You’d think us photographers would have all of this figured out before starting our businesses. But honestly, most of us are just going with the flow without ever paying much attention to why we’re doing what we’re doing. Why photography? Why couples? Why weddings? Why small weddings? Why elopements? Why, why, why…
Is it because weddings are a billion dollar industry and it pays the bills? Is it because that’s what seems to be trending and everyone else seems to be doing it? Is it because I get to create beautiful images? Is it because I get to guide couples through a really stressful time in their lives and help make the process enjoyable? Honestly, my head is nodding to all of the above, but my real “why” goes so much deeper.
While I go at it, I’m going to pepper in a few of my favorite photos of me and my love taken by my sweet friend, Anni Graham, during our honeymoon in New Zealand. Yeah, the photos are impressive, but more than anything they embody and illustrate all of the words and emotions I’m about to pull out of my heart and soul and pour onto the internet for everyone to read. No pressure or anything…
Okay, without further ado…
This is my story of why I chose to specialize in small weddings and elopements.
Weddings shouldn't be about the details.
As I started planning my own wedding, I realized how quickly larger weddings cause couples + their loved ones to lose perspective. Everyone gets caught up in rules and details, and before you know it, the meaning of the day is buried.
Although our wedding day ended up being beautiful, it wasn’t without it’s stressful moments. We had so much pressure from loved ones and it was hard for me to balance the desire to please the people I loved while also listening to my heart.
Once you strip back the meaning of a wedding to it’s core, you realize that its so much more than a party, its about the tying together of two souls, the creation of a team, the building of a family. I had spent most of my life dreaming of a wedding day filled with intentional decisions, meaningful conversations, and connecting with our tribe on a deep and intimate level. But soon enough, we were buried in color palettes, detail meetings, and registry lists – things I couldn’t care less about.
I knew something had to change, and trusted there were so many other couples out there who were also looking for a way out.
I'm inspired by intimate moments & places that make me feel small.
I’m an observer by nature and have virtually zero extroverted energy. When I enter a loud or crowded room, I can physically feel the energy drain from my body. I’ll be surrounded by nothing but positivity and stimulating conversation, but still find myself yawning and being pulled to the perimeter. I can’t help it – I shrivel.
But during one on one conversations, I blossom. I can physically feel my heart and lungs open, by brain sparks and ideas churn rapidly, my soul can breath long and deep. It’s in these quiet, intimate moments spent with another human that I feel heard, I feel present.
For a person who craves intimacy and finds beauty in quiet moments, I’ve always seen the outdoors as a place of serenity. When in nature, conversation isn’t needed. You’re absorbed by the moment and struck with the realization that whether in this moment of solitude or carrying on with your life, you’re really not all that significant. In this though, there is joy in the feeling that despite your overall insignificance as an individual, you’re still a part of something, something so much bigger.
Before the sun comes up, take a drive down a deserted road, then get out and start walking. Walk until there’s no sign of humanity, then sit down and take in the wild. See how the light creates shadows, hear how the birds communicate through song, smell the sweet aroma of morning dew. Observe how life carries on when you aren’t paying attention.
There’s just something about being enveloped in the peacefulness of nature that amplifies the intimacy between two people. When something as grand as a mountain or vast an ocean is right at your side, you’re reminded that all the noise in your life and all the petty stresses and struggles to come in your marriage are virtually meaningless when compared to the big picture. The openness that surrounds you helps you focus on whats right in front of you – each other – and reminds you of the significance in the promises you’re making to each other.
I didn't chose weddings, I chose the human connection
To me, there is so much beauty in the simple existence of humanity – the joy that overcomes you when you hear a baby laugh, the inspiration you feel while gazing into a flickering flame, the fuzzy feeling you get when the person you love holds you tight – all things human beings have been experiencing since our inception.
We’re separated by race, religion, politics, social hierarchy – noise created out of nothing, really – but connected by love, jealousy, empathy, sadness, admiration… undeniable human qualities that span time and space.
When the pressure of a hundred or more guests is at your side, you lose that feeling of connection. Your promises are no longer only said to each other, but instead become the script to a production. It’s not that bigger, more conventional weddings are meaningless. It’s just that for some of us, its intimacy and serenity that brings out our sense of authenticity and vulnerability – those raw, unbridled traits of being a human being.
On a day so personal and pivotal, couples deserve to feel valued and heard. For us quiet observers, this only comes when we surround ourselves in an intimate atmosphere. Elopements give us those things – they provide us the quiet space we need to speak and make connections, and give us permission to be vulnerable. Even if just for a day, elopements allow us to let go of the noise that so often clouds our perspective, and instead truly allow us to experience the human connection with our favorite person in the world – our partner.
Elopements are beautiful, but they aren't for everyone.
Yes, elopements are beautiful. They’re super romantic, often filled with adventure, and effortlessly fulfill our inner desire to do something different. However, I’d be lying if I said everyone should elope. The truth is, elopements aren’t for everyone. Not every couple getting married cares to escape the conventional, big dollar wedding scene and instead start their lives together with an adventure. Not every couple dreams of making their upmost promises to one another with unlimited space for authenticity and vulnerability. Not every couples values solitude or time in nature. And I’m here to say, that’s okay.
It really doesn’t matter how the two of you decide to celebrate this milestone, as long as it’s true to your personalities, morals, and priorities. My motto on all of this is: as long as the decision is truly yours, then it’s the right one. You’ll always look back and wish you did something different – that’s just how life works. But in the end the most important thing is that you can look back and say, with confidence, that every decision made was yours.
This is your single day, and nobody else’s. Yes, your loved ones have probably been waiting for this day for a long time, but that doesn’t mean it’s for them. Your wedding day is for you – your story, your love, your commitment – and it deserves to unfold with you and your values at the center of it all.
A quick thank you.
Our honeymoon in New Zealand was unparalleled to any other trip we’ve been on together, and we are so blessed to have had this incredible adventure to spring-board our marriage. The cherry on top? These photos by Anni Graham – what a privilege it is to have them to enjoy for the rest of our lives. Not only are they stunning, but they embody every little sight, sound, and emotion we were feeling at that point in our relationship. The roaring wind, the light pouring into the valley, the gigantic mountain range making us feel so small… all of it painting an allegory of our new marriage and all things to come.
Other Elopement Planning Resources: