I'm sharing this little moment in life with you during a special time of year, Thanksgiving because this moment made me really really thankful for starting this photography Journey 9 + years ago and I'm really stunned, humbled and proud of the opportunities this has brought to my life. This moment kind of unearthed that for me.  I knew I loved it. I knew I wanted to do it.  But do you love it enough to do it for nothing? Yes. I do. My friend Leslie and I flew to San Francisco for an engagement session (coming up next on the blog!) and my couple was AMAZING and hospitable, they picked us up and dropped us off, they borrowed us their car and TRUSTED me to drive through San Francisco...(These people! Amazing!) So here I am driving through the steep streets of San Fran, over the Golden Gate Bridge we go, through the Robin Williams Tunnel, and on the WINDIEST road ever and off to the Muir Woods we go!  We arrive at 4pm, park closes at 5pm, we jump out, and scatter.  Roaming aimlessly through the trails trying to take it all in, in our 60 min window.  The time comes that we should attempt to head back to the gate,  we choose one of many trails.  We walk and gauk. Leslie is first, she looks back at me, eyes wide. I look over and there they are. Two people, an officiant, a friend, and iphone, vows, smiles, tears, laughter.  It took me a few to really understand what was happening, there were people all over but none of them knew the couple. I didn't want to creep on this moment, clearly they wanted it to be intimate.  I snapped a few from afar, then thought.."These people need this documented, this is BEAUTIFUL" I muster up the nerve to ask the friend if they would mind if I took a few photos. And I said it.  I said something I rarely say out loud. "I'm a real wedding photographer".  It's not that I am not proud of it, I am very proud of it. It's because SO many people are photographers, I think when I utter those words people will think "sure you are".  The friends eyes widened, she said "they would LOVE that"! So I snapped away, I stayed back and even afterwards when we spoke for a split second I didn't want to interfere.  I later wished I had taken them for 10 minutes and did some creative photos for them, but afterwards I thought, they wanted simple and intimate and that is what they got.  I emailed them later,  Told them I am SO happy to share and wanted to hear their story.  Mackenzie was sweet enough to email me back.  Mackenzie is a hospital marketing liason and Casey is a 7th grade math teacher. They have 2 beautiful children, Sawyer and Sailor.  She shared their love story and background with me, but what really resonated with me was the reason they eloped after 12 years together, as a mom, a wife, a friend and a woman Here are her words:

I feel Casey and I have worked hard to have an adult centered home and an adult centered life while still being the best parents we can possibly be. It's through that desire that we came up with the idea to elope. We wanted to do something that was special for us but we felt that at this point in our lives it would be irresponsible to blow a huge budget on an extravagant wedding. Also, we have been to weddings where the love and the real sentiment behind the whole event is lost in all the hoopla. We wanted to stay true to us and really have a moment that could be about us. 

We had been talking about the idea of eloping for a few months before I surprised Casey with tickets to San Francisco for his 30th birthday. Being from the west coast and now being a mom, I had been having a deep longing to "return to my roots" in a sense. I had been saying "I feel like California has been calling my name" for a few years. My good friend Megan (the one you met in the woods) has been living in San Francisco for 3 years. Megan and her family played a huge role in that first summer that Casey and I started dating so it seemed only fitting to have her be involved. Casey's close friend Michael "Specs" Schindler had been living in San Diego when he started working for Ballast Point brewery and got a job offer to work back in FL. During his time in San Diego, he became ordained for another friend's wedding. We had talked about him marrying us before and decided to call him up and see if it was possible for him to be there. He happened to have a meeting in San Diego that week so it all just worked out great! We had one friend to marry us and the other to be our witness. Randomly, my freshman and sophomore college roommate, Alison Bishop, happened to be in San Francisco at the same time. So we asked her two days before the wedding to join us and be our "photographer". And that was our motley crew. Just the 5 of us. I got my dress for $40. I heisted a few select family heirloom jewelry pieces from my mother to wear and borrowed some of Megan's mother's jewelry. I wore my favorite purple suede fringed cowboy boots. Megan got me the flower crown and bouquet from her favorite florist in San Francisco. Casey wore his favorite pair of jeans and a blue blazer. It was so simple yet so magical. It felt like everything just feel into place just so perfectly. We had a champagne toast on Megan's rooftop patio and then the five of us loaded up in her car and drove out there together. Afterwards, we had the most amazing ramen noodle dinner and did a "bar crawl" in the Mission to celebrate. 

Needless to say, Our trip to Muir Woods was unforgettable. If you think this place looks like some ancient fairytale forest, you are right and you should see it in person. Here's some photos.