... a week together in Iceland

Disclaimer: some photos may be considered NSFW as they show partial nudity

I've always struggled with how to write about this particular elopement. These were more than just clients for me... the groom, James, was one of my dearest friends through some of the hardest years of my life. I met him in his early 20's, watched him go through a struggle with becoming sober, he helped me through my divorce and then supported me as I got on my feet as a single mom. For nearly a decade, whether in regular communication or the occasional "hello" text, we've remained friends. So when James told me he was engaged and getting married, I knew he had to have met someone special.

Enter Emilee. Special is putting it lightly. This human being is one of the most spontaneous, sweet, and caring women I have ever met. From the minute we met, and she hugged me hello, I knew we would be friends. The way she is with James is inspiring - and I mean that in so many ways beyond the cliche it sounds like. They have a genuine friendship and affection that supports the other person through everything. These two watch each other with a caring and want that is the stuff you read about in books. For an hour, I sat with Emilee on a cold street in Iceland with luggage while we coordinated picking up a car, and we just talked - about life, about my history and her history, and bonded.

But I'm ahead of myself. When James and Emilee first asked me to photograph their wedding, the plan was roughly to go to the redwoods in California. I was game.. I was there... so excited. So when they called and said "how would you feel about five days in Iceland instead", I hit a new level of excitement I didn't think could exist. We flew in separately, and I arrived on a cold and windy day.... it was the first time I've navigated an international airport and transportation system alone, and for a little bit I was sure I had gotten on the wrong bus to Reykjavik, but before long I was walking into a coffee shop where the bride to be and her fiance were relaxing over a cappuccino. The entire plan was... go to Iceland.. pick a day to get married, get a tattoo, find some shoes for the wedding day because Emilee hadn't brought any, and meet-up with Emilee's dearest friend and her partner. Beyond that - our itinerary was rough. We knew where we wanted to go and had an approximate plan of when, but other than that we were winging it.

For the first few days we wandered the city of Reykjavik, checking out museums and restaurants, and in general exploring the city. One day, Emilee and James decided it was time for their wedding ring tattoos - so they found a place with good reviews that took walk ins, sketched an idea for their rings, and we headed to the tattoo shop. The next day was wedding day - and we piled into a small car and headed down towards Skogafoss. On the way we took a detour to a live plant shop, where Emilee found a little flower plant she liked, we bought it and some twine, and in the car we deconstructed the plant, and wrapped it up as a loose bouquet. She did her makeup in the car, and upon arrival at the waterfall, they changed in the public restroom. The reality of exchanging vows at a place like this is... there's going to be other people there. And yes, I could have edited everyone out - but it was important to us to tell their wedding day story the way it happened. Surrounded by strangers who congratulated them, took their photo, and watched as these two declared their love for one another. Despite the blistering wind, we hiked to the top of the falls after their mini ceremony, for some photos along the trail - before we realized we were all exhausted and headed back down to find a spot for dinner. They spent the night in a glass house (the rest of us snuck away to a nearby AirBnB) - and the night of their wedding we were graced with a stunning display of the Northern Lights. It was freaking magical.

The next day was spent slowly exploring Vik, and the black sand beaches... getting coffee from the Skool Beans Coffee... and hiking another waterfall that left us breathless (and of course, the one time I didn't take my big camera along because it was a spur of the moment quick stop).

This was everything an elopement should be... slow, intentional in the chaos of not planning, true to the bride and groom, and intimate in a way weddings of 150+ people can never be. Everything we did over the course of a week was purposeful to who Emilee and James are as a couple, and how they wanted to start their lives together.

I left Iceland to come home, and they continued on their grand adventure by jetting off to Greece for a couple of weeks to spend the start of their lives together swimming in the ocean, and getting to know each other without the chaos of the world at home. This was an adventure I will never ever forget, and the elopement that made me fall in love with documentary photography in a way I never had been before.