Jessica
St. Mary’s County, Maryland
August 10, 2007

You might remember Jessica from her wedding photos last May, or my recent WPJA award winners. Jessica’s well-known on this blog! I was thrilled when she asked me for a post-wedding bridal session. She wanted a portrait session that would feature her gown, without any worries of getting it dirty or damaged. Some people call these sessions “Trash the Dress” shoots, but I prefer to think of them as “Fearless Bridals.” The goal wasn’t to destroy her gown, but rather to celebrate it without fear.

Jessica describes her intentions far better than I could. She asked me if she could write a post for my blog about her decision to do this photo shoot. It’s exciting for me to share Jessica’s thoughts in her own words:

………………………………………….

Why? That’s your first question, isn’t it?

Weddings are emotional. A wedding gown is one of the most emotionally charged pieces of clothing a woman can own. This creates a need to keep it, to packrat it away for years and years. I love my gown. I love the way it hangs on my frame and I love the way my husband looked at me in it on our wedding day. But I also had little idea what to do with the gown after the wedding. My mother cleaned and stored hers. A friend sold hers; another friend donated hers to Brides Against Breast Cancer; yet another friend saved hers for her daughter to wear or perhaps her christening gown. So many options, but none held my interest. With a need to find a unique way of remembering my dress, I came across the idea of “trashing” it.

For months I wrestled with what “trashing” meant. Did it mean fire and scissors? Did it mean mud and water? Was it simply brides photographed in unique places? In short, it is all of these things. Like a wedding and its associated gown, trashing is unique unto the bride. As I broached the subject with my husband, my parents, and my friends, the reactions were violently different from person to person. I was definitely surprised and a little taken aback at the level of emotional investment other people had in MY gown. But I’m stubborn and I emailed Charlotte to see if she’d be willing to assist me. I was nervous asking because this shoot would require a very open mind and to my delight, Charlotte agreed with enthusiasm. Despite having asked for help trashing my dress, the “traditional monster” preyed on my mind a bit. What if the dress didn’t come clean?

As you can see, we shot in a church, in the woods, at a bar, in a cornfield, on a tractor, in a barn, and at the beach. I was anxious, but with each site I let go of something else I’d been holding too tight: what people would think. Instead, I felt sexy and invincible. I didn’t care that people were videotaping the insane bride in the cornfield. I didn’t care that people were driving by either staring or honking. I didn’t care that my toes were muddy and my neck was streaked with sweat. This photo shoot had morphed from a creative idea to NEEDED. Treating the strongest wedding symbol with such disregard was liberating and therapeutic. All of the things that didn’t go exactly as we had planned, I didn’t care anymore. The weather, the flowers, the guest list, the limo…don’t care. This shoot allowed me to move past the wedding and fully into my marriage. As I shoved the most expensive and symbolic item of my wardrobe into a giant green trashbag to haul home, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. As I listened to the water swish inside the bag, I thought, “Every bride needs to do this.” Now that it’s done, it’s time to find the best dry cleaner I can…preferably one with an open mind.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

— Jessica

………………………………………….

Thank you so much, Jessica, for your eloquent contribution to my blog, and for asking me to share this experience with you. I think I had as much fun as you did, and I hope the photos are everything you hoped for and more.

Thank you also to my fantastic assistant for the day, Tom Sanderson, who came all the way from Williamsburg to help us with this shoot. I’d also like to thank Jessica’s mother for taking so many wonderful candids! I’ll post those on another day, so stay tuned.


We started the shoot at Jessica’s family’s church, where I experimented with different
ways to photograph a bride. It was fun to try something different in such a familiar setting.


Then we headed outside to the forest behind the church.


Jessica and her husband, Scott, met at this uh… rustic… bar in Maryland.
It’s called the Green Door, and we had fun with it!


We found this cornfield behind the bar.


Then we headed to Mary’s Hope, Jessica and Scott’s wedding venue. Mike and I had wanted
to photograph them in front of these red barns on their wedding day, but it rained so hard
that were weren’t able to do it. It was fun to have a second chance with a bride!


Finally we headed to the beach where Jessica used to live. Fun!


I love seeing a hint of her ring here.

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COMMENTS

Wow those are amazing

Not only was Jessica’s declaration amazing…so are the photos. What a wonderful way to “close” out the wedding festivities. It shows that Jessica is still an independent and strong person, which I think is a trait we all need to retain even after getting married! Never lose yourself! (Advice I received from a woman who’s been married 40 years.)

Go Jessica! And Go Charlotte! For taking such CREATIVE and inspiring photos!!

These are so wonderful, Charlotte, as always. Thank you (and Jessica) for sharing these with us and letting us in on this very personal experience, including the behind-the-scenes shots.

I particularly love the photo of her in the forest with her arms outstretched toward the sun and the ones of her in the water.

Wow

So liberating…I think perhaps I should trash my own now.

Wow, those are amazing photos. That was a really good idea. I never would have considered it before, but it’s kind of neat. Looks like it was a lot of fun! =D

Wow, would I ever love to do this after my wedding! Your photography is amazing beyond words!

These are great- but when I saw her in the water in her wedding dress, I immidiatly thought “ACK! my mom would do me in if I did that to my dress!” πŸ˜‰

That’s awesome, I did very similar things at the Wisconsin State Fair for my TTD session! I can’t wait to see how they turn out. πŸ™‚

That is so beautiful. Your photography is wonderful!

