Jen and John's Mt. Tabor Elopement in Portland, OR
Officiant: A Beautiful Ceremony NW
Dress & Jacket: Sundance
Shoes: Louis and Imelda's
Bouquet: New Seasons Market
Flower ring: Costco
A couple days ago I showed off Jen and John's Portland coffeeshop engagement session, talking not only about how sweet and fun these two were to work with, but how fate played a hand in bringing us all together. While the engagement session was certainly enjoyable and we produced memorable images of the giddy day before their marriage ceremony, it was their elopement that was truly special.
To begin with, while we had had constant rain every day previous, that Friday morning dawned sunny and blue-skied. We were, of course, prepared for rain and Jen and John were excited to wed regardless of the weather, but the beautiful morning set the tone for the perfect Portland elopement.
These two almost-weds had selected the crest of Mt. Tabor Park as the place to make their vows, so we grabbed what we needed for their ceremony and hiked up the numerous steps to the top, coming out into a grove of evergreen trees. Jen and John both practice mindfulness, so they wanted to begin their ceremony with a few minutes of silence as they readied themselves for marriage. Their unique idea was to set up a circle of flowers which they would each step into once they were ready to begin. In a stroke of genius, Jen had the idea to bring a hula hoop in order to create a perfect circle (this hula hoop also served a photographic purpose later in the shoot) so Jen, John and their two friends/witnesses set about selecting greenery and placing flowers from Costco around the hoop.
Once this was ready - after probably the shortest decoration time in wedding history - we all assembled in what I'd determined was the best positioning for lighting and began. As I mentioned, we started off with a few minutes of silence, or as close to silence as we could get with the chirping of birds, the swishing of the tree branches and the distant hum of traffic. As the ultimate purpose of day was for these two to get married, not specifically for me to take photos, I wanted to stand as far back as possible so my movements and shutter clicks wouldn't disturb them. Thank goodness for telephoto lenses! Once John step into the flower circle, I slowly started moving closer to capture the moment Jen took John's hand and stepped into the circle as well.
From start to finish, the whole short ceremony was the best kind of sweetness; not saccharine, but sincere. The couple's two accompanying friends read a poem they had compiled from selections of their favorite works while all involved tried to hold back tears; unsuccessfully, I might add.
As in any standard wedding, we closed with vows and the ring exchange officiated by Steve of A Beautiful Ceremony NW, (who was fantastic and so enjoyable to work with!) But Jen and John, of course - though unintentionally - put their own spin on the tradition. In their haste, they hadn't checked their ring sizes, so when ordering rings to have for their small ceremony, they accidentally ordered them at least 3 sizes too big. This may have been a blessing, though, since it made putting rings on each others' fingers quite easy, free of the usual bumbling that nervously shaking hands produces! It also led to a ring-adorned thumb war, the photograph of which is one of my all time favorite wedding images since its shows their excitement about their marriage rather than their emphasis on every detail being in place.
After quickly taking care of the paperwork, we were finally ready to have some fun, though really the entire morning had been relaxed and pleasant. Because I had shot numerous closeups during their ceremony to capture their emotional moments, I wanted to take a few wider shots to incorporate the breathtaking scenery, both in the rows and rows of fir trees and the distant view of downtown and the mountains beyond. This also gave the newlyweds a few minutes to simply be together and enjoy their new commitment, taking the time to hug, steal a few kisses and savor the moment.
To finish the morning, we took a few group shots to commemorate just how special it was for their dear friends to share in this momentous occasion. These started out as nice, posed images in their flower circle (or now a friendship circle?) but quickly reduced to snapshots of happy laughter.
Many of my favorite photos come from the unplanned moments - I lean more towards the photojournalism side of the spectrum because I always prefer to capture candid emotion over creating nice, posed images - and I certainly had not started the day thinking I'd be photographing a bride hula hooping in her dress. But when Jen picked up the hoop and started to wiggle around with it, I knew we'd stumbled across a really fun photo opportunity. The bride's elation over marrying the love of her life shone through this giddy moment of simply enjoying the present.
As I relive the morning, this shoot continually reinforces the idea that more than anything else, my most favorite occasion to photograph right now is destination elopements (and elopements in general) where I can use my talents to tell a couple's full story from the more casual engagement session exploring a new destination or a favorite haunt to the intimate ceremony focused on their love for each other, and all the adventures in between.