Category Archives: elopement


I usually have something to say when I post a wedding. There are so many memorable parts of this wedding, that it’s tough to choose what to mention, and what to leave up to the imagination. Ideally, a wedding post doesn’t need a single word to tell the story, but I love the context of words. So the question is, what should I write? Hopefully the importance of community comes through. Maybe I should explain how every detail in this wedding wasn’t about how Pinterest-worthy it was, but selected because of its meaning to the couple… like a bouquet of peacock feathers from family property, or using a mirror from a sentimental truck to do your makeup. The hybrid elopement/intimate ceremony comes through for me, but will it to a random reader? Sometimes you just have to trust that the connection of the couple carries the whole thing. That, the landscape of Central Oregon, and the thoughtful advice from the bride and groom. Here’s to love and travel.
Andrew & Jodi
Andrew is from New Zealand and though Jodi is from Oregon, she’d been working internationally for five years. We met May 2011 in New Zealand, were acquaintances for about a year, and embarked on a much more intentional relationship July 2012. Long distance was the norm until May 2014. After summer hols in Oregon, Andrew joined Jodi in Argentina for her last year of work. 
The Hoped For
We set ourselves a bit of a challenge in planning our celebration. We wanted a multi-day, bespoke, intentional, and small gathering that allowed us meaningful time with friends and family traveling locally and internationally, all resourced by a relatively modest budget. In addition, we were planning all but the last two months remotely from Buenos Aires.
The Result
We hosted a 3+ day celebration over Memorial Day Weekend 2015 in Bend, Oregon. Common meals, campfire readings of Sugar Free Gummy Bear reviews, coffee dates, much laughter, and a stunning ceremony and dinner at Smith Rock State Park filled our time. Friends and family joined us from corners of Oregon, Boston, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. We came in under budget, and more importantly were free to deeply enjoy the time and space with those dear to us (oh, and delicious food and a kickass photo session).
Moving From Point A to B
Yes, details and to do lists abounded in our planning. More critical then deciding on the tangibles, however, was our from-the-get-go decision to be a united front and commitment to prioritizing. We had both observed and heard of celebrations that sucked energy, joy, and resources, as well as those that didn’t quite hit the mark of what the bride and groom hoped for. Before talking with any vendor, family member, or friend, we spent time discussing our takeaways of what did or did not make for a great celebration.
Thoughts on having each others backs: Lop-sided or utterly one-sided planning was a persistent culprit in our experiences of celebrations gone awry. Sure, maybe one partner really is indifferent in every way, shape and form about what goes into the celebration but peel back the layers and you’ll find that those cases are rare. So much of life and relationship are hopes and expectations. Discounting this reality is foolish. Layer on the reality that weddings seem to bring out everyone’s opinions and ideas (remember second-cousin-twice-removed Edna and your parents’ neighbors’ best friend?) and, well, it was clear to us that our best way through all the complicated or not so pleasant bits of planning a celebration was to co-create a vision and clearly support each other through the planning process. (Side note: it also seemed like great practice for… wait for it… doing life together.)
What it looked like for us: We dedicated a lot of time to creating our vision before pulling others in. We read up on marriage traditions, and threw out most. We spent several weekend mornings apart with good coffee, creating individual lists of what we each did and did not want (nothing was too small or too big – life size purple triceratops? sure, we can discuss that…). (To be clear: we weren’t mean or dismissive. Parents were consulted about their perspectives on what was necessary to honor family or faith traditions. Well intended advice from close friends and mentors was cherished.) In hindsight, our attention to this co-creation had a two-fold effect. We were better able to graciously handle conflict and we were able to provide those helping us with clear direction and useable ideas. Jay knew from the get go that we wanted dramatic landscape shots, and we had a few examples from his and others work on hand to illustrate our vision. Jodi‘s younger brothers helped construct the tables and benches used during the common meals; we had plans and pre-scouted materials ready for review and were able to complete the bulk of this project in a day. Concrete questions and ideas allowed us to lock in a rental with Cottage Bend well in advance, and save a bit too. Our ceremony reflected gratitude for the privilege of being able to easily, legally marry and readings articulating life and love wisdom.
