LGBTQ Wedding Experience

Interviews: The Texas LGBTQ Wedding Experience

June 26th, 2015 was a day that changed the lives of many people in the United States. It was one of those days, that ingrained into many people, the memory of exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. For a few of my friends in Texas, waiting on the state to make same-sex marriage legal was beginning to feel like a hopeless dream but that Friday changed it all. On June 26, 2015, The Supreme Court of the United States legalized same-sex marriage in all States and tears of joy, excitement, and hope were shed all around. Once they heard the news, couples could finally begin making those long-awaited ceremony plans. From where to find wedding photographers who shared a vision for their wedding (like…ahem, Lauren Lindley), to which traditional wedding aspects they should include. One of my oldest family friends was one of those couples who began planning. So, in honor of the recently celebrated Pride Parade in Austin, TX, I asked her and her close friend to share their Texas LGBTQ wedding experience. I believe these stories will help all couples find some joy, hope, advice and encouragement from reading.

LGBTQ Wedding Experience

Sheeanna & Rachael
Wedding Date: August 12th, 2015
Wedding Venue: Southeast Metropolitan Primitive Trail

How long have you been married? 2 years (10 years together)

Tell me how you met. We met through mutual friends. Talked on MySpace and then danced all night at the bar on ladies’ night a couple times. On one of the nights a friend asked Rachael to come home with me because I was too shy. One night turned into 10 years, and we were inseparable. We have only been apart from each other a handful of times since then.

Was there an official proposal? If so, who Proposed?  No. We always talked about being together forever. It was just something we knew mutually, but never thought would be legalized.

Did you decide to get married pre-supreme court decision or post?  Post.

Did that ruling affect your decision? Absolutely. Previously we had accepted the fact that we may never be able to marry legally, which was upsetting because we only wanted to have rights. A piece of paper would never split us up if we could not have done it legally, but it could prevent us from having rights if one of us were injured or ill, our property and our livelihoods, everything we built and shared together.

Did you both want to have a wedding?  If not, why not? We both wanted to marry each other always. But we differed on our opinions on the type of wedding. I (Sheeanna) wanted a big wedding, Rachael wanted a smaller wedding and does not enjoy being the center of attention. She felt it was something we should share between us and not everyone we knew. We compromised on the entire process and both had different things we wanted.

How long did you wait between the proposal and the wedding? We did not have an official proposal, we always just knew we would if it were legal. We married a few months after the supreme court ruling to pass same sex marriage.

Were your families accepting of a wedding? If not, what were some of their concerns? Yes and no. My (Sheeanna) mother and father were supportive and love Rachael. Though my father’s family were not all present in my life for ten years after I came out, my mother’s side has always been very accepting and present in our relationship. Rachael’s family has always been supportive and loving and accepted me immediately.

Did you decide on a big or small wedding?  Why? We had a very small elopement only including our sisters, our dog, and our mutual best friend. We got married on a primitive trail that we hiked often with our pup. We felt it was some of our best times and where we really found ourselves. We wanted it to be private, short, and sweet. Especially since it was one of the hottest days of the year. We married on the day of our existing anniversary of when we got together.

LGBTQ Wedding Experience 

Did you bring the standard traditions into your wedding (Ex: Father/Daughter Dance, throwing of the bouquet, etc.)? For the most part we did not. At first, the concept of being “wives” was an odd one to us. We merely wanted our rights as a married couple. We were always somewhat hesitant on the concept as there are so many in this world who are not accepting and ugly about it. We did get specific outfits to wear that all had the same general color scheme and our pup wore a tie made from some of my extra dress fabric. I (Sheeanna) made rose bouquets and boutonnieres, made of pages from Rachael’s favorite book series. We did not write our own vows and instead coordinated with our officiant on some basic vows that fit us well. We celebrated afterwards with a potluck at our favorite local greenbelt with all our family and friends who could be present.

Did you have any vendors or did you completely do it on your own? Why? We did all of it on our own. We wanted something simple and carefree, less stress.

Were your wedding vendors familiar with same-sex weddings?  (Did they have any experience in one?) Our wedding officiant was well known for marrying same sex couples.

Would you like to share the names of any vendors you would recommend? Give a brief review of their service? Spike Gillespie was wonderful. We had a meeting with her in person about a month before to go over different options for vows and she sent us some examples. She composed our ceremony for us based on what we wanted, hiked out a ¼ mile to our favorite trail spot and endured the 100-degree weather. We would absolutely recommend her to anyone we know.

