3 weeks ago today, Jack and I finally got married at the Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado. Two weeks before our Maroon Bells elopement, we weren’t even sure if it was going to happen. We are in the middle of a Global Pandemic, and my dad has end-stage cancer. But, we made it and it was seriously one of the best days/weeks of my life. Today, you’re getting an inside scoop on OUR wedding day! But first, some back story.
Jack and I met in April 2015 during a two week long celebration of the UCF Theatre and Arts program at the Dr. Phillips Center. If you didn’t know, we both worked in theatre before I went full time in photography! I was the master electrician and head lighting designer, so I worked in the booth a lot by myself. This kid (Jack) walked into my booth on that fateful Monday in April and took over my space. I said some not nice things to him and he threw it right back. We started dating on May 5, 2015 and the rest is history.
My dad was diagnosed with end-stage Multiple Myeloma cancer and end-stage kidney failure on New Years Eve 2018. Jack was by my side through it all. Selfishly, one of the fears I had every day was that my dad was not going to be with me on my wedding day to walk me down the aisle. It broke my heart and Jack could see how much that haunted me.
Jack proposed to me almost a year after his diagnosis on Christmas (my favorite holiday) in the most Haleigh way possible. I was crying in our bed about God only knows what, and he pulled the ring out of his pocket to try and cheer me up. Oh, and Rocky was all up in the middle of it, as expected. Of course, I said yes, and I started planning immediately.
It was really important to me to know that my dad would be there, so we didn’t want to wait. Jack had just started a new job working 9-5 on weekdays and the occasional weekend for shows. I was booking portraits and weddings on the weekends. It was really difficult for us to narrow down a date. We knew that summer would be best, as it was slow season for both of us. We also wanted an epic location because we love to travel and we weren’t sure if this was going to be my dad’s last big trip. It was important for us to have an amazing memory in an amazing place.
Everything fell into line after that planning wise. I reached out to the best photographer I knew (that’s you, Katelyn!!) and after a little back and forth, rearranging locations and playing with dates, we settled on July 29, 2020 at Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado. We wanted a very small Maroon Bells elopement and that is exactly what we got!
Skipping over all the boring and unhappy Global Pandemic craziness… it’s our wedding week! Jack and I flew out to Aspen, Colorado the Saturday before our wedding. We weren’t sure if we would be able to have a honeymoon this year, so we wanted to make the most of our epic elopement location. We had to fly into Denver and drive 3 hours to Aspen, but road-trips are some of our favorites, so it was totally fine. On the first part of the trip, we were mesmerized by the mountains and wildlife (looking at you, buffalo). Living in Florida so long, we were so used to flat!!!
But by the second part of the trip, we started to regret things a little. It got dark VERY quickly and the roads were a little intense. Oh. Did I mention it was raining the whole time?!? Going down a mountain in the dark and in the rain is NOT a good time. We also drove through a cloud at one point and literally couldn’t see anything. Um. Terrifying. It was also like 10:30 at night there, so after midnight East Coast time. After a crazy 4 hour adventure to our hotel, we finally were able to settle in.
We spent the next three days exploring the sites of Colorado. On Sunday, we took a trip back the way we came in to Aspen to see what we had missed. Jack was intrigued by the signs he saw at night, so we said “Why not??” Um. Totally worth it. We went back into the Canyon and it was so freaking stunning.
On Monday, we went out to see our ceremony location and reception venue in person. Up until this point, I was just online shopping and virtually communicating with everyone. After getting the “How to Avoid a Moose Attack” talk, Jack and I got on the pre-arranged shuttle to Maroon Bells. I don’t think our mouths closed the entire trip. We were surrounded by the most gorgeous mountains and Aspen trees. Once we arrived at Maroon Bells, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It honestly looked like a painting.
We took the side path off into our actual venue, the Amphitheater. On the path to the venue, we were surrounded by white daisies, my favorite flower and what my bouquet was made of. I knew this was our spot. I cried the minute we hit the Amphitheater. The picturesque views were exactly what I dreamed of. Jack and I just stood there, repeating over and over “We are getting married here.” We couldn’t believe it. It felt like a dream that we were having a Maroon Bells elopement. We spent the rest of Monday exploring the other areas of Maroon Bells. We hiked as far as our bodies would allow with the altitude change (11,000 feet at that point!!) and made some new wildlife friends.
