Author and wedding innovator Kathryn Hamm met Ruby Dichirico of Invited Special Events at a local NACE (National Association of Catering Executives) meeting in Washington, DC. The conversation between the two quickly turned to same-sex wedding trends in the Washington DC area (to which Ruby had recently moved) and her experience in the Los Angeles market, as well as the planning and photography advice contained in Capturing Love: The Art of Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography.
Several weeks later, Kathryn and Ruby met to talk details about Kathryn’s legal marriage reception at Hill Country BBQ & Market in DC, and Ruby mentioned that she had been using Capturing Love as a means by which she could talk about photography style choices with all of her clients, regardless of sexual orientation. What a fabulous way to speak volumes about one’s professional approach without having to say a word.
As curious about Ruby’s experience as we were? Read on to learn more about her!
I was an event planner even before I knew it could be a profession and I’ve worked on weddings from almost every angle. I’ve been the server, the caterer, the performer, the planner and enjoyed being a bride once myself! I fell in love with wedding logistics at age 14 and as a professional Polynesian dancer (yes, I was a hula dancing!). I learned that weddings don’t always start on time or take into account that there are performers waiting in the sun in dried grass skirts. I realized someone needed to think about all the little details and that all weddings needed someone to take care of them. Ten years later, I was planning weddings at sexy hotels and funky venues like SmogShoppe in Los Angeles. I like flowers and fun designs. But I excel in situations where I have to make things fit into spaces and timelines that don’t want to give. It really is all in the logistics.
* How would you describe your event planning business:
I am a non-traditional wedding planner and specialize in wedding coaching. I like meeting a couple, learning about what makes each person who they are today and what makes the two of them…them. All the planning around it takes shape from there and not the other way around. I do not believe in creating the wedding someone dreamed up years before they even met their soon-to-be-spouse because, well, then it really isn’t about the marriage, is it? Two people getting married involves two visions of a wedding, two sets of personal histories and, generally, two sets of amazingly crazy families. I love taking all the little pieces of family traditions, religion and just a dash of something new from Pintrest (but not too much) and creating an amazing day out of it.
* Who is your ideal client?
My ideal clients are in love and know that this day is going to be about what makes them them. They may have a few ideas about their wedding, but are open to new ideas and working through any challenges that arise together. I enjoy working with creative couples who like to bend the rules just slightly. They would understand that the vendors cannot read minds so they have to speak up and tell us both what they like and what they hate. The ideal client would also understand that, while I put together a beautiful timeline for them, the guests never see it and don’t always do what we ask them to. The goal is the plan the day as best we can and then enjoy the day no matter what does or does not happen.
* We met at a local NACE event in the fall and you mentioned that you had worked as a planner with same-sex couples back in LA. What was that experience like?
Over the course of my professional career, I have been a part of about twenty LGBT weddings. In all honesty, they have been some of the best weddings I have ever been a part of. I feel that this is because guests and bridal party alike seem to see it as something bigger than just a regular ‘ol wedding. Often times, they are the first same-sex couple in their circle of friends to get married and they inspire their guests to take the next step in their own lives.
One of my favorite same-sex weddings was at the couple’s home in Granda Hills, CA. The ceremony was to take place in the backyard and the reception was to be very simple and spontaneous. Guests were instructed to wear black and white. When the brides made their entrance, they were both wearing hot pink! The couple used the sand ceremony to include their son. After exchanging vows about family and love, they poured black, white and hot pink sand into a vase. They were able to relax and take it all in because they were okay with just letting things happen. They prepared for all the traditions but after the ceremony, they had no expectations. They knew speeches would happen but they didn’t mind when it was or by who. They served chili dogs and didn’t “cut” the cupcake until guests started cheering and demanding it. This wedding wasn’t about the details or recreating something they saw on a blog. The couple was so happy and the day was 100% about celebrating their love for each other and their family.
To me, this book is more than a lesbian and gay wedding photography. It’s a fresh look at some of the most common wedding traditions and it has me rethinking shots that I was taking for granted. – Ruby Dichirico
The most inspiring wedding I have ever been a part of was a transgender wedding, though I didn’t realize this about the couple until the day of. I had been dreading this particular wedding because the couple had some very out-there ideas about what they wanted to happen (including having 120 guests bring their own dinner plates and make that the couples’ “wedding china set”) and since the couple did not drink alcohol, it was to be a dry wedding. Additionally, there were a lot of DIY details and all of the “vendors” were friends. On the big day, I was prepared to do all the heavy lifting but a dozen friends arrived for set up and were adamant that everything be perfect. There was so much excitement in the air and it seemed like everyone wanted to be a part of this day.
When guests began to arrive, everything looked just as it was supposed to. When the bride walked down the aisle with her mom, she wore an absolutely stunning black dress. The ceremony was non-denominational and about love for all the guests there that day as well as for those who chose not to attend. There were many same-sex and transgender couples in attendance and, though sexuality was never discussed, the officiant drove the point home that love reigns over all.
