Oh. Maaaaaahhhhh. GOODNESS. THIS. FREAKING. ADVENTURE. YOU. GUYS. There isn’t enough caps lock in the world to express all the magic and excitement I have for y’all with this one, so let’s just jump right on in (and I’ll try not to over capitalize too much. no promises, seriously. you’ll understand).


Let’s start with a phone call I got in summer while lounging by a pool, and then I’ll get in to why there’s cats in a car, okay? I got a jingle from some sweet friends very politely asking if I’d be “up for” a wedding in Colorado that was a-total-secret-so-shh-but-also-it’s-gonna-be-somewhere-we-don’t-know-quite-exactly-where-yet-and-it-might-be-a-sunrise-thing-or-maybe-at-night-maybe-under-the-stars-maybe-on-top-of-a-mountain-or-a-forest-or-something-we-aren’t-sure-yet. Up for? UP FOR?! Yes, I was sure to emphatically emphasis that this is literally a dream job proposal being tossed my way, yes yes YES YES YES. (damn, there goes my promise to not caps lock so much…). I hung up the phone and promptly proceeded to do a front flip in to said pool because I was so all about this.


Fast forward to November 2nd - I’m only slightly jetlagged (shoutout to Aer Lingus for bumping my flight home from Scotland a full 24 hours and giving me a whooping day and a half to be home and prepare for this next adventure), but mostly just holymoly so excited to be in Colorado for the first time and trucking south from Denver with Katie and Tyler, and Sam and Bella, who weren’t too terribly upset by my presence in the backseat.

I believe I said “woooOOOOooooOOOooooOOOOooow” about a hundred thousand times in the 6-ish hour drive because, y’all, Colorado is stunning. And I know I’m late to the bandwagon and you probably already know this but holy crap! My jaw was on the floor of the car, all the while I was getting more and more excited for the potential of the magic we’d be making for Katie & Tyler’s I-Dos.

Also, how scenic of an emergency pull-over-and-pee-here spot is this?

mary ella jourdak, washington dc, wedding photography, travel wedding photography, destination wedding photography, bridal portraits, maryland, northern virginia, photographer, newborn photography, wedding photographer, cherry blossoms, tidal basin, bridal, bluejacket dc wedding, district chophouse dc, chinatown dc, courthouse wedding, destination wedding photography, mary ella jourdak, mexico wedding photographer, cancun wedding photographer, riu resort photographer, beach wedding photographer, beach wedding photography, mexico beach wedding photography, playa del carmen photographer, playa del carmen photography, international wedding photographer, international wedding photography, fort mchenry, baltimore photographer, inner harbor photographer, canton photographer, sparrow's point baltimore, oregon ridge park, french's point, maine, maine weddings, travel photographer, harrington on the bay, chesapeake bay weddings, chesapeake bay photographer, chesapeake beach wedding photographer, military wedding photographer, military wedding photography, marine wedding, us military wedding photographer, military discount, teacher discount, police discount, educator discount photography, tybee island, savannah georgia photographer, fish camp restaurant, tybee island social club, savannah photographer fort lauderdale photographer lauderdale yacht club photographer elopement photographer destination wedding photographer lgbtq photographer gay wedding photographer gay friendly photographer, alexandria photographer, northern virginia photographer, old town alexandria photographer, old town alexandria wedding, ocean city wedding photographer, boardwalk, ocean city md, ocmd, tybee island fish camp, chef kurtis schumm, howard county, maryland sunflower fields, sunflowers, miller farms, st. michaels wedding engagement photographer, early mountain vineyard, vineyard wedding, winter wedding, harry potter wedding, unbreakable vow, annapolis family photos, annapolis family portraits, annapolis family photographer, kent island family photographer, kent island family photos, kent island family portraits, easton family photos, easton family photographer, easton family portraits, centreville family portraits, centreville family photographer, willow roots photography, willow roots, love point photography, love point photos, howard county conservancy wedding, governor calvert house wedding, annapolis bed and breakfast, annapolis branding photo, annapolis branding photogrpaher, maryland branding, branding photos, easton branding photos, annapolis headshot photographer, maryland headshot photographer, dc headshot photographer, dc headshots, easton headshots, baltimore headshot photographer

Once we arrived in Pagosa Springs, we quickly ditched our bags and regrouped - there wasn’t a selected spot for the nuptials. We knew:
1) it was going to happen during sunrise
2) it couldn’t be too far away
3) there had to be water of some sort.

Okay, easy enough? Ehhh. If not for the help of the concierge at the Springs Resort, we’d have been honestly clueless. She suggested a pond right in town that was cute enough, but Katie and Tyler weren’t sold on it, and we sort of desperately took her advice to explore the reservoir in nearby San Juan National Forest.


Things were getting a little panicked, and a pinch desperate. It was getting dark, and the ‘half hour’ drive to the supposed reservoir had us hunting for small peaks we could hike up early in the morning, but we kept driving on.

