Michelle and Morgan are research scientists who enjoy the outdoors together and sought out a natural wedding venue, without any cookie cutter elements, stress, or fuss. They hosted an effortlessly casual celebration at Hawk’s Nest State Park in West Virginia, Morgan’s home state. With wooded paths, views of the river gorge below, and a stone pavilion for their ceremony site they were certainly surrounded by the beauty of nature. They chose deep purple and bright yellow and oranges for their attire and floral color scheme to brighten the day. There are so many details we love – from Michelle’s stunning lace keyhole-back dress to the cute birds nest cake topper! Melissa Perella Photography was behind the lens. Read below for more of this couple’s love story.
From the Bride:
Before the Ring:
I met Morgan when we were both living in Philadelphia and attending the same graduate program in neuroscience. After we met, we started out as running buddies, but it wasn’t long before my friends started giving me a hard time about whether or not we were more than that! Even so, it was several months before we started actually dating—and I have multiple friends who claim that they were responsible for getting us together! We’ve been inseparable ever since, at least in spirit—after about three years of dating, and shortly after Morgan proposed, I graduated and moved to Baltimore for a job, while Morgan stayed to finish his Ph.D. Although we weren’t physically that far away from each other in the grand scheme of things, it was difficult to be apart, especially while planning and executing our wedding. However, the fact that we withstood the trial of distance was just one more affirmation that our relationship was solid and that we were ready to get married!
The Proposal Story:
Whenever we find some free time, Morgan and I love to get outdoors to hike, bike, backpack, and kayak. So when he suggested that we take a bike ride from center city Philadelphia out to the Wissahickon Valley Park, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary. In retrospect, I should have suspected something, since he packed every bike tool he owned because he ‘just didn’t want anything to go wrong!’ We rode up the Schuylkill River and set up a nice picnic on the banks of the Wissahickon Creek next to a covered bridge, where he asked me to marry him! There was no getting down on one knee, since we were sitting on the ground already, but it was romantic just the same!
He gave me his grandmother’s ring, and it turns out that the proposal would have come sooner except that the ring had been stolen from his parents’ house several months earlier. Luckily, it was recovered after being sold to a cash-for-gold business across the street from the police station, but he had to wait for it to be released from evidence before giving it to me.
Wedding Day Details:
We have a mutual love for the outdoors, and immediately agreed that we should look for an outdoor venue. We fell in love with Hawks Nest State Park, which overlooks the New River Gorge. Hawks Nest had everything we were looking for—a beautiful outdoor site for the ceremony, countless fantastic vistas and wooded paths for photos to document the day, on-site lodging for our guests and a restaurant for our reception. As a bonus, our guests could even take cable car and jet boat rides in their free time!
We chose our wedding details to emphasize the natural setting, incorporate vintage touches, use local and home-made items for a personal feel, and keep things vibrant with lots of color. We had our ceremony outdoors, with the stone and wood picnic pavilion (built by the CCC in the 1930s and surrounded on three sides by woods) as the focal point. Morgan, the wedding party, and I wore vintage-inspired attire that fit with the setting. We chose deep purples and blues, complemented by bright oranges and yellows in the flowers, as our wedding colors for a vibrant feel.
The reception was held in the Hawks Nest Restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling windows displayed the beautiful New River Gorge and the occasional hawk in flight. To keep the wedding feeling personal, we used many homemade items, including birds’ nest centerpieces decorated with fresh greenery made by Morgan’s aunt. We even made three types of homebrewed beer to serve our guests (we actually ended up with a very bird-themed wedding, since we decided to name each beer after a local bird)! Our favors were Fiestaware mugs, made in Newell, West Virginia. The mugs were in six different colors, which had the added bonus of adding vibrant color to the tables, and our out-of-town guests had an authentic West Virginia souvenir to take home!
We chose Wagon Wheel (the original Old Crow Medicine Show version, of course) for our first dance. The reason we chose it (aside from the fact that it’s a great song) is that at the time of the wedding we were living in difference cities. We felt like we were always on the road, just continually trying to get back to each other. Thankfully, now we are finally living together again, and don’t plan on living apart ever again!
Photography: Melissa Perella Photography / Venue: Hawks Nest State Park / Flowers and decor: Ansted Floral & Gift / Bridal gown: Lace Bridal Couture / Bridal party: Macy’s (bridesmaids, groomsmen pants) and J. Crew (groomsmen vests) / Hair and makeup: Calabria salon / Groom’s suit: Suit Supply / Cake: The Bake Shoppe / Favors: Homer Laughlin China Co. / DJ: Abe One Deejays / Ceremony chairs: A to Z Rentals