Both California natives, Ashley and James worked at the seasonal restaurant Crawdad’s on the River in Sacramento during the summer of 2010. “Though neither of us were interested in a relationship at the time, we had an instant connection and have been inseparable since,” shares Ashley.

It was important for the couple to plan a wedding that felt authentic and embodied who they are as a couple. Both also felt that having an excellent photographer was a top priority. “We felt that most wedding details don’t outlive the day itself, so it was important for us to invest in high-quality photography that we can keep and enjoy for the rest of our lives,” shares Ashley. “Stylistically, we wanted our photos to be more on the artistic side involving natural landscapes, where we would get overall stunning images that happened to be of our wedding. Candid photos that captured the raw emotions and moments were also very important to us.”

With a very untraditional plan, they approached their photographer Charleton of Charleton Churchill Photography to shoot the wedding without a specific location in mind. “We had decided on an adventure-style elopement and were open to brainstorming ideas with him,” the bride says. Charelton mentioned that he would be returning to Mount Everest Base Camp and asked if they would be interested in joining him. “To most this probably sounds absolutely insane, but as avid hikers who love the outdoors, we knew this was perfect! The trek to Everest Base Camp was already on our bucket list so we immediately said yes when he asked,” she adds.

Instead of just planning for the wedding day, Ashley and James also had to plan for the trek itself. “We worked with the infamous guide company Mountain Madness who handled all of the logistics while in Nepal,” Ashley says. “We had to plan for our trekking gear and wedding attire with a very strict weight limit. This is where most of the stress came in, as we wanted to have traditional wedding attire and styling, which was a daunting task with so many restrictions.”

With a nine-day trek to base camp, everything they wanted to bring had to be transported in two large duffle bags. “Yes, the dress and tux were folded in a duffle bag for nine days,” says James. Ashley sought out a wedding dress that was lighter in weight and had a tulle skirt so it was less likely to wrinkle. She also had to get ready in a tent without electricity, so she put together a minimal makeup kit with photo-quality products and purchased a rechargeable curling iron to complete her DIY bridal look. “Unfortunately, the curling iron didn’t work at 17,500 feet elevation,” she says. “We were very thorough in planning yet there were so many hiccups outside of our control.”

The intimate ceremony took place with just their photographer and Sherpa guides in attendance, in what they described as one of the most magical locations imaginable. “Standing there exchanging our vows at Mount Everest Base Camp, a place we fantasized about visiting someday, was incredibly powerful and surreal,” says Ashley. “No decorations or flowers in sight, just the raw beauty of the surrounding glacier in the shadow of the world’s highest mountain. There we all were in the bitter cold, exhausted from the nine-day trek where so many things hadn’t gone according to plan, and in that moment none of it mattered. To be married there was a privilege and an experience we will cherish for the rest of our lives.”

— Darren Elms