Posts in FAMILIES
Small Town City Feel Anniversary Session | Indiana PA Family Photographer
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

You may remember a previous post about what to do with your wedding dress after your wedding (read that here!), and I’m thrilled to bring you MORE amazing examples of post-wedding romps around town in your gorgeous gown. A big advantage of anniversary sessions (in your gown!) is that you aren’t bound by a timeline or a certain location, so if you want some super-unique and out-of-the-box images, this is a great way to do just that!

Dan and Beth had a very small, private ceremony over 2 years ago at Blue Spruce Park, and even though she had a gorgeous Maggie Sottero gown in preparation for a big party-style wedding, their intimate vows in the park were just what they wanted and needed at the time. 2 years and a BEAUTIFUL baby girl later, Beth is still slaying the make-up game (she’s my go-to recommended MUA to brides!) and she finally got to rock that gorgeous pink gown.

We started our session on the rooftop of the church she and her adorable husband Daniel serve at. Danny Beats kills it on the drum set while Beth sings on the front line of our worship team, and as if that weren’t enough, these two are incredible (and founding!) youth leaders in their Celebrate Youth group. They poured so many hours into renovating a space to call their own for youth, and even though they have a newborn, they are still investing in the community by hosting youth get-togethers, attending graduations, and running internship programs for the local high school. They are such special people and absolutely deserved to have their beautiful souls captured in beautiful photos!

They were even sweet enough to oblige in my off-the-wall ideas ad portrait locations after the rooftop session. To the tune of 5 million cicadas, we then ended the session at the spot where they said their “I do’s” two years prior, lakeside at Blue Spruce park in Indiana. I hope you love these photos just as much as I do, and to Dan and Beth, I’m so blessed to get to finally give you wedding photos you deserve!

 
 
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Would You Give Up Everything for Your Marriage?
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

I had the pleasure of meeting these two lovely people when my husband and I traveled to Texas for a once in a lifetime destination wedding with the sweetest couple, Cody and Faith (see the wedding here!) Brooke and Jake went to college with our friends that invited us to Texas, and also found themselves in Indiana, my hometown! For their 1 year anniversary, Brooke contacted me to do some photos, and I thought her unique story of living over 1,000 miles away from home to honor her husband just needed to be told. I admire her strength and steadfast faith in the Lord for getting her through leaving everything and everyone she loved to dedicate herself to a strong marriage and the man she loved. Enjoy their story!


In February of 2017 Jake had received a phone call that two weeks later found him in Indiana, PA. He received a job offer from an Energy company as an assistant project manager. March 6th he moved across the country while I stayed back in Stephenville, Texas to finish my school- to say the least I was terrified of what to come. Our long-distance relationship lead to long nights and even longer lonelier days. I had phone call after phone call with my mom telling her I can’t do this. I thought I wasn’t strong enough and would lose the person that I wanted most.

This was a complete whirlwind from our relationship prior to Jake taking this job. When we met we instantly clicked. It didn’t take long until my cousin told me “when you know you know”. We started going to church together, studying together and started dating 3 months after meeting. Needless to say I had less desirable moments with my roommates at the time and found myself at Jake's house the majority of the next year and a half. 

Jake decided that this job was a chance that he couldn’t pass up, but made me promise him that if the distance ever got too tough to tell him and he will find a way to come home. “It’s just a job” I remember him saying. It was a big, hard change but Jake still managed to make me smile and keep faith in our relationship from 1,260 miles away. Thank goodness for today's technology because daily Facetime dates made the distance somewhat bearable. 

Fast forward through a lot of flights back and forth and a few days worth of driving, Jake proposed September 1st 2017. That same weekend I moved up to PA with him and we bought a travel trailer together where we lived at Yellow Creek with our two pups. Oh, an adventure that was! We encountered our first PA winter and it was HARD. Canned goods, hairspray, and my toes froze some nights, but together we made it. 

