Feminist Wedding Photography in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Chicago: Watassa Wedding Photography

We’re about to introduce you to one of our favorite people we’ve met this year. If you are a Midwestern couple planning a wedding for 2017, we envy you. Quick! Hire Emily Alt of Watassa Wedding Photography before she’s booked up!

She’s offering a discount of $300 on all of her packages, but we know that once you read a little more about how she traveled the country in an Airstream trailer, you, too, will realize that discount or no, you need her in your life. So without further ado…

Hi Emily! Tell us about how you fit into the wedding industry.

I really, really, really do not fall into the “typical wedding photographer” category, and I think, for my area of the country of the Midwest, that is fairly unique. There are a lot of badass disrupters in places like LA and NYC, but in Grand Rapids, Michigan, there are many wedding professionals who are still tied to The Knot style of work. And that is great for them, and it works well for them, but for me, that isn’t real. I literally am ill by the consumer culture and Real Housewives mindset so much of our country has taken on in recent years.  Donald Trump and the GOP scare the shit out of me.

Yeah, us too. So we hear you have traveled the country in an Airstream. Can you tell us more about that?

I decided to quit teaching a year into my photography business and travel around the country with my husband in our 31’ Airstream trailer with our two dogs, throwing people pop up weddings or “Rolling Elopements.” Because I just threw caution to the wind and took a huge jump, we were able to travel for a full year to all parts of the country (25,000 miles and 25 states in six months) and host weddings for clients in New Orleans, Santa Fe, Traverse City, Austin, and Charleston.  I love throwing pop up weddings because they are small and intimate, but they are also super unique and, really, exactly what a wedding should be — all focused on the marriage and the love, and not focused on the details or the table settings.

So what type of clients do you typically work with?

I’m a woman who speaks my mind and has strong opinions — those ideals and beliefs are VERY much a part of my business. Many clients are attracted to me for reasons that are part of my other life: my teaching life, my masters degree in social justice education, my strong political beliefs and activism in my writing and actions. I have to believe in the work I am doing--and those are the types of couples who find me. I am all about making sure the couple and I click. We have to get along and feel like friends in order for the photography to be the right thing. I love couples who have tattoos that tell stories, dresses that are patched together from family hand-me-downs, and folks who can’t take a honeymoon because they have to get right back to work on their PhD as soon as the wedding is over. People who are all about the marriage and the necessary messy that comes with that are way more my cup of tea than those who are just about the wedding. I work hard to make myself available to LGBTQ couples as well, and I encourage elopements with JUST the couple, no family drama welcome in my world.

What’s it like to be a client of yours?

I take on clients who I believe in and then for those clients I go 1000% with my dedication to them and their wedding vision. I become friends with them. Sometimes best friends. I do not let them slip away after the wedding. It is not uncommon for me to be in touch with clients on holidays and birthdays for years after their weddings. I also am one of the only Midwestern elopement planner/photographers out there, and I create spaces for couples to marry without falling into the classic Midwestern guilt trough or finding things becoming larger than what they dreamed for their day.

What is your philosophy on wedding photography?

My company is all about giving people fabulously beautiful wedding photography with absolutely zero stress or pretension.  It’s about letting your story unfold, your truth show through your pictures, and not falling into any sort of fakery or mimicry of another photographer’s style or another couple’s story.  A wedding photography experience that allows the awesome to unfold.

What’s it like to work with you on the day of?

A wedding should be about joy and love and rockstar fun. It should NOT be about stressing if your photographer is going to do their very best job. I am a photographer, yes, but I also become the default wine glass holder, veil carrier, bouquet drier, tear dabber. I keep the drama away from my clients on the wedding day--I use my teacher voice to ensure we keep the couple smiling and joyful, and if that means guiding your overly busy aunt away towards the cocktail table while we finish photos, then that is what I do.  

So let’s say a potential client is reading this and falling in love with you, but they don’t live in Michigan. What should they do?

I’m based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but I shoot a ton all throughout the state, Chicago, and the rest of the country. I keep travel super simple with the cost of some plane tickets and a hotel room for me and my assistant. I travel well, just ask! Here is my current travel schedule for the year:

  • January 13-17: Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, California
  • January 28 & 29: Chicago
  • April 1-7: Sedona & Phoenix, Arizona
  • April 23: Chicago
  • April 28-30: New York City
  • May 19-21, 26-29 and throughout the summer: Leelanau County, Michigan
  • June 13-25: Mallorca & Malaga, Spain and Marrakech, Morocco

So what can a client expect to pay to work with you?

$2900 for a wedding packages and $1700 for elopement packages. All details are on my website. Portrait sessions start at $400.  Engagement sessions are $250 when booked with a wedding. Both packages allow add ons and customization.

Mention Catalyst when booking to save $300.

So last question. What three ingredients make a great day for Watassa Wedding Photography?

Genuine, knock down, drag out love. Hope. Acceptance of what will be will be. (I know that seems like more than three, but really, it’s three. Trust me)

Find more of Emily’s work on Instagram @watassa.