Let’s face it – elopement planning can be overwhelming… What if there was a way to bring your dream elopement setting to you without any travel involved?
Hear me out – I found a way. One that is not only creative, but completely customizable to your elopement style, personality, and budget. This idea can supercede weather, underwhelming scenic views in your hometown, and the need to figure out all of the travel logistics of an elopement.
See the solution featured in Green Wedding Shoes or continue along to read more.
& to understand how this problem was solved, you must first understand that it all started because of a pandemic….
To Open a Pandemic’s Box
The year was 2020. It was the dawn of a new decade and a record number of nuptials were being booked by bright-eyed, newly engaged couples with high anticipation. 2020 was THE year to get married. I mean, does it get much cooler than every anniversary milestone marking the beginning of the next era? As a wedding photographer I have never seen so many weekends blocked in my calendar, and to say I was giddy about that is a serious understatement. At this time, I found myself really getting the hang of my niche within the wedding market, and I was so pumped to say that each and every one of my 2020 couples aligned with my re-launched brand seamlessly. What more could I possibly ask for? This year was about to kick ass!
Suddenly, the whisperings of ‘COVID-19’ surfaced. It started with the occasional international headline, then it moved a little closer to home until it hit me right in my rounded frames. To my dismay, the world seemed to stop right at the edge of busy season #1: Spring. Looking back on that third week of March still gives me chills…and not the good kind my couples give me on their wedding day. It was a slew of phone calls, contract disputes, postponing, rescheduling, cancelling, and consoling the sweet couples of mine who could have never prepared for this wedding planning disaster. The beginning of this pandemic was the single most challenging obstacle for a wedding industry professional to date. You know those large gatherings full of family, friends, laughter, hugs, dancing, and love? The same gatherings that happen to be the most ‘high risk’ activity during a pandemic according to the CDC? Yeah, those are the reason thousands of vendors like me have kept a roof over our head and food on our plates for years. It froze the industry in its tracks and made me question everything.
You might think me dramatic, but I assure you I’m well aware this is not our world’s first pandemic. Historically, widespread tragedy has resulted in the most beautiful artwork, creation, and change. I think back to the Renaissance Era. It took the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages to bring about modernity and enlightenment. Some of the greatest ideas and works surfaced during that time. So, after the storm of rebooking and cancelling 2020 weddings, I began to ease into isolation and tap into my own creativity without distraction. During this downtime I became hyper-aware that the wedding industry has upheld the same dated traditions for centuries, and couples were becoming more open to exploring options that pushed the monogrammed envelope. Let me welcome you to the rebirth of ‘elopements.’ Think pulling exactly what you want from the traditional wedding and fusing it with Grover Washington’s “Just the Two of Us” at the destination of your dreams. Want your fantasy wedding dress, but not so crazy about a traditional tuxedo? You got it. Want your wildly colorful florals? Your wish is your command. Want the professional photographer, champagne toast, and the cake, but not the silver spoon? Done. Anything is possible. This is the modern elopement. There’s just one small hiccup to address, and that’s traveling during a pandemic (cue dramatic music).
Just when I thought I had my grand solution, a new roadblock emerges. How do I show my COVID couples they can have their dream destination elopement in the safety of their hometown? That’s when it hit me. I can bring the destination to them. With a background in studio photography, I’ve had experience conceptualizing sets for editorial-styled shoots. The beauty of a studio setting allows one to think outside the box while being boxed in — a perfect metaphor for 2020 if you ask me. With these thoughts my styled elopement concept was born. I’m going to bring my personal experience of Mount Rainier’s seasonal beauty to Tulsa, a city in Oklahoma where the tallest “mountain” (Turkey Mountain) stands at a whopping elevation of 804 feet.
Summers in Washington are best spent hiking the Skyline Trail with the view of Mt. Rainier on a warm, sunny day. The valleys are rich with brilliant hues of wildflowers that contrast so brightly against green grass and the snowcapped mountain. It never fails to bring me feelings of romance and childlike wonder. I feel like we often forget how life-giving an abundance of color can be. The Pacific Northwest Winters? Equally stunning. It’s common to have foggy, overcast days mixed in with evergreen pine trees, and the occasional snowfall like icing on a cake. With my inspiration now as locked-down as myself, I sought out hours of set-building YouTube tutorials and a team of talented creators to build two different scenes with these opposing seasons in mind. I chose both Summer and Winter because I wanted to show couples there is beauty in getting married at any time of the year. If they feel it, they should go for it.
So without further adieu I created the mood board, gathered raw materials to build a 7×8 ft mountainous backdrop with my trooper of a husband, and put my makeshift photoshop scaling techniques to the test. I spent a total of eighteen hours over the span of two and a half days building a mountain and pines with power tools I had no idea how to use. It was a ‘fake it til you make it’ situation, and I will never forget the sense of empowerment I felt knowing that I built something directly from my imagination to completion with my very own hands. I get the hype with DIY projects now.
With a completed backdrop set of Mount Rainier in Washington, I set out to create two elopement styles based in opposite seasons of the PNW: Blooming Summertime & Foggy Winter.
For the Summer scene I built a studio-friendly version of Mt. Rainier to be accompanied by florals that would represent the vivid wildflowers on the Skyline Trail. The vision was to create a picnic-esque setting that was relaxed, playful, and romantic. We brought in some desserts to add a personalized dash of sweetness, and some pillows for style and comfort. Our Summer models were as kind as the imagery suggests. Landon and Breanna have a chemistry behind the camera that translates perfectly in front of it. They were a dream to shoot and worked so well with me on every unique pose I suggested.
The Winter scene was set to take on a more moody approach. The deep green sofa spoke to the evergreens as well as the standing studio pines built into the backdrop. We used a fog machine to add more emotion to the lighting, much like an actual foggy day in PNW. The color scheme may have been darker, but it was full of magnificence. Robert and Sam were the perfect couple to complete this natural, luxurious scene. They brought the longing stares, and the loving smiles. I could feel their flame. It was magic.
By the end of this project I was on a high that might as well have taken me straight to Mt. Rainier’s peak. I can’t thank the team of creatives who accompanied this concept with me enough, pouring themselves into my vision without even questioning my sanity. Every detail within these photos show the unspoken understanding of a theme we all shared. This production was more than a styled shoot for me. It was a symbol of what can blossom in the midst of uncertainty. It showed me how incredibly important it is to step outside of comfort zones, and to never stop creating, even when life is steady and comfortable. It’s time to start getting more secure with insecurity. Magic happens when we push our creative boundaries. Who said you need a physical mountain to elope by a mountain? … Next!