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Emma and Brandon: A Hiking Elopement in Acadia National Park

Eloping on Mount Desert Island, Maine | An Acadia National Park Adventure Wedding

Emma and Brandon are un-superstitious, do-it-their-own-way people, the kind who won’t let setbacks like a forgotten wallet or potential poisonings* get in the way of a good thing. The couple met in 2004 when Emma started hanging out with friends of Brandon who were renting an apartment from Emma’s mom. On their first date, they both forgot their wallets. Emma stayed as collateral while Brandon drove nearly two-hours round trip to recover cash. Some people might consider this an inauspicious beginning, but three apartments, two houses, two states, two dogs, and nineteen years later, Emma and Brandon are proof that adversity doesn’t have to be a harbinger of doom; add a sprinkle of humor and it can be fortified into a funny story.

*Spoiler: No one was actually poisoned.

Committed for the long-term, the two had discussed marriage from time to time, but it never made sense for practical reasons, especially while they pursued higher education. Plus, neither of them are crazy about the spotlight nor the expectations weddings can present. So how did this mild-mannered couple find themselves as a “Featured Elopement”? To put it simply, all three share a passion for Acadia National Park. Though initially hesitant to jump into the limelight, Molly’s down-to-earth vibe on the day of their elopement put this duo at ease and led to them agreeing to be featured!

A side note from me: There are several reasons I really wanted to feature Emma and Brandon's elopement, but the major one is that they didn't let any traditional expectations affect what they wanted to do. So, while a sunrise ceremony is something I often document for eloping couples, they didn't let their adventure stop there. They wanted to visit a historic graveyard and take some American Gothic style pictures because that was another vibe of theirs (in addition to being adventurers!). Lastly, they really wanted to embrace the all-day elopement vibe. 3 hikes, 9 miles, and 3 very tired dogs later, I can say that their elopement was one of the most down-to-earth elopements I've had the honor to be a part of. Lastly, when it came to telling their friends and families, they kept the whole thing mostly a secret, except for their friend Chris who came along as a dog-wrangler. That helped them plan a day that was truly for and about them.

Eloping in Acadia National Park: All About the Location

Sea, sky, boulders and bridges. Emma and Brandon’s Acadia elopement features the best of Maine’s rugged coast. The striking scenery is studded with personal history for the couple, who were joined by their friend Chris and a coterie of canine companions. Mount Desert Island is not only a longtime favorite destination for the couple, but Brandon’s family has ties to the area going back to the 1700s; the town of Somesville, which bears his name, was dubbed for the settlement’s founder, a curmudgeonly—or perhaps more accurately, very religious—ancestor with a distinct distaste for dancing.

Interested in learning more about how to elope in Acadia National Park? You can skip to the bottom here (but honestly, I think Emma and Brandon's story is just lovely to read!)

Want to skip all the reading and just get to the pictures? Click here!

Three hikes and a graveyard: Emma & Brandon's wedding day

The morning began with the exchange of vows on the rocky seacoast—a backdrop that wouldn’t be out of place in a Brontë novel. The intention was to continue on for coffee in town, and then to Somesville for an American Gothic style graveyard photoshoot, but they put plans on pause to make sure the dogs were okay after a chocolate power bar went missing. After some minor stress, a call to poison control, some hydrogen peroxide dosing, they realized they had miscalculated the number of happens. The rest of the day consisted of coffee and lunch at their Airbnb, a silly & serious Somesville shoot, and hikes at Norumbega and Beech Mountain, with rings exchanged at the latter. No wedding is complete without a cake, and they amused themselves with an improvised version: crumbly whole wheat “fig newtons” with a candle on top!


What is your meet-cute story? What drew you to each other?

We felt really comfortable around each other almost immediately. Emma was drawn to Brandon's intelligence, wry sense of humor, earnestness, and responsible post-Kurt Cobain-punk-philosopher vibe. Brandon was attracted to Emma's sense of humor, sarcasm, and warmth (and also thought she was pretty cute).We started spending time together and after a while realized that this was probably a thing. That was almost 20 years ago, so apparently we were right!

