How one Couple Planned a Post-Elopement Photo Shoot
Ameira and Davy Staudt’s intimate wedding was canceled due to COVID-19, but a post-elopement photo shoot made the marriage feel official.
Their story began at work. Staff at Mark Wahlberg Chevrolet were celebrating two co-workers’ birthdays: the receptionist and Ameira Martin. “Her boyfriend had gotten her a lot of things and I said, ‘Oh, that must be nice’” says Ameira.
Davy Staudt, who also worked with them, was intrigued. “You don’t have a boyfriend?” he asked her. “When he said that, I knew he was hitting on me,” says Ameira—now Ameira Staudt—laughing about it today.
Davy laughs, too. “She’s just so beautiful, and you could tell how sweet she was without talking to her that much,” he says.
“Most people say don’t [date at work],” Ameira says, “but it worked out for us.”
A Change of Plans
Before COVID-19, the couple had planned to wed in a small gathering in Davy’s mother’s backyard—just close family and friends. The couple liked the property’s abundance of trees and intimate setting. “We never wanted anything big,” Davy says.
Then the pandemic hit, and their plans changed. “It honestly gave me the biggest anxiety ever, trying to plan all of this stuff,” says Ameira. “And we [couldn’t] even set a date [for] a later time, because who knows when this is going to be over?”
Given the uncertainty and risk of keeping the original plan, they moved ahead on a new path. “We didn’t want to push it back,” says Ameira. “The most important part was that we got married,” Davy adds. “Neither of us cared about having anything big. [The ceremony] was mostly for our family, for their sake.”
They got married with little fanfare on May 13, first picking up their marriage license at the courthouse and then exchanging rings before an officiant they found through Google. Still, they wanted something more to commemorate the occasion.
Making It Official
Photographer Gabby Sutherland, who’s been covering weddings as Gabriella Sutherland Photography since 2015, gave them the addition they wanted. She encouraged the couple to do a small photo shoot, even though their nuptials had come and gone. Following an elopement with professional photos is “a great way to cut costs and have a more chill wedding,” Sutherland says.
For the Staudts, Sutherland suggested an early September shoot at Cheers Chalet in Lancaster. “We weren’t positive where we wanted to go,” Davy says. “But she sent us some locations, and this one had a little cabin down by the water with lots of trees.” The only two people on the guest list: their moms.
“My mom was living in Canal Winchester, but she [recently] moved to Florida,” Ameira says. “That was a really special thing. She got to see that before she left. I think we would have regretted not having [our moms] there.”
During the shoot, Sutherland says the Staudts were laid-back despite a little unexpected exploring. “Any couple that’s willing to take a golf cart to go up the hill and find what we can find ... is willing to do anything for the photos,” she says.
“I love the woods—all the greenery,” Ameira says. She laughs about the “keepsakes” that she accumulated: branches and leaves that got stuck in her David’s Bridal dress.
The photo session also incorporated the couple’s dog, Archer. “We got him together, and he’s like a child to us,” says Ameira. Sutherland, who loves dogs, says photographing Archer was no problem. “I only needed him to look at me for two seconds to snap the picture.” They lured him with treats.
Photos of the rings and other details rounded out the shoot. “With the photos, with me being in my dress, it felt so much more real,” says Ameira. “I had more feeling and emotion [at the shoot] than when we actually got married.”
Adding to that emotion was capturing the moment Davy first saw Ameira in her gown. She was set on re-creating the oft-photographed first look after missing out on it at their elopement. “As soon as I saw him, I started bawling my eyes out. He truly is everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” Ameira says.
Skipping the details of a traditional wedding—a first look, a formal ceremony and so much more—made the marriage feel somehow unofficial, Davy says. “It still felt like it hadn’t happened. But when we got our pictures taken … that’s when it felt like, ‘OK, now we’re good.’ ”
Photographer Gabby Sutherland weighs in on the concept of pairing a formal portrait session with a private, un-photographed elopement:
COVID has put a damper in weddings so much [in the past] year. I highly recommend, if there are any brides and grooms looking for an alternative route where they can get married in a more relaxed setting and still get their portraits, that they do something like this. Davy and Ameira got married beforehand and scheduled something just for portraits and a first look afterwards. The majority of my brides say that the portraits are the most important photos for their wedding day.
Don't let COVID ruin the opportunity for portraits at all. It's never too late to put the dress on, surprise him, catch that moment together in an intimate setting with no pressure to talk to every guest around, and have a little fun. There's so much more time to relax, take in the moment and get the shots you want when you schedule time for portraits and a first look. And then go out to eat dressed all fancy afterward!
My advice for future couples would be to take the time. Your portraits are so important to remember your wedding day—even if it's not on the same day. Bring a few close friends and renew your vows while you're there, too! Bring a blindfold for cute “before” photos, bring a cute hanger for the dress shots, clean your rings, really think about the location you want so that you have the background you're looking for. Listen to your photographer’s advice when they mention that not all backgrounds are photogenic. That's also so important!