Khali and Andrew had such an incredible elopement day, and I’m so stoked to be sharing about it on the blog! These two booked me a couple months before their elopement; I was their dream photographer and they actually chose their wedding date around my availability. This is the absolute highest praise I can imagine, and months later I’m still completely humbled by that. Their Russian River elopement was dreamy AF and definitely one of my all-time favorites.
When they inquired, Khali wrote: “We’re open to hiking somewhere, getting wet, or having dirt on us. A lot of our best memories involve those things, so we don’t see anything odd about that being part of our wedding day.” I’m still obsessed with the way she so eloquently summed this up. It perfectly encapsulates both my own wedding day and my philosophy around elopement days in general!
By the time they got in touch with me, all they knew was that they wanted to get married under the redwoods.
Oh, and they wanted an epic tub for some bubble bath photos.
(true story! during our planning when I was doing home rental searches, I emailed over my findings to them and actually specified which places had a drool-worthy tub. The place they settled on did in fact have one of those and I’m still not over it)
Location was totally up in the air. We talked about Big Sur and Eureka/Redwood National Park area, but being a Guerneville local, I definitely couldn’t leave the Russian River area off the table! Guerneville (and the surrounding hamlet towns) is home to a rich redwood forest history. While most of the original old growth trees (over a thousand years old — yes, really!) were logged in the late 1800s, some old growth is still here, and what was logged then has been replaced with new, younger growth. These trees are 75-150 years old so they’ve pretty thoroughly replenished what was logged, resulting in a dense canopy for us to enjoy.
After going over all of my recommendations and options, they fell in love with this (faux) treehouse rental on the Russian River (shown) and couldn’t imagine getting married anywhere else. I mean — it’s easy to see why! This home is so charming, eclectic, and cozy.
These two booked 10 hours of coverage which allowed for plenty of time to relax, soak up their wedding day, and include all of the activities their hearts desired. We started the day off with a super slow morning cooking their lunch for later, enjoying coffee on the deck, and — did you think I’d forget? — that envious bubble bath I mentioned at the top.
If you’re wondering, “Sheesh, how the hell do you fill ten hours without any guests? Isn’t that basically an all-day photoshoot?” The answer is: easily, and no. This is an extremely common objection to elopements, and Khali and Andrew’s Russian River elopement is a perfect example of the best way to do it. During their around-the-house photos, they commented something like, “This feels so much easier than we expected. We’re doing all these small things and you’re just there documenting us living our life,” which is 100% spot on! That is precisely the way it should feel.
A couple weeks later looking back, Andrew said this about the experience: “The actual day was more informal than I thought it would be. I thought we would have to do a lot more formal poses, kind of like Christmas photos (‘go here, do this, pose’). But it was more of a natural flow and that was what we wanted so it was great.”
Interested in learning more about Sonoma County elopements? Check out sample timelines, activities, galleries, pricing, and more all in one place.
Funny story here whose photos I couldn’t resist including! We quickly discovered that it was going to take a whiiiiille to fill the tub from the faucet alone, so Andrew went to look for a hose we could use to supplement. We ran that into the house, turned it on, celebrated for finding a way to achieve our goal faster — and 10 seconds later the hose started dumping BROWN. WATER. into the tub. Khali and I looked at each other like, “OMG what now??!” The water shutoff was yards away outside, and we couldn’t just let the hose run onto the floor to save the clean tub water!
We busted up laughing at the ridiculousness of it, and I ran out shouting at Andrew to turn it off — not that he could understand me the first time around through my fits of laughter and the noise of Khali also shouting from the bathroom. 🤣
Eventually we got it all squared away and lived to tell the tale. Close one there.
I love this series above of that moment because it really encapsulates what “telling the story of an elopement day” looks like. These aren’t the banger, show-stopper photos you see on Instagram that rack up thousands of likes, but in many ways they’re better: these are the spontaneous real life moments that were part of what made their elopement day their elopement day. I’m so glad I got these small moments on film to include in their gallery. And yes, I absolutely still laugh over the memory of it 😄
I had been dreaming of photographing a couple in a tub for years, so when these two mentioned in their inquiry that they wanted these photos, I was pretty damn stoked! I don’t keep much of a “bucket list” for my photography, but bubble bath photos were definitely one of the few things on there. Not surprisingly, this was one of my favorite parts of their day to photograph. (Khali + Andrew: Making Photographers’ Dreams Come True Since 2022)
Once we dragged ourselves away from the tub (I mean, did you see those photos? Mildly Herculean of a task if you ask me), these two got dressed into their wedding attire. Khali had two dresses; she hadn’t been sure about one, so she ordered a second one, and then ended up loving them both enough to wear each! If it had made sense for me to do this for my wedding, I absolutely would have. Why not dress up in multiple stunning gowns on your wedding day? ✨ (don’t forget: there are no rules to your wedding!)
