This summer I had the chance to co-host a workshop with the fabulous Hinterland stills at Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin. After a long day of teaching + shooting, we were saying our goodbye’s in the dark parking lot of the park when Sarah came up to me and said, “I think I’ll be eloping here in a few months.. I’ll be in touch.” A few months after that, Eric and I were documenting Sarah and Joe say their vows in that very spot.

      Elopements always make me particularly emotional, but this one takes the cake this year. We went back and forth a few times on the dates because Joe was recently accepted in the US Marine Corps and they were unsure when he would be leaving for training. We set a date and crossed our fingers he wouldn’t have to leave before then.

      Sarah is 18 and Joe is 19. They’ve been together since they were 13 and 14, and have always known they wanted to be together forever. Young love always brings me such joy.

      When we arrived at Devil’s Lake, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Well, it was 30 degrees, but the rain and cold cleared the park so we were virtually alone. It was beyond magical. Sarah always wanted whimsical for her elopement day and she definitely got it!

      Joe left for training just a few days after I delivered these images to them and I was in a puddle of tears listening to Sarah say how having these photos on their walls wherever they move would always make where they are feel like home.

      Here’s a few words from Sarah and Joe about their elopement day:

      How long have you been together? 5 years. Since we were 13 and 14, I was in 8th grade and he was starting his freshman year of high school.

      Why did you decide to elope? The deciding factor in us eloping was Joe getting accepted in the USMC, but the idea was already there because neither of us are huge people people, so the idea of an intimate ceremony was much more appealing to us both.

      What makes Devil’s Lake so special to you? Devil’s Lake was an absolutely beautiful location, but Wisconsin is actually the place that’s special to me (Sarah). My dad and I come to Wisconsin once a year and it’s a very special place to me. He always says it’s God’s Country so I thought, “what better place to elope than in a place where we feel so close to God?” And Devil’s Lake just happened to perfectly fit the picture I had in mind for the day.

      Can you share what you did for your ceremony? For our ceremony, we went simple, heartfelt vows, just the two of us, on top of the world.

      What was your favorite moment from your elopement? My favorite moment from our elopement (besides absolutely every single moment) was giving Joe the ring I surprised him with. His smile was so genuine. Oh man I could look at that smile forever, that’s one of my favorite pictures.

      What is your favorite photo from your special day? My favorite photo… I have a few! One of my favorites is of myself, looking so so so excited to have Joe see me in my dress for the first time. Another is one of Joe and I looking into each other’s eyes, and it just looks so genuine and raw. The one of my goosebumps! Man, I can feel the weather from that day every time I look at it, it’s crazy! And there are a few of Joe and I just really laughing and looking happy together and I cherish those ones so much. It’s hard to get Joe to smile or laugh for pictures, but those are so real and amazing.

      Are you glad you decided to elope? We are SO glad. With everything changing so fast, having a weekend to spend together, enjoy each other, alone, was so important and amazing. And of course we came back and celebrated with everyone, so that was great! But just being together, having that time to cherish each other was so worth it.

      Anything else you’d like to share? We literally had THE BEST photographers in the whole world. Every time we look at our photographs we can feel everything from that day. From the mist and the cold air to how my heart skipped a beat a million different times. So yeah, our photographers were the best!!!

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      Kristen, these are absolutely stunning, inspiring and I just loved seeing your best work yet. What a treasure for this sweet couple.