| December 31, 2019

Best of 2019 – Adventure Instead

Table of Contents

2019. Wow. How do we sum up an entire year in just a few words?

2019 has been absolutely incredible and none of us (Maddie Mae, Amber, or Tori) can even believe that we get to call this life a “job”.

We love these end-of-year wrap-up posts — it’s so fun to look back over the past 12 months and see how we’ve grown, how many incredible couples we’ve gotten to work with, how many incredible experiences we’ve each had — truly — we are so grateful.



Thank you to every single couple who was brave enough to decide to say “the heck with it” to the big wedding industry and choose to get married in their own unique way this year.

To the couples that held hands and traipsed through the Alps in Switzerland, the Rocky Mountains, the Tetons, and more – we thank you.

To the couples who embraced wind, rain, snow, and storms with a smile on their face and an unfaltering love in their heart for their partner on their meaningful, perfect elopement day – we thank you.

To the couples who looked at each other on the elopement day they created together to perfectly reflect who they are as a couple, who chose to honor what they wanted most of all on a day that means so much, we thank you.

To every single couple who invited us (us!) to be a part of your love story, your unforgettable day, your limitlessly beautiful adventure, we couldn’t possibly thank you enough to express our pure gratitude.

We can’t thank you enough. It’s absolutely pure magic to watch two people take hands and say, “Hey, let’s do this thing together forever.

Your beauty, your love, your admirable and impactful bravery that brings us to tears every time we think about it.

Without your choice to adventure instead, we simply wouldn’t be here.

So thanks for the best job in the whole world — and for the best year, we’ve had yet.

2019 at a Glance

  • 90 Adventure Elopements & Intimate Weddings
  • 10 Adventurous Couple Sessions (Vow Renewals, Proposals, Engagements, Anniversaries)
  • 12 Countries: Peru, Chile, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Scotland, Greece, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, France, New Zealand, U.S.A.
  • 14 States: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia
  • 178,868 miles of flights and 46,000 miles of driving (read more about what we did about our carbon emissions below)
  • 350+ miles hiked (we lost track)
  • 300,000+ photos taken

Some Big Goals We Accomplished in 2019

Maddie Mae

Got Married

Bought a 2nd House

Did Keto for a Full Year

Launched Adventure Instead Academy


Bought a House

Went Paragliding for the 1st Time

Learned to fish

Began metalsmithing


Moved to Seattle

Rappelled & rock climbed waterfalls underground

Toured New Zealand in a Campervan

Our Environmental Impact in 2019

Before we dive into some of our absolute favorite images from 2019, we want to show you something we’ve been dying to share — something we’ve been thinking about very deeply this year — our environmental impact.

We accomplished a lot of awesome stuff together in 2019, but one of the things we’re most proud of has been our efforts to make Adventure Instead 100% carbon neutral.

We know that we drive and fly a lot for our job — so of our goals for 2019 was to offset all carbon emissions of travels that the three of us did for our elopements — AND the carbon emitted by the travels of our couples (many of whom also travel to their elopement location).

In general, we’re very proud to enable couples to have a wedding experience that is significantly less impactful on the environment than a big wedding. On average, a single big wedding has as much carbon cost as 4 people for an entire year. The total carbon cost of flying or driving for 100-200+ people to come to a single wedding location is pretty horrendous… not to mention the 400-600 pounds of trash as a result, most of which is likely single-use plastic. Eloping is a much greener way to get married — but still, we wanted to do more. We wanted to do our best to make our business as low-impact on the environment as possible.

So at the start of 2019, we partnered with a local, Colorado non-profit Trees Water People. And for every elopement & shoot this year, we calculated all of the carbon used to travel to each location (not just ours — for every single couple, too!). In total for 2019, we offset 228 tons of carbon (from 765,000 miles of flights and 61,000 miles of driving) by planting trees in Central America (where they mature and grow the fastest) to help expedite the carbon offset. [Read more about how Trees Water People offsets carbon].

And thanks to the over 500 students who purchased Maddie’s online course on how to become an elopement photographer, we were also able to make an impact by donating to causes we care about a lot.

Donations in 2019

In 2019, we also proudly donated nearly $30,000 to five philanthropies that we believe are doing their very best to make the world a better, more sustainable, kinder, and beautiful place.

  • Trees Water People — $2,280 Donated: This badass organization is who we teamed up with to help offset our carbon impact. Local to Colorado, this group is focused on preserving ecosystems and involving local people as best as possible to help them play an active role in the care and management of ecosystems. Staffed by dedicated, hardworking conservationists, the entire team emphasizes reforestation as well as the design and distribution of clean energy products.
  • The Ocean Foundation — $6,725 Donated: This organization is dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments around the world. They support, strengthen, and promote other organizations with a similar mission, collectively using their expertise to manage emerging threats and create high-tech solutions to better protect our oceans.
  • The Trevor Project — $6,725 Donated: This outstanding and impactful group is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under the age of 25.
  • Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics — $6,725 Donated: An organization very near and dear to our hearts, the LNT Center for Outdoor Ethics is all about providing research, education, and initiatives to every person who ventures outside so that they can not only protect and enjoy our world responsibly but ethically and kindly teach others the same.
  • The National Park Foundation — $6,725 Donated: Where would we be without our national parks? Every single one of us must do our part to protect our national parks, and through the NPF’s mission (to support the NPS and safeguard our national heritage), we help to ensure that national park enthusiasts can safely and responsibly enjoy these wonders for generations to come.

