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Monday, January 25, 2010

Wedding Photography Giveaway Finalist # 2

Here is finalist number two! Andre and Brandi are an awesome couple from Columbia, SC who have an INCREDIBLE story. These guys are troopers. They have gone though enough tough times to fill a book but have still marched on, head up, and are using it as motivation to continue to improve. I'll let you read their story to learn the rest!

"When I read about this contest, my heart literally fluttered in thinking about how wonderful it would be to actually win. I’m a bit nervous, on the other hand; I’m not usually a big believer in big competitions where there is a 1/1,000,000(s) chance that I would win. And if I get my hopes up, I’m almost certain that I will come out disappointed.

But this is different! I know that the chances are just as slim here, but I am willing to take the risk—nothing in this world would make me happier than to marry this angel and make her day---OUR day—as special as possible. She is my world, and I love her more than I ever thought I was even capable of loving someone. One thing that being with Brandi has taught me about love, is that whenever love is involved, a substantial amount of risk is present—if not necessary! SO I AM GOING TO TAKE A RISK, and enter this competition, not just for me, but for my baby.

What is it about Brandi that I love so much? Why and how is it that she makes me feel the way that I do?—These are questions that I have to ask myself everyday! It’s weird to always feel like you are floating on cloud 9 ALL THE TIME…every time I hold her in my arms, and close my eyes, I spin into infinity as if I’m not even grounded on this earth; every time she smiles at me, the dark cloud of life disappears, and my world becomes even more complete; every time she holds my hand, she carries me closer to God, and if during this time I am down, she consummates our intimacy with a prayer, asking God to come in our midst—and you know how GREAT the love of God feels! Every time I look into her eyes, I see heaven, and I think to myself how wonderful this life and the next life (the afterlife) will be as long as she is there.

I know that this sounds like a bunch of sappy stuff, but I tell you that I mean every word from the bottom of my heart. The answer to my two questions written above (What is it about Brandi that I love so much? Why and how is it that she makes me feel the way that I do?) , the answer is GOD! GOD—Brandi’s love for God is phenomenal, and it’s that same type of love that she gives to me. Anyone with the ability to love the ALMIGHTY sincerely and truly, has the innate ability to love HIS children even more genuinely (even from a logical standpoint--it’s much harder to love someone that you can’t see, but once you can do that, your ability to love someone visible is a mastery of sorts). Brandi’s love for me is a reflection of God’s grace. She is proof to me that God exists—because it takes awesome and great power to create such a delicate beauty (Brandi).


And when I consider how Brandi and I met, I knew it was God that put us together. We met at Wofford College (Spartanburg, SC)—except Brandi was and is a year older than I. I saw her on campus one day and thought to myself, “Now that is beauty—she is beautiful!” When I found out that she was a year older, I thought that maybe she would be out of my league, so I left her alone.

But then something AMAZING happened. I was considering becoming a French major. My professor (Madame Schmitz), came up to me one day and said, “I really think you should consider becoming a French major—you speak very well, and your work is outstanding…if you are serious about doing this, I can move you up to the 300 (upper-level) French course which will put you ahead by ONE YEAR!!” Of course, I jumped on that opportunity soon as it came.

LO and BEHOLD, when I stepped into that upper-level French course that next week, it did my heart good to see Brandi sitting there (the only other black person in the class, so I couldn’t miss her). Come to find out, Brandi had a great aptitude for French as I did---sooooo, to make a long story short, we ended up studying abroad in Rennes, France together, we graduated from Wofford in 2008 together, and now we are attending the University of South Carolina School of Law together, class of 2011.

We’ve actually been engaged since October 16th, 2006. So as you can see, it’s been a while since I popped the question. The only reasons we have not gotten married is because of timing and money—moreso money. Of course, the first year of law school is the toughest, so it’s hard to up and plan a wedding. Plus, since we didn’t have the funds, we didn’t have the ability. Even now, we don’t truly have the ability to pay for a wedding, we are just taking a HUGE leap of faith because of our strong desire to be wed.


