This gorgeous couple has been in our lives quite a bit lately – after all Kim is the photographer we’ve chosen to shoot our wedding! From maternity photos, to family photos, an engagement session in Moab, and in just two weeks – our wedding in Allenspark, Colorado – Kim has seen us through a lot.
So it was no question that I owed her – and when she mentioned an in-home brunch session while her and her fiance cooked together, it was a no brainer. YES! How fun would that be?!
This session really reinforced my love for documentary style work, where a couple just gets to be themselves, doing something they actually do in real life. And working amongst the scent of pancakes and maple syrup wafting in the air is something you’ll never hear me complain about.
Check out these two snuggling in the kitchen and check out Kim’s awesome work at http://kmitiskaphotography.com!
Song : Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka
2019 marks NINE years for me of shooting weddings professionally, so when people who know this hear that I’m getting married, everyone seems to be curious about the choices I’ve made after spending so much time in the industry.
The automatic assumption is that planning must have been a breeze for me, after all – I’ve had so many years to gather ideas, witness the pitfalls, the triumphs, know what stressors to avoid, etc.
Not for me, and not for most people. Even for trained event planners it’s still a pretty big deal!
A friend of mine referred to wedding planning in a way us outdoorsy folk refer to rough days in the mountains – “Type 2 Fun”. He couldn’t be more right. In retrospect will it be worth it? Absolutely- but it’s not so fun right now.
Part of my job as a photographer is to help guide future couples and to make their lives easier. Now that I’ve been on the bride-side of things, I feel like I have so much more to offer! Therefore I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned from my time in the industry, how I’m applying them to my own wedding, and a few new things I’ve picked up along the way!
First topic I want to tackle- VENUES!
Where to start : Choosing to look for venue in an area that holds a special place in your heart can make your day even more memorable – plus you’ll have that sentimental place to go visit over and over again.
Our first date was a camping trip in Allenspark, Colorado at an area overlooking Wild Basin (part of Rocky Mountain National Park) with an amazing view of Mt. Meeker – a prominent 13er in the area. It’s also the same exact spot where Bobby proposed to me and asked me to be his “adventure buddy for life”!
Naturally- this campsite has become a very important place to us. It just made sense to also get married somewhere nearby – so we started our search for venues in the Allenspark/Lyons/Estes Park area.
I knew I wanted a large private residence or a venue that provided lodging to our guests.
Why? In my experience, wedding days – especially those that involve guests who have to travel – can be extremely stressful for a couple who feels obligated to spend the few hours at their reception making sure to spend time with every single guest. No one wants their guests to feel like they traveled such a long way, and didn’t even get a chance to chat with the couple or give them more than just a quick hug and a “congrats”.
Venues that provide lodging for numerous people for multiple days allow a couple to spend quality time with their guests who are traveling. This alleviates the pressure to spend their entire wedding celebration worrying about whether or not they’ve had time to interact with everyone there. The couple will actually be able to just revel in their wedding celebration, doing what they want without stress or guilt.
Lesson 1: Take a venue tour.
The venue we thought we would choose and the venue we went with are so entirely different.
We went to look around at a prominent wedding venue known for lodging, and were treated pretty poorly by the staff. We were ignored and treated like an aggravation, and it definitely didn’t feel like a welcoming place in reality vs. the warmth that was conveyed in the imagery on their site.
On the opposite side of things – we really weren’t sure about the venue we ended up choosing before taking the tour.
The website didn’t quite do it justice, and the price seemed too good to be true! But within the first couple minutes of touring the Sunshine Mountain Lodge in Allenspark (though the address is technically Lyons), Colorado- we knew it was “the one”.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by pine forests and aspen groves, 6 little red cabins and a lodge provide the ultimate Colorado experience to the laid-back outdoorsy type who really just want their wedding day to feel like they’re hanging out with their friends and family at basecamp before (and after) their grand adventure.
It’s perfect for weddings between 60-80 people, but can hold up to 100 and sleep up to 40 overnight. We have the venue for three nights which allows us to hang out with our friends & family before the wedding day, have community dinners/breakfasts, use it as a meeting point for hikes together, hang out by the fire pit in the evening, and there are no worries about folks driving home inebriated.
Not only is the venue just our style, but the owners – Cat & Cory – are the sweetest, and work so hard to make SML a cozy and homey space for their guests.
The cherry on top of it all is that it is just a short 15 minute drive from the campsite where we’ve made so many memories together as a couple, and we’ll be saying our own private vows there before heading back to the lodge for a larger ceremony with family & friends.
Lesson 2 : Consider how inclusive your venue is.
Because Sunshine Mountain Lodge isn’t a traditional venue, we had to piece our vendors together ourselves vs. just booking one big package. It’s no fault of the venue’s – we chose this path! But we didn’t quite realize how many small logistical issues can arise from doing everything yourself. Do NOT underestimate how much planning can go into building a wedding day from scratch, and having to worry about things like “who will pick up the 18 bags of ice? Where will we store it?”, etc.
All inclusive venues can be really nice for this reason, but they can also really limit you if you want to customize your day.
