A Three-Part Elopement From the Albany Courthouse to the Catskills
Long-term couple and Albany, NY residents Michelle and Craig love record shopping, great food, and exploring new places together. Wedding planning? Not so much.
Michelle and Craig had been engaged for several years—together for 15—and were attempting to simplify their wedding plans when they discovered Outdoor Photography’s article on how to elope at the Albany Courthouse. Inspired, they opted for a full-day adventure complete with aquatic adventures and stunning views. Allured by its stunning views and funky cultural offerings, they agreed that Molly’s suggestion of the Catskills best suited the outdoorsy portion of their celebration.
After getting legally hitched at Albany City Hall, they enjoyed an energizing breakfast at the Iron Gate Café before driving south to New Paltz (an artsy town boasting a plethora of record shops), and the Mohonk Mountain House. The remainder of their special day was spent wandering the 40,000 acres of land (including 85 miles of trails) under the Mountain House’s stewardship, soaking in spectacular views, absorbing the sunset, and discovering the lake in the most romantic way possible: by rowboat.
What is your meet-cute story in your own words? What drew you to the other person?
CRAIG: We met in college at RIT in a Human Biology II lab, Michelle was wearing a t-shirt of one of Craig’s favorite bands and greeted him by looking at a human femur bone and saying “sorry if I’m creeping you out”. It was love at first sight!
MICHELLE: I was in the Human Bio lab with a friend and I was waving a femur around when he walked in the room. It was not my best moment. For the record, I had never before or since waved a femur around. My first words to him totally were, “sorry if I’m creeping you out” though.
Why was an Albany City Hall elopement right for you? Can you talk about that decision?
CRAIG: We wanted a special day just for us. We’re both very selfless individuals who don’t often take the time to do things just for us where we’re the focus.
MICHELLE: We’ve been together for 15 years. We’d talked about getting married before and had started planning several times before. We gave up each time because it was stressful, it didn’t feel like us, and it wasn’t what we wanted. Finally, we decided to just elope. That’s when we found Molly’s website and found that we could have the exact wedding we wanted.
MICHELLE & CRAIG: We initially talked about a large traditional wedding, but we didn’t want the hassle, stress, and potential drama that a big wedding brings with it. We were overwhelmed by the idea of planning a wedding like that. So we limited it to 10 guests each, before [eventually] deciding to elope. There was a lot of stress about what our family would think and how they would react, but in the end they were overjoyed (showing them several photos that same day definitely helped!). We wanted to have a unique outdoor experience where we were the focus, but with the backdrop of beautiful nature landscapes. We love walking together outdoors and wanted a day that reflected that. Our wedding day was exactly what we wanted it to be.
How did you land on the Mohonk Mountain House for the Catskills part of your elopement?
CRAIG: We both love the outdoor views / landscapes that New York has and we decided that if we were going to elope, we should do something super special and unique.
MICHELLE: What he said. Molly chose the [specific] locations! Upstate NY is one of the prettiest places out there, especially in the fall, so there’s no shortage of wonderful locations. We also also wanted to incorporate waterfalls/lakes into the photos, because they look neat!
Where did you source your clothing and important items for the day? What was your process, and what drew you to these specific items or designers?
MICHELLE: I liked the idea of making my own bouquet, because looking for this stuff can be a bit stressful. I bought fresh flowers from Price Chopper and dried them, then supplemented it with fake flowers from Michael's. I also incorporated some of a flower arrangement my aunt gave me shortly before the elopement. Initially, I was looking for dresses online, but the idea of sizing worried me a bit and I wanted to ensure that the dress I found fit. I’ve passed by Xena’s on Central [Ave in Albany] a number of times, and it had good reviews, so I gave it a shot. The person I worked with was wonderful and worked with me to find a dress I loved (the sleeves!). I really liked the sort of medieval look of the dress and just ran with it when picking out the flower crown and everything else.
Makeup: Color Me Gorgeous
Would you recommend hiring a local Licensed Hiking Guide for your elopement? Why or why not?
CRAIG: It absolutely helped since Molly is an expert on everything upstate NY outdoors and that helped since we knew what we wanted in terms of landscapes, but not the best specific locations.
MICHELLE: Upstate New York affords many beautiful views. With that said, there is a risk inherent in hiking. Trails can be dangerous and spending your wedding day lost in the woods sounds less than ideal. Hiring a Licensed Hiking Guide allowed us to safely enjoy the outdoors and still get amazing photographs.
