Adventure Weddings

Small Yosemite Elopement Complete with Airstreams & El Cap | Swell & Stone- Adventure Wedding Photographer

Megan & Michael Elope in a Breathtaking Yosemite Landscape

Swell & Stone / Adventure Elopement Photographer / California and Beyond

adventure-wedding-couple-yosemite

I think one of the things that says the most about who Megan & Michael are as people and as a couple is the number of times each one of them bent down in formal wear to pick up trash off the ground during their Yosemite elopement. I can count at least two hand fulls of times- really it was habitual. Megan & Michael developed that habit because they spend a lot of time outside, and clearly care deeply about keeping it clean for others to enjoy. They run Fresh Off the Grid, a blog that serves as a cooking resource for outdoor enthusiasts.

Their wedding was an incredible combination of personal, beautiful, adventurous, and so much fun. They had their families in attendance, and stayed at AutoCamp Yosemite, which is a really nice camp/glamp spot about 30-40 minutes from the El Portal entrance to Yosemite National Park. When I arrived, Michael was hanging out in their airstream and Megan was over in Michael’s sister’s tent getting ready. They were all having a great time, enjoying breakfast and taking in the pondside scenery of the camp spot. One of my favorite moments was when Megan saw herself with her hair in a braid and her makeup done, after she had put the dress on, and she smiled and started to tear up. “I just never see myself like this,” she said. It was an emotional moment for her mother and soon-to-be mother-in-law as well as they looked on with tears in their eyes.

After she was ready we did a first look and headed out for a 9 am ceremony at Cathedral Beach in Yosemite. It is a stunning beach with the unreal backdrop of El Capitan and views for days. They said their vows in a sometimes tearful but completely joy filled ceremony. Celebrations of champagne followed before the wedding party headed off for lunch at the Awanhee Hotel. Later we reconvened at AutoCamp Yosemite where Megan & Michael works their outdoor camp cooking magic in a special dinner reception for their family. The setting was stunning, the details were beautiful, and the couple cherished getting to spend this quality time with their family all together in one place. The weather could not have been more perfect for their day.

The next day after having breakfast with their family, and packing up their lives into backpacks I met them down in the backpackers campground in Yosemite Valley. Their honeymoon was starting the next day, and they were planning to spend 3 weeks hiking the 211-mile John Muir Trail! When I walked up they had set up their tent and were already chowing down on freeze dried meals to lighten their load. But they had one more adventure in formal wear before spending the next three weeks dirtbagging! They jumped in my truck and we went up Glacier Point Road to hike to Taft Point just before sunset.

Walking through the forest the light filtered through in just the right way. The temperature was perfect, the light was amazing, and Megan & Michael took some time to look back on the events of the weekend. They talked about how it couldn’t have been more perfect, how happy they were to have the whole amazing experience with their close family.

When we arrived to the point we looked around. Neither of them had been to this spot before and they were in awe of the view. As the sun began to sink lower, colors lit up the sky. They walked out the cliffs edge and the light danced around them as they peered down at Yosemite Valley.

After the sun set I returned them to their camp spot, and the next day the headed out on the JMT. I’m happy to report that they completed the trip and they reported back, “The JMT was pretty amazing - challenging but so rewarding, and really a perfect honeymoon for us.”

If you’re looking for a photographer for your wildly different wedding experience get in touch with me ASAP! You can do that HERE- or by hitting the button below.

The Best Locations to Elope in Each Season

Best Adventure Wedding Locations By Season

Swell & Stone / All photos by Kat Carney of Swell & Stone / United States & Beyond

California

California

You know what they say- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! And it rings especially true for adventure weddings and elopements. Picking the right location at the right time is one of the most important parts of creating a wildly unforgettable and different adventure wedding experience. So if you’ve never been to the location you’ve been dreaming of for your wedding, it’s best to find a photographer who has, and who can help steer you in the right direction when it comes to what time of year to plan your event. With that said, depending on the type of experience you’re looking for, the off-season might be the on-season for you if you’re in search of fewer crowds and a sometimes more adventurous experience.

During “high season” you are likely to find the nicest weather, but don’t rule out low season. I like booking elopements in a location’s “low season” because it means fewer crowds, easier transportation, and seeing a different side of a place. However, it also means potential road closures, restricted access, and bad weather. Contact a local, ranger, or guide service to find out what is possible in your location during the time frame you are considering for your elopement.

You can only do so much to avoid bad weather. Start by researching beforehand to determine seasonal average temps, rain/snowfall and wind.

