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My Dream Mountain Vow Renewal at Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake, Vow Renewals

This past May Derek & I decided to run away to the mountains for a few days & I finally got my dream mountain vow renewal & I wore the black wedding dress that I have wanting forever! We were married in May of 2007 in Edmonton, it was a small wedding, just 70 guests & it was a lovely day (yup, even back then before I started photographing weddings, I wasn’t into a huge circus of a wedding with a gazillion people). I had a white poofy gown that I actually loved & Derek looked amazing in his suit. We had a small wedding party & invited close friends & family. We had a formal ceremony & a beautiful reception (and we ended the night with an after party at a pub that we loved). I really wanted to wear a black wedding dress for our original wedding but I ended up with a white dress (it was super hard to find a really great black wedding dress back then & let’s be honest, being a plus-size bride makes it even harder to find something amazing to wear). We didn’t have a photographer for our wedding. That unfortunate detail is the biggest thing that disappoints me about the day, really our only regret. I won’t tell the story, only that we had someone & they had a scheduling conflict with another wedding & because there weren’t 80 million photographers back then, we couldn’t find someone else to cover the day. Even back then I knew I only wanted ceremony, family photo & wedding party photos. I didn’t want a 12 hour wedding photo package, so it was hard to find a photographer that would cover a shorter day. So no photographer for us in the end. I took some photos of Derek & the boys & a few details. There’s no good portraits of Derek & I together from our wedding day. So that’s partly why we decided to run to the mountains for a vow renewal!

Dream Mountain Vow Renewal

Fast forward 12 years, photographing over 500 weddings & being entirely entranced by the mountains, Derek & I decided to do a vow renewal. Why at 12 years? Why not? Why do 5, 10, 15, 25? We were ready for at 12 years. I’d become a little jealous of the couples that I had been photographing in the mountains & I knew we had to plan a dream mountain vow renewal. Planning a vow renewal is much like planning an elopement or an intimate wedding & since I work in the Canadian Rockies so much, it was pretty easy for us to quickly put together everything to make our dream mountain vow renewal happen.

Choosing Our Mountain Vow Renewal Vendors

The first thing I knew was that I needed to have a black wedding dress, but I’ll get to more on that after! Next was deciding where to go for our vow renewal. One of my favourite places in the Canadian Rockies is the Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park. So it was easy for us to pick Emerald Lake Lodge to stay since it’s so close. Next was seeing if our photographer was available. I gave Monica at Red Bloom Photography a couple dates to choose from & we worked around her schedule to book the day for our dream mountain vow renewal. Having a great photographer was essential for our dream mountain vow renewal! Next was lining up hair & make-up for me. I knew it was Lilies & Lace Beauty Co. I didn’t even ask anyone else. Having worked with Jordanna & the styling team for many weddings over the years, I knew they were the right ones for me. For our florals, I chose faBLOOMosity in Edmonton. I just knew they would create something amazing & we traveled down with the flowers the day before.

The Black Wedding Dress

I spent ages searching for the perfect black wedding gown. I had given myself a pretty decent budget so I could find the perfect dress. I bought a poofy tulle skirt & black lace body suit. Nope. That combo didn’t work for me. I bought a black silk box pleated gown with three quarter sleeves but I didn’t love it. I found this amazing black lack & tulle dress from DH Gate & it ended up being my perfect black wedding dress. It only cost me $250! I would have paid 10x that if I had to (but was really glad I didn’t have to!). I have always loved ballgowns & I feel like they just have the most princessy vibe. The dress was meant to twirl! To complete the look, I found the perfect black beaded Badgley Mischka flats. I would never wear heels this time around (in fact, I kicked off the 4 inch heels walking out of the ceremony for our original wedding, I couldn’t wear them any longer!). I headed to Etsy to find dark accessories which included a black freshwater pearl necklace, copper headpiece & a raw moonstone ring. On a whim I found a black beaded capelet from Wish that I used for the ceremony.

