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Portland Elopement on the banks of the Columbia River
Ashley and Casey’s Portland elopement took place over two incredible days—we explored a couple of my favorite spots in the Columbia River Gorge, and they found a way to celebrate with family and friends while also being true to their vision for a stress-free intimate celebration. Two-day elopements are the best way to experience the “just us” freedom of a private elopement, plus have a ceremony surrounded by your closest loved ones.
how they met
Years ago, when they were working at speech pathologists in Ecuador, Casey and Ashley became close friends. They traveled together, got to know each other, and explored many parts of the tropical South American country. It wasn’t until they got back to the states that they decided to pursue a relationship. They included so many sweet things from their time in Ecuador at their elopement—I got a photo of them in hats they purchased while working there, and Casey even brought a photo book of their relationship, which included many photos from their early adventures as just friends.
When they began thinking about places to get married—Portland, Oregon came up as a logical choice because Casey is from Oregon and it’s a state with all the outdoor beauty they both were looking for! Plus, their ceremony location in the Columbia River Gorge is drive-up accessible, so their family members could comfortably join.
day 1 — An intimate family ceremony
Their day began at an Airbnb where Ashley was getting ready with her girlfriends. In a show of support, her closest friends had flown in from all over the place to enjoy pre-elopement festivities and to help Ashley get ready the morning of. The day before they had all been winery and brewery hoping—enjoying so much of the best food & drink Oregon has to offer. While her friends didn’t join for the ceremony (that was kept a family-only affair) they were all hyping Ashley up that morning—champagne was popped, and many mimosas were poured! It brought such a smile to my face to witness this getting ready part of the day—so often photographing elopements, I don’t get to witness the camaraderie of best friends who deeply love the couple getting married.
They also included so many personalized details—Ashley’s friend and talented wedding stationary designer, Jessie of PaperGarten, created their invitations, which were Oregon/Portland themed. At one point Ashley’s soon-to-be mother-in-law brought in cinnamon buns from a local bakery. It was all these acts of support and kindness that made Ashley and Casey’s elopement so special—they were able to celebrate with their loved ones who were present for them. They weren’t stressed about a thing because their family and friends were there to celebrate, rather than be catered to. That mindset shift is what makes elopements so different from traditional weddings.
After Ashley and Casey finished getting ready, we headed to Government Cove for their first look. This is one of my favorite places near Portland for an outdoor family-friendly ceremony because it’s so wildly accessible, but still feels like you’re far out of the city in nature. We set up the first look in such a way that Casey went out first, and then I brought Ashley out to meet him. They were able to have a sweet private moment together before their family followed us out to the ceremony spot.
So many things about this elopement were laid back—in fact, we didn’t decide on a lot of details until the day before! I went out to Government Cove to scout the ceremony spot the day before their elopement and actually found it blocked off for filming (it’s a popular local spot for film crews), and we weren’t sure if they planned to be gone in time. But when I brought it up to Ashley the night before, she just said “I trust you, we’ll see!” Of course, we had a backup location in place, but the morning of Casey and Ashley’s elopement I headed back to Government Cove and found it open to the public again—just in time to go meet Ashley at the Airbnb and give her the good news!
The main thing for Ashley and Casey was simply celebrating somewhere they loved—a place that was beautiful, with beautiful scenery. They didn’t particularly want to commit to certain activities, because they wanted to see how they would feel. Because of this, we had two possible plans in place for their “just us” adventure the day after their ceremony—but I’ll explain more of that next. First, I have to tell you more about their epic ceremony…
It was windy—like, really windy! Not too chilly, but the gusts of wind led us to find a couple of more sheltered spots in the Government Cove area for the ceremony and family portraits. We hiked up to one of the overlooks above the Columbia River for Casey and Ashley to say their vows with their family present. Ashley’s veil was flying all over the place, which made for some really dramatic images! But everyone had smiles on their faces—the whole experience felt very close-knit, casual, and comfortable.
After the ceremony we found a more sheltered spot for family portraits, and then their family headed back to the Airbnb so we could explore a bit more. Ashley and Casey had their first dance, and then they took some gorgeous portraits in Casey’s old vintage car—he’s had that car forever he was telling me, and it was still up in Oregon with his family.
We then followed their families back to the rental, where a private chef had been cooking up an amazing meal for everyone! The place had been decorated with candles, flowers, and lights. Everyone gathered around for a delicious meal together. Then, they poured tequila shots for everyone! It was such a fun, laid back reception experience. It wasn’t until this late in the evening that we decided what to do for their “just us” two-person elopement adventure the next day.
day 2 — a “just us” adventure
Being two very happy and laid back people, Ashley and Casey decided to wait and see how they felt before committing to the hiking adventure we tentatively planned for their day-after celebration. The night before had been such a fun time with their families, they decided a more relaxed day was going to be the best choice for them. So we met up at the trailhead for Latourell Falls, which is one of the slightly lesser-known waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.
In fact, the Columbia River Gorge is home to more than a dozen waterfalls you can hike out to! Latourell Falls trail is one of the more accessible ones, and it’s usually pretty busy. But something a lot of hikers don’t know is that the first waterfall on this trail isn’t the last—we found ourselves enjoying a totally private area when we hiked to the upper waterfall. Ashley and Casey found a private little outcropping to share personal vows.
We spent the whole second day just relaxing and having fun exploring the waterfall. It speaks so much to who Ashley and Casey are that they were more focused on how the experience of getting married felt, moreso than what they did. They are a couple of incredibly fun, chill people who simply wanted to have a good time, and that’s exactly what happened!
They got to experience some of the best of Oregon, without having to hike out far or plan an epic journey. They also experienced the breadth of Pacific Northwest weather—a windy ceremony, sunshine, and even a light rain (though, not so wet we had to seek cover). It was the moody Oregon vibes I love, while also being temperate and accessible enough to not shift plans.
Oregon is one of my favorite places in the world to photograph elopements—check out this list of locations if you’re looking for your perfect place.