In setting their intention, one couple cuts their guest list and creates a small, family wedding in the remote mountains of Washington State.

Sam and Julia knew that their future was bound to this place: the Pacific Northwest. Since meeting in college back in Maryland, they had traveled the world together, visiting over a dozen National Parks in more than 5 countries. Nature had come to define for them their own story. Exhilarating ascents, disorienting twists and turns, surprising changes in weather, sudden darkness. They learned new skills to best address this new territory. They dropped old habits that no longer served. They set out on a new path together that would take them away from their homes and families.

On the way, they fell deeply in love. Together, they explored the highest mountains of lush Peru, the jungles of Central America, the bays of Florida, the glaciers of Alaska, and the immense Sequoias of California’s central coast. But when they both landed jobs in the Puget Sound area, they got busy settling in, enjoying weekends in the Olympic National Park and Mt. Baker National Park. In this landscape—and nowhere else—they could imagine a good future of their own making.

And when they decided to marry, they knew they wanted their wedding to take place in this region of the country they loved. How perfect, then, that they chose to hold their wedding in the North Cascades. For there is wildness, peacefulness, and abundance. The special place they chose, near Washington Pass, also offered their guests plenty of fresh air and fishing and starry nights.

Their guest list, they knew, would be a small, select group of people. Those closest to them, those most invested in the life they were pursuing far away from those very ones they wanted near to them: their families. And the couple used the money they would have spent on a large, destination-type wedding with a caterer, musicians, and pretty venue, to instead help their loved ones make the trip out. Once here, they hoped, their families would understand why they planned to settle so far from their families.

“We want to invite only our parents and siblings,” they told me at our first meeting at a coffee shop. “We want them to fall in love with Washington State just as we have. Only then will they understand why we can’t go home, why we must start our married lives here.”

Julia’s family met Sam’s family over the week they spent together around the wedding. The couple had rented a large cabin that comfortably but modestly housed them all.

And when it was time to begin the wedding ceremony, we all gathered near the river outside. Sam’s family had helped construct the supports for the chuppa and his 3 brothers and a cousin now held it over our heads, protecting the couple from a hot summer wind. Its cover was a collage of photographs from all of the adventures Julia and Sam had enjoyed together. First the Bride, then the Groom, honored their parents for their unconditional love and their own enduring marriages.

Just before offering their vows, Sam and Julia read a poem they had written together, “Climbing Mountains,” which ended with:

Some look at mountains as a hurdle,

We look at them as an endeavor,

Never trying to go around a mountain,

But rather climbing it together.

At the end of their ceremony, they broke a glass to the shouts of “mazel tov!” And the mountain echoed their voices, the river gurgled, and the winds brought a freshening coolness just as the sun set behind them.

The power of this couple’s vision was so beautiful! In honoring their families in this special wedding trip, they also honored their own love and their future together. I know their parents were sad to say goodbye, when the time came. But what a gift they took with them: the memory of a special, loving tribute wedding, honoring this couple’s families and the love between them.

A Perfect Wedding Site in the Mountains