Jim and Cam gathered together with their closest friends and family to celebrate their marriage. They chose the beautiful Sutton Barn in Whitmore Lake, Michigan as the setting, and it didn’t disappoint. Their gorgeous grounds provide lots of amazing photo opportunities including that stunning weeping willow you’ll see! This was a celebration in every sense of the word. They popped champagne, had some incredible vows, and of course boogied all night long! It’s always so much fun when the wedding party and family help us feel so welcomed, this was definitely one of those times!
One of my favorite parts was the reading of the closing statement from the Supreme Court’s marriage equality case. Many of the LGBTQ weddings I photograph include this passage and it always hits home for me. The fact that so many LGBTQ couples weren’t allowed this basic right is so baffling, but I’m so thankful for those who fought and continue to fight for it. Another special moment was during the speeches when Jim’s mom mentioned that she’s active in a group of moms who fight for equality. They have a large Facebook group that aims to educate and support moms and families as their children come out and navigate the world as an out queer person. Hearing her choke up saying how proud she is of them definitely was the cherry on top of the cake.
The whole wedding filled my heart with so much hope and joy and it’s days like that where I say an extra thank you to the universe for bringing such incredible couples into my life!
Lauren and Max are some of the kindest hearted people I’ve ever met. We immediately clicked during out initial meeting and hearing them talk about each other showed me just how in love they really are. Lauren said “Max is the greatest gift that God has ever given me. He showed up at Biggby for our first day and immediately took my heart. Our first date was full of laughter and honesty and it was clear that there was something different about him. Our story basically took off like a whirlwind from there. Max is a planner…he lives for the future and dreams big. I am the logical one. He shows me the stars and I bring us back to Earth. He is the only person I have ever met who is weirder than me and I can honestly say that the majority of our conversations happen through laughter. We make each other sparkle brighter”.
This couple’s love for God and their community was very apparent. Planning a wedding during 2020 can be a lot to handle, and Lauren and Max were no stranger to the difficulties. We ended up going with plan C which turned out to be the perfect backyard elopement. Their wedding took place at Lauren’s parent’s house and it provided a lovely wooded area that took their cheerful vision to the next level. It was important to have their closest friends and family still included and they all rallied together to help make it happen! I’m so glad to also have had my associate photographer Emily with me, the amazing candids and double exposures are her speciality! Having us together as a team made sure that every moment was captured! Thank you Lauren and Max for allowing us to capture your special day.
Dear Wedding Vendors,
I’m tired. Tired of the excuses for bigotry, tired of folks excusing hateful beliefs, tired of folks wondering if their love can be celebrated. There is a local photographer that for defamation purposes will remain nameless, who openly rejected a couple based on their same sex relationship. This couple was inquiring about a photographer for their wedding next year and was met with blatant homophobia and judgement. “I mean absolutely no disrespect, but if it is a same sex marriage, due to my religious beliefs, I refrain from shooting them…and if, in case I have assumed wrongly I am available on this date and am happy to send over my pricing”. Let’s break this down shall we?
This goes for anything, but your impact is more important than your intent. Even though the photographer quite literally did not see any problem with what was said, the impact is harmful. It is literally saying that you are refusing someone’s love because of who they are. We are in 2020 and quite frankly there has been plenty of time for folks to hop off the homophobia train. Even so, if something doesn’t agree with you there are much kinder ways of not working with someone. Say you’re booked. It’s that simple. Yes, businesses do have the right to refuse service based on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court Ruling, but don’t be surprised when people call you out for being harmful.
I’m guessing this photographer didn’t think anyone but the couple would read her words. However, if you wouldn’t say something in public, then don’t say it on the internet. Hiding your problematic words and actions behind closed doors isn’t an excuse for that behavior. You might have LGBTQ friends, or friends of color, or Muslim friends etc. So unless you are ok with saying something to them directly, don’t say it when you think no one is watching.
I’ll be honest, I have a lot of issues with religion, but I still recognize that it’s important to many people. While I can understand religion being a big part of how you see the world it doesn’t give you a pass for saying harmful things. Unfortunately religion, specifically Christianity, is often weaponized in the name of bigotry, and it causes a lot of issues. If you’re someone of faith that is absolutely fine and dandy but remember the core of it, love for one another.