Tell me about your wedding day.  How did you feel after it was over? Relieved. While we kept it small, it was still chaotic and a lot to work on. We had a beautiful time and were so grateful for all the people who came to celebrate with us. I don’t think it really felt real until we received our marriage certificate and then I (Sheeanna) cried for a while in relief and joy. We finally had the rights we wanted for so long, to the person we have loved for many years, and more to come.

What tips would you give other same-sex couples preparing to plan their wedding in Texas? Do what feels right for YOU! Often weddings end up turning into what your family or friends want, and none of that matters in the end. Your wedding day is about you as a couple and the love you share for each other. Whether you have a huge wedding, or a small elopement, it should be about what makes you happy. Your wedding is to celebrate the love you have for each other, not everyone else.

Sheeana and Rachael’s story of how they met was so cute, I could barely hold it together while writing this, but it is filled with so much love and friendship that you can’t help but hold onto hope for a love like this. Here are a few things that a took away from it.

1. MySpace did some things right.

This story proves that spending hours on end decorating your “about me” page was not a complete waste of time. I mean, just take a look at this story! But on a more serious note, online dating is totally a thing now. I know that’s hard to believe if you are over a certain age, but social media has changed the landscape for finding love. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. True love could be waiting on your besties friends’ list.

2. Add your own special touches to your wedding day.

Seriously, who else was extremely impressed by the idea of making boutonnieres, from pages of your love’s favorite book series? Not only is that truly genius, that but those little touches make for fantastic photos.

3. Make sure your wedding is about you.

When planning a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up into doing the things that would make your family and friends happy. Just don’t forget that this wedding is yours and about you and your love. Pick the vendors you want, and involve those who make you feel comfortable. Choose your own location and make the choice of big or small wedding on your own. The people who truly love you will support you.

LGBTQ Wedding Experience

Plymouth CA Same Sex Wedding

Plymouth Wine Country Wedding | Plymouth, CA | Jack + Kyle

Today is Kyle’s birthday, so it seems fitting that I gift him with a few more sneak peeks of he and Jack’s amazing Plymouth wine country wedding day.  Jack and Kyle not only live in Amador Country wine country, but they are fully immersed in it: their home is atop a 360 degree view of vineyards and Jack works for Scott Harvey Wines.  If you haven’t had a taste of what Scott Harvey has been producing lately, then you are missing out.  I recommend picking up a bottle of 2013 1869 Zinfandel today!

The boys wanted a completely relaxed backyard affair on their private estate, surrounded by friends and family.  Food, wine, family, and friends are important to this couple and the day completely focused on all of these things.  Scott Harvey wines were poured liberally and the team from Sacramento favorites Mother and Empress pulled out all the stops with a farro burrata salad, grilled oysters, roasted potatoes with beer soaked melted cheese, unbelievably tender meat and sturgeon.

In order to really focus on their relationships with loved ones, the day was completely and incredibly unstructured.  The plan was two-fold, completely unconventional and I, of course, loved it: folks would show up in the late afternoon for appetizers, wines and cocktails and lawn games and then, at my word (yes, mine!), we moved everyone under an incredibly ancient and gorgeous oak tree, overlooking the sunset and vineyards for the ceremony.  Post ceremony, we moved back to the lawn for an al fresco evening dining experience under the stars.  Their ceremony was officiated by two of their best friends and both myself and, I think it’s safe to say, almost all of their guests cried almost the entire time.  In between tears of poignant joy and love for these two boys, we were all laughing hysterically thanks to gems like a “name-that-romantic-comedy” game that was played in the middle.  It was an incredibly tender and moving ceremony that left me feeling in awe of the sheer amount of love that can be given, shared, and accepted in the world.

The events of the last few days have left me heartbroken and distraught.  You know it’s bad when I can’t listen to NPR.  These two incredible men and the beautiful people that surrounded them on their wedding day are remarkable examples of the possibility and far reaching effects of love: it envelopes you in warmth and joy, shares and forgives, laughs and cries, and is an enduring example of the goodness of humanity.  I have to believe that love, and in turn, empathy and kindness, will always prevail in our world.

Venue: Private Estate, Plymouth, CA | Catering: Mother/Empress | Grooms’ Attire: Kait MCKee | Day-Of Coordinator: Allison Caruso of Turley Wines

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Drown the Gown

Drown the Gown | Isla Mujeres

So, there’s a second part to that awesome Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding I posted about.

Brittany and Crystal wanted to do a day after “Trash the Dress” session and get in the ocean wearing their bridal gowns.