When it came around to speeches, one person after the next stood up and said they were ready to take the next step in life because on that day, they saw their friends pave the way. This was the first time I ever experienced how important an LGBT wedding was for not just the couple but the LGBT guests. It was truly the happiest day I have ever witnessed. When the dance party started, every single person hit the dance floor and not a single person left early.
* In the course of our conversation, we began talking about Capturing Love, its content and its couples. In what ways do you see photography as important to a wedding celebration?
At the end of the day, there are only two things you are left with: your partner for life and your photos, so you better make sure you REALLY love them both! It’s impossible to remember all the details so you really want a photographer to capture them for you and capture them well. You will want to see all the little details of the flowers that you fretted over, the dessert buffet is all its glory and the looks on your guests’ faces during your first dance. What you don’t want is to look back and say, “I wish I had a picture of my high school choir teacher that came” or “we took so much time for those formal shots and I don’t like them at all.” It is so important that couples think through what pictures they definitely want because it would be a travesty to look back and realize you never got a shot of the important person or thing you were so excited about seeing. You won’t forget your wedding day but, after time, you memory becomes the pictures. As I said before, at the end of the day, all you have is your partner and your pictures.
* What was your reaction upon reading Capturing Love?
Capturing Love is a fresh view for everyone wedding-obsessed like me. We see the same images again and again: the bouquet in front of a bust or rings on a succulent. But then you find a book like this and see mixed bridal parties and two brides crossing a busy intersection, voila, it’s different! It’s exciting and new and doesn’t look like what I am seeing on Pretty in Pink and Green Wedding Shoes. AND, you can see these are real people and not just model-sized, perfect looking couples. I also found the reading very insightful. If I end up working with a photographer who has not worked with same-sex couples, I feel like I can now chime and tell them to throw out any old rules about “layering” and suggest some “gender-benders.” I actually can’t wait to get in on a photo session now!
* What do you think is the greatest challenge or learning curve for straight wedding professionals who have not worked with same-sex couples but wish to do so?
The hardest part is actually what I love the most: taking tradition and making it current. For example, when a bride and groom are wed in a Christian ceremony, the bride’s family sits to the left and the groom’s family sits on the right. At a same-sex wedding, guests may feel awkward asking where they should sit. You don’t want to make your guests uncomfortable so here is where you can bend the rules and create something unique. You could hang signs on the last pews and write a cute phrase welcoming guests to a ceremony of “open hearts and open seating.” In this way, you have taken away a tradition that no longer applies but you still give guests direction so they are not left feeling unsure of what do to.
Breaking tradition can be scary, but if you see you are not alone, it is much easier to make the leap.
* You mentioned to me that you’ve been using Capturing Love as a discussion point in planning sessions with all of your clients. Tell us more about that:
I was recently in a first-meeting with a potential client and we got on the topic of photography. I was able to show this particular bride the difference in styles of photography and explain how a good photographer will help guide you by telling you to turn a certain way, say, when taking the fun shoe picture. It also helps seeing so many settings from sandy beach to city escalators. When a client has grand ideas about pictures but not enough time to traipse all over town, I can use this to help them pick their favorites and limit the locations.
On a separate occasion, I was meeting with a bride who is very self-conscious. She went so far as saying she wanted a picture of the pretty bridal party without her in it. I showed her several images from Capturing Love where you could see the couple but maybe not clearly, like in the silhouette shot and the setting sun. But the one she loved most was the cover photo and exclaimed, “Oh, I love that! Let’s do that!”
* Same-sex couples are used to looking at wedding planning examples that feature straight couples since those are most prevalent. How do your straight clients react when you show them a same-sex engagement and wedding photography book as a basic resource that will be helpful to them and ask them to make the leap?
The first time I shared Capturing Love, the topic of same-sex couples never came up. We were talking about styles of photography and that is what we looked at. The couple had been in a long distance relationship and, when they saw the shot of the two grooms in the photo booth, they decided they wanted to do something similar. On a separate occasion, I actually used it to show some pictures of mixed bridal parties rather than the traditional guys on one side, gals on the other. This was helpful to the couple because it showed them it was not only okay to have both men and women as “bridesmaids,” while understanding how to better incorporate them. Breaking tradition can be scary, but if you see you are not alone, it is much easier to make the leap.
* Why is it important for you to have Capturing Love as a basic part of your planner’s library?
This particular book is important because it is different than all the rest. It shows you don’t have to put on a cookie cutter wedding and its okay to celebrate who you are. I love the little tidbits of advice such as how to bring a little personality into something like the shoe shot. To me, this book is more than a lesbian and gay wedding photography. It’s a fresh look at some of the most common wedding traditions and it has me rethinking shots that I was taking for granted.