Betsy and I met three years ago for the first time. It was a date that almost didn’t happen. I spent the entire day working on my fixer-upper of a house, and she was concerned about why I hadn’t responded that day in the dating app. Thankfully, she took a chance and started driving to meet for margaritas – when we met, we lived an hour apart. But, typical of B’s view on punctuality, she beat me there!
I walked up to the bar to wait. Texted her, and looked up to see a gorgeous woman standing next to me in a sleek leather jacket and the most beautiful smile. What followed was a conversation about our lives, or at least the start of one that hasn’t stopped. I still remember her smile as she looked up at the bar. Her laugh as we shared stories and got to know one another, and her kindness as she talked about the people that matter to her.
Fast-forward to COVID, and we were quickly given the opportunity to test out living together. Something we knew we wanted in the future but didn’t expect a year into dating. We had already been talking about our future. What life would look like when she finished some schooling for a Mechanical Engineer degree, and we could focus on us and this fixer-upper that was quickly becoming our home.
After two trips to a jeweler to look at rings, I ordered hers and immediately began planning. The reality is, once I had the ring in my possession, I could hardly wait to ask her. I threw together a Monday evening surprise picnic at a park near our home and asked her to meet me there after work to celebrate us. Throughout the night, she kept asking when we would go home so that the dogs wouldn’t be rowdy. But I waited patiently for the sun to set. As conversations returned to plans for our future, I asked her to share hers with me officially. Needless to say, she was happy we stuck around!
Two months later, she proposed to me after a movie night outside on a lovely fall evening. I went into the house to get ingredients for s’mores and came back out to her standing at the end of the deck (the deck that almost prevented the first date). Surrounded by the twinkle of string lights and our favorite Sara Bareilles song, “I choose you” playing in the background. It was beautiful, simple, private, and completely her style.
Fast-forward to wedding planning, still in the throws of COVID, and we decided after a handful of discussions to elope for various reasons. Unfortunately, rarely is an LGBT+ wedding without strain or stress from outside forces, and this, combined with planning, finances, and the desire to focus on us, pointed us to an elopement where we could focus on our love. In addition, an exchange student friend had postponed her wedding in Germany to the following September, so we decided to attend and attach our elopement and honeymoon onto the back of it. Betsy had never been to Europe, and I had never been to Germany and Italy – it seemed perfect!
We began researching elopement photographers and came across Cat on Instagram and loved her work and her simple approach to the process and the day. We also loved her adventuring spirit. Along the way, she helped us scout a hiking route and elopement spot from her home in Austria, driving down into the Dolomites with her husband for weekend hikes. And then came the big day.
We decided to splurge on a stay at Forestis for our elopement, and it did not disappoint. It made the 4 am wake-up call a little bit easier to tolerate too! We got ready as the sun came up along the mountain peaks and headed out for our hike at 7 am, full of jitters, espresso, and smiles. The day could not have been more perfect. After a few straight days of rain, clear skies and mild weather met us at the hike start and held throughout the day. Thankfully, the end of September creates a lull in hiking in the Dolomites as we found ourselves changing outside on either side of an empty hiking hut.
After first looks – I can still picture how beautiful B was with the morning sun hitting her back and making her glow. We began the remainder of the hike up the hill in our dresses. We ran into some mama and baby cows at our hopeful elopement location. So we quickly regrouped and hiked back down the hillside to a smaller body of water along the hill’s edge – and that small cow bog will forever be known to us as the place where our next chapter started.
We each read our vows, promises, and plans and then celebrated with some champagne back at the hut while we read letters sent from friends and family, an idea we had for a small way to include them in our day. The letters and the process let us go at our own pace and adapt as needed. As a result, we could spend the day, and the moments before and after, entirely focused on each other and the life we are making.
After a quick champagne rest, we headed down the mountain with the photographer to the nearby town of Brixen, Italy, for more pictures. As an architect, I knew I wanted to capture this day in some of the historical spaces and the natural beauty of the mountains. So we wandered, hand in hand, through the historic downtown, finding ivy-covered walls and beautiful streets along the way. This experience reinforced that we made the right decision to elope. As even the tiny amount of strangers became a bit of an overwhelming distraction at times. We were all too happy to just focus inward on each other. And we didn’t want that feeling to end yet.
We ended the day back at Forestis. With a relaxing dip in the pool and delicious dinner and cocktails overlooking the mountains. We wrote the beginning of the next chapter of our lives together in the stories we shared that day and the stories to come in the future.
Dancing With Her Recommended Vendor
Photography by Wild Connections Photography