When Samantha and Ryan's wedding hit our inbox we were just blown away by their story and the stunning images by Kristen Marie Parker. We are so lucky to have so many incredible couples share their celebrations with us - and show how they have been able to adapt their plans and celebrate, despite Covid restrictions. We are so pleased to be able to share this beautiful love story of a couple who has shown such positivity and resilience - and managed to do it with such jaw-dropping style.
"On paper, I suppose Ryan and I look like the same person. We are both computer programmers, alpine climbers and backcountry skiers. We actually fell in love in a remote hut in the Canadian Rockies where we were skiing with a group of mutual friends. I felt as though I’d known him my whole life. We shared the same values, the same sense of humor and love for the same music and food. Despite everything we have in common, we are total opposites. Before we met, I always thought about what I wanted to share in common with a life partner, but never how I wanted them to change me. Ryan makes me feel at ease. I am kinder and more patient because of him. Whereas I am cynical and always planning ahead, he is optimistic and spontaneous. We balance one another. When we met four years ago, Ryan instantly became my favorite adventure partner. We knew we wanted to climb mountains all over the world together. We’ve been lucky to do just that - from the Alps to the Andes to the volcanos of Shikotsu-Toya. In 2019, Ryan proposed on top of a rock climb in Squamish, British Columbia. We spent the next year planning our dream wedding. We wanted to join our lives in front of the Pacific Ocean, because it so symbolically binds our two families: My family is spread between Washington and Hawaii and Ryan’s family is from Peru. We chose Doe Bay Retreat on Orcas Island, WA, which holds a special place in my heart. I grew up on a different island outside of Seattle, but Orcas is where I fell in love with the outdoors. We planned for 150 guests to join us on July 11th 2020. We planned to take a sabbatical from work afterwards to travel the world. In late February 2020, ours was the first US city to be hit by the novel Coronavirus. All of our plans came to a halt. We quarantined together for months, and turned our travel aspirations into love for our home. We adopted an Aussie puppy and named her Yuzu, in honor our most recent ski trip to Japan. We cultivated a thriving vegetable garden and built a cedar yoga studio in our backyard. We work at home together everyday, and there’s no one I’d rather be stuck with! We cancelled our original wedding in May when our government extended our “stay home” order for a third time. I was devastated. With my mom unable to leave Hawaii, we decided to postpone our family ceremony and celebration until next year. But we couldn’t wait that long to be married. We decided to elope on the Friday before our original date to avoid crowds. We didn’t want our elopement to feel like a reduced version or our original wedding. We wanted to start over. We wanted to do something we could only do with a small group. We tried to get excited, but we were also exhausted from so much planning and disappointment. Then I stumbled across this photo of my maternal grandmother’s elopement while reorganizing my computer during quarantine:
My grandmother was my idol as a child--she was such a bright star. In 1990, she married her best friend, Charlie, on the Salish Sea and my father’s father officiated their union. For years, they lived at sea and traveled the world together. I absolutely loved their marriage. We decided to honor them by sailing the Salish to say our vows in a remote location. We turned to our mutual friend, Rob, who knows Washington’s islands like the back of his hand. Rob and I actually grew up together on Bainbridge Island, and he and Ryan became close friends by coincidence when Ryan moved to Seattle from Miami 6 years ago. We have so many fond memories sailing on Rob’s boat, aptly named ‘Saudade’. We wanted to discover a new place together as traveling is the cornerstone of our relationship. The three of us researched the outer islands over the course of a few days, and Patos immediately stood out to us. The lighthouse evoked the same sense of nostalgia as the photo. With Mount Baker - where we also have so many wonderful memories--so beautifully framed behind it, it had to be the place. In accordance with government restrictions, we limited our event to 5 guests (including ourselves and our celebrant). When the gathering limit of 5 was announced in May, we debated eloping in the traditional sense but we also wanted to have our one “person”. Including Ryan’s brother, Patrick, and his partner Savannah, felt so natural. Patrick was meant to be Ryan’s Best Man, and Savannah was one of my original bridesmaids. They were our rocks throughout the ups and downs of planning. My sisters were so gracious and understanding because they know that Sav is like family to us.