And you know what? In 2020, we’re going to do our best to do even more. The better we take care of our planet, the more sustainable our actions, and the harder we consciously consider and minimize our impact, the better our world will be.  Thanks to every couple who made this possible and every photographer who invested in our education too.

A moment from our favorite 2019 elopements

And now, the moment we’ve been waiting to share with you all year!

We put our heads together to come up with a very special collection of photos from 2019 as a tribute to this badass year we embarked on. Before you start scrolling, we’ll give you a spoiler — this isn’t a list of our favorite elopements.


Because every single one of our elopements is our favorite elopement.

No matter how many places we go, no matter how many couples we meet, and no matter how many elopements we’re lucky enough to be a part of, no day has ever been the same. Each day and each couple is so magical — no two have ever been alike. And of all the things we love about what we do, that’s probably one of our top 5 favorite reasons — every elopement is beautiful, powerful, and full of wonder in its own, unique right.

Instead, we’ve put together our favorite photos from every single elopement we captured in 2019. These are the images that made us smile, made our jaws drop, made us tear up, and what continue to inspire us to do what we do.

Start scrolling, and (if you’re like us), get some tissues — 2019 has truly been one hell of a year.

P.S. To all our couples this year — if you comment below, we’d love to respond to your comment & thank each & every one of you personally! Thank you for choosing to adventure instead. Thanks for the best job in the whole world — and for the best year we’ve had yet.

xx Maddie Mae, Amber, & Tori

Groom traces hearts on bride's back, which is covered in sand. There is a desert in the background.
Bride and groom on hiking trail, surrounded by trees and rocks. Groom is jumping in the air.
Two brides embrace. One kisses the other on the cheek. There are trees and mountains in the background.
Groom kisses brides forehead between rock formations, under a full moon.
Bride and groom look into each others eyes, surrounded by snow, trees, and mountains.
Bride and groom jump off of cliff into a body of water.
Bride and groom embrace.
bride and groom embrace, both smiling, while groom lifts of bride.
Bride and groom have a picnic on a beach, surrounded by drift wood, which is draped with lights.
Bride reads her vows to groom, who is holding their dog.
Bride and groom stand on rocks while holding hands.
Bride leans down to hug boy, both are smiling.
Couple standing on grass with mountains in the background. One kisses the other on the cheek.
Groom hugs bride as her dress flows in the wind behind her. There are snow-capped mountains behind them.
Two brides walk along the beach. They are holding hands and smiling at each other.
Bride and groom are holding hands and walking together as it snows.
Close-up of groom kissing other groom on the cheek.
Bride, groom, and their families roast marshmallows in a fire.
Bride and groom embrace on a mossy cliff.
Bride and groom embrace while standing on a cliff, with mountains behind them.
Bride and groom run down a sand dune.
Bride and groom hug, while standing in front of an alpine lake. Alpenglow on the mountains behind them.
Bride reads her vows to the groom.
Bride and groom hold hands and walk together, both smiling.
Bride and groom stand on a mossy cliff, overlooking a fjord.
Bride kisses other bride on the forehead.
Bride and groom dance together.
Groom reads his vows to bride in front of a blue alpine lake, with snow covered mountains behind them.
Silhouette of couple hiking in the dark, with sun rising behind them.
Bride and groom have their ceremony on rocky mountain, with fog behind them.
Bride and groom hold hands and look out at lake.
Bride and groom sit on a rock and watch a stream.
Bride and groom stand underneath a rock formation.
Bride and groom embrace in the snow.
Bride and groom embrace, both wrapped in a white fur blanket.
Bride and groom read their vows in front of an alpine lake.
Bride and groom stand in front of a frozen alpine lake.
Bride gets dressed in the snow.
Two brides kiss in the Italian Dolomites.
Two brides hug on a rock in front of a blue alpine lake.
Bride and groom stand in front of their Jeep, with mountains behind them.
Bride and groom read their vows in front of alpine lake.
Bride and groom embrace, as groom kisses bride on the cheek. Snow on the mountains behind them.
Groom wipes away tear as bride reads her vows.
Bride and groom kiss in the snow, as their dog watches.
Bride and groom hold hands and run on road together.
Bride and groom embrace, with waterfall in the foreground.
Bride and groom embrace, with waterfall behind them.
Bride and groom embrace in forest.
Bride and groom sitting in floatplane. Groom rests his head on brides shoulder.
Maddie and her husband read their vows in Peru.
Bride and groom walk along island in alpine lake.
Bride and groom both wipe away tears, with lake behind them.
Bride and groom walk on cliff together that overlooks mountain landscape.
Two brides roast marshmallows in front of a fire.
Groom dips bride for a kiss as it rains.
Bride and groom walk through field, with a thick fog rolling in behind them.
Bride and groom stand in front of mountains in the dark, with their dogs. There are lots of stars in the sky.
Bride and groom hug.
Bride and groom sit on rock, smiling, with green forest behind them.
Groom places ring on bride's finger, while she holds a child.
Bride and groom wrap their arms around each other while looking out at snow-capped mountains.
Bride and groom throw snow in the air while laughing.
Bride and groom hold hands and smile at each other, while walking on a trail.
Bride and groom kiss on cliff. The sun fills the image with an orange glow.
bride and groom walk in front of alpine lake.
Profile Pic

Maddie Mae

Elopement Photographer

& Planning Consultant

Three photographers

About us

Adventure Instead

Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

Free guide

Get your free guide

To elopement planning

Download Now