming home.

  • Marriage is driving 3.5 hours to visit him at his station because you haven’t seen him in 20 days just to find out he will have a day off tomorrow.

  • Marriage isn’t fancy dinners for two, it’s pizza at the firehouse with his brotherhood.

  • Marriage is a decision to tune out the chaos of fire season and just breathe.

  • Marriage is masking my own worry in order to comfort the public when their world is burning down.

  • Marriage is being rock solid even when you feel like sinking sand.

  • Marriage is trusting in a higher power to bring him home.

  • Marriage is believing that no news is good news in all catastrophic events.

  • Marriage is being his soft spot to land when he’s had a rough call, and knowing that he’s had his fair share of them.

  • Marriage is about seeing someone when they are most broken and loving them instead of trying to fix it.

  • Marriage is not wanting sympathy for the life we lead, it’s about sharing our experience so that the next generation does better.

  • Marriage is making time for each other because if we don’t schedule it, someone else will.

  • Marriage is knowing that even when he is away, I am the most cherished and loved person in his life.

  • Marriage is fulfilling his needs and sometimes having to find a solution for my own.

  • Marriage is loving myself first, so that I am able to feel loved.

  • Marriage is choosing to stay even when everything is telling you to run.


Here’s the thing, before I married my husband, I thought that this life looked pretty easy. I mean, how many people can say they work 3 days and then have the rest of the week off? I saw other fire families having 2-3 weeks off together to spend as a family and thought that was all the time. I pictured all the romantic parts of marriage and while those exist and are wonderful, most of what marriage consists of is sacrificing for the other person and choosing to love them through the icky and sticky parts of life.

I never really understood that love was a choice until one day about six years ago, I had to choose whether I would run or stand firm in our marriage. Until I broke under the pressure. Fell to my knees and cried to God asking him to help me weather what I thought at the time was the worst fire season we would ever go through. He had been gone a week. Today, 6 years later, a week seems so short. We’ve weathered 30-40 days at at time. I wish a week was the norm.

Being married eleven years brings perspective that a newlywed can’t even imagine. In the beginning it was thrilling to be waking up (most days) next to the person I would spend the rest of my life with. It was romantic just to sit and drink wine and play cards together or hang out in our beanbag chair watching the latest episode of Bones. But after 11 years, I am just happy when he walks through that door after his 72 hour shift unscathed. I am ecstatic when he doesn’t go to the latest campaign fire that burns down an entire town. I am happy to know he is sitting safe in his station putting a fresh coat of paint on the wall. I have no fantasies of romantic dinners or long walks on the beach. The only walk I care about now, is the one from his truck to the doorway when he returns home safe from his last shift. Every single time he comes home to me, I am thankful.


Marriage is the hardest and most beautiful thing I have ever done in my life. Loving one person through the highs and the lows, humbling myself enough to put my needs aside and take care of him has been one of the most rewarding thing I have ever done. When he is successful, I am too. When he celebrates an achievement, I celebrate with him. When he weeps over a lost brother, I weep too. When he has a tough call ( and believe me there have been too many) I experience it with him. And friends, that’s what marriage is. It’s hard and rewarding choices mad every single day to honor the commitments that we made 11 short years ago. and just in case you were wondering, we committed to spend the rest of our lives together through sickness and health until death do us part. Choosing to love him even when it is hard, feeling his love in return, choosing each other every day, trumps romantic walks on the beach any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Now, I would love to hear from my married readers, no matter how long you’ve been married, what is one thing you have learned about marriage that you think may benefit our newly married couples to hear?

Photos by: Lindsey Roman


Clients: 4 things you should do directly after receiving your photos

If you’re like me, you want to share the photos taken by your photographer immediately after receiving them. Like on all the platforms. Am I right?!?

I’m a photographer so of course there are a few things I would LOVE for you to do immediately after receiving your gallery from me. I desire for each and every client to have the most incredible experience possible. Once I deliver the photos though, it’s in their hands. That’s why I wanted to give you some helpful hints on what to do with your photos once you receive them from your photographer. Once they are delivered to you, it’s on you to preserve them and it’s my job to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Are you ready? Let’s go!

