Surprise Engagement Turns to Winter Elopement


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Love knows no boundary or limitation of time. Each love story is unique, and sometimes when you know, you know. For this couple, the holiday season was overflowing with a little extra joy between the surprise engagement and the subsequent winter elopement.

Rachelle, Chelsae (and Avery!) certainly lit up my holidays with the love they shared, and I am so honored that I was able to be a part of these steps and milestones in their lives together.

A Greenhouse Surprise Engagement

You have to be ready for anything during winter in the Midwest. Chelsae and Rachelle love the outdoors, but the South Dakota winter had another plan. Initially, Rachelle contacted me about making it look like an outdoor Christmas family session. I had a brilliant idea, but with the wind chill 20 below zero, we were forced indoors.

However, I know a lovely little greenhouse in Rapid City that has let me use their grounds numerous times for this exact reason! I set it up with them and a new plan was in motion.

First, we took family photos like most of my other sessions. We started simple in the greenery, and then slowly moved to the Christmas theme. Rachelle had prepared “fake” Christmas gifts for them to exchange. The boxes contained two rings – one for their daughter Avery, and one for Chelsae. I think Avery was the most excited!

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Sharing a Winter Elopement Just Outside of Rapid City

Fortunately, for their winter elopement, we were all blessed with a gorgeous, somewhat, warm break from the wind-chill. With planner, Justin Straw Designs, at the helm, the moment was transformed into something unforgettable. When I originally talked with the couple, they weren’t sure what they were going to plan. They knew they wanted it to be quick, but they weren’t exactly sure how they were going to pull it all together.

With less than a week, Justin created a plan that was simple yet extravagantly elegant. If you haven’t figured out by now, I absolutely love working with Justin. Talking with the couple and working up the floral and table-scape, he transformed an otherwise ordinary AirBnB into something out of the movies!

Rachelle and Chelsae opted for renting a cute little house. They got into their dresses, had their hair and makeup team work on them in separate bedrooms in the cabin, then shared a private first touch and first look. Not a complete elopement, Rachelle and Chelsae had to other very important family members with them – Avery, their daughter, and their furry friend!

After they shared their first look, they all finished getting ready, together. Rachelle and Chelsae took turns putting on jewelry for one another, helping with boots, and getting ready to walk out the door as an engaged couple for the last time.

is that you are on your own time. If your boot heel breaks, don’t sweat it. Try some super glue and wait before heading out into the cold. Your daughter’s earring need a little extra love? Try some super glue! Both of these occurrences may… or may not have… popped up on the elopement day for Rachelle and Chelsae!

While the girls were getting ready at the house, Justin and his crew were busy at work at the ceremony location building beautiful floral pillars to set the scene. I love how they frame the beauty of the Hills in the background. To add, the cherry on top was the colors the sky gifted us as the sun set behind the ridge. I mean just check out the stunning light!

Trust your Photographer After the Elopement Formalities

Of course after the ceremony, we had to sneak away to one of my other favorite locations nearby to take some additional portraits of the beautiful brides. Rachelle and Chelsae fully trusted in my vision and ran with all of my ideas – including my new favorite, lanterns at blue hour!

When photos were wrapped up, everyone packed up and drove back to the cabin where the three enjoyed a pre-dinner dessert and a private catered meal. Are you ready to elope? Plan your memories with me!

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