Kelsey and Josh’s Pictured Rocks, Michigan vow renewal at Chapel Beach celebrated three years of marriage. This day was extra special to me for so many reasons. To start, Kelsey and Josh are amazing friends so to be a part of this with them was such a treat. Kelsey’s also a wedding industry peer, amazing makeup artist and owner of Roman Beauty. So working together for her day was cool. These two were married in an intimate backyard wedding during the COVID pandemic so this vow renewal was a way for them to celebrate again and this time, on a beach, like Kelsey had always kind of dreamed of. Not to mention, Josh loves the UP so he was ready to take any excuse to go up north.
It’s been a dream of mine to photograph an elopement in Pictured Rocks, and one day, I mentioned that to Kelsey while we were having coffee together. She mentioned their anniversary was coming up later in the year and she and Josh were thinking of making a small trip. I watched the wheels turn in her head and the vow renewal came to be. Kelsey and I worked together to plan a fun weekend away for them along with me and Nick.
We booked an Airbnb cabin along a small lake in Wetmore, Michigan, about 10 minutes from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Kelsey and Josh got ready in the cabin together and I attempted to do Kelsey’s hair…We packed up our bags and made our way to Chapel Beach.
Eloping at Chapel Beach requires about a 3 mile hike out to the beach. It’s a relatively easy and flat hike and took us about an hour (we weren’t in any hurry). Once we made it to the beach, Kelsey and Josh tucked away into a corner of the woods, just off the trail, where they got dressed. Kelsey loved the opportunity to wear her Needle & Thread wedding dress again, but this time, with different accessories and no shoes. Josh had rented a tux for their wedding so they rented another one this time around from Friar Tux. (Two actually, because why not have fun).
Once they were dressed and ready to go, we went down to the beach, and despite some others around, managed to have most of the beach to ourselves. It was a cloudy, windy and slightly chilly day and made from some magic with Kelsey’s cathedral veil. They exchanged some vows, reflected on their 3 years of marriage and then Nick and I cheered them on as they said “I do” all over again.
We took photos along the beach for about a half hour before starting the hike back to the car. Kelsey and Josh hiked in their wedding attire but most of the questionable looks from people we passed by came about the flowers. The best moment may have been when we overheard someone asking if the stunning bouquet from Carriage House Florals was wildflowers they had picked along the trail.
Back at the cabin, Josh and Kelsey put together a professional charcuterie board and some snacks for a little celebration along the water. I set up a mostly thrifted lakeshore-inspired tablescape for them on the dock behind the cabin with place cards and menus from Stationery Designs as the finishing touch. They started to snack on their feast and enjoyed the calm scenery before it began to drizzle and we moved the party indoors.
Kelsey and Josh’s elopement-style vow renewal on Chapel Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was such a fun way to both celebrate their marriage and create some lakeshore elopement inspiration. Elopements, while they still involve a lot of planning, anticipation and emotional energy, often feel a bit more relaxed. They can be designed however you want and if that means getting ready together, exchanging vows on a beach, and celebrating privately on a boat dock, then you know I’m here for it.
Eloping in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s upper peninsula is fairly simple but requires some planning.Getting married in Pictured Rocks requires a special use permit. This takes at least 4 weeks to process and costs $100 from the National Park Service. Chapel Beach does not permit any chairs or ceremony set up, so it’s a location best for private elopements or elopements with only a handful of guests. Chapel Beach is best for couples that enjoy longer day hikes and don’t have any, or any guests with, hiking or mobility issues. Mornings after sunrise or evenings before sunset will give you the best light at Chapel Beach and weekdays will have the fewest crowds, especially when the weather begins to cool down. There’s no service in this part of the park so be prepared with a map and always pack emergency and safety gear just like you would for any hike. Pets are not permitted at Chapel Beach, but other areas of Pictured Rocks do allow them. And finally, be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles so everyone can enjoy, and continue to enjoy Pictured Rocks!
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