Every elopement seems to have a fun story behind it. Sometimes a couple is months into planning a large wedding before realizing that’s not what they want, and they throw out the whole big-wedding idea and just do it. Other couples plan on eloping with a very small group of family and friends in attendance — or maybe no one at all except for an officiant and a photographer. Perhaps they can’t or don’t want to spend the time and money on a large wedding because it’s not right for them. Whatever the story, elopements have a unique, magical energy about them that’s evident in photos. This is doubled when couples decide to get married in nature: just the newlyweds and maybe a small group of loved ones, all against the expanse of Earth’s vast beauty.
Here are six elopements that capture the full, yet simple, magnificence of love and nature.
Melanie and Farhang spent years planning a large wedding when they eventually decided to go to Bavaria to elope during the folk festivals spanning two weeks in August. The couple met their wedding photographer and videographer in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and two days after they all went up Wank Mountain to have the ceremony at the top, where other mountains can be seen in the distance and Garmisch-Partenkirchen below. After the ceremony, the couple had a small photo shoot in some surrounding fields, and then went back to town to enjoy the festivals and to make new friends as their honorary “wedding guests.”
Photos by Sarah Rittenour.
After they moved from China to the United States, Yujie and Wade planned a traditional wedding ceremony. However, they realized that an expiring visa would require them to move up their timeline. They took a friend who had become ordained for the occasion and their photographer/witness, Sarah, to a lovely hillside off of Highway 1 in Santa Cruz, California. While Yujie wore Western wedding white for the ceremony, it was a cute summery dress paired with sandals, and Wade wore a casual polo, shorts, and sandals. The couple’s joy shines through the photos of Wade lifting Yujie off of the ground for a hug or a kiss several times, applying stickers of each others’ first initials to their cheeks, and walking in the tall grass as the sun set — you can’t help but smile when looking at them!
Photos by Lisa Venticinque.
Michael and Jon Mark share a love for traveling, so they wanted to have their small ceremony in Maui, one of their favorite places in the world. After a week of sightseeing and enjoying one another’s company, Michael and Jon Mark were married in Wailuku by the first female judge in Hawaii, Rhonda Loo. After a meal and telling friends and family via calls and texts that they were married (surprise!), the couple spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the beach as newlyweds.
Photos by Julia Luckett.
This ethereal elopement on the winter solstice was meant to “create a glowing memory to brighten the shortest and darkest day of the year,” according to Will. He, Ruby, and their puppy held their ceremony on the rocky shore of Charlotte Beach. They built themselves a small fire to keep warm, as an oceanside wedding in December in Vermont had to have been cold, and had their small ceremony with only the officiant and photographer in attendance. For their pictures afterwards on the beach and in a snowy field with the lake in the background, they managed to get a few with Ruby’s coat off so we could see her lovely dress (with Will hugging her to keep her warm). Their photos are evidence that they achieved their goal of making a bright, memorable moment on the shortest and darkest day of the year.
Photos by Catherine Abegg.
Anya and Arlo live on Guemas Island, a tiny island about two hours north of Seattle. They wanted a very small wedding, which could only be achieved by escaping to a small, private island a short boat ride away — if they hadn’t, most of Guemas Island’s population of 605 would have probably been in attendance. Anya and Arlo had gotten engaged in Mexico, and they bought Anya’s wedding dress and Arlo’s shirt from a small shop there. By the time their wedding came around, they had a second daughter, so they found dresses for them on Etsy to match. With the help of their closest friends and family, they constructed an altar out of driftwood and vibrant flowers to put in the ocean’s shallows. After the ceremony, they all went back to Guemas for a sunset feast.
Photos by Alyssa Campbell Photography.
Sedona’s West Fork Trail provided a gorgeous backdrop of forest and towering red cliffs for Leonor and Katryna’s wedding ceremony, and a nearby picnic area made for an intimate reception spot afterwards. The day was a perfect embodiment for the “soft, quiet, comfortable but strong love” that their photographer, Alyssa, described when meeting them. Their ceremony included ukulele music, lighting a unity candle, the couple scattering rose petals, and tearful vows. After they signed their official marriage contract, Leonor and Katryna had a photo shoot on the forest trail and next to a small stream running along the stunning cliffs. Everyone was constantly smiling and joyful at their tiny reception.
Michaela Dietz is a graduate from the University of Cincinnati, where she studied English Literature, Women’s Studies, and Electronic Media. What started as an internship with Catalyst turned into writing and editing the lovely Real Couples posts regularly featured on the site. When Michaela isn’t working, she’s reading, watching movies, or researching for fun like a huge nerd.