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Sunny Southern France Engagement Amongst Castle Ru...

Sunny Southern France Engagement Amongst Castle Ruins: Kaley & Douglas

Southern France Engagement

What do you do when you’re stuck in a foreign country with seemingly no way of making it to your destination? Kaley & Doug were about to take the phrase “being late to your own party” to a whole new level when the trains out of Paris came to a sudden and complete halt. But being nothing if not tenacious, these two hatched a plan and made their way to the sun-kissed ruins of Chateau de Baux in time for their engagement session with Sarah Ellefson! They left with a great story, a new friend, some stunning images, and perhaps a few freckles — not bad for a day’s work!

A word from photographer, Sarah Ellefson:

“Kaley & Doug were so thrilled to explore and shoot in Chateau de Baux, which are castle ruins set high up on a cliff with fields of lavender and groves of olive trees surrounding them below. If it sounds like the most romantic spot for an engagement session, that’s because it is!

Together since college, they fell in love at first sight and have been inseparable ever since. Although their career paths have gone in wildly different directions (Kaley is a fellow wedding photographer and Doug works for NASA!) they have an unshakeable deep bond and commitment to share their lives.

Kaley & Doug have such an incredible adventurous spirit as a couple and that really came into play with making our session happen! Shooting in another country is always an adventure and you have to be flexible for whatever comes your way. Thanks to some ill timed worker’s strikes, Kaley & Doug couldn’t make their three hour train ride and instead rented a drove eight and a half hours to make it to our session!

Because Southern France holds such a special place in Kaley & Doug’s hearts, I wanted to capture the timeless feel of the landscape and architecture while keeping the focus on their adventurous spirit as a couple! We were gifted the most beautiful sun soaked landscape and I’m constantly dreaming of returning.”

Love notes from the couple, Kaley & Doug:

How did you two meet? What were your first impressions of one another?

Kaley: “We met when my best friend and college roommate at the time dragged me out to the bar on a Tuesday. We were out with the same friend group and I thought he was so cute! When I went up to the bar to get a drink, he came up to order with me and we started talking. I was so excited! We got each other’s phone numbers and talked for about a week. The next official ‘date’ we had was when he showed up at my apartment door on a Sunday morning with donuts! I was pretty much in love at that point!”

Douglas: “I definitely thought she was ‘off-limits’ Once I got some liquid courage in me and started talking to her, I honestly thought she was just too cool for me. I didn’t think there was much of a chance for me. Luckily, she gave me one and now here we are.”

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Tell us a funny story relating to your relationship!

“This one happened recently and involves our engagement session, so it’s a good one! The day we arrived in France, we flew into the Paris airport with plans to travel to Aix-En-Provence by bullet train. What we didn’t know was the Paris transportation workers went on a massive strike the day we arrived, and the bullet trains were shut down. We wandered around the jam-packed airport, trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Roughly 2 hours later, we learned we could possibly make it to Aix by taking a bus to a different train station to maybe, hopefully, take a different train to Aix. When we arrived at the second train station, we were totally lost. We followed the signs, but it kept leading us in circles. Jet lagged and frustrated, we hopped into the nearest car, hoping it was the correct line. The lady we were standing next to overheard our struggle and said she was having the exact same issue! She was from Canada, and on holiday and was planning on visiting a friend in a town just two hours away from Aix. Since we had no idea what we were doing, we all decided to stick together to figure it out. We’re stronger in numbers, right?! Lost and confused, we traversed the train station with our new Canadian friend, Marcia, in tow. After speaking to every transportation worker, we came to the same conclusion – either stay in Paris or rent a car and drive the seven hour drive to Aix. Our whole trip was planned around Aix, so we decided to tough it out and drive. Our travel plans went from a twelve hour plane ride followed by a three hour train ride to a twelve hour plane ride, 4 hours of wandering the airports, and a seven hour car drive, all running on thirty-two hours of no sleep. Marcia asked if she could tag along, as she had no other way of making it to her destination. Desperate times call for desperate measures! Although we were complete strangers, we stuck together and drove the whole thing, having a blast along the way! Marcia was such a fantastic woman, and we loved her company! We learned that she was a retired school teacher and that she loves traveling. She was going to be spending the next three weeks in France and then the following week in Moldova. She was so full of life and adventure and stories! We exchanged phone numbers at the end, and now joke that we have a new Canadian Aunt Marcia in the family. Aunt Marcia, I’m still holding you to coming to family Thanksgiving sometime!”

Describe a hurdle you had to overcome in your relationship.

Kaley: “I’m a dreamer, and I have a lot of big ideas. I tend to follow my heart and Douglas is much more grounded and logical. Although I love that about him because it keeps me grounded, sometimes it can be a hurdle. My entire life I’ve wanted to travel and live abroad, and I still hold that strong. If it was up to me, we would be living in a tiny apartment in France right now. When we made the decision to move to Houston, it was a really tough one for me to accept. We bought a (beautiful!) house in the suburbs, about 30 minutes from where I grew up. It took A LOT of convincing from Douglas to get me to buy a house here, because even though this house in this area was an incredibly smart decision from every view, I had a lot of commitment fear. I was so scared buying a house near my hometown would eventually translate into never leaving Houston. Douglas and I compromised by buying the house and scheduling international trips together at least once a year. We budget for it and make sure we do it, because it’s important to me and by association, to him. It’s great because now have a home base close to our families, Douglas gets to work at his dream job at NASA, and we still get to see the world!”

Douglas: “I can’t say we have too many hurdles. One of the great things about Kaley and I’s relationship is that we know how to compromise. However, I can think of one big hurdle that we just haven’t overcome yet. When we are holding hands, she has the weird habit of placing her hand on top of mine instead of underneath. Now, I have done my research, taken polls, and even done scientific experiments and have concluded that due to my arms being longer than hers, my arms NEED to be on top.”