A few months before the wedding I decided that it was best to go finish planning my wedding back at home. May 5th 2018 we had our dream wedding and I permanently moved up to PA to live with my new husband. The thought of moving away from all of my family and friends was gut punching- I have a nephew whom doesn’t know me and a niece that is getting “too cool” to come jump in my lap and snuggle. 

Since the wedding I had not seen my family for 7 months. It was hard, I went to bed many nights with tears in my eyes from missing my sweet family. However, in those seven months Jake and I had created a beautiful marriage. We did everything together: cleaned together, cooked, went shopping, everything. There was never one of us without the other unless it was forced. 

Before I got a job up here I had no one but my husband in Pennsylvania- I had no friends, I had no family, no job to even have co workers to talk to. I had my husband who worked long days six days a week and even seven sometimes. Being away from my home that I left everyone in is hard, do not let me trick you into thinking opposite, but being able to rest my head next to my best friend every single night is beyond priceless and worth it all.

This season of life will one day pass, but for right now we are grateful for the foundation of our marriage being built away from home letting us focus on just each other. We have had to fully rely on one another as that is all we had. I believe that waking up everyday with just my husband for the past year has given our marriage a unique but strong foundation. We look to each other for everything- support, answers, advice, assurance. 

Jake and I along with many other people believe that life’s priorities are in this order: God, your spouse, your children/family, yourself, and lastly work. Our first year of marriage has modeled this so easy- we have been able to focus on only each other and create the best foundation possible before we start a family and life’s stressors are thrown into the equation. One day we will move home from this strange place that we call “home” where we will start a family and create a new life that we will love and together we look forward to that. But for right now I look forward to tomorrow that I get spend with just my husband.

 
 
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Sunset Family Photos | Indiana PA Family Photographer
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

The Drew family has grown up right before my lens, and I am so blessed to call them friends and clients! When I first met them, Max and Alexa were just little tikes, and I swear Kenny and Maria don’t age! This sweet family called me in to photograph their 10 year anniversary, and we had an amazing time playing in the sunshine on their property in Shelocta, just outside of Indiana, PA!

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Rooftop Sibling Photo Session at the Indiana Theater | Indiana, PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

There’s nothing quite as fun as exploring new places - especially if you have to be daring and reckless to get there - with your sibling! How many of you got in trouble growing up snooping around places together that you shouldn’t have been?! These sisters were not only up for an adventurous photo session in 50mph winds (WHAT were we thinking?!), but they also didn’t bat and eye when I suggested we climb 2 stories onto the roof of the iconic Indiana Theater on the Main Street in town. (

I was luckily enough to develop a friendship with Christine back when we worked together, and her younger sister Alex is just as sweet and has become a friend over the years of their “sister shoots” we’ve all experienced together! Since Alex lives in North Carolina, this sister shoot was even more special because it celebrated the bond these two have that is stronger than all the miles between them!

I can’t give these girl enough credit for sticking through some tough shooting conditions - since we could all only be together that particular day, we made the best of it and got some really cool urban shots! If you’re into industrial (or are just into Christine and Alex!), you’ll definitely love these photos!

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Best of 2018 Wedding, Engagement, Family, and Senior Photos
From our incredible time in Waco, Texas shooting my first destination wedding!

From our incredible time in Waco, Texas shooting my first destination wedding!

Here you’ll find all of my favorite images from the 2018 season! There’s no better way to get a good look at the scope of a photographer’s work than by cruising through their top picks for the year! Read on for a snapshot of the people and places that helped shape my year, OR just skip on down to the galleries!!

This year was iconic for me in starting to realize my dream of being a destination wedding photographer! Cody and Faith were so kind to invite us to Waco Texas to shoot their incredible wedding in June, and while nothing else can really beat that, a few venues back here in Pennsylvania came close! 2018 took me to weddings at PNC park, the Renaissance Hotel, Jumonville, a city rooftop, country clubs, beautiful local barn venues, a private horse farm, a sheep farm, a cattle farm (lots of farms this year!), and a romantic outdoor campsite just to name a few! How incredible it is to be a photographer!!

