styled ELOPEMENT!! Sylvan Lake, Custer State Park elopement
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When Sarah from The Vintage Lease asked if I would be interested in photographing a styled elopement, I said YES without any hesitation for a few reasons:

  1. Her work is so lovely and thoughtful, and I know her enough to trust her vision completely.
  2. Elopements are small, so recreating any part of this shoot for a real wedding would be so easy and realistic!
  3. SUNRISE IN THE BLACK HILLS, need I say more?

On the day of the shoot, I was so excited for what Sarah had put together, but I also wanted to be super intentional about making this look as real as possible, so we had our already-married models do a first look. They were so sweet to play along with all of our ideas, and I hope this styled elopement can provide plenty of real inspiration for anyone out there planning their own elopement. :-)

The groom then surprised his bride with some new earrings to match her wedding ring.The gorgeous ceremony site provided by Custer State Park, and lovely dress from Freckled Fox in Spearfish.The next ‘set up’ that actually turned more real than any part of the day was the couple meeting their officiant – Mary Maisey Ireland from Your Joyful Wedding. I have had the honor of working alongside Mary at many weddings, and she always has a way of putting everyone at ease. Yes, this was an awkward morning (a married couple pretending to elope), but Mary did what she does best and greeted the couple with warmth and sincerity, gave them an overview of what was about to happen, then led them to the spot we picked for them to ‘get married.’Even for an elopement you can walk down an aisle (or grassy pathway)! Again… yes, these are staged photos, but this couple, as well as Mary, were so sincere that I was about ready to sign a marriage license to make this elopement official!! Another thing Mary does that I LOVE is that she gives couples some space for their first kiss as husband and wife.  Even already-married couples can’t stop kissing once they’re pronounced husband and wife!! ;-) Also, I love how the sun is peeking over the Hills, embracing Jake + Tessa for this moment!Now, I’d like to brag on Jenny’s Floral for a bit. Her business in downtown Custer is full of fun home decor, including several items made by local artists, and there is always a happy helper behind the counter, oftentimes Jenny herself. Every time I photograph her bouquets, I fall more and more in love with her work. Every single wedding we’ve done together is a ‘favorite!!’ And this ring from Riddle’s Jewelry? SOOOO BEAUTIFUL!!!! I love that morganite has become so popular – the faint hint of pink is so subtle and sweet, I couldn’t help but stare!Jake + Tessa, our models, also own Ebony & White Design, a local woodworking business. They make the most impressive custom furniture, as well as personalized wooden signs, such as this! How perfect!!
Finally, Sarah’s masterpiece. While we walked around taking portraits, Sarah set up this lovely table just a few feet away from the elopement site (on more level ground – haha)! She grew up collecting antiques with her parents, and has recently turned that passion into a business, renting and styling anything vintage (sofas, chairs, glassware, everything you see here) for small weddings and events. Again – this ring!!! The rose gold wedding bands really highlighted the morganite. Who doesn’t love blush?! Another local find was this gigantic caramel roll from Calamity Jane’s Mercantile in Custer. I *might* have picked up a few extra for all the behind-the-scenes vendors who came out before sunrise for this amazing day.

So, what do you think? Does any part of this styled photoshoot make you want to elope? Or get out to watch the sun rise? Or eat an enormous caramel roll? If the answer was yes to any of those, I think we’ve succeeded. ;-)


A huge thank you to the following vendors for putting together this styled elopement:

The Vintage Lease – Sarah had the vision to put this together and style the table

Your Joyful Wedding – Mary, the master of ceremonies and life in general (yes, she’s that good!)

Jenny’s Floral – Jenny puts together the most amazing bouquets ever!

Hubbard Visuals – Nick and Kaylee put together a lovely video of the occasion

Riddle’s Jewelry – provided the gorgeous gems

Freckled Fox – Beth and Amanda (a mother and daughter team in Spearfish) provided Tessa’s lovely dress

Ebony & White Design – Jake & Tessa Wolter – the wonderful models and woodworkers

Calamity Jane Mercantile – the caramel rolls!!!

