Love in the Time of Adversity: A Special Fort Bragg Elopement

Flora Gibson Photography

April 18, 2023

Love knows no bounds, it can transcend the challenges of life. Courtney and Kellen’s love story is a real testament to this as despite the obstacles they’d faced together, their story proves that true love conquers all.

In 2020, Courtney suffered a spinal cord injury which left her needing assistance to walk. In fact she was told that she would never walk again, but instead of accepting her diagnosis, she not only managed to walk again, but had an adventure elopement day on the cliffs of Mendocino! She even walked most of the day without a cane, instead Kellen’s arms were wrapped around her all day, as her support.

“We have spent time in Fort Bragg and Mendo over the last few years and fell in love with the ocean and Red Woods”, explained Courtney. “You can feel the magic as you drive in and disconnect from the big cities. It was a goal of mine to hike Montgomery Woods after surviving my spinal cord injury. Everything from my belly button down had zero activation or worked anymore. They had prepared me to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, and that my hairdresser career was over. After HOURS of therapy, I slowly started having activation on my right side. So, we pushed forward working towards me just able to just stand up on my own – even that would have been a miracle.”

And Courtney didn’t just stand – on the day she danced, hiked, and they popped champagne on the clifftop. “We made a deal that I would WALK to him as we got married, with no cane or chair or assistance”, she said. “Two years later we made that dream happen with a lot of therapy. I made it 10 foot in a huge dress with zero assistance!”

This elopement was not just about celebrating their love, but also about how far they had come together as a team. They made goals together, and accomplishing them made the day even sweeter. The ceremony was intimate, with the couple doing their vows together that morning in their pajamas at the Weller House where they stayed. They then had a simple handfasting. They read their vows aloud to each other and got to sob together alone before so they could ‘keep it together’ and not cry when they saw each other again for photos. “That didn’t happen!” Courtney laughed, “tears were inevitable!”

As well as wanting to have their wedding on their own terms, an elopement meant they saved a ton of cash too. “Weddings in general are pricey and they fly by so fast”, continued the bride. “That’s why we chose the elopement route so we could enjoy and soak in our day together without rushing and worrying about 150+ other people. It still had its challenges, but in my opinion, it was the best thing we could have ever done. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!”

Courtney and Kellen’s elopement is a beautiful reminder that weddings should be about the couple and their love for each other. It’s not about Pinterest or Instagram expectations, but about the memories that will last a lifetime. The advice they offer for other couples is simple but oh so important, “Truly figure out what YOU want on that day. What do you want to feel on that day? What do you want to remember about it? It’s about you and your love. Soak it up and enjoy the ride. Its about you, not anyone else.”