Welcome to the blog! I’m a small-town Florida girl and Army wife relocated to the Seattle Suburbs, documenting love from one coast to the other. I live for a good PNW mountain breeze, sweat pants, and local eats. Let's be friends!
It’s been a few weeks since Jordan and Lauren’s intimate military elopement in Leavenworth, WA, and I find myself replaying the day over and over. It’s an elopement that I’ll reflect on for years to come for so many reasons. Their family, their story, their love…all a reminder of why I love elopements.
The day didn’t go quite as planned. Which, to be honest, is not all that uncommon for elopements in the PNW. When chasing mountain views, the weather can impose some challenges. BUT…what I also know to be true is that if you’re willing to be flexible, you may find that the plans you didn’t make lead to the most magical day. Lauren and Jordan can certainly attest to that!
The love these two share is palpable. It’s real and it’s deep and it’s already withstood so much. Getting to play just a small role in documenting their story and vows to each other was such an honor. As special as their day way and as beautiful as the photos are, seeing Lauren recap it in her own words has been so much fun. She has a way of writing and telling their story that makes you feel like you’re apart of it. And that’s exactly what we hope you, her family and friends (and strangers too!), feel when you read this post.
Shortly after the proposal, we had a frank conversation about what vision of our wedding made the most sense for us. With Lauren’s family in the Midwest and Jordan’s family in the Pacific Northwest, any traditional wedding would require at least one family to travel. The idea of planning a wedding in a place almost two thousand miles away just didn’t feel right. At the same time, we knew that planning a big ceremony in Washington meant that many of Lauren’s friends and family may not attend.
Ultimately we had to decide what felt right for us. With Jordan in the US Army, Lauren working a high-stakes job for Washington State, two kids in elementary school, and the big transitions that come with marriage, we decided that a small, low-stress, intimate ceremony in the beauty that is Central Washington made the most sense for us. We knew we wanted some family. We settled on having Lauren’s sister (Cassie), brother-in-law (Danny), and niblings (niece and two nephews), and Jordan’s brother (Jake). Throughout our relationship, Cassie and Danny have served as an inspiration for a healthy, happy, and faith-centered relationship that we strive to replicate. With the passing of Jordan and Jake’s brother in 2021, it was even more important for us to have Jake be a part of our special day.
To top it off, we planned to make our elopement just one part of a week-long family vacation! Instead of a honeymoon, we spent the week with our families. We took the kids across the state to the Children’s Museum in Spokane, a full day at Silverwood and Boulder Beach in Idaho, and then back to Seattle for a full day exploring Snoqualmie Falls, Pike’s Market, the Boeing flight museum, and the Space Needle.
When we married in February, Lauren received a “Lady Night Stalkers” pin, welcoming her to the unit’s family. This pin was a part of Lauren’s bouquet. Ultimately we knew that Mr. and Mrs. didn’t represent our reality, so we incorporated a sign acknowledging our titles as Sergeant First Class and Doctor.
For the wedding bouquet, we chose to use a dried flower bouquet. When Jordan’s brother (Nate – an Army Ranger) passed in 2021, we took several bouquets of red roses from the funeral and dried/preserved them just as Nate would have done. For our ceremony, we had our closest siblings, but there was inevitably a hole in our hearts with Nate being unable to attend. We ordered a bouquet and then inserted three of the roses from Nate’s funeral in order to acknowledge this loss. We know that he was supportive of us and in many ways, he was a strong influence in our relationship prior to his passing.
With the decision to get up at THREE AM for a sunrise elopement, we asked Cassie if she would be willing to make a charcuterie board to snack on in the morning. Cassie absolutely knocked it out of the park.
The most beautiful cake from Sift and Gather in Olympia, WA.
Anyone who knows Lauren knows she loves gnomes. Cassie and Danny got us a set of gnome glasses that we were able to use for the champagne toast.
Lauren wanted to be sure to include the boys (Levi – age 9 and Hunter – age 8) in the ceremony. Marrying Jordan also meant making a commitment to his kids as a new parent who would be there to support them for the rest of their lives. Paying homage to Jordan’s military background, Lauren ordered dog tags for each of the boys. She made a commitment to them to be there for all of the days to come.
When the geopolitical climate began to change in January and February of 2022, we made the decision to do our legal marriage on Valentine’s Day! We had a small ceremony at Joint Base Lewis McChord with the Chaplain from Jordan’s late brother’s Ranger unit. We were unsure what the conflict in Ukraine may mean for us and needed to be sure we had our ducks in a row, just in case.
That meant that our ceremony in August (almost exactly six months later) had a different vibe. As Christians, we did our traditional vows and covenant in February. For our intimate wedding in August, we were able to reflect on the last six months and write our own, authentic commitments to each other in marriage. While Lauren thought she’d make it through the ceremony easily as a professional public speaker, she ended up crying nearly nonstop and barely making it through her own vows!
Jordan had his traditional “dress blues,” but the US Army recently began transitioning to a new dress uniform – “Pinks and Greens.” We chose to incorporate this new uniform and were able to pair our kids in the perfect maroon suits that matched the color of his paratrooper beret. As a military family, Jordan’s sacrifice is undeniable and it was important for us to recognize and appreciate his service.
Be flexible! One of the first things we said to Megan was that we are NOT morning people. We planned for months for a ceremony starting in mid-afternoon down to the couple’s photo shoot at sunset. Three days before the big day, the weather was unrelenting and he forecast said to expect temperatures over 100 degrees. We decided just three days before to completely reverse the timeline. This meant waking up at three AM for hair and makeup and a couple’s sunrise photo shoot. We would make the same decision 10/10 times.
The day turned out even better than we could have imagined and we weren’t melting in the heat! To our surprise, we ended up with the MOST gorgeous sunrise. In addition, the early timeline meant that the rest of the day flowed even more organically. We never felt rushed. To top it off, the weather changed the morning of our elopement. It ended up raining on and off all day. Although annoying at times, we leaned in and embraced it. The clouds ended up making for the most beautiful photos throughout the day.
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Megan Montalvo is a PNW Elopement Photographer based out of Seattle, Washington. Megan offers intimate wedding and elopement photography to surrounding PNW destinations such as Tacoma, Olympia, Mount Storm King, Lake Crescent, Hurricane Ridge, Mt. Rainier, Lake Quinault, Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Pass, Cle Elum, Suncadia, Leavenworth, Ruby Beach, Cape Kiwanda, Canon Beach and the San Juan Islands.