Engagement Trip Part IV: North Island of New Zealand (Rotorua, Hobbiton, and the Blue Springs)

For this part of the trip we're combining days 5-6! These were probably some of our busiest two days on the entire vacation but also probably some of my FAVORITE. I absolutely adored the North Island of New Zealand!! When we planned this trip, I wanted to see Hobbiton and the Fjordlands- Chris wanted to see Australia. So these few days were a huge part of why we took this trip in the first place! I've even tried to convince Chris that since he's an engineer and a British citizen it wouldn't be that hard for us to get him a work visa and move there, but he isn't too sure about that grand idea of mine :) Enjoy!

PS- See the rest of our trip here if you missed it! 

Part I: The Blue Mountains

Part II: Koalas & Kangaroos

Part III: Cairns & Kuranda

Day 5: Arrive in North Island

THIS was probably the part I was most excited for going into the trip. I've wanted to see New Zealand forever and especially the North Island. I come from a small town, but even I wasn't prepared for just how rural New Zealand was. Once you left Auckland, everything closed at 5pm- IF you could find anything at all. Chris and I drove for 3 or 4 hours before we even found a gas station the night we flew in. It was crazy, and we totally hadn't been prepared for that! Everything closes super early and there are SO few people once you leave the city. I'm okay with it though- it's why the country is so pristine. Their country feels so magical because it's still so largely untouched- there was a wildness and a  rawness there that you don't see much of in this crazy digitalized world. Everything was blue and green, and you felt like you were in another world.  

These are the photos we took the afternoon and evening on the drive from the airport to our hotel in Rotorua!

Day 6 Part 1- Rotorua North Island, New Zealand

Day 5 started out with Rotorua and touring some of the geology of the region. New Zealand has some fascinating environmental history and so we toured one of their Maori thermal villages. It was so worth it- we spent several hours just roaming around bridges that crossed sulfur lakes and hot springs and perfectly teal waters- it was truly fascinating (even if the sulfur smell was pretty strong). We read tons of history about the region and how it was all formed, and since we're total science nerds, we ate it all up.

The BEST part of this trip, though? During the Maori cultural performance they picked a few men from the audience (there were tons of people there!).... and Chris got picked. He had to go up and participate in the Maori dance, and it was AMAZING :) I definitely filmed it on my phone, our GoPro, and took photos...... 

Day 6 Part II: Blue Springs, Putaruru, North Island, New Zealand

On the way from Rotorua to Hobbiton, we decided that we just HAD to see the Blue Springs- they're famous in New Zealand for having some of the purest water, and over 70% of the bottled water in New Zealand comes directly from this stream. Apparently it takes something like 100 years or longer for the water to travel from one end of the stream to another, because it has to go through so many purifying plants. Our planet is truly AMAZING. This was likely the most stunning natural landscape we saw on this trip- I think my jaw literally dropped. I would live here and never leave if I could..... 

Day 6 Part III: Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, North Island, New Zealand

After exploring Rotorua for half the day and hiking to the Blue Springs, we then drove up to Matamata, New Zealand, where we toured the Hobbiton Movie Set. That was SO worth the entire trip right there! I wasn't expecting much- just a hobbit hole or two. But there were still SO many hobbit holes left that we toured the set for probably an hour or longer while the world's funniest guide cracked jokes about how Chris and I were a new breed because we were too tall to be hobbits or people :) We met some great people on our tour, too- people from all over the world who we got to have a beer with at the end of our tour (seriously- at the end of your tour they take you to the Green Dragon Inn where you get to have a free drink or two!). I watched all the LOTR movies on the plane flight over just so I could be prepared to enjoy this, and I was so glad I did! Chris swore he didn't need to, but he later was jealous because he wished he had so he could remember it all better. 