Cancel and call out culture can definitely have its downfalls and while staying silent and ignoring your own problematic behavior can seem appealing it’s not the best way to grow. I can give the benefit of doubt to someone who’s been confronted with their own actions and takes that as an opportunity to learn and reflect. When a call out happens and you silence those trying to help and educate you then you’ve shown no intention of learning and growing. That’s the issue. Not that someone made a mistake (as horrible as it was), but that they’ve blocked comments, messages, and people trying to make them aware of the problem. The journey of being inclusive is one of unlearning, which takes time and effort. Saying you’ve grown or learned means nothing without action.
I’ve had countless couples reach out and thank me for asking for pronouns, showing diversity in my portfolio, and being open about my own journey as a queer person. They tell me they didn’t want to have to ask their vendors if being a same sex couple was ok. It absolutely breaks my heart that while planning what should be one of their best days that they’d have to even think about that. If you truly want to be inclusive, show that. Let your business leave no doubt in people’s minds where you stand.
To those reading this with their own wedding businesses I encourage you to really dig deep in your own beliefs and practices. While your intent may be good what really matters is how it impacts those coming to you for business. You shouldn’t just be inclusive when you feel you’re being watched, be inclusive in every interaction, always. Folks are really good at smelling out who’s being fake and who isn’t, believe me, they’ll know. Don’t let one aspect of your beliefs negate human rights, if your religion is telling you to be exclusionary to folks then maybe you shouldn’t be in an industry full of diversity and love. If you do make a mistake and have someone bring it to your attention, taking the time to listen and grow is far better than trying to push the problem away. If you want to take the steps to be more inclusive then start by showing diversity and love to all. There shouldn’t be anyone asking you if you’re comfortable with their love. Small things like asking for pronouns, removing gendered language from your forms, putting people of all kinds front and center, these all play into building a truly inclusive business. Not just because you want their money, because it’s just the right thing to do.
So where do you go from here? If you’re looking for practical steps in making your business better and more inclusive then I have just the thing for you. I’ve spent countless hours putting together a go at your own pace online workshop aimed at helping photographers take that next step towards inclusion. The Inclusivity Workshop includes posing tips, how to approach model calls, gender neutral language, and much more. I understand that a lot of these things just aren’t widely shared or known so I want to help that. I’ve talked to lots of actual members of the LGBTQ community to get their feedback on what they want their wedding vendors to know. This way you can take steps in furthering your education without relying on your clients to teach you. I also offer one on one sessions for people with specific questions or places in their business they want to grow in. Every couple deserves to be celebrated, let’s make sure that happens.
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These gorgeous ladies are expecting their first baby girl after a long period of trying. I’m always so honored to capture growing bellies and this wasn’t an exception. Danielle wanted a beachy feel to celebrate the summer and Holland State Park offered the perfect location. It was a beautiful day and these mamas were troopers lugging ourselves through the hot sand. They even were up to stopping at a cool building at the area airport on our way back! Needless to say I’m so excited to meet their sweet baby and get some newborn photos 😉
To see more of Liv’s work or to book her as your own LGBTQ maternity photographer see the links below!
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April 24th, 2020. A date etched into my memory and now what’s known as our “would be” wedding day. I’m writing this post thankfully not in tears (those were shed all last week), but with a glimmer of hope amongst the dumpster fire of the current times. A few key things made today pretty special and so I figured if nothing else, maybe we could help some other folks in the same boat.
1: Eat your wedding food!
We were planning on a fancy taco bar for our reception and thankfully the restaurant was still open for pickup today! We were able to support a small local business and have some fun food to feast on. Bonus, if you’re like me and craving drives in the car to see that the outside world still exists, the car ride to go pick up food was quite refreshing!
2: Listen and dance (maybe badly) to your wedding songs!
We jammed to some of our favorite songs that would have been played at our wedding to make it feel a little more special. Perhaps you and your partner can enjoy a bit of an after dinner dance party to keep the mood light. No need to feel the pressure of a million eyes on you. Just let loose, forget you have two left feet, and just enjoy each other! Plus….you won’t have to worry about your drunk friends splashing red wine on your fancy wedding attire.
3: Drink some champagne, or smoke some weed, or whatever takes the edge off!
One of my bridesmaids gifted us a bottle of fancy rose champagne at our bachelor/bachelorette weekend. We didn’t really have a good enough time to crack it open, but leading up to planning our would be day we liked the idea of the fancy stuff. It was super fun to cheers at dinner and just have a little toast. The effects of the champagne weren’t too bad either (refer to the two left feet mentioned previously!). Also, may I take a moment to thank whoever invented bubbly alcoholic drinks for all of the fun they’ve created?
4: Make sure to call your loved ones!
