For the truly wild at heart adventurous souls, photographer Holly Wallace of ‘Holly Wallace Photography and Film’ has uncovered a budding wedding trend. Pushing the envelope and flipping the traditional wedding on it’s side, ‘adventure weddings’ are becoming an increasingly popular and unforgettable elopement and wedding choice. With it’s world renowned destinations and stunning scenery, New Zealand is the perfect place for such adventure weddings- including this incredible real wedding of Queenstown adventure couple Sarah and Jeremy.
For Jeremy, a former pro mountain biker and Sarah an adventure racer, an out of this world wedding was the perfect experience for them and their guests- flying the entire wedding party to the top of the Tasman Glacier and skiing down. A unique and unforgettable experience for their ceremony, all captured by Holly (including her hanging out of the helicopter to get the best shot!)
We talked with the oh so experienced and talented Holly to find out more about this growing phenomenon.
Tell us a little about you/your business and why you do what you do?
I come from a journalism background. I worked as a print journalist and then TV producer and director for many years before getting into wedding photography. I was working in the UK as a freelancer on documentaries and needed something to keep me going between contracts. My friends were getting married and asked me to take their photos. They had a kooky wedding at a manor/ castle in Bath, and I think because I’d never shot a wedding before, I had fresh eyes and just had fun. Some of their friends then asked me to shoot their weddings, and then friends of their friends etc. So it took off quite organically. I found weddings had all the same elements as a good film – drama, love, romance, politics, tears and laughter. Everywhere I turned my camera was a story and I found I loved it! We had our daughter in the UK and decided to move home to Queenstown 3 years ago for a better lifestyle and to bring her up in the mountains. That’s when I started my full time photography business. I also saw there was a niche not being filled in the local market for high-end wedding films, so I teamed up with husband Josh who’s an incredible cinematographer, and we started offering films as well which have really taken off.
What was it that sparked the idea for adventure weddings?
It was my second summer season in Queenstown and a couple who were friends with another local couple who’s wedding I’d shot, approached me to photograph their wedding. The first question they asked was “can you ski?” I replied yes and found out they were both really into adventure sports and wanted to fly their entire wedding party to the top of the Tasman Glacier to get married, and then ski down! I’d never skied down a glacier before but was pretty confident I could do it, so said yes. It was one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever been part of. I thought there must be other couples all over the world who’d like to do something like this, and Queenstown/ NZ is so set up for this kind of thing.
How many adventure weddings have you done?
So far, just one that’d I’d class as an ‘adventure’ wedding. There’s lots of mountain top elopements where we fly to insane locations for their ceremony and photos, but I think of an adventure wedding as something you have to work for – something that involves an element of adventure and adrenalin. I’ve shot one bungy wedding which had the same vibe. They said I do and then jumped off together. That was fun.
Do you feel there is a growing trend towards these type of weddings?
I think couples are looking for more and more unique experiences on their wedding day, that express their personality as a couple. They want it to be memorable, a once in a life-time experience they will never forget. For couples who are into adventure sport or want to push the boundaries, I think adventure weddings will offer that extra edge of excitement and sense of accomplishment on their wedding day.
How common are elopements?
More and more common. About 40% of my business at the moment and growing. Couples don’t want the hassle or expense of a big wedding, and they also want it to be about them and not get tangled up with family politics or outside pressures and expectations. Couples want to have ownership of their ceremony, and how and where they commit their lives to each other. I think it’s great, and definitely becoming more acceptable. They often then go home and throw a big party or have a reception with family and friends, but the sacred part was theirs alone. Small weddings where they bring up to 15 guests are also growing. They usually head to a nice restaurant for dinner afterwards and that way they can still have their immediate families and a handful of friends with them on the day.
What is your most favourite thing about adventure weddings like this and/or elopements?
They are so intimate. You really get to know your couple, and share an unforgettable moment in their lives. We had one wedding at the end of last winter where the couple hired a helicopter for the afternoon and we just flew from one incredible location in Fiordland to another. Tutoko Glacier, Lake Quill, down Milford Sound, and back to Cecil Peak overlooking Queenstown. We had a perfect day and got some incredible imagery. We all were on such a high when we got back to Queenstown and have become good friends since as we shared such a special day together. You don’t tend to get that feeling at big weddings. A lot more distractions and expectations of the bride and groom.
Queenstown is such a beautiful place to live, do you feel this lends a hand to the type of weddings you do/clients you work with?
Yes absolutely. I can remember my first heli-wedding after getting back from the UK and I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. I realised the epic nature of weddings here. Sure, there aren’t any castles, but wow the mountains and light down here blow your mind! The weather is always shifting and moving which creates such drama in photos, and the seasons also shift so you get snow, summer greens, crazy autumn colours and spring blossoms etc. You can’t really ever get bored! And that’s why couples come here, for the incredible backdrops and fun vibe of Queenstown. They’ve usually come here on holiday and fallen in love with the place and then decide to get married here. It attracts people who love nature and the great outdoors, but also want a bit of luxury and good food and wine, all of which Queenstown has in abundance.
What is your favourite New Zealand destination to travel to and work in?
That’s a tricky question. You can’t really beat the Southern Lakes for dramatic scenery, but I’ve also shot some amazing weddings up on Waiheke Island, and an amazing DIY wedding on Banks Peninsula which had stunning scenery. I’ve always wanted to take a couple into Fiordland, to either Milford or Doubtful sound for their wedding. So wild down there. I love variety, so I get excited about any new destination. There’s beauty everywhere in all different forms and it’s fun playing with different light.
Can we expect to see more adventure weddings like this in the future?
Yes, definitely. I’m working out some adventure packages with local guides and celebrants, so people can choose to climb, mountain bike, kayak or hike to various amazing locations to tie the knot. So watch this space. I think making adventures more accessible, people will see they can easily do something out of the box on their wedding day.
Do you have a favourite wedding? Tell us about it?
Wowsers. That’s a tough question. Sarah and Jeremy’s adventure wedding was definitely a highlight in my career, but I’ve been pretty lucky to be part of so many fun weddings with awesome people. Another stand out wedding was a same sex couple from Australia, who lived in New York City and ran an avant garde puppet theatre company. They made everyone hike to the top of a small mountain in the middle of the lake for their ceremony which took about an hour to get up. All their friends were so interesting and fun – clowns, artists, poets, filmmakers etc. They had their reception at Mount Nicholas Station which is one of my favourite venues, and lit a huge bonfire on the beach. At midnight everyone got naked and went skinny dipping! Definitely a unique wedding:) And then there’s the weddings where you feel like you’ve known the couple for ever and end up really good friends. Love it when that happens. I have such a cool job.
Describe your ideal wedding in 3 words?
Fun, authentic, intimate.
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