I was so blessed to shoot a total of over 40 family shoots, 8 senior sessions, and 22 weddings, some as a second shooter with amazing local photographers like Karen Plate Photography, j.jae photography, Carolyn Renee Photography, and Sparks Ignite Photography. I got to attend two workshops, one right here in Indiana PA hosted by the awesome Jon Blanchard, and one in New Jersey hosted by the girls of NJ Spark!

This was a big year of knocking out some big personal projects like creating a wedding magazine chock full of advice just for my brides, converting to all digital contracts for the convenience of my clients, a styled shoot in coordination with j.jae.photography, and over original 30 blog posts! While it’s certainly a struggle to keep the momentum going in the off season, the sheer volume of exciting people, experiences, and images that I’ve had this year make me fall in love with photography over and over again! I can’t wait for 2019 and some of the incredible places (Lingrow Farms!! South Carolina!!) that it will take me!!

WEDDINGS

ENGAGEMENTS

FAMILIES

SENIORS

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Anniversary Session at PPG Place, Pittsburgh
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)

You spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on your wedding gown, and hopefully that cash means you feel like a million bucks on your big day, so why should the fate of your gown be a dark and lonely one in a garment bag in the back of your closet? It's becoming more and more popular for couple to schedule anniversary sessions where the gown gets to come out of retirement, and a bride gets to feel just as special as she did on her favorite day.

A few of my friends have done this, and if I still had my gown I totally would (more on that HERE), so when Kelly approached me about doing an anniversary session (I was a bridesmaid for her wedding), I was SUPER excited. We had such fun planning a mini wedding day, Kelly calling on some of the best local vendors in the industry to get her ready for her re-debut as a bride! Her gorgeous, soft up-do was done by Hannah at Cameron's Salon, the stunning makeup was courtesy of BethyMae, and of course, a girl's gotta accessorize! Kelly got a custom necklace made by Rosie at Miss Pie Jewelry!

Kelly and I have been close friends for quite some time, and there's not much she loves more than catching up with friends over a cup of coffee from the Commonplace (except shopping, of course. And LuLaRoe). Luckily her hubby also likes coffee, so it was natural that she and Jamison started off the anniversary session with a waltz into this super cool coffeehouse to share a cup in their Mr. and Mrs. mugs!

We intended to cut into their cake from yester-year, but none of us realized that it was akin to a delicious frosted glacier and would take several days to thaw out. There's your pro-tip: a week before your anniversary, set a reminder on your phone to move your cake from the freezer to the fridge. After the frozen cake and the hot coffee (and a few shocked stares from college students cramming for finals), we headed to Pittsburgh to get some magical photos in front of the Christmas tree at PPG Place.

As you can imagine, we got some crazy looks as we ran around both Indiana and Pittsburgh in the 17 degree weather in full wedding regalia, but I think you'll agree the end results are worth it! My awesome friend Jackie from J.jae Photography let me try out her super cool Mag Mod flash modifier, and when you throw in the gentle snowfall with this dreamy backlight, well, you just gotta see for yourself!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
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Autumn Family Session at Blue Spruce Park, Indiana PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Blue Spruce park is one of a few hidden gems in the Indiana County region that is perfect for family photos. Because of the beautiful (but not too big) lake, mossy areas under beautiful trees, footbridges and creeks, and amazing golden sunlight in the evenings, it’s definitely a favorite! It’s also easy to find and offers a great playground for the kiddos after a successful session!

