Elopement to the Utah Salt Flats
There is something beautiful in those who have spontaneous souls, so wanderlust and free to have the want to take a path less traveled by most in the name of love! Elopements are on the rise, I don't know about you but that makes me want to do a happy dance! When this awesome couple originally talked to me earlier in the year about wanting to elope to Yosemite, I thought how could it get better than that? Amazing couple, check! Gorgeous location? Epic! Sounded like a dream. Little did we know that their dreams of a Yosemite elopement were going to fly right out the window thanks to COVID, but simultaneously open the door to something much better.
Fast forward a few months later, I had that very same client over discussing another photoshoot we had in the works when she brought up the possible idea of her and her fiancé going to the Utah Salt Flats on a whim to do an elopement in just a couple days. She then proceeded to show me where exactly she was wanting to go and I fell in love with the place and all the possibilities it had to offer! She went on to say that she felt bad for asking with such short notice, as I have 2 small kids, but after looking at both of our calendars, and making a couple phone calls, it all fell perfectly into place like it was meant to be all along. They had my flight and hotel booked and I was set to depart out of the closest airport in 72 hours.
Departure- 48 hours:
As if I thought this wedding couldn’t get better, the next day my bride, Monica asked me a question I never thought I would get asked being a photographer at a wedding. “Are you by chance ordained, and is there any chance you would want to do that? I would LOVE that!” Umm yes, I couldn't believe it! There was the obvious problem of not being able to be in 2 places at once with performing the ceremony and shooting it, which they understood and were on board with so within the hour, I was ordained and welcomed to the congregation of the Universal Life Church as a minister! This whirlwind of an elopement kept getting whirlier and I was loving it!
The pressure was on, can you imagine opening your bag and realizing you didn't have what you needed being states away from your stuff? I was not about to make that hypothetical situation a reality so, like Santa, I made a list and I checked it twice. I had everything packed and ready to go, I kissed my babies goodbye, loaded up all of their stuff and sent them off to spend a fun weekend at their Nana and Papa’s house! Once they left, I then started to pack my stuff into the back of my sisters car, and we were off, with butterflies in my stomach! I was nervous but excited for what was in store! Little did I know that my flight to Utah would be the most turbulence filled flight I have been on! Thank goodness for Dramamine and it being a short flight, because I stepped out of that plane feeling like I went on a crazy roller coaster drunk! After getting my bearings and my stomach under control, I was able to navigate to the baggage claim to pick up my suitcase and rendezvous with my couple who come to find out was literally in stopped traffic! This trip was off to an interesting start!
After some horrible directions on my part on trying to guide them to where I was, we met up a short while later, they told me that our hotel was close to the airport, so we checked in and started to talk about the final outfits and the remaining few details. In the midst of the planning, we were all starving! So we decided to take the conversation on the road and drove around town, settling on a KFC and while in the drive thru, it dawned on me that I had a whole ceremony to write out! While we waited, I started to feel out what type of ceremony and vows suited them. They wanted simplicity with meaning, which was the perfect pairing to this elopement. We went back to the hotel with our root beer and chicken, finished eating, and then started to write out my script when the groom took out his drone and started to get it ready for the elopement. The bride and I didn't think much of it when he started it up to try out a part that he replaced thinking it was going to be a quick hover and touch down, that was, until he accidentally ran it into the entertainment center, damaging the drone in the process! Oops… after laughing, he was able to fix what broke and then we went back to planning.
The plan was to wake up around 2 am the following morning on Saturday and head to the salt flats for a sunrise elopement and then finish the day with a beautiful downtown photoshoot! Sounds magical right? But you know what happens when you make plans, life loves to throw you for a loop. The day was coming to an end, I was winding down from all the traveling. I called my babies to tell them goodnight, set my alarm, pulled my clothes out for the following day and crawled into bed looking at the clock counting the hours until I had to wake up! The room was pitch black and quiet until my phone rang. It was my bride, Monica calling to tell me some bad news… they both forgot the groom Luis's slacks and tie at home! My heart dropped for a minute into my feet when I heard that. It was too late to go to the store, so we had to revamp our original plan by pushing the elopement to Sunday morning before my flight home to give us time to go shop for slacks and per bride's request, do a spontaneous sunset shoot on the flats Saturday evening instead! What else can you do other than roll with it? I was game for anything and really happy to be able to sleep in!
The next morning, we woke up, got ready and then went out to breakfast, which had the best lemonade, it was the perfect fuel for our busy mall/photoshoot excursion! The day that wasn't going according to their original plan was better than I think any of us thought it would be. It was filled with riding scooters around town, Chick-Fil-A, getting lost, and a lot of laughs surrounded by beautiful downtown architecture. We found exactly what they needed for his outfit as well as a lot of items we didn’t need! My couple decided that instead of staying in Salt Lake City and driving to the salt flats twice, once for the sunset shoot that day and again the next morning in the early am that it would be more beneficial booking another hotel closer to the flats. That decision led us to a Casino/Hotel in Wendover, Nevada which was around 10 minutes away from the flats! So we went back to our original hotel, packed our things and set off!
The closer we got to the salt flats, I could sense the rising excitement in my bride Monica. She had told me that she was inspired through another couple who shot at the salt flats, and once she found out where it was she said it was just so magical, it was the perfect setting she always saw herself getting married at. The salt flats off the highway were glittering in the sun, it was so bright and vast, we were here! That pinterest picture turned reality right in front of us! There were so many people there so we made the decision to follow the trend and drive onto the flats and it was amazing! We hung out the window, squealing in excitement as the salty wind whipped our hair around! We spent the rest of the evening exploring and shooting all the beauty the flats had to offer. Fun fact, do not walk on the flats barefoot! The ground was very porous and textured, and hurt to walk on it! Talk about deceiving, But that didn't stop my boho bride! She walked, sat and laid on the flats to get those amazing shots! She is truly a model at heart!
After a fun night of shooting, we finally called it quits and drove back to our hotel to check in! All of the colorful lights, the sound of the machines echoing through the 1st floor, there is something indisputable about casinos and the vibe they bring. We were exhausted, but excited to find something to eat! Little did I realize how delirious we all were, that night I almost broke my nose trying to clear the last flight of stairs (the groom challenged me) and thankfully he also cushioned what would have been a faceplant to the wall. That mishap was also followed by me using a dinglehopper (for you Disney fans out there) to keep my hair out of my face and P.S. it was actually efficient! Everything was 100x more hilarious than what it really was, we laughed so hard we cried! Knowing we had to be back up in a couple of hours, we finished our dinner, went back to the room where I finalized their vows by working with them 1-1. I stayed up to write out everything and maybe slept an hour or so before the alarm went off. Go time!
We made it out of the hotel, luggage in tow. My couple in their wedding attire, being congratulated as we made our way through the casino. Today was the day! We packed our stuff into the car and set off to the flats. It was still dark, the sky just barely starting to turn purple. We drove onto the salt flats, set up a video for people to watch, and then watched magic unfold as I conducted the ceremony while the sun started to rise over the flats. The raw emotion and love that I witnessed was something I will never forget. It was so intimate and touching. I felt very humbled to be a part of it. The salt flats gave as such a variety of colors. From sunrise purple hues to morning light that was so bright and warm, it was even better than we imagined it would be! We shot until the last possible minute until it was time for me to catch my flight. They dropped me back off at the airport, and in just a couple short hours, I was back home uploading all the beautiful shots.
Even with all the “on a whim” plans, our personalities worked extremely well together, and proved that even the best things are unexpected. Congratulations to Monica and Luis, thank you for bringing me along on your wanderlust wedding adventure!