To us, Sunshine Mountain Lodge is the perfect venue for us and our crew, and totally worth the extra planning.
Lesson 3: Inform your guests about considerations they need to take given the venue you’ve chosen.
Sometimes when we live in an area like this, it’s easy to take for granted how much others might not realize. Make sure to inform your guests of pertinent information that they might not think of.
Some examples of things we’ve needed to tell our guests based on Sunshine Mountain Lodge being a venue in the Colorado mountains around 8500′ in elevation :
Anyways- that’s all for now! I hope that some of this advice has helped you think more about your venue, and if you’ve already booked it- what else you might consider when it comes to utilizing it. 🙂
I love shooting at all different types of venues, but am so excited to spend my own wedding day at this one. It’s a gem.
I’ll make sure to post a follow up blog and let you all know how it went! Only 22 days now!
If I could always shoot couple’s sessions like this one, I would every. damn. day.
Christin & Craig are pretty much the prime example of a Boulder couple- active to the core, driven, passionate, independent, and of course – they incredibly admire those traits in one another.
Couples’ sessions are not always snuggles and kisses – they should represent you as a couple- who you are together & what you like to do. Just a few days before this session, these two ran the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim together. Therefore a mini-trail running session up off of Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder was the perfect fit.
Check out this adorable athletic duo having fun together in the foothills. 🙂
Song : Furr – Blitzen Trapper
If there were ever a wedding that inspired me to think more about what I want to do for my own, it was Amber & Shayne’s.
Being an amazing (elopement) photographer herself, Amber knew that she wanted her wedding day to be intimate, personal, and to make sure they actually got to spend quality time together doing things they love, like paddle boarding, cooking breakfast together, and tubing down a creek on a pink inflatable flamingo!
Their wedding day started before the sun came up where they got ready together in a cabin right on Shadow Mountain Lake (adjacent to Grand Lake) in the rocky mountains of Colorado. They found the perfect spot to say their private vows at sunrise, went paddle boarding together, and then met their immediate family on the banks of the lake for a short ceremony that wrapped up with their doggos stamping their paws on the marriage license as witnesses.
Shayne made some awesome green chili breakfast burritos (a camp-food favorite of theirs) while they spent the rest of the morning relaxing before their afternoon shindig!
When it came time to enter their reception, they made their grand entrance to the AA Barn in Grand Lake on the infamous flamingo with their best friends in tow. The rest of the afternoon was spent chowing down on some delicious Bare Bones BBQ and dancing to the sweet cover tunes played by the Mountain Town Trio.
What inspiration did I take from this? That private vows are an amazing way to make at least a part of you wedding day completely your own. You can say things without judgment from others – being completely open, honest, raw and emotional without worrying about anything else other than the person you’re committing your life to.
I also saw how much fun it can be to do something meaningful to the two of you on your wedding day. While Bobby & I wont be paddle boarding, we will be spending over an hour at one of our favorite spots in Colorado- the overlook where we had our first date and also got engaged. 🙂
There are so many good lessons to be derived from their amazing wedding day, but Amber’s advice is simple :
Song : Old Pine – Ben Howard
With moody clouds overhead, cliff edges in the distance, tall pine trees and the sounds of a babbling creek – I knew that the recipe for a perfect wedding day was complete. What more could you ask for than a gorgeous day in a gorgeous place to commit to your partner? Blackstone Rivers Ranch surely does not disappoint. When I asked Kristen (Tink) why she chose this particular venue, she said this :
Tink had impeccably designed everything with the help of her family, friends, and of course her amazing planner Patricia of All Four Seasons Events. From a seating chart hanging from a pampas grass-covered hoop, to the lush greenery and neutrals in the floral designs by Something Styled, and the different luxe tones of the bridesmaids dresses- all I could do was keep my finger on the shutter like a crazy person. It was all too good to miss any of it!
But truly the best part of the day was Tink & Tally’s vows to one another. Emotions were high as the rain came down and brought peace and calm to what can often be a stressful first few hours of ones wedding day. This was it- they were finally making the commitment to stand by each other through thick and thin, through good times in bad.
It never gets old to be able to witness the strength of the love two people share when they decide to get married. This day was no exception. I’ll always remember the way all of their friends and family smiled back at them while they were putting rings on each others fingers, and the way they held each other as they danced to a slow song at the end of the night.
To close- I’ll leave you with some solid advice from Kristen to couples planning their future wedding :
Song : Amsterdam – Gregory Alan Isakov
It seems like just yesterday this little booger was crawling around with his stuffed yeti, reading books with his parents, and sharing his toys with me in between clicks of my shutter. Even though he’s already grown so much since this amazing session with this sweet family, I had to share this oldie-but-goodie nonetheless.
This little family of four has made their home in the mountains and is raising their little dude to be as hip as they are, with a turntable in his nursery and jam sessions on a regular basis- he’s definitely going to be the “cool kid” wherever he goes.
Check out some of the photos we got of little W, or as we like to call him – “DJ Wally Walls”.
Song : The Chipmunk Song – Christmas Don’t be Late