Alright, this one is a special one for me and I can't believe I *almost* passed up on being the photographer for this Glacier National Park elopement.
You see, James is my younger brother and when he and Abby started planning their wedding day, I was pretty set on not wanting to be their wedding photographer. Oh, Jake... you silly dumb idiot. Thankfully, I had a change of heart a few months before their wedding day after spending Christmas with our family, creating snapshots of our time together and realizing that I experience life through my camera lens. I wouldn't be missing out on their wedding day if I had a camera in hand all day, in fact, I would be experiencing it more fully BECAUSE of the camera in my hand.
It was my absolute joy to be able to stand with James & Abby as they committed their lives to each other AND to be the one to document this extremely special day for our families.
James & Abby were inspired by the natural beauty of Glacier as they planned their wedding day. They wanted to keep things adventurous and let the native greenery and mountainscapes shine throughout their day.
Before we dive into their awesome marriage celebration, let's hear from James & Abby themselves:
Abby: James and I decided pretty early into wedding planning that the conventional wedding wasn't sounding appealing to us. We spent a lot of time looking at wedding venues, only to realize that we weren't interested in contributing to the "more-expensive-because-it's-a-wedding" game. James had contacted one venue in particular who gave him a pretty big attitude when asked if we could bring our own desserts to the wedding by saying "We have couples who can afford this...". YEAH NOT HAPPENING. Out of anger we both (almost simultaneously) at our favorite coffee shop, we said "WE SHOULD JUST ELOPE". And the rest is history...
We landed on Glacier National Park because of some family connections. Shoutout to my sister-in-law, Brittany Reiner, and her family!! Once we knew we wanted to have an intimate wedding, we searched high and low in the surrounding area for Airbnb's near each other so that our families could be close the whole week.
We were pretty casual in our planning for our wedding day. There wasn't anything crazy or unexpected because our expectations were pretty "go-with-the-flow" for the most part.
I didn't want to be "prepped" before my wedding day on how it should go. I had been to enough weddings, and seen enough good and bad. I knew I wanted the day to feel personal and unstaged (Jake - as our photographer did this flawlessly for us). I guess I wish that I knew how fast the day would go-- but there's nothing you can do to change that.
James: I think we both were pleasantly surprised that the other was willing to drop the idea of a large wedding and find a national park to "elope" in with our close family. Isn't this everyone's dream?? Stop kidding yourself and make it happen!
What were some of your favorite memories from your wedding day?
Abby: Gosh- almost too many to recount. I sometimes have to look at pictures to remind me of what happened that week. It was a dream! Some highlights were the fact that we were out there for a week-- our families got to spend time with each other (without children-- which was a hard decision, but ultimately intentional). We played games, laughed, talked around the fire, made food and did I mention LAUGH-- for a whole week. You don't get that at a 200-person wedding. Our families now have personal relationships with each other and that is so special. Some other highlights include our bachelor/bachelorette night where we went to a rodeo, our rehearsal dinner (gosh- I could write a book on this night alone), and spending time in Glacier National Park. This place was HEAVEN on earth. The Lord was SO good to us that week by providing amazing weather.
James: My run on the morning of the wedding – good time to relax, think, get my mind right, photos with Jake and Katie around the park – def my top highlight, dancing with all of our siblings, send off, last dance - cryyyyyying, watching the surprise slideshow, driving to our cabin after send off, canoe ride lol, first dance song – Vacation Manor (our besties) covering Love is a Wild Thing by Kacey Musgraves
Tell us all about your ceremony:
The ceremony could make me cry if I think about it too much. It was magic and bliss. Covered by the Holy Spirit. The weather was windy, but since there were only 18 people there I wasn't stressed. We wrote our own vows. (I finished mine like 10 minutes before the ceremony-- don't recommend it). I loved that. Mariah's husband officiated, and that was super special. Both of our dads could have but we wanted them to just be dads on that day-- and honestly, neither of them could have made it through the ceremony without crying. My bouquet had a ribbon cut out of my grandpa's flannel. That was really special to me. My grandpa had passed away years before, but I miss him so much and wanted to feel like he was included in my day. Wow, crying as I write this. HUG YOUR GRANDPARENTS!
