Can’t Have a Destination Elopement? Why Not a Destination Engagement Session!

Intimate Weddings & Adventurous Elopements: A Shift in Priorities

More couples are ditching traditional wedding plans for smaller intimate weddings & adventurous elopements.Although couples have their own unique reasons, it generally boils down to a shift in priorities:

  • Financial goals: Weddings are generally recognized as being expensive. The average wedding in the U.S. cost $22K in 2021, a skewed number due to covid adaptations. In 2022, the Knot estimated the average wedding cost was closer to $30k. That’s a hefty sum of money for a single-day event, especially when you consider that it could have otherwise been put towards a downpayment for a house or nest egg for starting a family.
  • Wanting to savor the commitment to each other in a deeply intimate and private way: Traditional weddings place a huge emphasis on the guest experience, which can be an exhausting way to spend the day for some. Often times, newly weds end up spending very little time together during their wedding day because of entertaining guests, dealing with vendors, and trying not to lose it when something went amiss.
  • Avoiding family drama: We all know how toxic family drama can be, and who wants it to impact how they feel on their special day? A private or intimate ceremony is a way to safeguard this important milestone so that it does not become tainted with ill-feelings and taxing emotional stress.
  • Seeking out an exciting adventure to commemorate the occasion: Let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to pop some champagne after saying “I do” while watching the sunset in the mountains. It sounds breathtaking doesn’t it?

While these are all relatable priorities, destination weddings and intimate elopements aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t live out the adventurous love story experience. You could opt for a destination engagement session instead!

Meet Ashley + Jacob

When I received an initial inquiry from Ashley she and Jacob weren’t officially engaged yet. Because of the hiccup in the wedding industry from the pandemic, and the forecasted rise of weddings in 2022, they wanted to ensure their top vendors were locked in for their date of choice. Before booking a couple, I always set up a call or an in-person meeting to make sure we’re a good fit for each other. There’s nothing worse than learning you don’t like your vendor’s personality until the day of your wedding.

While sharing the evolution of their wedding day plans, and sharing more about themselves, I learned that these adventurous love birds envisioned themselves eloping somewhere in the mountains. However they didn’t want to exclude their family and friends from their wedding day so they were sticking to a more traditional wedding plan. This was a couple who deeply craved and deserved the destination experience of their dreams.

After chatting for over an hour, we found ourselves down a rabbit hole exchanging some of our favorite adventure stories. Then it dawned on us. Although a destination elopement wedding wasn’t in the cards for them, we could instead create a really special experience by opting for a destination engagement session. I told them that I had an upcoming road trip planned to visit Washington and extended the invite for them to meet me there for their session. Despite knowing that the trip was only a few weeks away, they agreed without hesitation. Shortly after our meeting, Jacob formally proposed to Ashley at High Cliff State Park, a location that is sentimental to their love story.

Planning the Session

Jacob and Ashley were hands-on during the planning process, reaffirming the destination engagement photo experience. Jacob suggested Tolmie Peak, a trail with a rewarding view of Mount Rainier that I was already familiar with, having done it on a previous trip. Since we were planning a sunset session, we knew we’d be hiking in the dark once we made our descent. The road to the trailhead is fairly rough—I don’t recommend driving it late into the night if you can avoid it. To keep things safe and relaxed, we researched nearby camping options. Fortunately, the trailhead had a first-come-first-serve basecamp that we would take our chances on. The decision to camp in the park also gave us the ability to enjoy the sunrise before heading out.

After creating a mood board, Ashley chose pieces that complimented how special this experience was for them. Having purchased the Analise Plunging Floral Maxi Dress, Ashley had her grandma hem the dress for the trail. Comfort and mobility were important to their experience. Jacob wore different layers throughout the afternoon, starting with a simple white-t and a flannel. His final ensemble was some thrifted items, including suspenders and a bow-tie for a more formal look at the peak.

Destination Engagement Session In Mount Rainier National Park

After making a cross-country road trip from Wisconsin to Washington, I picked Ashely and Jacob up from their hotel in Seattle to make the two hour drive to the Northwest side of Mt. Rainier National Park.  Fortunately we snagged the last first-come-first-serve site when we arrived, and quickly assembled our tents before hitting the trail. It really was the most beautiful September day.

We started on our moderate-difficulty rated hike to reach the fire look out just before sunset, budgeting time for a short break at Eunice Lake along the way. Despite the trail being a highly trafficked one, we encountered very few people, which offered a very private experience throughout. When we reached the top, a sense of euphoria set in. The mountains were layered in shades of purples and blues off in the distance. Taking in deep breaths and letting out gentle squeals, Ashely and Jacob relaxed on a blanket taking it all in.

A Picnic With a View

Noticing everyone’s hungry bellies, I started to pull out all the snacks I packed

  • a simple metal camp plate
  • satori bellavitano cheese
  • dried apricots
  • mixed nuts
  • apples
  • crackers
  • champagne

The cheeseboard was a complete improvisation, I have to admit. I grabbed whatever stuff I had laying around in my cooler and it ended up coming together beautifully. After setting the plate aside for a champagne pop, a relentless chipmunk was making attempts to steal our food. It’s fearlessness suggested it frequently reaped rewards from other hikers. We finally covered it with a wide-brimmed hat to give us just enough time to make some magic happen as the sun kissed the horizon, welcoming blue hour. Flipping on the two barebones lanterns we packed, Ashley and Jacob picnicked during the remaining minutes of light. Serene is the best word I could come up with to describe how everything unfolded.

Blue hour yielded some of my favorite photos of the day. The cooler tones echoing in the mountains contrasted the warmer tones I bring forward in my editing.

When they were ready for our descent, we flipped on our headlamps and layered into warmer clothes. The beams of light bopped around in documentary horror film fashion, allowing some paranoia to creep in with each cracking branch or crunch of leaves. Tuckered out after the exciting day, we passed out almost as soon as we got into our tents

The whole experience made me realize just how special this opportunity was and could be for other couples who dream of a destination wedding but aren’t ready to abandon a traditional wedding plan. If a destination engagement session sounds like your cup of tea, let’s connect over the endless possibilities!

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Hey, hi, howdy! I’m Brandi, the laid-back, outdoorsy, go-with-the-flow, always packed for the "just in case" photographer around these parts.

On a more personal note

I believe your wedding should look however the hell you want it to. I'm here not only as your photographer but as your personal pack mule, the offerer of advice and ideas, and supplier of whatever junk is in my trunk to help your day move comfortably. Last but not least, I consider myself a safeguarder of the boundaries and rules you have to kick off for your big once-in-a-lifetime adventure together.  When I'm not chasing love stories, I'm chasing sunrises, two howling huskies, and my best friend, wherever the wind takes us. We're building our Northwoods hobby farm dream. 

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