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Zion National Park Intimate Wedding | Utah Adventure Elopement Inspiration

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Zion National Park Intimate Wedding | Utah Adventure Elopement Inspiration

Zion National Park | Utah

the hearnes » adventure elopement photographers


Kelley + Matt’s Intimate Family-Only Wedding in Zion National Park

Kelley and Matt’s intimate destination wedding in Zion National Park is truly such a great example of how you can have an adventurous elopement-style wedding and still invite the guests that mean the most to you. These two are from the north east, and in their very first email to me Kelley mentioned how they’d both been to so many weddings that the idea of doing something big and traditional was absolutely not for them. Kelley said that from the moment she came across our instagram account, she knew our vision for weddings spoke to her and Matt, and was exactly what they wanted. She mentioned they’ve always valued travel and experiences over nice things, and this was yet another way they could live out that life philosophy. Matt and Kelley are both super close with their families, so they knew they wanted their parents and siblings present for their wedding, and they wanted it to be somewhere beautiful so they could fully focus on being in the moment, celebrating their marriage without all the usual wedding fluff.

From her initial description, I knew we could absolutely make those dreams come true, and when they mentioned feeling drawn to Zion National Park in Utah, I agreed it was the perfect place for an intimate wedding like theirs! We helped them plan a lot of the logistics, and Kelley really put her creativity to work coming up with gorgeous DIY projects, styling and designing their entire wedding from afar, having never seen the venue! They chose to rent out a gorgeous AirBnB property located right on the edge of the park, which provided the perfect place to get ready, gather their guests, and have a beautiful reception dinner on the porch under the stars. If you’re planning an intimate wedding near a National Park, we can’t reccomend this idea enough — renting out a little property to get everyone together makes the logistics so easy to manage! Just make sure you confirm what you’re planning with your AirBnB host first. 

Kelley and Matt planned out an epic weekend for their families and basically made a vacation out of their wedding week in Zion. They all went hiking, road four wheelers, and explored all over the desert. Nobody in the group had ever been out here before (including Kelley and Matt) so it was truly an amazing experience for all of them! The day of their elopement we met up in their little villa perched up on a hill. As we walked in the door we were immediately greeted with hugs and squeals from Kelley and her family, as if we were long lost friends! They even asked where Charlie (our dog) was within a few minutes of arriving! We explained he was with a friend for the day, but he ended up getting to come for the reception…best thing ever! As Kelley was finishing up on her hair and make up (by the amazing Brynn Thomas), I walked around and took photos of all the stunning details Kelley had put together. Her bouquet was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen and even had a real cactus in it (By Bloomers never ceases to amaze us!). After they shared a sweet first look on the back porch (with their adorable moms looking through the windows), we made our way out into the desert for some private portraits together before their ceremony. We ventured into some areas of Zion National Park that are less popular than the main canyon, and the questing paid off because we had it all to ourselves! We did end up exploring into a little slot canyon area that had a few climbers, but honestly that just made things even more entertaining.

After hiking around together for a bit, we met up with Kelley and Matt’s family and hiked into a little knoll for their ceremony. Kelley’s brother, who is also best friends with Matt, officiated the ceremony and had everyone in tears pretty much the entire time (including himself). It was so sweet to watch how their families participated in this moment with them, while still allowing them to fully focus on each other. One of my favorite things about these small elopements is the way guests can be involved in the process. For instance, Kelley’s parents were standing near them, so when she started to get emotional over her vows, her dad stepped forward and rubbed her shoulders. It was the sweetest moment of support and love, something that wouldn’t be as natural in a big ceremony setting where everyone is sitting in the “audience.” After their ceremony, they did a toast with a special beer that was brewed in honor of one of Matt and Kelley’s brothers’ fallen colleagues. They are both firefighters together, and they brewed this beer to celebrate the life and benefit the family of their friend, so it only felt right to have a toast to honor him there.

After their ceremony, the family went back to the villa to get ready for dinner and we went over to Zion Under Canvas to check Kelley and Matt in for their tent that night! We absolutely love Under Canvas — their glamping tents make it feel like you’re on a safari, so we were stoked when they wanted to do a few portraits on the property! After that, we went back to the villa for more time with their families. Kelley and Matt shared a first dance, and then each danced with their parents, which turned into a big group dance surrounded by the most beautiful Zion cliffs. Then, as everyone came inside, Kelley’s sister surprised them with the most amazing gift — videos made by their family and friends back home congratulating them, offering advice, and celebrating their marriage from afar. Matt and Kelley were a puddle of tears watching the love from all of their people near and far, and even a video of their sweet pup! It was such a special surprise, and so thoughtful of her sister to put together.

As the sun began to set, we ran off for one more little portrait session on the property, our at a beautiful private overlook with views of the gorgeous sunset. It was a perfect way for Kelley and Matt to really soak in a few moments as husband and wife, and make sure they truly remembered everything they loved about their wedding day. Before it got completely dark, we made our way back for a delicious dinner catered by Padre Canyon Foods and the table that Kelley designed. She spent months sourcing vintage candle sticks, hand-dying the napkins, and hand writing everyone’s place cards, and everything came together beautifully. After they cut their cake and signed their marriage license, we couldn’t resist the invite to hang out a little longer, no cameras, just as family. They even insisted Charlie join, so Callen went to pick him up and sure enough, he was the life of the party! It’s always such an honor when our couples, and their families, invite us in as one of them. The rarity of that is not lost on us…we could be seen as simply vendors for the event, but to be seated at the table, and then invited to stay without cameras in hand, is an honor I will never get over. I am so thankful for the connections we build with our couples, and in some cases, their entire families.

