When I reflect back on Sam and Heather’s Stonepine Estate elopement in Big Sur/Carmel Valley, it does seem like it was all a dream. The stillness of the day and the couples’ quiet comfort with each other allowed for the natural ambient soundscape of birds and the gentle rustling of leaves to wash over the sun-drenched afternoon.
Chateau Noel, a manor-style estate nestled amongst Italian Stone Pine and Olive trees, stood stoic and silent as I approached the main piazza where Sam awaited my arrival. Looking very Humphrey Bogart in a black tuxedo that fit him like a lifelong friend, Sam readied himself mentally to see his soon-to-be wife Heather. Inside the Chateau, Heather was nearly ready with only minor nerves and double, triple-checking that she was ready to do this. When photographing elopements, I often find myself filling many roles other than simply the photographer and my favorite is of the best friend giving the final nod of approval that is so key to being able to take that last, deep, cleansing breathe before walking out the door.
Just outside in their private garden courtyard, Sam too was alone with his thoughts, awaiting the arrival of this woman who’d first captured his heart when they met in grade school so many years back in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Back then, they were just kids figuring out life and new emotions and all the other things that accompany adolescence. Ten years pass and Heather and Sam – now adults – reconnect and pick up just where they’d left off; Is this not the embodiment of true love?
Heather has one last look in the mirror and give a solid thumb’s-up; she’s ready and on her way to see Sam who is waiting around the corner.
They look at each other with giddy smiles, then hold each other as if for the first time in their lives, and they don’t ever seem to want to let go. The beauty of a small wedding or elopement is that there’s no pressure to really…do anything they don’t want to so they take their time in this moment and make it last. After some time in the cool shaded courtyard outside their room, we drive to meet our officiant Ken Robins at a point along highway 1 and the coast of Big Sur.
We found a spot that was just accessible enough for us to make it down the cliffs a bit and it was breathtaking. Quick note here, it was a pretty dangerous trek down in my hiking boots so three gold stars and double high-fives to Heather who wore heels; Ken was thoroughly impressed! Heather and Sam’s love and intensity was mesmerizing as they stood there in a nook in the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I don’t mind admitting that Sam and Heather’s outward expression of their love for each other was amongst the greatest I’ve ever experienced and that’s possibly why the day felt so quiet; they truly were the center of the universe that afternoon so it was hard not to be transfixed. We spent some time along the coast letting the sunlight and salt air wash over the remnants of the afternoon before making our way back to Stone Pine. We had just enough time and twilight to stroll the grounds of the Chateau and cut their cake before we said goodbye. Looking back through the photos and recalling the events of their gorgeous elopement, there were so many times that they looked at each other with that look of undeniable pure love and there was this stillness as they held each other so tightly you thought they would never let go. Happily, I’m sure they never will.