Having a traditional wedding doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your desire for adventure. What if I told you that you could have both? Keep reading for a real-life example of a couple that had a traditional wedding and a California rock climbing adventure session to celebrate all the things they love.
Sometimes, it’s possible to truly narrow the list of “must-do” items in your traditional wedding and still have all your wedding goals met in one go.
BUT, in other cases, there’s just no way to cut down the list…that is when outdoor-loving couples get creative with their pre- and post-wedding adventures!
If you’re one of many couples who are finding it hard to make the leap to leave the traditional expectations to have an “adventure-only” wedding, keep reading!
Toni & Loren’s story of a traditional wedding and a rock climbing adventure session might provide you with some ideas on how you can balance all the things you need!
Enter Toni & Loren
Loren proposed to Toni atop a history-filled bouldering crag in Berkeley, California called Indian Rock. Afterward, he surprised her with a fancy dinner at Chez Panisse (the famous birthplace of California Cuisine) to cap off the beautiful evening.
After 13 long, (and, according to Toni & Loren!) angst-filled months of planning, they married in June of 2012 in a more ‘traditional’ ceremony at a country club in Danville, CA. 150 guests helped Toni and Loren celebrate their new marriage against a backdrop of the majestic Mount Diablo framed between two giant redwood trees.
Toni wrote a song for Loren and played it with a full band of friends. Drinks flowed mightily, dancers danced gleefully, and the party went late into the night.
As the ultimate outdoor couple, Toni and Loren wanted some more excitement in their wedding celebrations. So they chose an adventurous honeymoon – rock climbing in Thailand! They squeezed in seven days of climbing on their three-week trip to Thailand and Cambodia.
In Railay, limestone columns ascend the perimeter of the peninsula and jut out into the ocean at various points in the geography. Every morning, they woke up and trekked to the nearby cragging areas, passing up guided groups to go it alone.
After returning from Thailand, Toni and Loren put their wedding clothes back on and returned to where it all began – Indian Rock – with their wedding photographer. They took the formal bride and groom portraits they’d opted out of on their wedding day.
While back out at Indian Rock with their photographer, they also snuck in some fun images of themselves bouldering in their “fancy outfits,” which, of course, “turned out to be our favorites from the shoot,” Toni said with a chuckle.
The Milestones Matter!
Fast forward, and here I am, headed out to California to meet up with a couple to photograph their backpacking-based Adventure Wedding! Wanting to make the most of my time in this amazing state, I put out a search for an adventurous couple that wanted to be photographed doing adventures they love. Hiking, climbing, mountain biking, surfing—it was all fair game!
When Toni reached out, I was pumped! Toni and Loren wanted to have a rock climbing adventure session!
When I asked Toni about why they were interested in adventuring on camera with me, she noted simply,
“This sounds so awesome, and, sounds just like us! We hadn’t really done much for our five-year or six-year anniversary. So, we were excited to make some great photos to celebrate our 7th year of marriage, especially because they’d give a nod back to the night we got engaged and the photo shoot we did after our wedding.”
Logistics and Decor, Adventure-style
Since it was obvious that climbing was the adventure of choice, it then became a question of where! So, in a nod to their history, Toni & Loren decided we could head to another local spot in Berkeley called Cragmont, just a few blocks from Indian Rock.
A micro-crag, tucked into a neighborhood park within the city, Cragmont is home to a total of 13 routes from 5.5 (pretty easy) to 5.12a (yikes!). A little traditional climbing, a little sport climbing, some top roping, and, a single, brave, V7 boulder problem. AND, all are within a literal 3-minute walk from the street parking available in front of the crag. DONE.
A perfect spot, and unlike their original wedding venue, this celebration location came without the many thousands of dollars price tag for use!
Once the location was pinned down, the discussion shifted to what to wear, and, what about flowers.
With another nod to their climbing and wedding history, Toni & Loren confirmed that they wanted to do their rock climbing adventure session for their anniversary in an “elopement-style,” meaning that they’d get dressed up in wedding clothes for their photos.