If you want to go in the low season to avoid crowds make sure to research seasonal road and transportation closures that may impact your day. Also, think about extreme weather like wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

There is always the chance of bad weather during an outdoor elopement. It’s best to be prepared with the right gear and mindset. Remember, sometimes bad weather makes for the best story and photos.

Each season has its pluses and minuses. The best thing to do is to keep in mind what is most important to you and also what works best with your schedule. Summer tends to be the time most people want to get married, but depending on your comfort level in the outdoors, the dead of winter could be the perfect time for you.

North Cascades, Washington

North Cascades, Washington

Winter

Winter has so many amazing things to offer. If you’re a skier or mountaineer, or if you like snowshoeing or hiking in the snow, this season might be for you. There is nothing quite like getting your wedding portraits taken in front of an ice waterfall, just ask Hannah and Collins in the photo above!

Here’s the thing about winter- there are so many fewer people out and about. A winter hike can be calm, serene, and silent, and if you plan it right you might not be all that cold either. Alternatively, there are a ton of locations you can drive to, stay warm in the car, and pop out for a few minutes at a time to take photos. But there are some locations that even in winter are perfect for spending the whole day outside. Want to know more about how to comfortably get married outside in the winter? Check out this post!

Southern Utah Desert

Southern Utah Desert

The Desert Southwest

Winter is the perfect time to explore the desert southwest, which includes southern Utah, Arizona, and parts of Nevada and California. These places remain mostly temperate in the winter, so planning your adventure wedding can be a breeze. Also, these places are mostly dry during this time, although there are always exceptions. The desert is ideal for eloping in winter because even though the weather can be nice there are still fewer people out and about. This is partly because winter nights can easily drop well below freezing, making camping still a bit dicey for some.

The day before I photographed Cam & Rick’s adventure wedding pictured above, it rained the entire day. We were nervous that the 4x4 roads out to this spot would be impassable, but they weren’t and this spot was enhanced by the myriad of pools dotting the desert floor- a rare sight indeed! It made for the most memorable adventure wedding experience. And that is an important tidbit about planning an adventure wedding- YOU NEED TO BE READY FOR ADVENTURE. Just as when you’re adventuring any other time, inclement weather and adapting to things as they come is part of the fun.

Spring

Rhode Island Coast

Rhode Island Coast

Spring can be wet season just about anywhere, but if you plan it right it’s also beautiful in a number of locations. It’s best to stay at lower elevations in the spring because high in the mountains will still be snowy and sometime wet and muddy.

Coastal Regions- Southern Rhode Island & Southern California & Florida

Southern California

Southern California

These spots are often nice on the coast, but can still be really nice inland during this time of year as well. When considering weather as a factor, places like Florida become too hot in the summer months, so it’s best to take advantage of the nice spring weather and plan your elopement for then. Also, as long as you avoid spring break, you can still take advantage of some of the relative peace of fewer crowds before summer comes.

Check out Kavita & Brice’s spring adventure wedding that took place in a tree grove in Florida! Or Makeda & Tej’s adventure anniversary session that I shot on the coast of southern Rhode Island at Castle Hill Lighthouse and Fort Adams State Park. Logistics become very difficult at these locations in the summer because of huge tourism crowds. It’s best to plan sessions in these places for either spring or fall.

Florida

Florida

Summer

Ahhh summer, when it’s finally in the air and everyone you know plans to get married. It can often seem like your summer is lost to attending weddings. Well if you’re going to plan your wedding in the summer it may as well be somewhere awesome!

High Altitude Alpine Locations

Unless you’re an extreme adventurer, this is really the only time of year you can plan an adventure elopement or wedding high in the mountains, so take advantage! Include a small hike to the ceremony location to break away from the crowds. There are so many beautiful options, but here are some of my favorites.

From mountain meadows to alpine lakes, this is the best time of year to get away from it all.

California

California

Alaska

Alaska

North Cascades, Washington

North Cascades, Washington

Colorado

Colorado

Wildflowers and mountains in Utah

Wildflowers and mountains in Utah

But the waterfalls and picturesque pools of New England and the Pacific Northwest are calling as well. It’s up to you, but no matter what you choose in the summer months make sure you’re either prepared to work around the crowds, or work with your photographer to find a location that is a little more secluded. Sometimes this can be as easy as going early in the morning at what will be a very crowded location later in the day.

Upstate New York

Upstate New York

Upstate New York

Upstate New York

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest

Fall

And finally, fall. It’s my favorite season to photograph and my absolute favorite place spend the fall is in the Northeast. From the mountains of the Adirondacks to the waterfalls of Vermont. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts have unbelievable views during this time, too. Enjoy the crisp air, fog covering the valleys in the morning, and an absolute feast of color for the eyes.

