I have a little secret, I have a big soft spot for adult family gatherings. I grew up in a family that used to gather every Sunday at my Grandmother’s house in Trion, GA. She made a feast that was so large, it could have fed 50 people, instead of the 10 people who attended. We did that up until I was 14, and then my mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed within a year. When mom was sick, she didn’t have the energy to make the 20-mile road trip to Granny’s house, so we stopped the tradition. I suppose it was grief and the fact that my brother and sister had married and moved on after mom had passed, but we never had those family gatherings again. During those years after, I missed my uncles, aunts, and cousins, but I suppose, life went on. I went to college and then moved to Arizona after I graduated. I didn’t even know what I was truly missing out on until I was much older.
When I started to regularly photography family gatherings, it hit me like a brick wall. These relationships, these moments, you never get them back. At every shoot, I’d soak in the laughter and giggles, and even sometimes the tears as I reminisced on moments of my own family’s memories lost. I love these shoots and it’s so nice to capture these moments for families. I know they’ll cherish these moments in 40 years, even more than they do now.
I love spending the morning with the Berthelsen Family in Oak Creek. This little piece of paradise has always been a reminder of home, with the cool streams and beautiful riparian environment. Plus, this family was just so happy to be together, to smile and laugh and reminisce. Thank you for having me as part of your family history 🙂 ~ Melissa
Couples eloping in Sedona can walk away with a visual wedding story that will wow their friends and family and provide a stunning reminder of their special day for years to come.
Breathtaking images don’t just happen, though.
To capture the beauty that surrounds you, make sure and do a little planning ahead of your arrival.
Sure, eloping is meant to alleviate the frustrations and expense of planning a big wedding, but finding the right spot, bringing the perfect dress and friending the best photographer will take a bit of effort and research.
It’s worth the effort and it will pay off big time. The reward will be the most spectacular photos that will last you a lifetime.
5 Tips to Help Create Stunning Sedona Elopement Photos
To help minimize some of your efforts, remember these five things when planning your Sedona elopement photos.
1. Location. Location. Location.
It’s true that it is hard to find a bad photo taken in Sedona, but you don’t want your wedding photos to have the same Sedona backdrop as everyone else’s.
A photographer that specializes in elopement photography in Sedona will help you find the perfect spot that compliments your personality, enhances the emotion of the day and is unique to you.
My personal favorite spot for Sedona elopement photos is Merry Go Round Rock. It is worth the two-hour drive to capture the splendid beauty of the desert Southwest
Most couples that elope to Sedona have their ceremony and take their photos in the same location. Not only does this save money which is often a motivator for eloping couples, but it also creates a better story of the emotion and love of the day, since you’re not running from one spot to another.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to navigate multiple sites, you absolutely can. But the right photographer is even more critical when doing so.
Some of my personal favorite site combinations include:
- Tlaquepaque and the red rocks from Schnebly Road
- West Fork Trail and red rock views near Uptown
- Page Springs Vineyard and red rocks views off Red Rock Loop Road
Notice a theme? You absolutely must include the Red Rocks in your photos. It is what Sedona is known for, after all.
2. The Time of Day Matters
While most seasoned pros bring off camera lighting (I use it for every shot), nothing beats natural light for complimenting an image and creating the mood. In photography, there is an ideal time of day to produce exquisite photos – it is called the golden hour. The golden hour is the hour after sunrise or before sunset that provides a softer hue than when the sun is higher in the sky.
The time right before sunset is the ideal time of day for scheduling your elopement photos. Not only will you look better in your photos, but it is the perfect time to capitalize on the magical sunsets that Sedona is known for.
There is one exception in the area: Oak Creek Canyon. The best time of day to shoot your photos along the creek is about 2-3 hours before sunset. The sun is a little higher in the sky which provides for those captivating photos that have the sunlight filtering through the trees.
3. Bring Walking / Hiking Shoes
There’s a reason why Sedona offers the best hiking and that’s because there is a lot of hiking. If you want those sweeping landscapes, and trust me you do, then come prepared to hike.
You can always choose to change into your fancy shoes once you get there, but make sure your photographer captures a few images with your hiking boots. Those are always the fun images to look back on.
The Red Rocks of Sedona can be a little dusty. Be prepared for your dress to get a little dirty, but hey that’s what dry cleaners are for.
To be honest, those are the imperfections that make photos from Sedona so impressive.
4. Become BFFs with Your Photographer
When making a decision about a which photographer to hire, ask yourself if you can see yourself being friends with her. Having a connection with your photographer will help translate the natural emotion of the day to your keepsake images.
