It’s New Year’s Eve!! How crazy is that? We still can’t believe it’s the very last day of 2015.
For the past two years, we’ve made it an end-of-the-year tradition to compile a list of our top highlights from the year passed. We think it’s so important to spend some time looking back before we can really start looking ahead, so, in keeping with tradition, we’re sharing our 15 in ’15 to end the last day of the year! (You can see our 13 in ’13 here and 14 in ’14 here)
Teaching Six Sold-Out AJ Workshops
Just over one year ago, we set out to host our first ever AJ Workshop in our hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. Not knowing quite what to expect, it ended up selling out in the first few minutes, so after a server crash and a minor panic attack, we decided we should open up a second one, and within twenty-four hours that one sold out, too! Whoa. By the end of the year, we didn’t teach one workshop. We taught SIX, including two on the other side of the country in Richmond and Virginia Beach. So instead of teaching 16 photographers in 2015, like we originally set out to do, we’ve actually had close to 100 photographers already who are official AJ Workshop Alumni now! We We’re finding time and time again that God has this way of taking our small dreams, and making them bigger and better than we ever could’ve imaged. The most unexpected but welcomed blessing from the workshops? The personal stories from our attendees. The lives changed. Ryan’s is just one of many that reminded us why we love what we do, and keeps us fired up and excited to meet our first group of 2016 in just a few weeks!
Visiting Nantucket AND Charleston for the First Time
We can now say, after all the places we visited in the U.S., these two cities, for so many reasons, are our favorite. A neck-and-neck, photo finish tie for first prize. Touring both this year felt like one big dream. And experiencing it all with some of our best friends made these two trips major highlights of our year! In Nantucket, we sailed for the first time, drove Jeeps on abandoned beaches to old, but beautiful, lighthouses, and strolled on the cobblestone streets of the town center admiring the faded, matching, cedar wood siding on every building. In a lot of ways, it felt like we were in the middle of a Thomas Kinkade painting. That’s how Charleston felt, too. Like a more historic Nantucket. Cobblestone roads. English-style homes inspired by early American colonists. And some of the nicest people and best-tasting food we’ve ever experienced. In our life. We even got to ride in a horse-drawn carriage. It’d be easy to break the tie if we’d only had our photos taken in one of those places, but Melissa Jill spoiled us in Nantucket with an early anniversary session (our first time on film!) and Annamarie Akins did her photo magic again with this belated one in Charleston. Since we can’t break the tie, we decided we’ll just have to go back to both! These trips were seriously magical and this time with friends was so good for the soul.
Seeing Our Photos in People Magazine
So, there we were, on vacation in a remote part of Nantucket. We stopped into a small, local, mom-and-pop convenience store and asked with glints of hope in our eyes, “Do you have the most recent version of People by any chance?” They didn’t. We’d heard that there MIGHT be a special appearance inside the next edition, but we just didn’t know for sure. The next day, we went to a larger supermarket in town. They didn’t have it either. So, we asked, rather bashfully, “Would you mind checking in the back to see if it’s on a shipping palette?” They’ve probably never seen so must interest from two customers about one magazine in their life. The woman in the apron smiled and nodded. She left for a minute and came back holding an object that felt too surreal to be real! As we checked out, the woman behind the counter made mention of the two copies we were purchasing. Probably because most people didn’t. With smiles on our faces, we looked at each other, then her, and finally spilled, “That’s our photo! On page sixteen!!” Then we walked outside and took this photo, reminding ourselves that being featured in People Magazine is great, while making a promise to never forget that we ain’t that great. But God is.
Worshipping with 50,000 People at Once This Easter
We go to a pretty big church. In fact, our church is one of the top ten largest in America, even though it doesn’t feel that way, because we’re spread out over six campuses all over Phoenix, Arizona. This year, our church wanted to bring all six campuses together and welcome the community for a once-in-a-lifetime church experience in the only place that would hold us all. The stadium that just hosted the Super Bowl! Yep. We hosted Easter in the Stadium and… wait for it… had over 50,000 people attend. No superstars. No favorite teams. Just Jesus and community. We tailgated in the parking lot (coffee and donuts!) with our small group that we lead on Wednesday nights and, once inside, worshipped with 50,000 people at one time. The sounds of praise echoed through the stands, and it was one of those goosebumps-all-over moments.
The planning for this event was so impressive. They even managed to pull off communion that was pre-packaged in plastic wrapping like a children’s snack. Like Dunkaroos. But communion. Genius, right? Our church thinks of everything! You can even go to church online. It’s. The. Best. People ask us all the time for the secret success sauce to our marriage, business, and life. While we wish it was something we could give you, like a pill to take (or a kangaroo you could dunk, as it may be), it’s not something we can give but something that was given to us and is available for everyone else, too. It’s Jesus. Plain and simple. Our identity is not in what we do. And the peace that comes from knowing that God’s in control, we’re not, and our job is to love Him and others that way He loves us, is freeing.