Anyone want to guess how many times I asked Chris if he REALLY wanted to go out that door? You know, because it might be dangerous business..... If you don't get that reference, stop reading right now, do yourself a favor and just go watch all three movies :) 

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Engagement Trip Part III: Cairns & Kuranda (Days 3-4)

Day 3 & 4: Cairns, Kuranda Rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef

After our first two days in Sydney, we flew up to Cairns (told you we didn't rest much!). We wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef (World Heritage site #3), and so we made the trip up here JUST for that reason. But of course, we wanted to make the most of the day we flew in, too- so we took a bus up to the Kuranda Rainforest (World Heritage site #4) and spent the day taking a riverboat cruise of one of the oldest rainforests in the world in the Queensland Tropics, walking the pathways through the rainforest, and just generally exploring it all. I learned then that I must be a true Seattlite at heart because my feet and ankles got so swollen in the heat and I had to loosen the straps on my Birkenstocks! It doesn't get any more Seattle than that- Birks + unadapted to warmth is pretty much what this city is known for. We then took the famous railway back down to Cairns, and it was absolutely breathtaking- the trip up to the rainforest would have been worth it JUST for that ride back down.

On day 4, we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. I've wanted to see it in person for as long as I can remember, and we both felt that it was worth the extra trip to see it before it disappears forever (Science PSA for the day: go here to read about the dangers facing the GBR). We took a boat out of Cairns out to the reef; sadly we don't have any images from that part of the trip (we have lots of video we'll share at some point!). The weather was actually crazy- it was cloudy and rainy, and it was SO choppy that it definitely was not a pleasant boat trip out to the reef! But we snorkeled for hours at three different sights- we found Nemo, a giant sea turtle, and Chris found a reef shark (I'm ok I missed that one). The colors and the beauty we saw there will probably forever remain the most incredible experience of my life. I'm not sure anything will ever come close to how awed I was by the beauty of that place.....

By this point you can definitely see thee exhaustion was getting to us- I tried to fall asleep on not one, but TWO tables..... in two days. While waiting for our food to arrive. And on the train. But our motto is that you can sleep when you're home.... so we kept going!

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Engagement Trip Part II: Kangaroos & Koalas (Day 2)

Day 2: Featherdale Wildlife Park & Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia

Day 2 was quite possibly Christopher's favorite day of our entire trip (because, kangaroos). The day started off with a boat tour of Sydney Harbour. It was absolutely AMAZING. Sadly I left my camera at the hotel for the boat tour, so I don't have any photos of that. It was a few hours and we sailed around the coastline while drinking tea and eating biscuits (some British influence there, I think). I have to be honest- I didn't want to go to Sydney. I was actually a little frustrated that Chris was SO insistent on going because I figured all big cities are basically the same and I'd rather go explore the nature- but boy was I wrong. I fell in LOVE with this place (we both did!). It is THE most beautiful city (probably why it's one of the most expensive in thew world....). I could have spent two weeks just in Sydney. In fact, one thing Chris and I have always talked about is where we want to settle down and raise our kids (England or the States). It's been an ongoing debate, and our minds change all the time about the pros and cons of both. But when we went to Sydney, we both agreed- we could totally live there forever! The city was bizarre- it reminded me of a mix of San Fransisco and Santa Barbara with all the coastline and architecture. But it had tons of British influence (yet significantly more laid back) so Chris felt right at home. It was like a California-meets-London hybrid. I mean, what more could you ask for?!

Later that day we went to go hang out with koalas and kangaroos- this part of the trip was (clearly) mostly Chris' doing :) He's been obsessed with kangaroos for as long as I can remember (I swear it's half the reason he wanted to go!) and so being able to see them up close was his absolute dream come true. It was kind of like watching a kid in a candy store. He named all the kangaroos and was pretty sure they were as excited about him as he was about them :) We ALSO got to see some koalas, which were pretty cute! Apparently they sleep something like 20 hours a day though, so they're not that exciting.... but still, adorable. And holding one was absolutely as adorable as you'd imagine- it's literally like a real life teddy bear! Christopher has been asking me for a pet kangaroo (he wants a small grey one) every day since we got back. And he still sends me photos of kangaroos at LEAST 3 times a week! We heard the Taronga Zoo was amazing and had a view of the Opera House, so we decided to make a stop there in the afternoon (even though we were absolutely exhausted and it was pouring down rain). It was a beautiful zoo, but all he really cared about was the kangaroos.... again. Even after we spent the morning with them :) 