Elopement Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Reception + Lodging: ZionVilla “True North” via AirBnB

Photographers: The Hearnes Adventure Photography

Bride’s Dress: BHLDN

Bride’s Hair + Make Up: Brynn Thomas

Bride’s Bouquet: By Bloomers

Bride’s Accessories: Etsy

Bride + Groom’s Lodging: Under Canvas Zion

Reception Catering: Padre Canyon Foods and Cupcakes by Julie

Reception Styling: DIY by bride (but I highly reccomend Mae & Co if you prefer not to DIY)


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.

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Moab Jeep Elopement | Utah Adventure Wedding Photographer

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Moab Jeep Elopement | Utah Adventure Wedding Photographer

Secret Jeep Location | Moab, Utah

the hearnes » adventure elopement photographers


Kim + Mike’s Adventurous Jeep Elopement in Moab, Utah

Kim and Mike’s adventurous jeep elopement was such an amazing example of how well things go when our couples trust us on their elopement day! When Kim first reached out to me, she explained that she grew up going on road trips with her dad, and something about my photos on instagram felt nostalgic and really reminded her of those road trips out west. Neither Kim or Mike had ever been to Moab, but our photos of the red desert and vast landscapes really drew them in! They trusted our guidance and handed us the reigns to plan out their amazing day, from vendor recommendations to their location (which changed last minute — more on that later!) and even their decision to rent a Jeep. It was also super important to them to include Kim’s beautiful daughter, Chloe (when Kim sent a photo of them together, I was blown away by how much they looked alike!!), and they invited Mike’s closest friend to join them as their officiant and “honorary best man.”

When we began planning wedding locations in Moab, I suggested a few different options including spots in Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and various BLM spots around the area. Kim mentioned they wanted to go somewhere remote, and when I asked how they felt about renting a Jeep to get out far away from people, they were down! Our original spot was down a long dirt road, then a shorter 4x4 Jeep road, and then a mile hike out to the edge of a cliff that I knew would almost certainly be void of any other people. We planned out their timeline, prepped them for the hike out and the hike back in the dark after staying out until sunset. But the desert has a mind of its own, and as their wedding date approached we all watched the spring forecast bring in occasional storms all week. The day of their wedding the forecast was still pretty unpredictable, but Callen and I had a few back-up ideas in mind if a storm came in.

The day of their elopement, Kim met up with Lesley Lind, one of our favorite hair and make up artists in Utah! Kim is a wedding hair and make up artist herself, so the fact that she loved working with Lesley should be a testament to how amazing she is! They picked up their Jeep and met us at a park north of Moab so we could show them the way out to their ceremony location. As we stopped at the turn to gas up our Jeeps, we saw a storm rolling in from the west but hoped it would stay out there and not come our way! On the drive out to our dirt road turn-off, it rained a little on us and we discussed how miserable it would be to be a mile from the cars in the event that a heavy storm rolled in. Callen and I pulled off and I ran over to their Jeep with a back up plan. I showed Kim and Mike a few phone photos from a spot nearby we’d scouted a couple weeks prior. It was of course still possible we’d get rained on at the second spot, but we’d be right at the cars if it did come, so taking shelter would be easy. They loved the second spot, so we changed the plans! We led them out to this beautiful secret spot, where we drove right up to the edge of the canyon and, as we guessed, had it all to ourselves. It turned out the rain decided to hold off for us and we had all afternoon to explore the wild area! As we walked around soaking it in, Kim and Mike couldn’t get over how glad they were they trusted us to pick their location, and how beautiful this “plan B” was!

They picked a little ledge for their ceremony and as both Chloe and Kim came down the “aisle” between our two Jeeps (so Moab!) it started to hit Kim and Mike just how momentous this was. Mike hadn’t seen her dress until their ceremony, and he was absolutely blown away. Side note, Kim had originally fallen in love with her Ines Di Santo dress, but decided it was out of her budget, so she went with one she still loved but wasn’t “the one.” When Mike learned about this, he insisted she go back and get the dress she loved. Such a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it was SO sweet to see him look at her in that dream dress, and know for a fact there were no regrets! Their vows to each other were so sweet, and Chloe read her own words on family and commitment — I’m pretty sure we all cried. After their ceremony, we all hiked around, taking photos and exploring the beautiful sandstone landscape! Mike was a ball of energy, doing back flips and handstands, and scrambling on rocks that make all of our hearts skip a beat!! We settled down for a little picnic of french friends, pretzels, and burgers compliments of the Moab Brewery, and amazingly, the rain never came! After a few final moments soaking in the views at their desert ceremony location, we packed up the Jeeps and took the adventurous route to town, stopping at a few overlooks along the way and finally stopping just before the pavement to sign their marriage license in the moonlight and do one final dance in the Jeep’s headlights. Kim and Mike had such a beautiful, adventurous elopement day in the Moab desert, and as we drove home afterwards Callen and I kept talking about how much it means to us when our couples trust us to such a high degree. None of this would have been possible without that trust, and getting to help people have their dream adventure wedding in a place they’ve never been before, and have it fully exceed any expectations is such an amazing thing!

Also, all Moab weddings are better with Jeeps!

Jeep-Wedding-Moab-Utah-Hearnes-Adventure-Elopement-Photography-38.jpg

Photographers: The Hearnes Adventure Photography

Bride’s Dress: Ines Di Santo

Bride’s Hair + Make Up: Lesley Lind


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.

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