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It’s 2019, and while there are still many cishet couples out there tying the knot and saying “I Do,” we all know they are not the only people getting married. Despite this, “bride” language continues to permeate almost every part of the wedding industry, and wedding photographer and Catalyst co-founder Carly Romeo has had enough of it.
Carly Romeo, and her team at Carly Romeo & Co., wants us to envision a world where all people looking to get married get honored, celebrated, and respected as individuals, and the bride-centrism that we commonly see in the wedding industry isn’t letting us (and our unions) be great. Here are just a few reasons why.
1. In Case You Haven’t Noticed, Not All Weddings Include a Bride
Even though LGBTQ+ unions are legal across the U.S., we all know that doesn’t mean they are always understood or welcomed. Bride-centric language pops up in every magazine, in Facebook Ads, and if you’re in a queer relationship, this type of language is exhausting, and it can feel like your relationship is constantly being questioned or you’re being forced to come out over and over and over again.
Carly has always hated this rhetoric and the strain this puts on couples who are trying to celebrate their love. In fact, it’s part of what motivated her to co-found Catalyst in 2014 and why she’s been photographing couples in love since 2012.
When Carly Romeo & Co. first formed, it was hard to find a photographer who was welcoming to queer couples, especially is smaller cities like Carly’s home of Richmond, Virginia. Carly quickly gained a reputation as a feminist queer-friendly and affirming photographer because she always put her queer clients front and center, and she wants all of her potential clients to know they are seen and valued.
“I chose Carly Romeo & Co to photograph our wedding based on the company's feminism and queer-friendliness,” says client Paige, “and their strong mission statement about how they see the role of their business in making a positive difference in the world.” If there’s a wedding tradition that excludes queer couples, then Carly would rather not be a part of it.
2. It’s Nearly Impossible to Separate the (Heterosexist, White Supremacist) Patriarchy from the Concept of Being a Bride
Let’s face it, even if you’re a cishet woman, the term “bride” might make you cringe, and that’s largely because weddings themselves are steeped in women-as-property patriarchal tradition. Mix in messages about how the wedding will be “the best day of her life” and the absolute pinnacle of her existence, plus images that are almost always showcasing thin, able-bodied white womxn, and you might be left wondering if it is even possible to be a feminist and get married when the wedding industry seems hell-bent on squishing women into submissive, domestic, frothy white boxes?
Carly wants to be the wedding photographer for couples who don’t align with this type of thinking because intersectional feminism is at the heart of everything Carly does. Outside of her photography career, Carly’s worked with Gloria Steinem, Planned Parenthood, and as the director of Feminist Camp, a program to help college students learn how to use feminism in their daily lives. For Carly, feminism is a way of life, but she often hears the question of whether one can really get married and remain a feminist. She believes strongly that you can, as she feels that partnership, equity, autonomy, and respect are at the heart of any good marriage and are a few core tenets of feminism.
“Holy crap, wedding photography AND feminism?! Could this be true?!” said client Madeline upon discovering Carly’s work. “The pictures were just beautiful, and captured the day so well. We did no posing, no weird staging, no grooms as props or other weird princess-bride nonsense. Just laughter, and joy, and love.”
If you want to crush the patriarchy, but still celebrate your love and partnership, Carly is the photographer who will help you find that balance and who will be there to support you when you find yourself faced with outdated traditions that question the equality of your partnership.
3. Many Womxn Simply Don’t Identify with the “Bride” Label
When pop culture and wedding media depict images of brides, we usually see images of prim and proper ladies that get likened to princesses and are never seen with a hair out of place. If you’re into being a princess for a day, no shame, but it’s time to acknowledge that this standard of femininity doesn’t work for all female-identified folks.
Carly has seen enough weddings to know that these standards don’t always apply to her clients, and that’s why taking the time to get to know her clients as people is more important to her than making any assumptions about how her clients want to be seen.
“Carly is so much more than a wedding photographer. She really gets to know each person individually, and also gets to know you as a couple.” says Erin, another of Carly’s past clients. “When we said we wanted to do our engagement shoot in the mountains, SHE suggested a sunrise hike to the top of a beautiful vista. She has the most creative ideas and made us feel so comfortable in front of the camera, which is kind of a big deal.”