Our Little Sister’s Wedding
There’s only one little sister on either side of our family, and ours got married this fall! It made us feel old. And emotional. But also, so happy. We doubled as bridal party members and wedding photographers, and had quite an adventure wearing all the hats! You can see the full behind-the-scenes recap here!
This year, we’ve really been cherishing the time we get with our families. Thankful for the little moments, and the really big ones too.
Speaking at Conferences (From Stages… and Sweatpants)
We still get butterflies every. single. time. we do any kind of public speaking. Amy the Introvert more than Jordan the EX-TRO-VERT, but even him a little bit, too. So we’ve been working hard at getting those butterflies to fly in formation, as Dana Perino says, because, at this point in our life, there are few things we love more than teaching photographers and creative small business owners how to grow successful businesses that profit in dollars and cents, but mostly profit in people. In lives changed. So, for us, the bigger the room, the better. The more people we get to help. Our biggest highlights of this year? Teaching a master class at WPPI, the largest convention for wedding and portrait photographers in the world; giving our first closing keynote at the UNITED conference; being red-eyed (is that even a verb? it is now!) across the country the same night we shot a wedding to speak at Creative at Heart; getting the chance to talk about community at The Wedding Symposium in our hometown; and… and this is the one that’s causing us to evaluate whether we’re in a dream or not… teaching at The Rising Tide Summit on the same night at Lara Casey, the editor-in-chief of Southern Weddings magazine. Holy. Moly. And because the event was streamed live online, we got to teach IN OUR SWEATPANTS.
The Time the #DemosSandwich Went Hollywood (E! Entertainment)
Getting Named to Rangefinder’s 10 Educators to Watch List
We did a double-take when we got this email. And made sure it was sent to the right people. And that it wasn’t a mistake. And that they didn’t mean another Amy and Jordan Demos. Once we’d eliminated those possibilities — and entertained a few others — we might’ve done a happy dance in our living room (okay, we did!). Because when one of the largest, longest-running, most widely recognized and respected photography magazines in the world puts their stamp of approval on you like that, you. do. a. happy. dance. And then call your moms! At least that’s what we did. We’re not sure what they saw in us, what the criterion were, or why they chose us, but we hope it’s because, flawed and imperfect as we are in so many ways — so many ways — it was clear that we’re doing what we set out to do: loving the heck out of people right where they are while helping them get from wherever they are to where they want to be. It was such an honor.
Hosting The Inaugural “Demos Desert Tour”
Last December, we bought the condo we’d been living in since we got married five years earlier. Up until that point, almost all of the furniture belonged to our saint of a landlord, so we didn’t actually have much furniture to our name, let alone a guest room suitable for hosting friends overnight. Well, all that changed when the place become ours! We purchased all-new furniture at Living Spaces (the Costco of furniture, and you know how we feel about Costco!) and made the place our own, including room to sleep more than a few when you added up the beds, couches, and air mattresses! So, in February, we hosted our first overnight guests for a few days and coined it the official Demos Desert Tour. It’s funny, because since the desert is home to us, we didn’t always think of it as such a unique place to live. We assumed everyone knew the difference between a saguaro and a prickly pear (both cacti, not cactuses 😉 and had scorpions, rattle snakes, and coyotes running around near their backyards. Side note: cats are GREAT scorpion hunters. Ours have caught more than we can count since we got them. Anyways, we loved being able to share our home-home and desert home with our dearest out-of-town friends for the first time this year!
Gray Summit + Spark Summit
We always thought “summits” were just for fancy foreign leaders who got together to discuss world wars. Apparently not! It’s for much less fancy people (like us) to get together with other people (who are deservedly fancier) to learn, grow, help, and support each other. This year, we did more teaching than we’ve ever done. For photographers and creatives in general. At both, the goal was relatively simple. How can help as many people as possible run successful businesses that change their life and the lives of others, too. For us, there are two ways to do that: in-person and online. The Gray Summit showed us how to reach people from home, and we’re so thankful to our friends Zach and Jody for hosting and continuing to invest in us as people and professionals. They’re the real deal, the salt of the earth, and every other metaphor about straight up being legit you could come up with. The Showit Spark Summit taught us how to be better communicators from the stage. At both summits, treaties weren’t signed, world peace wasn’t achieved, and we didn’t sit for pictures like these guys did, but we found ourselves looking around the room feeling thankful. Oh so thankful. Because we felt like the small fish in really talented ponds. Lucky for us, Dave Ramsey says that being the smallest house on the block is a good thing, because it has the most room to appreciate. A few years ago, our egos might not’ve been excited about being the least cool/wise/accomplished/successful people in a room, but this year (and probably forever forward) we really relished it, because it meant we had the most to learn and grow.