Can you talk about your decision to get married?

We had made some big life changes in 2019, including moving to a new city in a different state, and a new job for Brandon. We had kicked around the idea of marriage over the years, but held off for pragmatic reasons. We talked about getting married in Maine after our move but, like so many people, we put the idea on the backburner when the pandemic happened. Although we've been deeply committed to each other for a long time, the past few years really put our relationship to the test, and ultimately strengthened our partnership in new ways. So when the stars aligned and after we met Molly, it felt like the absolute right time to honor and celebrate that.

Why was an elopement right for you? What was your inspiration when planning your elopement? How did you choose Acadia as your location?

Marriage has always felt really private to us. While we plan to celebrate with friends and family as well, we wanted the day itself to be just for us. We both feel most grounded and connected in the mountains, and Acadia is one of our favorite places on earth. The first time we visited was about 10 years ago with dear friends, and we've been back many times since - so it felt like the perfect location. And being new-ish Maine residents it doesn't take too long to get there anymore which simplified the logistics.

What drew you to my work and eventually hiring me?

After hearing about your approach and philosophy, and looking at your portfolio, we knew that you were the perfect person to shepherd us through and document our day.

What was your favorite moment from the day?

Realizing that I hadn't actually poisoned our dog. Jkjk (but that was a relief)!

Honestly, it's hard to choose a single moment. Our morning vow exchange on the beautiful granite rock outcropping really stands out. It felt private yet still dramatic, and after Molly led us in a grounding exercise, they stepped away while we exchanged our vows surrounded by the rocks and water in the early morning light. The graveyard photoshoot was also really fun and brought an element of playfulness that we really enjoyed!

What vendors did you use? What drew you to these specific items or those specific designers?

Rings: Market Square Jewelers (Portland, ME) - We only decided we wanted to incorporate rings the weekend before we left town for Acadia. Market Square is a lovely, family-owned business that carries vintage and estate jewelry from all different time periods. We waltzed in and were able to find rings that we loved and could afford. Emma’s dress: I didn't want a "traditional" wedding, or a traditional wedding dress. But I did want something unique, comfortable, and flattering. I'm also that annoying person who doesn't know what they want until they see it. After MUCH searching I found a beautiful dress that just happened to be my size (and could ship quickly) at The Old is New Again by AJ on Etsy. Alyssa upcycles heritage materials and uses vintage designs which she hand paints to create beautiful, affordable, unique wearable pieces of art. This dress is now my favorite piece of clothing, and I'd love to wear it again outside of the wedding context.

What words best describe how you feel about your images? What types of images are your favorite?

Delighted! The images captured so many different angles and aspects of the day, our relationship, and the environment. We really loved the range of images: from the stunning, dramatic coastline and super private rock formation where we exchanged our vows, to the American Gothic style graveyard shoot, to the action hiking shots, to the mountaintop ring exchange. Also things like preparing spontaneous lunch, and various dog-related interactions.

If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

The only thing I'd change is that I would have taken more time off work (ideally the whole week, but at least a few days). It was easier for me to envision different options for the day once we were in Acadia, and ideally I'd give myself more than one day off work to really be in that space.

Advice for other couples when planning their own wedding or elopement?

Molly will tell you that this is your day, and you can make it whatever you want it to be. THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. I used to have nightmares about getting married - the logistics, the expectations, etc. - and working with Molly helped me realize that it really doesn't need to be like that. There's a lot of money and ideology pumped into the wedding industrial complex, and a lot of social pressure (sometimes from people you love a lot!) to do things a certain way "because it's tradition." Your day is about your relationship and commitment to each other. If a traditional ceremony is your thing, great! Do it! If not, also great! There are so many different ways you can express and celebrate your love for each other, so don't let bullshit expectations and pressure get in the way!