As you go through the process of selecting your photographer make a point of talking with her. Pick up the phone and dial. Better yet, arrange a Skype or Facetime call. No texting. No email. No Facebook.
There is nothing that replaces verbal (and visual if available) communication in this situation. If you don’t like your photographer and don’t feel a connection with her, you won’t feel relaxed. And if you aren’t relaxed it will show in the photos.
Take the extra time in planning here. It may be the most important thing you can do to prepare for your elopement in Sedona.
5. Discuss Your Elopement Photo Ideas Ahead of Time
Thanks to Pinterest and the Internet, most brides have some ideas around the style of photoshoot they want. They may even go so far as to have specific poses they want to incorporate into their session.
In fact, one of the best ways to communicate with your photographer (after you’ve talked to them on the phone, of course) is to create a Pinterest board.
You and your photographer can share ideas back and forth and create a plan for your elopement photos that you will love.
For instance, if all of your inspiration photos are sunsets and you’re getting married at 2:00 p.m., you are going to have a problem. The right photographer will help you work through that.
It’s important to know that not all photographers are created equal. This goes back to becoming BFFs with your photographer. When you get to know and like your photographer, you will trust her when she makes recommendations.
These discussions should happen before you arrive, so the expectations are set and your special day is captured just the way you envision.
When shooting on location, the biggest potential wrench is the timeline. Double check your elopement day hair and makeup appointments, allow for time to travel to the location and make sure everything is pressed and ready to go.
Allow for extra time for traffic and other people running late. In the end, the buffer of time you add into your schedule will help alleviate stress. And if you’re done early, you’ll have time to enjoy a cocktail.
A Little Planning Can Go a Long Way
As you can see, a little planning can go a long way. The best part about hiring and talking directly with a local Sedona photographer is the fact that they know their way around.
The right photographer can provide you advice and recommendations that you might not think of because you are not familiar with the area. If you find the right photographer it will be easy to trust that you are in the right hands.
There are many reasons couples are eloping in Sedona in record numbers: The weather is perfect, the scenery is stunning and the atmosphere is magical.
Eloping in Sedona
As a photographer, spending time with couples who are eloping in Sedona is one of my favorite things. Nothing gives me greater joy than helping a couple find the perfect spot with a stunning backdrop that captures their joy and love and showcases the couple and their personalities.
Whether to elope or not is a personal decision and each couple makes the decision for different reasons. But if you are considering eloping in Sedona, ask yourself these five questions before making plans.
1. Should we hire a local wedding planner, photographer, and videographer?
Wedding planners can be helpful in many ways but aren’t always necessary depending on your vision for your big day.
Sedona is unique because there are many different themes that can be intertwined with your ceremony and photos.
From minimalistic to extravagant, from elegant to casual, from country to chic, a wedding planner can help pull all the details together to give you the day of your dreams with local touches that will make your wedding unique to you.
On the other hand, though, plenty of couples arrive in Sedona and are able to pull their day together after doing some basic research online.
It really depends on you and your comfort level and the amount of free time you have available.
Now, your photography is another story.
As a photographer, of course, I’m going to say there is no substitute for a professional photographer. And there isn’t.
One of the things I hear most often from couples eloping in Sedona is how the photos of Sedona don’t do the area justice. And it’s true. Sedona and its sweeping landscapes require a professional’s touch.
Your wedding photos will be something you treasure forever.
Pairing up with a photographer who knows the area and who you trust and connect with will translate to the images you receive.
2. Do we invite others or keep it personal?
Answering this question goes to your motivation for eloping in Sedona in the first place.
Do you want to escape family drama, avoid the big ceremony or just eliminate the stress of planning a wedding?
If you choose to invite others, it’s easy to have a weekend full of fun activities that include hikes, jeep tours, and exploring.
If you choose to keep it simple, you may want to consider inviting your two closest friends to act as witnesses, but even that isn’t necessary.
Of course, I always recommend a couple surround themselves with those they love the most, including their furry friends. It will make the cherished photographs from the special day much more meaningful.
3. Do we send announcements and when do we send them?
It is common after eloping in Sedona for the couple to return to home and have a reception for loved ones and cherished friends.
A wonderful touch to the announcement of your wedding and/or invitation to the reception is the use of one or more of photos from your actual day.
Unique ways to share the story of your special day is something to consider. A cinematic slideshow that captures the emotion and beauty of the day is perfect for your the reception back at home. It makes everyone feel they were part of your special day.
4. Where do we get married: The courthouse, hotel or on a location?
Again, this is a personal choice, but if you are making a point to elope in Sedona, it makes sense to capitalize on your beautiful surroundings.