The Come Together Event with Katelyn James
In a year of firsts, what’s one more, right?! After scheduling two workshops in Virginia on back-to-back weeks with a few days in-between each, we thought, Let’s do another event while we’re here!” And The Come Together Event with our dear, sweet, red-headed southern friend who’s as good as photographer and educator as she is a person (and that’s saying a lot!), Katelyn James, was born. We wanted to provide attendees with an affordable, one night, live educational learning experience where they could “come together” with other creatives who understood their unique struggles in business and life, get community and support, and leave with practical ways to super charge their businesses. To be honest, we had no idea if anyone would sign up. We’d never done anything like it before! But, sure enough, the first fifty seats we were hoping to sell sold out in minutes, and 130 photographers and creatives came in all. We were blown away, because that’s more people than a lot of conferences! The best part? As soon as people started seeing the #ComeTogetherEvent hashtag and requesting we come to their city, too! We couldn’t believe it! So, we decided to do another one in our hometown of Scottsdale when Katelyn (and Michael!) was here for Showit United in October. There’s God taking our small ideas and making them so much better than we planned for AGAIN. So, will we do any more? We don’t know just yet, but continue to email us with your city requests and we’ll add them to the list! Coordinating our calendars is tricky, but SO worth it!
A Brand New Amy & Jordan
Okay, this is might be a LIFE highlight! That’s how much we love our new brand! We launched a new brand complete with an entire overhaul of our website and blog. We hit publish on our old brand in the late spring of 2013. We designed it ourselves, and for as much as we loved it and felt so proud of it (and still do), we knew that we and our business had changed a lot in the past two and half years, and we needed to reflect that in our online presence. Our designer Jen Olmstead nailed. it. Like we were singing her love ballads. Mostly by Bette Midler. The best unexpected surprise of this year was definitely this design experience. Partly because we have a site we love so much that we still can’t believe it’s ours, and partly because Jen has quickly become a person we can’t really imagine ever living without now. So Jen, if you’re reading this, consider yourself STUCK WITH US FOR LIFE.
(Since our website was the first ever full site launched using Showit 5, we went on Showit Live with that uber-talented design savant Jen Olmstead to talk about our re-branding experience and share tidbits we thought might be helpful to anyone considering doing the same. You can watch the full video right here and read the blog post we wrote on the day of the launch with all the thanks yous right here)
Seeing the AJ Workshop on Primetime News
Showit Live wasn’t the only time we were broadcasted this year! A crazy highlight from this year was definitely seeing our little workshop featured on the news! A real-life couple decided to get married for real during the styled shoot at our workshop, and FOX 10 Phoenix not only came out to cover it, but it ran as the second story on Monday night’s news! For the sixth largest city in America, we could NOT believe it! It was such a whirlwind of an amazing day and something we’ll never forget!
AJ Bride Christmas Party
We’ve heard people say, When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. We think that’s half true. Because doing what you love could be miserable if you don’t love the people you’re with. That’s why these couples are so special to us. They make work a vocation instead of a job. And getting them together is one of our favorite highlights of the entire year. AJ Bride Christmas Party gives ys chance to see all of our brides and grooms, give them some updated Christmas card photos, eat, drink, play games, and celebrate their marriages and just spend time in community. We laugh until our cheeks are sore and get WAY too into the party game, but leave with the fullest hearts.
YOU!! (Over 100,000 Unique Blog Readers)
We still remember what it was like. In 2011. Hitting “publish” on blog posts for the first time. Then reviewing the stats… and seeing that no one had read them, really. Except for maybe us. And our moms. Fast forward a few years. This blog has gone from a few thousand unique visitors per year and just over 10,000 page views in all (and who knows how many of those were just us!) to over 100,000 unique visitors and hundreds of thousands of page views. Wow. We’re humbled and honored. By you. Our online family. The ones who’ve stuck with us all this time, and the ones who’ve just joined the adventure recently. Thank you for checking in and for coming along with us! We couldn’t do what we do without your love and support. When we first blogged in 2011, we made a promise to ourselves: we were going to be us, and write that way from the start. That way, no matter how many people showed up to read every day, they’d get the same, real, authentic us. So, again, thank you, and know that you’re not just a number we see on a Google Analytics report. YOU are the reason we do this in the first place. You. Your life. It matters to us. And as long as you’ll invite us to be a little part of your daily life, we’d love to be right here with you. Here’s to a new year of exciting opportunities, endless possibilities, and awesome adventures. Together. Thank you for another amazing year!
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