Camping Wedding in the California Desert
Intimate Wedding in Alabama Hills, California
It’s a wild experience to be in the middle of a boulder-filled, nearly desolate 100 degree desert, and be looking up at the tallest peak in the contiguous U.S. An elevation difference of a few thousand feet makes for starkly contrasting landscapes within only a few miles of each other. I think that’s why Alabama Hills is so compelling, especially for a wedding. It’s strange, otherworldly. You could easily get lost among the miles of rolling granite boulder hills, and that can make a person feel quite small. What a way to put things into perspective than by being a tiny dot among a giant indifferent landscape. But how special too, to be celebrating something so intimately personal in a place like that. It’s nothing short of beautiful.
Jenn and Dillen celebrated their biggest adventure yet surrounded by their closest friends and a few cactus in the desert of the Eastern Sierras. They invited their guests to come out to the desert, brave the heat, and camp with them for a few days surrounding their intimate, adventure-filled wedding day. There are very few services out in this tiny western town, and rental companies won’t bring tables or chairs out over the bumpy washboard roads, so Jenn and Dillen opted for blankets and pillows and camp chairs instead. There were battery-operated LED lights in place of candles, with climbing cams to string them up between the rocks. We ate vegan tacos, and the rest of the details were either handmade or repurposed. The entire wedding weekend was eco-friendly in the finest way. I admire Jenn and Dillen’s convictions not to waste or be indulgent just because it was their wedding. They treated the fragile desert environment in which we celebrated with the all the respect it deserved.
These two are the free-est of spirits (if that’s a term). They’re some of the most outspoken and wonderful humans to have ever graced this planet, and being welcomed into their lives at such a pivotal point felt like a huge privilege. We knew it when we showed up to meet them for the first time and all four of us were wearing chacos (which they ended up wearing for their wedding shoes too). And we knew it again when we shot photos of them in Moab and they were stoked on getting up for sunrise, even though they’d driven all day the day prior and had very little sleep. These two live for real, authentic experiences, and that was so obvious during their wedding day. From waking up at 4am for a hike in their wedding clothes to see alpenglow on Mount Whitney, to dancing in the dust while the moon rose in the evening—the entire day flowed so naturally according to what felt right.
“We cringe at the thought of being married under a roof or between four walls” — something Jenn said in her initial email to us. I think they achieved the furthest thing from that.
Wedding Ceremony in the Eastern Sierras
After sunrise, we all took naps for a bit before reconvening for their ceremony looking onto the Eastern Sierra Nevada range at sunset. Jenn and Dillen got ready in the back of “Gertie”, their box-truck-van-home, then headed off to walk down the aisle to their ceremony with their pup, a mini Aussie named Samson. Their personal vows were sweet and candid, each of them noting the wild long-distance they dealt with early on and the very close quarters they live in now, and their next adventure of moving to a new city together. The hot sun hung low in the sky, and the breeze picked up the light silk layers of Jenn’s Leanne Marshall gown. They kissed, cheered, snuggled their dog, and we took photos of the family.
For the reception, Dillen’s mom prepared a huge spread of vegan tacos from the kitchen of her RV. There was wine from a friend’s winery, and little enamel mugs that Dillen hand decorated as wedding favors for their guests. We all gathered at the back of Gertie under the string lights and laughed at the relaxed nature of the whole evening. Throughout the night, we snuck off with Jenn and Dillen to take portraits and enjoy the sunset and moonrise. The night ended with everyone laying down on blankets on the ground, staring up at the moon, passing around a mandolin.
Cedar & Pines is an adventurous wedding and elopement photographer duo made up of Nate and Megan Kantor, a married couple living on the road in their Airstream and traveling the American West. They believe in honest wedding photography, capturing the small candid moments to the epic landscape views. They travel to photograph adventure elopements and destination weddings in Colorado, California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Washington, Patagonia and the ends of the earth.