When I first met Brittany, it was at my house. We had tea at my dining room table for about two hours to talk about her vision for her wedding, compare dog pictures, and chat about life.
We scheduled her engagement photos for November and were treated with just the kind of day she wanted — cold, moody, even a little bit of snow.
A couple of months later, I found out I was pregnant. And my due date was less than a week before her September wedding. Bummed by the timing, I was committed to finding the best replacement possible for Brittany and all of the other couples that I had lined up to shoot during the month before my due date.
I gave them two options — continue with an associate shooter under my brand and I would still edit all the photos, or I would refund them completely and help them find a replacement photographer. Everyone chose the associate photographer option – except for Brittany.
About a week after I told her I was pregnant, Brittany emailed me and asked me what my open spring dates were. I had one available Saturday in June. So she and her fiance Daniel took it. They canceled their big fall Charleston wedding, moved it to an intimate celebration at Blackwater State Park in the spring, and crafted a totally different experience from what they were originally planning. And it was beautiful and totally perfect for them.
I am still blown away by the whole thing.
Monongahela National Forest
Blackwater State Park, Dolly Sods and Canaan Valley are wilderness areas in the northern part of the Monongahela National Forest. They are about two hours from the Shenandoah Valley, three hours from Charleston, WV, and Washington, DC, and about 3.5 from Pittsburgh.
Blackwater is known for its waterfalls, Dolly Sods for its unusual ecosystem that is more similar to what one would find in Canada than in the mid-Atlantic, and Canaan Valley for its cross-country skiing in the winter.
Basically, they are outdoor paradises that are easily accessible from many of the region’s major population hubs. They lend themselves wonderfully to an intimate wedding, adventure session, or a cozy weekend at a cabin.
Both Blackwater State Park and Canaan Valley are used to hosting weddings and can do anything from an elopement to a traditional wedding. Dolly Sods is a wilderness area and is most appropriate for elopements with fewer than 12 guests.
Intimate Wedding Preparation
When they decided to move their ceremony to the spring, they were originally thinking about having the ceremony and couples portraits at Dolly Sods, which is probably my favorite place in West Virginia.
But a few of the older guests wouldn’t have been able to walk to their chosen ceremony spot so instead they opted for Blackwater State Park, which is my second favorite place in West Virginia =).
One of the nice things about Blackwater is that it’s a little bit more centrally located, so you have less of a drive than Dolly Sods to accommodations and the little towns of Thomas and Davis.. Both Thomas and Davis have several good local food options, breweries and cute Airbnbs.
There are also several ceremony location options at Blackwater State Park and they are ALL beautiful. Brittany and Daniel opted to get ready at a cabin near Timberland Resort (another local ski area) and then have their ceremony at Pendleton Point, which is across Blackwater Canyon from the lodge.
We three then hiked out to Lindy Point where the couple said private vows to one another and drove back to Elakala Falls to finish up the adventure. Afterwards, they met family at the Smokehouse for a laid-back dinner celebration before returning to their cabin with their dogs for the rest of the weekend.
Afterwards, when I delivered her gallery, Brittany wrote me the kindest review. I’m pasting it in below — it gives me the warm and fuzzies every time I read it!
Kara made my wedding day happen! Everything from finding the location, helping me find a florist, and pick out an airbnb. If it wasn’t for her the day wouldn’t have happened so easily.
Through the entire process Kara hung in there every time I changed my mind (67 times to be exact, including my wedding date!) and handled all of it so kindly.
Her pictures will give you the entire landscape, the up close intimate details, and everything in between. Kara was also there to zip up my dress and help me find a hairstyle when I couldn’t make another decision while I was getting ready.
I am so glad we did the engagement shoot with her, it truly helps you get comfortable working with her and builds your confidence while moving around for her camera. She builds a quick relationship with you and brings out the most real emotion in the pictures.”
Thank YOU, Brittany and Daniel, for allowing me to be your photographer for a delightful wedding at one of my favorite locations.
The Ultimate Small Wedding Planning Guide and Checklist