Now for the honest review- if I had to go back, I would not go back to Featherdale. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a HUGE believer in animal rights, and I had the impression that this was a huge wildlife park where the animals roamed free. But I had an INCREDIBLY hard time seeing birds in cages only 7 feet tall by 5 feet wide- they wouldn't even really be able to fly. It felt cruel. I believe there's a difference between animals who can't survive in the wild (or who are endangered) and keeping perfectly healthy animals captive for no reason. I have mixed feelings on zoos, too, for that matter- on one hand they do a lot of good conservation work and the funds help protect endangered species. Sometimes I think the awareness they raise may mitigate some of the issues I have with them. Even so, I try to limit my patronage of these kinds of places. The issue I had at Featherdale was that the cages were tiny and cramped, whereas in a zoo at least there is usually SOME room for the animals to move. Even though the koalas and kangaroos were super adorable, I definitely wouldn't recommend this place if you ever visit the area!

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Rachel's Senior Photos | University of Washington, Seattle

One thing I actually do quite a bit of (and LOVE) are senior photos for students graduating from the University of Washington. Originally when we started this business, I ONLY wanted to shoot weddings- nothing else. But in recent years especially, I've actually been thinking about accepting more portrait sessions, because I think they're so much fun (and a little less pressure!).

I got to meet up with Rachel a few weeks ago to capture some photos of her on campus the week of graduation. Her parents weren't able to make it to graduation, and so she wanted to be able to capture something special that would allow them to feel like they'd been there. So with that, we set out to capture as many gorgeous photos as we could (not too hard when she has Disney princess hair and the campus is basically a castle already). I love shooting college seniors because it's such a monumental shift in their life- up until that point, they've spent their whole lives in school, and they're finally about to completely leave that safety net. It's a scary time (I remember it well) but it's also filled with so much joy and excitement. Rachel is absolutely the SWEETEST and I wasn't even remotely surprised to hear that she had a job lined up before she graduated- she went to visit her parents for a bit and then immediately jumped into work! Rachel, thank you for letting me capture such a monumental moment in your life! I had so much fun getting some gorgeous shots of you and I hope that these photos will serve to bring back fond memories of your time here at UW!

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Engagement Trip Part 1: The Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia (Day 1)

Engagement Trip Day 1: The Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

For those of you who don't know, a few months ago, I got engaged! To the sweetest, silliest, most snuggly Brit. It's been a few months- we've been so busy!- but Chris and I are FINALLY excited to share with ya'll the images from our trip. We spent a few weeks in Australia and New Zealand, and I'd say it was the trip of a lifetime- but now that we officially have a lifetime of these trips, I really can't be sure :)

Day 1 of our trip started like everything Chris & I do in our lives- a complete whirlwind. We traveled for something like 24 straight hours to get here, but when we got off the plane, we were just way too excited. We don't like to relax when we go on vacation; we squeeze in anything and EVERYTHING we can. And so, true to our Seattle-dwelling roots, we grabbed giant coffees the minute we stepped off the plane, got our rental car, and- I kid you not- changed in the middle of the parking garage into fresh clothes. 

We drove a few hours to get to the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage sight (one of our goals was to fit in as many of these as we could!). We took the steepest passenger railway in the world and hiked down into the valley where we spent hours just walking around and taking it all in. We later took a scenic cableway and caught the whole view from up above! What I found so magnificent about this place was how ancient it is. You could really feel the history and grandeur of the mountains. I've always felt God's presence the most when I'm out in His creation, and never was that more true than here. Every part of these mountains felt overwhelmingly large and significant compared to us.

After we were done exploring, we happened to meet the absolute SWEETEST couple ever. They lived in the mountains and took us to this lesser known lookout near where they lived- a place that perfectly overlooks the Jamison Valley at sunset. Those photos you'll see at the end of this section- where the sky is so radiantly orange and pink and red- were all taken there. We still talk about how thankful we were to have met them- they made us feel so welcome with their warmth and kindness and how excited they were to show us a piece of their home. At the end of the day (because 24 hours of travel and 8 hours in the mountains wasn't enough) we stopped by the Sydney Harbor for a drink.... and we fell in love. You'll see one photo of the bridge, but the photos of the Opera House (World Heritage site #2) were taken our last day, so they're at the end!

