Gia and Beth. Two big hearts for social justice, community and each other. And wild dance parties. Working with these two was effortless from the beginning.
They We had a vision and values that clicked. Here are the results, and one of the most informative interviews I’ve been privileged enough to host here. Thanks for the great assist, Katy!
1. What was most important to you in planning your wedding?
We’ve always felt like the luckiest people alive – we live in a time in history and a place in the world where two young women have the freedom to travel across the country, find each other, fall in love, and have that love celebrated by their community. That is nothing short of extraordinary! We wanted an opportunity to express how grateful we feel for the great privilege of loving and being loved in return.
Also, we are both transplants to NC and have developed a deep connection to its people and places (Gia even has a tattoo of the state motto!). Our Triangle community is so important to us – they support us, guide us, and stand alongside us in our fight for full civil rights. So, we wanted a wedding that honored our roots, but paid homage to our adopted home.
2. What did you learn about yourself and your relationship in the process of planning the wedding?
As two women, our relationship exists somewhat removed from traditional gender roles (though of course not completely). Equality is central to our connection, and we have always prided ourselves on having a relationship where we both feel equally loved, supported and heard. This requires an almost overabundance of communication – we talk about EVERYTHING. While that’s a great feature of our marriage, it wasn’t the most efficient way to make decisions, especially about things (see challenges below) that neither one of us was entirely comfortable with. We’d find ourselves talking in circles and never coming to a conclusion because we were holding on to this idea that we had to both be equally satisfied with every minor detail. We finally had to embrace the fact that true compromise requires both inequality (a giver and a taker) and a deeper kind of trust in your partner. Once we let go of trying to keep each other happy, and started to trust each other with un-discussed decisions, the process became much easier.
3. What was the biggest challenge?
We’ve been together for 6 years. Over that time, we’ve attended SO many weddings and, after each one, we’d hash it out on the way home. What worked? What didn’t? Which elements would we adopt? Which would we discard?
When it came time to plan our own wedding, we had a pretty solid idea of what we wanted, but there were suddenly a lot more voices in the room. Our families, friends, even some vendors, all had notions of what we should do and all of those notions were based in the context of hetero-normative wedding expectations. Almost every single tenet of “traditional wedding etiquette” is dependent on the bride/groom dichotomy – from the proposal all the way through to the final end-of-night tips. Having never considered our relationship inside of that kind of binary, we were baffled when it was suddenly imposed on us.
Our first instinct was to reject all of it in one fell swoop, but we realized that those cultural trappings were deeply personal. Our loved ones wanted to celebrate our wedding in ways that made sense to them, so it felt cruel to dismiss their requests, since we knew that they came from a place of genuine support. At the same time, we were insulted – they were considering their own roles based on how they perceived our relationship to work, rather than taking the time to learn about how it actually works.
Fighting that insult is exhausting and complicated. It is a deeply personal extension of the structural oppression all marginalized people experience, and we quickly realized that it just wasn’t worth the fight this time. So, we adopted the notion that “Our marriage is for us, but our wedding is for everyone else.” If we really wanted our wedding to be a thank you gift to our community, then we shouldn’t dictate how they should celebrate it. We gave in to the more benign requests, laughed away the absurd ones, and focused instead on making sure that WE were comfortable with ourselves. Our wedding was traditional and unconventional, queer and mainstream, somber and silly – in the end, a real reflection of who we are.
4. What advice do you have for other couples out there?
Make separate lists of priorities, compare them to see how they are similar/different, and then divide tasks based on who cares more. Trust that the other person will follow-through on their commitments.
You will reach a point where you talk about nothing but the wedding – with each other, with your friends, with anyone. This is boring and may be stressful. Make a conscious effort to create time for each other when you aren’t talking about or doing things for the wedding, and kindly ask your friends and family to suspend questions for a night. They won’t mind and you won’t miss it.
5. What was your favorite moment from the day?
Standing in the barn with our parents waiting to walk down the aisle. It was just the six of us, and we all had this kind of excited calm as we listened to the processional start. It was one of those moments in life when you stop and look around and think “Oh my god. This is happening. This is real. We’ve made it.” We felt incredibly grateful, proud and so so so loved.
6. What factors other than photos went into your decision on a wedding photographer? Why did you decide to pick me?
Gia had been familiar with Justin’s work at the Indy, but had no idea that he shot weddings until another photographer recommended him. She wanted a storyteller, not just a photographer – someone who was interested in who we are, not just what we are doing. His Indy features seemed so personal, yet comfortable – the kind of images you only get when someone trusts you. If we were going to be followed around by a guy with a camera all day, we wanted it to be someone who took the time to get to know our story.
Beth wanted a photographer who had experience with queer and blended families, and who would be willing to go outside the (hetero)norm in wedding photography. Our photos are a lasting representation of who we are, so she wanted someone who was comfortable with our queerness and wouldn’t try to mold us into something that we weren’t.
7. From booking to delivery of images and seeing the results, what in your mind made it the right choice for us to collaborate? Did anything surprise you?
From the first meeting, Justin was genuinely interested in us as people – our interests, our passions, our histories. He traipsed through the rain and mud with us to scout locations in downtown Carrboro, took the time to ensure he understood our complicated family dynamics, and was always transparent and honest with us about how he prefers to work and what he has learned from his experience. The mix of genuine interest and respectful candor made us trust him instantly, and that trust shows through in the images he made of us. We are relaxed, confident, and our best selves in front of his camera.
The images themselves were the best surprise. We both had ideas of what we’d get based on our memories of that day, but seeing all the other moments that Justin and Katy had captured was really awesome. We wanted to do it all again just so we could be guests this time!
8. What’s next for you as a couple?
Travel the world! We are going to New Orleans, California, Cuba, Spain, Portugal and Wyoming in 2016. Phew!