KATIE + TYLER || PAGOSA SPRINGS, COLORADO - ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT WEDDING

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).

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 .

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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.

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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

SEE KATIE + TYLER’S FULL GALLERY HERE

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

SEBASTIÁN + KATIE || EVANSTON, ILLINOIS

What are the essential components of a wedding? Poll the audience, and it usually comes back to the essentials: some pretty dang dapper threads, carefully curated accessories and blossoms for bursts of color, rings as symbolic as the ceremony that ties two loves in to one entity, and some sort of a feast to mark the occasion.

While these things may be what pops readily in to most minds when they think of nuptials, they pale in comparison to the greatest thread that binds and brings together on a wedding – family. Whether by blood or by choice, the people who lift up and laugh with and love a couple on this momentous day are what truly make a wedding special.

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True, a wedding is technically about the I-Do's between just two, but if you stop and think about it, a wedding is celebration that is full to the brim of the many various relationships cultivated through highs and lows, over great distances and times and generations.

I am beyond honored to count myself as part of the family that got to rejoice with Sebastián and Katie on this beautiful day. It's not often that I get to hop on a plane with my momma and my partner to both celebrate and photograph a wedding, and it’s even rarer that I get the incredibly strong perspective and appreciation for family and community that this event impressed upon me.

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As with every snapshot, there was so much to be told beyond just what was happening on this day. In my retelling, two great chapters should be touched upon before I present a host of photographs.

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The first is both the love and the loss of Katie’s late father, the most rad Reverend Richard Adams. A prolific writer, musician, and a man most dedicated to outreach programs, I had the great pleasure of meeting him in 2016. He threw out fabulously punny jokes and showed off his art collection despite fiercely battling terminal lung cancer. Rev. Adams died in early 2017 and was interred at St. Augustine’s Church where Sebastián and Katie were married, but his presence on this day would be indelible no matter the proximity.

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The second is one that’s enormous to even comprehend, let alone write about. It’s certainly strange to condense such a devastating experience for many in to just a few sentences, but Sebastián’s relatives and friends in Puerto Rico experienced incredible loss in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year. Because of such limited reaction and assistance through the government, S&K made the choice to use their wedding savings to provide the most basic of necessities like batteries and flashlight and baby formula for their extended community.

It’s heartening to say that so much of their family - from work, from church, from near and from far - eagerly pitched in to this homegrown aid effort last year, and it’s even cooler to see things come full circle with donations of flowers and food and drink and setup and cleanup and venue and all sorts of special elements to this day.

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And maybe I’m just partial because I’ve glimpsed a lot more of Katie and Sebastián’s story than with most clients I work with, but I think the smiles were just a little bigger, the hugs lingered a little longer, and the laughter rang out all the louder because of the wildly winding path that everyone walked to get to this day. Thank you guys, sososo much for letting me capture this precious and joyful chapter of your story, and congratulations, felicitaciones, and much love to my dear friends! -MEJ

SEE MORE OF SEBASTIÁN + KATIE’S DAY HERE

Gwen + Don's Wedding || Trummer's On Main - Clifton, Virginia

Oh, Gwen and Don, y'all. Two of the kindest and most joyful peeps I've ever gotten to work with, and their family and friends were equally as warm and wonderful. It followed suite that their day was a total delight. Elegant, but oh-so-comfortable. Traditional, but a total and complete blast. And! Full of the sweetest little details. Trummer's on Main played host to this day, an absolutely charming restaurant in an equally charming area of Northern Virginia.

Gwen wore her mother's wedding veil (sans the amazing original turban it had been paired with) and a pair of gorgeous pearl earrings Don had gotten her.

Don was (obviously) incredibly dapper, and their choice of deep red with blue-violet flowers was such a beautiful combination of colors.

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And oh, the most perfect sunlight beaming through the windows, just in time for prayers and their I-Do's.

Traincars? Yes, please! Especially in the amazing golden hour light we had.

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And on top of the fabulous humans and lots of love the entire day was just bursting with, theses guys knew how to seriously tear up a dance floor. Seriously, I'm considering keepin' this crowd for every wedding I shoot.

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Huge congratulations to Gwen and Don, thank you so much for having me be a part of your wonderful day! - MEJ

SEE THE FULL WEDDING PREVIEW GALLERY HERE

Location: Trummer's on Main