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Classic Black & White Masquerade Ballet Wedding Shoot | Featured on the Perfect Palette

Ahh!!! I can FINALLY SHARE!!! Friends, it has been KILLING me to not be able to share these images for THREE WHOLE MONTHS! This is probably going to go down as one of my favorite shoots of all time because it pulls from Disney princess AND ballet elements (and if you know me at all you know that's a BIG deal in my life!). My super adorable friend Angela of Love & Lemons Events planned and executed this whole shoot and let me tell you.... I could talk forever about this shoot (and I kind of want to, but I won't). We dreamed up this New Year's Eve Masquerade Ballet shoot, and even though we were shooting in Seattle in the middle of DECEMBER, it was bright and sunny (although absolutely freezing- our poor models were such troopers). I literally could NOT have asked for any more beauty to photograph in this shoot! And we were SO SO SO excited to see this featured on the Perfect Palette!


Design/Coordination | Love and Lemons Events

Florals | Umlaut and Ampersand

Cake/Sweets | Eat More Cake by Candice

Calligraphy/Stationary | Kelly Lee Design

HMUA | Pacific Brides

Gown | Theia Couture

Groom Attire | Belle Bridal

Venue | Stoneburner at Hotel Ballard

Decor/Rentals | @cortpartyrental @potterybarn_bellevue

Models | @smgmodels @ryankenconover @emily_seibert

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San Fransisco Trip

Hi, friends! Every once in awhile, we love to bring our cameras along to capture some of our adventures as a couple and when we do, I always love to share some of our favorites!

A few months ago, Chris and I went down to the Bay Area for a little weekend getaway after wedding season- we'd had a rough few months and needed to just unwind and decompress AWAY from everything! So Chris planned the sweetest little getaway (I got a winner!) and we had such a blast. I didn't love San Fransisco the first time I visited, but for some reason, I fell in love with it this time around.

Chris surprised me with a stay at the historic Fairmont- San Fransisco (where Tony Bennett first sang "I Left My Heart in San Fransisco"!) that is also home to the famous Tonga Room. He knows how much I LOVE classic architecture (I should really live in Europe!) and he knew I'd just adore it. He was right!

The first day, we just explored the city a bit. We walked along the water, visited the Golden Gate Bridge (we had to!), caught the sunset, admired the architecture around the city, and ate lots of good food. We also made a stop at the famous Lombard Street that night.... which was completely deserted, because it was a weekday evening and pretty late. I made Chris drive down it over and over again (no less than 8 times) so I could pretend I was on a ride at Disneyland! We also naturally had to make a stop at Alcatraz, and let me tell ya.... it was the creepiest thing I've ever done in my life. I don't know how to explain it, but I felt like you could just FEEL the heaviness and the despair within those walls. It was one of the most eerie experiences of my life, and I have absolutely NO desire to do that again (that said, it was REALLY fascinating!).

We also visited Sausalito, the world's most ADORABLE seaside town- but it was dark, and I'm SO sad we didn't get any photos of it! Thankfully our friends at Joy just moved down to San Fransisco, so next time we visit them, we'll be making a brunch stop there FOR SURE! On the advice of my sweet friend Amy of Gather Design Company (who hails from the Bay Area) we made a day trip out to Port Reyes and spent the day frolicking by the seashore :) We made another day trip out to Half Moon Bay, and it was stunning- even if it was all overcast and cloudy and looked more like what I imagine the Cliffs of Moher to be like than the coast of California!

We ALSO got to make a day trip out to Napa and Sonoma (one of my favorite places, ever.... because wine). Chris didn't even complain when I insisted we just HAD to stop on a mostly deserted road to pull over and get some pictures because "that light, those vineyards!!!"- that guy has the patience of a saint. I also discovered my new FAVORITE wine ever at the gorgeous Jacuzzi Family Vineyards and I keep meaning to get a wine club membership to there! It was some of my favorite wine I've ever had- I could actually taste all the flavors they said were in the wines, and they were all so crisp and refreshing and juicy! The next winery we went to after that cost about 4 times more per bottle and it wasn't nearly as tasty. So if you ever make it out to Napa/Sonoma, you just HAVE to stop by and give it a try :) Bonus: it looked like an Italian villa. Which I'll be honest, is the real reason we went. I believe I googled "castle wineries" in Napa/Sonoma, and picked which ones to go to based on which ones looked the prettiest. Priorities, right?