We had a slew of messages and calls and facetimes with some of our wedding party, family, and guests. It was so special to know that they were celebrating us from afar and still excited about the party that will eventually happen. It can feel really lonely being in isolation even without missing on a huge event. It made me so sad to think of all the people I would have hugged today. Instead, we got to feel showered in love from all over the country, which still feels pretty incredible!
5: Consider giving a small wedding gift to your partner!
I had already received my wedding gift (the most amazing little leopard gecko there ever was), but I had a small gift I planned to give him on our would be day. He always makes fun of me and gets annoyed when I steal ALL the blankets that enter our home. So I found a site that would print a letter on a super soft blanket. I decided to get an excerpt from my vows to him printed and gave it to him today! It was a super big hit and helped today feel significant.
6: Let your emotions out as you need to!
This goes without saying but emotions are complicated and overwhelming for everyone. Especially those that are having to change their big plans and wedding day. I felt a sting of jealousy seeing wedding photos being posted from elopements. I felt pitiful like something was robbed from us. I wanted to just not get married, not for lack of love, but for lack of motivation. It’s hard, really hard. All of it. For everyone. But don’t feel like you have to hide your emotions or not feel them, all of it is valid. Talking it out with your partner is really important as a way to support each other during this time.
All of this to say that there isn’t a right or wrong way to celebrate your would be wedding day. Just like every wedding is different, every couple is different, what feels good to you might not suit everyone else. Remember to focus on what really matters, your love. Weddings are fun parties and ways to celebrate but it won’t make or break your marriage. Part of a relationship is getting through hard stuff so you can savor the sweet even more. So from someone who works in the wedding industry, has been planning a wedding for over a year and a half, and had to postpone their wedding… it sucks, it’ll be ok, and your love is still worth celebrating. Don’t let this be anything but a story to tell when you’re old and wrinkly together.
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Summer camp weddings have become the next biggest wedding trend for 2020 and beyond. Couples have realized just how many benefits there are when booking a camp versus a traditional venue. Michigan summer camp weddings especially have become more popular and after reading this you’ll see exactly why!
Many Michigan summer camp weddings are cheaper than traditional venues. Often times these weddings take place before or after summer camp programming and camps are looking for extra revenue and have lower fees for rentals. Camps usually will rent for the whole weekend giving couples the chance to have a longer rental without the higher cost. Because of the gorgeous natural settings it also cuts down on decor costs. You’re surrounded by the natural beauty without needing to add much extra. Michigan summer camp weddings also allow you to offer a place for guests to stay included in your rental cost. All those little things can add up with traditional venues and cause lots of hidden costs you don’t account for.
Couples can usually book the whole camp for the weekend giving guests a convenient place to crash after the party. Who doesn’t love a good nostalgic cabin getaway? No drinking and driving, no worry about hotel blocks, no need for a limo or bus to transport everyone. It literally is all included in the camp rental! Lots of Michigan summer camp weddings have multiple locations for the events all on the property. Perhaps a lakeside ceremony, then cocktails by the main house, and reception in the pavilion. No matter what your style it’s easy to have a variety of spaces for your guests to move to throughout the wedding.
The whole idea of a Michigan summer camp wedding evokes lots of ideas for activities, food, games, and vibe. Couples can run with the nostalgic theme and create really unique things. One of my couples who got married at a camp DIYed a giant jenga game, cornhole board, and other camp themed activities. Guests loved being transported back to the days of hanging by the lake and making those memories. That same couple also make camp packets full of info, maps, timeline, and other important stuff for all the guests. The bride designed it as if it were a camp handbook and it was one of the few times guests actually kept wedding info since it looked so good! Even if you don’t go full on camp theme, the outdoor setting can inspire you to create a unique wedding!
Because summer camp weddings are a newer thing many times the venues will allow you to bring in your own vendors. This can play into the cost aspect as well, but you aren’t limited to one caterer or bar etc. By choosing your own vendors you can craft the wedding into exactly what you’re envisioning. Tacos, BBQ, Pizza, literally anything is possible, and Michigan summer camp weddings can take advantage of the kitchen facilities on site. If you’d prefer to DIY the whole catering aspect you can have folks cooking in the kitchen the day before to prep and get ready. That full weekend rental thing can really come in handy!