Back ‘em Up (and then back them up again)

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you dropped a decent amount of money on your photo session. It’s even likely that on top of the session fee, you also paid for the digital files or prints. So, let’s face it, the last thing anyone wants is for those precious (and expensive) memories to be lost forever. To my clients, not to worry, I keep your session or wedding on my gallery deliver site for a year before archiving it. However, after that it’s up to them to safely store and protect them. I can’t stress this enough, please back up your photos on your hard drive and then back them up on an external drive after that and then store it in a cool dry place. I have had a few scares over the years with technology and trust me, these photos are too precious to leave in technology’s fickle hands.

Fort Bragg California Family Photographer

You’ve got to print it, print it!

Look I get it. We live in a digital age. It’s so easy to let our precious memories live on our digital devices. But one of the best things about photography is that it is meant to be printed, displayed and shared for years to come. Printing your photos is probably the easiest ways to preserve them. Some of my fondest memories are those spent sitting in my living room sifting through old photographs of myself and loved ones from decades past. I promise you will not be sorry if you get your photos printed! And here’s a bonus tip, if you are looking for a great place to have them printed, Artifact Uprising is my fave and also the company I used to print the photos you see pictured below!

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Reach out to your photographer

When you receive your gallery from your photographer take a few minutes to send them an email or text message letting them know what you think! Ok, I get it, often when you receive your photos, you’re so excited and busy sharing them with your family and friends that it just slips your mind! But friends, us photographers get anxious when we send out galleries. We put our everything into creating our art specifically for you and we want you to love your photos as much, if not, more than we do! When you don’t respond, we think you don’t like our work even if you do! Sending an email letting them know how much you love your photos makes every photographer’s day, believe me.

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Write a Review

Ok, ok, you don’t HAVE to, but boy would we love if you did! We would really love it if you asked us which platform we would most love to see a review on. In addition to boosting our SEO, reviews help to validate and grow our business. Receiving feedback from my clients is my favorite, and I don’t mean in the “I love the photos” comments kind of way, I mean in the nitty gritty way. Hearing about their overall experience from how they found me, to the emails that we exchanged, to the photo session, and communication after their gallery was delivered, and how they felt through the whole process makes my heart burst with gratitude. I want to give each of my clients the best experience possible and when you leave a detailed review it helps me know what I did well and how I can improve in the future. So friends, please review your photographers, they will be so thankful to you if you do!


BONUS POINTS: If you leave your photographer a review anywhere online, let them know!

We would love to be able to respond to your review with a thank you! Plus, there’s nothing more frustrating than finding out several months after the fact that someone had a great enough experience to tell the world about!

Okay friend, that’s all I have for you today. I hope that you have found this information useful! And just to review, download, back up, back up your back up and print your photos to insure you keep those precious memories safe and sacred for a lifetime!


Top 3 Reasons to Have a First Look on Your Wedding Day

You’re planning your wedding and it’s likely that you have heard of couples opting for a “First Look” and photos together before the guests arrive. This isn’t a new trend and I believe that it’s just how weddings are evolving in order to make way for new traditions. The idea of the bride hiding herself from her groom before the ceremony is such an antiquated tradition.

But where does this tradition come from?

Ok, so back in the day, there were arranged marriages, it was more of a business transaction between families than it was a matchmaking. It was customary for the couple to spend the morning of the wedding apart, but wasn’t uncommon (and often expected) for them to never have met at all in the first place.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that your parents didn’t buy your fiance’s love and that this isn’t an arranged marriage! Ok then, why not consider ditching this tradition? Plus, who believes wedding day superstitions anyway? * carefully considers whether her marriage is doomed because she didn’t wear something blue .*


In all seriousness though, there are a number of reasons for couples opting for a first look. I will give you the top three reasons why I wish every single wedding that I photograph included a first look.

Full disclosure: I am a wedding photographer, so this post may be a tad biased towards making photography a priority on your big day, but that is only because I want to capture the most important day in your relationship in the most beautiful and authentic way possible. I also want you to receive all the photos that you always dreamed about. Oh, and I’m all about laid back, stress-free wedding days. Of course, if you are all about traditions and believe in wedding day superstitions, I can respect that. I am not here to tell you how to believe or pressure you into something you don’t want on your wedding day. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all the wonderful reasons you should consider it though. Right?!? In the paragraphs that follow, I will make the case for a first look, and in the end, you will choose whether you believe it is right for you on your big day. Because ultimately, your wedding day is about YOU!