Enjoy some of the photos from our trip (in no particular order)!

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Julia of Wedding Wise Christmas Cards | Julia & Borce's Snow Session

I know I'm a little (okay, okay, a lot) behind on blogging, but things have been a LITTLE hectic lately! We've been so incredibly busy and that has been such a blessing! But it also means I've been waiting FOREVER to share some images with ya'll.... and one of them happens to be my sweet friend Julia of Wedding Wise!

Julia & I met about a year and a half ago when I was the lucky gal that got to be her date to Weddings in Woodinville because her husband was out of town! We quickly bonded over our mutual dislike of small talk (give us meaningful conversations ANY day!), our love of classic style, and our love for Jesus. It was a match made in heaven! Needless to say, I quickly fell in love with this sweet friend of mine, and when I first met her husband, Borce, awhile back, I fell in love with him, too! You guys. These two. I only WISH I could explain how darn adorable they are together! It doesn't take more than a minute to see that these two are completely made for each other. The way Borce can make Julia laugh and the sweetness they share is truly such a gift that you can't HELP but feel happy when you're around these two! Chris and I just love them and so it was such a joy to be able to take some Christmas card photos for the two of them. Julia and Borce, I wish everyone could have friends like you. We are always so thankful for you two- and we promise to make a trip out to the castle soon :)

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Krisanna Elizabeth's Calligraphy Workshop at Honey Crumb Cake Studio in Seattle | #KElligraphy

Today's post features my lovely friend Krisanna Elizabeth's very FIRST calligraphy workshop ever at the fabulous Honey Crumb Cake Studio in Seattle! Oh, friends, this post is one that's SO near and dear to my heart! Why, you ask? To answer that, I'm going to tell you a little story :)

A few years ago, I found myself unintentionally thrown into the midst of the craziness that IS the wedding industry. I never intended to turn this into a business. I never thought to myself that my dream in life was to be a wedding photographer. In fact, I never thought about it at all... until I became one. I had picked up photography just as a hobby- I wanted something to do for fun, and to be able to take photos of family vacations. But soon enough, I started getting better (little by little) and the inquiries started flowing.... and I found myself with a wedding photography business!

So there I was- a little nervous, shy, and petrified beyond belief. Did I mention how scared I was? That's when Krisanna of Krisanna Elizabeth came into my life. I emailed her one day because I saw a post of hers and thought she didn't seem too scary. A few weeks later, we met for tea. I don't know if we even really covered weddings- from the start, it felt more like friendship than a wedding industry acquaintance. She was kind, funny, warm, and she offered me the kind of encouragement and friendship I didn't know I needed in the industry until I had it. It was because of her that I finally found the confidence to reach out to other women in the industry. It was because of her that I suddenly didn't feel so alone or afraid. And for that reason, it's largely because of her that I am where I am today.

K, I love you, always (if the novel-length texts I send you aren't proof enough). I love your kindness, your obsession with 90s boy bands that shall remain unnamed, and the fact that above all else, you remain the most humble person I know. I could list a million reasons why I love you, K, but I think you already know most of them, anyway. 

And to the sweetest Carla of Honey Crumb Cake Studio: thank you for opening your space to us and for being such an incredibly welcoming host! If you haven't had a chance to meet Carla yet, you should (and not just because she's an amazing baker, though she is) but because she is the sweetest person on the planet with a positively brilliant mind. I MAY have carried around a batch of her brownies in my purse for a week after this little workshop (hey, I had to hide them from Chris somehow!). Enjoy, friends!

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Jeremy & Kayla's Classic Jewish Wedding at The Admiral's House | Featured in Seattle Bride Magazine "A Garden Party Celebration in Magnolia"

Jeremy & Kayla's stunning blush-filled classic wedding was an absolute fairytale in every way. Kayla is a total planner (she brought her notebook full of notes to our first meeting!) and needless to say her planning skills DEFINITELY shone through on their wedding day! Their wedding was the epitome of a classic, elegant, and romantic affair. They had a traditional Jewish ceremony at The Admiral's House, a stunning white mansion in Magnolia overlooking the Seattle skyline, with tons of greenery and cream and blush peonies and roses everywhere (courtesy of the amazing Althauser Design). It made my photographer's heart oh-so-happy! As I'm sure you can imagine, as excited as we were about seeing their gorgeous wedding in Seattle Bride Magazine (online AND in print!)... keeping these images completely under wraps has been so hard!!! I've been waiting for months to share this beautiful wedding and am so thankful I can finally share it!

