Steve & Cheryl, 49 years of marriage
Steve & Cheryl, 49 years of marriage (Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)

In the photo series "To Grow Old With You," photographer Stephanie Jarstad meditates on the beauty of making a lifetime commitment to loving another person — long after the fancy party ends and the poufy white dress no longer fits.

"As a wedding photographer, I hear about all the firsts. The first date. The first kiss. The first time they said 'I love you'," Jarstad tells MNN. "I wanted to document love from the other end of the timeline. Years down the road, and thousands of dates, kisses and 'I love you's' later. This love bears a new sense of resiliency."

To do this, she sought out couples whose relationships have stood the test of many decades and asked them questions about how they met, how they keep their union strong and if they had any advice for young people in love. One of the 15 couples she interviewed was Steve and Cheryl (pictured above), who have been together for more than 49 years despite some initial familial obstacles.

"My family wasn’t very supportive of our relationship since Steve comes from a broken home," Cheryl explains "They tried to talk me out of marrying him. Having a very difficult time making decisions for myself, I let my mother influence all of them."

Luckily, love prevailed, and the pair ended up eloping — a move that Cheryl says still gives her the strength to weather any challenges that come her way.

"A common thread among all the couples was respect and a determination to care for the other," Jarstad says. "Hollywood provides countless stories of effortless passion and falling in love. Romance need not be effortless. In the end, the effort and grit is what endures."

Continue below to read about some of the other couples who were interviewed, and be sure to check out Jarstad's website to see the entire series.

Doug & Fran, 55 years of marriage

Doug & Fran, 55 years of marriage
Doug & Fran, 55 years of marriage (Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)
"We dated eight years. We broke up and got back together six times. We just couldn’t communicate. But the stars kept bringing us back together. We are still working on that communication thing, but our love grows deeper every day."

Ray & Tess, 54 years of marriage

Ray & Tess, 54 years of marriage
Ray & Tess, 54 years of marriage (Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)
"Ray was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4 years ago. To this day, no matter what happens to him, if you ask him what he would like to do, he always responds, with 'Whatever Tess wants to do.' That is the one thing he never seems to forget!"

Chauncey & Bertha, 71 years of marriage

Chauncey & Bertha, 71 Years of Marriage
(Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)
"We went on a hike up Mt. Timpanogos in the summer of 1944. Six months later, we were engaged. We’ve worked hard together to raise our thirteen children."

Robert & Patricia, 23 years of marriage

Robert & Patricia, 23 years of marriage
(Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)
"We met on a blind date. My niece set us up and we went to Chuck-a-rama. She didn’t like me at all and I didn’t like her dog. We’ve been on three service missions together and it’s important to say I love you everyday."

Lloyd & Helen Fay, 64 years of marriage

Lloyd & Helen Fay, 64 years of marriage
(Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)
"He has a twin brother and I have a twin brother, and we rode the school bus together. I was in the third grade and he was in the sixth grade. We fell in love riding on the school bus and going to baseball games together. I was eighteen and she was sixteen when we got married. [...] We have 30 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren. We sure are glad we rode that school bus together."

George & Diane, 60 years of marriage

George & Diane, 60 years of marriage
(Photo: Stephanie Jarstad)
"We met in the Library. Well, that was our second meeting. We actually met at church. He introduced himself and then later that night called me at home. He asked me if I would go out with him and I told him I had plans. He asked me about the next week and the next week, and I honestly had a date every week. So he never called after that. That brings us to the next quarter. I was studying in the library. I saw him looking over at me and he came over and introduced himself. I remembered him, but he had forgotten me! That is where it all began.

"One way we stay unified is just by getting old. We have never been old before, and we are just trying to learn how to be old together."

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.