wedding

Our RMNP Wedding

For some, the perfect wedding is a big, formal event, with many guests, traditions, dinner, and dancing - and there's nothing wrong with that. Ted and I have attended plenty of gorgeous weddings with well-planned and fun parties that were perfect for the couples who planned them. But for us, none of them really resonated in a way that felt like the kind of celebration we’d want to throw ourselves.

Most wedding traditions never felt all that important to us, and since I dislike being the center of attention, being a bride was never all that appealing to me. An entire day in front of 100+ people, all eyes on me, smiling and posing for a thousand photos while guests snap countless, unflattering photos for Facebook, worrying about what I look like and whether everything would go as planned, watching the clock, wondering what people are thinking of our choices for colors, food, dresses, details… sounded like the most anxiety-inducing thing I could think of. I don't even like dancing. Maybe we should just elope.

Then there was one wedding that changed everything. In 2014, a college friend asked me to help her plan their wedding, only a couple weeks before it would happen. They wanted a tiny wedding, on top of a mountain, filled with fall color and surrounded by nature, complete with an unforgettable hiking adventure for those who would attend. Not only was I to be the wedding planner, I'd also be her photographer. Planning that wedding felt like I was planning my own wedding. No need for decorations or table linens, no arguments over colors or centerpieces. With the brilliant fall foliage and a warm sunset, this intimate ceremony was the perfect compromise between having a wedding and eloping. They invited only their closest family and friends for the summit ceremony, and planned a larger gathering to celebrate with friends a few weeks later upon returning home.

Then there was one wedding that changed everything. In 2014, a college friend asked me to help her plan their wedding, only a couple weeks before it would happen. They wanted a tiny wedding, on top of a mountain, filled with fall color and surrounded by nature, complete with an unforgettable hiking adventure for those who would attend. Not only was I to be the wedding planner, I'd also be her photographer. Planning that wedding felt like I was planning my own wedding. No need for decorations or table linens, no arguments over colors or centerpieces. With the brilliant fall foliage and a warm sunset, this intimate ceremony was the perfect compromise between having a wedding and eloping. They invited only their closest family and friends for the summit ceremony, and planned a larger gathering to celebrate with friends a few weeks later upon returning home.

Then there was one wedding that changed everything. In 2014, a college friend asked me to help her plan their wedding, only a couple weeks before it would happen. They wanted a tiny wedding, on top of a mountain, filled with fall color and surrounded by nature, complete with an unforgettable hiking adventure for those who would attend. Not only was I to be the wedding planner, I'd also be her photographer. Planning that wedding felt like I was planning my own wedding. No need for decorations or table linens, no arguments over colors or centerpieces. With the brilliant fall foliage and a warm sunset, this intimate ceremony was the perfect compromise between having a wedding and eloping. They invited only their closest family and friends for the summit ceremony, and planned a larger gathering to celebrate with friends a few weeks later upon returning home.

AdirondackWeddingSunset.jpg

That day, Ted and I not only realized that we wanted THAT kind of wedding, we also wanted to help other couples ditch the traditional expectations and plan a unique wedding adventure that was perfect for them. We started photographing more adventurous couples and families and shifted to shooting only outdoor weddings and elopements. Each time a couple got married on the summit of Whiteface or on a family farm, alone or with only their closest family and friends, where they could be themselves, relaxed, speaking their vows freely and without judgment, I felt happy and vindicated. We weren't crazy for wanting something different, or for wanting to incorporate nature and adventure into it. After all, hiking was what brought us together in the first place, and we're not the only ones!

WM-RockyMountain-BeaverMeadowWedding-2152.jpg

So this year, we reserved the Park Entrance Lodge in Estes Park, Colorado, for four nights, secured a wedding permit for Rocky Mountain National Park, and put together brochure-style invitations to send the 13 guests, which recommended hiking trails and local attractions we thought they’d be interested in. I ordered a beautiful Morilee bridesmaid dress in ivory, which was perfect in every way. My jewelry was all handmade labradorite pieces, a stone that holds great meaning for us, as well as an amazing alexandrite ring my sister gave me as an early wedding gift. I wanted to do some kind of wedding favor, so I picked up maple candy to bring with us, as a way of incorporating a piece of our northeast home into it all.

