Taylor and Claire’s marriage celebration was the epitome of the untraditional. Bucking tradition on their wedding day was the most important thing to them, and they succeeded with flying colors.
First, they decided on an adventure elopement in Oregon. For a couple from the midwest, this was a bold choice, but the choice that felt right. The two were enamored with waterfalls, and there’s no better place than the Pacific Northwest if you’re dreaming of eloping under a rush of water.
Shaped by ancient flood waters, the Columbia River Gorge is Mecca for waterfall chasers. Volcanic rock and cliffs carved by glacial torrents have created a great variety of cascades. Tall, plunging, trickling, misty…every waterfall has its own unique dimensions and personality. Multnomah Falls is the most famous in the gorge, and the tallest in Oregon. It is extremely impressive, and very popular, perhaps because of its easy accessibility. Claire & Taylor wanted more adventure for their special day, so they chose a cascade a bit further off the beaten track…. Wahclella Falls.
Wahclella Falls is also breathtakingly beautiful, but because it’s a 1.2 mile hike to the waterfall, it’s not quite as busy as Multnomah. It’s a fabulous hike though. Columnar basalt covered in moss creates steep ravine walls alongside the creek that leads into the canyon to the falls.
About two thirds of the way up the canyon, the trail splits. One path follows the canyon wall upwards, and the other is a switchback down to the river, where you cross a scenic bridge to the opposite side of the canyon. The unique geography of the Wahclella Falls trail gave me an idea that I thought would appeal to Claire & Taylor.
Which brings me to another way the two decided to buck wedding traditions: their wardrobe. Claire & Taylor did not wear white gowns, as is the expected attire for most women getting married in America. Their outfits were rich tones of maroon and russet. And…this is my favorite part…they asked their guests to wear white!
I thought a dramatic and interesting way to document the starkly white-clad wedding party would be from a distance, as they approached the site. The trail offered a unique opportunity to do so from above. Claire and Taylor loved the idea when I pitched it to them, but the plan would call for extra precision in both positioning and timing. Extra location scouting was required on my part… but any excuse to go hiking to a gorgeous waterfall, right? Yes, please!
On the day of the waterfall elopement, I arrived extra early to access any last minute changes to the trail. (Sometimes trees fall, creeks flood, construction begins…any number of situations that could potentially require an alteration in plans.) But I also arrived early in order to hike in solo, and … wait. I sat perched high on the canyon wall, looking down the valley, and watching for the party in white to approach.
As they arrived, I snapped a series of bird’s eye photos and then hurried down the trail to loop around and meet up with the brides at the wedding spot, which overlooked the waterfall. Claire and Taylor stood with their officiant on a picturesque rock pile, while their loved ones gathered around listening. The roar of the water was the perfect accompaniment for the perfect ceremony.
The couple stood out against the sea of white created by both their guests and the gushing Wahclella Falls behind them. Close family and friends contributed to the ceremony with many touching words and gestures, such as ukulele serenades and seed planting.
Perhaps my favorite wedding guest of all time was at this elopement. Many people include their dogs on their adventure elopement, but very few bring their kitties along!
Claire and Taylor’s Wahclella Falls elopement in the Columbia River Gorge is an excellent example of just how individualized and personal an elopement can be. You can make it whatever you want…. even assigning guest of honor status to a cat!