Thoughts on prioritizing: Lack of a firm budget and prioritization to stay within that boundary was the other factor we’d seen scuttle celebrations.  Agreeing on the elements we were willing to go all in for and those that could be done well enough was a massive gift to ourselves and the process.
What this looked like for us: We boiled down our “musts” to three things: great food (we hosted three common meals, one fully catered and on-site at Smith Rock), relaxed connection with people, and spectacular photography. To allow our largest line items to be working with Jay, food, and renting a cluster of cottages, we cut corners elsewhere. Jodi‘s dress (J.Crew) and Andrew’s suit (Hugo Boss) and shoes were EBay finds. Jodi did her own hair and makeup. The tables and benches were made from recycled door frames and scrap wood a la BRING recycling and renovation leftovers. We went without fresh flowers, and music, and a dance floor. We decided rings could wait. We created our own Save the Dates and sent those via email instead of post. We found inexpensive and/or second hand cutlery, plates, and glassware (and have either now re-sold or incorporated items into our day to day use). We created our own website using Squarespace. Friends and family gifted cakes, pies, and cookies for the wedding dessert. We lucked out on ceremony venue cost, but also saved by adhering to Smith Rock’s high-risk fire season requirements in order to have the reception there too. We went without a wedding planner, instead creating an “A Team” of a few close friends who handled the day-of details on our behalf.
Elements we loved/highly recommend:
  • Carve out time to rest and check in with one another. Even if you’re pulling off a wedding with only two months prep, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Downtime, non-wedding chats, and honest conversations about how you are each being impacted by the planning and this amazing but heavy decision will go a long way in sustaining you.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I (Jodi) opted for moccasins and hiking socks. I could walk the next day and had warm feet when the temperature dropped to 45’F post-dinner. If heels are your thing, sweet! But there is no rule that says a successful wedding equals blistered, aching feet.
  • Think carefully about your relationship to holding something in your hands. I (Jodi) know I am not mindful about keeping bouquets upright and so crafted a bouquet that was meant to hang. Added bonus: non-flower elements equaled unique and non-wilting.
  • Unless you’re really into prepping and sleeping in, get up early, get ready in a reasonable time frame, pare down family photos and set aside several hours with your photographer. We were amazed when Jay told us how rare it was to have 3-4 hours of photo time with the bride and groom. That struck us as a missed opportunity. Most likely you will have few if any other days in your marriage when you can dress to the nines and record memory after beautiful memory.
  • For outdoor weddings, scout your location. We spent an afternoon at Smith Rock in July, noting sun angles, sunset, etc. which proved critical in creating a realistic timeline of events. (Add tacos and ginger beer: instant date!)
  • Scout your food. Whether professionally or friend/family provided, if you want a certain taste day of, eat it ahead of time, and be honest if it’s not what you had in mind.
  • We loved incorporating readings into our ceremony, and having those shared by family and friends.
  • If you have the desire and can pull it off, plan a multi-day celebration. Potlucks, giving people plenty of prep time, and lots of planning make this entirely possible.
  • Think about how you plan, or if you don’t , pull people in who do. Pinterest, Google Sheets, pen and paper lists, post its. There is no right way. More important, use what you’ll actually use.
  • Ultimately, create a celebration reflective of your hopes, values, and relationship. There is no “right way” to celebrate the reality that you’re choosing to do life with a person you love and respect. Make a day (or days) you both are going to enjoy planning for, participating in, and reflecting back on.
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smith rock wedding
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    It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day, though I have no quote from Dr. King to share. There are no shortage of inspiring and challenging words from his life, but I wanted to share the wedding of a challenging and inspiring couple, instead. When I say challenging, it’s meant in the very best way possible… full of respect and gratitude. I am not so arrogant as to think my words can add to their story, it’s just to set the stage. A true revolution of values has to start with the people we encounter in our everyday lives. I’m fortunate enough to have met these talented designers and thinkers, having conversations about creativity, race, friendship, and vulnerability. Alicia and James have infectious, joyful laughs, and tack sharp minds, which I can only imagine fuels their daily creative jobs. However, it is their thoughtfully unflinching discussion of race on social media that I admire most. I admit I have to do much more listening than speaking when it comes to race in this country, but I don’t mind learning, and I love smart dialog.

