STACE & EMMY // FREE LGBT WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Hey guys! Steph here. I am going to make this short and sweet because the meat and potatoes of this story is down below in the Q&A with the beautiful brides. I just want to say PLEASE read it. It is so important to me and to so many other LGBT kids and adults who were raised in church. If you have a similar story please write in and share it with me…I am working on gathering a book of short stories. Here’s the lowdown: when marriage equality passed in June of 2015 I decided to give away a free LGBT wedding photography package. Couples around the world could submit their love stories and I would pick (well, Angel and Monica helped. duh.) I remember a year ago over NYE sitting in a snowy cabin in Durango, CO with Angel and Monica reading through all of the stories that couples were submitting trying to pick one that tugged at my heart strings. THEN they read Stace and Emmy’s to me. I knew it. I felt it in my heart. This was the one! For so many reasons but mostly because I could relate to the struggle and wanted to give others hope. They overcame. We overcame. LOVE WON.
Tell us a little about your background:
E: I was born and raised in very loving strong big Catholic family. For as long as I can remember, I knew that I was different. I knew that my heart loved differently but I didn’t understand or know what that truly meant. I never had that “boy crush” that I watched all my best friends have. I thought that maybe I just wasn’t at that stage of life yet, and that it would come eventually. Of course I would be married to a boy one day… That is what this world teaches us early on, that is the expectation, the norm, the fairytale we grow up believing. At age 14, at the end of my 8th grade year, my dearest mother was diagnosed with very serious ovarian cancer. I was at that age in which love and life for a young girl becomes confusing, complicated and hard. I still had no desire to date boys and my life had become caring for my beloved mother. For 8 hard long years, I pushed aside those confusing feelings and the question I fought in my head over and over: “Am I gay?” This question had to be locked away and put on the backburner; my focus was always my mother. There were two girls in those 8 years that were very dear friends but my heart loved them “differently” than my other friends. It scared me like no other. And out of fear, I locked it all up and buried it deep down in my heart.
S: I was raised in the LDS church. I loved everything about my life: I’m the sixth of seven children, so never lacked for partners in crime! My siblings and I were all very close and thanks to our parents lived a pretty charmed life. Being a member of the Mormon faith shaped just about every aspect of who I was: how I spoke, what I wore, how I treated people, the importance of family, what I did with my time, the friends I had, what I did or didn’t eat and drink… it was my identity. In 2004 I left home for BYU (an LDS university) to continue shaping that identity through education. I never imagined that that next period of my life would eventually involve falling in love with my best girl friend, followed by years and years of hiding, guilt, and shame. I had dated guys through high school, even talked marriage my first year in college like all good young Mormon girls are supposed to do, but suddenly and unexpectedly found myself head over heels for another Mormon girl. Which, obviously, was an enormous problem. (Looking back now, I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised since I had always valued close emotional relationships and only ever find that with girls). After many months of pain and confusion, I decided to fess up to my leaders and ask for help. That started a DECADE long cycle of ignoring feelings I had, dating guys I just wasn’t that interested in, asking myself why I was so screwed up, pulling away from my family, alienating people around me, hating myself, lying, and altogether living a pretty miserable life inside while putting a smile on my face every day on the outside.
Emmy, what happened or changed that helped you get to where you are now?
E: That’s the thing about cancer, the gift in the awful disease. You are given a new filter. A new way of seeing this life as it truly should be lived: being grateful for every second you get with your loved ones, and knowing that the only thing that matters is love. I remember having heartbreaking conversations with my mother in which she would look me straight in the eyes and lovingly hint to me that she wouldn’t be at my wedding, or that she wouldn’t get the chance to be a grandmother to my future children. Her final words to me were everything I needed to hear. In her final weeks of life, she called me into her room and told me that she knew I was different and that one day, when I got married, that she wanted my wedding to be what I wanted, not what others thought was best for me. Those words moved huge mountains in my heart. She never acknowledged or asked if I was gay. She just LOVED me and knew that I was different. And her knowing that was enough for me to continue to live. After my mother passed, I finished my final year in college and went straight into becoming a nanny to 7 children. For 4 years, these darling children were my life. They filled my broken heart with more love than I deserved. They were the loves of my life and took more care of me, and I for them. Life wasn’t easy after losing my mother. I had my father and my twin brother, but both with broken hearts. The next four years were spent trying to conquer the rough waters of grief, trying to live a life that she wanted so badly for us. But the griefs of the heart are a life force and it became my job to make sure my sweetest father was covered in all my love and that he could keep living without her. I lost such a huge part of my father when I lost her. So there I was, 26 years old, a “Career Nanny” in the Bay Area, CA and at that point in my life I truly believed that this would be my life. That I would be single for the rest of my life and that perhaps that was God’s plan for me. And just at the moment that I had accepted this, life had a beautiful way of proving me wrong.
How did you two finally meet?