On Tuesday, we picked up our two amazing friends from Richmond and explored some trails on the other side of Aspen, heading towards the Continental Divide. I started to become out of breath from the altitude and almost gave up on our hike. The boys ran ahead to see what was around the corner, and as soon as they screamed “LAKE!!!”, Rachel and I hobbled our way up. It was SO worth it. Just look at that view!! I would’ve been so mad at myself if we didn’t keep going.
Alright, you’ve sat around long enough. Our Maroon Bells elopement day is finally here. I spent the morning getting ready with my mom, aunt, and little cousin. It was so relaxing and nothing felt rushed. Angela from Aspen Glam did a complete makeover for me and I absolutely LOVE her for it. One of the most meaningful parts of the getting ready process was watching my little cousin take in the wedding day. She wanted her hair done like mine and asked me to do her makeup. Ugh, my heart. Katelyn and Emily arrived for details and getting ready photos. These two were so down to earth and such a joy to have in the getting ready room! Michael hung out with Jack and my dad as they got ready for the day.
One of the moments that was most important to have captured was the first look with my dad. We really wanted to make this day not only about Jack and I, but the special moments for him. The first look went exactly as I imagined. It was full of tears, laughter, and just having a quality moment with him. I totally forgot there were others in the room. It is a memory I will always cherish. He stood and watched me get some bridal portraits done and just loved every second.
What meant the most to us about this Maroon Bells elopement was having time for us. That’s where the first look with Jack came in. I had been teasing him all along about what my dress looked like: full length sleeves, a high collar, the works. He truly didn’t know what to expect. Although he didn’t cry (he claimed a tear rolled out…), it was still the perfect first look with the lip pout and all.
I honestly can’t tell clients enough how amazing a first look is, even more so now that I’ve done one for myself. It seriously took so much stress and anxiety away from the day. Not feeling like I had to hide from everyone and Jack until the ceremony started was such a relief. I could just chill and be in the moment taking in the amazing scenery. The amount of portraits we were able to take was also a huge bonus!!
When we were talking about the officiant and who we wanted to perform the ceremony, the first person we thought of was my mom. She is probably the one who knows Jack and I the most, so it was the perfect job for her. I wasn’t sure that she would say yes, but she was so excited. Although the altitude got to her a little bit, she did an amazing job as our officiant. Until the end. No matter how many times we told her how to pronounce Jack’s last name, she still butchered it. That’s my family!!
Jack and I LOVE weddings, but receptions aren’t our absolute favorite (because at that point, everyone is over photos and I totally get it!!). So, when we were planning our wedding day, we knew we wanted it to be super casual. Just the crew at a nice restaurant enjoying the food that most couples never get to eat! We found the perfect venue with a view at the Highlands Alehouse.
The only “normal” reception things we did during our wedding was a surprise toast by our Man of Honor, Skyler, and our dances. By surprise toast, I mean that I didn’t want to burden him with one, and he prepared the crap out of it anyway. It was absolutely perfect and truly captured our 5 year friendship. The tears started flowing then and just got worse with our dances.
Jack and I danced to “Beauty and the Beast.” It was the first show he saw that I did the lighting design for in Richmond and it was our first Halloween costumes. After, my dad and I danced to “Cinderella” where we all were a hot mess. This was another one of my important moments with my dad that I wanted to remember and Katelyn KILLED IT. The amount of tears you see in our photos are what come out every time I look at them. I don’t know how long he will be around, but these memories will last a lifetime. Finally, Jack and his mom brought some happiness back to the reception by dancing to “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”
I could not have asked for a more perfect Maroon Bells Elopement with a more perfect group. We were definitely missing some key players due to COVID, but it was still so amazing. We have felt so loved and supported by all of you. Our wedding team was the absolute best and I would work with every single one of them all over again.
Today, I was back to my normal work grind when I was sent out on assignment. I freelance for a major billboard company in the area and had to go take some photos of their boards. When I arrived at the first board, they had a congratulatory message for us playing in between the regular boards. Somehow, they must’ve known I was writing this today!! It wrapped up our wedding experience in the most epic way.
If you made it this far, THANK YOU. I tend to ramble, but I really wanted to share how special this wedding day was to us. I hope to keep making days special for our couples even with all of the craziness in the world.
THANK YOU TO OUR AMAZING VENDORS!!
Photography: Katelyn James Photography
Hair and Makeup: Aspen Glam
Ceremony: Maroon Bells Amphitheater
Reception: Highlands Alehouse
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