    All of that is meant to give context to this elopement, which is easily one of my 2015 highlights. The day started at the Steven Smith teahouse, and only got more Portland from there. Watching Alicia (Ah-lee-cee-uh) and James look at each other, take in the beautiful Oregon fall, and back to each other… I found myself appreciating my home state, and my own marriage. Elopements are so very different from a full-day wedding, and they allow for more time to think, at least, for me. I thought a lot about how technology allowed their families to “be present” for the ceremony, and provided a new twist on family formals 😉  I thought about my past bride Patty, and the discussions we had as she asked if I had any wedding with people of color, so she could “see herself in the images” of my portfolio. At the time, I had nothing to show her, which was not by design, and I would have loved to enthusiastically say YES. The truth is, like attracts like with this job, and at the time, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. The sad thing is, I never even thought about it. I loved everyone, I respected people no matter what their race was, however, that wasn’t enough. It didn’t give a voice to Patty and Marcelino in my portfolio, although it thankfully did give them confidence that we would be a good fit. I hadn’t made an effort to MAKE my work more ethnically diverse, and that bothered me. This video has been floating around lately about the difference between being non-racist, vs. being anti-racist, and it perfectly explains why.

    Over the years my work has become more representative, and I am thankful for that, though I am more thankful that people like Patty, Ayantu, and Alicia have helped to make me more aware of what might be communicated to people through what my work doesn’t show. I want what I do to show life from as many angles and vantage points as possible. That’s the goal.


    James and I have been together for 11 years, and engaged for the last two years, before we decided to tie the knot last month. Often we jokingly refer to our relationship and life together as an anomaly: we hardly see or meet other dark-skinned African American couples, we are the only African American designers in our offices, and have recently become New York transplants in the state of Oregon that is 84% Caucasian.

    James received an amazing career opportunity in Portland and began working and living in the city over the summer, while I continued my career in NYC until we figured out next steps for a permanent reunion. After a few visits to quell the sadness that comes with a long distance relationship, we both equally fell in love with Oregon’s beauty and calm and decided to elope in this new, amazing place.

    As designers, we always look for visual inspiration as a natural part of the creative process. We searched high and low for examples of other elopements featuring people of color, bridal hairstyles for afro-textured hair, and cultural depictions that felt true to us, but struggled in finding anything commensurable. Sadly, the same applied to wedding blogs where countless hours were spent clicking through archives to find anyone that looked remotely similar to us, and that didn’t fit the cookie-cutter representation of the all-American standard. The reality of this is that a lot of African Americans get married, it’s just not celebrated as often in popular media.

    Sadly, like most images and publicized content in media, it’s hard to find anything that is representative of strong black unions. This has been a problem for years and, what we have personally come to believe, has penetrated and negatively influenced the very core of black self-love, community, and identity.

    When we decided to elope and put most of our funds into documentation of such a huge milestone (Jay is magic), we had no intentions of making a political statement nor did we have any socially disruptive objectives. Instead, it added to our decision to marry on our own terms, wholeheartedly celebrating like it was our last day on earth, and creating a moment that would live on in the form of memory and image for the rest of our lives.

    We believe greatly in creating new opportunities where we’re not given equal opportunities, and not succumbing to defeat when it comes to those that deny our place in the world. We also know from experience that though we do not see many representations of ourselves in our everyday lives, it’s important to let the world know who we are versus the world defining our existence.

