Billy Goat Trail Adventure Elopement
Let’s set the scene: I’m working at my desk in late fall as busy season is (supposedly) coming to a close. I get a notification that a couple has inquired about a wedding and I squeal with excitement. I immediately opened their inquiry and stumbled upon the phrase “adventure elopement”. My jaw dropped and my hand covered my mouth.
No. Freaking. Way.
For some people, the term adventure elopement might have never been spoken. For others, it was reserved for couples who planned extravagant elopements at the Dolomite mountain range in Italy. But for a wedding photographer like myself, an adventure elopement simply means this: a couple is ditching the traditional wedding to get married … and they’re gonna have a dang good time doing it!!!
And friends, that’s EXACTLY what Lesa & Max did to celebrate their marriage.
I went into the consultation call with high expectations after their inquiry and STILL came out blown away. Lesa and Max were SUCH sweethearts who were so in love and who were committed to making their adventure elopement as authentic to their love story as possible (they even planned on including their 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Chewy!!!). I could not WAIT for their big day to arrive!!!!
A little bit after the initial excitement subsided, reality set in. We were planning an outdoor elopement in the middle of February. Translation: We better be prepared for ANYTHING!! I made sure my hiking boots, winter coat and camera rain covers were all in working condition. But when February 12th arrived, the craziest thing happened – it was partly sunny with temps almost reaching 60 degrees. How freaking perfect!!!
I began my trek to Billy Goat Trail in Maryland by driving into the most beautiful sunrise I had seen in quite some time. I’ll share below:
The Adventure Elopement Begins
It was a super easy drive to the trail head and I met up with Lesa & Max right away!! She joked that she would be the one in the wedding dress, and I said “cool, I’m the one with the massive cameras!” 🤣 With that being said, we had no trouble finding each other in the crowded parking lot. Soon after meeting, I snapped some photos of Chewy and we started our journey.
Lesa & Max has previously scoped out this massive rock overlooking the river to have their ceremony. I was blown away by how perfect a location it was!!! I positioned them where they felt comfortable & safe but also where I could see the water below and had the best light from the sun.
As they were getting settled, I sneakily set my phone up against a tree to record their ceremony. Once that was set up, I signaled that it was go time!!
Max held onto Chewy’s leash while their friend, Annette, began officiating the ceremony. Fun story about that – Annette’s husband is a certified officiant and Annette has always said she wanted to officiate a wedding, too. Fast forward to Lesa & Max’s engagement when they asked Annette to officiate their elopement, and BOOM – Annette’s officiating dreams came true!!
(We joked that Lesa & Max’s marriage was making so many dreams come true. Lesa and Max became husband & wife on a beautiful trail, Annette finally officiated a wedding and I finally photographed an adventure elopement!!!)
Okay, back to the scene. Chewy was laying down at Max’s feet, content as could be despite being near the precipice of a long drop to moving water. After moving through the introductory part of the ceremony, it was time for Lesa & Max to read the vows. They wrote their own vows to each other which is usually a shoe-in for at least one happy tear to make an appearance!!
Sure enough, soon after Lesa began reading aloud why she was choosing Max to be her life partner, it did. She said the most wonderful things and even quoted the musical Hamilton (which I LOVED), promising to be “best of wives and best of women”!! (And for everyone wondering, yes I sung that as I was typing it 🤣).
Max went next, reminiscing on how they met and speaking with joy and wonder about their future together. Already, it was time for the rings!! As I was photographing close ups of the rings in their hands, I noticed Max’s ring was super duper bendy. (More on that later.) They slipped the eternal circles onto each other’s hands and sealed the deal with a smiley kiss!!! Yeeeehawww!!!!
The Hike to Portrait Locations
As we got to the entrance of the difficult rocky trail, we were met by two trail security guards (?) monitoring the entrance to the trail. Lesa explained what was going on and asked if we were allowed to go on the trail. They let us on, but not before making a comment about Lesa being able to “make it” with her wedding dress. 🙄 No comment could derail her adventure elopement – she pulled up her dress to reveal her hiking boots and started moving!
Y’all, I need to make this clear. Lesa displayed expert sure-footedness as she made her way through the trail, swiftly and without any difficulty. There was zero doubt in my mind that Lesa would be able to hike in her dress … but my GOODNESS was she MOVING!!! I couldn’t help but wish those guards had been able to see her absolutely crushing this hike.
Adventure Elopement Portraits
I photographed Lesa & Max along the way to our destination and we made two pit stops for photos when the inspiration struck. The final destination for their adventure elopement was awesome – a huge pile of rocks & boulders overlooking a winding river!!!
We made our way to the top, where the newlyweds received tons of congratulations from hikers passing by. I directed Lesa & Max through a few different portrait prompts before we decided it was time to pop the champagne! Lesa had a successful pop and I had them kiss in celebration as the spray was fading. After a few “cheers” pictures I let them sip their champagne and chat while I photographed their rings.
Remember how I said we’d get back to that super bendy wedding band? Turns out it’s a rubber wedding ring, which is honestly pretty common nowadays. What isn’t common, however, is the design on Max’s ring, which is absolutely iconic.
BABY YODA!!!!! Yes, in addition to having a Baby Yoda water bottle, Max now also has a Baby Yoda wedding ring!!!!! If that isn’t making your wedding day as authentic as possible, I don’t know what is 🤣🙌🏼
After Lesa & Max finished their champagne, we began the trek back to the trail head. I made sure to snap a polaroid of the newlyweds and to take a selfie with them to commemorate our time together!! We made one more portrait on the way back on the edge of a beautiful vista. I just couldn’t let a view like that pass by!
The end of a wedding day (or in this case, adventure elopement day) is always bittersweet. I had such a fantastic time with Lesa & Max and didn’t want to say goodbye … but I had a long drive ahead of me and lots of pictures to back up & edit!! We said our goodbyes at a cute little lunch spot where Lesa & Max had a celebratory meal with Annette, Chewy and some friends that stopped by. I couldn’t WAIT to start editing!!!!
Congratulations, Lesa & Max!!! You two are incredibly fun & kind humans and I am SO excited for y’all to embark on the journey of marriage together!!!! Wishing you lots of love & joy in the years to come 🤗💛