When Coronavirus, COVID-19, deterred their big wedding plans in Louisiana, Josie and Brian chose to have a micro wedding in Estes Park Colorado instead. I’m excited to share this intimate wedding day with you all because a lot of 2021 couples may be finding themselves in a similar situation of wanting a Rocky Mountain National Park elopement, but realizing that there are no longer elopement ceremony permits available. These two ran in to the same scenario for their Fall elopement in 2020, but I was happy to help them plan the perfect elopement experience that incorporated photos in Rocky Mountain National Park and still have their small wedding with their immediate families at a nearby hiking trail located in Estes Park, but outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Josie and I go way back to elementary school and I even photographed her brother’s senior portraits almost a decade ago so it was such an awesome experience to reconnect with her and her family. Her brother even officiated their small wedding ceremony! I love how they incorporated so many special moments in their elopement to include their close family members. It made the whole day so meaningful!
I’m excited to be sharing their elopement story with you all this week because it’s Mardi Gras time right now, which is where Josie and Brian first met in Louisiana a few years ago! Josie’s words of describing their meet cute is the absolute best, so I’ll share her words here instead:
“Brian and I met through mutual friends (sort of)…On 2/13/2018 I was in New Orleans celebrating Mardi Gras with my cousin, Laura, and her husband, Cole. We were at one of their friend’s houses for a party when Cole saw a few of his former college classmates/friends walking down the street. He invited them to join us at the party. I ended up talking with Brian’s good friend, Evan, and his wife, Amanda, for most of the time. Brian’s friends really liked me and after learning I lived in Baton Rouge, they wanted to set me up with their friend, Brian. Normally I would not have said yes, but I was moving back to Colorado in 4 months and had recently ended a relationship, so I thought why not – worst case I will end up with some new friends. A few days later, on 2/17/2018, I met up with Brian and his friends at a local bar/restaurant that they are regulars at. It was a great no pressure way to meet and start to get to know each other!”
Their story definitely rings the saying true that sometimes love finds you when you least expect it and stop looking for it! After over a year of dating, spending time with each other’s families and building their relationship Brian proposed to Josie on a board walk with a lighthouse in the background during an extended family vacation. She was totally surprised and it’s such a sweet story!
The Proposal, as told by the bride:
“We were in North Carolina on a beach trip with my extended family (grandma, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins). My dad’s side of the family goes on a week long beach trip every other year. A few days into the trip (7/16/2019), Brian and I went to explore the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. We went to the portion of the park where the Bodie Island Lighthouse is. We walked along the boardwalks and stopped to try to take a picture as a couple. Brian was setting up his camera, but kept saying we couldn’t take the picture because people kept walking toward us on the boardwalk – I kept thinking, “just take the picture, it doesn’t matter if someone is in the background”. We eventually gave up on taking a picture on the boardwalk. As we were walking back to the car there was a giant field and Brian decided to set up his camera there so we could take a picture with the lighthouse in the background – he said we could use the picture for a Christmas card. As he was setting up his camera, he told me he was putting it on “photo booth mode” that way we would have a lot of pictures to choose from (Brian had never used this mode on his camera and we have taken a lot of couples pictures with the self timer, but I thought nothing of it). After he set up the camera he walked over to me, we smiled, kissed, and then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! I was not expecting it and completely blacked out during it, so I have no idea what he said to me. But I said yes! We went back to the beach house and had to be super sneaky when we got there because my parents were at the beach and I wanted them (and my brothers to be the first to know). Brian asking me to marry him on that vacation was really special for me and everyone in my family because I was the first cousin/grandchild to get engaged!”
Their elopement day started off with a first look in Rocky Mountain National Park. Even though elopement ceremony permits were unavailable I hold a commercial photography permit for taking photos in the park, so we were still able to make that a part of their wedding experience without having the ceremony there. I met Brian at the visitor’s center and had him follow me to the first look location that we had planned out before the big day. Josie’s family dropped her off after Brian arrived and eagerly waited for her in the meadow with a beautiful mountain backdrop. I always give my clients a little spiel before their first look because it can feel weird to be in front of a camera during such an emotional moment. I tell people to pretend I’m not there and I keep as much distance as I can and photograph the moment with both a longer lens to capture the emotions and a wider lens to capture the scenery. I tell them to take a few minutes together, feel all the feelings, talk together and just settle in to the moment. Josie and Brian did this perfectly and they even read each other personal letters that they had wrote for each other so they could share an emotional moment without the pressure of being surrounded by any people. It was absolutely perfect!
After their first look we explored some other areas in Rocky Mountain National park and took photos, then we headed to their elopement location on a hiking trail located only 15 minutes outside of the park to meet up with their families. This trail is one of my favorite hidden gems to share with couples because it has so many great nooks where you can hold an intimate ceremony with a view. It has a view of Lake Estes, The Stanley Hotel, Pikes Peak and the Twin Owls mountain range and it’s easily accessible and not heavily trafficked with tourists. Since fishing and being near water is something Brian loves, they chose to have their ceremony with a backdrop of Lake Estes. After the ceremony and some formal portraits with their families we spent some time taking sunset bride and groom photos on other areas of the trail and wrapped up the evening together.
I have to commend these two for their willingness to be laid back and flexible! As if planning a wedding during a global pandemic wasn’t enough, there was also a large wildfire (The Cameron Peak fire) burning in Colorado and another wildfire started in Boulder the day of their elopement. The skies were hazy and full of smoke all the way up to Estes Park from Boulder, but they had a blue sky day in the Rocky Mountains for their wedding. On our way back to Boulder when the day was finished they actually shut down the highway we all drove on to get there because the wildfire had jumped over the road. It was pretty serene driving along the diverted route and seeing a fire burning on a road that I had driven on just a few hours prior. That road was closed for almost a week following their elopement so the fact that we were able to make this day happen has to be related to some sort of divine intervention, good karma or sheer luck but if anyone deserved it it was these two!
Are you planning a micro wedding or elopement in Estes Park or anywhere else in Colorado? I’d love to get the conversation started and help you put together your perfect elopement experience!