You might remember Kortney and Brad's epic Alaska engagement session and their Stanley Idaho Elopement was just as epic! These Alaskans traveled to Idaho for their Sawtooth adventure elopement. With both of their families living in Idaho, it just made sense to get married in the mountains close to family. They traded glaciers for high-desert sage brush of the Sawtooths!
Stanley Idaho is one of my favorite places to plan and shoot an elopement. You have heard me talk about my love of the Sawtooths many times on my blog, but it really is one of a kind. The weather is always unpredictable and Kortney and Bradley's day definitely had some surprises!
The Morning Of
I drove to Stanley the night before to location scout. When I arrived, the air quality was awful. Unfortunately, a wildfire nearby caused such bad smoke that visibility was super limited. We hoped and prayed the weather would improve the next morning. There was a storm forecasted for the next afternoon and I hoped a sprinkle of rain might clear out the smoke.
We were in luck! The next morning, the mountains peeked through the smog. When I arrived to Kortney and Brad's cabin, everyone was calm as could be. Kortney and Brad rented a cabin in Lower Stanley that slept more than half of their guests. Although lots of people overlook Lower Stanley, the view was gorgeous and it felt so intimate to have enough property along the river that everyone could gather. Their cabin became the home base for the wedding week and they chose to have their outdoor dinner on the lawn overlooking the Sawtooths. It was absolutely perfect! I highly recommend renting a big cabin or Airbnb for intimate weddings.
From the beginning of wedding planning, Kortney told me she imagined a modern and monochrome style wedding. Typically, Sawtooth weddings lean into the wild, rustic elements of the town. It was so refreshing that she wanted to elevate the setting with timeless elegant inspired design.
Should I hire a wedding planner for my intimate wedding and elopement?
There are so many small tasks and jobs that need completed during an intimate wedding. Although planning a small wedding sounds simple from the get go, the truth is even a small wedding is a lot of work. I recommend a wedding planner if you are planning any kind of wedding dinner or gathering. Typically, I tell my couple's that if you have more than five guests, I recommend hiring a planner. The last thing you want to do on your wedding day is coordinate your vendors, deal with set up or take down, last minute 'uh oh's', and driving around doing errands. A lot of adventure elopement planners offer packages specific to your needs!
- All the set up and take down will be done by someone else so you can relax all day.
- You have someone present to manage your friends and family the day of so you aren't in charge of answering questions all day.
- An elopement planner will handle all communication with your vendors. Especially during the booking process, it can take weeks if not months to coordinate a caterer, florals, table & chair rentals, tents, hotels, etc.
- You are also hiring a wedding designer who will create a dream-like intimate table setting or ceremony site.
- Most importantly, you will get to be fully present all day long with your mom or your closest friends. Trust me, without a wedding planner present, the people in your life will step forward to handle little tasks throughout the day. You deserve to have your closest people by your side all day so they don't miss a moment with you.
- A photographer will help you plan locations for your ceremony and photos. They can also recommend vendors. However, a planner will help manage your budget, communicate with vendors, set up & take down, and solve any problem the day of.
Kortney chose an incredible modern dress from Kate's Bridal Cottage in Eagle, Idaho. It was perfectly timeless and had an incredible billowy train. My favorite moment during her getting ready photos was when her mom and grandma helped her put her veil on. She chose a cathedral length veil detailed in delicate pearls. She walked out of her room to surprise her bridesmaids with her finished look. The moment was so intimate and perfect.
The Elopement Ceremony
For their ceremony, Kortney and Brad hoped to have panoramic views of the Sawtooth. Privacy was their #1 priority. Days before, we drove along the backroads in the Sawtooth National Forest and sent them photos of locations we thought they'd like. Getting married at one of the lakes wasn't an option knowing how many people would be around, so finding an intimate spot fifteen minutes from their venue was the perfect solution.
My favorite memory of the entire day was of the ceremony. Watching Kortney walk down the 'aisle' of sagebrush as their family and friends waited was like a scene out of a movie. Her veil blew behind her as her dad held her arm. Their vows were full of personal anecdotes and inside jokes. You would have never known that 24 hours before the mountains weren't visible because they towered behind them fully visible. After being pronounced husband and wife, Kortney and Brad shared a shot from a shot-ski they had custom made with their names.