How would you describe your experience working with Molly and Outdoor Chronicles Photography from start to finish?

Molly not only has an incredible eye and talent for helping couples craft unique, meaningful adventures (at macro and micro levels), they were flexible and thoughtful, helping us navigate the logistics of a two-dog adventure elopement, saved us parking at busier locations, made sure we stayed fed and hydrated, and was an overall fun, delightful guide, ally, and friend. If you choose to work with Outdoor Chronicles Photography, you will be in the best hands! Molly is the best, and truly puts their heart and soul into their work. We are both fairly introverted and don't love being the center of attention. From our first meeting, Molly made us feel so comfortable and cared for. They took the time to get to know us as individual people and as a couple and navigated our ambivalence around ceremonies and planning. They helped us imagine and craft a day that felt authentic and aligned with our overall relationship, as well as our logistical needs, so that when the time came, we were able to just relax and enjoy ourselves.

A Sampling from Emma & Brandon's Wedding Day

Some brief advice on how to plan your own elopement at Acadia!

Why Acadia is a Great Place to Elope

  • Dog friendly

  • Still has some lesser known locations for privacy

  • Wild, rugged, and gorgeous- need I say more?

  • Something for all levels of ability

  • Car-friendly locations

How to get to Acadia National Park

Acadia isn't the easiest to get to, but that's what makes it exactly so stunning! You can get direct flights from Boston Logan Airport to Hancock-Bar Harbor Airport, about 10 miles outside of Acadia. From there, I highly recommend renting a car, as you will need one to reach the far corners of the park.

If you prefer to drive, Acadia is a 5 hour drive from Boston and a 9 hour drive from New York City.

Best Time to Elope at Acadia

A lot of Acadia shuts down over the winter (November-mid May) due to dangerous conditions. That said, there are still some great locations to check out when it is snowy! There are even a few locations where you can do guided ice climbing trips!

The best weather is between the end of May to Labor Day, but that also brings crowds. If you choose to elope during the summer, be prepared to wait in line at the entrance or at certain popular locations, even on weekdays. That said, if you are open to exploring some lesser known parts of the park, I can still help you craft a great itinerary for your summer elopement.

In my opinion, the best time to elope in Acadia is mid-late May/early June and two weeks after Labor Day. By mid-May, most of the snow is gone and the temperatures are cool enough for comfortable hiking. In September/October, the leaves begin to change bringing about gorgeous colors.

If you do want to elope in Acadia, I highly recommend eloping Monday-Thursday. Even during the off season, the park gets quite busy. In fact, I won't ever work in Acadia on the weekend because of this. There is no guarantee that you will be able to find parking or have privacy at even your plan B and C locations.

Fees & Permits for your Acadia Elopement

Most importantly, wedding ceremonies and special use permits are NOT granted between June 15 and September 15 due to high visitor volume. But there is some good news! You can use that as an excuse to keep your ceremony small. If you elope with under 10 people (photographer included), there are lots of areas of the park where you can get married for free and don't need to apply for a special use permit!

If your wedding or commitment ceremony is over 10 people, a $75 fee is required. Special Use permits are granted for simple ceremonies outside of the busy season. Please note that you and your guests must all still pay the park entrance fees.

If you do choose to have a group at your wedding, group size is limited to 30 people with the exception of Thompson Island and Frazer Point which allow up to 50.


Meet Molly- Your Acadia National Park Wedding Photographer

I'm Molly and I'm an award-winning elopement photographer (and birth photographer, but that isn't quite relevant here😉). I photographed my first elopement way back in 2015 and never looked back. Since then, I've eloped myself and helped countless couples have truly amazing wedding day experiences.

If you think I might be the photographer for you, get in touch! I pride myself in only working in places where I have local expertise. Other than Acadia, I specialize in Austrian Alps elopements, New York mountain elopements, and New Hampshire mountain elopements.


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