Photos by Erica Beckman
This photographer-officiant team plans ceremonies in natural settings like Minnewaska, Little Stony Point, and Mohonk Preserve.
In the Hudson Valley, love is always in the air. Couples have a slew of options for planning their special days. From rustic barns to grand outdoor affairs, the region boasts incredibly unique venues. Wineries, Christmas tree farms, and even drive-in movie theaters have hosted ceremonies.
However, one photographer-officiant duo uses the Valley itself as a venue.
Hudson Valley Elope plans ceremonies in the most magical settings around. Whether pairs crave fresh mountain air or sweeping Hudson River views, the sky’s the limit.
“We talk to each couple and find out their dreams. Do they want to be by water, deep in the woods, by a creek, or with views for miles? We believe that couples should follow their heart, just like they did when choosing their partner,” says officiant Michele Zipp. “We find out their dream location and offer them suggestions from there.”
Zipp started Hudson Valley Elope with photographer Erica Beckman in 2019. The pair met in college, and each have a long career in the wedding industry. Beckman runs Clean Plate Pictures, and has been shooting ceremonies for over a decade. Similarly, Zipp started officiating weddings back in 2011. With gorgeous local landscapes as their canvas, the team plans unforgettable occasions.
Of course, elopements imply secret rendezvous. With the rise of micro-weddings in recent years, nuptials have grown much smaller. Scaled-down and serene, these celebrations are designed to be as comfortable and intimate as possible.
“We wanted to help reduce the stress that sometimes comes with weddings, and we loved focusing on elopement packages. Being in nature is the ultimate way to reduce stress and feel present,” Zipp explains. Hudson Valley Elope works with guests, vendors, and anyone else involved in the way a wedding planner would. From start to finish, it’s an enjoyable experience. You don’t have to worry about a thing.
It all starts with a dream. Where would be the perfect place to get married?
For some, the magic of the mountains is beyond compare. For instance, Hudson Valley Elope has brought couples along trails through Minnewaska State Park, Mohonk Preserve, and atop Little Stony Point. Certainly, few backdrops eclipse the Catskills or Shawangunks. On the other hand, riverside settings make other couples swoon. There’s also a number of farms—like Coppersea Distilling or Crested Hen Farms—and historic sites that draw star-crossed lovers.
Next, Zipp learns each couple’s story. How did they fall in love? What makes them tick? What about their soulmate gives them butterflies? Meanwhile, Zipp writes the service. Any Hudson Valley Elope ceremony is extremely personalized. As a reiki master, Zipp can incorporate a number of elements into a couple’s elopement.
For instance, she offers meaningful rituals like handfasting and ring blessings using crystals and homegrown or locally sourced herbs and botanicals. Zipp assembles themed tablescapes and other assortments of personal items to set the scene, so no two ceremonies are alike.
In addition, she’s a seasoned editor. With over 20 years of experience in publishing, Zipp helps couples write their own vows, weaving poetic words from their passions.
“Just like a photographer captures love in photographs, I capture love in words,” she says. Above all, Zipp wants couples to feel present and fully connected to one another. After each elopement, she immortalizes the moment in ink.
In the same vein, Beckman strives to present authentic moments of joy with her photography. In a way, she’s a documentarian. It makes sense—she spent years as a photo editor for The Wall Street Journal. But, for her, weddings are much more fun.
“My style of photography is very organic. I take great pleasure in catching genuine emotion: radiant smiles, heartfelt tears, and infectious belly laughs. Even when shooting portraits, I help couples relax in front of the camera to capture moments of real connection,” Beckman says.
She typically recommends taking portraits just after tying the not. After all, there’s no mistaking the glow of marital bliss.
Oftentimes she’s familiar with the destinations chosen for elopements. Her company Clean Plate Pictures shoots engagements, weddings, and other celebrations in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley. Hudson Valley Elope covers the New Paltz area and beyond (travel fees apply outside a 30-mile radius). Two of her favorite locales are Liberty View Farm and the Hasbrouck House. However, Beckman has also captured breathtaking moments at Awosting Falls, Black Creek Preserve, and Spring Farm, to name a few.
Hudson Valley Elope offers three packages, the largest of which includes a three-to-five-minute video highlight reel, three hours of photography and videography, and up to six guests. Every package includes a custom-written ceremony, personalized rituals, and a gallery of edited high-resolution photos. To start planning, click here. Your dream wedding awaits.