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Three Ways To Not Force Your Wedding Party to Dress Like Creepy Identical Quintuplets

Are you stoked about having your nearest and dearest stand next to you on your wedding day, but the matchy-matchy debutante army of identically-dressed friends isn’t your jam? Do you feel kind of weird telling grown people what they should wear? Are you not into the idea of your best pals to have to buy something they will never wear again just because You Said So? And are you annoyed that brides are “supposed” to have only women in their wedding party, and grooms are “supposed” to only have men?

Well guess what! We have some ideas for you.

1. Instead of the same color, go with a color “family”

This is probably the least “fuck you tradition” way to give your wedding party some autonomy around what they wear: give them a family of colors to choose their outfits from.

 Wedding party unique color ideas

For folks who are wearing suits, that might be “gray suit,” for folks who are wearing dresses that might be “gray” or “violet to eggplant” or even an actual color palette (we all know Pinterest is lousy with color pallettes). Unless you have a massive wedding party that would make it really obvious if someone strayed too far from the color range, take a deep breath and let your friends do their thing. Micromanaging this process kiiiinda defeats the idea of letting each person pick what color is best for them.

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Carly Romeo and Co - Wedding Party Unique Ideas - Blue Floral Color Palette.JPG

Encouraging your friends to play with textures or patterns within your color scheme is an extra bonus that we’re sure they will appreciate! Last month, we shot a wedding where the bridesmaid theme was “blue florals” and it was AWESOME. You can get a similar effect with suits that have different patterns!

 gray suit mismatched wedding party

Bonus points: If you want to go super old-school, ask your bridesmaids to wear white! Some sources say that originally the bride and all the bridesmaids wore exactly the same dress and veiled their faces heavily, for the purpose of confusing jealous suitors and evil spirits. You can probably skip the identical dresses thing, but everyone wearing white a pretty badass way to give the middle finger to tradition!

Carly Romeo and Co - Wedding Party Unique Ideas - Bridesmaids in White.JPG

2. Don’t be afraid to mix modern and traditional wear.

These days, weddings are usually a beautiful mix of traditions: some old, some more modern, and some completely unique to you and your boo. There’s no reason that can’t extend to your wedding party. If some folks prefer more traditional outfits and some prefer more modern outfits, let them do them! Your wedding is about blending families (and in some cases, cultures) anyway.

Carly Romeo and Co - Wedding Party Unique Ideas - Traditional Indian Wedding Saris.JPG

3. Forced single-gender wedding parties are sooooooo over.

If all your besties happen to be one gender, we support you. HOWEVER if you have a sibling or dear friend who isn’t the “right” gender for your wedding party, FUCK. THAT. If they want to stand with you, let them be there. They are wayyyy more important than the gender dichotomy BS that weddings looooove to stir up. This is especially true for men who have close friends who are women, but all the groom-related “shoulds” make it hard to step even slightly outside the masculine ideal of dudes-only friendships. Here are two of our favorite examples of grooms who push back against THAT weirdness:

Carly Romeo and Co - Wedding Party Unique Ideas - Gender Neutral Wedding Party.JPG
Carly Romeo and Co - Wedding Party Unique Ideas - Gender Neutral Wedding Party.JPG

And one bride who did it, just for good measure:

Carly Romeo and Co - Wedding Party Unique Ideas - Gender Neutral Wedding Party.JPG

Remember: your community is your community. Your wedding is about celebrating your relationship with the people you love, not forcing the people you love to do whatever you say. In the end, you won’t even remember if everyone’s hair is perfect or they’re dressed “right,” but rather how much joy you felt celebrating with them near you.

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Sara + Kelsey's Interfaith, Queer, Autumn-in-upstate-New-York Wedding

Today we’re sharing an upstate New York wedding that was plucked directly from our dreams. Kelsey and Sara live in DC, but decided on a Foxfire Mountain House wedding after falling in love with it during their travels. Considering it’s one of the most beautiful venues we have ever seen, we don’t blame them. This place is legit MAGICAL. The foliage, the lake, the interior design, and the house made of windows had us drooling. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

Sara and Kelsey have one of the strongest and most vibrant communities we have ever seen. Their friends even banded together (literally) to create an engagement scavenger hunt for Kelsey, the finale of which involved Sara surprising Kelsey at their home with dozens of friends and a live performance (i.e. singing AND instruments) of “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. There’s a video; we still cry watching it.

