We picked our wedding photographer, the unsinkable Danielle Norris-Gardner of Salty Raven Photography, almost entirely for her flexibility. We met her at a friend’s wedding, a sweet, intimate affair to be held in a beautiful rock garden in a beautiful Massachusetts state park.
Then, our friends’ scheduled photographer had to drop out days before the wedding. It rained, the nasty cold drizzle kind of rain that isn’t ever going away. And the park announced, I am sure very apologetically, that they had accidentally double-booked our friends’ rain location, and would a partially enclosed porch suffice?
Fortunately, it was a lovely partially enclosed porch, and a lovely wedding. And we were very impressed by the way that Danielle stepped up to the role of pinch hit photographer with multiple location changes in the rain. She was one of the most low-pressure people we’d ever met; I imagined that probably my wedding dress could catch fire and she would find a way to convince us all that it was romantic serendipity.
We knew that photography was important to us before we got engaged. My dad has always been into photography, and we’ve known enough newlyweds with photographer horror stories to put us off the idea of skimping there. “Decent pictures” would probably have been somewhere between “not getting jilted at the altar” and “not giving all of the guests food poisoning” in our list of priorities, even if we’d been a straight couple.
But, of course, we’re not. And somehow, by the time we got engaged, we’d been together six years, almost all of it out to almost everyone in our lives, with almost no photographic evidence. There were a few blurry pictures from Second Chance Prom, made uncomfortable by the memory of very quickly changing our facebook privacy settings because we weren’t out yet, and hadn’t noticed the pictures being taken. A few bad selfies, but neither of us are selfie people. Plenty of group photos. And a framed portrait on our kitchen counter from a cruise my grandparents took us on a few years back – I’m in a flowing repurposed bridesmaid dress, and B’s in a vest that doesn’t quite fit, and we look a little bit like we’re at Prom and my parents are watching where she puts her hands.
So taking engagement photos meant a lot, perhaps especially because it seemed so frivolous. People like to accuse weddings of being the ultimate extravagances, but a lot of the expenses really can’t be avoided. If you believe in elaborate ceremonies committing you to the person you love for the rest of your life in front of your families, God, and community – which, being lesbians from Irish Catholic families, maybe it’s no surprise we do – well, you need a place to have it. And you’d shame yourself if anyone went hungry. And once everyone’s had dinner and three or four drinks, they’re gonna want to either dance or fight, so you have to set up a dance floor to guide them into the right choice.
Engagement photos were something that we did for us, because we wanted to.
I had assumed that we were long past any sort of insecurities about the validity of our relationship (after all, I had named her the beneficiary of my death benefits) but being engayged made everything we did feel political in a way that we hadn’t experienced in a long time. Most people had known what I meant when I talked about my girlfriend, but as the straight-passing one, I realized that I could spend a really long time talking about my engagement and wedding planning before people realized my fiancée was a woman. And life had been hard, in that stark romantic way where you’re blissfully in love and spend your days eating cheese and looking dreamily into each other’s eyes in between navigating illness, unemployment, and all of the relationship travails that take place when you somehow convince your beautiful fiancée to move halfway across the country to live with your entire family in a village the size of a thumb tack.
We wanted to set some time aside to have fun, to be excited about wedding planning instead of overwhelmed. And I believe in the power of a narrative. I wanted to be able to look at our photos and say: look, we love each other so much, and everything else will come with time.
And it worked. (My favorite moment was when I took out my purse to pay for our ice cream, and Danielle was like, oh, no, it’s on me. If your photographer doesn’t love you enough to buy you lavender-blueberry ice cream, maybe you should hire mine.) We goofed off and had fun in Scenic New England, and we couldn’t stop smiling even later that night when we were… changing a flat tire in the dark outside a cemetery in Scenic New England. Getting pulled over because B was driving so carefully down the dark windy unfamiliar Scenic New England roads with a spare tire at one A.M. that the police officer thought she might be drunk (no) or lost (no comment) was only a slight buzzkill. One that inspired me to buy a GPS.
And when I look at the pictures, I don’t worry about whether my nose is (objectively) huge. I think: wow, we’re so happy.
Danielle didn’t ask me to write this post, but I did get permission to use her pictures, and I have to recommend her without reservations. I don’t know if it’s possible for her to love you as much as she loves us, but she’s unbelievably sweet and professional, so I’m sure she’ll fake it. You can find her blog post about this engagement session here. (It has more pictures!)
I’d also like to thank B, my fiancée, who selected and arranged the images in this post. I asked her to choose four or five; she picked me up for lunch and said, “Well, I was able to whittle them down to twenty-nine.”