Professional photographers can get so overworked and burned out from running a photography business that we don’t often take the time to photograph something just for ourselves…something that reminds us why we are passionate about photography and that it’s not just a source of income – it’s a source of daily inspiration and creativity that feeds our souls. I hadn’t photographed anything just for myself in a long long time, so when I thought about what I might like to photograph just for me, my ideas started leaning more toward what I could do for others. Weddings have always been my #1 photography passion, so I came up with the idea of gifting a wedding portrait redo to a deserving married couple….a couple that might not have been able to afford professional photography for their wedding, was disappointed in their wedding photos for one reason or another, or was deserving in some other way.
So at the beginning of the summer, I held a contest in the hopes of finding just the right Oklahoma couple for my styled wedding redo photo shoot. Out of nearly 100 entries, one in particular really stood out to me – Layla and Bobby Barger of Chickasha. This is what Layla wrote in her contest entry:
“Bobby and I went to high school together, but he was a little older than me so we never really talked. After he graduated life started and he moved away and joined the military. After I graduated from high school I attended OU where I majored in Human Relations. We reconnected my senior year of college and decided that we were meant for each other. Together we have one son, Noah, who is 5 years old and a wonderful Golden retriever named Jemma. We both work in the oil and gas industry, he is a Well tester, which means he is often gone for a month at a time, and I do HR. We love to run together, go on vacations, go to movies, and we are total foodies!
When Bobby and I got engaged we originally planned on having a destination wedding. A few months into the planning we found out that my mother had breast cancer and had to undergo 2 partial mastectomies, chemo and radiation. It was very important for my mom to see me get married so we wed quickly at a private ceremony at her house and then planned a local wedding for family to attend. When I married my husband I weighed over 300lbs. I hated my wedding dress, but it was all I could fit into and look semi decent. I despise seeing the pictures of that day mostly because I hate to look at myself and see how far I let myself go. With my husband’s support and love, I have lost over 160 lbs, and while he was proud to marry me and loves our pictures from our wedding, I can barely stand to look at them, and do not have any on display in my home. My mother has asked me endlessly for wedding pictures to put up at her house next to my sister’s wedding pictures, and I basically dodge the questions. My mother bought matching frames and wanted to sit us both on display in our wedding photos, but I just couldn’t bear to see my heavier self next to her, looking more beautiful than I have ever seen her (she’s always gorgeous), and then me, 50 lbs heavier than my already heavy self, shoved into a let out gown. I am embarrassed, and I am angry at myself for not getting control of my diet and exercise long ago so that I wouldn’t need a redo today. On your wedding day, you should feel like the most beautiful person ever. The very event is a promise of all good things to come and indicative of a future full of hope and togetherness. I just don’t have those feelings, and my forced smiles in the pictures show it. I was happy to be marrying my husband, but so unhappy with myself.
I have too many blessings to complain about a bad picture: a mom who battled cancer and kicked its butt, a dad who has told me that I’m special every day of my life, a husband who has loved me so fiercely that I realized I was worth loving, a sister who has always believed in me and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, a God who never gives up on me, and a son who is more beautiful (inside and out) than I ever imagined possible. My smile now reflects all of those things that I just couldn’t see about myself before.”
We did the wedding redo photo shoot with Layla, her husband Bobby, and their son Noah at the beautiful Gaillardia Country Club in Oklahoma City in August, and here is a look at some of the results! Beautiful Layla was all smiles all day long, which will be a mental picture that will forever stay in my heart. Collaborating with me on this styled shoot were several top Oklahoma wedding professionals:
Coordination/Designer: Sue & Lou Events
Venue: Gaillardia Country Club
Rentals: Marianne’s Rentals
Hair/Makeup: Sharon Tabb
Gown: Moliere Bridal
Floral: Cole Dewey Designs
Cake: Amy Cakes
Videographer: Carpe Diem Video
Car: King’s Limousine