This has all been a year over due and still felt like a scramble.

Matt and I got engaged in the Hoh Rainforest (a part of Olympic National Park) January 1, 2016. We camped there for New Year’s among the snow and trees. I knew I wanted our engagement photos in the same space: documentation of this place that’s come to trigger serenity and love and adventure in me. The woods and river will always remind me of lying awake and shivering in my sleeping bag, the fairy lights Matt had strung throughout our tent, the taste of our wine and chocolates on my lips, and his voice – trembling from nerves or the cold or both – telling me how much the past few years together had meant to him.

As 2016 began to slip into 2017, we had yet to plan an ounce of our wedding. We dove into the overflowing lists of wedding advice, photographers, websites, and blogs. Coming up dizzy and dazzled, we collected ourselves.

This is about us. Don’t forget. You and me. 

Repeated over and over like a mantra.

Wanting engagement photos, we had to find a photographer with a style that matched ours. As popular and trendy as the light, pastel color pallet is, I’ve been coming into my own and realizing that’s just not me. It can be gorgeous, and it’s everywhere, but it’s not me. It’s not us.

I came across Nick + Danée and knew we had our photographers. They’re adventerous, have a portfolio full of nature-centric shots, and have an aesthetic Matt and I both agreed on.

So onto the next part: what to wear?

I moved to a vegan diet almost a year ago, but getting serious about being similarly conscious about my fashion choices came months later. It’s a process, once you make that decision, that’s slow and expensive (I’m choosing to replace items with pieces of quality). This means purchasing close to entirely new winter/ summer wardrobes. Being in the middle of this process, I have quite a few items in my closet that are tagged to eventually get replaced. So I knew purchasing new pieces for our shoot would allow me find exactly what I wanted, but I could also use those pieces to replace others. BUT.  There are a lot of little things to look for and know. Sometimes things slip through because I’m still learning. (Scroll to “The Pants” section to see how UNBELIEVABLY oblivious I was.)

Our shoot was going to take place in the cold, in a rainforest. I had orginally settled on wearing heeled boots, black pants, and a large, chunky sweater. Then came the time to pluck these ideas out of my imagination and find their physical counterparts.

 

The Shoes

I’ve been looking for vegan shoes for a while now with little luck. Being into boots lately, I’ve gone back and forth between brands like Will’s Vegan Shoes and Matt & Nat, trying to find something that would be okay on the trails but reasonable as an everyday shoe. I stumbled upon these boots from Style & Co. (via Macy’s) that are faux leather. From everything I researched, the terms inside shoes that read “Man-made Upper” / “Man-made Sole” are the green lights you’re looking for. I loved these for their city-shoes-meets-hiking-boots appeal. Since they’re synthetic, they are a bit stiff the first few times wearing them, but after that they soften up and wear wonderfully.

Buy them here: Style & Co.’s Caitlin Lace-up Booties

 

The Pants

I tried. I did. I was making SUCH AS FUSS about finding a non-wool top that I assumed THERE COULDN’T POSSIBLY ANYTHING WRONG WITH JEANS. How wrong I was. And not just wrong, oblivious.

To be completely honest, I didn’t realized my mistake until I sat with my outfit and started planning this post. I was crushed, disappointed, and groaning aloud for my own blindness.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

“CONTAINS NON-TEXTILE PARTS OF ANIMAL ORIGIN”

Somehow, I missed this line on the tag and, for some reason, I had assumed their branded label was faux leather. I had seen on their website that the list of materials used in making the jeans were fine and allowed myself to put my gaurd down.

I’m disappointed. I REALLY love these pants, loved that the details and buttons were black instead of silver or gold, and didn’t want to take them off after trying them on.  Unfortunately, they made the choice to stitch in a leather label that serves no functional purpose.

I know better now and will do better in the future.

WARNING: NOT VEGAN – See them here: Madewell’s 9″ High-Rise Skinny Jean

 

The Top

I checked several vegan online retailers, but anything similar to what I had in mind were far out of my current budget. I turned to brick-and-mortar stores, going from mall to mall, company to company.  It took weeks. WEEKS. I was frustrated and nearly gave up more than once. Nearly every knit sweater I found, either in women’s or men’s sections, contained wool, alpaca fleece, or both.

Within a week of our shoot, I reassesed my options and style choice. I realized I had stumbled into the trap – getting overwhelmed by what EVERYONE ELSE wore in their shoots. Once I allowed myself to relax and consider more options, I found something that worked, that I loved.

Buy it here: Nordstrom – BP Crewneck Raglan Pullover

Side note: The beanie I wore in half of our photos is  The North Face’s Shinsky Beanie and 100% acrylic. It can be reversed and I always wear it with the knit side on the inside.

 

The Experience

Our shoot was scheduled for Sunday, so we made the 4 hour drive from Seattle to the Hoh Rainforest on Saturday. We wandered around the campsite we had occupied a year ago and along the trails offered by the area. Taking our time, we scouted for our “must-have” photo spots. It was a gorgeous day and we stayed until close to sunset. I kept checking the weather app on my phone and grew more and more alarmed as the chance for rain on Sunday increased by the hour.

It’s going to rain tomorrow and ruin everything, I heard myself saying.

It’ll be fine, he reassured me over and over.

We spent the night in Forks since it was the closest town nearby. We sat huddled on the bed, waiting for the heater to warm the room, relaying our worries, concerns, and frustrations to eachother. We fretted over outfits, hair, posing, and the rain. In the morning, we made coffee and watched The Mummy Returns on the hotel TV. We got ready and  fretted over outfits, hair, posing, and the rain.

We met Nick and Danée at a bar and grille in Forks for a get-to-know-everyone chat and drink. They were absolutely wonderful, offering us big hugs upon meeting them. Conversation was casual and easy. I’m sure Matt and I rambled, shooting glances at eachother that seemed to say, “I’m freaking out, are you freaking out? We should probably calm down.” Then we got in our respective cars and headed off.

We should have done shots was mumbled between Matt and myself several times over the 45 minute drive to our destination. We tried to laugh off our nerves and the fact that the rain had stopped in Forks – but not in the rainforest.

If you haven’t been in front of a professional camera lens before, it might seem glamorous.  For Matt and I, who tend to be mostly introverted, it was strange. Trying to act intimate in front of two people holding cameras was strange. We tried to laugh, goof off, breathe – ANYTHING to calm down, to look like normal human beings who loved each other, all the while begging that Nick and Danée’s talent as photographers would somehow morph us into photogentic people.

Nick and Danée were absolutely wonderful. They barreled into the rain as if they’d done it a million times before, like every engagement shoot was shot in the rain. They held our bag and coats between shots. They pretended our awkwardness was nonexistent and smiled the entire time. Matt and I held onto eachother, whispering back and forth about what was happening.

They seem excited. Did you see them showing each other the shots they’re getting? Even with our hair matted down and soaked? Something must be working. If they’re excited, we must be okay, right? Yeah. If they’re happy with it, we’ll be fine. Right? RIGHT? Okay.

We moved between the trails and the river bed as the rain continued. We eventually donned hats. We adventured, explored, climbed, jumped, and laughed our way through our shoot. Once it was over, and we were back at the hotel, there was a surrealness that something we spent so much time thinking about was over. I had a flash that this feeling will be reunited with us after our wedding, when we finally say goodnight and are alone with ourselves.

So until that time comes, Matt and I have a lot of planning to do.

 

KMH

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