Article: Our Wedding
Curtis & I recently eloped in Yakima Canyon, down by the river, on the first gorgeous sunny & warm day of 2023! We rented the cutest A-frame vacation rental cabin in Ronald for the weekend (Moonshine Digs/ @thedigs), had our photographer (Devin/ @backcountrybohemians) and HAMU (Anne/ @annetimmsmakeupartist) rockstars drive out to meet us, help us get ready and take photos. We drove down to the Yakima river in Ellensburg for an intimate afternoon ceremony with four witnesses and officiant, then hiked up the Umtanum Vista Trail to exchange our own personal vows, offer thanks in prayer, and ask for guidance, protection & blessings.
Our elopement photographer Devin, who is always up for any adventure, followed us all the way up 2,200 ft in 2 miles, and back down, for the most incredible sunset photos you've ever seen! The whole place feels like a staircase to heaven, in these wide open bare fields of grass that lead up a steep hillside to the highest lookout at the top where you can see 360 degree views of rolling gold hills and canyons. It's like going up to "meet with the Gods". It's a sacred place to me, as I've hike that difficult & arduous route praying for guidance, direction, hope and protection, during times in my life that were uncertain, when I wasn't sure what would happen or how things would work out. I had a nesting hawk try to attack one time as I took cover with a scraggly sage brush branch braced over my head, I encountered 60 mph freezing winds near the crest that almost pushed me backwards and off the steeps, another time it was 95 degrees with no shade and hundreds of rattlers I heard but never saw, but every time I've walked that path I've had a transformational experience, feeling as though I'd passed through a test of faith and courage, heading home with a renewed sense of strength & blessing.
This is rattlesnake country, a snake that in native culture symbolizes transformation, protection, spiritual awakening, rebirth & renewal, as it sheds its skin. This area in particular is known for an abundance of these creatures, though I've not seen one myself there with my own eyes. The power and energy of this canyon is incredibly strong, if you are open and availing of it. I took Curtis there a few years ago in the winter when it was still covered in snow, when he was going through a difficult time himself in life, when we were still just friends, and he'd asked me for some support. I remember walking up there with him and saying (quietly under my breath) "Ok Hi God, this is my friend Curtis. He's very special to me. Please help him and bless him and bless me and bless us." That was the first time we began to sense that our friendship was developing into something more...that we began to understand that we really cared about one another and wanted to help each other and wanted to be together. There were some difficulties we faced in the next couple years leading up until now, but got through them, each one of us growing and showing up in new ways. Though we'd been friends and companions in mountain bike racing, riding, hiking and exploring, and he'd been my trusted mechanic at the height of my race career, I believe our partnership and devotion to one another started at the top of this hill in that prayer that February. Returning two years later to give thanks and celebrate our union was only befitting.
As rattlesnakes come out in this area beginning in April, we were cautious of these beautiful beasts, and had our little pup Rio vaccinated just in case. We never had to avoid any. Curtis did spy however a bull snake (which looks almost identical but has no rattle and is harmless), which was really special for us to all get to watch slither across the trail and away into the tall cover of golden grass. I discovered that this spirit animal carries similar representation as the rattler. It signifies good luck, prosperity, wisdom, protection, endurance, persistence, strength. Also known as the gopher snake, it can signify healing, renewal, a reminder of staying grounded in your roots, and remaining humble. I cannot think of a better gift that the Gods could have offered us than this on our wedding day!