“Heck yes!” says the photographer who is writing this with two black eyes from an incident involving a bride and groom on snowboards, a six year old out of control skier, the camera and the photographer.  Of course I want to get in the ocean with my camera.  That sounds awesome.

So we did.  Here’s a few of my favorite images from our Drown the Gown session on Isla Mujeres, along with images of me capturing them thanks to Julie Pizzo.

More on how we did it after the photos.

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When Britt and Crys first approached me about their wedding, the first wish they expressed was that they wanted to go in the ocean and do a drown the dress session.  I knew I would absolutely want to photograph it at least partially underwater, if not all the way underwater so I immediately started researching underwater photography housing for my cameras.  The options are varied and so are their prices. Full functional underwater housing, such as the kind my friend Ralph Pace uses for his amazing photography of underwater sea life, for my cameras is, in general, more expensive than my camera bodies themselves.  We’re talking in the $3500-$4500 range.  To rent it for two weeks while I was in Mexico was almost $1000.  I still considered it.  My original vision was to find a super calm cove and go out early in the morning when the water was like glass and get the girls full submerged.  I am now super thankful I didn’t go that route because it would have been impossible due to the weather we had the week we were in Mexico: it was blustery almost every day, all day long and it was especially windy the morning we had to photograph the session.

The next option was to go with a bag.  After talking to a number of folks, I made the decision that this was the way to go and pulled the trigger on a DiCAPac WP-S10.  I was told by most that it is hard to change the settings when it’s in the bag, that I would be sacrificing sharpness (which I’m fairly obsessed over), and some people said they ran it on autofocus and some said they pre-set settings and ran with it.  I found it easy to change aperture and shutter speed, but impossible to change autofocus and while I had set it up to autofocus, I wish that I had just chosen one of the focus selections in the top, middle of the frame and run with that.  Overall, I’m super stoked on what we captured.  I think it’s dreamy, passionate and makes you feel like you too could get swept away by the heat of the moment.  You can almost hear those waves crashing.

Everything that isn’t partially underwater is shot with the Nikon D750 and either the Sigma Art 50 or the Nikkor 70-200.  Everything that was taken partially underwater is the Nikon D800 and the Nikkor 24-70.

Location: Isla Mujeres | Second Shooter: Julie Pizzo | Camera: Nikon D800 and D750 | Waterproofing: DiCAPac

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding | Cancun, Mexico | Brittany + Crystal

I should quit my job now because I’m sure I’m never going to be able to top the amount of love I have for these two ladies and their Isla Mujeres destination wedding.  I want to share all their photos but I have rules against that because I’m pretty sure no one really looks after 10 images anyways, so I tried to keep it together and not go overboard.  That being said,  it was a priority for Britt and Crys to really take advantage of their location so after getting ready and their first look at the hotel, we had hours to cruise around the island on our golf cart Joaquin and take loads of amazing portraits inspired by the ridiculously awesome place we were in.  There’s a few other of my favorites that I didn’t double up on over on their sneak peek from last week.

These two gorgeous gals hold a special place in my heart: they are former neighbors of my best mate Haley.  It was an unbelievable honor to be asked to be their photographer and I hope I did them justice and that they love their photos as much as I do.  Half of my job is already done when friends or acquaintances hire me.  So much of what I do involves creating a relationship and a quick connection in order to bring out genuine moments in folks and when I already know you, that hurdle is non-existent.

This was not my first time to Isla Mujeres, and although it’s changed quite a bit since I stopped in here on my way home from Cuba in 2008, it still has the heart and soul of the island I originally fell in love with.  Isla Mujeres is relaxed: the best sort of island time.  There is inexpensive delicious ceviche at every restaurant, cold cheap Mexican beer, smiling faces and warm hearts everywhere you go.  There are no massive hotels, no high rises, and no fancy private beaches for the most part.  You can get $2 fish tacos from a man in a plywood booth that presses his own tortillas.  You can rent a wonderful apartment on Airbnb for very little.  It’s off-the-beaten path travel at it’s best and it made the most wonderful backdrop for a wedding.

After we spent the whole day jaunting around the isle, Britt and Crys were wed in front of friends and family at the Zama Beach Club, which is officially in my top five favorite venues of all time now.  Instead of cake, they had a churro cart.  Instead of a special cocktail, they had fresh coconuts handed out to drink from as guests walked in.  Shoes were expected to be removed.  Toasts were made.  Sunsets were watched.  Crowd-surfing happened.

