Write on: Hear the bells

225 editor Jennifer Tormo. Photo by Collin Richie.

I don’t like crying during weddings. They are supposed to be joyous occasions, after all. How dare my sentimental emotions get the better of me?

But man, I had to work hard to fight the tears last month during the wedding ceremony of one of 225’s former interns, Allie Appel.

Allie was the first photography intern I hired at 225. When she started at the magazine back in 2015, she was full of potential—more than she even realized she had.

She was the kind of wide-eyed intern hungry for constructive criticism and would actively work to show that she’d learned from it. She was terrified of making mistakes, but when she did, she worked overtime to correct them. Each assignment she turned in was stronger than the last.

After she completed her internship, we kept her on staff as a contributing photographer, and that was when her work truly started to blow our team away. Her fashion shoots were full of motion, moody lighting and crisp colors. Her photo essays felt real and raw.

But her best attribute was surely her commitment to our magazine. She’d often text us story ideas, or volunteer to cover events that hadn’t been assigned to her. 225 was the best magazine in town, she’d insist, and she was determined to do her part to keep it that way.

Eventually, as all good things do, Allie’s time at 225 came to an end. Love led her away from us, and she and her fiance moved to Chicago. It was totally bittersweet—we were so sad to lose her but excited to watch her take her big new city by storm.

In the months after she left, we on the 225 staff would sometimes send each other images Allie posted to her Instagram. “Can you believe this picture?!” we’d gasp in awe. Sometimes, the shoots were so good we’d just talk about them using emojis or exclamation points.

While Allie and I have kept in touch, this past June at her wedding was the first time I’d seen her in person since she left Baton Rouge two years ago.

As she walked down the aisle toward her new husband, she looked incredible—beautiful in her dress, of course, but also more strong and composed than I’d ever seen her. She was smiling and stoic—until she saw me. We locked eyes, and her face just crumbled.

For the rest of the ceremony, I had to fight tears and emotions just as hard as Allie was. And it was especially challenging because her ceremony was one of the most genuine and special I’ve experienced. She and her husband, Victor, recited the sweetest, most intimate handwritten vows to each other. And then, the kicker: They performed a song together.

Victor strummed a ukulele while Allie sang about her best friend. Even though she was nervous, her voice was so melodic—she hit every note and nailed every line. I was mesmerized—Allie had never told me she could sing like that.

After the ceremony, Allie and I finally got to hug and talk. “I was doing OK until I saw you, and I lost it,” she said. I told her I felt the same way and how proud I was to see her singing up in front of everyone, so grown-up. “But Jenn,” she said, “You made me this way.” She turned to her friend and told her about how I pushed her to take on big assignments that she was terrified to tackle. And how every time she thought she made a mistake, I’d tell her it was OK.

Later that night, Allie reminded me of something: When I’d hired her, I’d never worked with a photo intern before. I’d trained plenty of editorial interns, but because my background was in writing, I wasn’t sure if I could handle coaching a photographer.

I was still in my first few months of working at 225, and I felt like I was struggling as much to adapt to my new city and role as Allie was to adapt to her internship.

Looking back on it now, I realized that Allie and I were both in it together, learning as we went along.

And maybe that’s why I wanted to cry when I saw her on her wedding day, too. Because at the end of the day, I learned just as much from her as she did from me. In fact, maybe I learned even more.

This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.