It makes the most sense to utilize the diverse area with their red rocks and unique landscapes that will make for one-of-a-kind images that will be cherished for a lifetime.
If a church wedding is part of the plan, there are a few options for you to consider. Local clergy will conduct ceremonies outside. If you have your heart set on a church service, there is a stunning chapel, Tlaquepaque, that embodies the spirit and feel of the southwest.
Regardless of what you choose for the location of your ceremony, you will want to make sure to schedule a stop at one of the many local scenic spots for your photographs.
You can’t elope in Sedona and not have the beauty of the area captured in your memories.
5. What do we wear?
Let me begin by saying the backdrop of Sedona goes with any outfit.
But let’s be real, it has to be about the dress.
Gowns that move in the breeze, fabulous ball gowns and a little drama goes best with the dramatic red rocks and breathtaking sunsets.
You’ve decided to forgo the big wedding, so why not splurge on the dress and the images?
A few things to keep in mind.
- To get to the very best locations, some hiking is required, so bring your hiking boots
- Your dress will get dirty, but that’s what dry cleaners are for
- Bring a spare dress for a dip in Oak Creek. The photos are stunning and worth the effort.
With a little preparation and the right photographer, eloping in Sedona can be spectacular and provide you with a visual love story that will last a lifetime.
The Casey family wanted to come to beautiful Sedona, Arizona for their annual family photos and who could blame them? The red rocks, beautiful vistas, and the gorgeous sunsets are unrivaled in the Southwest. I love shooting in Sedona because at every turn there’s something that will take your breath away. There are many reasons why so many people make the pilgrimage to Sedona…from acclaimed vortexes to the healing waters and sounds of Oak Creek to the peace you get when you find a trail all to yourself. If you’ve never been, make the trip!
Jessica and Gerry are expecting their second baby in December and big brother, Elvis the Bernese mountain dog, and big sister, Delaney are very excited! I loved the custom signs for Delaney and Elvis! But mostly, I adored how much this family loved one another. There’s nothing quite like being able to observe a close family and how they make each other laugh and smile. The Casey family were adventurous and wanted to go to the summit of the Sugarloaf trail and Jessica hiked it like a pro! The views were definitely worth the effort!
It was great meeting each of you! Thank you for coming to Sedona! xoxo ~ Melissa
I’ve known Miranda since she was about seven years old and I could hardly believe it when her Dad, Dave, called me for her senior photos. Dave and I have served on the board of Flagstaff Biking Organization together for a long time. It’s a bicycle advocacy group here in Flagstaff with a mission to get more people and kids on bikes for health and the environment. Specifically, he and I have a passion for Bike to Work Week and our elementary school children program of Bicycle Rodeos, which teaches safe riding for kids. Dave also recently retired from the Flagstaff Police Department and has participated in the Police Unity Tour for many years. I’ve always been thankful for his service and dedication to the public.
When I first met Miranda, she was just getting into mountain biking. I remember her first ‘race’ in downtown Flagstaff where she and her sister rode one mile and at the end, collected a medal with hundreds of other kids. Her big grin and laugh were contagious. While her Dad lived in Flagstaff, Miranda, and her sister live in Camp Verde, so a couple of years would go by before I would see them again. This was the case when Dave called for her senior session. When Miranda showed up for her photo shoot, I almost didn’t recognize her. She is no longer the little girl of my memory, but a beautiful and smart young lady. However, that gorgeous smile is still the same. Miranda will be graduating from Camp Verde High School this coming May and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for her. Congrats Miranda! xoxo ~ Melissa
We chose Red Rock Crossing State Park for her senior session. I love discovering old locations and being inspired by the changes in the landscape and foliage. I’m usually at this park as a Sedona Wedding Photographer, and it’s always wonderful to be able to photograph seniors and families at my favorite locations. I’m loving being a Camp Verde Senior Photographer this year and getting to know many of the students there!
We are Sedona wedding photographers, and because of that, we see some very spectacular beauty on a regular basis. But sometimes, Sedona surprises us with some of the some breathtaking sunsets we’ve ever seen. Janet and Omar choose the popular Merry Go Round Rock location for their intimate ceremony and on this particular summer day, the skies graced us with a gorgeous sunset like we’ve never seen before. The way the sun kissed the clouds before it dipped behind the horizon was just amazing. As the couple said their vows, the sky became more and more dramatic. It was a show like we’ve never seen before and we consider ourselves so lucky to have been there to witness such a sweet ceremony and the sunset all at once. Congrats Janet and Omar! We wish you a lifetime of love and happiness!
Location: Merry Go Round Rock
Flowers: Mountain High Floral
Photography: Tangled Lilac Photography
Wedding Gown: Mon Cheri