This past election day, Corey Michener didn’t assign any homework to the reading and language arts middle-school students in her Trenton, New Jersey classroom. She encouraged the young girls in her class to stay up late and watch history — she was sure the United States would elect its first female president that night.
But the following day, Michener called a co-worker on the phone and confessed she couldn’t face her students after being shocked by the results of the election.
“I am concerned that everything the LGBTQ community has fought for would be reversed,” said Michener, a 2011 secondary education and English alumna.
For Michener, the result of the election came with the fear that getting married would not be as easy, or even possible after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20. The President-elect told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace in January that he would aim to appoint Supreme Court justices that could overturn the ruling making same-sex marriage federally legal. He has since stepped back from those remarks.
Michener met her fiancee Amber Cineus in 2013. The couple has been engaged since July 2015, and their original plan was to marry in Summer 2017.
Ian Shiver, an advertising student and the owner of Viva Love Photography, offered to photograph the weddings of any LGBTQ couples who wanted to get married before the presidential inauguration free of charge.
Michener and Cineus were one of the first couples that Shiver photographed.
The day after the election, Michener and Cineus went to City Hall and applied for a marriage license.
“We had to play it safe,” Michener said. “Amber and I want to be able to tell our kids that we were married under an administration that truly cared about how important marriage is to us.”
While wedding dress shopping with her mother, Michener received a message from Brendan Lowry, a 2011 communications studies alumnus who runs a popular Instagram account called Peopledelphia, to let her know about Shiver’s photography offer.
“I didn’t feel right charging anything for a decision made out of fear,” Shiver said.
After the election, Shiver said many of the LGBTQ couples he spoke with were very emotional. After he made his offer, he realized there are many more couples than he thought who wanted to get married before Jan. 20.
Shiver said he’s most excited to capture the moment when LGBTQ couples sign their marriage documents. After that, he is open to taking photos throughout the city in an effort to make the special day seem more like a wedding. Both shoots are included in his offer.
“I wanted their weddings to be something they could be proud of,” Shiver said.
After hearing about the offer, Michener called her fiancee at work and together they decided to reach out to Shiver.
“It seemed like perfect timing,” said Michener, who was worried she wouldn’t find a photographer for her wedding before Inauguration Day. “He seemed to speak to us and what we were doing.”
Not only did Shiver offer free photography to Michener and Cineus, he also found a minister who was willing to marry the couple free of charge.
“I don’t think people realize how expensive weddings can be,” Michener said. “We are so grateful for Ian and what he has done.”
This December marks the anniversary of when Michener and Cineus first started dating, and with their anniversary will come the date of their wedding ceremony.
“We are ready to take that next step,” Michener said.
“We want to achieve that American dream, with kids and a marriage,” she added. “I won’t feel comfortable until that paper is signed.”
Patrick Bilow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.