I have had the pleasure of photographing Kristen and Shane for years now, starting with their amazing wedding in 2012! Now two more sweet faces are a part of the gang! Here’s some of my favorite shots from their family session at Blue Spruce last weekend!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
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How to Get (almost) Effortless Pictures of Your Toddler | Indiana, PA Family Photographer at Yellowcreek
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Throughout the years, I've worked in both photography studios and on-location, and I assure you there IS a way to get (almost) effortless photos of your toddler. It doesn't involve bribing, yelling, or giving up either. Developmentally, toddlers, or kids ages 1 to 3, love to explore their environment and play. They simply just don't understand us when we want them to stand still and smile at a stranger with really interesting looking cameras and lights all around them! They aren't being bad - they are just being themselves! As a mommy, you'll want to do everything you can before your session to make things go as smoothly as possible, meaning if your kid is sick, reschedule; if your kid is hungry, give them a snack; if your kid usually naps during your session, bump it back. The mom of the sweetie featured in this post had some extra time in the car to drive around while the baby napped, making for a VERY pleasant little girl in front of the camera! Here's two things that this mom totally "got", and that I want to tell every mom that feels stressed out, panicked, or defeated when their three-nager is due for a photoshoot:

Change Your Mindset

You have to know your kid, and what they usually behave like, BEFORE you set your photo expectations. If your little one loves to run around and explore and touch everything, chances are they will NOT sit/stand/pose for a photoshoot. If you absolutely have your heart set on a studio style session with a perfect little outfit, let me know your vision before the shoot. I like to plan props to bring along that they can play and interact with that will still fit your vision. For example, oversized shiny Christmas tree balls work wonders for kiddos in the studio at Christmas time!

Let Them Play

The most successful shoots, in my opinion, are the ones where the parents understand that kids just want to play and trust that I'm up for the task of outrunning them! A great family photographer will choose a location that's beautiful, safe, and interesting for the child. This way, he or she can explore the environment and I can stay a few steps ahead of them, documenting their child-like wonder and effortless cuteness! For this session, we literally took a family walk around the lake, and Eliana was happy to look up at the goofy lady making funny noises! This method doesn't mean that you never pose them, but posing is more of a "check out what over there" and guide them to stand at the place of your choosing - the rest is up to their curiosity and how much you can make them laugh! One of the most crucial things about photographic toddlers, though, is that you have to be fast. You camera has to be fast, your legs have to be fast, and the experience has to be fast. Toddlers get bored in literally 2 seconds, so shooting in a location where you can walk and constantly change your surroundings makes it (almost) effortless! 

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
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How to Get Your House Ready for a Photo Session | Johnstown PA Family Photographer
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

If you have a photographer coming over to do a session in your home, don't panic - here's some great tips and things to prepare to get your house ready for a photo session with amazing results. Maybe you have a brand new bundle and your photographer is hauling their gear to come to your place, or maybe you have all the relatives in for the holidays and would love a session around the fireplace where you all grew up. There's definitely amazing benefits to having a shoot done in your home, even if you don't feel like your place is quite up to par with Martha Stewart's. Here are some great things to zero in on to help your photographer out a bit before she gets there, and some things to not worry about at all (you'll be surprised!)

LIGHTING

Because I adore natural light, when I travel to people's homes for sessions, the first thing I look for is a window with some great light coming in, or light colored walls. If you are doing a newborn session, head shots during a family session, or a lifestyle session with only two people, natural lighting can most likely be used for your session. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box!  You can get some amazing close up shots with gorgeous light even if we are all standing by your bathroom sink! Some things you can do to prep: clear furniture or other items away from windows that have great light coming in! But what if I don't have great light anywhere?! Don't panic! Good photographers (ahem!) will always bring lighting equipment with them that can light the whole room softly, regardless of the lighting options you have.

CLUTTER

Don't feel like you have to clean and clear away every last shred of proof that people live in your house. Zero in on one or two spots (and your photographer can help you identify these) that you will be using, and pay no mind to the rest of the house. The places I usually shoot are living rooms, nurseries, and bedrooms! For living rooms, clear away anything stored on the floor or coffee table like magazines, blankets, and remotes. For nurseries, focus on the crib and a nearby chair. Choose sheets that have a simple or understated pattern, and let your photographer know if you're up for rearranging the placement of furniture for the best lighting and backgrounds! If there are certain decor pieces that you just love and speak to your style, or sentimental things you want represented in your photos, absolutely let your photographer know! Otherwise, it's usually a good idea to clear away any holiday decor, floor lamps, framed photos, etc. The more simple the background and surrounding area, the better!

