The Elopement Location Idea
Coming back from location scouting in Oregon, is when I first heard from Paige. Learning that both of her previous wedding plans were cancelled due to complications with Covid-19, she selected the block on my website that says “Terri, please help me find an amazing elopement location”. I’m not sure I’ve ever had anyone do that before but I was eager to photograph and plan an all-day elopement at Lake Powell. There was one place on the north side of Lake Powell that I wanted to scope out for a while. Deciding to do so, I planned it into my trip back from Oregon.
Thinking about Paige’s request to help her plan an October elopement, I was excited to check out this new Lake Powell location. Driving along dirt road at sunset, I lost the light mid-way through the journey. Even though I wasn’t yet at the point, I was in love with the landscape. It is so varied and reminded me of a foreign place, like the moon. Before losing the light, I saw all kinds of amazing landscapes, painted desert, balanced boulders, cliffs of every color. Regardless of what the point itself looked like, I knew that I had to photograph people here in this magical spot.
My dog and I arrived at the edge of the cliff in complete darkness, but also insane heat. It was July and I didn’t even bother to take out a tent, nor did I have the energy to blow up my sleeping pad. Falling asleep on the flat rocks and praying that they would cool eventually, the sun would be up before I knew it. Waking before the sun, with the littlest bit of light I could just make out the view before me. Even without the total sun, it was incredible, even more incredible than the drive I saw on my way in. I set up my tripod and took a few self-portraits and I started writing Paige about the idea that I had.
Planning the Adventure Elopement
I knew I had to do an elopement in this amazing place, an all-day elopement at Lake Powell. I felt like it deserved more than a quick ceremony and photos, this was going to be an adventure. Immediately, I started thinking about the kinds of elopements that I always wanted to photograph, getting ready photos out in the open, sunset, private chef, glamping, florals. Elopements aren’t less they are more. We pitched the idea to Paige and before you knew it we were arranging a zoom meeting with both her and Vicky and my incredible team.
Working with Sarah Kay, our friendship grew from a professional relationship when I photographed her silver smithed jewelry in a big photo shoot for a magazine many years before. Since then, I’ve brought her on as my florist and assistant on many elopements. Brad was new to me, but I understood his experience level traveling and touring Europe with top class participants. For them, he was a tour guide, chef, driver and anything that you could imagine. I’d been in his company before and could personally speak to his chef skills, but almost more importantly his skills as a host. Brad was also ordained and had performed many ceremonies so he seemed like the perfect fit for this event.
While we all zoomed together, I could feel the pieces coming into place. I knew that we could provide the glamping-catered-adventure-elopement experience that I yearned to photograph. Talking to Vicky and Paige, we got a sense for who they are and what they wanted. These were our people! Fun and adventurous. They were eagerly open to explore the Southwest for the first time. Quickly, we started gathering the details for their previous weddings that they most wanted to bring to this final attempt to get wed. Paige’s love of emeralds and her desire for a BoHo styled glamping decor fit into the art nouveau and art deco elements of the tall cliff sides and dusty hues of the surrounding area. Vicky wanted it to be everything her bride-to-be wanted but also for it to be easy and stress free.
After the zoom, we all took on our individual duties. Sarah Kay and Brad worked more interpersonally with Paige and Vicky to infuse their florals and ceremony with parts of their personality, details of their life and testimonies from people who couldn’t be there. Brad collected favorite foods and beverages and encouraged letters and photos out of the closest friends of the couple.
It seemed like it would take forever for their day to finally arrive, an all-day elopement at Lake Powell. We did a mock run, setting up the tent, testing two different air mattresses and securing the tent for crazy winds in a place that no tent could be staked. We did the trial, and we were ready. We got to the location the night before we would meet Vicky and Pagem], and set up this glamping amazingness.
Mid-day, Sarah Kay and I brushed out hair and changed into our wedding attire. We drove out to meet Vicky and Paige for the first time, in person. As soon as we all met, I felt gelled together. I knew that we would be friends not only for their wedding day but for a long time after this event.
We followed our pre-designed itinerary, very well. What an amazing day for an all-day elopement at Lake Powell. Before you knew it, the first part of their elopement was to take place. Pulling off the road to a spot with a gray desert scape and some red balanced rocks, Sarah Kay set up the changing tent while I walked around looking for the best spot to stage the first look photos. I choose a sandy hill while Sarah Kay taped Paige into her dress. I snapped a few photos and led Vicky up to the location for the “first look” photos. We watched from a distance as they saw each other for the first time in their wedding clothes. It was so obvious how much love and respect they had for each other and I couldn’t help but think how I wanted what they had for myself.
Getting back into our four-wheel-drive vehicles, we made our way further down the road, stopping to pin the boutonniere on and reveal the bouquet that Sarah Kay had designed.
All her work is created without real flowers as live flowers just can’t hang through adventures. Real flowers often become damaged easily on adventures like these. The bouquet was a balance of cactus and air plants. It was selected to mirror the hues of the painted desert and the deep emerald of Paige’s exquisite jewelry. Vickie’s Boutonnière was crafted from a Mallard duck feather with deep purple hues and a few antique embellishments. Even better, were the secret parts of boutonniere. .Hidden in the boutonnière was a locket with photos of her parents. Vicky’s mother had just passed, and Paige wanted to honor the passing but also keep it as a secret that she could reveal after their big day.
Continuing down the grated road, we got to the part that would require a little bit more rock crawling and off-road skill. We recommended that they rent a jeep for this part of the journey. Sarah Kay jumped out to forewarn them about the difficulty ahead. She told them that this is where the dirt road is going to get a little more challenging. We would wait for them over the difficult parts and help guide them. Paige asked quizzically, “What was that?”, referring to the dirt road we’d been on all along. Smiling, Sarah Kay and I replied, in unison, “easy”, to which we all burst out laughing.
We stopped to jump out of our car and make sure that Vicky and Paige were doing alright. When I turned and looked at them I could see the most excited and happy grin outstretched over Vicky’s face. I knew that we planned the right adventure for these two.
Glamping on in the Red Rocks, Elopement Style
Sarah Kay led them to their “accommodations”, a large tent with a big fluffy bed, white plush bedding, too many pillows, rugs, bedside tables, toilet as well as chandelier and tons of beautiful design elements put into place. Leaning beside the old phonograph record player, was an LP of “their song” for the first dance. I left her with them to show off her work and went to check in with Brad. Sarah Kay hung back while they went inside and she heard them exclaim , “So much better than we could have ever planned or possibly imagined”. She delighted in telling me this just a little bit later and helped them with how all of the facilities worked, including the toilet and lights as well as phone charging and power station.
When I met with Brad up the hill, he was doing well and ready to perform the ceremony. He asked me which shirt and I liked best and changed into it. We all drove out to the point and began the walk to the end of it.
In the ceremony Brad infused some well-wishing from their friends as well as some beautiful thoughts about “home”. He shared with us what the landscape we were all standing in represented to the tribes. With his knowledge of the native culture and his poetic way of weaving reverence for nature into ceremony, it was perfect. As the sunset the ceremony changed colors in front of us, reflected love and light right back toward us. And they were married in this amazing place at the end of a long day of adventure, an all-day elopement at Lake Powell.