A Modern Take On Romeo & Juliet Road Trip Adventure Destination Elopement | Rocky Mountain Bride Published Wedding Photographer

A Modern Take On Romeo & Juliet Road Sweet Road Trip Adventure Destination Elopement | With Palisade Peaches Sunrise HarvestHost Breakfast | Colorado Wine Country Vineyards Adventures | Top Of The World Intimate Vows Elopement Ceremony | Athena + Niko | Justyna E Butler Photography

How did you meet?

14 year old Athena was enjoying a nap on the couch, when she heard loud and obnoxious screaming calling for Piero, her little brother, Sci's, best friend. As you can imagine this was quite the nuisance to a sleeping teenager, I (Athena) stepped out onto the balcony of our second story apartment & saw Niko standing below, he flashed me a smile and asked if I'd seen his brother, I smiled back sheepishly & told him he was off playing with my little brother but that'd I'd tell Piero he came looking for him.

Niko thanked me & walked away, I never took my eyes off of him, & the rest was history, a modern take on Romeo & Juliet... minus the poison of course.

Time between dating and proposal?

11 years of dating, longer still as best friends/family


Early in our realionship, while we were dating, we had a caricature drawn of us by a very nice, very drunk girl at a college party who was a caricature artist for sixflags (a local theme park). She commented that our love was mesmerizing & beautiful & that she had to draw us, we still have that picture hanging on our wall to this day...Fast forward 11 years & we go to newyork, allegedly, to celebrate my 29th birthday. Niko got us tickets to see Alladin on Broadway, which was a dream of mine. While in Newyork we bumped into friends who are a model & photographer, now these friends live in Newyork, so I suspected nothing, they asked if we wanted to get drinks as we had some time to kill before the show. As we're walking our photographer friend asks if he can take some pictures of us, we agree and keep walking and talking when niko sees a line of caricature artists on Broadway, niko then suggests we get an updated caricature drawing of us. Great idea! I say out loud, still suspecting nothing. As the artist is drawing first me, then Niko he joins me on my side down on one knee, since we were low to the ground I still suspected nothing & continue to pose. As niko begins to whisper sweet nothings in my ear a crowd begins to form around us, our friend is taking pictures, & the caricature artists asks me to come check the picture he is drawing, when I turn around niko is on one knee, ring box in hand, and pops the question.... smack in the middle of Broadway.

Length of engagement?

We intended to be married the following summer, we felt we waited long enough lol, but kept postponing due to the pandemic. In the interest of time we finally decided to elope.

Best. Decision. Ever.

The Getaway?

We have a bus that we have converted into a tiny home, all by our own two hands. We call her Calypso, Caly for short, and mannnn do we love her.

Now we've taken Caly on trips before, but from NJ to CO was going to be our biggest trek yet. We made sure to get a clean bill of health for her, change the tires, and have emergency road side services 24/7 in case of emergency. We had a beautiful send off party with family & friends, packed up our bus, packed up our pups, & were on our way.

Now I know, that despite any planning and preparation, life is going to happen exactly how it was meant to, and not how you planned it. Caly kept over heating, & then started having transmission problems. We made it to Illinois & were told to go a little further to a town called Effingham where locals were sure we'd get some help. After being shut down by at least 5-6 diffrent diesel mechanics one of the shop workers comes out after seeing us struggle to figure out what to do next, I had never seen Niko so defeated, he is an overall positive person, the shop worker gives our engine a quick look over & hands us a piece of paper with a name & number on it, "call kenny" he says, "he's your guy, he loves working with cummins engines." By now it is 9pm on a week night, we call Kenny & he skips dinner to come straight to us, from across town he's there in no more than 15 minutes.

Now a little back story on Kenny. He's had multiple health issues within these last recent years, and he is a crazy SOB.

Kenny is working on the bus with Niko until about 11pm, and the only reason he stops is because it's about to start down pouring, he tells us where to park as the area we were in was known for flooding heavily, THANK GOD HE TOLD US TO MOVE !  within minutes the area where we once were was a river (by my overly dramatic standards anyway)....

The next day Kenny is at our side once again, working sun up to well past sundown on helping us resolve our issue. Not only Kenny, but SO many members of this community stopped to offer a helping hand, checking that we had food, water, dropping off supplies at all hours of the night & checking if we needed a ride anywhere.