We flew to Denver, met up with friends, climbed a few of our favorite mountains (we used to live in Fort Collins), and watched a moose fight while waiting for family to arrive. All 15 of us stayed together in the lodge, with outdoor-themed décor throughout, and cooked meals together. I made our cake topper, which has all sorts of stories embedded in it, and my mom made our wedding cake right there at the lodge. Ted stopped by the Red Rose Rock Shop for a birthday present for his mom, and after asking Ted what brought him to town, they gifted us a beautiful piece of rose quartz!

On our wedding day, Ted and I woke up at 4am to get ready, and my sister went with us into Rocky Mountain National Park for sunrise portraits. We chose not to hire a photographer as a way of keeping this event as intimate as possible, and I know a lot of photographers would be dismayed by that. (I definitely don’t recommend skipping hiring a professional. Sometimes family or friends offer to shoot for free as a gift, and I strongly encourage anyone with that offer to review their portfolio, camera gear, and processing skills and to make sure you truly love their style and work. This is your big day and you want to remember it through high-quality, well-composed photos. Also consider whether being your photographer will negatively impact a friend/family member’s experience and ability to enjoy your celebration). For me, what was important was including my sister, working as a team, and having complete creative control in processing, knowing that I have the skills and ability to ensure quality images as a professional photographer myself. I had a vision for what I wanted in our wedding photos, and we are grateful for my sister’s flexibility and willingness to help us get the shots we wanted.

When we finished up with our portraits, we dropped my sister off at the lodge to change, and picked up the best man, matron of honor, and our climbing partner officiant. We headed back into the park to scout out the ceremony spot, set up the tripod, and evaluate the light conditions (by now it was almost 10am). I took portraits of the guys and friends that came with us and we listened to an elk bugle while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. The ceremony itself was only 6 minutes long, and perhaps slightly disorganized due to a lack of real detail planning or rehearsing – though that was the level of awkwardness and humor we were going for. My sister took photos during the ceremony, and we took turns passing the camera for portraits with family, where I’d take the photos if I wasn’t in them, finally ending with a group shot from a tripod I set up and ran into.

After the ceremony, we went back to the lodge to relax a bit before going into town for an early celebratory dinner. Ted and I wandered into the Ore Cart Rock Shop after dinner and bought the biggest, coolest piece of labradorite we now own. Back at the lodge, we had toasts and cake and watched the sunset from the hot tub.

Just as with traditional weddings, elopements are also not for everyone. There’s something very special about a tiny, private ceremony with only your closest family/friends, and while we wanted something intimate, we still wanted to include our parents and my siblings. This trip was particularly special to us because it allowed us to share some of our favorite places and hikes in Colorado with friends and family, making our wedding adventure into a multi-day vacation for all of us. Colorado was the first place we lived together, making the location meaningful for us, and were able to include some of our friends who still live out there who wouldn’t have been able to make it if we had done a northeast wedding. After the trip, my parents hosted a very relaxed, not-so-formal backyard party complete with lawn games and cows, so we were still able to celebrate with our extended family and friends back in New York. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

My Favorite Place

If I had to pick a favorite place to hike, Colorado's Indian Peaks might be at the top. Our first 13er was Mount Audubon, a beautiful mountain with alpine flowers and pikas leading to a rocky summit with a 360-degree view. Another day trip led us out to Pawnee Peak, Mount Toll, where Ted tacked on Shoshoni on the way back. Thunderstorms chased us off Navajo Peak and down the airplane gully. While leading backpacks for Cheley Colorado Camps, I made several trips to Fourth of July Mine and climbed South Arapaho Peak and Santanta Peak. There's something about those jagged, rocky peaks and the dramatic landscape, especially when the sunrise lights up the golden tundra and everything seems to glow. 

So while in Colorado for our wedding this year, it's no surprise the Indian Peaks made our adventure itinerary - twice. Our first day in Colorado was spent stocking up on hiking snacks and then hiking Mount Evans. We knew sea level to 14k feet in a day wouldn't feel good, but we also knew we needed to acclimatize fast if we were going to do all the hikes we had planned in the few days we had out there. A couple hours of headaches and nausea would pay off big over the next few days. 