Carly loves to work with couples that are willing to go off the beaten path both literally and figuratively when it comes to expressing their love and commitment to each other. And as a person who loves hiking, kayaking, and exploring, she especially loves when her couples are ready to kick off their shoes, get a little messy, and fully enjoy the moment.
“She captured so many small moments that would have gone unnoticed otherwise and was totally game when we hopped a Lyft to our reception and stopped to shoot some hoops in a park on the way” said client Blair. Carly doesn’t want any outdated ideas of “proper” etiquette or formality to stop you from being YOU on a day this important.
4. Bride-Centricism and Capitalism Go Hand-in-Hand, and It’s Hurting Everyone
Even if the wedding industry magically became an affirming space without homophobia, sexism, and racism, to some, the mere fact that it can be so expensive to get married means those involved are still benefitting from capitalism — which, many argue, is anti-feminist.
“The thing about labeling yourself a feminist,” Carly says, “is that I get criticism from people who are like 'Capitalism is bad. You can't be a wedding photographer because weddings are fucked up and capitalist. You're not feminist enough.'”
But until we start living in a utopia, Carly knows that people have to continue to participate in society, and weddings are a big part of that. Rather than ignore the political messiness of weddings altogether, Carly wants to help couples have weddings that align with their values and that celebrate all love and unions over THINGS. That’s part of why you won’t see a lot of photos of details in Carly’s portfolio. She loves craftsmanship and artistry, but she doesn’t believe that your wedding needs to be full of STUFF — just you and your partner.
“I don't want to spend twenty minutes taking photos of your invitations! That's not what your wedding is about,” Carly explains. Carly also believes that bride-centrism puts unnecessary expectations on womxn to have The Best Day of Their Lives (™), especially since historically womxn are forced to give up their autonomy when they get married. But this is the 21st century! And we no longer need to live within those types of patriarchal constraints.
“There's a lot of energy spent on creating the perfect day,” says Carly, “and it can just be a great day!” If you don’t want to spend your time, energy, and money on picking out the perfect centerpieces, then don’t. Pour that back into your relationship, or in other elements of the day that matter to YOU. Carly believes your marriage will be better for it.
“It was really important to work with a photographer whose values are aligned with ours, and we found that in Carly,” says client Helen, who was married with her partner Charlie at a small backyard wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia. As with many of Carly’s clients, a costly venue and lots of expensive details was less important to them than focusing on their values and documenting this important moment.
5. Two People Are Getting Married. Let’s Act Like It.
Carly also hates that so often only one member of a couple gets the spotlight when it comes to wedding planning, and that’s why she loves working with couples where both partners are engaged and excited about the process. She is also loves when couples see their wedding not just as a time to celebrate their partnership, but all of their relationships and their community at large.
“Your wedding is about your community, your relationship, your partnership. You're with your loved ones, telling everyone in your community that you love each other,” Carly shares. “We try to honor that. I think we see it from a little more of a realistic angle. We're trying to capture the human element, the realness of your relationship. Men crying. Queer couples making out. People feel like they need permission to do anything that's not traditional. We're here to give it to you.” The result is a ton of gorgeous images that you can reflect back on for years throughout your marriage.
“Our wedding was a gathering of friends and family who would never be in the same place again,” said client Sarah, “and the fact that they were there to celebrate and support us was what was important to my partner and I. When we explained this to Carly, she just got it.”
“We love to work with people who care more about having a great marriage than having a great wedding,” says Carly, and that clearly shows through in all of their images. “We're here for the people who are like 'Yeah, we're in our 40s, we have two kids, we're having a dinner party and it's our wedding.'” Weddings are so fun and so fulfilling once you ditch all those unnecessary expectations and gender norms.
Have a Feminist Wedding with Carly Romeo & Co. and Get a Ton of Printed Goodies While You’re At It
Carly Romeo & Co. loves couples who value wedding photography and want photographers who actually give a fuck about them — and the longevity of their images. As she puts it, “When Trump nukes everyone or the robots take over, and Facebook is a distant memory... You need prints!”
Everybody gets a custom designed, heirloom quality album. And Catalyst readers can also get a BONUS $200 print credit for filling their home with their gorgeous images when they book by May 31, 2019. Inquire with Carly now.