Why I Became an Elopement Photographer

Hey there! I’m Donna Marie!

I am a wedding and elopement photographer based in upstate NY, with a focus on unconventional and adventure(ish) elopements.

A lot of people follow me online, but have never met me personally—so I wanted to take the time to let you get to know me a little better and tell you some interesting facts about me. Whether you’re thinking about hiring me or are just curious to read about what drives me to be an elopement photographer, I’m glad you’re here!

I’m not close with my family

Now before I get into this, this isn’t meant as a sob story. This is just how my life unfolded. And I’m okay with this. I’m happy, healthy, and my experience has definitely shaped who I am today.

I don’t have your traditional, positive (or mostly positive) relationship with family members. I wasn’t able to have my father walk me down the aisle on my wedding day (nor did I want him to). The only family member who I have a healthy relationship with is my mother. I didn’t grow up in a healthy household and as a result, I obtained legal (and financial) independence at the age of 16. This essentially means I entered into adulthood at a pretty young age. I strongly believe that my early emergence into adulthood shaped my resilience, level of grit, and honed my problem solving skills.

I didn’t come into photography until significantly later in life. Truthfully, I never saw myself as an elopement photographer. I picked up a camera when I was 24 and had my son. I wanted to capture as many moments as I could to document and chronicle his growth. From there, a fire was ignited and a passion developed. As the years progressed, I spent time photographing babies, seniors, families, boudoir, pets and couples. But it was couples that hit differently. I loved everything about documenting the emotion and love found, nurtured and cared for between two people. This organically led to photographing weddings. Big, traditional weddings. Weddings with large families.

As someone who doesn’t have an existing relationship with a 95% of their family, big weddings stung to photograph at times. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love it. I fell quickly in love with photographing weddings—but I felt like there was a little something missing.

If I could go back in time, I would do it so differently.

My own wedding was traditional. It was on the smaller side, roughly 50(ish) guests, and the large majority of them were my husband’s family. It was important to my husband to have his grandparents with us on our day, as they raised him. If I had known an elopement could have been anything I wanted, it would have been a full day with my husband, myself, his grandparents, and my mother. Instead, I was under the impression that eloping meant doing some grandiose get-a-way, to hike and take in epic views, with no one other than just my husband and myself.

We spent thousands of dollars on our wedding, invited guests we don’t speak to on the regular, and treated it like a traditional, full-sized wedding. Not to mention, I wasn’t as in love with my wedding photos as I wanted to be and we ended up pretty disappointed.

When my husband and I married, I wasn’t quite a full fledged wedding photographer. I worked primarily as an associate shooter, while I learned and developed my own style. I was also hesitant to dive head first into a career of photography as I was working on my Master’s in Clinical Psychology with the intent to pursue a doctorate in Psychological Research.

So for several years, I continued to photograph traditional weddings. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a full-size, traditional wedding. I just never want someone to feel pressured into having a traditional wedding, or any wedding that doesn’t align with who they are. This in tandem with speaking to so many couples who wish they could have had a wedding that was more meaningful to them, inspired me to begin my shift to smaller weddings and elopements in 2020.

My biggest goal in my business is to help other couples avoid mistakes like mine, and other couples who have expressed regret in their decision. I’m so much more than just an elopement photographer. I’m here to support you every step of the way as you plan your day.

I also realize that not everyone is “adventurous”.

Not everyone is an avid hiker, but may still really want those epic views for their wedding day. I use the term “adventure(ish)”. I, myself, am an adventure(ish) person.

A couple may want to go against the grain and also experience something new, something they’ve never done before. Part of my job is to show you that you can absolutely have an adventure elopement without having to be a survivalist. There are plenty of options based on your skill level in the outdoors, and there are plenty of options that don’t involve the outdoors if that’s not what you’re dreaming of. There are no hard-fast rules when it comes to eloping—what you say goes, so the possibilities are endless.

Each elopement that I get to help craft with my couples brings me so much joy—and then to see them live in the moment on the day of their union makes it even better. This is why I became an elopement photographer. To guide couples in experiencing an epic wedding day, regardless of what that looks like. (And to take some bombass photos for them to enjoy for the years to come.)

My purpose is to serve and empower all the introverted, awkward in-front-of-the-lens, adventure(ish) couples who want to have an authentic, true-to-you, non-traditional wedding experience. Because what matters most is not a large production wedding day, but rather the emotions you experience as the day unfolds. Whether that be in a place with easy to reach epic views, or any place or location that embodies who you are as a couple.

Want to learn more about me? Check out these posts:
Yes, I’m asexual. No, I’m not broken.
Who in the heck is Donna Marie?


Let's adventure