CRC photographers capture scenes from couples’ big day

Chad Gianotti Sr. and Cassandra Hamm share a first kiss after the wedding ceremony provided for them, as photographers capture the shot on Nov. 16.

In the dimly-lit Chapel of Sacramento’s Westminster Presbyterian Church, Chad Gianotti, wearing a black tuxedo with a royal blue vest, stood at the front of the stage with a smile on his face and shaky knees.

The tune of “Here Comes the Bride,” soon echoed off the white walls and stained glass windows of the small room.

Four pews of friends and family stood up as the the bride, Cassandra Hamm, started making her way down the aisle with a glowing smile and flowers in hand.

The pair was one of eight couples married on Nov. 16 in the 3rd Annual Wedding Marathon. The event is put on by Sacramento’s Relationship Skills Center, a nonprofit organization, all at no expense to the couples.

“I start meeting with the couples in August, and begin to plan the wedding,” said Shari Wise, one of the wedding coordinators, and owner of Events by Wise, the group that also coordinated the receptions. “They get to choose the colors, how the reception goes and get a max of 30 guests.”

These couples had to graduate the Flourishing Families Program, put on by the Skills Center, which teaches “new communication skills and relationship enhancement,” said Erin Stone, the executive director of the Relationship Skills Center.

“The program teaches how to show understanding, how to discuss conflict and how to show each other appreciation,” she said.

The Marathon is a graduation of sorts for the participants in the program, who are low-income families with children, who may not have seen marriage as a possibility.

“This event was really the opportunity for the couples who had gone through our program, who wanted to get married, but getting married for some of them was a pretty far-off dream,” Stone said. “We started doing this event to really help them have a great start.”

While the wedding was taken care of, there was still the matter of pictures.

Cosumnes River College’s very own photography students were the ones in charge of capturing every moment of the day’s events.

“I remember getting married and not having as many photos as I would’ve liked,” said 37-year-old photography major Jerry Lee McNabb. “It’s nice to be able to help [the couples] out with that.”

As the minister asked for both families’ blessing, loud cheers came from the mouths of the audience, a definitive yes.

Following the blessing, Hamm and Gianotti both turned around and reached for a flaming white candle, a small chandelier beaming down on them, they both took a step and lit a larger candle at the center of the stage, symbolizing their unification.

Soon, the “I do’s” were said and the couple walked back down the aisle as one.

“Leading up to this was really stressful,” Giannotti said. “Both our cars dumped on us, we didn’t have a whole bunch of money, but with some of the skills we learned, we were able to get through it.”

As the couple made their way into the courtyard, they were greeted by eager photographers waiting to capture the pair’s big moment.

Kimyetta Barron, 34, is a former CRC student who participated in the event the first year and has now taken a larger role in organizing the photographers.

“I help with technique, how to get [photographers’] exposures down and I am kind of a back-up to everyone else,” Barron said. “Then I get all the pictures together and make sure they are all edited nicely and given to the clients.”

Lorenzo Tinoco, a 23-year-old photography major, found out about the opportunity to shoot the weddings through Barron, who came to CRC’s photography classes to discuss the Wedding Marathon.

“When I heard about it, and they told me why they are doing this, to help out other couples, I thought it was pretty good to do this and help out,” he said. “It’s also great experience, since I am focusing in wedding and portraits.”

Another photography major, CJ Willis, 21, wanted to help out because “it’s a good event for a good cause.”

In the Club Room, Hamm came dancing into her reception to the “Party Rock” tune by LMFAO as her family cheers on.

Gianotti, similar to the beginning of the wedding, stood in the middle of the five tables that filled in the white walls of the room, waiting to greet his bride for their first dance.

The dance ended with a passionate kiss, and Hamm reflects back on her journey.

“It was everything we thought it would be and more,” she said.