When I called my wife and asked her if she wanted to get married all over again in a fake wedding, her emphatic response was, “Um, YES!” Little did I know that Callie would also make me learn a choreographed dance that I would perform in front of 300+ people. It’s such an honor to say that my wife, Jenica, and I were the very first Not Wedding couple ever. I loved the idea from the beginning and it’s been a joy to watch and cheer on Callie as she has taken this concept and turned it in to a unique and incredible way to introduce engaged couples to potential wedding vendors. Callie has also been a huge source of encouragement and wisdom as I have created and launched Love Gives Way.
Love Gives Way is a community of brides and grooms who are choosing that their Love Gives Way to the recovery and restoration of sexually exploited people.
This is how that idea came to life.
There I was, standing face to face with a woman trapped in sex trafficking. It was the middle of the afternoon outside, but it might as well been midnight. The room was dark, lit only dimly by a single light bulb that seemed half on. A fan in the top corner slowly turned pushing warm air past our faces, and inches from me sitting behind a drawn curtain on this enslaved woman’s bed was a man, waiting. I knew why he was waiting, but I didn’t want to think about that. I just somehow wanted my smile to break through the language barrier and express to this woman that she was loved immensely. This was day 1 on my trip to India shooting for an organization that rescues vulnerable children and cares for them.
One month before I was standing in that brothel room, I was in a very different room in an Atlanta suburb home shooting senior portraits of a young man. It was an extremely nice home in an extremely nice neighborhood. Nothing like the brothel in India. I would meet his parents, finish up the shoot, and head home. Little did I know, this boy’s father had been pointed out in a photo line up by a girl with whom he paid to have sex, and he was arrested during the week I was away in India. The girl he paid for was 12. This man lived 2 miles away from me. I had been in his home. I met him face to face. Wrapping my mind around this, I knew that if I was going half way around the world to shoot for organizations fighting human trafficking, how could I not leverage what I was shooting at home to do the same thing, especially living in a city that sits among one of the top cities for trafficking in the United States.
Atlanta is known as one of the top cities in the United States for sex trafficking. Just a few facts:
– There are 300 girls exploited in Metro Atlanta every month.
– The Georgia Demand Study estimates that 7,200 men pay for sex with adolescent females in Georgia each month.
– Forty-two percent of men who pay for sex with adolescent females come from the north Metro Atlanta region located outside of I-285.
And that’s where I live.
My initial idea was to just offer a Love Gives Way package where a portion of the funds would go to support Wellspring Living, a local organization doing an incredible job in the fight against sex trafficking. However, I quickly realized that many other vendors wanted to join the vision and that our impact and reach could be far greater.
As a result, Love Gives Way now offers a team of preferred vendors whom you can partner with to create that perfect wedding day you’ve always dreamed about while also leveraging this one day to greatly impact the everyday of someone who has been sexually exploited.
While we currently just have 1 Love Gives Way team in Atlanta, our hope and desire is to build Love Gives Way vendor teams in cities around the country and rally them around the work and cause of a local organization fighting against sex trafficking.