Santa Cruz Elopement in the Redwood Forest Wedding | Kyler & Carolita

June 27, 2020 Wonderful Elopements

Wowzers, where do I start with this one?! None of us expected what happened in 2020. I've realized just how much I love being a wedding photographer. Because even in the darkest of times, there is love. What are weddings, if not a celebration of love? I needed this reminder more than ever! 

I first chatted with Kyler & Coralita over Facetime, where they were in warm Tennessee, and me here in the Foggy Bay Area of California. Kyler grew up here in Santa Cruz among the Redwoods and knew he wanted to get married here, among these breathtaking giants. Carolita envisioned a beautiful green foresty theme. Then the pandemic hit. But these two lovebirds would not let a little pandemic stop them. They had to make many, many changes! Their wedding was limited to only ten guests. They no longer had a venue, caterer, florist, etc. They and their family put their heads together and figured out how to host a wedding in Kyler's parent's backyard. It took a lot of love and hard work, but it was all coming together beautifully. Then the world just had to throw one more curveball at these two soon-to-be newlyweds. Their flights to California got canceled last minute. I might have just canceled everything then. Not Kyler and Carolita! They drove the 2,500 miles from Tennessee to Santa Cruz, California! It took them a whole three days! 

Brunetter Bride smiling.
Bridal bouquet with white flowers and greenery.
Brunette Bride with bouquet.

Carolita's sister-in-law did her hair and makeup, and it felt like two sisters who were chatting away and hanging out like they always do. This casual, laid-back vibe set the tone for the rest of the day.

They love the forest and everything green, so I tried to incorporate as much green as possible. I found the most beautiful succulents outside in the garden, perfect for photographing Carolita's beautiful green wedding shoes and her gorgeous Tanzanite wedding ring. 

Tanzanite wedding ring on succulent.
Wedding dress hanging in a tree.
Green wedding shoes on a bed of succulents
Bride getting her make up done.
Make up artist doing brides make up
bride sitting in front of mirror having her make up done.
Bride smiling in mirror checking her make up

Kyler was your typical nervous groom. He is a charming guy, and it was apparent how much he loves Carolita. He is quite the artist and gave me the most beautiful watercolor painting of the redwood forest as a thank you gift. Check him out on Instagram

Groom putting on his navy blue jacket
Groom putting on his brown leather shoes.
Groom smiling in his blue jacket and forest green tie.

They had their first look outside under a gorgeous redwood tree. Where else? It was super sweet and genuine. Kyler was amazed by his beautiful bride. I loved when Carolita made Kyler turn around and show his outfit off too! 

Bride walking up behind groom for their first look
groom turning around to see bride for the first time
groom taking his sunglasses off to get a good look at his bride.
Bride and groom adoring each other during their first look under a redwood tree.
Bride smiling at groom during their first look.
Bride making the groom turn around and show off his outfit too.
Groom dotting at his beautiful bride during their first look under a redwood tree

Kyler's family put a lot of work into preparing the redwood grove behind their home for the ceremony. It was the perfect setting for their unique and intimate wedding ceremony. Kyler's dad even handmade their wedding arch that Kyler's mom then decorated.

Triangular wooden wedding arch surrounded by redwood trees
detail of wedding arch floral greenery and white draping
Triangular wooden wedding arch with white draping and greenery surrounded by redwoods
Detail of triangular wooden wedding arch.

Being surrounded by redwoods and the small group of people gathered together gave the ceremony a spiritual feeling. It was intimate and beautiful. As if the redwoods themselves approved of the ceremony.

father walking down the aisle under redwood trees
groom looking at his bride as she is walking down the aisle
bride smiling at groom as she walks down the aisle with her father.
Father giving daughter a big hug after walking her down the aisle.
Bride and groom standing in front of wedding arch at their ceremony surrounded by redwoods

Carolita and Kyler are both big tea drinkers and decided to incorporate their unique tea ceremony. They had all the different leaves and spices ready on a tray and mixed them in the ceremony to form their unique blend of tea. The tea was later drunk at the reception after the sun had set and it started getting cold. It was delicious!

Bride and groom mixing their own tea blend for a special tea ceremony
details of tea ceremony
Bride a groom's unique tea ceremony for wedding

Kyler's brother was in charge of the rings, and he had some exceptional plans in mind. See, Kyler once decided to prank him by putting his gift inside multiple boxes, and Miles decided to return the favor, but with a twist. After unpacking all the boxes and not finding a ring, he leaped over a tree stump to retrieve a Lego AT-AT that the rings were in. I vote for more Lego AT-AT ring holders.

Best man taking rings out of a lego AT-AT
Lego AT-AT that held wedding rings
guests laughing at wedding ceremony
Bride and groom holding hands during wedding ceremony.
bride smiling at groom during wedding ceremony
bride and grooms first kiss at wedding ceremony
Groom smiling at wedding ceremony
bride and groom running off together after wedding ceremony

After the family portraits, we headed over to the Forrest of Nisine Marks for their pictures. We talked before their wedding about possible photo locations and quickly agreed that Nisine Marks was the perfect place. Kyler, growing up here in Santa Cruz, loves the forest and has many fond memories. It was beautiful and peaceful, all the birds singing as if they are singing just for these two newlyweds.

Bride and groom crossing a stream in the redwood forest
bride and groom on a fallen redwood tree.
bride and groom on a fallen redwood tree.
bride and groom on a fallen redwood tree.
bride and groom on a fallen redwood tree surrounded by other redwoods.
bride and groom walking through the redwood forest
Bride and groom sharing a kiss surrounded by redwood trees
bride and groom walking through the forest of Nisine Marks
bride smiling at groom in the redwood forest
bride and groom initmate moment surrounded by redwood trees in the forest of Nisine Marks
Detail of brides Tanzanite wedding ring resting on grooms arm in the forest of Nisine Marks
Bride and groom in the forest of Nisine Marks

Kyler's mom became the florist, cake baker, decorator, and more for their wedding day. She made this beautiful cake, and it was as delicious as it looks. She is a fantastic baker! Unfortunately, Carolita ran out of time to find two dinosaurs for their cake topper before their long drive up to California. But her new mother-in-law surprised her with these two cute golden dinosaur cake toppers that were precisely what she had in mind. I loved how they included books in their wedding decor. It was yet another detail that made their wedding so unique to them. Carolita is a big reader.

Wedding cake with succulents and golden dinosaur toppers
detail of dinosaur toppers on wedding cake
candle and redwood leaves on reception table
candle, books, and redwood leaves as decor
candle, books, and redwood leaves as decor
books surrounded by leaves on reception table

The reception was small and filled with eating delicious food, good conversations, and heartfelt toasts. It was the kind of toasts you only find at such intimate affairs. Their favorite local restaurant, Sweet Pea's Cafe, provided delicious food.

toasting glasses together at intimate wedding reception
holding a glass up for a toast
bride and groom laughing during wedding toasts
father of the bride giving a wedding toasts

It felt so special to be a part of this day. Thank you, Carolita and Kyler, for being brave and facing all the obstacles. Your love is pure and knows no bounds. 

“COVID-19 had us changing and updating our wedding plans almost up until the day of! Throughout all of it, Danieka was professional, flexible, thoughtful, and responsive. While we were unsure of many details, we were never unsure of our decision to work with her! We were delighted to go through the pictures and see the thought that went into capturing the big moments and little details of our day. We were nervous about being in front of a camera, but Danieka did an excellent job of making us feel comfortable”