Gemma and Steven

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Photography | J&J Studios | @jjstudiosphiladelphia

Location | Old City

Location | Race Street Pier

Location | Philadelphia City Hall | @cityofphiladelphia

Makeup Artist | Kasey Bonk Artistry | @kaseybonkartistry

From the Photographer

It was a blisteringly hot day in late June that Gemma + Steven joined us for their engagement shoot spanning Philadelphia City Hall, Old City and the infamous Race Street Pier. Despite temperatures of 95F and high humidity, oven-baked Uber rides and sirens throughout the city, this couple stuck with us for an epic champagne shower finish overlooking the Delaware River Waterfront. Five minutes in, I had already soaked through my shirt and I was scampering down the sidewalk with Denida, my assistant, in tow to meet our clients at S Broad and Sansom for the epic City Hall shot.


Thankfully, Gemma and Steven were more than patient with me while we got these shots. They look clean now, but the actual process of getting them is a cacophony of people walking by, hundreds of cars whizzing past (which blows Gemma’s hair out of the way) and trying not to let Denida walk too close to the edge of the meridian as cars stream by on either side. We managed.


After that, we got into an Uber that may as well have been an oven. The entire driver’s compartment was plexi-glassed up (because of Corona) which turned the driver’s compartment into an icebox with the rear of the vehicle being a literal furnace. Thankfully, due to the wizard-like talents of Kasey Bonk Artistry, LLC, the makeup somehow stayed on. For context, I was dripping sweat and Steven, while he pretended all was well, was sitting in a puddle of his own sweat. We ended up in Old City at the 2nd Bank of the US and the Merchant Exchange Building. While we waited for the Uber to Race Street Pier, we did some editorial portraits of the happy couple. We ended at Race Street Pier with an epic bottle popping shot. Not one to waste time, while we waited for our final Uber, we took a cool slow motion shot under the Ben Franklin Bridge: We can’t wait to celebrate with them at Lucien’s Manor in January 2021.

How did you and your fiancé meet?

We met at work, where he asked to bring me coffee and I told him no, and he still did anyway. He then sent me an email saying he could only be reached by texts for appointments at work then would text me here and there and I asked him and a few friends we had in common to meet me out at the St Patty’s Day parade, where he came alone and we have been inseparable since March 2016.


What do you love most about your partner?

His personality, he is very funny and kind. He would do anything for anyone, let alone me. He is very dedicated to his faith, family and friends. No matter where I am or the day I am having, he always feels like home.


How did he propose?

We went to Philly for a ‘friends birthday’ to Christmas Village… Steven had been planning to propose since October and on December 5th, my mom may or may not have slipped and ruined the surprise a little. However, December 7th was still the best day of my life when he proposed in front of the big Christmas tree in front of friends and family and we came home to more friends and family, food and a decorated for the occasion house!


What was your inspiration for the engagement photos?

A mix of Pinterest and our photographer’s work. We knew we definitely wanted a city setting. We originally planned for New York in Brooklyn, then when the Corona Virus hit, we decided we were going to do Washington DC, but Corona lingered, so we decided Philly was the best route, even in 95- degree weather!


(Have you started wedding planning) If so, how has your experience been so far?

We have! It has been okay so far! We started quickly after we were engaged to make sure that we got the venue and vendors we wanted!


Share some quirky facts about you

Gemma: I am very creative… I can see things and turn them into something else. Once my mind is set to something, I have to do it, I love funky socks and Steven makes fun of me because I call sneakers “tennis shoes.”


What makes your relationship special? Tell us some things that you both value in your time together. What makes your relationship unique?

We have very similar values and life goals and we push each other to our goals every single day. We are two-peas-in-a-pod and very in sync. We love music, our dog and hanging at the beach. We make each other laugh all day long and our conversations never end.


How did you know your partner was the one? When did you first know this in your relationship?

I knew early on, when I realized that no matter what crazy idea I had, he was ready to gear up and go along with it. We have similar life goals and values and life still is not boring even after spending every moment together.


We’re all about the bling… Tell us all about that ring!

It’s exactly what I wanted! A gold band with an oval diamond and it’s perfect !


What are you most excited about when it comes to your wedding planning?

Making all of our decorations! I am very crafty and I am excited to see how it all turns out on our wedding day.