We were definitely in the National Park, which was heartening, but the winding, dark roads made for slow going. Finally, just as we had to launch in to Bride Calming Mode, we got there. And this? This calm expanse of water with snow-capped mountains in the background, where the sun would rise perfectly up and over? This was it. As with all good things, this was so worth fighting back that mounting panic and stress.

We headed back to town, grabbed a few adult beverages and snacks to nibble on and got to enjoy soaking in the hot springs that Pagosa is known for. That was certainly relaxing, but it was back to prep mode for the rest of the night. Because this was truly such an intimate group, it was all hands on deck. I am only slightly remiss that I didn’t think to take a picture of myself clambering through the foliage outside of our hotel rooms to gather greenery for a bouquet and a boutonnière. It’s not every wedding your photographer gets to take credit as a stand-in florist and hair dresser, but I was more than excited to help. We braided and pinned hair, arranged florals, and hustled on in to bed for a few hours of sleep before a very early morning wake up call.


Groggy, but deliriously excited because IT WAS SNOWING (!!!!!!!), we had a sweet little first look within the springs. I can’t tell you how much I love that deliciously moody mist, mmmm-mm!

We piled in to the SUV and headed northwest with a much better idea of time + distance, but also with a great spot to hop out and get a photo under the truly incredible night sky. Even with a waning gibbous moon hanging in the sky, there were plenty of sparkling stars on this cold, clear morning.


We got to the reservoir with plenty of time to settle in and further plan. Thanks to my handy-dandy tripod, there were lots of photos making the most of the first hints of morning sun.

Intimate was the name of the game. It was nearly silent on this morning, and though there may have only been five of us physically present, we posted up a framed photograph of Katie’s brother Harrison beside the water line and had more than a few precious moments to reflect on the fact that he was undeniably swirling about in all of this joy and excitement, and was absolutely felt by all of us. Thanks for the good vibes, H.

“Was it time?”
”No, not yet.”
”Okay, let’s take some pictures here…”

“How about now?”
”Mmm, not quite.”
”Okay, no sweat! Come stand here, this view keeps getting better by the second…”

“Uhh, I think there’s a snow rolling in from the north…”
”Perfect! It’s definitely time.”

Cue me internally screaming with joy at how amazing and adventurous these guys are.


With the snow swirling, we hopped to - we cried, we laughed. In a perfect measure of brotherly love, Harrison decided to faceplant his frame midway through Katie and Tyler’s softly exchanged vows.

It was short, it was sweet, it was…cold. Tyler had to steady his shaking hands so Katie could slip his ring on. And that was that, inside of this silvery swirling snow globe, they were married!


And suddenly, the clouds broke a bit, and this most glorious deluge of color flooded the sky. Thanks for celebrating with us, Mother Nature!


I shooed Katie and Tyler back in to the car to warm up while I stood agog at this scenery. Truly spectacular - I couldn’t have dreamed up a more beautiful place.


I had also decided to play caterer as well, and while not entirely able to sneak a wedding cake in my camera gear, mini donuts and champagne are one hell of a way to celebrate this wildly successful morning.


While I know I was hesitant to leave this idyllic spot that had served us so well, there was an entire national park at our fingertips, so we headed off to make some more morning magic in the newly risen sun that was oh-so-warm to us little chilly revelers.


Where there had been nothing but a slight dusting on one of the far off mountain peaks the night before, the fresh snow was truly a wonderland to hang out in. Did I mention Katie had on hiking boots and tights under her dress? That’s a badass bride move if ever I’ve seen one - she had zero issue with stomping through knee high snowy grass for shots.


We had some serous off-roading moments to get in to some gorgeous backdrops - big ups to Tyler’s fearless driving skills, and strong choice to avoid knee-deep puddles .


Our stomachs were all audibly rumbling after being up and at ‘em for so long with only tiny pastries and bubbles and excitement to sustain us, and while I stomped on my own toes to resist the urge for yet another “okay, this is the last spot, I promise!” - we really had one last stop. You can’t hate on a dramatic cliff top, even when you’re starting to get hangry.


We all devoured a huge breakfast, then took delicious naps, hung out in hot springs, and then ran around sleepy little Pagosa Springs that night to celebrate over beer and pool and Mexican food. Conventional? Absolutely not. AmazingstupendouswowowowIdon’tevenhavethewords? You bet your sweet patoot.

I spent exactly zero seconds not appreciating how enormously perfect this had all been. Stars had aligned, snow had flaked, clouds had caught light. Truly, we were so lucky to have this weather, this scenery, and most of all, this love that brought us all together on this monumentally adventurous wedding day. All the congratulations and love to Katie and Tyler - thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing this all with me. I am so thankful to have been a part of all of this magic. -MEJ


Venue - San Juan National Forest - Williams Creek Reservoir || Lodgings - The Springs Resort & Spa