Seven years ago, 3 of us set out to do the loop from Blue Lake to Paiute Peak and over the ridge to Audubon, but had to bail along the ridge due to developing thunderstorms midway. That day, we opted to descend the scree alongside the ridge, and had to zigzag all over angling back to meet the route we'd taken up Paiute, avoiding going back over any summits. This time, we had planned to go back and finish that loop. Two weeks before our trip, I came down with bronchitis and then cold symptoms started on Mount Evans. The last thing I wanted to deal with at our wedding was being sick, but there wasn't anything I could do about it other than eat healthy and push through. Rather than heading to Blue Lake first like last time, we decided reverse it and go to Mount Audubon first. That way, if I didn't feel well, we were guaranteed to at least get one peak, and could make a decision at the summit.

As expected, the bronchitis took its toll and I had a mild asthma attack near the top. A few puffs of my inhaler, some rest, and some food in the windbreak, and it was decision-time. We'd traveled 2,000 miles, got up at 3am and climbed this mountain, and the sky couldn't be clearer or bluer. I got my breathing under control and said, "let's do it." There's nothing I love more than climbing and scrambling around on those rocks, surrounded by all those mountains. 

We stuck down to the left along the ridge to Paiute, which kept us out of the worst of the wind for most of it. We had both summits to ourselves, and a solo hiker who caught up on Pauite joined us for the descent since he wasn't familiar with that route and there's no trail. We were glad we'd done that part before because things certainly looked different coming from the other direction! Blue Lake was as beautiful and sparkling as ever, and we even saw a weasel on the descent. Back on an established trail and cruising back toward the trailhead, the coolest thing happened. Ted stopped dead in his tracks and struggled to get the words out fast enough.. “MOOSE…FIGHTING… MOOSE… CAMERA NOW.” Minimizing noise and movement, we got out the dSLR and I took a few photos while Ted took a video with my point and shoot. Two bull moose hit their heads together for a good ten minutes, just off the side of the trail, and we had front row seats. Proof that even though all the advice says to go to quiet places at dawn or dusk, you can still have a stellar moose encounter on a busy trail in the middle of the day!

So, 2 days of hiking down, why not add another? After finishing the loop, we met friends in Boulder who had flown out during our hike, and headed back to Brainard Lake. Day 3 included an easy hike to Lake Isabelle, watching the sunrise from just above it, and hiking up to Pawnee Peak. We took it slow as not everyone was adjusted to the altitude, enjoyed a good break at Pawnee Pass, and then headed off-trail toward the summit of Pawnee Peak. We had a blast catching up with friends and sharing this amazing place with them, but boyyy was I tired and sweaty. Perhaps too much exercise without enough sleep, hydration, and oxygen. Being sick really sucks. 

We knew we could check into the Park Entrance Lodge in Estes Park at 4pm, and we were back at the car an entire hour ahead of schedule. Figuring we'd just get coffee and kill time, I got the best text as we drove back into cell service. The owner sent me a message saying the house was ready and we could go anytime.. which meant showers and some downtime before the rest of our friends and family arrived that evening! This trip has been amazing so far, and we haven't even gotten married yet! 

Wilmington Weekend

A wedding on Whiteface Mountain brought us to the Adirondack High Peaks region this weekend, and the weather was perfect for spending every minute outside. We drove over from Vermont Friday afternoon and set up camp at Wilmington Notch Campground. If you haven’t stayed there, make a reservation, and be sure to check out its gorgeous waterfall!

WM-WilmingtonNotchfixed.jpg

Since we didn’t have to be anywhere until lunchtime, we got up early and caught the sunrise from Cobble Lookout before going into Lake Placid for breakfast. It’s a short, fairly easy hike with an up-close view of Whiteface Mountain, so it’s worth the effort and great for beginners and kids.

I’ll save our Whiteface adventure for a post of its own, but I’ll say it was so beautiful that we were in no rush to head right home after. We spent the evening debating what to do on Sunday, realizing the weather could range from perfect to socked-in summits. After scrolling Instagram and seeing a video of the insane number of cars parked along Adirondack Loj Road, we debated if it was even worth trying to head down that way. With the increasing number of hikers in the high peaks, we hate to contribute to the crowding, but I also realize it’s difficult to provide information and guidance as an Adirondack 46er correspondent if I don’t get out there and maintain some knowledge of the state of things. We haven’t visited the MacIntyre Range in a few years, so we decided to set out early and check out the alpine plants on Algonquin. We met a New Hampshire hiker along the trail and chatted our way up to the junction, where he and Ted started up Wright while I headed to Algonquin.  As views started opening up behind me, I stopped frequently and turned around to take it in, realizing how much I’ve missed hiking regularly in the Adirondacks. We’ve spent a lot of time in the Whites lately, but there’s really no place like home. I continued up slowly, trying to maximize the amount of time I had all to myself in the silence and stillness of the morning. I fully expected to find others on the summit, perhaps those seeking the sunrise, or at the very least, the summit steward.