Thanks to their incredible community of friends and family (plus one of our favorite wedding planners, Dawn Mauberret), their wedding celebration was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. They wove so many beautiful elements together: a ketubah signing, a flower-covered chuppah, a prayer led by Kelsey’s dad (who she did a beautiful “first look” with), live ceremony music, seven friends giving the seven blessings, incredible food including family-style dinner and an entire dessert table, handmade signage and other crafts, a bonfire, unicorn-themed party hats, and of course a raucous hora.

Some people may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by having a "destination” wedding, but having your wedding somewhere that you feel comfortable and at ease is of utmost importance. On average, couples spend the biggest chunk of their budget on their venue (according to this super-fascinating WeddingWire Report) and the environment you get married in sets the tone for the day. So CHOOSE carefully, friends! And if anyone is planning their Foxfire Mountain House wedding, we would love to go back. Hit us up.

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What our feminist marriage looks like: Lili + Alexis

This fall, we’re pushing the conversation beyond “feminist wedding” and talking about feminist marriages. We asked some of our past clients to share their insights this: What do feminist marriages look like? How do they work? Do things even really change after your wedding?

First up are Lili and Alexis, who were married three years ago today at Bluemont Vineyard. I still remember first meeting them and noticing how strong their partnership was, and how unflinchingly positive Lili was balanced perfectly by thoughtful, easy-to-laugh Alexis. They have some great thoughts on their wedding planning process, intentionality (then and now), and self-reflection.

 Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

Looking back, what was/were the most important element(s) of your wedding?

Alexis: Honestly, it was hiring the “right” people that set the tone. Between our wedding coordinator, photographer (nudge nudge!) and our DJ, I felt like we assembled a crew who really embodied the spirit we wanted to have in our wedding – relaxed and authentic.

Lili: We didn’t want a “traditional” wedding – we wanted to have an awesome party where our family and friends could have a great time. It might sound silly, but I’m obsessed with dessert, so having an awesome and unique dessert array was important to me! (We didn’t have a traditional wedding cake – we served warm pie and ice cream, and Smith Island Cake, Maryland’s official dessert! It was AWESOME!) Decide as a couple what the important things are, and do it!

 Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

In what ways, if any, did your relationship change after your wedding?

Alexis: After we got married, there was this wonderful feeling of “that’s my person.” Not having to question if your partner would be there by your side in all of life’s future chapters. We were engaged for almost two years, and bought a house before we got married, so we had countless conversations about what marriage meant to us and what the components of a lifelong, healthy relationship would look like – it helped us to be fully intentional when we made that commitment to each other.  

Lili: I just feel like I love Alexis more with each passing month and year. I know that sounds super corny, but when you have your “person” to go through life with, the highs seem even higher and the lows don’t seem quite so low. Marriage definitely isn’t all sunshine and roses, but I’ve never doubted for a second that Alexis is the most awesome person I could ever wish for to wade through those murky waters with!

 Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

How do your feminist beliefs/politics play out in your relationship?

We joke sometimes about the power dynamics (“male” and “female”) in our relationship. Certainly there are roles that I more naturally fit into and roles that she more naturally fits into, but we don’t ascribe those characteristics to gender, because there is no “male” in the relationship! We ascribe them to one of us having a particular strength and owning that role (For example, one of just so happens to be super handy with a chainsaw, and the other has a true gift for loading the dishwasher perfectly!) Above all else, we always try to give the other person what they need in that moment, and be our truest selves.

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What are the tools in your relationship toolkit that help you when times are tough?

Alexis: I try to remember that there will be many moments in our lives when things will be out of balance and one spouse may need more support than the other. The scale is always tipping one way or another – through work or education or family.

Lili: For me, I think self-reflection is a critically important tool for life, especially in the context of a relationship. If I am going through a stressful time, I have the tendency to direct my anxiety and stress to the person closest to me – that’s almost always my wife, and that’s not fair to her at all. In those moments, it’s so important for me to look inside myself and recognize that she’s on my team. On a lighter note, laughter is so important in our relationship, and I think it really helps in challenging times!

 Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

How do you intentionally grow alongside your partner over the years?

I think it’s so important to constantly assess three things:

1.     Am I growing as an independent person?

2.     Am I helping my partner grow as an independent person?

3.     Are we making sure that while we’re supporting each other in #1 and #2, we’re also growing together?

So many couples struggle with #3. Our lives get so stressful and busy, we forget to nurture the person that’s always along for the ride with us. Make sure to take time to keep building your story – by learning new things or doing new activities that continue to strengthen and grow your relationship. For us, making sure we’ve covered all three bases (and always checking in about it) is so important to an ever-changing partnership over the years.

What are your top three ingredients for a successful feminist marriage/partnership?

1. Respect

2. Patience

3. Laughter/Fun

 Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

 

If you could give fellow feminists who are planning a wedding some advice, what would it be? 

