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I’ve known Amanda since I was in elementary school. Well, known of her. The first time I saw her she was in my brother’s junior high play, dressed head to toe in black leather with a bright pink mohawk. I was absolutely smitten with her. My mom assured me that she was only dressed like that because of the part she was playing—the troubled teenager who isn’t cut from the same cloth as her peers—but she was only half right. A few years later I auditioned for speech contest and saw a striking woman with hot pink hair and I knew right away that it was Amanda. We built a special relationship, one that only weird, dorky theater kids can, and always joked that one day she would adopt me. When she invited me to her wedding while I was in college, it was the first time I met her partner, Darin, but I knew immediately that he was her perfect match. (And not just because she had purple hair and his was hot pink…but that wasn’t a bad visual tip off.) Their wedding was quirky and charming and oh-so theater-y. But they both knew that it wasn’t exactly what they had wanted.
Eight years later, Amanda sent me a text message asking if I’d be interested in shooting their vow renewal in two years, in honor of their 10 year anniversary. They knew that they finally wanted to have the wedding they had always dreamed of: a small elopement in the Grand Tetons, where they took their first motorcycle trip together. While I normally don’t book too far in advance—I don’t even know what I’m doing for dinner most days—I jumped at the chance to spend time with them in one of the most beautiful parks in the country.
Two years, lots of planning, and a plane ride later, we woke up before sunrise to begin our hour-long trek from Driggs, Idaho, to the ceremony site, The Wedding Tree, in Wyoming. To our disappointment and surprise, we were met with a dense wall of fog unlike anything any of us had ever seen. But like Darin and Amanda’s outlook on life, they agreed that whatever the weather, whatever the visibility, we would get the coolest pictures and have the best time. Which Mother Nature must have appreciated, because as soon as the sun started to peek out from the horizon we drove out of the fog into the most incredible sunrise over the Tetons. I instructed Darin to pull the car over and the two of them hopped out and helped each other get ready in one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever experienced.
We made our way to The Wedding Tree and enjoyed a moment of quiet before our friends arrived, taking one too many cell phone photos of the view for family and friends back at home. Once our little merry troupe of friends arrived, we made our way to the ceremony site and had quite possibly the most personalized wedding ceremony ever. A lightsaber + sword fight to kick off the festivities. Rock, paper, scissors to see who got to read their vows first. A surprise arts and crafts project for the bride and groom from their friends and chosen family. And personal speeches from everyone about the joy they felt being able to be part of Amanda and Darin's lives. Even with the bitter chill, everyone was all smiles, laughs, and happy tears.
After the ceremony and celebratory coffee and champagne, we headed to Grand Tetons National Park to see the mountains up close and personal. After a quick detour to the J.P. Cunningham Cabin, our small group spent the afternoon hiking around Taggart Lake and being applauded by park visitors, taking moments to snap photos along the way.
With empty bellies and tired eyes, we took a little break the rest of the afternoon to prepare for more photo shenanigans at sunset. Though we were initially bummed we couldn’t make our way back to the park for more epic photos, that disappointment disappeared with a 5-minute drive from our cabin to some gorgeous mountain views. And to top things off, a little hop into the hot tub to relax their weary bones.
The next day we sat down to a family meal together at the cabin and everyone reminisced about the day before. How perfect everything was. How happy everyone was. How celebrating Amanda and Darin in this adventurous meets laid-back way felt so right. I'm so grateful that seeing the girl with the hot-pink hair on stage turned into a life-long love for two very incredible human beings who truly found each other. And how, thanks to a sharpie, a napkin, and three consenting adults, they "adopted" me over dinner our last night together in the mountains, making the joke we had made over 10 years ago our own little silly reality. One that I will always hold very, very dear to my heart.