Sunrise Elopement - Blue Ridge Mountains Western North Carolina (828)

Sunrise Elopement - Blue Ridge Parkway

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and hiked out here for sunrise. There is something magical about wandering these trails with headlamps guiding your way. Hannah changed into her dress behind some fir trees and they shared their first look on the windy edge of the mountain landscape. We spent the rest of the morning taking in the wild and beautiful views. Two of their closest friends performed their ceremony surrounded by fog and wildflowers - the best kind of guests ⛰️💞💐 .

We hiked a few more miles, climbed over some rocks, skipped over muddy trails, said hi to wild animals, and explored our blue mountains all before noon!!

Blue Ridge Parkway Smoky Mountain Elopement Adventure

Blue Ridge Parkway near Black Balsam Knob in West Canton North Carolina

The fact I am able to take pictures that bring a smile to someones face, is the whole world to me.

Everyone has something they NEED. What I NEED is to work with my hands. There's something about this primal instinct that we can always depend on them. They bare scares but are soft. They are delicate but strong. They have picked us up, wiped tears off our face yet have helped others in some many ways.

Photography for me has it all for me. The Action the Adventure the Adrenaline. Most photo shoots are very dot dot dot. We only have so much time and only a few locations to visit. and sometimes that's what people want. That's not what I want. I moved here from Florida after being born and raised in Sarasota for 30 years. Bryson City has always been a second home since I was a child. We'd take months long summer vacations to go tubing, camping, hiking, you name it! Those are some of my most fondest memories. Yeah I was sore and might have some scratches and bruises, but honestly I loved those reminders.

You see when you hike together you stay together. When you’re ready to shed blood, sweat, and tears together you know you’re in it for the long haul.

The kind of photography sessions I do are not normal. I don’t keep track of time. I don’t keep track of locations. I certainly don’t keep track of outfits. When we meet, I am with you in every aspect. I’m a sound board for any ideas, which outfits look good, fix you hair, hold your dress, make sure you don’t have lipstick on your teeth, hide any tags, you name it. I’m a friend first, photographer second. I got your back. Always.

Last minute Blue Ridge Parkway Elopement - Western North Carolina

An extremely last minute adventure elopement session deep the Blue Ridge Mountain Forests near Black Balsam Knob and Devil's Courthouse. Last minute surprises are the best, because it's all new and exciting and happening quickly. Get's your adrenaline going for sure! I am so happy with how these came out and I made Melissa ugly cry, which ya know, for us girls is a big deal. So I cried and laughed with her when I delivered the USB. If you live close by I always try to hand USB so we can cry together. When I do deliver USBs I bring: Tissues, chocolate, and a surprise custom to each bride. 

Hanging Rock State Park - western North CAROLINA elopement

Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury just north of Winston-Salem North Carolina. 

It was my first time visiting this park, you can normally spot the wild Ashley in the Great Smokies or Blue Ridge Parkway Mountains. North Carolina is my home state and the fact that I'll still be exploring our beautiful state a decade from now, makes me smile so big it hurts my cheeks.

While it is winter, we had the perfect day for elopement pictures. This on a day where it was ONLY 48 degrees, that’s warm right? BUT combine that with hardly any wind and sunshine - makes for a very happy wedding couple and photographer. Radiant heat is the best.

Candice and Mark had the perfect spot already planned and we meet at coffee shop near Asheville and I followed THEM to Hanging Rock State Park as they mountain climb together there. Well well well, the tides have turned eh? The couples show the photographer the best spots that they’d found while going on their own adventure. But seriously, they showed me a WHOLE new area for adventure elopements and adventure portraits in North Carolina. Folks our state is a GOLD MINE when it comes to stunning locations. Like just drive 30 mins anywhere in western North Carolina and BAM epic landscapes. 

So yeah enjoy these winter pics minus the snow.

I mentioned in an Instagram post couple weeks back, that in order to get this hazy look, you just add a TINY tiny bit of oil to top of lens corner aka less is more folks. TMI but I normally rub my finger tips on my forehead and dot lens and MAKE SURE you a microfiber wipe to clean lens. ALWAYS.

Blue Ridge Parkway Adventure Elopement

Today I wanted to share a bit about WHY I love elopements and am so incredibly stoked to be apart of them.

I am drawn to the bravery and the genuineness of elopements. As a photographer, elopements have allowed me the privilege to witness people - as raw and real as possible - standing in front of each other, declaring and promising their love in a unique, passionate, and epic way that means everything to them. There's no fancy front to put on - just two people wholly and entirely in love with each other, promising to spend their lives together in a way that's true to who they are. The couples I have photographed - and the couples like you, who I hope to photograph - continue to cement my belief in the elopement experience. Elopements capture the unique, authentic, and honest love between two people as they take each others hands and dive into or hike, climb, or jump into, the greatest adventure of their lives.

Western North Carolina Elopement Blog Sunset Haze

You probably have realized it's western north carolina is my favorite elopement destination for any couple. Moods for days here and with every season within access it’s your decision. It’s my favorite place to photograph adventure engagement sessions, weddings, and elopements too. So it should be no surprise that these photos of Riley + West in the mountain tops of Asheville and it’s one of my favorite adventure photos yet. These two are so adorable together and we had so much fun with them! I had so much fun working with everyone

Elopements - You have Questions and I have Answers

“Elopements - Everything you need to know, didn’t know, and thankful you know now Guide”

Elopement Photography by Ashley Lee

Hey ya’ll this is pretty straight forward. This is an Elopement Q&A as well as a guide that links to Planning your Elopement and Packing, along with potential Elopement Destinations in Western North Carolina and much more. Elopements are so exciting and thrilling but it’s good to know everything to see if that is what you truly want for your day.