FURNITURE

Regarding furniture, I tend to find that when I do a session in your home, unless you can sit on it, I usually won't include it in the frame. Meaning, sofas, beds, chairs, and ottomans are all great props to use! If you are able, push any small tables (if there's room!) away from anything you can sit on to create not only a place to sit, but simplicity around it! Sometimes, furniture or design features of the home make a great statement in the photo, such as arch-shaped doorways or fireplaces. Let your photographer know what you love, and they will figure out the lighting and posing to pull it all together!

Recently, I had the privilege to photograph sweet new parents Alicia and Brian with their baby girl and their amazingly cute pup, Throcken. Not only were they all amazing to work with (even the doggo!), their house had a ton of cool design features, great natural lighting, and simple but seriously cute decor. It made for the perfect in-home session - even if the Corgi did steal the show!

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
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The Advice You Wanted Most and All Of Your Favorites of 2017
Jill Stiffler-1.jpg

2017 was such a great year of learning, both for me and for you! This year was the launch of some big things around here, my favorite being this blog! For the past 40 weeks, we have spent a few minutes together every week, sometimes featuring guest writers, but always showing off the vibrant and genuine heart and soul of my favorite people - YOU! Your love and support is literally everything to me and to the success of this fun little venture. It is my hope that through this special platform, we were able to connect in a way that goes way beyond showcasing my work, but that it was literally time spent creating value for YOU. Whether that be through advice for brides, answers to frequently asked questions, tips, tricks, and ideas, or just through the honest, thoughtful, genuine, voice-filled writing that shows you more of me, my family, and my heart. It is my hope that hanging out here every week has helped you learn, prepare, relax, and trust anything and everything about having photos taken and most of all, memories made.

Mushy stuff aside - remember those superlatives in your high school yearbook? Most likely to succeed? Biggest class clown? Prettiest eyes? Nicest smile? As a year end treat, I've wrapped up all of your favorite blog posts, shoots, and moments of 2017 to romp through all over again, as shown by page views analytics data! This year alone brought almost 10,000 views to my website since May, and I am so looking forward to an even bigger and more vibrant 2018!

MOST VIEWED BLOG - What to do with your wedding dress after your wedding

MOST VIEWED BLOG - What to do with your wedding dress after your wedding

MOST HELPFUL BLOG POST - Make your handwriting a font

MOST HELPFUL BLOG POST - Make your handwriting a font

BEST BLOG FOR SENIORS - Who to bring along on your senior session

BEST BLOG FOR SENIORS - Who to bring along on your senior session

BEST BLOG FOR FAMILIES - Are Your Kids Old Enough For Family Photos?

BEST BLOG FOR FAMILIES - Are Your Kids Old Enough For Family Photos?

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDES - Not Your Average Wedding Tips

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDES - Not Your Average Wedding Tips

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDESMAIDS - 10 Lessons for Bridesmaids

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDESMAIDS - 10 Lessons for Bridesmaids

MOST PUBLISHED WEDDING - Dan + Danielle | Car Themed Wedding at Farm on the Ridge

MOST PUBLISHED WEDDING - Dan + Danielle | Car Themed Wedding at Farm on the Ridge

MOST LIKED WEDDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Wayne + Cortney | Gatsby Themed Wedding at People's Natural Gas Park

MOST LIKED WEDDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Wayne + Cortney | Gatsby Themed Wedding at People's Natural Gas Park

MOST READ PERSONAL BLOG - Why You Need Marriage Counseling

MOST READ PERSONAL BLOG - Why You Need Marriage Counseling

MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPERIENCE OF 2017 - Winter Wedding in the Poconos

MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPERIENCE OF 2017 - Winter Wedding in the Poconos

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