Vermont

Vermont

New York

New York

Vermont

Vermont

autumn-vermont-elopement

The truth is that the best location and season to elope in is really your preference. Some of the most fun elopements I’ve photographed were in the dead of winter in cold places. I loved the adventure and the couples who chose to plan them that way did too! Keep in mind the comfort of your guests if you’re bringing some along, but otherwise the sky is the limit. Pick a place that means something to you and your partner or a place neither of you have ever been before, but would love to visit. Either way, if you plan the day that you’ll love and come prepared to roll with whatever weather comes your way, you’ll have a truly memorable and wildly different wedding experience that you’ll be able to live over and over again through your photos.

Enchanting Tree Grove Wedding in Florida | Swell & Stone- Adventure Wedding Photographer

Kavita & Brice Tie the Knot in a Gorgeous Tree Grove in Florida

Swell & Stone / Adventure Wedding Photographer / Florida and Beyond

Couple-at-adventure-wedding

There are so many things I loved about Kavita & Brice’s wedding day, from the colors to the many festivities, but the thing that made it so much fun to be there was seeing how much fun they were having. They smiled, laughed, and danced the entire day, up until the very end, and then they kept going. Their families were both incredibly fun and the day was full of joy.

They began they day getting ready separately and including a few sweet surprises for each other. Kavita kept mentioning how excited she was to see Brice, she couldn’t wait until the first look. When she arrived on site the bridal party took care to make sure they didn’t see one another. When Brice was in position Kavita walked up from behind and they barely saw one another before they embraced.

The guests soon started to arrive and the Baraat began. A Baraat is a groom's wedding procession in an Indian wedding. Brice’s side joined in dancing around the wedding grounds. When they arrived back to the start Kavita’s sister and mother where waiting there and a dance battle ensued. Kavita and her bridesmaids showed up for part of the dance battle. The entire wedding had so much fun with this portion of the ceremonies.

Next, Brice moved through a series of ceremonies and rituals before everyone was seated and they were ready to begin the formal wedding ceremonies. The Indian wedding ceremonies were done first followed by an American ceremony led by Brice’s mother.

After they said “I DO!” we snuck off for a few photos before delivering back to their cocktail hour where they spent the rest of the evening laughing, crying, and generally having as much fun as possible. One of the more moving moments was when Kavita’s sister surprised her with a few songs played by live musicians. The entire wedding starting singing some of the songs at one point.

The reception took place in a gorgeous barn on the grounds of Florida Rustic Barn Weddings. The ceremonies took place on the grounds as well in a beautiful tree grove.

These two danced the night away with their seriously awesome crew of friends and family. They are two of the kindest humans, clearly incredibly in love, and I’m so happy they have found one another on this journey through life.

Stunning Winter Adventure Wedding in the North Cascades | Swell & Stone- Elopement Photographer

Hannah & Collins Wed in Dreaming Winter Adventure Elopement in the Pacific Northwest Mountains

Swell & Stone / Adventure Elopement Photographer / Washington and Beyond

winter-wonderland-elopement-washington.jpg

When Hannah first contacted me about photographing her and Collins in Washington I was so excited...except it was going to be in the dead of winter, in the North Cascades. But I truly had nothing to worry about, they are the super adventurous, and tough as nails. Their ceremony was actually on Saturday in Seattle. After listening to their family and friends tell stories about taking on challenging outdoor endeavors with them I knew they would be troopers for our adventure shoot the next day.
We headed out in clear weather Sunday morning. I had found a webcam online that show beautiful sunny skies in the mountains, so even though they had a whirlwind wedding the day before Hannah and Collins were down to push up the timeline a little and get to the mountains. They chatted on the way there about how nice it was to be escaping to the mountains, if only for the day. When we drove in the weather was still nice, but cold. And the clouds where moving in, an indication of a storm building for the afternoon.
Hannah and I had exchanged quite a few emails regarding road closures in the North Cascades in the winter. We were able to park at Diablo Lake. We saw so many beautiful landscapes that day, from the mountains with a storm moving in, to ice waterfalls, to whirlwinds of snow on the dam. We explored the varied landscapes, and then warmed up in the car when it got too cold.
The laughed and explored together easily, even in freezing temps. To be honest everything with Hannah and Collins seemed easy- their love for each other and their family and friends' love for them.
The last place we stopped was the first place they ever camped together. They reminisced about that trip, and where they are now, and they walked down the road with Hannah's gown gathering an array of pine cones and needles in the train. It was an absolutely perfect way to end their weekend of celebration, and to continue their life together.

