Today’s blog post is going to get a
little lot personal. Because we live in and shoot weddings in Ohio (primarily; we do travel sometimes), we have a defined wedding season, which is roughly from May through November. A few offbeat (which is a great thing!) brides get married from December through April, but the bulk of Northeast Ohio weddings are in the Summer and Fall months. This brings us to why this blog post is personal.
Before we had our darling daughter Tenley, we were asked on more than one occasion during wedding photography consultations whether we were planning to start a family soon. Imagine that you’re us. You absolutely adore photographing weddings & the couples you get to meet & know as they plan their wedding day. A lot of them become your friends. You are with them throughout one of the happiest times of their lives. This career & business you’ve built, though, is not simply a creative outlet or a wonderful way to meet people, make friends, and impact future marriages, but it’s how you pay your bills. It’s how you keep a roof over your head and food on your table. It’s how you pay your student loan payments each month even though you’re doing nothing related to the field you studied. We’re beyond thankful to God & to our clients for allowing us to pursue a dream & to enjoy a career that we are passionate about. We understand that not everyone pays their bills with a similarly satisfying career. Some people struggle every day in jobs that they hate in order to provide for their families. And that’s why we’re extremely grateful & often praise God in our prayers that we have been given this opportunity to do something we enjoy that allows us to make a living.
But to have to answer the dreaded question- are you planning to start a family soon?– during a wedding photography consultation. . . how would that make you feel? That makes us uncomfortable. It makes us feel like someone values their wedding day above our entire life together as a family. There is really no good way to answer that question during a wedding photography consultation unless you’re absolutely never planning to have children. I particularly remember one instance during which we were sitting at a wedding photography consultation in our kitchen before we finished our basement as a client meeting space and before we had a child. We were meeting with the bride & her mother, as the groom-to-be couldn’t make the meeting due to his crazy work schedule. We were excitedly talking with them about the wedding plans & the marriage. Then came the question from the bride’s mother, “Well, you’re not pregnant are you? That could interfere with the wedding.” Talk about a question that basically knocks the wind out of you! We completely understand that brides & grooms plan their wedding day many months (and most often years) in advance and that they’re relying on many people to make it all come together. We read on another wedding photographer’s blog who we got to meet one year at the CONNECT Retreat, “I’m a wedding photographer. I photograph the biggest, most important and most expensive day in the lives of the bride and groom. Sick days don’t exist in my field and brides and their families make it known that pregnancy shouldn’t either. I once had a mother-of-the-bride call me a month before the wedding and the first thing she said to me was, ‘You’re not pregnant are you? Because the hair lady and florist both are and it’s ruining everything.’ It gets better. I had a potential bride sit down for a consultation with me and she literally said, ‘We love your work and would love to hire you, but we’re a little concerned that you’ll be starting a family soon.’ Wow. I had to try and convince her that I wasn’t, but she still didn’t hire me.” This photographer, Vanessa Joy, literally hid her pregnancy for almost eight months from potential brides & other wedding vendors. The wedding industry is competitive & to secure work to support our families we’ll do what it takes!
Because of wedding season in Ohio, the demand to shoot almost every Saturday from May through November, & the fact that we don’t make money if we don’t photograph weddings, planning a family is somewhat of a challenge. When we first decided that we wanted to have a baby in early 2013, we were naïve and full of blind optimism. We did the math & determined when we should conceive in order to have our baby be due when we didn’t have weddings booked. That way, we’d have a naturally built-in maternity leave during our wedding off-season. Score, right?! When we got pregnant exactly when we’d planned, we were absolutely elated & thankful. We just figured that was the way everything was supposed to work out & that our plans were coming together perfectly. All of those hopes & dreams came crashing down at our ultrasound appointment when we were told those few devastating words, “Sorry, but I don’t see anything in the gestational sac.” We explained our painful, confusing, and heart-wrenching journey to parenthood on the blog last year & you can read about that HERE.
After that first pregnancy loss, we were faced with the impossible decision: Should we try to conceive soon and possibly be due to have a baby in the height of our wedding season or should we wait almost an entire year & put our personal lives on hold so that we can be due during our wedding off-season? We chose to wait & to be due during our off-season. Just like I said in our blog post about pregnancy loss, that decision definitely seems like a callous business decision with no emotion involved. It is certainly the opposite of that. It was absolutely heartbreaking to us to wait almost a year to try to conceive & to try to build our family. We were wrecked. We sometimes resented our chosen profession & the fact that we felt it would ruin our business if we were due to have a baby during our wedding season. Horrible scenarios entered our minds: we were sure that if we got pregnant & had a due date amongst many weddings that we had already booked that our clients would be upset with us & would tell all of their engaged friends that they shouldn’t hire us & that word would get out in the community that no one should hire us as their wedding photographers because we were more concerned with starting a family than with our business or photographing weddings. How awful does that sound?! But how could we think anything different when potential clients point blank asked us during wedding consultations if we were pregnant or planning to start a family because they didn’t want it to interfere with their wedding day plans?
The entire year following the miscarriage was full of questions & self-discovery. We went to Europe and bought a pug puppy. Looking back, the Eurotrip & the puppy were things that we’d wanted, but that probably wouldn’t have happened at that exact time had it not been for our pregnancy loss. The Eurotrip happened when I would’ve been approximately 7 or 8 months pregnant and we got Punky about a week before my would’ve-been due date. Life is a journey. Marriage is a beautiful part of that journey & we were coping with the pregnancy loss & waiting to even try again the only ways we knew how- by relying on God, clinging to one another, and living life to the fullest. . . together. Our journey together hasn’t been easy. We love being a husband and wife wedding photography team. Although we’ve tried to make it look like everything is easy-breezy behind the scenes & that having a baby & being full-time wedding photographers was seamless, it was anything but. Many tears & much heartbreak are embedded into our hearts. We wouldn’t be the positive & hopeful people we are today without God’s promise of eternal life in heaven. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still difficult days. It simply means that we know who holds the future, we have faith that His plans are better than ours, and we know that even if our wedding photography business crumbles to the ground & we have no weddings booked, that He’ll provide for our needs & He always listens to the desires of our hearts. We also know that our fears are sometimes irrational and that our ideal wedding clients love us & would never value their wedding day above our desire to build a family. That’s just crazy talk!
Being an entrepreneur & not having to answer to a boss in our jobs is amazing and freeing in so many ways. It’s also sometimes scary. We are our paychecks. We have to hustle to obtain clients & to make a living doing what we love. But we also know that God has our backs. No matter what, we’ll be okay! We don’t know why we endure hardships, but we do know that we never knew the strength of our own faith until it was tested. And we’re certain that this business isn’t ours, but it’s God’s. We’ll continue to carry out His plans for our lives & the story that He’s writing through us. Although it’s not easy being full-time wedding photographers with a family and a desire for future children, God is bigger & more powerful than anything & He is in control. Jeremiah 29:11- “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
If you’re new to our blog, we’re Josh & Danielle Menning, a husband & wife wedding photography team based in the Youngstown, Ohio area. We’d love to chat with you about your engagement & wedding photography! You can see some more of our work, cute photos of our daughter, and also some of our two crazy pugs here, too: