Today I am thrilled to share this stunning intimate and romantic Colorado Elopement at the Great Sand Dunes.
Images were captured by Sheena Shahangian Photography.
Sheena Shahangian is an elopement and adventure photographer based in Fort Collins, Colorado, nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
She captures imagery that’s true to your distinct story in nature’s most epic places.
She says of the couple and their gorgeous Colorado Elopement…
Mackenzie and Jared are avid adventurers and travellers, and from the moment they saw photos of the Great Sand Dunes, they knew that’s where they wanted to say their vows.
Colorado, USA is actually home to North America’s tallest dune, sitting at around 750 feet tall (perhaps not what you’d expect for a state that’s known for its alpine lakes and soaring mountains!).
The park is covered in acres upon acres of dune fields, with gorgeous mountains in the background for a classically Colorado vibe.
The dunes are actually the same place where I got married, and it was such a fun experience sharing this special place with Mackenzie and Jared.
We started the elopement day at their adorable boutique hotel.
The whole place is this charming, boho/modern blend of design that stands out from the surrounding town in such a gorgeous way.
Mackenzie and Jared chose to have their first look on the wraparound porch that hugs the outside of the hotel, and from there we swung by the hotel bar and around the property (and even did a little celebratory biodegradable flower petal toss before driving over to the sand dunes for their ceremony).
Just like with the west coast of the United States, Colorado went through a lot of craziness this past summer.
On top of everything going on with Coronavirus, there were wildfires raging for several months.
In fact, the entire drive to the sand dunes, which normally gives us 360 degree mountain views from within the valley, was caked in fire smoke.
It felt like we were driving through a place that was completely unfamiliar, but somehow we lucked out and once we rolled up to the dunes, we could see all the sand and the beautiful mountains that sit right behind them. There was a clearing, finally.
It’s almost like the dunes were in their own little island, separate from everything else going on in the state.
Mackenzie and Jared chose to have a self uniting elopement ceremony, where they married themselves without witnesses or officiant present.
Essentially, in Colorado a couple can both sign on the officiant line and “marry themselves.”
Before they came out to Colorado, Mackenzie and Jared had asked their loved ones to write notes for them that they could bring to their ceremony.
So before they shared their own handwritten personalized vows from their gorgeous handcrafted leather vow books, each of them took turns reading the notes and stories that were written for them.
Watching these two share deep belly laughs and tears as they read the stories from their family was one of the true highlights of the day.
Mackenzie and Jared actually met as toddlers. Their families were from the same small town and knew each other well, so they spent much of their time growing up hanging out together, and their friendship eventually blossomed into a relationship.
That tie with family played an important role in their ceremony, through the reading of the stories and well wishes from loved ones not present.
After they pronounced themselves married, we continued on and adventured in the sand, trekking up and down the dunes as Mackenzie and Jared’s footsteps marked the untouched sand.
The wind began to get intense as day went on but Mackenzie and Jared handled it like champs, embracing it as their ran up and down the sand and letting it whip past them.
As the evening progressed into sunset, the sun turned a flaming, intense orange from the wildfires going on throughout the state, and the whole sky took on an ultra-warm tone before dipping behind the sand and cooling things off.
The two of them shared a few quiet moments together soaking in the scenery before we hiked back down.
Despite everything going on this past year, Mackenzie and Jared had a beautiful Colorado Elopement.
And seeing the way they goofed around with each other – and witnessing the looks on their faces when they saw the grand intensity of the dunes for the first time — is something I’ll never forget.
Elopement Photographer: Sheena Shahangian Photography LLC
First Look Location: Surf Hotel
Elopement Location: Great Sand Dunes
Dress Alterations: Altered For The Altar
Groom’s Suit: – Van Heusen
Bride’s Bouquet: Homemade faux bouquet
(the environment of the sand dunes is highly protected and sensitive, so the bride opted for faux flowers to avoid introducing an invasive species into the park. So many couples choose to elope in the great outdoors because they genuinely love these special places, which is why Mackenzie opted for a handmade bouquet of fabric flowers, to help leave no trace while getting married at the dunes.)
Bride’s Hair: H & Co. A Luxe Salon – Buena Vista, CO
Vow Books: – Ox and Pine
To Contact Sheena Shahangian Photography LLC