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adventure elopement in maryland

Adventure Elopement in Maryland | Lesa and Max

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 day as authentic to their love story as possible (they even planned on including their 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Chewy!!!). That is literally all I could dream of when talking to a potential client!!! Sometimes that means a massive wedding with hundreds of guests, and sometimes that means an elopement on a rocky hiking trail in the middle of the winter. 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: I 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 Maryland by driving into the most beautiful sunrise I had seen in quite some time. I’ll share below:

The Adventure 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 set my phone up against a tree (in a slightly precarious situation, I might add, but hey, anything for the angle!!) 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 to become husband & wife on a beautiful trail, Annette to finally officiate a wedding and myself to finally photograph 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 down to moving water. After moving through the introductory part of the ceremony, it was time for Lesa & Max to read their 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!! And soon after Lesa began reading aloud why she was choosing Max fo 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 with his vows, reminiscing on how they first met and talking 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 … but more on that later. They slipped the eternal circles onto each other’s hands and sealed the deal with a smiley kiss!!! Yeeeehawww!!!!

We made our way off the rock and I spent a few minutes photographing details before Annette took Chewy back to the trailhead. Lesa was wearing a beautiful bracelet that had a photo of a bride on it, which she later told me was her mother. I made sure to get a nice shot of that as well as the “my humans are getting married” bandana around Chewy’s neck before setting off on our adventure.

The Hike

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 referenced her wedding dress and 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 wedding day – 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. To be clear, I had zero doubt in my mind that Lesa would be able to hike in her dress, but my GOODNESS was she MOVING in her strapless wedding dress!!! I was thoroughly impressed and couldn’t help but thinking to myself that I wished those guards had been able to see her absolutely crushing this hike.

Adventure 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, however, 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. They poured two glasses, and 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.

adventure elopement in maryland

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 did a few more portraits before beginning 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!! I snapped one more photo of them on the way back on the edge of a beautiful vista because I just couldn’t let a view like that pass by.

The end of a wedding day (or in this case, 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 🤗💛

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  1. Kathy Doegen says:

    What an Awesome Wedding uou two. The Pictures are Beautiful! Congratulations again and wishing you many years of Happiness.
    Kudos to your photographer ❤

- Melissa d.

“Gabriella was absolutely amazing!!! Words cannot even describe how perfect she was, but I’ll try my best. Right from the beginning, I knew she was the one. She was so caring, calming, organized, and just a genuinely happy person. She made me feel even more excited for my wedding. She was so helpful throughout the entire process right down to the big day. AND THE PICTURES - OH MY GOD. They are absolutely breathtaking and she definitely tells the story of your day in the most perfect way. She captures every precious moment while having a smile on her face the whole time she’s with you. I can’t say enough amazing things about her. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone looking to have the BEST photographer for any occasion. We had such an amazing experience with Gabriella and we can’t thank her enough!”

"Captures every moment"

- Dawn g.

“Gabriella is a very great planner, very organized and an absolute delight to work with. Her planning and organization helped me prepare for the big day without any fear that I left any important photo out. Her planning skills ensured I didn't miss any details. She is such a delight to work with she was even happy to help me with my little surprise I had for my husband, it went off without a hitch. She captured all the photos we could imagine....all the fun, sweet, sincere moments throughout the day. She even provided the photos to us in a timely manner. I HIGHLY recommend her; she's highly energetic, personable, easy to work with, a planner, organized, and she captured lots of beautiful pictures. She exceeded all of my expectations. She was such a great photographer.”

"Exceeded all my expectations"

- Melissa N.

Making my dream wedding come true!
Gabriella was hired by my (now) husband, as a surprise photographer for our proposal. She was phenomenal and we hired her for our wedding as well! Her energy and vision for our wedding photos captured every moment and emotion. She was amazing in every way. Her attention to detail and knowing what was important to me on my big day was awesome - she went the extra mile. I would 10/10 recommend her to any one wanting to capture beautiful moments in life - for their engagement, wedding, and more.

"She went the extra mile."

- Megan W.

Hiring Gabriella was one of the best decisions that we made during our wedding planning. From our very first conversation, Gabriella was warm & bubbly. She radiates positive energy that I knew that we needed for our big day. Gabriella has a vigorous work ethic and eye for detail. Her ability to transform any setting is pure magic. We enjoyed working with her throughout the planning process and are absolutely thrilled with our engagement and wedding photos (which she had edited and back to us in less than one month!).

"One of the best decisions"

- Lisette & Tyrus b.

What can we say about Gabriella Marie Photography. There are so many words to describe the amazing job Gabriella did on our special wedding day. Gabriella will not only shoot your wedding, she can help you design what your wedding will be. She is there every step of the way. She has amazing attention to detail. Before the big day, Gabriella has a plan that will ensure that your day will be spectacular. She is always available via text, call, direct message, FaceTime or Zoom. Gabriella is the absolute best photographer ever. The best quality that she has is that she is more than a photographer, she is a true friend. She cares about her clients and makes us feel like a trust-worthy friend is there to help. For example, she sent my wife and I a pre-wedding care package. This gift proved to be so valuable for us while dealing with wedding stress. This gift was the most thoughtful thing my wife and I ever received. A simple thank you is just only the tip of the iceberg with regarding Gabriella Marie Photography. Everyone please check out our new friend Gabriella. Trust us, she is worth every penny and more.

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