Just as we wrapped up portraits after the ceremony was over, a sudden storm hit us. We all laughed hysterically as we got caught in sudden rain and wind. Kortney and Brad ran to their cars dodging rain. I stuffed my cameras under my dress to protect them. Once again, my favorite thing about the Sawtooths is how unpredictable they are.
Tips for Your Stanley Idaho Elopement:
- Always, always have a backup plan for weather. Even if the forecast doesn't call for rain, plan for it anyways.
- August and early September are a high risk for wild forest fires.
- Hire vendors familiar with and accustomed to working in the Sawtooths. Having multiple backup locations is crucial whether you're just taking portraits or finding a ceremony location. You also want to make sure you're always abiding by Forest Service rules & regulations.
- A weekday is going to be your best friend if privacy is important to you.
- Renting a private cabin will allow you to have unobstructed views and privacy. The Sawtooth Meditation Chapel is also a great place to rent if views are your top priority!
- Please be mindful of Leave No Trace 🙂
- If you're hosting a larger wedding with more than 50-60 people, book your lodging 9-12 months out. Lodging is extremely limited in Stanley.
- Plan on your wedding dress getting dirty. Stanley is a dusty place!
- There aren't many wedding vendors located in Stanley, Idaho. Most of your vendors will have to travel, either from Sun Valley or Boise. Plan to budget for their travel fees.
- June and July are the best months for weddings as far as weather reliability!
- Stanley Idaho elopements are bound to be filled with adventure. Take advantage of the area and incorporate hot springs, kayaking, a hike, or mountain biking into your wedding celebrations.
- Stanley's population year round is 65 people. However, the summer months are extremely busy with people who love to recreate! For off the beaten path locations, hiking or driving off road is your best bet for privacy.
- Wear your SPF. This might seem obvious, but sun exposure is intense in the Sawtooths.
- Stanley Idaho's elevation is above 6000 feet. I recommend hydrating as much as possible!
After The Ceremony
Almost as soon as we made it back to the cabin for their intimate dinner, the storm ended. Kortney and Brad's guests sat at a single long table on the lawn next to the river. It was so relaxed and peaceful. They took their time eating and enjoying one another's company. The best part about eloping? There isn't a strict timeline. If you're a foodie, you can have a 2-3 hour dinner, no problem! Once dinner was over, everyone at the table shared a few words. After toasts, Kortney and Brad shared their first dance. With their iPod playing, they swayed slowly and laughed throughout. It was so sweet and perfectly captured what I love so much about intimate adventure weddings. You can still incorporate the parts of a 'big wedding' into your small wedding. But you get to do it on your own timeline and in your own way!
Once dancing and toasts were wrapping up, I stole Kortney and Brad away for a few sunset photos. Another storm rolled in just we were leaving the cabin. While we were gone, the tables were cleared and everyone headed inside the cabin for the next part of their evening. I wanted to take Kortney and Brad to one of the many alpine lakes in the Sawtooths, but a last minute road closure caused me to think quickly on the spot and pivot. Instead, we drove to one of my favorite meadows out of town. We ran around the meadow for fifteen minutes. Sunset is always my favorite time for portraits. Not only because of the beautiful golden light, but because there's a different energy present at the end of a wedding day. Couples can relax fully finally and it's so fun to be around their wedding bliss.
Once we were finished with sunset portraits, we headed back to the cabin. All their friends and family were ready for the "after party". I said my goodbyes so Kortney and Brad could spend the rest of their night drinking whiskey hanging out with their best people!
Wedding Planner: Emily Aitken Events
Photographer: Maggie Grace Photography
Florist: Bloom Theory Studio
Dress: Kate's Bridal Cottage
Venue: Sawooth Vista Rentals
Catering: Mountain Village
Hair & Makeup: Makeup by Morgan Dyer
Bridesmaid's Dresses: Lulu's
Love this Stanley Idaho Elopement? Here are a few more you might love!
Share this story