Make your own rules based on what is important to the both of you. Forget about what a “traditional” wedding should look or feel like. Do what feels right – it’s nobody’s day but yours!

 

If you could give fellow feminists who are planning a marriage some advice, what would it be?

Honestly, same as above – make your own rules. It’s so easy to let society tell you what you should be doing, and that even applies to same-sex relationships and their dynamics. Remember that you are a team – play off each other’s strengths and communicate constantly to make sure your game plans are aligned!

 Bluemont Vineyard Wedding, Same-sex wedding, queer wedding in virginia

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Calling all witches

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Calling all witches

Anyone else trying to hex Brett Kavanaugh (any maybe Susan Collins while we’re at it)???

The news the past few weeks has been HARD, y’all. Fucking hard. I’m not a firm believer in all things woo, but I know that women are full of rage that a drunken frat boy dipped in partisanship is about to become a Supreme Court Justice. So here are a handful of photos from a shoot I did many autumns ago that was created to remind us of all the power women can’t see, but we can feel. And if anyone wants to use these as inspiration to hex Brett Kavanaugh, you have my full fucking support.

FLORALS - Amanda Burnette
VENUE - Seven Springs
HAIR/MAKEUP - Slingin Pretty
STYLING - Heather Lewis

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Richmond food guide // women and poc-owned biz edition

Top Ten Richmond Restaurants
Owned by womxn + people of color

In case you didn’t know, I am a Richmond evangelist. I love it here. I have lived elsewhere (Charlottesville & NYC) and prefer Richmond wholeheartedly. The pace is more manageable than bigger cities, the art school provides us with a steady influx of creative types, it’s ridiculously bikeable, there’s loads of easy access to nature, and the music scene is just right for an aging hipster/punk like me.

I’m so dang effusive that I am frequently asked for recommendations for food/drink in town. SO I set out to compile an actual list of my ten favorite places, but with the requirement that they be owned (or co-owned) by a womxn or a person of color (or both, obviously). Unfortunately there are no photos to accompany the list, because I hate being That Person taking photos of their food. But each of these places is 100% delicious.

FOOD

Mama J’s Kitchen (Jackson Ward) - Hands-down the best hardcore Southern Soul Food in Richmond, in a spot that can get busy but never feels hectic. Has a fabulously neighborhood-y, family vibe.

Helen’s (The Fan) - A very Richmond spot with great people-watching and a beautiful copper bar. Solid American fare, great vibe, and yummy brunch!

Sen Organic (Carytown) - One of the most calming places I’ve ever been, to say nothing of the exceptional food and flavors! Organic, French-inspired & vegan-friendly Vietnamese fare, including vegan Pho!

Laura Lee’s (Southside) - Cheery New American restaurant with a patio and lots of vegetarian options, including a stellar mac and cheese. Great for brunch!

Sabai (The Fan/Broad Street) - Hip Thai spot with unique offerings and small plates that you don’t see in most (Americanized) Thai restaurants. Tropical vibe, beer garden, and patio.

The Broken Tulip (Carytown) - A super unique dining experience: sit at family style tables and go on a culinary adventure over a six local-ingredients-only courses and no menu choices to make! Don’t worry, when you make your required reservation you can let them know about dietary requirements.  

Dinamo (VCU Area) - Dark, tiny, and hip, with a menu that is mostly Italian, with a little Jewish thrown in there. Nestled in a very “Richmond” way between a tattoo shop and a froyo store. Date night fave.

Mama Zu (VCU Area, Oregon Hill) - Super legit Italian restaurant with just one menu and it’s on the chalkboard. Huge portions. One of those places where many celebrities have eaten, but from the outside it kinda looks like a place to buy drugs.

Stella’s (Near West End) - Charming and warm Greek spot situated on a random commercial block in a super residential neighborhood. Food is legit, portions are huge, but best if you have reservations!

Metzger (Union Hill/Church Hill) - Attention meat lovers: find seasonal & sustainable rustic German-inspired plates here. 

BOOZE (+ DESSERT)

Blue Bee Cider (Scott’s Addition) - I feel like this is self-explanatory, but Blue Bee is THE boozey cider place in Richmond. Cute little tasting room, and some lovely outdoor seating. Bonus: on weekends they sometimes host craft fairs!

Secco (The Fan) - These are the nicest wine people ever, and that’s coming from someone who drinks maybe two glasses of wine per year, and when I do I want it to be the sweetest, most low-brow wine ever. They are never judgmental and always happy to help you find the one you want, even if it takes a few/many tries.

Whisk (Downtown/Shockoe) - Cozy coffee/sweets shop perfect for some downtime away from the bustle of downtown. The macarons are stellar.