Ready? Ok, here we go!

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#1 Ditch The Wedding Day Jitters

“Cold feet”, “nerves”, “jitters” call it whatever you want, but every single person I know gets nervous on wedding day. Perhaps it’s the thought of being with one person for the rest of their lives, or maybe it’s the fact that they are about to stand in front of a large group of people and vow their love to their person, but no matter the reason, even the most laid back couples get jittery as their ceremony approaches.

It is common for my couples to mention that they were really nervous but after the first look they were relieved and ready to get on with their day. This can be especially helpful if you or your partner is prone to general anxiety or nervousness. During the first look, all that anxious anticipation melts away and a feeling of joy and excitement is left in its place, once you see each other. Honestly, it’s the most magical moment of the day, every single time.

Brides, I know you may be fretting about the fact that you have been dreaming of that “walking down the aisle” moment your entire life. You may be wondering if seeing each other before the ceremony will make that moment less special. My educated answer is “no”. I have witnessed so many authentically emotional moments from the groom even after a first look. I promise that the enchantment is not lost because he’s already seen you. In fact, because you have gotten past all the anxiety, it is more likely that he will be able to feel all the emotions more strongly. and here’s a secret- now that he’s seen you, he’s likely even more excited to marry you! I have seen all the beautiful tearful moments happen during the ceremony, even after the first look. And here’s the thing, we get to capture the moment twice because you’ve already experienced all the feels once before, during your first look. I mean, who doesn’t love a good BOGO deal?

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#2 Intimate Moments Spent Alone

The first look is as intimate as it gets. You have spent so much time planning this day to be magical for both of you. Don’t you think that spending some time alone with the person you are about to marry sounds like a dream? Trust me, the time passes quickly on your wedding day. You’re going to be surrounded by tons of people all day, with little time to spend alone together. Before you know it, it’s time to cut the cake and you’ve barely said two words to your better half. If your love language is quality time and/or you want to spend an intimate moment with the one you love, on your big day, a first look is definitely for you!

Along the same lines of time spent alone, you won’t spend the majority of the day hiding from your future spouse. Truth: I have actually helped hide a bride behind a tree stump while she was on her way to the restroom (we were out in the boondocks) in order to keep her hidden from the groom. It all sounds a bit crazy when you stop to really think about it. Instead of spending the majority of your time trying to hide from each other, you could be spending magical moments together and with your family and friends (who by the way, came from far and wide to celebrate your day with and celebrate you). You could spend more time reveling in the fact that this is your wedding day instead of trying to escape your better half’s gaze. You will be able to relax and enjoy every single moment together.

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#3 You’ll get MORE photos

And lastly, but absolutely not least, Weddings are excessively expensive and I know that hiring a wedding photographer is a huge investment (and if I’m blessed enough to be offered the opportunity to photograph your wedding, I know that you value your photos). Guys, there is really no better way to say this, so here it is: scheduling a First Look into your wedding day is the best way to capitalize on your investment. It’s that simple. There will be so many more portraits of just you and the love of your life. You are going to value and love all the photos of your wedding day, but the ones that will end up printed and hanging on your walls forever, will be the ones of the two of you alone together. These are the photos that you will end up showing off to your children and they may even share with their children someday. What could be better than MORE photos of the two of you together?

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westport california +-switzer farm +- intimate + wedding + photographer.jpg
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Fort+Bragg + California+- boho + redwood + Wedding +-photographer

I hope that this post is helpful to any couples who have been vacillating between having a first look or not. I am obviously 100% in if you choose to have one. On the other hand, I respect that it is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. We all value different things when it comes to weddings. Your wedding should encompass all of your values and be everything you have dreamt it will be.

I will leave you with this one last piece of advise; sit down with your fiance and talk about it- go over the pros and cons of both, think hard about your wedding day and what you value most. and of course, talk to your photographer (if that happens to be me, I’m stoked!) . Ask them all the questions so that you can make a solid decision about what is right for you and your day.

