I haven't written a blog post in a while – I've been a busy bee this wedding season and have been enjoying every minute of sharing my eco-friendly floral with couples across California. But this post is a special one. It's special because my husband and I are the main characters! We celebrated our seven-year anniversary this year, and we happened upon the opportunity to recreate part of our wedding adventure story with the immensely talented Kate Okenatez-Mahoney of Make Adventure Stories.
Our Love Story
Loren and I got married in June of 2012. He proposed atop a huge rock climbing boulder in Berkeley, California called Indian Rock – a place special to both of us – and then surprised me with a fancy dinner at Chez Panisse (the famous birthplace of California Cuisine) that night. We went rock climbing in Thailand for our honeymoon and have been avid climbers as a couple now for nearly eight years. The adventurous couple that we are, we've traveled to some epic locations to go climbing in North America, including Squamish, BC, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Nevada, and all over the place in California. We've been cooking up plans to hit Utah in 2020.
A few weeks after our honeymoon, we put our wedding clothes back on and returned to where it all began – Indian Rock – with our wedding photographer to take the formal bride and groom portraits we’d opted out of on our wedding day. We had wanted to spend as much time as possible with our guests on the day of the wedding, so we overrode the strong encouragement from family to do traditional portraits. We just didn’t want to miss a minute of the party (and I didn’t want my picture in the paper in my hometown). So, while back out at Indian Rock, we also snuck in some fun shots of us bouldering in our fancy outfits, which, of course, turned out to be our favorites from the shoot. This photoshoot after our traditional wedding experience was a truly stress-free opportunity for us to look awesome in our wedding clothes and be in our element together.
Fast forward to 2019, when Kate put a call out for a couple just like us – adventurous and willing to be caught on camera doing what we love. Loren and I hadn’t really done much for our six-year anniversary – in fact, we were so busy last summer that it snuck up on both of us and almost passed us by unnoticed! So we decided to jump on the chance to get some great photos to celebrate our 7th year of marriage, especially because they’d harken back to the night we got engaged and the photoshoot we did after our wedding. Plus, now that I’m a wedding florist, it was the perfect opportunity for me to model my own succulent creations.
Working with Kate was a dream. She was visiting from the East Coast to shoot a real, hiking-based adventure wedding. So she asked us to pick a favorite place and quickly familiarized herself with the area we wanted to go – another local spot in Berkeley called Cragmont (just a few blocks from Indian Rock). Once she’d arrived in California, and by the time we connected on FaceTime for our final pre-session check-in, she had already scoped out the area, done a deep dive into the weather forecast, assessed what time of day would create the best light, and crawled all over the rock to find the anchor points and the best places from which to shoot. This is a serious adventure wedding photographer, guys.
When Kate books her adventure sessions and weddings, she doubles not only as the photographer, but also as the wedding planner. If you need a permit to get married in a national park, she’ll coordinate it for you. If you need help booking campsites or a rad Airbnb near your destination, she gets it done. Looking for outdoorsy ideas in a certain part of the country for your adventure wedding ceremony? She’s got you covered.
As experienced climbers super familiar with California climbing areas, Loren and I were both impressed with how thoroughly Kate prepared for our session. We could both imagine how easy and reassuring it would feel to plan an elopement day with her. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a Friday evening either!
What started out as a casual conversation between Kate and me eventually turned into a super fun rock climbing anniversary experience in fancy clothes with phenomenal photographs documenting the whole thing. It made me wish we could do our wedding all over again, but this time as a small wedding adventure elopement. And of course, we’d hire Kate to make it happen.
Since I knew we’d be fiddling with gear and climbing for the majority of this shoot on this big day, I chose to adorn my chalk bag with succulents instead of creating a traditional bouquet. This allowed me to do something I’d never done before: trail feathers and ribbons down my chalk bag and affix a nice cluster of colorful succulents and hardy flowers to the front of it. I also created a simple floral crown featuring succulents and dried flowers, pops of color to stand out against the composite rock we’d be climbing on for this incredible day.
Succulents are the perfect floral feature for conservationists like Loren and me. Taking care of the environment, being mindful of our carbon footprint, and reducing waste are all important aspects of our lives. We spend so much time in pristine natural places, and it’s important to us that we preserve them as best we can as conscientious consumers of the outdoors.
Not only are succulents drought-friendly plants, they’re also still alive when you pull them out of the ground or cut them from a larger plant for a wedding bouquet or floral crown. In fact, succulents can stay alive outside the soil for weeks (even months in some cases) and can be replanted after the wedding is over. They’ll just re-establish themselves and keep on going. I offer a replanting service to local Bay Area couples, where I’ll take back the bouquet or another large floral element of their wedding and create a custom potted arrangement. That way, couples can keep their wedding flowers – and their investment – forever.
Find all the info you need on my wedding page here, including my current pricing and questionnaire for flowers on your special day. If you're truly planning an adventurous wedding, I can mail your bouquet to your destination wedding location so that you don't have to fly with it.
Having barely dipped my toe into climbing when Loren and I decided to get married eight years ago, an adventure elopement would have never occurred to me as an option. I didn’t have Instagram or Pinterest accounts back then, so my wedding inspiration was limited to the traditional bridal mags my mom sent me through the mail. (They mostly just sat on the coffee table for a day or two and then went into the recycle bin, as nothing I found within spoke to me at all.)
I hadn’t yet started my succulent business either. In fact, I was only at the beginning of what has since become a full-blown succulent obsession (reference the succulent tattoos on my forearm and that fact that I’ve made a career out of playing with these magical plants), so we didn’t even have succulents at our wedding. Looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe that these elements were missing on our wedding day.
Today’s modern couples have so many creative options at their fingertips, whether they want to invite the masses or say "I do" in an intimate wedding on top of a mountain in Yosemite. In a way, because we did this photoshoot with Kate, we kind of got to do both in the end. And how fun that I made some original succulent wedding pieces for myself in the process!
The most serendipitous part?
Since we were already all dressed up while deciding on dinner after we wrapped the session with Kate, we decided to try our luck at the Chez Panisse Cafe. That’s the less formal upstairs cafe, tucked away within the elegant Chez Panisse, that doesn’t require reservations months and months in advance. And even though it was a Friday night, and it’s always being busy, Loren and I walked in, and they seated us right away! Serendipity! So we ended up taking our anniversary session full circle, right back to the night we got engaged and decided to spend our lives together.
Life really is a beautiful adventure!