Arches National Park | Moab, Utah
the hearnes » adventure elopement photographers
Jeff + Claire’s Small Family Wedding at Arches National Park near Moab, Utah
Working with Claire and Jeff as they came from Minnesota to Moab for their wedding was such a good time. From the sunrise Jeep excursion to their afternoon ceremony in Arches National Park, they were such a fun bride and groom! Though, what I really love about them was their heart to get out here.
Claire explained this perfectly in one of the first emails we exchanged...
"I was really excited to get engaged. Jeff and I had been dating for five years, and after 2+ years of living together, traveling together, and keeping our dog alive, I felt ready. Immediately after I got engaged people started to ask "when's the date?", "what venue would you like," "what are your colors."
Claire went on to tell me just having a ring on her finger didn't make her capable of planning or even wanting of a huge event. She was honest in that it kind of just stressed her out. She also told me about how her friends described her and Jeff as "Funny, outgoing, and outdoorsy." which made me understand why they'd like coming to Moab. Another friend described them as "sarcastic," but Claire noted they're also both Type A and like to have a plan, all of which made me feel like we'd get along great.
When another friend told Claire to check out a few photos of destination elopements and said "this looks like something you would do." she knew wedding planning wasn't tons of details and expenses. She and Jeff decided planning and having an elopement sounded way more exciting and enjoyable for them than a traditional wedding.
And then we planned, booked dates, and before you knew it the time had come, they were in Moab for wedding dresses and red rocks. First, though, we went to Eddie McStiff's the night before just to hang out, relax, and have a few laughs. The next morning they met up in our brand spanking new (to us) driveway. Then we took our brand spanking new (to us... we've had some really cool life changes lately) Jeep and headed off into the early morning twilight hours.
We drove down a super long dirt road, crossed an it's-been-raining-a-lot-in-Moab inspired creek, and navigated up some rocky switchbacks to get to their first look location. Once there, Claire changed into her wedding dress right next to the Jeep as Cal and Jeff explored the desert cliffs by moonlight. The timing worked out perfectly as we had a few minutes still before the eastern facing parts of clouds turning orange and light started crawling across the desert floor.
Jeff went out on a little finger of a peninsula we found and faced out at the desert below. Then Claire came, her dress dragging along the red dirt, her veil flowing down over her beautiful hair and jean jacket. In those few short moments as she walked up behind Jeff, I was struck how this Minnesotan had come all the way out here to be a desert bride, and she fit right in. Jeff turned around to look at her and was smitten. He gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and then they stood there just talking to each other, putting their foreheads together. Every bride and groom has a moment where the reality of their situation hits them. I think this was theirs.
We spent the rest of the morning hiking and exploring some of Moab's less traveled and more wild sandstone canyons. Then we went back to town, got a little rest and coffee, and then headed into Arches National Park. When we got to the parking lot of the ceremony spot their family and close friends were also showing up. We had a little time before hiking to the arch so it was nice to have that little time to meet everyone and hang out.
We hiked back to one of Arches designated ceremony locations. The natural slotting of the giant rocks around us served as a massive aisle leading to their sandstone altar. Their family was so much a part of their ceremony. Claire's dad officiated and talked (as he is, apparently, very much a green thumb) about the parallels between marriage and gardening. Then, Jeff's mom read a short passage. They exchanged vows, said their I do's, and everyone celebrated under the arch!
We spent a bit of time with all the guests just hiking around and exploring the nearby canyon and arches. Showing everyone around, seeing their faces as they experienced this new landscape was so much fun. Eventually, the afternoon light started to mellow, and the family went off to explore some more on their own so Jeff, Claire, Callen, and I could do some sunset portraits.
The sunset was super mega, and I never wanted to put my camera down. This day had been one for the books when it comes to wedding photography in Moab as we started high up on the edge of a canyon, explored the unique slotted rocks of Arches National Park, and now ended up at the Arches themselves. Jeff and Claire were having so much fun, walking around, staring with amazement at each other and the epic views around them. Ending the day watching the sunset together seemed like the perfect send of for their wedding day.
Their wedding day was definitely the highlight, but they actually spent the whole week out here. I love it when couples do this - book extra time in the place that is bound to become so special to them, just to explore and have fun on their own. They climbed a bit and even rappeled a big arch in the desert south of Moab! Such a fun, badass, adventurous couple. Since then, Claire has been reading Steph Davis's book "Learning to Fly" per my recommendation. It's been a lot of fun keeping up with them since, talking with Claire on Insta about the book as I edited their photos.
Claire initially told me she'd met Jeff during orientation in college and they spent two years as friends before she got impatient and told him they should date. She told me she was surprised that her tactic worked. But yeah, Claire, it worked pretty friggen well.
Elopement Location: Arches National Park, Utah
Elopement Photographers: The Hearnes Adventure Photography
The Hearnes Adventure Photography is run by Abbi and Callen Hearne, a husband & wife wedding photography team with an emphasis on adventure. They live on the road as full-time nomads, allowing them to serve a large portion of the western US. You can typically find them in Moab, Utah or Yosemite National Park, California, with side-quests to Patagonia and Alaska. They believe love is the greatest adventure and strive to create photos that are epic, romantic, true, and timeless.