The next day, so day 3 in Illinois (and what was supposed to be our original wedding date 9/9/21) we are not able to resolve our issue, we needed a new air compressor, & with everything going on due to the pandemic there were none available... IN THE COUNTRY. Over a dozen mechanics in the area came by to try & help, I'd never seen anything like it.

After sometime Kenny pulls Niko to the side & tells him "you've got to take your lady and go get married. Don't worry about the bus, leave it here, it can stay on my farm & I'll work on it while you're gone, but you & your lady got to go get married"

He was right. This couldn't and wouldn't be where our adventure came to a hault, we'd gotten so far, we were so close, and we were going to get married come hell or high water.

We quickly brain stormed ideas, we couldn't rent a car as we forgot our credit cards (of course) & no car company around would rent to us without one. Niko had the brilliant idea to rent a uhaul. That beautiful man with his big beautiful brain made it happen, Kyle, another local who went above & beyond for us, did us the favor of driving niko an hour away to pick up the uhaul in Lebanon, IL. Within a few hours they were back. We arranged for a tow to take Caly to Kenny's farm, moved our essentials from Caly to the Uhaul, & transferred our pups.

Road sweet road.

Niko drove through the night to try to make up for time. My God I love this man.

All the while I am frantically updating our lodging/camping reservations/city clerks in Colorado. Everyone was SO understanding & flexible with us despite our list complications & obstacles getting there we received nothing but well wishes & encouragement...

Except for that cop that pulled us over in Kansas for speeding. Screw that cop.

We made it to Kitcarson CO mid afternoon, picked up our marriage certificate & took a much needed shower/rest before heading to our first stay in CO. Sauvage Spectrum, a vineyard in the palisades. Natasha, the owner was SO kind, we did not arrive until well past 11pm, & she even offered for us to stay an extra day. Thanks to Natasha & Sauvage Spectrum we were able to have the first portion of our wedding day on a gorgeous vineyard, ventured to the local farmers market where I got my wedding flowers, & enjoyed an epic hike on the Palisades rim trail, with Justyna, which we all loved, but the pups especially.

From here we went to Breckinridge to have NY style pizza from Giampietros (AMAZING 10/10 HIGHLY RECOMMEND). We did some shopping & headed over to lovelands pass to exchange vows at sunset.

It felt like a fairytale... except it was better than a fairytale, because this was real. This is our life. This is our adventure. And it happened exactly how it was supposed to happen.

Why did you decide to get married in the Rockies?

We always wanted to visit Colorado, and just because we didn't have a 'traditional,' wedding didn't mean our version couldn't be epic!

Your favorite moment?

For me, it was probably the saddest moment, which was coming to the realization that Caly was not going to make it to our destination. As I stood there, tears in my eyes I will never forget how tightly Niko held me as he whispered reassurances & encouragement into my ear. I knew, very concretely in that moment, that no matter what life threw at us, we would make it, together.

The planning?

All for nothing ! Lol a past version of myself would be so angry and caught up on everything that went "wrong," but niko, & life in general have taught me to just roll with it, & to control the controllables.

"Count your blessings, not your worries," my mom always says.

Highlights of your ceremony?

We were on cloud 9. On that mountain top we were as close to heaven as we had ever been, and it truly felt like it.

Highlights of your reception?

So hard to pick! The little moments, laughing at nothing, enjoying pizza together, and just soaking each moment in.

Advice to future couples?

Make decisions based on hope, not fear. Do what you love & be unapologetic about it! Don't sweat the small stuff. And tell your person you love them & how beautiful they are to you every chance you get.

Athena + Nico

Share this story

  1. I am so happy to see and read the whole gallery, i already saw a few of these gorgeous photos on instagram. i love how they included the dogs and how she constantly smiles!! wonderful storytelling

  2. wow! i LOVE HOW MUCH THESE INCLUDED IN THEIR WEDDING DAY. They really thought everything out! And their proposal story with the charicature–so cute!! These images are amazing. You captured their day perfectly.

  3. YOur work never ceases to amaze ME! I love how you capture all the little details and IN-BETWEEN moments as well as the epic setting. Absolutely GORGEOUS!

  4. I love how they incorporated the pups!! and they were so wild and passionate, i love it. a mix of passion, hotness and cuteness all through


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