Scoop (The Fan) - Same owner as Whisk, their whole Thing is small batches and seasonal flavors. And omg one of their topping options is cocoa nibs, my 100% fave.

COFFEE SHOPS & BAKED GOODS

Stir Crazy Cafe (Northside) - Comfy spot with classic coffee shop vibes: couches, laptops, chalkboard menus, tons of flyers for local shows and events. They serve Counter Culture coffee, which may be heresy to local-only coffee aficionados but tastes excellent!

Brenner Pass/Charilift (Scott’s Addition) - Controversial Opinion: the restaurant Brenner Pass is super delicious (and there’s a CHEESE CART) but I’m way more excited by the attached coffee shop, Chairlift (not a great name). They pour a tasty latte and their baked goods are phenomenal (best caneles I’ve ever had)! Plus, more cheese. The back room is a perfect spot to get some work done.

Sugar and Twine (Carytown) - I take most of my non-studio/non-home meetings at Sugar and Twine exclusively for the baked goods. The cheddar biscuits are awesome, and they have a rotating cast of scones, croissants, cookies, and muffins that never disappoint (including vegan items). Solid tea selection, too!

Sub Rosa (Church Hill) - One word: BREAD. If you’re looking for a croissant or any other breadlike breakfast/brunch food, go to Sub Rosa. Lucky for me it’s up a giant hill so I rarely want to bike there, or else I would go every single day. Bonus: it’s right around the corner from Dear Neighbor, the most Brooklyn-ish shop in Richmond. 

Brewer’s Cafe (Manchester) - Not only is the coffee great and the space is always bustling, but owner Ajay Brewer is super quick to donate coffee and food to social-justice related causes (like Feminist Camp!) This place is a true community spot.

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colleen + david + ari // family mini session

Colleen and David’s wedding was one of the first I ever shot. Colleen and I knew each other from the feminist club at U.Va. that I helped found when I was an undergrad (HAY FIFE!!), and when she asked me to shoot their wedding I was absolutely thrilled. It was a beautiful ceremony at Old Metropolitan Hall with a mega dance party afterwards. I loved it, and I love them.

A few years later, they reached out to me about doing some family photos to celebrate their son’s adoption being finalized. OMG Y’ALL. I have not had more fun doing a family session EVER. Since then, their family has grown to a family of five and I can’t wait for our next session! But until then, here’s a glimpse into our adventures.

(Want your own family mini session? We’re doing a super limited number of sessions this fall and you can sign up here!)


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PLAYLIST // DESERT HIGHWAY

warning: Not wedding content at alL. 

But music is a huge part of my (Carly) life, and lately I've been dipping my toe back into the long-lost art of the mixtape. Did anyone else make mixtapes for their friends, siblings, unrequited loves, etc? Pre-Spotify, it was quite an ordeal. Pre-Napster it was an even BIGGER ordeal. But to me, music can enhance a mood, or change a meh day into a rad day. So here's one of my mixes, Desert Highway.

Over the summer, I attended a retreat in New Mexico called Mujeres Milagros, which is centered around women in the chocolate industry and those with an interest in chocolate. It was my first time in New Mexico (BEAUTIFUL) and my first really long stay in the desert. As the retreat concluded, I had a chance to drive off the hacienda property and go exploring for a moment with some of my fellow chocolate-makers, so I whipped up this playlist for us and have been listening to it ever since. It's ideal for driving out in the desert with some of your best pals, or really any moment when you're feeling hot and happy and free. Features a Neil Young cover by Shovels & Rope, a track by my new faves the Secret Sisters (who I got to see open for Brandi Carlile recently and BLEW ME AWAY), a little Janelle Monae, a little ZZ Top for comic relief, and (of course) a song by my very more favorite, The Mountain Goats. Enjoy!

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Andrew & Ryan // washington d.c. wedding

In an attempt to stave off the crushing dread of The News and The State of Our Country, I've been going back and looking at photos taken over the past year that never made it on the blog. Because when you feel hopeless and defeated, one good option is to spread love, loudly and proudly. Special shout-out to all y'all who are planning a wedding but this political climate is seriously putting a damper on your vibe. Stay strong. 

Andrew + Ryan married each other at a FREEZING private ceremony at one of the most beautiful monuments on the National Mall. They continued the celebration with a community ceremony and swanky soirée at a local restaurant, complete with rainbow-and-confetti dance party and traditional Latin American New Year's traditions (see if you can spot the photo of them, and Andrew's mom, with grapes stuffed in their mouths). It was sparkly and beautiful and perfect.