I’m sad that I didn’t do this with my dress. I’ll be writing about this on our blog soon. πŸ™‚

I would totally love that.

Jessica most definitely does rock. You would like her, I think!

Thanks so much! I really appreciate it. πŸ™‚

No, sadly I was only there for a few hectic days. We’re back in Colorado now. I’ll be coming back to DC for a longer stay this fall.

By the way… yowzas was it hot and humid there!

Thanks so much! That’s one of my favorites, too.

How cool! That’s a beautiful area. πŸ™‚

Oh no! I guess she got that mixed up. πŸ™ I wasn’t able to preserve mine, either, because I got married in the UK, and US customs isn’t too fond of bringing such things home.

Thanks for the link. How fun!

What a fun coincidence that CNN had that video the same day of my post.

I saw that, too! What funny timing.

Re: Your photos inspire me…

I use Canon 5Ds primarily, although I took an older Canon 20D into the water with me, just in case I dropped it. πŸ˜‰

Fantastic shots – particularly the beach ones!

I love seeing these pictures, it looks like it was a lot of fun. And, not to mention, it’s something completely different from normal bridal shots. Nice job on the photos, Charlotte! πŸ™‚ Thanks, Jessica, for letting Charlotte share these photos.

ohhhh my goodness these are amazing. wow wow WOW!! i totally want to do this but i plan on donating my dress to brides against breast cancer and that also means a lot to me… but i think like jessica says, doing something (anything!) that strikes a chord in you is the right thing to do. she will cherish these forever, maybe in a different, but just as special place in her heart as her traditional wedding photos, i think.

I love them!! πŸ™‚ Especially the water shots, i love her eyes in the “hint of ring” picture. πŸ™‚

Your photos inspire me…

What a wonderful way to honor your wedding dress – may I ask, what type of camera(s) do you use for your shoots?

i love this! i have no idea what to do with my wedding dress- i took it to the cleaners to get it cleaned and specifically told them not to preserve it, thinking that i could donate it, and they preserved it.

if you are ever in north florida, i would love to hire you to do this with my dress!

I think that is a fabulous idea! I’d do that with my wedding dress if I could fit it into it! Wonderful Pics!

The one of her in the water, where you can see the hint of her ring is SO pretty.

Oh the one with the hint of her ring is just gorgeous! She has AMAZING eyes!

I much prefer your term “Fearless Bridals” to “Trash the Dress.” And fantastic photos!!

How funny – straight after I read your post I went to CNN.com and found a video of another bride doing the same thing! I had no idea it was a fad!

Beautiful! Why if I could fit into my wedding dress I would have you do the same thing for me! In related news, the Green Door was mentioned in our conversations last night.

Beautiful pictures! So inspiring. The funny thing is, I was looking around on CNN and there was a story about a bride ruining her dress on purpose! I thought maybe it was Jessica, but it wasn’t. Thought you’d like to see it! πŸ™‚

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/offbeat/2007/08/18/wedding.dress.trashed.affl

Very nice Charlotte! I can tell you had fun with her!

Lindy

I was linked here from .

These photos rock so hard. My favorites are the “wide” shots with the telephoto (especially the black-and-white, even though your greens are so so lush, I’m head-over-heels for photo 185032427-O.jpg).

Thanks to both of you for sharing.

WOW! I like it! I love her words—they make sense.

And next time you are in St. Mary’s give us a holler—we are just up the road in North Beach! πŸ˜€

Go Jessica!

I should have done this to my dress–then maybe my mom would have gotten my bouquet preserved like I asked her. Instead she had the dress cleaned and preserved even though I was only thinking about selling it or giving it away. The bouquet whithered while we were on our honeymoon. D:

so awesome! Are you in DC area?

Great pictures and I *love* what Jessica said.

I love these! Especially the forest shots, and the one with the light coming through, that is absolutely gorgeous! Also the two of her in the water showing her ring, they’re both really pretty. Good work πŸ™‚

(I am sorry I don’t seem to find any new words but I wanted to let you know I appreciated them and I am always watching!)

What a great, fun day! I love how Jessica talks about moving beyond the wedding into the marriage. What a great shoot!!! πŸ™‚

btw, I went to the brides against breast cancer site and I’m going to donate my dress. I had no idea that someone might be able to use it and I’d love for it to do some good. Thanks so much!

Jessica ROCKS!!

She should make a book and publish it! She’s my new lifestyle guru!!!!

Such beautiful photos, I really love the beach ones. She looks like she had a lot of fun!

Those are absolutely spectacular. Honestly, someday I will get up some nerve and the next time you’re in the area I’m going to have you take some pics of me and my brother.

gorgeous

Its definitely a good idea, but, i could not bear to do that to my dress..i love all my clothes..

these are fantastic! what a great idea.

These are absolutely incredible. I hope that when the time comes, I will be as brave as Jessica!

These are fabulous. The pictures and the blog made me all teary — in a good way!

Magical! I want a Jessica too!

Charlotte Geary

CHARLOTTE GEARY

Lifestyle, event, and portrait photographer with a vibrant, joyful style and 17 years of professional experience.

Located in Reston, Virginia near Washington, D.C. and available for travel.

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