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Any special ways you incorporated your family into your wedding day?

Kaley: “This is probably going to be the biggest theme of our wedding. My grandfather passed away in January, and he was the most important person in my life. Planning a wedding without his joyful eyes, big hugs, and classic ‘Heyyyyyy there, lady!’ greeting accompanied by a hand clasp on the shoulder and huge smile has been so tough. My sister and I recently got matching tattoos of his trademark phrase that he’d respond with whenever you’d ask him how he was doing – ‘I’m just happy to be here!’ written in our grandmother’s handwriting. Mine is located on my shoulder, so I like to think he’s always right here with me. We will also be playing a lot of jazz music during the ceremony, (he and my grandmother spent every evening listening to jazz, and often times at family events you could find them slow dancing in the corner together) and planning a few little extra things that are going to be a surprise!”

What part of your wedding day is most important to you?

Douglas: “I really want everyone to have a good time. Not only are weddings a pronouncement of love but they are also a celebration of two lives becoming one and with that I want everyone to be having fun (Kaley and I included).”

Kaley: “I just really can’t wait to marry him. I’m so excited that I get to marry the man of my dreams and then immediately afterward eat great food and party with all of our friends and family! He is such a wonderful man, and I can’t wait to call him my husband. He is so perfect for me and I can’t wait for our future together.”

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What is the best thing you’ve learned from one another?

Kaley: “There are plenty of things I could choose from, but the one that stands out to me the most is how important family is. For Douglas, the definition of family includes both blood-related and not, and can extend to friendships. Before I met Douglas, I wasn’t nearly as family-oriented as I am now. Meeting him and his family and seeing how close they all are really put it into perspective for me and pushed me to strengthen bonds with my own family. He puts his family (including me!) above everything in life, and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do to help them when they need it. Watching his love and loyalty to his family over the past few years has been really encouraging.”

Douglas: “It is not about me, it is about us. Part of the reason Kaley and I are so good at compromising is that we understand this concept and constantly grow as a couple through this. It is so easy to be selfish, but everything we do, we try our best to keep each other in mind.”

What is your favorite thing about each other?

Kaley: “He’s got the biggest heart. As long as he’s making the people he’s around laugh, he’s completely at peace. He lights up every room he walks in and is always the life of the party. If he notices someone alone in the corner, he will immediately befriend them — and it’s completely genuine. He’s intuitive, which means he can always tell when someone is upset or having a bad day — no matter how hard they try and hide it. He makes it his mission to make others happy, and I love his heart for others. It’s not just people, either. He also loves animals! If you know me, you know I’m personally a HUGE animal lover. I once took our corgi out in the backyard to use the restroom with her own personal umbrella because she’s scared of the rain. While most of our friends know that story about me, they don’t know the even better one about Douglas and the lizard! One day, Douglas came across an article about resuscitating tired honeybees by tapping on their chests. Later that day, a little lizard found its way inside our house and at the mercy of my curious cat. Douglas saved the lizard from my cat, but assumed it was dead. Remembering the article he read, he decided to see if the resuscitation technique would work on lizards. He tapped on the lizard’s chest, giving the little guy CPR. The lizard actually woke up! Douglas saved it! He took it outside, and it went on to live its life. My future husband gave CPR to a lizard. That is my favorite story in existence.”

Douglas: “Oh man. I love watching her interact with her clients. It’s like watching Bob Ross paint a bush with one stroke. I can’t think of a single client that hasn’t said these words: ‘Oh my gosh. I just need to keep you in my pocket all the time so I can have you compliment me 24/7’. She just makes people feel so comfortable in a way that I have never seen someone do. AND its genuine. That is a rare quality that I am happy to spend the rest of my life with.”

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If you had one piece of advice for other couples, what would it be?

Kaley: “Most people will say communication is the most important, and while I don’t disagree, I think right alongside communication is another equally important quality — respect. Having respect for your significant other is so important, and that means respecting them as a person and what they do. I may not agree with everything Douglas says and does, and in fact, on paper we’re total opposites; but when we do argue, our mutual respect for each other makes it so much easier to communicate and work out our differences.”

Douglas: “Don’t get mad at your partner when (not if) they have faults; help them. For example, Kaley can be a little forgetful sometimes and leave her phone at home, lose her wallet, etc. I do my best to not get frustrated but instead help. I know this about her so I can help mitigate. I can help her find her wallet. I can be on the lookout for her phone before we leave for the house. I, on the other hand, am terrible at planning/remembering plans. There has been countless times I have said, ‘Oh that’s today?’. Kaley is right there to be my planner and my cheerleader as I rush to throw on clothes and run out the door like a madman. We are lucky that Kaley and I only fight about how many times a week we can have sushi.”

What is the most honest thing you can say about love?

Douglas: “It’s not a game. There is no such thing as 3-day rules, or double texting sins, or not acting interested. If there is a problem — fix it. If you have something to say — say it. If you are feeling something — communicate. People complain about not being able to find ‘the good ones’, and it is because they constrain themselves to these very adolescent set of rules. If you want to find love, don’t play the game.”

Kaley: “It’s so much more than a wedding. It’s living every single day with this person for the rest of your lives through both the good and the bad. It’s being totally and completely vulnerable, even when you don’t want to be. It can be hard work. and it takes commitment. You have to be willing to let your guard down completely, and willing to let your significant other see you at your very worst. You are a team, and it’s you against whatever problem you’re facing, not you against your significant other.”

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photographer: Sarah Ellefson Photography / venue: Chateau de Baux, Provence, France / makeup artist and hair stylist: Camille Bonardi


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