Claudia and Zach’s elopement adventure began a full week prior, when the two of them began their road trip north from Sacramento. Traveling up the coast and around the Olympic Peninsula, they explored rocky beaches and lush rainforests together, getting to know the diverse natural world that western Washington is known for. They had considered tying the knot right there in the stunning Olympic mountain range, but they knew in their hearts that something was drawing them to a place even more spectacular. On the morning of the big day they woke up just outside Mt Rainier National Park and set out to explore as much of it as they could before meeting up with the two of us in the late afternoon. The hours that followed were packed with hiking, wildflowers, charcuterie, champagne, a curious furry visitor, more than a few mosquitos (we’ll get to those later), and an overflowing amount of love.
You would’ve never guessed that the whole day came together in a few short weeks.
Most of their past vacations were pretty last minute affairs, and their elopement was no different. We had been in contact with them for a few months, discussing the possibilities and what their perfect day might look like, but nothing was set in stone. It actually came down to an email to us out of the blue asking if we were available in 3 weeks time. We had a short gap in our schedule that we would be at Mt Rainier for anyway so of course we said let’s go for it! And so off we went, providing a location guide and recommendations for the surrounding area, along with what trails we thought would suit their needs the best. Meanwhile Claudia and Zach worked tirelessly to plan an elopement experience that began with their impromptu road trip up from Sacramento and around the Olympic Peninsula. They crushed every detail and made it all uniquely their own. Planning an elopement doesn’t have to take forever! When you’re free to do exactly what you want, the ideas just flow freely. Sometimes simply getting yourselves there and planning just enough to put yourselves in a good comfortable place is all you need, and it allows you be flexible, spontaneous, and decide in the moment what feels right to you. We love that mentality.
Being high school sweethearts, Claudia and Zach had known for awhile that they wanted to stay together forever, but the idea of planning a big wedding was so daunting and unappealing to them that they put off getting engaged until the idea of eloping came to mind. The fingerprints of that approach could be seen all throughout their day. Flowers and cake were purchased from the grocery store last minute. All hair and makeup was taken care of by themselves. And that unpretentious approach to the day took a huge weight off their shoulders as they planned it, because they knew what was truly important to them and the reasons they decided to do this in the first place. Everything was allowed to fall into place naturally, and all the headache of planning little details was avoided, which was what drove them from a big wedding to eloping in the first place.
To-do list’s can carry such a weight. For months you can be burdened with the minutia of all the wedding day details, which can take some of the shine off of what’s meant to be a magical and uniquely personal process. Approaching the day with an open mind and go-with-the-flow mentality is sometimes exactly what’s needed to remind yourself of what’s really important. Choose your flowers and your accessories. Pack some snacks and any little details that you feel would elevate the experience, but you don’t let it burden you with a to-do list.
That’s not to say that no planning is required. Certainly knowing basics like where you’re eloping, the permits and regulations for that location, and where you’re going to overnight during your time there are crucial details to know ahead of time for peace of mind. But that’s where we come in. Drawing from all of our favorite experiences we’ve had planning and shooting elopements, we map out some ideas to get you inspired and ensure all the logistics are squared away and everyone’s playing by the rules, leaving you to handle the fun stuff.
Hiking In for the First Look
From the word go, we knew that Claudia and Zach were our people. The love and comfort that they displayed around each other was so genuine and heartwarming; the kind of cozy affection that only happens when you’ve been together for a long time. They got distracted by wildflowers in just the same way we do, and when a frankly biblical amount of mosquitoes showed up as uninvited guests, they both took it in stride and hid under Claudia’s veil, which functioned pretty darn well as a mosquito net in a pinch. They stuck to leave no trace principles even on their wedding day, bringing along gloves and bags for trash and anything else that lesser hikers had left behind. They left it better than they found it. It didn’t matter that it was their day. They were still being stewards of the land and caring for the world around them. Like I said, our people.
A Leisurely Picnic with Epic Tahoma Views
After hiking in together and changing into their best wedding attire at a secluded location halfway through, the two of them had an emotional first look together by a lovely little alpine pond, surrounded by golden peaks and a dazzling array of wildflowers. Claudia, trusting that the best was yet to come, decided that while lovely as it was, this wasn’t yet the spot for their ceremony and chose to march on to our next location. And so we did.
Another mile down the trail we turned a corner and for the first time all day, we got the full brunt of Tahoma’s breathtaking form in the golden evening light. Naturally, this was the perfect spot to stop for a light picnic and toast of the champagne that Zach’s parents had sent to their hotel. A collection of meats, cheeses, crackers, olives and even the board itself were all foraged from the local grocery store the day before and provided the perfect accompaniment to the views unfolding in front of us. We all sat for awhile, recharging and soaking in the moment (an underrated element of any good elopement day).
The Perfect Sunset Ceremony
As the sun began to dip behind the mountain, we thought it best to carry on to one last spot we had up our sleeves for the ceremony and remaining festivities. When we came upon the final clearing overlooking the mountain, we all knew this was it: the perfect spot to end a perfect day. The golden rays of light peeking around the mountain that dominated our view, perfectly framed by the evergreen trees that surrounded us. Even the mosquitos left us alone for this moment. Claudia and Zach scooped the rings out of their backpacks, took a second to gather their thoughts and center themselves in the moment, and futilely attempted to hold back their tears as they each recited their vows to each other. Laughing through the tears, they exchanged rings and sealed it with a kiss. They each signed the marriage license right then and there, using each others backs as makeshift desks for support, and recruited the help of a kind passerby hiker to sign as a witness so it was all official.
Feeling no rush whatsoever to end this day, we all relaxed for awhile in the shadow of the mountain as the final remnants of the golden hour light quickly transitioned to an inky blue. Claudia and Zach cut into their cake for a final sweet finish to their day and looked out on the fading silhouette of the mountain. As the last of the blue hour light began to fade into blackness, we strapped on our headlamps and finally made our way back down the trail under the rising sliver of a crescent moon, still glowing from from the day and recounting all that had happened. Every element of their day was viewed with kind eyes and an open mind, and they found the joy in every second of it. Even when the briny olive juice from their charcuterie board leaked into their chocolate cake, that was just a chance to laugh and a story to tell later. Personally, we find this is the best approach to an elopement day. Without the burden of precise expectations and with an attitude of embracing whatever happens, you can find the beauty in each and every moment and allow yourself to be fully present with your partner.
We can call this the epilogue I suppose. In lieu of a big wedding and as a way to include their loved ones in their day, they both plan on returning in the future with family to this special place for a cozy cabin getaway and a hike in the spot they tied the knot. That, to us, is one of the unsung perks of an elopement. Who else gets to return annually to their wedding venue? By eloping you’re imbuing a place with a strong sentimental value that you’ll feel on every subsequent visit. Imagine bringing your kids back to the place you got married 10 or 20 years from now and how powerful and cool that experience would be.
Getting to spend even just one spectacular afternoon with Claudia and Zach was one of the highlights of our whole year, and we consider ourselves so lucky to have been able to witness their love for one another. If their day resonated with you the same way it did for us, reach out to us and we would love to walk you through how we can help tell your own unique story!