Ok there it is ya’ll!

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts? Was this helpful to you? Do you understand The First Look a bit better after having read my thoughts? if you are a past bride whom chose a first look, would you agree with any of this? If you know a current bride or groom to be and you think this would be helpful to them, please, by all means, share!

Chelsi is a destination wedding  and portrait photographer based in Fort Bragg, California. She loves to travel and will go anywhere to capture your life's sweet moments. She lives for seeing the world, capturing authentic love, and making people feel fabulous. Her style is authentic, real, and emotional. She believes in laughing too much, singing too loud, and most importantly living life to the fullest and prefers capturing every single authentic beautiful moment that evoke emotion over perfectly posed photos.

6 Stress Relieving Tips For Your Wedding Day

Yaaaaasss giiiirrrrrllll, this is real! You are preparing to PLAN. A. WEDDING. And not just any wedding, YOUR WEDDING!

You’ve been dreaming of this day since you were young enough to play with baby dolls and barbies. I mean, how many times DID KEN MARRY BARBIE? Well, the time for dreaming is over, because the day has come!

I’ve been there, so I know, you are so excited to be committing to forever with the love of your life, but it also can be overwhelming, a little stressful, and confusing, and maybe you’re unsure of where to even start. I TOTALLY GET IT! I am here to help, whether you’re one of my own couples that I have sent this post to, or you landed here in a panic through pinterest or google, I am so excited that you landed here. I am honored to be part of a lot of weddings and I help a lot of couples navigate the planning process. Along the way, I have noticed a few things that can help make planning and the whole wedding day so much easier! I will share them with you here in hopes that you have the best experience possible!

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Pop the champagne girl, cuz you gots this! Ok, here it goes:

  1. Budget! Budget! Budget!

Planning an entire wedding is stressful enough and the expenses add up FAST no matter how much you pinch and scrimp. So, before you even open a tab for pinterest, YOU GOTTA KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CAN SPEND. If you’re picking up the tab, sit down as a couple and figure out how much you can afford. If it’s your parents footing the bill, sit down with them and discuss how far their dollar can stretch. It’s not the funnest part of wedding planning, but in my opinion, it’s the most important!


3. Figure out your MUST-HAVES!

Even though you have set a budget, you will feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions all at once: flatware, dishes, flowers, catering, bridal party gifts, and oooooohhhhh, what about fireworks? It’s gonna happen. So, when couples ask me, I always say, figure out your MUST HAVES try to limit it to two or three. Whatever that looks like for you. Maybe it’s dress, venue, photographer or venue, table settings, cake. Each couple is different with unique dreams, so whatever it looks like for you, just make sure that you know what your must haves are up front. Book the perfect venue for you, hire the photographer that you can connect with whose work makes your heart skip a beat, and buy THE DRESS that makes you look and feel like THE QUEEN you are! You can cut corners in other places, ask you friends to help with DIY. Maybe there’s someone in the family who makes beautiful desserts, get them on the hook. Heck, at my own reception to save on food, we prepared an entire turkey dinner, OURSELVES! When you know what is important to you, the planning process will become SO MUCH SIMPLER.

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Fort Bragg, California + Wedding + Photographer +-+Cake

3. Time isn’t on your side, unless you schedule it to be!

I think the biggest mistake that I see couples make, is not giving themselves enough time on their wedding day. Understandably, they are trying to pack as much into their schedule as humanly possible, so they budget small amounts of time for each event, so when (trust me, this isn’t an if) run behind schedule, their whole day starts to feel stressful. If the ceremony is scheduled to take 40 minutes, give it an hour. You may start 10 minutes late and go over 10. Scheduling that tiny buffer into each event will give you the peace of mind that you need to relax and enjoy your day. If your guessing family photos will take 30 minutes, give it 50. Trust me, wrangling those family members can be tough! I could give you examples of why each thing that you plan will take longer than you think, but you’re a smartypants so you get the idea!