Emily Costopulous – elopement announcement

Studio LB – I had the honor of photographing all this beautiful-ness!

grant + hillary ADVENTURE!!
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Grant + Hillary came to the Black Hills to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, and wanted to document their trip with a photoshoot. When I found out they would be hiking several trails along their journey, I asked if they would be up for hiking for their photos and was SO EXCITED when they agreed! We met at Sylvan Lake and hiked to the nearest overlook to watch the most beautiful blush sunset.  I love that they slow danced on top of a mountain at sunset, while thinking back on their wedding day a year ago. It seriously can not get any more romantic than that!!! I had been using the gorgeous pink sunset as a backdrop, but I didn’t want them to miss out on the beauty of it, so they took a moment to just soak it all in. Then, Grant soaked in the beauty of his bride. ;-) 
I love that among all the sweet, romantic photos, they were still quick to laugh with each other – a good sign of a good marriage, if you ask me! :-) Thanks again, Grant + Hillary for reaching out and for going on a little adventure with me! I can’t wait to see where you go for your next anniversary!!

Thankful 2018
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Looking back at all these wonderful couples, I’m instantly taken back to our time together and the moments that unfolded before my eyes (and camera).

A minute-long hug. A shooting star on a wedding night, just like on the night they got engaged. A quote from The Office (that I can’t believe I didn’t recognize right away). A morning hike in the clouds. KUCHEN! A glance up to her mom in heaven. The light in the eyes of a bride who is now a mother.

A few tears, a few laughs, but most of all, SO MUCH JOY!!

I’m so thankful to have met each and every one of the people in these photos. And also, Walter the cat. :-)

lex + heidi MARRIED!! Custer State Park wedding photographer
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In my mind, mid-September has always been the perfect time for a wedding. Even before I was married, I was photographing weddings at that time and thinking “this weather is perfect – not summer, not fall, just right.” Then, my husband and I got married mid-September because it was the only date that worked for the photographers I wanted. Now, I get to share an anniversary with this lovely couple you see here!

Lex + Heidi traveled down from North Dakota for a perfect South Dakota September wedding day. The morning was foggy, but by lunchtime the sun came out and shined so bright for these two!
After the ceremony, we had a full hour before Lex + Heidi were needed at the reception, so we went on a little adventure! :-)  Lex + Heidi – Thank you so much for having me at your wedding! I loved being able to create beautiful wedding photos that you will hopefully treasure as much as I treasure my own photos from September 15th a few years ago! :-) Thanks for letting me take you on a little adventure as well! I hope you had a fun couple of days here, and enjoy your honeymoon this winter!

eric + brianna MARRIED!! Black Hills wedding photography
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South Dakota weather can never be planned, but somehow Eric + Brianna Mae timed their wedding out perfectly! We had waves of sunshine come and go, then overcast for their ceremony with just a few sprinkles at the end, rain on the drive to ‘just married’ photos at the lake, then the clouds parted and everything dried out for dinner!

Three details I really loved about their wedding: 1) they planted a tree for their unity ceremony using dirt from the homes they grew up at, 2) they had a live band play for their reception, and 3) they harvested their own wedding dinner!!! Buffalo and rainbow trout had never tasted better than they did that night!! Another lovely wedding officiated by the ever-amazing Mary Maisey-Ireland from Your Joyful Wedding. Eric and Brianna asked me if I hear a lot of the same things over and over, and I really don’t! Mary works closely with each of her couples to create a unique, one-of-a-kind ceremony and it’s spot on every single time. One thing I did notice about this wedding was the use of fishing terms, like ‘catch’ and ‘hook’ that she seamlessly weaved into her readings. One of the most awkward, hilarious wedding exits I’ve ever witnessed! They picked a very special song to walk out to, and waited a solid 45 seconds until the main chorus started. Everyone was looking at them, wondering why they weren’t going anywhere. But it was so worth it – it was Brianna’s favorite part of the day! This here, is the queen of his double wide trailer! hahaha!! So we *almost* dodged the rain on their wedding day. The downpour let up, we walked to the shore from my car, and a little trail of a shower swept over them and created this sparkly magic!! We came back to the reception and their families were switching out soaked tablecloths for dry ones, while The Friday Nighters played on. I could have watched this group play all night! With the rapidly changing weather, they had to re-tune between songs, but they all kept going and had a great time!A few clouds lingered, and the Black Forest Inn provided the perfect patio for dinner.Not sure I’ve ever taken a picture like this before, but this was the part of the wedding they were most looking forward to (and rightly so)! Eric + Bmae – Thanks for being so chill and hilarious! Weddings like yours are a real treat – so much fun and so little stress!!! I hope your time in the Black Hills was awesome as always. And so you know, I’m pretty sure I saw a falling star within five minutes of leaving that night, so keep making those memorable commitments to each other!! The universe is rooting for you! ;-)