COLORADO ALPINE HIKING ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT | COLORADO ADVENTURE WEDDING AND ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER | JUSTYNA E BUTLER PHOTOGRAPHY | MICHAEL + COURTNEY
We talked about it all week. In the days leading up to our elopement, we couldn’t help but tell everyone about our special day. We were going to wake up at 3am, meet our photographer, put on our headlamps, and hike in our wedding garb up to the spot we’d exchange our vows. People thought we were crazy, romantic, adventurous, you name it. But everyone said the same thing in the end: this sounds so YOU.
The morning finally came. Up on time, butterflies in our stomachs, and a thermometer we weren’t expecting. We were staying at a hotel, meaning we had already packed what we thought we’d need for the hike. Unfortunately, 4am at 10,000 feet is still 30-40 degrees. Not the most comfortable temperature for a wedding dress. After some brief moments of panic, we agreed the hike would warm us up, and there was no turning back now. We took off for our Colorado adventure around 3:45am on July 6th, 2019.
After getting engaged on a hike in RMNP in July 2018, we jumped pretty quickly into wedding planning. We visited venues all around Colorado, and nothing felt quite right. Not until we talked to Justyna. She described herself as a ‘light chaser’, and as she went into detail about what we could expect, we looked at each other and knew eloping in the mountains with Justyna as our photographer was the type of wedding we had both dreamt of. Apart from the beauty of her work, the idea of exchanging vows alone in nature meant a lot to us.
As we pulled up to greet Justyna, all the butterflies and anxiety rushed away. Suddenly it was our wedding day. We parked near the trailhead, put on our headlamps, and smiled from ear to ear as we made the ascent. Being up that early, before the sunrise, added a dreamy element to the climb. We laughed and kissed and tried to take in every moment. We’re not naturals in front of the camera yet we were made to feel comfortable and like ourselves the whole time.
Our ‘first look’
Michael: When we got to our spot, the sun was just starting to peak over the mountain top. The lake and surrounding area were so quiet, like anyone within a mile could hear us if we laughed. Justyna asked Courtney to go and put her dress on and me to take out my guitar. I thought my hands would freeze up, but Courtney’s always been the person I’m most comfortable to play for. It felt natural to start playing and looking around at where I was, I remember telling myself never to forget that moment. I think Justyna was almost as excited as we were for our first look. Courtney told me about her dress, but never too much, and I later learned she was dropping hints to throw me off the scent. When I was finally allowed to turn around, I felt a hundred feelings. Gratitude, pride, love, speechlessness; those are just a few. I was mesmerised by her dress, and so in love with her natural beauty. My eyes welled up and we hugged and kissed as the moment was captured.
Courtney: I headed behind a couple trees to change from my hiking gear into my wedding gown. As I pulled on my dress over my leggings and hiking boots, I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. It hit me at that moment that I was about to marry the man of my dreams, in one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. I took a final glance at myself in my grandmother’s delicate mirror. I began to slowly walk towards Michael, who was turned away towards the lake playing a beautiful melody on his guitar. I always love to hear him play, and in that moment I could feel him playing only for me. I held onto his back and could feel him breathing and his heart racing in my palms. My heart was racing too and I couldn’t believe this moment was finally here. When he turned around, we looked each other in the eyes as they filled up with tears of joy. The deep love we feel for each other was the only thing that mattered at that moment. We kissed and embraced each other, which Justyna perfectly documented.
Michael: The week before, Courtney and I hiked up to our Colorado spot to make certain that’s where we wanted to go. It was an easy yes. While we explored, we came across a flat, intimate overlook with breathtaking lake, the glacier, and a seemingly endless view in the background. That’s where we’d exchange vows and rings. I know there were three of us, but the whole morning had the feeling like it was just Courtney and me. As we shared our love and commitment to each other, it felt like there was no one else within miles. We both laughed and cried, true to character, and promised to love and support each other for the rest of our lives.
The walk down was as fun as the walk up. By that time, more hikers had made their way up to the glacier. They were noticing my suit and Court’s dress, Courtney’s bouquet and my guitar, and our obvious smiles that we just married.
Courtney: We both knew the moment we came to ‘our spot’ where we’d exchange our vows when we hiked it the weekend prior. When we arrived at the spot again, I felt like we were in our own private sanctuary with the most mesmerizing backdrop of the lake and the mountains. I read my vows first. I somewhat nervously shifted through the several pieces of crinkled computer paper where they were written. I made two lists: one of commitments to Michael and the other a list of “with you” statements, expressing all the ways Michael makes me feel loved and cared for. Looking back on it, my vows were an understatement for all the ways I love and am loved by him.
‘With you, I am home.
With you, I am safe.
With you, I am me.’
As we exchanged our vows, we went laughed and smiled through the tears, which is typical for us. We both excitedly signed our marriage license, with Justyna as our witness. As we made our way back towards the trailhead, I was filled with so much joy and euphoria after the most memorable morning of my entire life.
We knew it the minute we heard the concept of an adventure elopement. We cherish each other’s company, we love spending time in nature, and we wanted our wedding day to truly be about us. Our celebration that evening would include family and friends at our favorite cidery in Colorado, but that morning was about our love for each other. Everything exceeded our very high expectations. We will keep these photographs as a reminder of the best day of our lives, of everything leading up to it, and the celebration of it later that night. Thank you, Justyna.
Love and gratitude,
Courtney and Michael Griffin
July 6, 2019