Since Michigan summer camp weddings are still gaining popularity most times these venues have a pretty open calendar. If you need a last minute venue, or just want to know you have lots of options, camps can be the solution. Some of my favorites are Camp Blodgett, Camp Merrie Woode, Circle Pines Center, Sherman Lake, Camp Linden. One of the advantages to having the whole camp is not needing to cut your guest count due to space. These outdoor facilities can accommodate larger groups than most traditional venues. If you have a ton of extra cousins, aunts, step siblings, etc. this can be a great venue to consider!
As you can see there are tons of benefits to having a Michigan summer camp wedding, if you want to see more for inspiration check out Morgan and Abe // Camp Merrie Woode // Michigan Wedding Photographers , Nikki and Carolyn | Delton, MI | Queer Wedding Photographer and Ashlee and Allison | West Olive, MI | LGBT Wedding Photographer. All of these couples used their camp spaces in different ways and made it unique to their love story. I’m definitely excited to see these camp weddings making their way into the wedding industry. It’s a great cost effective alternative than just a banquet hall or church! I’m also kind of a self appointed expert in photographing Michigan summer camp weddings so if you need someone to document I’m your girl!
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Emily and Niki found me while searching for Michigan LGBTQ wedding photography and reached out eager to tell me all about their backyard elopement plans! The couple had found an incredible lakeside mansion that offered the perfect location for their closest friends and family to gather for their nuptials. I have a special place in my heart for small intimate elopements, I find that it allows couples to be fully present with their loved ones while not conforming to outdated wedding traditions.
This backyard elopement was set on Allegan lake, we make the trek down ALLLL those steps before the ceremony to get some photos so they could focus on spending time with guests once they arrived. The whole day was so community centered which was just really lovely and a testament to all the folks who have supported them throughout the years.
In my experience with Michigan LGBTQ wedding photography a lot of my same sex couples choose really amazing out of the box outfits to wear and this wedding was no exception. Emily wore a gorgeous lace top with cropped pants while Niki sported a chic blue dress from Modcloth that suited her perfectly.
One of the other important things to note was the stunning handmade table for their epic charcuterie. All food and drinks were lovingly made by their families, it was truly a group effort! After food the handmade wedding cakes were cut and guests enjoyed dancing and s’mores toasts!
If you are interested in hiring Liv for your Michigan LBGTQ wedding photography needs or want to see more click the links below!
Dear Wedding Vendors,
I would say it’s not you it’s us, but in reality, there were some things you could have done differently while we were searching for vendors. Being part of a couple that looks heterosexual but is actually queer has presented its share of interesting experiences while we were searching for the perfect team to help make our wedding possible. So let’s break it down shall we? You deserve to know why we and maybe other queer clients didn’t reach out, or why we declined your services…
You might not have even received an inquiry from us because of the lack of representation on your website and social media. How are we to trust you with our big day if we don’t know if you’ve even ever worked with LGBTQ+ clients? We get it, everyone starts somewhere, but for us, we passed on any vendors that weren’t showing diversity, not just with sexuality but race, religion, and size too. The wedding industry has plenty of thin white heterosexual couples, but finding someone who looks like us was really important, especially for photography. As much as we love hearing how much you love to travel, or how many cups of coffee you drink, your social media presence can be used to attract queer couples instead. The vendors we hired with strong instagram’s had a variety of images in their feed that showed lots of people from all backgrounds. It’s simple, but will bring you clients like us who are looking for more representation. Just by adding diversity to your portfolio you can reach out to clients you didn’t even realize you were missing out on.
I can’t tell you how many websites I exited out of when I saw only the words “bride and groom” when referring to a wedding couple. Don’t assume that everyone who’s looking for wedding services is part of a male and female couple. The wedding world is saturated with heteronormative traditions and for us queer couples, breaking that tradition is important. Even when posting advertisements in wedding facebook groups saying “hey brides!” cuts out half of the population. This goes for the vendors who responded to my emails saying “future husband” without knowing my partner and assuming I’m marrying a man. There are few things that will get a queer couple more fired up than having their partner’s gender assumed. Simple changes like saying lovebirds, partners, beloved, awesome person, etc. will attract couples who don’t just fit into the stereotypical idea of who gets married. That inclusive language should carry over into contracts, invoices, emails, and the day of. Being mindful of your language can make the difference between an affirming experience and one that leaves a queer couple feeling unsafe.