I walked up to the summit marker and looked around, and to my surprise, I was completely alone. The summit of New York State’s second tallest peak, all to myself, with an undercast in one direction and thin clouds dancing around me, obscuring the view and opening up again. Mount Marcy rose up out of the clouds and made her appearance before the next wave of clouds blew in again. I sat beside a cluster of closed gentians and waited for Ted to join me on the summit. Behind Ted came the summit steward for the day and then Adam, the hiker he had gone to Wright with, and then a couple solo hikers who sat quietly, appreciating nature with the rest of us. In that moment, it seemed hard to believe there are so many overuse, littering, and crowding issues, because this felt just as it did a decade or more ago.

It gave me some hope, that even though social media sometimes makes it sound and look like conditions are pretty bad out there, perhaps things aren’t degrading as quickly as it seems, and there are plenty of hikers out there doing their part to leave no trace and preserve these special places.

Details, details.

One of the things I love about shooting weddings, whether it's a more formal event or a woodsy elopement, are the details. I love seeing the creativity, attention to detail, and thoughtfulness that goes into perfecting the aspects that are important to each couple. This weekend's wedding was a laid back party, complete with a live band and an assortment of lawn games. Their place cards were clementines, with guest names written on a paper leaf, and they were arranged in a beautiful spiral on a center table. I couldn't get enough of how much her rings sparkled, or how cool it was taking photos in the old, overgrown greenhouse structure at the Appel Inn. Here are a few details from this lovely day:)

Holly & Matthew

Holly & Matthew’s wedding involved a few firsts for us. It’s been 3.5 years since we shot our first wedding, and this was the first time we photographed a wedding with both an indoor ceremony and reception. As adventure photographers, the weddings Ted and I typically shoot have outdoor ceremonies, often in the mountains or other scenic places, occasionally with a small indoor or outdoor reception to follow. This was also the first wedding where we didn’t meet the bride or groom until the day of. Our practice is generally to try to have a meeting of some kind, from photographing an engagement session to chatting over the phone or Skype, to get to know each other and ensure our personalities are a good fit. Establishing a connection and getting comfortable with each other can help relieve some anxiety on the big day.

Holly and I exchanged several emails leading up to the wedding, but needless to say, I was still a bit nervous arriving on Saturday since we hadn’t actually met yet. The weather forecast had also been questionable, with possibilities ranging from just cloudy and windy to freezing rain and wintry mix, and I knew she was hoping to do outdoor portraits. Thankfully, I was at least familiar with the venue – Pat’s Barn!

I was greeted by the bride’s brother immediately upon entering, who was finishing up some decorating. The barn was set up for the ceremony in front of the big windows, elegantly lit, with gorgeous succulent plant centerpieces and favors. Even the cake was succulent-themed, and it was BEAUTIFUL! Pat’s Barn was the perfect sized venue for this intimate party, with an upper level that was not only used for cocktail hour, but was also perfect for catching a bird’s-eye view of the dance floor. The lawn, surrounding trees, and nearby brick buildings made perfect backdrops for photos too!  

I met Holly while she was getting her hair and makeup done, and I instantly felt more relaxed. The wedding day can be a stressful day for a bride, and if Holly was anxious or stressed out, she certainly didn’t show it. She was happy and easy-going, and willing to just go with the flow. I could say the same thing for Matthew (the groom), as well as their families, which really made my job easy. We lucked out with the weather too, which, while windy and on the chilly side, stayed dry. We even saw some sun and blue sky after the ceremony, which was perfectly timed for outdoor family portraits. Fernando from Conway Entertainment got the party started with handing out sunglasses and glow sticks, and this group wasn’t shy about dancing! The energy in the room was contagious, and there were so, so many smiling faces. Did I mention this bride has an incredible smile?! 

Holly and Matthew were an absolute pleasure to work with, and we couldn’t be more honored to have been part of their wedding day. CONGRATULATIONS and best wishes! 

P.S. While we don’t plan on adding indoor ceremonies to our "official" list of services anytime soon, we're always up for new experiences. Trying something new now and then can be a really good thing, a lot of fun, and a great adventure - even indoors!