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Redefining Inclusion in the Wedding Industry

Can we talk about how the wedding industry is still excluding couples and making them feel like they don’t deserve to have the wedding of their dreams? If you go on a wedding vendor’s social media, what do the couples they feature look like? Let me guess…mostly white, thin, straight couples; right? Here’s the thing though: couples of all different sizes, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, etc are getting married. So why aren’t they getting the visibility and representation that they deserve? It’s time for change. 


That was the inspiration behind this styled shoot- to create a platform and give couples that don’t fit into the standards typically defined by the wedding industry the representation that they’ve previously been denied. As soon as the idea for an inclusivity shoot came to mind, I quickly got to work thinking about the kinds of couples that I wanted to feature. Plus-size brides, interracial couples, same-sex couples, and brides with lots of tattoos and piercings, all seemed like a great place to start. 



I reached out to a few different venues close to home, but when The Counting House replied to me and invited me to come in and talk to them about my vision, I instantly knew that they were the right fit. I drive through Main Street Waynesboro all the time and have always admired and been curious about The Counting House, so you can imagine my excitement when I was presented with the opportunity to come in and see it for myself. I scheduled a time to meet with them, and was ready to sign the contract before I had even finished talking to Annie!



As I was heading back to my car, I walked past a shop with wedding dresses on display in the window, and I quite literally stopped dead in my tracks to turn around and go inside. I pulled open the door of Allison’s Alterations and Creations, and just instantly blurted out “Do you have plus-size wedding dresses?” without even introducing myself. Allison smiled at me and said "yes, but why?". I quickly explained who I was and why I was asking, and she immediately agreed to provide the dresses for the shoot. We got into a conversation and she mentioned that she was friends with a gay couple that would probably love to model for the shoot, and asked me if I wanted her to reach out on my behalf. I said yes without a second of hesitation, and then she asked me if I wanted her to make them custom outfits inspired by Billy Porter (to which I replied an even more emphatic YES!). Just like that, Allison, Timmy and Patrick were roped into doing this shoot. 



I started to advertise for the shoot, and when I did a model call, the response was overwhelming. I had so many couples reaching out to me saying that they were plus-size brides or that they were in a queer couple or that they had trouble finding vendors that posted pictures of people that looked like them. The staggering response only fueled my fire and helped me recognize that there really was a need for this kind of shoot. If I ever doubted my decision to take on such a massive project, the conversations that I had with all of these couples immediately eased my mind. 


Once I found my models, I had to figure out the theme for each scene. I wanted each one to be as unique as the couple that was featured in it, and make the day look like several different weddings instead of one singular photo shoot. I came up with the following ideas: a Christmas scene, a scene inspired by the dark lines and bold colors of American Traditional style tattoos, a celestial scene, a speakeasy, a boho scene, a rainbow scene, and one black and white traditional elegance scene. Scroll through the slideshow below to take a peek at the vision boards I created for these scenes! (All images in these boards were for inspiration only and do not belong to me.)



Once the models were assigned to each scene, the planning really began. If I’m being honest, the months spent planning and finalizing details went by in a blur. I met with Country Creek Farmhouse Tables to choose rental items, I spoke to Fiddlestix Florals to figure out what flowers I would need, Jackie and I went back and forth countless times about the stationery designs, I spent numerous hours in Allison’s shop to get my models into the perfect dresses, and so much more. I’ve jokingly said that this shoot was a labor of love, but the amount of work, stress, and tears that went into the planning stage of this day was unreal. 


A few weeks before the shoot, the couple that was lined up for my tattoo scene was forced to drop out due to a work conflict. In a panic, I walked into Vice City Tattoo and awkwardly explained the shoot and asked if they might have any artists that would be interested in modeling and showing off their tattoos. They called Fiona up to the front to talk to me, and I showed her the vision board for the tattoo scene, desperately hoping that she would say yes. When she said that her boyfriend was transgender and asked if he would be welcome at the shoot, I could have cried because I didn’t have any other transgender models lined up and it was such an incredible opportunity to feature another underrepresented community.  Once they agreed to model for me, I got Fiona down to Allison’s shop to find a dress for her, and I thought I had finally figured out every last detail of the shoot... 



...Oh, how wrong I was. Only a few days before the shoot, another couple had to drop out because of a family emergency. I texted Patrick to ask if he and Timmy would be willing to model for both the black and white scene and the speakeasy scene. Of course, they said yes, and I was able to breathe another sigh of relief…until the actual day of the shoot. 



On November 5, 2023, I got to The Counting House at 9 am to start setting up while my models got their hair and makeup done. As I was setting up all of the different scenes, I happened to check my watch around noon and realized that one of my models had never shown up. After frantically calling, texting, and emailing her, I finally learned that she was in the hospital and wouldn’t be able to make it. With photographers arriving in only 90 minutes, I sprinted down the hill to Allison’s shop, where she was putting the finishing touches on Patrick and Timmy’s outfits. I practically begged her to call her husband and fill in for the other couple at the very last minute, and then I ran back to The Counting House to finish setting everything up. 




As the rest of the models, vendors, and photographers arrived, I was working down to the wire to get everything finished. I welcomed everyone, made a quick announcement to let them know what was going on, and told them that they could start to photograph the flat lays and any models that were ready, and the other couples would be at the venue shortly. The photographers were all so patient and understanding as I tried to navigate these last minute changes, and they all went to work shooting everything that was prepared for them while I helped the other models get into dresses and finished setting up the last details. Finally, Patrick and Timmy arrived in their show-stopping outfits, Allison got her hair and makeup done, and everything fell into place. The day was chaotic and flew by, but the pictures that the photographers took, and the memories and friends that were made by everyone in attendance made all of the stress worth it. 