How do Elopements work?

It seems like when a lot of people imagine eloping, they imagine running down to city hall, finding the judge, and getting married in five minutes or less after filling out a bit of paperwork. That is one way to do it.

OR if you want to truly elope (just the two of you) but aren’t interested in the city hall/courthouse route… why not pick an epic location and go for it? Think next to the Blue Ridge Mountains, standing on a cliff in the Great Smoky Mountains, or somewhere in Asheville that you love. You’ll need an officiant to legally seal the deal, but that’s just about it. 

Eloping Is a personal decision . Every couple has their personal reasons and definitions of what it means to elope.

But really, what is the definition of Elopement?

Yes, 'elope' has historically meant "to run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent." But it has also meant—and still means—"to escape." Elope appears to have become shorthand for "small destination wedding," "wedding that is not financially insane," or "wedding that allows us to not invite all the people we would rather not invite." This certainly differs from the "disapproving parents and sudden questionable decisions" sense of the word, but is it new? Click here to see history of the word.

Do we have to plan ahead for our Elopement?

Yes. Even couples who are choosing to elope will need to make some plans to ensure that their ceremony is seamless and legal. Depending on the location, the couple should contact the local city hall to understand the marriage license requirements. Some locations will require an appointment, a waiting time, and designated witnesses to conduct a wedding ceremony or issue a marriage license. The couple will also likely need their birth certificates and official identifications, so if you are planning a destination elopement, be sure to check local laws prior to leaving for your trip. To see a link scroll to mid/bottom of page for websites in areas around western north carolina, click here

Reasons why Elopements rock:

Saves you a lot of money
No stress no stress no stress
Go wherever your heart desires
Make it all about you two
Party the way you want
You can splurge on things you wish

Difference between an Elopement and Intimate Wedding?

An intimate wedding is just a “normal” wedding day with a smaller guest list.  You opt for a smaller location and a guest list of maybe one or two-dozen people tops.  Intimate weddings aren’t necessarily smaller budget weddings; in fact, a lot of the time a bride or groom will splurge more on their guests with intimate weddings because instead of using a $20,000 wedding budget to create an event for 120 people, they can use the same amount and give 20 people an amazing experience.  Intimate weddings are often very relaxed and to a certain extent, non-traditional.  Sometimes the bride and groom will get ready in the same house and simply have their first look casually in the hall way.  Sometimes there isn’t even formal seating for dinner.  While there is a focus on on beautiful portraits, there’s also a focus on photojournalistic images; a storytelling approach to the day in order to capture all the intimate moments between the few guests present.

Does Eloping Mean Not Having a Wedding at All?

Forgoing a traditional wedding to elope does not mean completely skipping a ceremony or reception to celebrate the occasion. Sometimes, couples who elope simply want to have a more intimate and quiet wedding with a limited amount of guests. 

Other couples may elope to a destination, then return home and host a small reception that includes family and friends to celebrate their union. You might even find couples who exchange vows in front of their guests, even though they're already legally married because they eloped and had a private ceremony first. Totally up to each couple. That’s the beauty of it. You decide.

Eloping and Wedding Etiquette

Gifts - It is not traditional for couples who elope to register for wedding gifts. If the couple is having a celebration after their private elopement, they may still register for gifts, up to couple. If you hear about a friend or family member's elopement, it is proper etiquette to send a gift or a card sharing your good wishes. Even though you won't be attending a wedding, this is still a nice practice and allows you to extend warm thoughts to them.

Intimate Wedding vs Elopement: Photographic coverage

Elopements - Couples often need 3 or 4 hours of coverage for an elopement; that’s it.  It’s photographing of the ceremony and an intimate adventure portrait session.  There’s rarely any getting ready images and never any cocktail hour coverage or reception coverage because elopements don’t have those things.  Period.  The photographer’s job will be the 3 or 4 hours of work on the day to capture the ceremony and portrait session and provide an amount of images reflective of how many hours they photographed.

Intimate weddings, photographically, are the same as full day “traditional” weddings.  Couples almost always still want getting ready coverage, the ceremony, formal photos with family members as well as the couple and coverage of their reception.  A photographer can still spend 8, 10 or 12 hours photographing an intimate wedding day.

A photographer’s job, and thus the cost of their services, is not reflective of how many guests are present.  So intimate wedding vs elopement means you’re still going to pay, for the most part, the same hourly rate.  An hour of a photographer’s time is an hour of a photographer’s time – whether they are photographing 2 people, 20 people or 200 people.  They still process a number of photographs reflective of the number of hours they were shooting for.

Elopement in Asheville or Western North Carolina?

Visit this link here for suggestions and much more info such as permits, ideas for elopements, etc.

Planning an Elopement in North Carolina or U.S.?

Visit here for a in depth blog.

Some parting words from a wise bride “it was easiest & most relaxed way to get married!” 

Isn’t that just what you want for your own wedding? You shouldn’t have to pull your hair out trying to plan the happiest day of your life. It can be as relaxed as you want it to be. It’s your day after all. So many couples are choosing to elope these days, how about you?