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Why you need a feminist wedding photographer

I've tried several times to articulate (for myself, and for others) what it means to be a feminist wedding photographer, but this time I think I've really got it down! It's hard to write about feminism and other political things without implying that people who see things otherwise are Doing it Wrong, but I believe that people doing what they actively want--and not mindlessly doing what is expected of them--is the real important thing.

Being a feminist involved in the wedding industry, and in photography specifically, can be overwhelming. There are a lot of gender-related expectations tied up in American wedding culture, and I learned this firsthand last year as my partner and I planned a wedding-esque celebration of our love. While researching photographers to capture the event, I was inundated with language focusing almost exclusively on The Bride (™) and what The Bride (™) wants/needs/should look like in order to properly execute The Best Day of Her Life (™). I found this on photographer websites, in promotional material, on Pinterest, on Etsy, and many other online and offline spaces.

However, through feminism my relationship has grown to value equity and mutual respect, so I didn't feel like the celebration was meant to celebrate ME, but rather our partnership. Thanks to feminism, I define my life by more than my marital/relationship status, so I kinda find the thought that the best day of my entire life took place when I was just 26 years old a little bit depressing. So after twisting the arm of a photographer friend who usually shoots hardcore punk shows, I vowed (har har) to be the photographer that I would have wanted at my own love party: a feminist photographer.

Some might think that viewing weddings through a feminist lens (har har again) makes for a narrower view, but I disagree. Feminist wedding photography actually creates more dimension because it's about documenting love and relationships and happiness beyond the traditional [heterosexist] narrative of Boy-Meets-Girl, Boy Proposes, etc. Being a feminist wedding photographer means celebrating the individuals and their partnership as unique and wonderful things. It means:

     Richmond Virginia Wedding Photographer
     richmond va wedding photographer

    - Appreciating and highlighting the ways my clients decide to embrace or shirk tradition/capitalism and taking the pictures that are important to them (from their grandparents doing the Cupid Shuffle down to macro images of rings on foliage) because they are meaningful (and let's face it, pretty) -- not because that's what Weddings Have To Be Like.

    - Capturing the physical beauty of the day but focusing less on what your hair looks like (though I'm sure it looks amazing) and more on the emotional beauty: how much you laughed listening to your college roommate talk about what a slob you were, your new spouse's face watching you dance with your parent, the pure joy and warmth of your arms around each other after a first look.

    - Thinking outside the box in terms of posing and composition; recognizing that everyone is on a spectrum of masculinity and femininity and not boxing folks into traditional gender roles.

    - Mindfully not taking part in the stress and pressure generated by the Wedding Industry during the planning stages and acting as a wedding doula day-of by being supportive, positive, and drama-free.

    So if you know someone in your life who's planning to get hitched (legally or not), spread the word! Feminist wedding photographers are the way to go. You can get more info about my work specifically by emailing me: carly {at} carlyromeo {dot} com or using this handy contact form.

    DISCLAIMER: The post assumes that you are in the position of hiring a wedding photographer in the first place. Engaged folks or other soon-to-be committed couples who aren't planning on hiring a professional photographer for whatever reason (budget, politics, disinterest, etc): more power to you!

    *I originally published this when my business was a tiny baby business, back in 2014.

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    Noor & Matt // Richmond, VA

    I thought about letting these photos speak for themselves, because when a couple asks to shoot in an "industrial wasteland" and one of them is wearing a saree, you know the photos are gonna say something.

    But Noor and Matt's pre-wedding session, which was shot by Matt, had more backstory that needs to be shared. Noor is a Pakistani who has lived in the U.S since 2008, but her family still lives in the motherland. She moved to DC in 2012 and fell in love with Matt at a May Day rally and protest at the White House, where they battled some racist neo-Nazis together. So when they inquired I was already like YES YOU ARE OUR PEOPLE.

    I'll let Noor tell the story from there: "We flirted, and dated and have consequently been together since May Day 2013. I work at a DC based worker-owned collective and Matt works at a HVAC company in VA. Matt is born and raised in Richmond and loves it nearly, and we've spent a lot of time back and forth from DC and Richmond. I come from a family who had always imagined me to be forever betrothed to a man that fit the demographics of Muslim+Pakistani. But, now I got this white punk kid I love dearly from Richmond, Virginia. We don't have any nice photos just being our silly selves, just selfies of us sweating at marches. So, this request is for a photo-shoot the morning before our wedding lunch (in December we're all headed to Pakistan for a big old wedding there), just us looking fly."

    I love their story and these photos and I'm so thankful for couples who care about making this world a better place. And I'm thankful for my associate photographer, Matt, who totally nailed these images.

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