The photographers moved around between scenes and couples as they saw fit, capturing planned details and candid moments as they went. Here’s a deeper look into the scenes they were shooting: 


Boho Bridal Portraits 

Carissa has shot every single styled shoot I’ve ever planned. When I announced that I was looking for plus-size models, she messaged me and volunteered to be on the other side of the camera for once (even though she brought her camera along with her and photographed everyone else when she wasn’t modeling herself!). I wanted to do a boho scene with a very muted and neutral color palette to set it apart from some of the other more extravagant sets. Carissa looked absolutely stunning in her lace dress, and the pampas grass and dried elements in her bouquet and on the ceremony background were exactly the vibe I had in mind. 



A Celestial Ceremony 

If you’ve seen some of my other blog posts about previous styled shoots I’ve done, you probably recognize Taylor and Thomas. I was absolutely over the moon (get it?) to get to work with them again, and they were the perfect couple for this scene. The ceremony backdrop had golden cutouts of the moon phases, their invitation suite had me seeing stars, and their flat lay details included tarot cards of the sun, moon, and stars. The pops of blue and celestial elements of this scene perfectly lent themselves to a feeling of etherealness.



Black and White Traditional Elegance

Black and white weddings have such a classic and timeless look, and I really wanted to feature an “untraditional couple” in this very traditional color palette. Additionally, Patrick and Timmy’s outfits were so spectacular that I wanted to keep the colors of their scene very simple so that the two of them could be the stars of the show. The sweetheart table setup had gorgeous pops of gold and green against the dark wood, and Allison truly outdid herself when it came to creating their ensembles. Here’s a fun fact! When Patrick and Timmy were finished posing at the sweetheart table, they went outside to take some pictures on the steps of The Counting House. They looked so fantastic that a driver was more focused on watching them than paying attention to the road, and rear-ended the car in front of them. Luckily, no one was injured and Patrick and Timmy came away with a great story to tell! 



Christmas Celebrations

Doing the shoot in the very beginning of November meant that I had Christmas trees at my disposal. I wanted this set to invoke the feelings of joy and coziness that surround the Christmas season without it feeling like Allison and Egan were getting married at the north pole. Instead of the traditional Christmas red, I opted for copper accents to accompany the dark green trees. The light up trees, table, chairs, and decor from Country Creek Farmhouse Tables, the white arch from The Counting House, and my two Christmas trees made this setting feel like a winter wonderland wedding. The fur stole that Allison wore only added to the feeling of warmth and comfort that this scene inspired. 



Traditional Tattoos 

Fiona’s tattoos were complimented so beautifully by the black lace wedding dress she wore. With moody lighting, the intricate engravings on the old bank vault, and richly colored flowers, this scene felt so unique and editorial. I also thought that the personality of one of my absolute favorite officiants would fit perfectly into the dynamic between Fiona and Mikey, so I decided to stage a wedding ceremony for this gorgeous couple as a way to feature her. Maggie prides herself in officiating weddings for all couples, especially those within the queer community, and it was important to me that I was able to include her in this shoot to help more couples find her and recognize that she is a safe, kind, and inclusive vendor. The love that Fiona and Mikey share is so palpable that you can feel it through these photos, and it really just goes to show that your wedding doesn’t have to fit into the stereotypical aesthetics to be absolutely stunning! 



A Rainbow of Love 

When I found Brittany and Sarah, I knew I wanted their scene to have a huge, rainbow, floral installation in front of the main vault door. When Fiddlestix Florals suggested unique flower arrangements like a broken ceremony arch and a pocket boutonniere, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Brittany and Sarah both looked incredible, with Brittany in her gorgeous dress and Sarah in her sharp suit, and the rainbow surrounding them perfectly represented the colors of the pride flag. Also, can we talk about how sweet their tattoos of each other's initials are?



Welcome to the Speakeasy

Inspired by the art deco designs and secret speakeasies that were around during prohibition, this scene was awash in candlelight, luxurious textures and materials, and of course, alcohol. The clean geometric lines on the invitation suite paired so beautifully with the crystal decanter, and the candles and vintage couch added such an intimate feeling to the space. Patrick and Timmy were thrilled to get to pose for two different sets, and adding a hat and removing a jacket completely transformed their looks. 



 

This styled shoot helped bring more representation to different communities in the wedding industry, and helped to raise awareness about how unfairly the wedding industry has often treated people within these communities. However, this was a very small first step, and there is so much more work to be done when it comes to disrupting the status quo.


“We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg


 

None of this would have been possible without the incredible team of vendors and models, who were all so generous with their time and talents! I’ll forever be grateful for this wonderful community, and I can’t wait until our paths cross again!


Planning: Eternal Moment Planning

Venue: The Counting House Waynesboro

Hair: Kaila Moseley

Makeup: Maddie Moses

Dresses & Custom Outfits: Allison’s Alterations and Creations

Officiant: Married by Maggie

Flowers: Fiddlestix Florals

Stationery: Inked by Jackie

Decor Rentals: Country Creek Farmhouse Tables

Models: Patrick & Timmy Kirby, Carissa Wilson, Brittany & Sarah Shively, Allison & Egan Mengeringhausen, Taylor John & Thomas Atha, Fiona McPoyle & Michael Dearing

Photographers: AnnLee Photography, Bradford Park Photography, Nichole Alfonso Photography, Julia Dillavou Photography, Avalon Photography, Photobug Photography, Julianna Palumbo Photography

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