Britt and Crys, I can’t wait to come visit you and all of your amazing friends in Philly.  I know that your life is going to be filled with dancing, laughter and unicycles, and I wouldn’t wish anything less for the two of you.

Venue: Zama Beach Club | Wedding Planning and Day Of Coordination: Sunhorse Weddings | Invitation Design: Karith Gingrow | Bridal Gowns: BHLDN, Lace and Liberty, and The Wedding Dress Shoppe | Second Shooter: Julie Pizzo

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Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding

Isla Mujeres Destination Wedding | Brittany + Crystal | Sneak Peek

The island of Isla Mujeres is a magical place where you ride golf carts from place to place, eat fish tacos from a man in a plywood stand who presses his own homemade tortillas to order, swing through the rafters of the bar on the main street after one too many tequila shots, and, apparently, have one of the most amazing weddings I’ve ever had the opportunity to photograph.  Big thanks to Brittany and Crystal, who not only entrusted me to capture their Isla Mujeres destination wedding at the Zama Beach Club, but also gave me an entire afternoon to tromp around the island taking portraits before the ceremony.  It was basically my dream come true: beach, fish tacos, plenty of hilarious women, and a wedding.  Here’s a few images from their incredible day.  I can’t wait to share more, including the ones from a day after trash the dress session in the ocean!

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San Deigo Firehouse Wedding

Firehouse Museum Wedding | San Diego | Jen + Lauren

These ladies are the coolest of cool, the best of the best, and the most amazing of all the amazing folks I know.  They are philanthropists and businesswomen with big hearts and even bigger laughs.  Jen is a financial advisor and land banking manager.  In fact, she is MY financial advisor and land banking manager.  If you are looking for someone to help you invest in your future, I stand 100% behind this woman.   Lauren is an OB/GYN and although I can’t vouch for her services in that arena, I can vouch for her unbelievably infectious personality.  She is all smiles and graciousness, with a sprinkling of sarcastic snarky.

A few years ago, Jen spent over a year traveling in Vietnam and fell in love with the people she met there.  She had such an inspiring experience in her years abroad that she successfully fundraised, built and now maintains a home for 24 impoverished, disadvantaged or orphaned children in Vietnam called Mary’s House.   Mary’s House opened in January of 2012 and is named after Jen’s grandmother, Mary.   Mary’s House will be the recipient of my 2015 donations but you don’t have to wait for a donation to be made in your name to Mary’s House by hiring me: you can simply follow this link to read more about Mary’s House, Jen’s mission, and donate today.   If you are interested in more information about my pledge to give back to others, you may follow this link.

Jen and Lauren are absolutely 100% perfect for each other and it became even more clear in the week I spent celebrating with them in their hometown of San Diego, CA.  They were wed in a boisterous and laughter filled ceremony at the San Diego Fire House Museum in Little Italy.  It was an amazing wedding venue and held both the ceremony and reception.  Guests stayed at the nearby Porto Vista Hotel, a mere two block walk from the venue.  I have to give extra special props to their catering company, Waters Catering.  It was the BEST most delicious food I’ve ever eaten at a wedding, hands down, and I have been to a lot of weddings!

Here’s a few too many of my favorite photos from their Firehouse Museum wedding.  I had such a hard time narrowing these down.  The party was so awesome and the people so gorgeous it was hard to pick just a few!

Venue: Firehouse Museum | Florist: Flower Child | Caterers: Waters Catering | Baker: Friend of the Brides | Hair and Make-Up: Bianca Espinosa-Boyer | DJ: Simon Taylor | Dresses: D’Angelo Couture | Officiant: Alex Del Rio

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Fire House Museum Wedding

San Diego LGBT Wedding | Jen + Lauren | Sneak Peek

 

 

Jenny is the greatest employee I ever had, probably because she was completely overqualified for the job.  As an manager who often rarely saw my employees, I used to leave a lot of notes behind for them.  When Jenny left, she literally covered my store with notes: hundreds of them!  I was happy to hear during Jen and Lauren’s ceremony that the tradition has continued and that she leaves post it notes for the love of her life as well.  I have so many stories to share about this amazing power duo from San Diego but those will have to wait a few weeks until I’m finished with their wedding.  In the meantime, I’m just still so honored and tickled that I was asked to be their wedding photographer!

Until then, here’s a few sneak peeks from Jen and Lauren’s San Diego LGBT Wedding at the Firehouse Museum in Little Italy.

Fire House Museum Wedding
Fire House Museum Wedding
LGBT San Diego Wedding