She opted to do a formal first look with Andrew in Dress #1, and then changed into Dress #2 for the ceremony, which you’ll see in a bit. This home offered so many different settings for us to photograph in, which meant we could focus the majority of our time in one location but still capture lots of variety in the photos. (We actually only ventured off-site to two locations! Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve for their dreamy redwood forest portraits, and later to a mountaintop vista for sunset)
And now for the crown jewel of their Russian River elopement: Armstrong Redwoods. My husband and I live a mere two miles down the road from this park and I’m grateful every day for it. This is one of my absolute favorite places, and I was thrilled to be able to offer it up to Khali and Andrew as the backdrop for their wedding day. These two flew in from their home in Colorado and had never been here, which made me all the more excited. This is a magical place and I love bringing people here for the first time and witnessing the awe and wonder on their face as they take it all in (which you’ll also see below!).
One thing you won’t see in these photos? Other people. Normally this park is pretty packed, but because it was a Monday and it had rained the previous day, we had the trails all to ourselves. Less foot traffic in popular locations is a huge reason I encourage couples to think about having their elopement on a weekday! It really makes a big difference, not only in your photos but also in your experience: without anyone (or a lot less people) around, you’re far less likely to feel self conscious of having your photo taken.
This amphitheater was built in 1936 and it’s remained largely unchanged since then! I love breaking out my tour guide skills and telling people the story of it and pointing out different features and facts.
I thought it’d be fun to include some historical photos of this space, so enjoy a trip back in time. Pretty amazing to see the same redwoods behind the stage still standing today!
Our original plans included a picnic at Armstrong with a bag lunch from a local cafe, but a late summer storm rolled in a couple days before their elopement, so we pivoted our plans a little to have it happen inside. While it didn’t end up raining on us (we actually got a lot more sun than we were expecting!), we kept the indoor version for ease and comfort. To their surprise and delight, I showed up with more than just my camera bag that morning. I also brought along some throw pillows, tea lights, and dried florals (leftover from my own wedding a year prior lol) for some decor and ambiance to make it feel a little more special and dressed up!
I’ll also say that it’s not unusual for me to show up with a bag of tricks, Mary Poppins style. A different couple wrote in their review, “SHE HAS PROPS, LIKE A WHOLE BAG OF THEM.” 😂
I mean, is this not the boho picnic of your dreams? 😍
Once Khali changed into her second wedding outfit, she descended from the loft out to the deck where her new husband was waiting for her. To keep things easy, they legally got married in their home state of Colorado before making the trip out to California, but for all intents and purposes, this was their wedding ceremony. It was perfectly them: emotional, sentimental, and full of celebration for their incredible love — all under the redwoods, just as they’d envisioned.
After their ceremony, we continued the celebration with dessert and dancing. Instead of cake, these two shared donuts! My kind of people. They opted to have their first dance in the middle of the living room, and I loved that choice. Their song was playing from a phone in Andrew’s pocket, and it just goes to show: a moment doesn’t have to be elaborate to be meaningful.
We closed out Khali and Andrew’s epic Russian River elopement by catching sunset at one of the hidden Guerneville gems I keep up my sleeve. After the rain that happened the couple of days before their elopement, we were genuinely not expecting to get any sunset at all; the universe really showed up for us to put on a show!
So there you have it: a 10 hour, couple-only, all day adventure elopement. I’ve never been more thankful to live in Guerneville than I was during their elopement day, to see such joy on their faces taking in the beautiful places we experienced. It was so incredible to witness this stunning corner of the earth that I call home from an outsider’s point of view.
I also really hope this collection of images changes your perception of what eloping can look like. You can do it any way you want, and even when it’s just the two of you all day, if you’re doing it right it will never feel like a photoshoot. It will feel like your wedding day.
Andrew and Khali left me the most magical review and I can’t help but share it. Truly, reading words like these from my couples is the most humbling thing ever and makes me so grateful I get to call this my job.
“Meg was an absolute joy to work with. From the moment we reached out, she was efficient, friendly, and professional. She is extremely organized and sends you reminders for anything that needs to be done prior to your event. Nothing ever felt stressful when working with her. Meg was more helpful than we ever could’ve imagined, including bringing champagne, picnic supplies, backup items if it rained, and decorations. She will get to know you, respect your wishes and requests, and make you laugh and smile throughout your big day.
On top of all of that, her talent is undeniable — we loved how our pictures turned out and all of our friends comment on the aesthetic and one-of-a-kind beauty of our album. We feel like we got married in a private forest fairytale. We highly recommend Meg to anyone looking for a down-to-earth, INCREDIBLY talented photographer.”
If I sound like someone you’d love to have on your wedding day dream team, get in touch so we can start planning your own dream day!