Abby: I loved my bridesmaids. My maid of honor- was my best friend Mariah. I don't have a biological sister, and she's taken that role in my life since we met in college. My sisters-in-law were my bridesmaids. I couldn't have handpicked a better bunch. And honestly pretty nice that I didn't have to get into bridesmaid drama-- ladies, you know what I'm talking about. I love color - I wanted reds and oranges and pinks for the "bridesmaids" dresses, tables, and bouquets. Luckily, my sisters have great taste and chose dresses that worked perfectly with the very loose color scheme I had created in my mind. We were getting married in a park for goodness sake, I couldn't be too picky.
James: My brothers and future brothers were my groomsmen. No regrets here. They will all be in my life forever. I told them they could go ahead and wear whatever they wanted (with some color inspiration). I wanted them to be comfortable and I did not want them spending money. They were already taking a week off of work and spending money to come out to Montana. No reason to drop $$$ on a suit. I wrote notes to each of my brothers and got them Montana-themed t-shirts and GNP-themed socks. Love them all dearly 🙂
James: I got my suit from a company in England. It was green tweed. Very comfortable, this was important to me. I also wanted to go with the natural/mountain theme. My tie was thrifted (thanks Mom) and my tie clip was my grandfather's. (Good Jack <3)
Advice for future grooms: Take it easy, keep it light, manage expectations, enjoy the ridddeeee, be present, phone off/away – fun for a selfie with your new wifey but don't need the distraction that day, hug your parents/thank your parents
Abby: My dress was from Ashley Grace Bridal in Virginia. My mom came down to shop with me and we had the best weekend. My favorite memory from that weekend was spending the night in a hotel and eating pizza in bed while watching The Office. I felt like we were having a sleepover-- and that was a cool thing for my mom and I. My wedding dress shopping was pretty drama-free except for the fact that I almost said yes to a dress that made me look like a woodland witch and that would have been a nightmare. WHAT WAS I THINKING.
Advice for future brides: I have always hated the advice of "do what makes you happy". I think it's shallow and unbiblical (if we're being honest, oops). But I WOULD say- make your wedding day something that represents you and your values. The details are special but happen naturally when you put emphasis on the marriage/family/experience. Also, JUST FREAKING ELOPE. IT'S SO FUN.
Tell us all about your reception:
Abby: Our reception was beautiful- casual and fun. My sisters and mom helped with the table, and even after my countless table arrangements on Pinterest, it was more perfect than anything I'd pinned. The dancing was a blast too- and all of the siblings had a moment on the dance floor-- Jake, queue the photos-- that I'll never forget. Gosh, I wish everyone could have been a fly on the wall at our wedding. Not there, just a fly on the wall.. hahahahha JK
James: The reception was soooooo sweet and tender and the speeches still have me in tears. I will never forget dancing with each of our siblings to Home by Phillip Phillips – it was such a dream. Dancing to "I Lived" by One Republic for the mother/son dance was also very special. I sang this song at my high school graduation. :,) Even tho our wedding was small our reception felt as big and exciting as any large wedding I'd been to – especially the dancing. We made sure the reception playlist was fire. Plenty of 2010's throwbacks. Also, I highly recommend a final dance with just you and your new wife once everyone has cleared out to prep for the exit. This was so special and I cried the whole time because I was so overwhelmed with the Lord's goodness!!!!
Who was your florist and why did you choose them?
Foolish Blooms Farms. We found this florist at a farmers market the week of the wedding, and she had the most beautiful poppy flowers I had ever seen.
Anything else to share?
Best day ever. Best choice ever to do destination/national park. Best choice ever to have a week with just our families leading up to it. This time all together will probably never happen again. Also the rehearsal dinner was an evening I will never forget. Such a sweet intimate time with our families. Lots of tears, lots of laughs, covered in prayer and JESUS. We were consumed in the Spirit's presence all night. It was tangible. Loved loved loved. Our "bachelor/bachelorette party" night was also a huge highlight. We opted to spend the evening all together and went to the opening night of an authentic Montana rodeo and then danced/sang the night away at the adjacent karaoke bar. 11/10 night would do again a million times.
Thanks go out to...
James: Mom/Dad, siblings, grandparents, in-laws, Jake for the photos 🙂
Abby: Gosh----- UGH. I'm accepting a Grammy: the Lord, our Parents/Grandparents, our siblings, our friends, Isaiah who officiated, Jake & Katie for our photos
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