Brandi and I have overcome so many obstacles in our relationship financially, emotionally, and physically. Of course, being students (graduate students at that), money is always an issue. We have been and are currently living off of loan money—which is NOT easy. To offset the cost of living that aren’t coverable by loans (i.e. unexpected leaps in the light bill, used car maintenance and payments, insurance, and medical bills (I’ll explain later)), we’ve tried to get jobs as law clerks during the summer of 2009. Things were good—until I lost my job during the semester. Even though things are far from awful, we had to face some financial hardships that has put us in EXTREME debt (nearly $15,000 in credit card debt—of course this does not include the loan debt that continues to accrue). As we spiral deeper and deeper in debt, we are a little nervous about our future. When we finish school, we will have (collectively) nearly $250,000 in debt (not including credit card debt) and who knows how much we will have accrued in credit card debt by then. Things were a little more promising when I had my job, but I’ve become much more apprehensive.

Of course, as the man of our household, it has been very emotionally taxing not being able to work. Brandi was fortunately able to keep her job—but I’ve had trouble coping with my job loss. I am constantly searching—but as many people are experiencing in these tough times, not many people are hiring (especially an inexperience student with average performance records). In addition to this emotionally taxing situation, my fiancee’s father is and has been sick for a long time. Even while we were in undergraduate school, as our relationship began to blossom, Brandi and I were in and out of the hopital visiting her father who had an issue with his blood, diabetes, and lungs. Things got a little tough when he was pronounced clinically dead (he was revived—THANK GOD) in 2008; Brandi was afraid that he would not make it to our wedding to walk her down the aisle and share the father/bride dance. Things got much better over the past year—HOWEVER, she and I are now trying to cope with the fact that her father may have asbestosis, deriving primarily from when he used to work with Waste Management many years ago where he dealt first-hand with asbestos. This finding in addition to our longing desire to be married AND the fact that the next couple of years will be too hectic to plan a wedding as we prepare to take the bar has basically compelled us to get married this year. We have the utmost faith that God will heal my future father-in-law, but it would mean the world for him to be present at the wedding and to walk her down the aisle (especially since her father has now gotten to the point where he can actually walk with a little more ease).


We are firm believers in the notion that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is especially true for Brandi because of an unfortunate event that happened in her past. When she was a little girl, the day after her 10th birthday (the day before Valentine’s Day), she came home from school only to find that her house had been burnt down. Her mother was unable to grab but a few photos, and as a result, brandi has little to no recorded memories of her childhood. To this day, Brandi cries whenever I show her my baby pictures because she has none. As a result, Brandi holds any memories or pictures near her heart. At a church picnic, we were playing a couple’s game, and the question was “if your house was on fire, if you can only grab one thing, what would it be?”—Brandi’s answer wasn’t her wedding ring, or her purse (like I thought she would say)—it was “the photo albums and scrapbooks” that she and I have put together over the course of our relationship. I’m telling you all this to show you how important photos are to her. She CHERISHES our photo/memories. She especially loves when our photos are candid—showing where we are and whatever kind of mood we are in.

She has expressed to me how she wants the majority of our wedding photos to be as candid as possible—more natural looking photos that not only capture the memories but also exude the joy of the day! Brandi deserves to have exactly what she wants, and I want to give it to her.

Unfortunately, because of our fiscal ineptitude, we are unable to fit quality wedding photography into our budget. We are honestly considering using one of our friends from school (who has a pretty expensive camera and has offered to do it for a low price—basically free) to take our photos—it’s not what we want, but it’s all we can afford. Brandi is a young, beautiful, ambition, generous, God-fearing woman with big dreams without the means to fulfill them. Please help us to take our relationship to a new level. It would be my heart’s joy to marry this woman and give her the memories of this day that she has dreamt of her whole life. To be honest, the wedding doesn’t matter as much as the love that is there—In the case where we couldn’t exactly have the wedding of our dream, as long as we do it before God, it wouldn’t matter to me. But the thing is—I want to give Brandi the wedding of a lifetime…I want our wedding to be as fascinating, as great, and as massive as the love that I have in my heart for her—and the memories that will last a lifetime. She deserves nothing but the best, and the fact that I am not able to give it to her is devastating. I wouldn’t trade what we have for all the world’s riches. But if you can help us make this day even more special, I…WE will be forever greatful.

Sincerely, hopefully, and prayerfully yours,

Samuel Andre Small Jr.



  1. I search and recently came across your blog and have been reading along. It was wonderful blog.


  2. Hi,
    This is Madame Schmitz.(aka.Catherine Schmitz). Just wanted to add my two cents if this can help make the final decision... I am honored to be mentioned by André, but I am honored to have been part of their encounter. They are truly exceptional persons, and remain close to my heart. I know their wedding will be beautiful, and they deserve timeless pictures.
    "Madame Schmitz"