... an intimate artist retreat
My best friend's family has a lot of aspects - but the biggest one I think that is noticeable is how much love envelops every person and relationship, from close siblings to cousins and half siblings; hers is a family that just wants people to feel loved. She reached out to me about photographing a family members wedding in late 2022, and as soon as I chatted with Lena and Wyatt (and Lena's sister Regna) I knew I wanted to be their photographer. The wedding was scheduled for fall of 2023, on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies... timed so that the aspens would be at or near their peak. Small, intimate... and at a family home that had been built by my best friend's fathers hands over several decades.
Riachuelo - Little Creek - ... if you've ever driven through the Western United States and felt the overwhelming beauty of the landscape well up in your chest, and make you dream of a quiet place to make art, drink coffee in a cozy chair nestled next to a creek in the brush, and sleep on an outdoor porch bed watching the stars shoot across the wide sky above the mountains - this property and house is the embodiment of that. From the moment you enter the driveway next to the sprawling artist studio, to wandering through a house built by the hands of loving artists over four decades (and still being added to), meandering down the trail through a clearing to the shepherd wagon, or curling up with a book by a babbling brook - there's this "coming home" feeling that envelops you, and you know that you're in a place built on love.
The groom got ready in the small attached two bedroom apartment part of the main house, along with his groomsmen, while myself, my best friend Rachel, and our hostess Regna set up the outdoor area (along with the help of several friends and family). The property is beauty enough without much embellishment, so we enhanced only minimally with bright colorful flowers.
The bride and her party spent the morning getting ready at a family friend's adobe bnb just around the corner, where we spent time documenting some of the details and bridal portraits, capturing some of the quintessential southwest vibes both outside and inside.
Lena and Wyatt invited only a small number of their closest friends and family to celebrate with them. They said their vows in the clearing below the house - while guests sat on rough hewn benches and a few wooden folding chairs. Just an hour before the ceremony it was decided that the wooden arch needed some drapery, and a few pieces of chiffon were draped loosely around the frame, allowing the beauty of the Colorado wilderness to peek through and shine behind them. Their candle lighting ceremony, shared with their fathers was an incredibly beautiful moment, before they were pronounced married in front of the people they love; and after we took a little time with the family - Lena, Wyatt, their wedding party, my best friend, and I drove the 20 minute to the top of the Grand Mesa where we took photos in front of a crystal clear lake with the wedding party, and then the couple and I disappeared into the aspens for some intimate serene moments to capture portraits of just the two of them.
Our goal was to not spend forever away from the party because we were there for them to celebrate with their friends - so while we were gone, family took time to set up food stations ( a taco and dessert bar), so that as soon as we arrived back at the house, the celebrations could begin. Seated at a table with a beautiful aspen themed wedding cake, and three vases of flowers memorializing loved ones who had been lost too soon, the wedding couple was showered with love during speeches from family and wedding party - laughter echoed through the property and tears were quietly shed during the touching speeches - before the couple cut their cake.
The wedding wouldn't have been complete without dancing, a bonfire, and lots of socializing through the artist space and at the open bar. There were pockets of celebration happening everywhere - and you know the beloved builders of the property (Janet and Steve) were smiling down while they watched the revelry and joy crest over the space they'd put their lives into creating.
This particular wedding had some details that needed to be shared. I think this couple fully understood what it meant to put together a wedding day that was truly about them and who they are. Lena wore a shawl handmade by her departed mother, a beautiful way to honor an incredibly important woman she'd lost too soon. The guests not only took photos of themselves with polaroid cameras, but in the spirit of the artist retreat that Riachuelo is - guests were asked to work on a collaborative painting that was made piece by piece - a little touch of everyone's creative soul - that they could hang in their home to remember this day. And at the end of the night - this family did what it does best - gather together and reflect not only on memories of the past, but celebrate the entirety of the future. I've never seen a wedding that more aptly centered around home, love, and family - and I am so honored I was asked to be a part of it.
Following the wedding, I was lucky enough to be invited to spend several days relaxing at this property, totally immersed in a refresh of my soul. From sleeping under the stars in a cozy bed on a second floor porch, to sitting in a hot tub with my back to a hand built stone pizza oven, and views of the slope and creek sprawling in front of me - I allowed myself to relax and just be. I cooked and shared food with my best friend (who is essentially my family) and was welcomed in to more of her family with open arms. I curled up on a couch with a sweet roaming cat, spent an entire day painting a co-artist piece with Rachel (my best friend) while drinking wine and snacking on olives and nuts, and explored the red rock region just a short drive away. The feeling of "home" was so all encompassing that it would be hard pressed to be surpassed for me anywhere other than my own personal home. I crave the day I can go back and lose myself in such an idyllic and magical place again.