When Whitney first inquired she said she envisioned “standing on a rocky knoll at sunset with the misty clouds rolling over the mountains in the background.” And boy did the mist show up for their “sunrise” elopement at Hawksbill Summit.
After that initial inquiry they ended up opting for a full-day elopement so we could fit in both a hike and a short canoe trip.
Here’s what they included in their day:
We started the day before dawn and met in the parking area for Hawksbill Summit. It was a super foggy morning. You never know if the fog will clear by the time you get to the top of the mountain, though. So we put on headlamps, tied their clothes to their backpacks and started the hike.
Two friends and their officiant were the only other attendants!
Quick Tip for Sunrise First Looks in Shenandoah National Park: You’ll be hiking up in the dark so make sure to bring headlamps for flashlights so you can see where you are going! Cell phone flashlights work in a pinch, but typically aren’t as powerful as dedicated headlamps.
They got dressed separately. Then, as soon as there was enough light, saw each other in their outfits for the first time.
By now a thick blanket of fog covered everything. So we decided to hike back down the Appalachian Trail a little bit and do their ceremony in the woods rather than on the viewing platform like we’d originally planned.
They shared personal vows, laughed, cried, cheered, and were married!
Hawksbill Summit is one of my favorite spots for small wedding ceremonies. In addition to the viewing platform at the top, there is an Appalachian Trail shelter that can be used for a picnic (or for getting dressed) as long as it is free (those shelters are first come first serve).
To see another ceremony at Hawksbill Summit, check out Brithany and Dhruvin’s elopement blog.
After their ceremony, the small group went back to the shelter and cracked open the biggest bottle of champagne I have ever seen. They also brought some truly delicious cupcakes. We took beautiful, fun and ethereal portraits and then it was time to head back down to the cars!
Traditionally, wedding coverage is continuous. Meaning if you book a photographer for eight hours those eight hours will happen one to the next. But I let my full-day elopement couples split their coverage into AM and PM portions.
There are two reasons for this: One, I’m local! So I’m happy to go home, play with my kids and take a nap midday. And two, splitting the day into sunrise and sunset portions allows you to take advantage of the best light on either end of the day. Additionally, if there is inclement weather (i.e. rain or fog) at sunrise it’s very unusual to get that same weather in the evening. In Whitney and Dave’s case their “sunrise” was a complete whiteout, but the sun came out for the later!
Whitney and Dave booked an Airbnb off of the Shenandoah River so they could do some canoeing during their stay. They both love kayaking so they loved the idea of doing a “canoe-away” as an exit rather than a getaway car.
After our respective naps, I met them back at the Airbnb. They got ready again together, cut an incredible cake and headed out to the river to get in the boat.
Story about this canoe shot: there was a tree on the bank with a big overhanging branch. And you’d better bet I climbed into that tree, got over the water on the branch with my camera equipment and got the shot – all while pregnant!
Whitney and Dave took advantage of the last light of the day by starting a campfire, turning on a portable speaker and sharing their first dance as a married couple. Once the light began to fade so did the temperature so we then all headed inside for the warmth of the airbnb and the indoor fireplace.
They spread a blanket, cracked jokes, made s’mores and ended the day by fire and candlelight.
In the end it was a perfect day filled with all their favorite things: Food, outdoors, adventure, some of their very closest friends and, of course, each other.
The Ultimate Small Wedding Planning Guide and Checklist