    Together with Jay, we’ve decided to share a marriage that’s not typically seen on wedding blogs, social media, or in portfolios. We also want to contribute to a greater change that will help others recognize that equality in representation is extremely important in establishing inclusivity. In the end, we’ve managed to communicate volumes far greater than, ‘African American weddings,’ and are giving people a chance to see another version of marriage. In doing so, we hope to incite inspiration for those looking for some semblance of themselves that is not represented elsewhere and introduce one more reason to celebrate.




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    • Kelsey HicksJay, these are so beautiful!

    • Kayla RoperAmazing. Beautiful.

    • Dana GrayJay Eads…FAVORITE EVERYTHING…FAVORITE BRIDE (with the exception of myself this year!)…FAVORITE BOUQUET! FAVORITE FLOWERS in FAVORITE HAIR (OMG, the HAIR!)…FAVORITE SMILE(S)!!!, FAVORITE GROOM’s LOOK AT HIS BRIDE, FAVORITE COLORS, FAVORITE DRESS, FAVORITE DANCE! AND, my VERY FAVORITE BLOG of yours. Alecia and James…thank you for sharing your photos, your words. And, as one of Jay Eads’ longtime friends and biggest fans and a quasi-mama figure in his life, I know how blessed you were to have him as part of your day. Before he became “famous” 🙂 (or was even working as a photographer) he took photos of my beautiful daughter Jaydi Eck Fullerton on her wedding day as a favor to me (and for no pay!)…and she is a lovely shade of dark brown from India…and those photos were amazing as well. Jay Eads…you rock, my friend. So proud of you as both a person and as a phographer!!

    • Dana GrayJay Eads…FAVORITE EVERYTHING…FAVORITE BRIDE (with the exception of myself this year!)…FAVORITE BOUQUET! FAVORITE FLOWERS in FAVORITE HAIR (OMG, the HAIR!)…FAVORITE SMILE(S)!!!, FAVORITE GROOM’s LOOK AT HIS BRIDE, FAVORITE COLORS, FAVORITE DRESS, FAVORITE DANCE! AND, my VERY FAVORITE BLOG of yours. Alecia and James…thank you for sharing your photos, your words. And, as one of Jay Eads’ longtime friends and biggest fans and a quasi-mama figure in his life, I know how blessed you were to have him as part of your day. Before he became “famous” smile emoticon (or was even working as a photographer) he took photos of my beautiful daughter Jaydi Eck Fullerton on her wedding day as a favor to me (and for no pay!)…and she is a lovely shade of dark brown from India…and those photos were amazing as well. Jay Eads…you rock, my friend. So proud of you as both a person and as a phographer!!

    • KatieI saw one of these images on Instagram and died, but this collection makes me die hundreds of times over. The joyfulness of this couple is perfectly captured here and I feel as if I was there to share in the joy through these pictures. By far my favorite wedding photos I’ve ever seen.


    The internet has created a strangely connected world. Not only are products and information readily available, so are new people and potential relationships. There are countless friends I would never have met without three little, sequential w’s, and I am really grateful for that. The internet has opened doors to business opportunities, photographic inspiration, and a wealth of resources. Plus, Netflix.  😉

    Brittany found me on Green Wedding Shoes because of another elopement which featured a couple referred to me by another photographer I have never met, although I “facebook know her.” The elopement was in Glacier National Park, which is definitely a location that was on my bucket list, and elopements also make my heart so happy. I love connecting those kinds of dots. From the moment Brittany, Scott, and I scouted locations for the next day, I was positive that this was going to be my kind of wedding… and my kind of couple. The whole weekend did not disappoint. A dress modeled after Grace Kelly’s wedding gown, a couple with such a visible connection, bison burgers, snow (kind of, I guess), and views that just do something to you, at a soul level. This is a couple I want to remember, and a place I know I probably won’t soon forget.
    glacier national park elopementSTONE_085glacier national park elopementjay eads photographyjay eads elopementjay eadswhitefish montana elopement

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    • FongGoody goody goodness, Jay! You did awesome!!! Every. Single. Shot!


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