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GayWeddings.com head talks about new book
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer
2014-08-20

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When Kathryn Hamm's mother, Gretchen, set out to plan her daughter's wedding to Amy Walter in 1999, she was at a loss to find even the simplest of resources for a same-sex couple looking to wed. Her determination that no other proud mom should have to face similar road blocks led to the founding the following year of TwoBrides.com and TwoGrooms.com .

Those websites eventually became GayWeddings.com, which today is a national resource for same-sex couples looking for caterers, photographers, planners and innumerable other providers with the acceptance, experience and creativity to bring the once unimaginable to life.

Hamm is now president of GayWeddings.com . In the 15 years since her mom struggled to even find an appropriate photo album, same-sex weddings are now the foundation of a billion and a half dollar market.

Yet it still has a few growing pains and it was one of them that led to Hamm's publishing of The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Hamm's co-author, award-winning photographer Thea Dodds, contacted her, saying that although she had been capturing same sex-couples on film since 2005, she was having trouble. She didn't know how to pose them and—without simplest of guidelines anywhere to be found—she was teaching herself.

Much like her mom, Hamm agreed with Dodd that a resource was needed. So they teamed up in order to shatter "the 'old standards' of wedding and engagement photography by showing how inappropriate they can be for today's diverse couples." According to the book's description, they did so through a "collection of 180 same sex portraits from 46 photographers."

"We self-published it on Jan. 15, 2013," Hamm recalled. "It was a lot of work on a shoestring budget, but we were able to build a book that expressed the voice and the visual images that we wanted." Less than a year passed before a publisher offered them a contract.

On Aug. 11, Hamm was the featured speaker at the WeddingWire World conference at the Arts Institute in downtown Chicago. That evening, she attended a private party hosted by Christie Hefner during which Hamm signed copies provided by Barbara's Bookstore and spoke frankly to guests—who included a few of the couples featured in the book—about the new lens of the wedding industry.

"If you aren't touched by looking at this book then you need to get a heart check-up," Hefner said. "I think it is transformative. It challenges gender stereotypes and how that plays itself out in the rituals of our society."

"The conversation is changing so fast," Hamm said. "I feel like full marriage equality is inevitable and that's incredibly exciting."

The next morning, she appeared at the unique Guesthouse Hotel in Andersonville. Developed in 2008, owners Simona and David Krug envisioned a lodging that possessed the comforts of a Chicago neighborhood home with all the amenities of a hotel.

The hotel's general manager, Rick Verkler, asserted that Hamm's work has been essential to him in understanding the nuances inherent in working with same-sex couples. "What's on your coffee table can say a lot about you and your space," he said.

As Hamm led an intimate and animated talkback, "The New Art of Capturing Love" was prominently displayed on a table in the hotel's cozy parlor. Recalling her mom's resolve to help LGBT couples connect with the right providers, Hamm held back a tear. "She was a force," Hamm said. "She understood the disenfranchisement and she wanted to do something better for the community."


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