Good morning, everyone and happy Real Weddings Wednesday! Today, we’re celebrating Kia and Matt’s hike-to-the-top elopement in Lake Tahoe, captured by the talented Emma Paul Photography. If your version of romance includes dancing beneath the stars, having your first look next to an ethereal lake, or sipping champagne at the top of a mountain overlooking said lake, then you’re in luck. Happy Wednesday, and happy reading!

Dress and jean jacket hanging off the trunk of a car in Tahoe.

Tell us a little about you and your beloved.

 Matt and I met [while I was a] freshman [and he was a sophomore] at the University of Toledo, where we both went for engineering. We were just friends for over a year, both seeing other people at the time. We were together every weekend with the same group of people. One night, Matt kissed me. We both pretended that it didn’t happen and kept going about our business as usual. After about the 3rd or 4th time, we finally acknowledged we were more than friends. Matt asked me to be his girlfriend about three weeks after and the rest is history! After college Matt and I both were accepted into General Electrics Operations Management Leadership Program. Matt started in Cleveland, Ohio in January 2015, while I was an intern in Boston, MA Between January 2015 and August 2017 Matt lived in Cleveland, Oklahoma City, OK, Golden, CO, and Jacksonville, FL. After graduating O.M.L.P, Matt moved to Minden, Nevada in August of 2017. He took a permanent position at the G.E. (now Baker Hughes) plant there. I graduated in December 2015 and moved to Milwaukee for a year and a half (my first two O.M.L.P rotations). [Then], I completed my final rotation in Salt Lake City in February 2018. After O.M.L.P, I took a remote position, and after 3+ years of living on different sides of the country, Matt and I finally moved in together in Nevada. Matt proposed on October 27, 2018. We got up on a Saturday morning to do one of our favorite hikes at Lake Tahoe, Castle Rock. At the top, I was taking photos of the lake, Matt asked me to turn around, and he was down on one knee with a ring he had designed himself.

Bride and groom's first look next to a beautiful lake. Bride and groom holding hands and laughing during their first look by the lake.

Bride fixing her earring and looking in a mirror that's attached to a tree.

Bride fixing her hair in a mirror attached to a pine tree.

Bride and groom kissing while holding a sign.

Close-up of a sign being held by a bride and groom.

Bride and groom hiking in their wedding attire and backpacks.

What was the best part of your wedding day?

The most amazing part of our day was spending [it] together. We woke up, drank coffee on the couch by the fireplace in our living room, [and] went out to breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Squeeze In. After breakfast, we took a few minutes to relax and hangout for the day (I finished up my vows). I got my hair and makeup done in our spare bedroom. Once we were ready to go, we drove 1.5 hours together up to Sardine Lake. We actually had the opportunity to soak each other in and enjoy our day fully together without the chaos of traditional wedding activities.

Bride kissing her groom while they backpack through Tahoe.

What else would you like to share about your big day?

We originally planned our wedding for December 5, 2020 in Ohio. Due to changing COVID policies, we were forced to cancel our big day just three weeks before. We planned four other weddings in between, [but] none of our wedding plans ever felt right, and we finally decided to elope in August 2021. We kept our plans secret from all our family and friends so we could really focus on doing what we wanted without risking any hurt feelings. We had a sunrise elopement planned at Emerald Bay, only to find out three days beforehand that the forest was still closed due to the wildfires. Emma truly saved the day with her knowledge of an even more beautiful location. It was truly perfect.

Bride and groom holding hands by the lake.

Groom kissing his bride next to the lake. Bride and groom cheering after kissing at their elopement.

Bride and groom holding their ring fingers up.

What advice would you give to our readers who are planning their weddings right now?

Follow your heart and trust your gut. Early on in the wedding process, we somewhat regretted planning a big wedding back home in Ohio. We wished we would have done something smaller out in Nevada at Lake Tahoe with just our close family and friends. I am not sure I would call COVID luck, but we ended up with the most perfect elopement. One that neither of us would trade for the world.

Bride fanning out her dress on a cliff overlooking Lake Tahoe. Bride and groom touching foreheads on a cliff overlooking Lake Tahoe.

Bride and groom kissing on a cliff overlooking Lake Tahoe.

Anything that you would have done differently if you were given the chance?

The only thing we would have done differently would be to plan a small wedding or elopement out West from the start. We would have spent two years planning a traditional wedding just to lose it all (and thousands) due to COVID.

Bride and groom holding hands, with flashlights attached to their heads as the sun goes down.

Newlyweds holding hands in the forest.

Photos courtesy of and copyright Emma Paul Photography used with permission.

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