I’m so happy and excited to share this trans couple’s Oakland Lake Merritt engagement shoot! This was such a fun one for me, not least because Marissa and Nico had become friends of mine by the time the shoot rolled around.
Read more about how we came to connect, and how this extraordinary couple’s love has benefitted the community around them for the good.
How they met
“I am a trans guy with a beautiful lesbian girlfriend.” – Nico in his email replying to my Facebook ad, seeking trans love stories & education.
Marissa (lesbian; she/ her) and Nico (transgender man; he/ him) are an Oakland couple with a LOT of heart. I photographed this Oakland engagement as part of a personal project. Luckily for me I met these two beautiful souls while seeking to connect intentionally with a couple for whom at least one of the parties identifies as trans.
I couldn’t have been happier to meet these two back in February 2018.
We sat down for coffee at Farley’s East in Oakland and the couple happily chatted away about so many aspects of their story. How they met, became aware of each other, meeting each other’s families, the unique challenges they face and joys they share.
Since meeting we’ve had coloring-in sessions by the lake and shared a few meals together, including at their home which was so special.
Nico and Marissa met doing what they love most: giving back to their community. Nico was looking for volunteer opportunities and came across HYPE: Horizons Young Professionals for Equality. HYPE is a community of queer young professionals that aims to make philanthropy fun, accessible, and easy.
At the time, Marissa was chairing HYPE, and they met for coffee to talk about Nico getting involved. Nico instantly fell in love with Marissa’s brilliance and dedication to social justice. They became close friends and leaned on one another during the difficult times of the 2016 election.
Soon after, Nico asked Marissa on a date to the theater to see the Lion King. That night, they talked for hours about their goals and aspirations. Since then they have been pursuing those goals together as a couple.
The sweet proposal
The couple got engaged in New Orleans at Funding Forward, an annual conference of Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
They were at the famous Nola music institution, Vaughan’s. It happened to be one of Marissa’s favorite places in the world, and the couple had been there many times together while in New Orleans. Marissa says Vaughan’s changed her life and deepened her love for music immeasurably.
Nico got on the microphone in front of everyone and asked Marissa if she would let Vaughan’s change her life once again. And she said yes!
For Marissa and Nico, being in love and saying yes isn’t a one-time thing. It’s a lifelong affirmation and I’ve seen in my interactions with them how they seek ways to renew their love.
One of the many ways is with a story book that Nico produced for Marissa. It is filled with pictures and talks about how much Nico loves Marissa and the personal and unique details of their relationship.
The couple hopes that one day they will read this sweet book to their children.
The Oakland engagement shoot
We shot in two parts over two separate days. The first was in Oakland by Lake Merritt. We started out at the Gardens at Lake Merritt – an absolutely beautiful spot. It’s not nearly as well-known as it should be! It also has the most beautiful bonsai garden. It’s fast becoming one of my fave Oakland engagement spots.
We used the giant palm fronds and the stunning cactus garden as backdrops for Marissa and Nico’s love. I also love emphasizing the grandeur of nature by using a wide lens and getting my subjects quite tiny in the frame. I also mix in some more intimate photos too, of course.
We stumbled upon various cool locations around Lake Merritt and ended up near the Pergola. A mixture of some careful planning, some scouting finds and some random, serendipitous settings. Just the way I like it!
The light was so beautiful that day, and these two were full of laughs! I barely needed to make them laugh – they entertained each other so authentically. Meant to be! Their arms were just made for one another =)
In-home engagement session
For the in-home portion of the shoot, we started out in the kitchen with a couple of different activities – chopping vegetables/ meal prep, and flower arranging.
It gave them something to do while I snapped away at the two of them.
A few more pictures on the couch, as they caressed and chatted and, naturally, made each other laugh. I asked them to swap poses which I often do with LGBTQ+ couples, making sure they are comfortable being in the role they’re in. I try to avoid ‘gendered’ poses wherever I can.
Then, sitting on their bed, they leafed through the book that Nico made, and you can see how many giggles it elicited! Nico makes Marissa laugh so much, it’s incredibly cute to see! And Marissa really does have the cutest smile. Just sayin’.
The couple tied the knot just a couple of months later as they knew they didn’t want a long engagement. Everything about this couple speaks of a shared passion to help others, compassion, unbridled joy, constant fun as well as practicality, mutuality and a deep respect.
Marissa and Nico it was an absolute joy getting to know you and photographing your beautiful queer engagement. This Oakland engagement holds a special place in my heart. I am so glad you were intrigued and open enough to meet me.
Thank you so much for opening up and letting me into your world in a way that was vulnerable, brave and beautiful.
Looking for an LGBTQ-friendly Bay Area engagement photographer? Thinking about doing an in-home Oakland engagement session, or combining it with your favorite locations near your home? I travel all over San Francisco & beyond for engagement sessions and weddings, and I shoot all love.
If Oakland is your jam, I have a guide to my fave engagement shoot locations to help spark ideas. I’ve photographed all over the Bay on beaches, in forests, ice cream parlors, formal gardens, in the middle of the road, in homes, windswept mountains, rivers and valleys. Let’s chat about where your story will take us!