CRAIG: Being generally conservation-minded, someone who is a licensed hiking guide is essential to allowing yourselves and everyone else to continue enjoying nature while also capturing images of your special day.
What was your favorite moment from the day?
MICHELLE: I have so many wonderful memories from that day. I’d have to say that Mohonk, as a whole, was a definite highlight. It was absolutely beautiful there, row boating was fun and not something we normally (or ever) do, plus I saw a lot of trout! This might seem like a silly thing to point out as a favorite moment, but Craig and I had bought a calendar on North American Trout as a sort of joke calendar a decade ago, so seeing different species of trout in person was kind of a fun reminder of that.
CRAIG: Row boating was a big hit, it was a fun adventure and it was so unique and special.
If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
MICHELLE: I wouldn’t have worried so much about what my family would think and how they would respond. Also, I wouldn’t have made so much fruit salad.
What words best describe how you feel about your images, and which images are your favorites?
CRAIG: Beautiful, incredible, unique, perfect. I like the documentary style of everything.
MICHELLE: Everything Craig said. The photographs encapsulate everything about our wedding day perfectly. They show who we are. We really love the one on the bridge and in front of the Capitol. I think what I love about these is that they’re capturing real moments. A lot of wedding photographs have this almost assembly line feel to them where everyone is posed. I love these photographs because each feels unique, with equal attention paid to the backdrop and composition as to the subjects.
CRAIG: Traditional wedding photography is so centered on people acting unnatural vs how they do normally. Simply being there and being photographed while in the outdoors with beautiful backdrops acting like normal people rewards you with wonderful photos.
What was your favorite thing about working with Outdoor Chronicles Photography?
MICHELLE: Molly’s organization skills and attention to detail made planning our elopement low-stress. They provided us with a document that covered all of the general things to consider when planning an elopement, along with a timeline of when each step should be completed. They worked with us to develop a schedule for the day that reflected how we wanted to spend our day. These skills helped ensure that everything about our day was perfect!
CRAIG: Molly is an expert on all things photography, outdoors, and elopement. It shows in everything throughout the process.
MICHELLE: I would strongly recommend Molly. In addition to their wonderful photography skills, they are punctual, organized, and have excellent communication skills. They handled any hiccups that occurred, provided advice and suggestions on makeup and flowers, and did an amazing job at capturing our day. Craig and I wanted a stress-free day, and she helped make it that.
CRAIG: Definitely! Molly was key to helping us have a stress-free, perfect day!
Do you have honeymoon plans?
CRAIG & MICHELLE: We’re planning to go to Aruba, hopefully next year! Last winter, Craig downloaded EarthCam on our television. We would have it on every morning at breakfast. A resort in Aruba had a camera up and we’d watch the sun rise. It’s just clear blue water and sand and it looks so nice (especially when you’re in upstate New York in January). When we were talking about traveling plans it was just, “let’s go there.”
Any advice for other couples when planning their own wedding or elopement?
CRAIG: Make your special day about you and don’t stress the pressures of tradition.
MICHELLE: What type of wedding you have is a decision that should only be made by you and your partner. Whether it is a 300-person wedding or a courthouse elopement, you need to do what feels right. All weddings have stressful moments, even elopements, but ultimately it is about your relationship and what works for you as a couple.
How would you describe your overall experience working Outdoor Chronicles Photography?
MICHELLE: Absolutely wonderful!
CRAIG & MICHELLE’S 12 HOUR ELOPEMENT TIMELINE
8AM Hair and make up for Michelle
10AM Morning City Hall Ceremony at the Albany Courthouse
12-1:30 Walk Around & Explore Albany
3PM Arrive at Mohonk Mountain House- Rowboat Reservation and Hike
5:30PM Evening Picnic & Hike at Minnewaska State Park
8PM Coverage Ends
Meet Your New York Elopement Photographer!
Hi! I'm Molly, an award-winning elopement photographer and licensed hiking guide! I would love to chat about photographing your perfect elopement in New York (or anywhere else, for that matter!)
I'm a small wedding and elopement photographer who is always up for a new adventure. I regularly travel between the Austrian Alps, Alaska, and the White Mountains, and travel is included in all of my packages.
Interested in talking to me about your Catskills elopement or small adventure wedding in New York? Let me be your guide to making the best of your perfect day!