I wish I could say that went to college knowing I wanted to a wedding photographer, or in media much less. That I studied photography and my first business as a photographer was centered around weddings. But I cannot. When I think of the story of just how I became a wedding photographer, I see myself stumble through some of the hardest years of my life, feel like I failed at every turn, just to see God lead to directly to this path.
In college I was a bridesmaid seven times for seven amazing women. And although these occasions were meant to be joyous and happy, I struggled. During six of these seven weddings, I was going through something that made me feel small, insecure, ugly and sad. My father passed away the summer before my senior year of college and my family and I broke ways. These things affected everything I did, some even without me knowing it. I told myself lies like “well if my family doesn’t want me, who will?” and “you’re an orphan who is poor and never going to amount to anything“. I allowed these lies to take over. And made me incredibly self centered. So when it was my turn to love and serve on these women who were getting married, I couldn’t help but to break down and let the lies in. So many times, I had to excuse myself to go cry. Or scream. I saw them with their dad, their families and with the other bridesmaids who could keep their emotions in check. I self destructed.
I didn’t know it but God had such an incredible plan for me that was going to allow me to heal from weddings and, dare I say, enjoy them. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Business and Supply Chain Manufacturing, I went on to begin my first corporate gig. This job on paper was my dream job! Moving every six months, starting a new job in a different city, twice a year. Even typing this today makes me sick. But back then, I was ready!
At this time, Brandon and I had been dating for almost a year. He still had a year of school while I chased my dream and so we began long distance. And so dove into work. I learned what short term renting looked like as I packed up my entire life month and month and moved. Nothing in my life was consistent. But that’s what I wanted right? Living the gypsy life looked so cool on the movies. And I was doing it with a corporate career. So when I began to ask myself, “what aren’t I happy?”, those lies came back.
I will preference this by saying I love my family. My mom is incredible and I have a sister who I know would be there if I called. But during this time in my life, they weren’t. And that isn’t to air dirty laundry. But to paint the picture of how I struggled and how this pain lead to me being a wedding photographer. When most kids needed their mom, or a weekend at home, or had a twenty minute commute so they call home, those were not options for me. And even though Brandon’s family was incredible, they didn’t replace my own. And so I became depressed. And ashamed.
The straw that broke the camels back was when I loved in South Carolina, worked in Georgia two days a week and then North Carolina three days a week. I was exhausted, lived in an AirBnB and had no real roots. And even my body was exhausted. I always hurt. So when I collapsed on my way to a conference room meeting in pain, tears and shortness of breathe in front of my entire department, I know something was really wrong.
Within days I was put on bed rest and took a medical short term leave of absence. I went through weeks of specialist, testing and physical therapy to final being diagnosed with an auto immune disease called dermatomyositis. It’s a muscle loss disease that primarily affects women in their 60’s. This onto of grief, on top of not having my family, on top of suddenly finding myself moving in with my future in laws quickly overwhelmed me. Brandon’s mom is a physical therapist who took on my case, moved me in to her house and helped me get back on my feet, literally.
So insert lowest time in my life here.
The good news about the lowest time in someone’s life is that the only place to go is up. And that’s what I did. I took time off work. I read, slept, prayed, stretched, went to therapy on top of therapy, healed my body and healed my heart. Oh and I picked up a camera.
Let’s fast forward six months from this point. Brandon chased his dream career as an engineer all the way to Rockford, IL. And I was finally healthy enough to be on my own two feet again. So I packed my bags for Rockford!
Rockford is where my passion for photography truly started to bloom. I truly started to bloom. For the first time in so long, I felt healed, on the inside and out! I took on sessions every time I could and asked local photographers to meet me. Quickly I became mentoring, studied and working for others. It was awesome! Finally my photography education lived off of YouTube.
And then I was asked something that changed it all. I was asked to shadow a wedding to see if it would be something that I could possibly be interested in. I believe my first thoughts were “Um No!“. Weddings to me still haunted me. Daddy/daughter moments, happiness, families; I wasn’t the gal for that gig. But I went.
Twelve hours laster, I came home and told Brandon, “I’m going to be a wedding photographer”. I was terrified that I was going to be a wet blanket. That I would spiral. Become defeated. But instead, something lit up inside me. Seeing how happy these couples were and documenting it was a game changer. I will never forget feeling simply overjoyed. Feeling nothing but a rush of happiness. In a way, photographing weddings is a way to serve my couples like I emotionally could not to my friends. It’s a way to love on them so incredibly much, the way I needed love. And even though my future wedding will be wonderful, it will also lack things that cannot be replaced. For me, being a wedding photographer allows me to simply understand when and if my couples’ big day’s lack something or someone too.
I now see how broken I had to become in order to feel this alive at weddings. To all of my family, thank you for being a part of this journey. To Brandon and his family, thank you for being a part of my healing. To my friends, thank you for giving me grace. To my brides, thank you for my dream job.