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Riverside Elopement Shoot | Lake Stevens, WA

This shoot was a fun little collaboration between two of my SUPER sweet friends in the industry/favorite people ever, Angela of Love & Lemons Events and Amy of Gather Design Company. If I could insert two hundred heart emojis here, I would, believe me :) I love these two and getting to work with them is always such a dream! For this shoot we drove WAY north of Seattle to this riverbed that was completely secluded. And oh my word it was SO worth the drive!!! It was still fall when we did this shoot (I know, I know, I'm way behind!!!) so the fall leaves were just absolutely stunning. Amy & Angela dreamed up this shoot as a low-key, elopement style shoot with a picnic, which I loved!!! Taylor and Kyle are an actual couple (and I mean, how adorable are they?!) and Angela actually MADE the gorgeous plaid skirt that Taylor is wearing! And ya'll know I love anything Amy has ever done and ever will do, but I think she may have outdone herself with this bouquet. I mean.... seriously. It was jaw-dropping!!! Enjoy!

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Brad and Mandi's Mount Rainier Elopement

There are a few things I'm not a fan of when it comes to being a wedding photographer in Seattle. Well, one thing, to be exact: rain. I just LOVE those stunning sunset shots and we seem to get a lot of gray cloudy days here! And I won't lie, there have been days where I think about relocating somewhere sunnier (pretty much every day from November-May, actually). But then? Then summer rolls around. And every year, like clockwork, I wonder how in the world I could ever, ever, ever leave this place. Because Seattle in the rain is pretty (if a bit dreary). But Seattle in the summer? I'm not sure if there's anywhere that can beat it. Case in point: Brad and Mandi's STUNNING Mount Rainier elopement that could probably convince anyone in the world Washington State is the most beautiful place on earth.

Brad and Mandi's elopement was absolutely everything a photographer could dream of and more.  We hiked to a small little secluded spot where the view of the mountain was jaw-droppingly beautiful, and I fell in love. Their ceremony convinced me that elopements are probably my new favorite thing in the world. Seriously. I think I've decided I want to shoot these all the time. Because their wedding day was absolutely perfect in every way. They had originally been planning a "traditional" ceremony in their hometown, but soon after decided to go with something that felt perfectly them. And here's why:

Exactly one year to the day before they said "I do", Brad summited Mount Rainier. Having grown up in the stunning Pacific Northwest with Rainier just in his backyard, it was a longtime goal of his to reach the summit. Little did Mandi know, however, that he had purchased her ring before he began the trek. And he took it with him- all the way to the top. When he returned, he proposed- with a ring that had been to the top of the mountain that is such a beloved hallmark of our lovely PNW. 

It seemed only fitting, then, for two adventurers like them, to have a ceremony that reflected so beautifully who they are together. When Mandi told me they had decided to elope to the mountain, I can’t say I was surprised- but I was absolutely thrilled! They had selected this perfect spot to say their vows a few weeks prior on a hike, so it was a bit of a trek to get to this secluded spot that was off the beaten path- and it was oh so worth the view!! And so, surrounded by only a few people in the world, they were married in a beautifully intimate ceremony on top of the mountain that means so much to them. And then in true Brad and Mandi fashion, we all stopped for burgers and beer at the base of the mountain on our way home! I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect wedding day for these two, because it so beautifully represented who they are- adventurous, non-traditional, joyful, spontaneous, free-spirited. It seemed only fitting that the stunningly raw, rugged, jaw-dropping beauty of the Pacific Northwest would serve as the backdrop for the union of two truly beautiful people. Brad and Mandi, thank you for welcoming Chris and I into your lives with arms wide open, just like you do to everyone who meets you. It's impossible not to feel joyous and loved around the two of you, and for that, we are so grateful. You, and your wedding, day will forever be incredibly special to us.