Winter Elopements: The Definitive Guide to Getting Married Comfortably Outside in the Winter

Adventurous Couples Brave Winter Weather and Get Unique, Jaw-Dropping Photos as a Result

Swell & Stone / Adventure Elopement Photographer / United States and Beyond

pacific-northwest-ice-waterfall-winter-elopement

When it comes to getting married in the winter the vast majority of people assume it will have to be indoors. But if you’re the adventurous type and plan on eloping with just your partner and maybe a friend or family member or two then you don’t have to worry about if grandpa is going to freeze standing outside. Winter landscapes provide an almost otherworldly backdrop, and talk about a memorable experience. So if you’re look for a wildly different wedding experience, consider getting married outside…in the WINTER! Here are a few important factors to keep in mind.

Footwear

winter-elopement-hiking-boots

Keeping your feet warm is one of the keys to staying comfortable in frigid temps. Luckily most wedding dresses are long so women can easily wear wool socks and comfortable hiking boots with their dress. Choose something you will be able to walk around in for hours if need be. Depending on your chosen location for your ceremony you may need to hike in them for a little while. These boots are some of my favorites and they happen to look stylish under a wedding dress too. This is not one of those times to skimp on comfort. In fact, comfort is of the utmost importance here, because if you’re suffering, it will be difficult to want to continue. Danner makes a classic and beautiful boot that look great under dresses.

Long Underwear

Men can wear just about anything, thin, warm, and wooly underneath their suits, but classic long underwear is a good place to start. Women, on the other hand, need something warm but also not obvious, and for that I love nude fleece lined leggings. If the bride’s leg peaks out from under the dress while walking you can’t even tell she’s wearing leggings in the photos. Women can also opt for a long sleeve gown to make their top layer a bit warmer. However, I also recommend having a jacket you don’t mind being photographed in. Which brings me to my next point…

utah-desert-adventure-elopement-down-jacket

Stylish Jacket

It doesn’t hurt to have a nice jacket you don't mind being photographed in. You can take it on and off as needed, but you might as well be warm while walking around. For a lot of brides it's a white down jacket or some other kind of white jacket. For men, it's often a black down jacket. But it doesn’t have to fall in line with the standard wedding color scheme, the beauty of it all is you get to be yourself and wear whatever you like, not what other people expect you to wear. So break norms and traditions, after all you are eloping outside in the winter- if that’s not already breaking traditions I’m not sure what is.

Foot, Hand, & Body Warmers

These things are pretty much the best ever. They are thin, warm, and last for hours, and they just might be your key to getting married outside in the winter even if you thought that was something you could never do. They come in different types- foot, hand, and body, and yes, it makes sense to get all the types because the hand warmers do not fit in your shoes comfortably the way the foot warmers do. The body warmers are larger and cover more surface area, so if you are really worried about being cold, pick up some of these and you might be sweating before you can say “I do!”

Blankets

If you have family or friends in attendance, offer them the above advice for sure, but also maybe have a couple extra blankets in the truck of your car if someone comes a little unprepared. They can be national park themed or just pretty blankets, but whatever you choose, make sure it’s warm and you don’t mind having them in your photos.

Hot Drinks

It does not hurt to have a thermos full of something hot to take along with you. Whether it’s hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or spiced rum- pick your favorite warm drink and carry it along in a backpack to help keep you hydrated and warm. Here’s a recipe for a delicious special occasion drink that will definitely keep you warm, even on the coldest of days.

Have a Car Nearby to Warm Up In

Finally, there is no shame in driving to a beautiful location and getting out for 10-15 minutes at a time. Most ceremonies only last about 15 minutes, so use all the above suggestions to stay warm during that time and then jump back in the car with the heat cranked up full blast! When shooting winter adventure weddings this is a common strategy, the couple gets to have the ceremony where they want, but also check out several other locations for photos. It’s easiest to do in the winter because there are usually fewer crowds. An important thing to work out with your photographer beforehand are any potential road closures. You don’t want to plan to drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, for instance, between December (or the first big snow) and mid-May.

adventure-couple-down-jacket-wedding

I hope this info was helpful and gave you a different perspective on getting married outside in the winter. As an adventure elopement photographer, winter weddings have been some of my favorite to photograph. Crowds aren’t an issue and there is something so quiet and peaceful about being outside in the winter that translates to a wildly different wedding experience for couples. If you’re looking for a photographer for your wildly different wedding experience get in touch with me ASAP! You can do that HERE- or by hitting the button below.