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Stunning Waterfall Elopement Near Bozeman

Emily and Pat's cross-country campervan adventure led them to Bozeman to elope on a smoky day in August at Grotto Falls in the Gallatin National Forest. Photography by Jackie Haugen.

"Patrick and I have been friends for 19 years. Not casual, see-you-at-the-bar friends ... real friends. We smooched once eight years ago and nothing ever came of it. Then, in the fall of 2017, something clicked. We went out for drinks as pals just catching up and that night something changed – it was like magic. Patrick is a total sweetie and says, 'it was easy to fall in love with you because I already loved you.'

Being as close as we were as friends we knew that we have a ton in common, and we know each other's quirks – I've known for years that Patrick loves pancakes. It's just funny how love works out. We are outdoor people through and through, and after a bunch of trips back and forth across the country we decided to build a campervan in 2019 and drive it to Montana for our wedding! During the beginning of the quarantine on the East Coast (we live in Maryland), we were lounging on a very quiet evening and said to each other 'lets do this.' We had planned a trip anyway to Montana to visit family that ended up being pushed back, and we worried we wouldn't be able to get out there to get hitched! It ended up being just fine and everything went off without a problem. Eloping was the best decision we have made! It was so low-stress and fit our personalities. Patrick 'proposed' to me after we were engaged. We had recently gotten a puppy after losing our 13-year-old dog during the lockdown, so he tied the ring to the puppy's neck and proposed in our living room. A pandemic proposal.

So 2020 was hitting us hard even on our wedding day! Because of the wildfires in August, visibility was just the worst. We got to Bozeman and I said, 'I swear there are mountains around here somewhere!'

Patrick's brothers drove in from Colorado and Wyoming, and a friend drove up from Arizona and he got to spend the day with them after months of not seeing them, which was really special. I spent the morning with my cousin, sister-in-law, and my best friend who drove up from Arizona in an RV!

I didn't even look outside all day because I was getting bummed about the visibility and wouldn't you know – it started to rain. I was even more bummed! But 15 minutes of rain was just what the doctor ordered. We could see the mountains, and it was perfect!

We did our first look on the shore of the Hyalite Reservoir and drove up to the Grotto Falls trailhead together in our little home on wheels. Our photographer, Jackie, came with us and caught some candid moments in the van. It was so nice. We walked the mile up to the falls together, and I collected every stick on the trail in my dress on the way up.

Our close friend, Matt, who drove up from Arizona, played music as we walked in (Wildflowers by Tom Petty), and Patrick's brother, John, was our officiant. He has such a way with words. We wrote our own vows and Patrick's were beautiful, and I made mine funny! I was like 'oh no'! He made me cry. We got to enjoy time together while taking photos, and we met with family in a pavilion on the reservoir to eat and laugh, and we put a fire in the fire ring and stayed until the stars came out.

In the last year, we have purchased property in Montana. We had talked about living closer to family and friends, and we finally pulled the trigger!" –Emily, the bride