Why we didn't hire a wedding photographer

In early 2012, I was navigating the world of wedding planning as a feminist, and it was really hard. In fact, I felt like my options in terms of “weddings” were so limited (and so counter to my feminist values) that I didn’t even want to call our celebration a “wedding” — we called it a Love Party. Some of the true elements of a wedding were still there: sharing a meal with our community from near and far, toasting to each other and to happiness and love in general, dressing up in fancy outfits, dancing our asses of all night. We hired a band and a vegetarian caterer and rented a cool old bank to have the party in, but one thing that we couldn’t find was a wedding photographer that fit our values and would capture our day in the way I had wanted.

It feels like sacrilege to admit that.

It’s not because we didn’t value photography or want the time with our friends and family documented! We were able to convince my dear friend and former Plan 9 Records co-worker PJ, to shoot a few rolls of film and a handful of digitals. (Thank you again, PJ.) But PJ isn’t a wedding photographer; he’s a band/musician/live performance photographer. He’s also the only photographer I could find, after a looooong search, who I knew would keep us comfortable in front of the camera.

Every wedding photographer I found in Richmond in 2012 (a time when googling “Feminist Wedding Photographer” yielded literally zero results—which was eerie) had websites talking only to brides about “the details you’ve spent years dreaming of,” finally finding “Prince Charming,” gushing over “the perfect diamond ring,” and how thrilled I must be to finally become “a Mrs.” Everyone was “so honored” to be considered to shoot the “best day of our lives.” And for some reason, SO MANY of them LOVED Starbucks and mentioned it constantly (still true).

There were photographers promising to pray for us before starting to shoot on our wedding day (pass). There were photographers with only white people on their websites. I did not find ANY Virginia photographers with same-sex couples on their site (in fact, when I started my company in 2014 I was told by a lesbian couple that mine was the only site they could find with same-sex people on it and that was TWO YEARS LATER). Our wedding photographer search was a deep, dark dive into the super white, super hetero, super fairy-tale-schtick Weddingland and we were not about it.

So we celebrated without a professional wedding photographer. We had a beautiful time, we drank boozy milkshakes and enjoyed our friends playing live music and there were decorations made by our dearest friends, and our favors were MASON JARS (because even feminists can be #basic y’all, it was 2012.) My mom made my dress and my dad made my cake and we ate the best vegetarian wedding food ever by Everyday Gourmet. Everyone cried.

We cherish the photos we have, but they aren’t Wedding Photos. I’ve made peace with that (and am eternally grateful to PJ for documenting it at all). But I wish I had had a better option.

So I started my business to be the photographer that I couldn’t find back then.

If you’re searching through what feels like endless websites full of gauzy tulle and people waxing poetic about how idyllic weddings are and that doesn’t fit you — we’re here. We’re realists. We love love, of course. But when we say that, we mean we love people and we love partnerships. We love supporting folks who intentionally navigate (and even disrupt) spaces that aren’t For Them.

Carly RomeoTipsComment