Elopement without eloping. an ethical party in St Louis MO
Pua + Corey
I started 2018 writing down a business bucket list.
There were a few things I wanted to accomplish, and every year I feel like materializing these wishes on a paper, it somehow helps me remain focused.
The bucket list included weird (for you) things:
A Christian wedding.
A destination wedding (hopefully at the beach).
A shoot or wedding in Miami.
And a session with someone whose first language was not English.
I was blown away when, the following week, someone contacted me for an engagement session in Miami and I shot their engagement in my most favorite urban place in the world: Wynwood. And as an amazing bonus, I also got to photograph a couple at the Miami ice Cream Museum, which was in their last week (ever!).
While in Miami I received an email from Pua and Corey.
Pua is the youth pastor at a church in the suburbs of St Louis Missouri, while Corey worked at the Dream Center, a Christian ministry in the heart of Saint Louis Missouri, bringing hope to one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country.
Their intimate destination elopement in Florida sounded amazing! and was answering to 2 of my bucket list goals at once. WOAH! Lucky me!. And as I began to learn about Pua and Corey, I fell in love with them more and more.
Their passion for social justice and their ethical heart resonated so much with me and the way I live my own life.
The secluded private residence where the wedding was going to be, with a ceremony right in the sand!? Oh em gee! This was going to be the wedding of my dreams!
But Michael had another plan….
Exactly 30 days before the wedding, the panhandle area of Florida, where (for a year!) Pua and Corey had been making arrangements to get married, got a non pleasant visitor: Hurricane Michael, leaving all their planning in ruins on the beach.
[insert all the crying face emojis here]
Now, they were faced with a new decision:
To move the wedding to their hometown? (and therefore to plan a whole new wedding in a month!)
To move the wedding date? (which involved postponing all their upcoming plans, including the honeymoon)
[I swear, I witnessed this part of their journey with panic attacks….]
But there is a bible quote that says
This piece of the Bible has nothing to do with God himself, but more with our attitude and how we behave in relation to God. It calls us to be positive and optimistic, to have an attitude of thanksgiving despite the circumstances. And it reminds us to be faithful, that nothing is too big or small to ask God for. And to acknowledge that God cares for us, and will help us feel at ease.
Pua was freaking out, and rightfully so!
To put together another wedding in 30 days was nuts!, and not to mention, expensive!
But her and Corey faced this challenge by practicing their religion, and did what their beliefs commanded: they prayed.
There were safety concerns in regards to getting married at the original location, so Pua and Corey decided to move the wedding to St Louis instead, and here is where their people said “we got ya” and their community stepped in to help.
Meanwhile, I re-routed our airline tickets to the Bible Belt, and recruited my good friend Jenni to help me in a wedding with a whole different scenario.
Wedding in St Louis:
The ceremony ended up being at Pua & Corey’s church, run by none other than the teens Pua is a pastor for.
The ceremony was performed by a (really funny) relative.
The dinner was held in the church basement.
And then everybody moved to a barn that someone from the church let them borrow so they could all go dance, and long story short, everybody offered what they could to make the wedding happen.
The night that changed my life….
At the end of the night, Pua and Corey themselves helped us pack leftovers for homeless (first time a couple engages personally with this process), and let me tell ya, that night changed my life…
After every wedding, Nick and I averagely distribute around 20 to 24 meals in downtown Pittsburgh, but St Louis was different, and the reality I witnessed there shocked me.
On our first stop, I shared around 30 plates of food. Corey and Pua were nice enough to not only donate the wedding day leftovers, but they also went above and beyond to save the extra food from the rehearsal dinner.
The homeless situation in Pittsburgh, is way different than St Louis. Here I usually get asked for a cigarette, but in St Louis I got asked for basic things, such as water and blankets.
I saw so many homeless people there, it was heartbreaking.
People of color, Asians, and white people. Women, teenagers, elderly, and disabled people.
I’m not gonna lie, I felt disappointed in St Louis….
In Pittsburgh, homeless people are a direct result of the opioid crisis, but in St Louis, it seemed different (out of the 80 people we fed and saw that night, I did not see one who was intoxicated or visibly high).
My short stop through St Louis changed my perception drastically.
There is so much need around us, and we are so so privileged, but I feel lucky that out of all the weddings that take place in the world, I get to serve people like Corey and Pua, who took time out of their own wedding to share what they had and how they could.
How did this wedding produced social impact?
The wedding of Pua and Corey was crazy, it was beautiful, ethical, full of intention, spiritual, and impactful.
Pua gifted her bridal party leggings from Girlfriend Collective, a size inclusive brand that, through ethical manufacturing, uses post-consumer water bottles extracted from the ocean to produce their leggings.
Corey and his wedding party opted for to use something they already owned (and will continue to wear).
The couple skipped on the favors, instead, they donated that money to the relief efforts of the Hurricane Michaels.
They intentionally payed to rent real plates/glasses at the reception to avoid generating plastic cups/paper waste.
The leftovers from the wedding day fed 56 people, while the leftovers from the rehearsal fed 30 to 40 more, giving us a grand total of almost ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE, whom 4 days before Thanksgiving were in the streets, hungry, cold, and trying to sleep under the rain, but we reminded them that THEY MATTER TOO.
Overall, this wedding changed my life and pierced my heart like no other before, and it was the perfect reminder that no matter how much we want to stay to ourselves, we are meant to live in community, we need them, and others need us as well.