For Shannon and Jonathan, two wildlife biologists who met while working and backpacking through the Sierra Nevada mountains, anything other than a mountain wedding just wouldn’t be right. There were so many details that amplified the natural beauty of their surroundings, from the magnificent views of Electric Peak framed perfectly by the ceremony arbor that Jonathan built from aspen trees on their property, to the fresh wildflowers and river rocks in Shannon’s grandmother’s mason jars that lined the aisle, to the most perfect and photogenic “accessories” that they could have possibly chosen: the stunning horses of Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters. They also incorporated a sand-pouring ceremony, each gathering sand from places meaningful to them, mixing both sands together to symbolize their union, and then pouring some in the Yellowstone river so that a part of them would always be there. Their big day was intimate but the landscape was vast, leaving their many out-of-town guests in awe and us with these amazing photos from Honeybee Weddings!
How did you meet?
Jonathan and I met while working in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. We are both wildlife biologists and I had just hired on to the bighorn sheep project with Fish and Wildlife. Jonathan had been working there nearly a decade and I had a lot to learn. After many weeks hiking and backpacking in the mountains together, we went to a mutual friends party and the rest is history.
What is your proposal story?
Jonathan’s proposal was flawless. There could not have been a better place or time. We were visiting family near Yellowstone (my favorite place on Earth) and went for a hike in a new area of the park. We had been hiking and exploring for a few hours when we came to the crest of the mountain and movement caught our attention. A wolf pack had been napping at the top and we unintentionally had disturbed them. They stood up, stretched and trotted off down the hill away from us. We were elated to have the opportunity to observe them at such a close distance. Years ago, I had worked for several seasons in the park tracking the wolves and was thrilled to have gotten to see them again. We waited until they had gotten down the hill out of site and went to checkout the bedside. As I was zooming around chattering excitedly as I looked for tracks and other signs, Jonathan was building up the courage to ask me. He set up the camera and said we should get a picture together there. Little did I know, he had set it to video mode and was about to propose. He got down on one knee and asked me to spend forever together. I was euphoric and could hardly speak. I shook my head yes and could not stop smiling. He had a jewelry maker design the ring for me, and it was perfect. Twisted diamond band and a HUGE marquis cut blue sapphire. We finished the hike out, enjoying the beautiful views of mountains and other wildlife. It was blissful and every time I think about that day my heart leaps with joy.
What was the most important to the two of you while planning? Was there anything that you chose to splurge on or skip?
Above all else we wanted to enjoy it! We didn’t want to be so worried about the details that we forgot what it was about. It was a destination wedding for many of our family and friends so we spent a lot of time planning how to make sure our loved ones could be there to share it. We splurged on the photography/videography because we wanted to make sure every moment was captured and we could relive the day.
What were your favorite parts of the day?
We choose to do a reveal before the ceremony and for me that really stands out. I hadn’t seen Jonathan all day and the moment I took his blindfold off and we embraced was so powerful. We had a few moments alone in the peacefulness of each other company looking over the mountains and feeling the love we shared. The reading of our vows was also very special. We had both written our own and had a lot to say, he made me cry with his! We had choreographed a dance to “Parachute” by Chris Stapleton, but when we first started we were both so nervous! We sort of froze and had to restart the song! It was a good laugh and once we restarted it we were absorbed in the dance together.
What did you do for favors?
We knew most of our guests would be flying in, so we went for small favors that would leave a lasting memory. We gave wildflower seeds and beautiful key bottle openers.
Did you include any family heirlooms or special traditions?
We had many family heirlooms tucked into the ceremony. I wore grandmother’s watch and had a piece of her jewelry sewn into my dress. My grandfather’s collection of blue mason jars lines the aisle. Our wine glasses were from Jonathan’s parents’ wedding. We also integrated decorations from several friend’s weddings.
Do you have any advice for couples planning their weddings now?
Our advice is make sure you plan time to enjoy it! Don’t pack your schedule so tight that you don’t have a moment to breathe. Also, go with the flow; worrying too much about the details will make it stressful. In the end the details don’t matter as much. You won’t remember if the linens didn’t match or who sat where; you’ll remember how you felt when you saw each other the first time that day, your first kiss as husband and wife and the feel of each other as you dance.
Why a Mountain Wedding? What’s your biggest piece of advice for other couples planning a mountain wedding?
Jonathan and I have always loved the mountains. The rugged wilderness calls to us. There was no better place to share our love and commitment than under the shadow of mountains that have stood the test of time. We hope couples planning mountain weddings remember how wonderful but unpredictable the mountains can be. Make sure you have a backup plan for the weather as it changes fast. Help make sure your out of town guests are prepared for the differences in climate. Finally, take it in stride and appreciate that’s it’s not going to be perfect, but it will be wonderful and unforgettable.