While it’s absolutely possible to harness up and climb in a wedding dress, Toni knew she wanted to lead the climb, so she opted for a beautiful white wedding romper instead of a dress. Along the same lines, she knew she wanted florals but needed to ensure her hands were free for climbing. So, she tapped into the creativity she brings to her own clients every day through her business as an eco-friendly, succulent-based wedding florist, called Succulents for Hire.
Beauty + Creativity:
“Since I knew we’d be climbing for the majority of our time at the crag, I chose to decorate my chalk bag with succulents instead of creating a traditional bouquet,” said Toni. “I also created a simple floral crown featuring succulents and dried flowers, pops of color to stand out against the composite rock we’d be climbing on.”
Like every climbing trip, Toni and Loren’s anniversary rock climbing adventure session was at the mercy of the weather. Thankfully, we ended up with a bit of sunshine. Toni and Loren spent the evening with me on rope, climbing, laughing, and celebrating, all while wearing their wedding finest!
And, as a rad side note:
Not only are succulents drought-friendly plants, but Toni also showed me that succulents are still alive after they’ve been pulled from the ground or cut. They’ll re-establish themselves and keep on going!
Because (unlike traditional wedding flowers) these little beauties are still alive, they make a great eco option for bridal florals! Toni offers guidance on replanting. And, if you’re local to the Moab, UT area, Toni will take large florals from weddings to create a custom potted arrangement.
Toni’s amazing succulent creations were truly a beautifully unique solution for a wonderfully unique celebration!
Then and Now
“Thinking about my wedding now, there are so many things I’d do differently. My family is huge, so no one would have been following us up a mountain, but there were a lot of details that I just let slide in favor of ease and conflict avoidance. We loved our wedding, but there were definitely elements that could have been a better reflection of us on our special day.
Looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe that these elements were missing on our wedding day. This rock climbing adventure session experience made me wish we could do our wedding all again, but this time as an adventure elopement!”
Modern Adventure Couples
This is where the trail forks for today’s adventurous couples, as Toni went on to point out, “When Loren and I decided to get married eight years ago, the idea of an adventure wedding or an adventure elopement never occurred to me. I didn’t have Instagram or Pinterest back then.
“Today’s modern couples have so many creative options at their fingertips. Whether they invite the masses in a traditional venue or do a more intimate adventure wedding somewhere with more meaning for them, they have options.”
In a way, because we did this rock climbing adventure session for our anniversary with Kate, we kind of got to do both! And, I love that was able to create some original succulent wedding pieces, as they are so much a part of our story, too.”
The most unexpectedly awesome part of this story? Since Toni and Loren were still dressed up and looking oh-so dapper as we parted ways at the climbing area, they decided to try their luck at the Chez Panisse Cafe.
And even though it was a Friday night, Toni reported happily, “We walked in, and got seated right away! We took our anniversary session full circle, right back to the night we got engaged. Life really is a beautiful adventure!”
Put YOU Back Into Your Wedding!
Look back to Toni & Loren’s story as you think about building your perfect wedding, and remember two things:
Your wedding day is YOUR day
You can create wedding options that blend your desires– it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
So, if you had a traditional wedding and crave something to add to your story that’s more uniquely you, build an Adventure Session to celebrate an anniversary (at 6 months, 1 yr, or whenever you’re inspired!)
If you are having a traditional wedding and want the story & celebration to show what’s important to you, use an Adventure Session to do something amazing & meaningful for your engagement photos, or, bridal portraits either before or after your traditional wedding!
Maybe you’re planning your traditional wedding and still want something more authentically you?!? Explore an Adventure Wedding, which, brings your most treasured family and loved ones along on your wedding experience in the places that matter most to you🥰
No matter what you choose, you can always find a way to include the Adventures & Activities that are so much a part of yours and your partner’s story! Need help to see what’s possible? Set some time to chat with me, as I’m stoked to help you think of what adventures you can create & celebrate!