Our aspirations to have an intimate destination elopement had dwindled to all but non-existent until we learned a baby would soon be joining us. Suddenly, we had a perfect excuse to move things along a little faster and I ecstatically returned to our most original of wedding day wants: intimate, adventurous and meaningful.
We quickly and quietly booked my dream photographer – Jane in the Woods – in Sedona, Arizona. I snagged flights on the cheap through Allegiant and burned travel points on a sweet convertible rental car. We debated on a resort stay – but ultimately landed on the Holiday Inn Express knowing we’d be out hiking versus lounging by the pool anyway.
The plan was perfectly understated.
We arrived in Phoenix late on a Friday evening and drove into the night – winding toward Sedona. Waking up to red rocks in every direction was nothing shy of incredible. The one highway running through town was dotted with shops, restaurants and trailheads.
The sun warmed our pale skin as we cruised to the trailhead for Devil’s Bridge.
Doing what we do best – we picked the most dare devilish of hikes for our one dedicated day of exploring. Baby on board, we hiked the long climbing trail to the look out point. Our minds were set to walk across the massive stone “bridge” suspended over the rocky valley.
Adrenaline spiked as we waited for our chance to risk it all. Talking with the other hikers around us, we quickly discovered that the woman behind us was also pregnant. She refused to walk across the bridge because of it.
Challenge. Freaking. Accepted.
Standing on the bridge, we snapped photos as other hikers whistled, waited and cheered. Another “we made it” trophy of a snap joined the collection. Then, we lingered in the sun and trails while making our way back to the car.
A delicious lunch. An afternoon of wandering in town. A dinner out. The most notable part of our wedding weekend was the complete lack of chaos and panic that most of society expects. We just loved the time we had together.
The sun finally rose on ceremony morning and the nerves were through the roof. Neither of us had expected the uneasiness that would come with the big day – but something about the freshly steamed dress hanging nonchalantly in the corner of the room and the scribbled vows tucked into our daypack made the entire event seem much more monumental than either of us had expected.
We ate the free breakfast at the hotel. Push-button pancakes, Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and those pour-and-scramble eggs with a buffet of random bagels and fruit. I had cranberry juice from a vending machine. Aaron drank the always basic black coffee. We stole some bananas for hiking snacks.
Then, in my sandals and maxi dress, we went on a walk down the street. We ended up at the Courthouse Rock trailhead and proceed down the dirt path – completely unprepared for a hike but doing the only thing we knew to keep us grounded. We wandered. We sat on a bench. We met a tiny lizard. We watched hilarious travelers.
Back in the room, I went to work curling my hair and doing my own make up. Aaron, restless in front of the TV, announced he was walking to the quick stop. “My phone is on the charger. Be back in a few.”
“Oh, hell no,” I exclaimed. He looked shocked.
“I’ve seen far too many Lifetime movies to have you leave right now, get hit by a car and end up in a 3-year coma. I know exactly how this goes. Take your phone and answer it.”
He laughed hard. So did I. But it was the truth.
He returned 20 minutes later with a ginger ale for me and a tall boy beer for himself. Within the hour – we were packed up and leaving for our ceremony.
Married among the rocks
Ragged trees and prickly pear cacti dotted the valley under Cathedral Rock. In our fast weekend, we’d seen every angle of the terrain. Its vast and sprawling reach from the airplane was astounding. The winding roads that moved into it seemed to run like a never-ending ribbon. We’d sat at the bottoms of massive red rocks jutting into the sky and even stood at their tops to look down from above.
Tucked into the dry and imperfect scenery, I married my best friend.
We wrote our own vows to each other and whispered them into the wind for another day. We exchanged the rings we’d picked and purchased in Kansas City – they’d made the journey as we had and would bind us for a whole new journey altogether.
I held Aaron’s hand as I shuffled my feet across the smooth ledge looking across Cathedral Rock. Unscripted, onlooking hikers began to sing in the distance.
“There you see her / sitting there across the way / she don’t got a lot to say but there’s something about her / and you don’t know why / but you’re dying to try / you gotta kiss the girl…”
Aaron and I looked up from the ground for a moment of shock.
“…it don’t take a word / not a single word / go on and kiss the girl / kiss the girl…”
Laughing, we leaned in and kissed. Aaron threw a triumphant hand in the air. And that, my friends, became the photo of our wedding day. A moment in which we stood so very, very small against a world so overwhelmingly gigantic, together, being quintessentially us and wrapped entirely in the unbelievable magic of strangers who happened to cross our completely non-traditional path.