Aly & Elroi: Married in a cafe

Aly & Elroi's wedding was a very different experience for me as a photographer and I've been sitting at my desk for the past few hours trying to put that experience into words. It's perhaps best to start by explaining that I don't typically photograph weddings by the hour. Instead, I encourage my couples to choose up to twelve hours of coverage, with a minimum of eight. Over the past few years that I've been working in the world of wedding photography, I've learned that it's very difficult to take the sort of meaningful, candid images that are at the heart of what I do if I don't commit enough time to the couple, their family and their friends. And while some photographers do a beautiful job with shorter time frames, I've held that my key to stronger, more emotional photos lies in this time spent becoming comfortable, and not rushing that process or packing a whole bundle of portraits and group photos into one forced and possibly stressful time slot. Love is calm and steady and warm, and I believe that your wedding day should reflect that as much as possible, as should the photographs you have to remember it by. 

But not every couple has the luxury of eight hours. And to turn those couples away would be to miss out on meeting some beautiful and inspiring people. I met Aly & Elroi for the first time at Big Bear Cafe just moments before they would be wed. Aly & Elroi were married in Atlanta in 2007 but were not given the legal rights that their love and loyalty so clearly affords them. So they came to Washington DC with their two boys and a small gathering of family to make it federally official. They had planned to marry in a national park and when the government shutdown spoiled those plans, we scrambled to find another place. When I told the folks at Big Bear Cafe about Aly & Elroi's situation, they offered up their ivy-covered patio free of charge and transformed it into the most beautiful space for a quick and intimate ceremony. Aly & Elroi were married in a matter of minutes and managed to get close for a few photos while their kids bounced around them on a nearby playground. Then they ate dinner and went on their way. My whole experience with Aly & Elroi lasted just about two hours and while I'm left wishing I'd had more time to hear about their lives and try to transform their stories into photographs, I'm more so overwhelmed with gratitude for the chance to have met them. Once again, photography has led me to some amazing people and challenged my notions of what a professional wedding business has to look like. A million thanks to A Practical Wedding for the introduction, Big Bear Cafe for their incredible kindness and generosity, and Aly & Elroi for their inspiring love.

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