There were a lot of outfits! I chose not to wear my traditional wedding gown, because I wanted my mother to be a part of the experience. I decided to save it for next year. I also don’t think it would have been up for the journey! We picked a location with demanding travel logistics, and feeling comfortable was priority number one. In order to work with our beloved vendors, we decided to get ready at our home in Seattle and travel with our cake and florals. The fastest way to reach Patos from Seattle was by seaplane, but we’d need to land in the middle of the cove and dinghy to shore. After the ceremony, we planned to sail to Doe Bay for dinner. All that said, I decided to pick out a handful of pieces and have fun with it! Picking out my wedding gown was actually my least favorite part of planning our original wedding. I never felt like myself in any of the dresses I tried on. As an engineer, I’m used to dressing casual and as an outdoor athlete, I’m used to being comfortable. With a blank slate and a stay at home order keeping us from visiting a tailor, we decided to try everything on at home. I can’t tell you how many knee-length white and ivory dresses I tried on for our ceremony. Finally, I found the Prada piece and it was a dream. A mock neckline is my absolute favorite, and it felt like the perfect homage to my grandmother’s bridal look. I felt 100% like myself, and it moved so beautifully. I really wanted a traditional and nostalgic feel to my bridal look. I saw Jasmin Sparrow's earrings on an Anti-Bride feature, and wanted to build looks around multiple pieces. They echoed the scenery so wonderfully, it was impossible to choose just one. AM Faulkner helped me pick out a soft and simple veil. She was so sweet and accommodating. Ryan’s tux was such an effortless win. He was honestly dreading the search. I knew he wanted something modern and minimal. Theory popped into my head as a possible option, because they tend to design for Ryan’s body type (tall and slender). He looked incredible and absolutely loved it. He decided against any accessories to stay true to his style. Reformation, which is a sustainable US clothing band, has become my go-to over the last few years. I didn’t want to subject my ceremony dress to the dinghy rides, so I grabbed some travel clothes from them that I knew I’d wear again. I owned the suit already. The ruffled linen top from Lucia Zoela was an awesome last-minute addition. It felt like a vintage swimsuit and was perfect for peak heat on the boat ride. I’d purchased the Leave Her Wilder jumpsuit for our original wedding’s “Hora Loca”, which is a late-night tradition in Peruvian weddings. It is by far the most comfortable thing I own, and I was stoked to have it handy for the end of the night. When we had to start over, we tried to change into a mindset of getting to start over. We had spent the last year appeasing tradition and accommodating a huge, multicultural guest list. Admittedly, we were pretty exhausted. We wanted the elopement to feel natural and light. Ironically, the crazy logistics were natural for us. Planning our elopement felt just like planning a weekend exploring the mountains or the coast - right down to the stack of drybags that we lugged around all day! Rob’s calming mantra was, “It’s just another weekend on the boat” (with much snazzier outfits).
I think that being in logistics ‘mode’ brought out the best in us that day. At some point it hit me: We are going to a place that we have never been before. The plane isn’t 100% sure where to land. We aren’t 100% sure how to get to the ceremony site, and we still need to sail to Doe Bay in time for dinner. I kept thinking, “How are we going to pull this off?”, but at the same time, “we got this.” It felt like every time we’ve been out in the alpine. I think that we were much more at ease than we would have been hosting the party we’d been planning for over a year. Having a processional and a recessional was very important to us. I searched high and low for a lightweight bluetooth radio with great sound quality. Pat DJed and Sav wore the radio as a purse. I walked down the aisle to a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire”, by Ólöf Arnalds. “Pale Blue Eyes” by the Velvet Underground started to play when we sealed our vows with a kiss, which wasn’t meant to happen, but was absolutely perfect. We had a mini-parade leaving the lighthouse to “Chateau Lobby #4” by Father John Misty. The soundtrack completed the whole experience. It was dreamlike.
Ironically, we didn’t think that having an officiant’s sermon was important to us. Neither one of us is particularly religious--and we didn’t want to add to our friend/captain Rob’s plate - so we overlooked it. We wrote our own vows, and thought we’d have a simple and casual ceremony. Again, this was an ironic choice, because Rob wrote the most beautiful speech for our wedding day. It brought us all to tears. It was the moment that everything felt truly fated--despite all of the ups and downs. It was my favorite part of the day. I couldn’t quite say what drew us to this remote lighthouse, but Rob put it so perfectly to words: “Welcome to our close friends and family to share in this important ceremony on this special island. We are gathered here today to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, the joining of two hearts and to give recognition to the worth of beauty and love. Today, Ryan and Sam have chosen to join their lives in the union of marriage. Today is a celebration of love, of commitment, and of friendship. We are fortunate to be surrounded by the sights and sounds that brought Sam and Ryan together from the beginning. The many special moments Ryan and Sam have shared during their relationship are all represented where we are today. The alpine peaks behind us, the island we stand on today, and the waters around us. These elements helped bring Ryan and Sam together with their shared love for adventure and exploration. The many friends and family who weren't able to make it today undoubtedly offer their love, support, and encouragement as you embark on this incredible journey together. Marriage is perhaps the greatest and most challenging adventure of human relationships. No ceremony can create your marriage, only you can do that through love and patience; through dedication and perseverance; through talking and listening, helping and supporting and believing in each other; through tenderness and laughter; through learning to forgive, learning to appreciate your differences, and by learning to make the important things matter, and to let go of the rest. What this ceremony can do is to witness and affirm the choice you make to stand together as life-mates and partners. We stand before this lighthouse with its many forms of symbolism relevant to marriage. Mariner's since the days of the gold rush have looked to this very lighthouse as a source of comfort and of homecoming. After navigating the thousands of miles of difficult northern waters, the lighthouse on Patos with it's beam of light seen miles away, in fog and in storm, silently whispers to the mariner that they've managed to find the place they were meant to be. This lighthouse was built over many years. It's foundation carefully planned and it's building exposed to open waters. This lighthouse was designed to endure and to weather treacherous storms. Like your marriage, there will be times of good and times of bad - and like this lighthouse, your strong foundation and commitment will carry you through. And while this light house was built to last many years, it's building blocks still need to be upkept and maintained. Like your marriage, there will be times of repair and of reinforcement, and like this lighthouse, your union will persist and endure. This lighthouse shines bright even when the fog settles and the path is not clear. It's light provides a route home and a feeling of hope Like your marriage, there will be times of uncertainty and of doubt, and like this lighthouse, your companionship will guide you back to familiar waters.
I studied computer science and art history, and key lessons from each kept coming to mind when planning for the new normal: “Somethings simply do not scale” and “Great art embraces the limitations of its own medium”. Embrace the joy of starting small. Plan multiple small, safe events. Before we had to start over, I felt so much pressure going into this “one” day. You’re allowed to celebrate more than once. Pivot your budget to food! A long meal and a relaxed atmosphere will set the stage for more meaningful conversations.