Hey, I'm an elopement photographer based in Alaska! I love genuine moments between people and love that I get to document them for a living <3

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Shayla & Geoff had one of the most UNIQUE wedding days I’ve gotten to photograph: they had a winter celebration for their Knik River elopement, and guess one of their main features was? Horses!!

They didn’t let the -15 degree weather ruin the day – instead, they had one of the absolute coolest Alaska winter weddings I’ve ever seen, with horses, intention-packed details, bright white florals, dogs, & soooo much more. Keep reading to learn all about their gorgeous day!

knik river elopement

Before the Big Day

How they met

One of my favorite things to ask when I first meet a new couple is how they met & to tell me a little bit about their journey together! Luckily Shayla was so ready to do this, so I thought it would be fun to include some snippets of what she told me when she & Geoff first reached out, so that you can get to know them, too:

“We met in 7th grade, and actually grew up about a mile away from each other. Geoff was a major nerd and sat in the front of the bus and the science class we shared with each other. I sat in the very back of the bus and science class, judging him every day.

knik river elopement

Then in 11th grade, we had lockers right next to each other and had to sit next to each other in two classes. (Wilts and Woods are our last names, it was bound to happen). He would flirt every day and I had no idea what to do, haha. He got my number because we were stuck in a group project together, then bombarded me with more flirtatious texts (like do we have any homework tonight? Even though I would see him write down the homework every day. I know, so flirtatious, haha). This continued until we graduated high school. 

I really liked him and vice versa, but nothing became official. We started drifting apart since he went off to Cordova and I started a job and college. He met someone else, then I met someone else. We were friends through it all, but unsure about our futures together.”

knik river elopement

The love story

And now comes the SUPER adorable part where they realized they were into each other!!

“Geoff realized after we started dating other people that I was the one (his words, not mine). I was still in a relationship, so he supported me from afar. Then my mom passed away and my then boyfriend became a real ass, so I broke it off with him.

knik river elopement

Geoff knew I was single again, so he waited a few months and asked me to be his girlfriend. It was an easy request since we had known each other for over 10 years, been good friends for about 6 years, and have loved each other for who knows how many years. I knew we were meant to be together long before he did, but the most important thing is that he realized eventually. 

I guess that’s why the saying goes, “I fell in love the way you fall asleep; slowly, then all at once.” Too bad Geoff took the word slowly to the extreme.”

knik river elopement

Shayla said that she & Geoff are each other’s absolute best friends.

“We tell each other everything and do as many things as we can together. We provide each other with compassion and a sense of belonging. We always support each other in each other’s goals and endeavors. 

Lastly, (and maybe most importantly), we’re humorous with each other. Geoff makes me laugh and he’s the highlight of my day, no matter how crappy it was.”

After learning all of this, I could tell these two lovebirds were going to have nothing short of an incredible wedding day & I could not wait to be a part of it!!

knik river elopement

Their engagement session

Before the big day arrived, I did THE most fun engagement session with these two!! Shayla & Geoff really love riding horses together and wanted to incorporate them into their story, so we did just that – not only in their engagement session, but also on their wedding day AND during their day-after portrait session!

knik river elopement

Shayla & Geoff’s Knik River Elopement

Unique winter elopement details

One aspect of Shayla & Geoff’s elopement that I really loved was how freaking intentional every detail of the day was! They legit had their dogs (who they ADORE) “sign” the framed version of their marriage certificate right under their names & signatures – if you love this idea and take it for yourself, make sure you use pet-safe ink for their lil’ pawsies! The pups even had fun colorful outfits to keep them warm, plus the most adorable dog-sized flower crowns.

knik river elopement

If you want more fun ways to include your dog (or other animals) in your wedding, check out this blog post!!

Some of my other favorite details from this wedding day included Shayla’s sparkly white cowgirl boots, their bright white florals, and the freaking gorgeousss fur throw she draped over herself for the day. Who says you can’t look glam if you get married in the freezing cold?!

Not only was their wedding full of sparkling white details, it was also accented with gorgeous blue tones on their marriage certificate, Shayla’s getting ready robe, Geoff’s suit, and even the gloves they used to keep warm n’ cozy. I personally loooove the combination of white & blue they chose because it really brought out the beauty of winter!!

knik river elopement

Their snowy December elopement

After Shayla got ready in her gorgeous strapless, floral-accented lace dress, she met up with Geoff & their pups for the sweetest first look in the snow. Talk about a power couple lookin’ like they’re straight in the middle of the forest in Narnia!!

And like the freaking rad couple they are, they headed off to ride HORSES to their ceremony location! The setup was absolutely stunning, all done up with delicious-looking dessert platters, hand warmers, macarons, and a wooden triangle arbor with a super pretty floral installation for the ceremony. It was so special watching these two lovebirds tie the knot (with horses in the background!), and then celebrating afterward with s’mores, drinks, & their loved ones by the campfire!

knik river elopement

Fireworks, sparklers, & lanterns to end the night

To end the night on a spark (literally), Shayla & Geoff brought out all the stops, with sunset portraits on the horses followed by not only fireworks, but also a sparkler exit AND a lantern release. Straight out of Tangled!!

knik river elopement

Despite how freaking freezing this day was (-15 degrees F!!), I could not have imagined it turning out any better. 

knik river elopement

Day-after wedding photos with horses!

As if their wedding day wasn’t epic enough already, I got to explore even more with Shayla & Geoff the day after their wedding for an extra session. We took the most beautiful couples portraits with their pups & the horses

knik river elopement

Knik River Wedding Vendors

Horses: AK Horse Adventures

Planner: A Touch of Saige Events

Florals: Lily of the Valley Floral Co

Dress: Bateau Bridal Boutique

Hair: Hair by Kylie Dawn

Makeup: Jackie HMUA

B&B: Alaska Knotty Pine

Videography: Haley Jay Media

knik river elopement

Looking for more Alaska Elopement Resources & Inspiration?

I’ve gotcha covered – check out some of my recent blog posts below!!

How to Elope on a Glacier in Alaska

10 Easily-Accessible Locations & Hikes in Alaska

8 Ways to Include Family in Your Elopement

The Ultimate Guide to Eloping at Denali National Park

Incredible Alaska Glacier Helicopter Elopement | Jessica + Ryan

Emily & Jordan’s Kodiak, Alaska Elopement

knik river elopement


Unique Knik River Winter Elopement with Alaska Horse Adventures

  1. Donna Smith says:

    Thank you so much Bernadeta! I really appreciate it! 😀

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If you’re a adventurous couple that loves epic experience and being on the water, Glacier Paddle Boarding might be for you! You can check two things off your bucket list between the glacier paddle and the helicopter flight! It’s also a great addition to your engagement photos or elopement day. Incorporating activities into your session […]

A couple paddle boarding in blue waters near a large white glacier, both smiling and paddling together.

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One way to make your elopement unique: HORSES!! That’s what Shayla & Geoff did for their winter Knik River elopement and it was SO cool!

knik river elopement

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