Story time! I had headshots and branding photos taken a few years ago. During the session the photographer told me she was interested in working with more LGBTQ+ folks. A week after getting the photos I saw that her work was being published by a blatantly homophobic wedding publication, Wedding Pioneer. They have said in plain language that they will not showcase same sex couples in their publication and social media. I reached out to her letting her know their policies and how that would reflect badly on her business when it comes to future LGBT+ clients. Instead of taking that information and retracting her partnership with them, she said she didn’t care because they were getting her images in front of thousands of people that would make her money. The people and companies you support reflect back on you and your business. After some appalling statements and back and forth I told her to remove my images from her website and social media and that I would not be working with her or referring her in the future. It is one thing to be unaware of bad policies but when a queer person tells you that what you are doing is harmful to the community it isn’t up to you to decide it’s not. Queer couples can see through the smoke and mirrors and can tell when you’re being inclusive for money or if you’re truly being an ally.
This should go without saying but make sure you are spelling names correctly and replying in a prompt manner. We straight up didn’t hear back from SO many vendors, like do y’all not want our money?? Couples will not chase you down, you need to follow up and be prompt with your emails. Of course life happens, but it’s one of the easiest ways to keep clients interested and ready to shell over the big bucks. Same goes for spelling, my name is Liv, not Liz. It may be autocorrect but checking your spelling specifically on names is a good practice for everyone. It just goes to show that you are a real person and not just sending an auto response which feels impersonal and left us searching for someone else.
All of these things are simple steps to becoming more inclusive. It doesn’t take a ton of time but will make a huge difference especially to LGBTQ+ couple and folks looking for vendors. We passed on probably 25-30 vendors simply because they didn’t stand out as being queer friendly. If we felt this way then I KNOW more couples have had the same experiences. It’s opened my eyes to ways that I can be a better business owner myself. Just because I’m queer myself doesn’t mean that I know every single thing there is to know and I’m always growing. One of the things I decided to do after having so many negative vendor experiences was to create my workshop all about teaching photographers how to better serve LGBTQ clients. I go into detail about how to navigate pronouns, gender neutral language, translating that to social media and websites, and tons more. I’ve put in hours and hours of time into laying out a step by step road map to success in this area. You are literally missing out on thousands of dollars by not educating yourself on how to be a better photographer and vendor to queer clients. It’s been such an eye opening experience while planning the wedding to see the gaps where people are lacking. Even vendors who claim to be queer friendly have things they can improve on! If you’re a photographer and want to grow in that area I highly recommend checking out the course here!
So….did you realize you have some work to do? Focus on representing a diverse client base not just on your website but social media as well. Take the time to make your website and own personal language more gender neutral. It will show queer clients, especially non binary and trans clients, that you are a safe person to work with. Remember that the companies, websites, and people you support reflect back on you and your business so doing your due diligence to make sure they are inclusive is also important. Lastly, don’t forget the little details, spelling people’s names properly, responding promptly, and not assuming gender can make the difference between someone hiring you or not. If you want to take the easy route and have me teach you how to make these changes step by step you have to check out the online workshop. 10 easy to digest modules that will take you from not having any queer clients to not being able to keep up with all the inquiries! There is so much that the wedding industry can improve on and I’m happy we’ve been moving in the right direction. Now it’s up to everyone to do their part to continue this path to change!
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Chelsea and Ben enjoyed the most beautiful and personal day for their wedding. The two are both singers, their passion for music and community shined throughout the whole day. We were able to get some amazing shots on the rooftop of their hotel before moving to their venue, Lions and Rabbits, and incredible wedding venue and art space in the Creston neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Their wedding party wore stunning jewel tones that paired perfectly with the eclectic art on the walls. Guests were greeted with a champagne toast before they gathered to witness the couple officially marry. It was beautiful to see all their friends and family who were a part of the ceremony sharing their love. After their first dance guests enjoyed a variety of food stations which made for a really lovely casual atmosphere perfect for mingling. It was such an honor to be a part of their wedding, it’s definitely one of the most special I’ve attended. As you can clearly see from the photos Chelsea and Ben were made for each other and I know they will have years of happiness to come.
Check out the blog posts linked below to see more from Grand Rapids Wedding Photographer, Liv Lyszyk Photography
Lily and Jake are as stylish as they are talented. Both are opera singers in Florida and Lily is currently working on her doctorate. INCREDIBLE! The two are marrying here in Grand Rapids next May and I’m so excited for it! We met up this last fall for their engagement session while they visited to do some wedding planning. I absolutely love when couples get dressy and a little more formal for their photos. I mean just look at that incredible black dress and his pink suit jacket. We had a blast exploring some of what downtown has to offer! Lily and Jake are such kind hearted folks and I’m so happy to be their photographer!
To see more from Liv Lyszyk Photography check out the blog posts below!