Oregon Badlands Elopement Bridal Shoot

We invite you to join us for a sunset wedding on the windswept expanse of the Oregon Badlands.

Every year, over 25,000 giddy couples exchange vows in Oregon. They are often lured into the seductive vortex of Oregon’s Seven Wonders, never to return. For example, while pouring over wedding-photo submissions for this issue, our editors counted 19 Smith Rock photo shoots. Nineteen.

Oregon has an abundance of untold wonders, so we’re always impressed by the brave souls who venture beyond the venerable seven: Crater Lake, Painted Hills, Smith Rock, Wallowa Mountains, Mount Hood, Columbia River Gorge, and the Oregon Coast. We salute the intrepid adventurers who seek out the unexpected, this-will-never-crack-a-top-10-list landscapes…like the Oregon Badlands. If the badass name conjures images of outlaws and unrelenting but dramatic terrain, that’s about right. It’s an entirely original backdrop for celebrating an adventurous love story.

There’s a breathtaking grandeur to the wide-open desert wilderness, dotted with ancient juniper trees and dramatic volcanic outcroppings, and strewn with feathery sagebrush. A hike through the Badlands Wilderness can yield some amazing Instagram-worthy sights: Native American petroglyphs, eroded lava formations, and explosions of technicolor wildflowers. Standing in the midst of these flatlands, one can imagine a bygone era of covered wagons, campfires and ghost towns. On the day of our sunset shoot, the Badlands showed off its sexy side and photographer Victoria Carlson owned the magic-hour radiance. As shoot stylist and floral artist, Marisa Kozak Ringe of Revel Petals says, “Victoria captured the many moods of the desert prairie, with the glowing late afternoon light and the dark moody skies in the distance…creating a gorgeous romance between heaven and earth.”

Amazing Wedding Florals

For the florals, Marisa foraged spring twigs and desert sage to offset soft sunset-colored ranunculus, tulips, poppies, and daffodils. She chose velvet linens for a luxurious touch that provided a sensual contrast with the wild desolation of the desert. And because the pioneer history is palpable as one gazes across the dry creek beds and craggy rock formations to the mountains beyond, she incorporated both vintage and modern elements as a representation of past, present, and future.

Given the temporal nature of cut botanicals, Marisa was ever mindful of the impact her florals had on the larger environment. She uses only domestic flowers and, when she has enough lead time, actually plants and raises flowers for client events on her own property. Floral foam is a no-go for all Revel arrangements since, according to Marisa, it is disastrously non-biodegradable and seriously toxic stuff. As an eco-sensitive florist — she’s all about sustainability and connection — Marisa attracts couples who share her ethos. She explains, “I view every wedding as an opportunity to expand love. Here are two people, pledging their love and vowing eternity to each other. I pledge alongside them to love the earth and my children, vowing to hold fast to what I believe is the ‘green’ way to do things. My clients all have one thing in common: they believe in protecting our environment, even if it means making hard choices. They don’t treat their big day as a fleeting day of a commodity, but as a collection of thoughtful choices that represent the lives they are setting out to live.”

Wedding Cake To-Die-For

For couples with “green” leanings, working with like-minded vendors can transform an attractive but generic event into one that feels authentically rooted in a sense of place. Nickol Hayden-Cady, the talented pastry chef behind Foxtail Bakery, has some delicious locavore tendencies. She makes every single creation from scratch, utilizing local ingredients whenever possible — everything from Tumalo lavender and Oregon hazelnuts to farm-fresh eggs. When asked about the cake she whipped up for our shoot, Nickol says Central Oregon sunsets and the amazing Badlands views were her muses. She adds, “I used colored buttercream to get the texture on the bottom. I wanted the top tiers to feel romantic, so I used naked icing to achieve a rustic outdoor look.”

Bridal Hair + Makeup

The richly textured prairie is a stunning backdrop for the glowing beauty of a modern bride. Makeup artist Cassidy Elise took inspiration from both Revel Petals’ color scheme and the high desert terrain. Cassidy says, “The bride’s look was a glowy mix of peaches, a hint of plum and a splash of champagne. With an emphasis on wind, spring grasses, and movement, the look I wanted was soft, feminine, and fresh — yet fierce, since we were in the Badlands.”  She found additional inspiration from model Jade Hauser. “The moment I met Jade, I knew I wanted to emphasize her eyes,” said Cassidy, “That’s something I like to do when I first meet someone, before doing their hair and makeup. I gauge their best feature and then work to highlight that.”

Fresh Wedding Stationery

When choosing wedding stationery, stylist Marisa wanted something fresh, but also with a subtle, handmade vibe to underscore the rough-and-tumble setting. Katie Ralls of Katie Michelle Designs is known for her bespoke wedding stationery, mixing watercolor, calligraphy, and hand-drawn elements. Katie took her cues from Marisa’s vision, working with a monochromatic scheme of peach and blush, with pops of white. She gave the suite just the right feminine touches with hand-painted swaths of watercolor and floral accents. When working with couples, Katie says, “I like the challenge of creating unique and timeless pieces that reflect who they are as a pair.”

The floral aesthetic and stationery needed more than just the Badlands backdrop, so we aimed to add some swanky fabrics with a refined but earthy feel, in a color range that didn’t pull attention from the bride or the view. Ordinary linens wouldn’t do, so we called up our friends at Tavola Linen Rentals for some luxe velvet table coverings. We’re fans of their fabulous selections that don’t scream “I rented this along with 237 other brides.”

Victoria Carlson Photography

When landscape plays such a huge role, the photographer needs the passion, artistic eye, and technical skills to capture the grandeur of the setting without losing the intimacy of the moment. Local lenswoman Victoria Carlson has an innate ability to capture the little moments of joy between couples and holds a deep abiding love for the Central Oregon wilderness. “The Badlands are such an awesome place to shoot,“ Victoria enthuses. “I love the eastern edge of Central Oregon and the rawness of the landscape. The area is so close to Bend but it still feels like another world.” In particular, she was inspired by the aesthetic of the desert prairie because, as she said, “Sometimes it’s nice to shoot with a landscape that has minimal color to it. It makes the colors of the subject pop — in this case, Jade’s beautiful red hair.”

The Oregon high desert has no shortage of awe-inspiring spots for weddings and photo shoots. There are countless locations that require little embellishment. Get out there and explore the unlikely spots among the wonderland of bluffs, berms, and boughs; along the snowmelt springs that trickle their way down through untouched wilderness; amidst flower-filled meadows shown on exactly zero maps; along the shores of shimmering mountain lakes scattered throughout the Cascades and the endless options beyond. Central Oregon is an amazing place for adventurous couples who have the imagination to push beyond the seduction of the Seven Wonders and seek out unexpected spots as unique and epic as they are. -WV

-Written by Catrina Gregory

The Incredible Vendors

Location: Oregon Badlands  |  Model: Jade Hauser  |  Photographer: Victoria Carlson Photography  |  Florist & Design: Revel Petals  | Cake: Foxtail Bakeshop | Dress: Bella Brides  |  Hair & Makeup: Cassidy Elise ArtistryCalligraphy & Paper: Katie Michelle Designs  |  Table Linens: La Tavola Linens

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