Dreaming of a fall wedding with the best of everything: water, mountains, and forests? Shannon and Ryan’s Thunder Island wedding day is the perfect inspiration for PNW couples looking for a truly stunning spot to say “I do!”
These two met over ten years ago during a camping trip in college and have been together ever since. And when an outdoor adventure leads you to the love of your life, that’s not a hobby you’re going to give up anytime soon! Ryan even popped the question on top of the Grand Teton! If that isn’t one of the most unique ways to propose, I don’t know what is!
When they inquired about their fall Thunder Island wedding day, I knew they would be the perfect fit for the more unique client experience I offer because of their adventurous spirit and love for doing anything outside. But when they told me about their idea for a rock climbing engagement photo session…I knew this would be one of my favorite sessions! I’ll never forget the joy on Shannon’s face as she scaled Smith Rock in a gorgeous dress. Couples like these are one in a million, and I knew even then how lucky I was to be the one they trusted to document their love story!
After months of planning and preparations, they were excited to finally tie the knot. But you’ve probably guessed by now that there was no traditional church ceremony in the cards for these lovers! No chance! On a breezy October 2022 morning, we headed out to Thunder Island near the Columbia River Gorge for their one-of-a-kind wedding day.
The morning began with Shannon and her bridal party getting ready at a historic house at Cascade Locks. After finishing up hair and makeup with the extremely talented Marina Haynes, it was time to step into her dress. Shannon wore a simple, elegant gown from Brides For a Cause paired with a long, flowing sheer cape, a fun twist on the traditional veil—not to mention an absolute treat to capture on camera!
After the last swipe of lipstick had been applied, we headed outside for a first look with Ryan. He waited for her staring out at the gorgeous lake, but when he turned and saw Shannon, you could tell he’d never seen anything more beautiful. The couple shared a quiet moment together on Thunder Island, with the Bridge of the Gods towering behind them before the rest of their family and wedding party joined for portraits. I love when couples are open to doing a first look and even the wedding party photos beforehand because it makes the rest of the day run so much more smoothly. Not to mention, the couple can actually enjoy the party they’ve planned without feeling tugged away for a photo shoot!
Their ceremony was set up overlooking the beautiful Columbia river with mountains towering behind it. As a lone guitarist played, Shannon and Ryan’s best friends headed down the aisle. I’m such a sucker for live music during a ceremony! And I’m equally as thrilled when the officiant is someone who truly knows the couple, weaving in pieces of their story and jokes with the essential words that transform them into husband and wife. As a friend of Shannon and Ryan led the ceremony, the intimate group of friends and family they’d gathered cried laughed and cheered. The bridesmaids in their gorgeous green dresses left the ceremony in style: an overflowing golf cart. The laughing groomsmen followed in their black suits with patterned ties.
After the ceremony, we all went right to enjoy the cocktail hour! Outside in the breezy autumn air, Ryan and Shannon savored their special moments together with their family. For the reception, we went to the Gorge Pavilion, where the bridal party had an epic entrance full of great dance moves.
I also loved that Shannon and Ryan had tons of sweet touches that were uniquely “them” sprinkled throughout their reception, like an audio guest book that guests would record on an old rotary phone! I’ve never seen anything like it before. They also decorated the venue with printed pictures of various adventures they’d shared with their friends. These two are so lucky to have gathered a tribe that values adventure just as much as they do. You can just tell they are going to have the most exciting life together!
Then, the dance floor opened to the beats of DJ John Ross, and it was full until the party shut down! But in keeping with the personal nature of the celebration, this wasn’t just your average dance party. Even some of the dance moves had special significance! There was one moment when all the groomsmen fell to the ground, laid on their back, and wiggled their arms and legs in the air like a dead bug—a hallmark wedding reception dance move Shannon’s late grandpa will always be remembered for. At that moment, as everyone laughed and danced along, it truly felt like he was there with them to celebrate their special day.
Shannon and Ryan crowd-surfed their way through the night, fully enjoying a day packed with great friends, beautiful views, and special touches that showed their personalities. While this couple is absolutely one of a kind, it made me wish to fill a booking calendar with more rock-climbing, adventure-seeking, openhearted couples just like them! So, if you’re planning a Thunder Island wedding or elopement or are just looking to bring the spirit of adventure to your celebration, I would love to hear from you! Get in touch through my contact page today, and let’s start planning a celebration that’s completely unique to you!
Photographer: Taylor Denton Photography
Videography: Casperson Productions
Venue: The Locks Thunder Island at Cascade Locks
Wedding Coordinator: EJP Events
Hair + Makeup: Marina Haynes
Catering: Crave Catering
Cake: Fleur Cakes
Wedding Dress: Brides For a Cause
Music: John Ross Music
Ready to book your own Thunder Island wedding? Click on the link below to inquire!