Our ceremony was incredibly sweet. Curtis & I wanted to keep things simple, and have our wedding day be really fun! We knew we wanted to hike and exchange vows outdoors, where we both connect the most spiritually. We wanted it to be intimate and special for us. We wanted it to be quiet and peaceful. We decided we'd rather elope ourselves and host a reception for our families the following month. My family would be coming from Oklahoma and the US Virgin Islands, and his from California and locally here in the Seattle area to meet for the first time. Instead of family on this day, we requested a few of my close friends and spiritual influencers to join us for our ceremony and sign our wedding papers. My friend Chris, a pastor in Yakima, officiated for us. He made it so special! I asked my friend Lisa, who is one of my greatest inspirations, a friend and best supporter, to join us with her partner Ted to witness our ceremony. She'd hosted my bridal shower and made this day so meaningful for us. She'd seen me through heartache & trouble in past relationships and watched me grow in love, and flourish in my relationship with Curtis. I also asked a friend Don, and his wife Lavada to witness, as they'd been my best example of a healthy loving relationship, and helped me learn how I want to show up in a marriage. The seven of us, and of course Devin, documenting our whole day, helped us carry my florals from the van a few steps up a little dirt path to a river overlook where we said our 'I Do's", helped us light & burn ceremonial sage, watched & giggled as I tried to get Curtis's ring onto his swollen finger in the 90 degree heat, prayed with us, tossed petals for us when we were announced husband and wife, and 'cheersed' with a refreshing sip of bubbly when it was all over. Our two rescue pups hung out in the shade of a couple benches right next to our ceremonial site, which also served to seat our guests before and after. A huge bumblebee visited us while Curtis repeated his vows after the reverend, buzzing and swirling dizzily around my bouquet. The bee found us again 4 hours later at the the top of the hill once we'd hiked up and had fallen in love with my flowers! When we got back down from that pilgrimage, we dined on our wedding cake, which we'd stored in the van fridge. It was the best cake I've ever eaten, cold and dense and the perfect soft sweetness, delectable after all day trek in the sun! (Thanks to @pagebakery!) We swung by The Pearl Bar & Grill in Ellensburg & picked up to-go burgers to gorge on back at the cabin. Don & Laveda had taken our black 5 yr old Great Dane, Luna, back home with them to Thorp after our ceremony, to keep cool and out of the heat, while she was resting a sore knee and couldn't make the hike with us. We stopped there for Luna on the way back to our little cabin in the woods, and the 'old folks' gave us sweet wedding gifts and hugs.
We had the most beautiful weekend staying at this cabin, a stones throw from Cle Elum Lake. On Friday night when we arrived we saw shooting stars over the water as we walked hand in hand in the moonlight. In the morning I walked by the stones and the sand and the water and the mountains. I called my mom in excitement and anticipation as the dogs and I watched the sunrise and Curtis slept in. Getting ready there with the girls was so fun and perfect, (we listened to Debbie Gibson on vinyl!) and it was so romantic to enjoy on our wedding night. Sunday morning we enjoyed wandering in the woods in Salmon La Sac, passing a waterfall, drinking from the river, admiring our wedding rings that we get to wear every day now going forward. We got home to our condo in Everett and rested after a whirlwind weekend that was so much fun. Now we're looking forward to celebrating with our families at the end of this month!
The florals I designed for our wedding day inspired me to offer elopement packages, since it was so easy to pack, transport, set up and reset. I want others to be able to enjoy what we did! I designed two larger 4 ft tall pieces in white ceramic compote vessels (using a frog and chicken wire to secure, no toxic floral foam), two medium 2 ft tall pieces and 2 small arrangements with similar vessels & eco friendly mechanics. I could take these Friday to the cabin with us & set them out front the morning of, for 'first look' photos, then transport to the riverfront to frame our ceremony space. They held up amazingly well. Luckily we didn't have to deal with any winds, but if we had, we would have supported with rocks around the base to keep them from tipping over. Originally we'd imagined getting married lower, right next to the river, but the water was so high, there was no beach. We'd imagined we could bury the vessel in the sand for extra securement against wind. The lookout area worked out perfectly however and wasn't as far of a walk from the main parking lot. It didn't really matter where we set up, every view is beautiful there.
I am offering Curated Collections now in a similar style, that are easily transferrable and able to be set up in different ways, on stands, on the ground, in front of a headtable, etc. We planned this elopement and our reception in 2 months. There are so many beautiful outdoor areas to elope in this state, it can be hard to choose! You also need to look into permitting for certain areas. Often folks need last minute florals, and often only a few pieces, so I decided to create 4 Collections in different styles and palettes to choose from A La Carte, if you're on a time/budget crunch! Each is designed to compliment a season and outdoor landscape. My hope is that others can make their day as special as we were able to make ours, even if it's not a 'big deal wedding'. ; ) We all deserve to feel special, celebrated and loved!