S: In 2013 I moved to the Bay Area for a new job. The job didn’t last but I liked the area and found myself suddenly nannying for a family with 4 energetic girls under the age of 6. It took a few days before I met the other nanny on duty (we had opposite shifts) but when I met her I knew we would get along famously. Her name was Emmy 😉
E: I can remember that day like it was yesterday — I fell head over heels in love with her. She had been hired to be the “afternoon nanny” and we overlapped for one hour every single day. Oh how I craved that one hour together! Those first couple of months getting to know one another were spent listening to her heart and learning about her church. I knew that my heart was in love with hers, but I also knew that nothing could come from it because it is not allowed in the church. I started going to church with her on Sundays and found myself wanting to be a part of it. I had grown up living a Christ-centered life and really identified with the Mormon community. So after months of attending the Mormon church, that January, I was baptized with my loving Catholic family by my side! But my heart was so madly in love with her. Each passing day, I knew that I had found the love of my entire life but I never thought in a million years that I would get to one day have her as my wife.
S: About 6 months later, I finally confessed to Emmy that I was in love with. Her warrior’s heart was ready to take the plunge; losing her mom had taught her to make every day count and she intended to do just that. I was too afraid. What would my family do? What about my religious beliefs? What would happen to me? My soul? To say the next year was absolute hell only just begins to scratch the surface. Couldn’t live without each other, couldn’t be together, either. Secrecy, loneliness, rules, tears, depression, self-destruction…. We finally parted ways in May 2015 – after so much time in painful stalemate, Em bravely decided to let go, move to Nashville, and hope I would find her when I got my shit together… and I …needed to get my shit together. I went to Arizona to do the hard work and tell my family what was going on and why I had gotten to a place where I felt I needed to end my life. I told my siblings first, a few at a time, and eventually told my parents at the end of the summer. I flew out to Nashville to start my life with Em where she was waiting with beautiful open arms. We were there all of 2 weeks before her beloved father had a sudden heart attack and passed away. Her father died knowing that Emmy and I were madly in love with each other and intended to take care of each other the rest of our lives. He was our biggest supporter and champion. We flew back to the Bay Area so Emmy could be close to her twin brother John. Life has taught us that the only thing you can plan on is changing your plans.
How did you hear about my LGBT Wedding Photography giveaway?
S: When we parted ways to do the hardest thing we’d ever done in our lives (trust that we’d find each other again), there were moments we just didn’t think we’d be able to do it. There were months and months of crying ourselves to sleep. I hated myself for not having the courage to rip the band-aid off and be honest with everyone. I couldn’t believe I was going to let Emmy down. I just didn’t know how it would ever work. And then one night, as I was up late crying, I was looking on pinterest and instagram for other people like me. I wanted to connect with other people who had gone through fire to get what they knew in their heart they had to have. I wanted to find couples who had made it. One click led to another and another and another until I finally landed on a story of a lesbian wedding in Tucson, Arizona… just two hours from my house. Angel and Monica…. Two of the most beautiful people with a wedding unrivaled by ANY wedding I had ever seen in my life! Beautiful, intimate, tender – but so effortlessly glamorous as if it were MEANT to be on a big screen even though they had taken every care to make it small and private. And then reading about “Steph Grant” and her passion to promote love and capture such BEAUTY in moments that are often paved first with hurt and fear and sacrifice… I felt a sob start in my toes and swell until it came almost VIOLENTLY out of me; ugly cry face and all. I obsessed over the images. Watched the video all night long. Each time I looked at their photographs and watched their video I felt a strange strength until by morning I knew I would stop at nothing until I had it. THAT WEDDING held me together and THAT WEDDING made ours a possible reality. I sent the images to Emmy. We obviously became instant followers and started tracking everything Steph was doing… when the giveaway was announced (months later and after we had found each other again) we knew we HAD to give it a shot! Fate, it seemed, had come full circle.
Was it hard waiting for the results? Did you think you could win it?
We read ALL of the beautiful entries for the contest. So many stories that were similar to ours. So many people who were brave and kind and beautiful and in love with their soulmates! Of course we felt like the universe was giving us a gift but each time we read a story we saw so many other deserving couples. And then, Steph extended the deadline…. “WE LOST!” was our immediate reaction. “If she had found the story she was looking for, she wouldn’t have extended the deadline!” We were devastated when the deadline came and went. And then, the night of the new deadline came…. Emmy was in California and Stacy was on an airplane coming home from a trip… we were both checking Instagram a million times that day. When we found out we won (separately) it was absolute shock, disbelief, validation, excitement…. Too many emotions to process. We hadn’t announced our engagement until the moment we knew we had won and then got to announce it with such happy hearts. Nothing will ever be able to describe how amazing it felt to be so HAPPY about an announcement we knew would be hard to deliver to some of our people. It made it such a beautiful and validating experience. OUR LOVE WON!!!
What about now? How are things going now that you’re married?
It has been a journey. Of course. There have been a lot of really REALLY hard things, hard conversations, hard experiences over the last 2 years of our journey. Our backgrounds are similar but also different, and our issues with our identities or our upbringings don’t just disappear with a wedding ceremony. But in the end, we have amazing people around us. Both of our families were entirely present at our wedding and made our wedding day beautiful and special. We feel so lucky to be loved by so many. We are doing our best to always have honest, respectful conversations with people who don’t agree with our decision to be married and honestly it has made us better people. I hope our story helps others have the courage and optimism to fight for true love and happiness. Love Wins.
Push play and take a look at my view of Stace and Emmy’s love story:
Venue: Harley Farms
Videography: Max and Molly Films