Derek also had a dark vibe going with a burgundy tuxedo that we ordered from Macy’s, he looked so frickin’ handsome! Like our original wedding, Derek rocked black steel toed boots (and we wouldn’t have it any other way!).

How the Day Unfolded

We arrived at Emerald Lake Lodge the day before & got a great night sleep in our room. We woke up on the day of our dream mountain vow renewal & had breakfast together. I went for a hike around the lake & Derek lounged. I set the day to start at 6 pm for photos because I wanted to get the best light & I knew that ending photos around 9 pm would be perfect. The girls from Lilies & Lace Beauty Co. came to my room at Emerald Lake to transform me. I’m still shocked that they made me look so amazing! Once hair & make-up were done, we got dressed together. I wish more couples would do this… it made for some great moments & some laughs. We were about to renew our love for each other, why spend the day apart? Once we were dressed, it was time for photos to start! I have never wanted getting ready photos of myself… I find the process awkward. Some people love it & that’s ok, but I knew it wasn’t for me so we started with portraits. We walked from our cabin at ELL & stopped by the Lake for some photos to get the green water. Since it was early May, there was still snow in some parts & the bigger side of the Lake was still frozen so we stayed on the Cilantro side. Then we headed out to Natural Bridge (with a stop to have photos in the middle of the road, something I love to do with my couples! It turns out those are some of my favourite photos of us too!).

The Ceremony & The Vows

Derek & I opted to not have an officiant for our dream mountain vow renewal, instead, we chose to write our own vows to each other & we also recited the awesome vows from the Corpse Bride (something I wanted for our original wedding but didn’t happen). Because we didn’t have an officiant, we weren’t held to a set time to do the ceremony. We went to the Natural Bridge & did portraits there first, then when it was quiet & no people were lingering, we set up our ceremony florals & the tray to accompany. Derek waited on the edge of the river as I walked toward him. We read vows to each other that still make me cry when I think about them from cute vow books (PRO TIP: always have a vow book, they just look so good in photos!). We exchanged new rings. We then lit the candle & had a shot of Jameson from super cute copper shot glasses I found (a 26er of whiskey made me less shy the night I met Derek back in 2001 so it was fitting for the occasion!). It was the perfect ceremony for us, very personal, especially since we were beside the rushing water, even Monica couldn’t hear what we spoke to each other, it truly was just for us! We stayed at the Natural Bridge for photos awhile longer until the sun went down. We then parted ways with Monica (& her husband Paul who was there too) & went back to Emerald Lake Lodge for a late dinner to celebrate, just the two of us. It was everything we dreamed it could be!

Tips for Planning your Dream Mountain Vow Renewal or Elopement

  1. Contact your photographer first so you can set your date around their availability to ensure you get someone awesome for photos & they can have input on locations, vendor referrals etc. (in our case, I already had it planned & didn’t need recommendations since I photograph so many weddings in the area, but that doesn’t happen for most people.)
  2. Think about the season & time of day you want to be outside for portraits. The sun sets late in the Spring in the Rockies so we planned everything to end around 9 pm when the sun was going down in early May. Plan for the best light even if it isn’t convenient! The photos will be that much better for it!
  3. Write personal vows. They really make it all that much more special. Even if you are doing an officiated ceremony, work in your own vows… or find an awesome spot while you are doing portraits & read them to each other, just for you.
  4. Get ready together… after all being together is what it’s all about!
  5. Pack extra shoes to climb in… pretty shoes are hard to scramble over rocks in! And if you’re in the mountains, the best photo spots are far from the sidewalk!

Photos by Red Bloom Photography

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Check out the elopements, intimate weddings & engagements that I’ve photographed at Emerald Lake & the Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park! Or jump to this New Year’s Eve Elopement at Emerald Lake Lodge! Or check out this Magical Winter Wonderland Wedding at Emerald Lake! Or this Emerald Lake Winter wedding!

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Soheel, 2016 Groom

"She is quick, professional, easy going & will literally climb to the edge of a mountain to get the best shot."