EDITORS' NOTE: This profile is the first in a series of profiles of same-sex couples whose photographs are included in The New Art of Capturing Love, a new book about gay and lesbian wedding photography by GayWeddings.com president Kathryn Hamm and photographer Thea Dodds. Read our Q&A with Kathryn and Thea, and pre-order The New Art of Capturing Love, available May 6, HERE.
On a warm, sunny morning in the spring of 2009, Bridget Tarver and Nikki Howard entered the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA and, by coincidence, found themselves sitting next to each other. Nikki had been going to Tabernacle, an affirming church that upholds a tradition of respecting love and dignity for all people, for several years, but this was the first time she had seen Bridget. They smiled at each other, charmed.
Over the next few weeks, Bridget and Nikki spoke on the phone, learning everything they could about each other. They began hanging out, splitting their weekends between Nikki's apartment in Woodstock and Bridget's home in South Atlanta, and quickly, they were together for good.
In March 2012, Nikki planned a vacation to Chattanooga, TN with Bridget, a surprise trip that had become an annual tradition for the couple.
Nikki expected a relaxing weekend away, but Bridget turned the tables, springing her own surprise on the woman she loved: Bridget turned to Nikki, told her how much she loved her, got down on one knee, oened a box to reveal a ring, and asked her if she wanted to get married.
"We had talked about marriage before - but just in general conversations," Nikki explained. "I was surprised and very happy and, of course, said yes. Bridget had already received my mother's blessing and decided that weekend in Chattanooga would be the perfect time."
The women promised their lifelong commitment to each other August 2013 in Georgia at the Decatur Court House. Nikki planned the day on her own, excited to organize the wedding of her dreams with all LGBT or LGBT-supportive vendors.
"Bridget was right by my side during the planning process," Nikki said, adding with a laugh, "She just didn't want to know how much money we were spending."
Shortly before their wedding, Bridget and Nikki traveled up to Connecticut to receive an official marriage license.
"It was important to us to take the opportunity to marry and get a marriage license so that we could be as legally protected as we can be," Nikki said. "We were married in a judge's chamber with just us - and it was wonderful, low-key, and magical."
But, of course, when they returned to Georgia - and even as they stood before their closest friends and family members who knew how committed they were as a couple - the state of Georgia denied them any respect for their marriage.
Like thousands of families from Georgia, Bridget and Nikki are denied the freedom to marry - or any legal respect for their marriage license. The lack of respect is sometimes hard to tolerate, and it's prompted the women to consider moving to a state where they are treated the same as all other families.
"We love Atlanta - the diversity, the arts, the weather - and we are not too far from our families," Nikki explained. "But we're contemplating moving to a state that recognizes our marriage. We shouldn't have to carry around a portfolio so my wife can make decisions for me in the hospital or live in our home if something happens to us. We love Atlanta - but we need Georgia to get on the right track. We need Georgia to uphold the freedom to marry for all couples."
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Bri McDaniel is a wedding photographer based in Atlanta, GA and is one of the featured photographers in The New Art of Capturing Love. "The one thing I don't question in life is love, and that all love in unique," she explained about her approach to wedding photography. "Every love story is powerful and deserves to be told in a dynamic way." Learn more about Bri McDaniel HERE.