One of the best ways to keep the wedding day feeling calm and relaxed is to spend time talking to your photographer about how long he/she anticipates family photos taking so that you can all breathe and enjoy the experience together! (Although, a good photographer will make it seem like it’s effortless, even if they are feeling stretched for time, ahem, * insert my inner panic here * )

The truth is, It’s better to have an extra 10 minutes to enjoy talking with your loved ones, grabbing a glass of wine, or even adjusting your dress, than to be hurrying around in chaos mode because you didn’t plan enough time.

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4. Empower the #bossbabe in your life!

Seriously girl, empower a bossbabe to coordinate on the day of your wedding. I’m not necessarily talking about a professional wedding planner, I’m talking a friend, family member or loved one who can help round up everyone during photos. The last thing that you or your bridal party wants to be doing during cocktail hour is running around looking for uncle bob or shouting at the top of your lungs trying to get all your family together for the right combinations of photos. The one thing that saves me a lot of time, and you a lot of stress on your day, is having someone (a friend, sister, brother, basically anyone who knows everyone) rounding up the troops for photos so that I can just call out the groups and click the photos. Skip the circus. Assign someone the task of rounding up your college girlfriends from across the room and the boys standing outside smoking cigars. Trust me, It’ll save you so much time and stress on your wedding day!


5. Hire vendors whose work you LOVE and that you TRUST undoubtedly!

This is probably the toughest part because it will require you to do a ton of research. Vendors play a huge role in the flow of your day. MOST IMPORTANTLY hire vendors you undoubtedly. Let me say that again in case you didn’t get it the first time: HIRE VENDORS YOU TRUST EXPLICITLY.

For example, if you hire someone to create your floral arrangements, make sure that they are someone who understands you vision for the day and creates a sense of ease when they explain their process to you. When you walk away from your first meeting, it should feel like love at first sight.

As a photographer, I would be remiss if I didn’t address this next issue and it’s HUGE: find a photographer who makes your heart explode when you talk to them and look at their work. They will be with you for all the important moments of your day and practically everywhere else, so it’s important that you feel like besties before you ever step foot in front of their camera. You want to make sure that you trust them to photograph your love story in a meaningful way, even if things go sideways (and they will). Thunderstorm? My photographer’s got this. The sun is too bright, no problem, my photographer knows what to do. No one set up the cake, oh yeah, photographer to the rescue. (inside tip: I am pretty much your go to girl when it comes to any emergency that may occur, I’ve set up cakes, bustled dresses, attached boutineers to tuxedos, tied shoes, and even removed stains from shirts). Your photographer will do some much more than tote their camera around on your wedding day. They will pretty much coordinate the entire day for you, especially if you don’t have a wedding planner. So make sure that the sun and moon sets on the fact that you LOVE everything that they have to offer you. The same is true for your coordinator, DJ, cater, etc. Make sure that you are certain they are the perfect match for you! You will be so much more relaxed knowing that your team is there to bring their A-Game on your big day.

6. Your wedding day is about YOU!

Lastly, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, your wedding is meant to about YOU! Make it about what you want. Whether that is eloping amongst the redwoods with just the officiant and your photographer or if that’s a humongous ballroom style wedding, make it be what you want it to be. Usually I would say consider others, but your wedding day is yours and no one else’s. Marriage is the single most important commitment you will ever make to another person, and this is the one time in your life you have permission to be selfish in your desires. While yes, you should honor others by taking their thoughts into consideration, your choices should ultimately come down to what you want. Heck if you want to wear a polka dot dress and striped shoes on your wedding day, even though that may be unconventional, YOU DO YOU! My challenge to the stereotype is WHO CARES? If it makes you happy on the biggest day of your life, GO FOR IT!


I hope that these few tips save you a lot of stress on your wedding day. If there are any questions that I can answer for you along the way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

I believe in your girl! You are rad, and you’ve got this!

Chelsi is a destination wedding  and portrait photographer based in Fort Bragg, California. She loves to travel and will go anywhere to capture your life's sweet moments. She lives for seeing the world, capturing authentic love, and making people feel fabulous. Her style is authentic, real, and emotional. She believes in laughing too much, singing too loud, and most importantly living life to the fullest and prefers capturing every single authentic beautiful moment that evoke emotion over perfectly posed photos.