If their relationship milestones are any proof, Victoria Abraham and Chris Malone have a thing for parks. The couple first met at the PARK Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as graduate students at Harvard University—Victoria, now a legal counsel at Bumble, was in law school; while Chris, a director at a private investment firm, was in business school—in December 2013. "We went on our first official date in the spring of 2014 and have been inseparable ever since," she admits.
Five years later, after a day of touring their favorite Manhattan spots, the couple stopped at Brooklyn Bridge Park to "catch the sunset before dinner." Of course, Chris had another plan and proposed just as the sun was at its peak over the skyline. For their wedding, they booked an August 2020 date at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which overlooks another iconic park in New York City.
Even when the pandemic forced them to pivot their plans, Victoria and Chris still made it official at a park venue—this time, across the country at Joshua Tree National Park on September 19, 2020. "We had spent a magical month hiking and exploring in Joshua Tree earlier in the summer, and once we realized that we would not be able to get married in Manhattan with our loved ones, we decided to go back to Joshua Tree to elope with our family by our side," explains the bride.
The couple chose the location for its otherworldly feel—their original plan was for a celestial disco party, after all—and COVID-19 safety measures. "The park looks like it belongs on a different planet—the rock formations, Joshua ttrees, and the way the light changes the colors of the park is just incredibly stunning and otherworldly," Victoria says. "The whole area also has this very peaceful, relaxed, special energy and everyone there is incredibly friendly."
Keep reading for the couple's intimate park elopement, which took place outdoors with only six guests, as photographed by Christine Ta of For Love and Light Photography.
After deciding to elope, the couple had five weeks to entirely replan their wedding: They went from a 100-person event at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan to an elopement with six guests in Joshua Tree National Park. During this time, they booked an Airbnb in the Yucca Valley, and Victoria even said "yes" to a new dress.
"For me, the hardest part was finding a dress. I had already picked out the dress—a very dramatic Galia Lahav gown—with my mom for our Manhattan wedding, but it did not go at all with the Joshua Tree elopement vibe, and with COVID shopping in-person, felt impossible," shares Victoria, who says shopping for a dress online was a "totally different" experience. "Our apartment was basically a shipping and receiving center for three weeks while I ordered and sent back multiple dresses."
The end result: a stunning white satin gown by Nadine Merabi. "For the elopement dress, I wanted something that was nothing like my wedding dress and would be easy to wear in the desert, while still looking romantic, feminine, and elegant," she says. "Also, I love a good slit. This dress checked all the boxes!"
Victoria accessorized with two extra-special pieces that she found online while searching for Black-owned bridal brands. The first: a pair of hand-painted earrings from We Dream In Colour, a jewelry company based in Salem, Massachusetts. "I wanted to tie the idea of the universe, soulmates and celestial energy that was in my vows and the ceremony script into my outfit and I found the perfect earrings," she says.
An "affordable" tulle cape rush-ordered from the Lotus Bloom Company completed her look. "Since I was not doing a veil, but I still wanted to have the flowy romantic tulle element, I decided to go with a cape," she says.
For a pop of color, Victoria asked Francesca of Chesca Makes Things (who drove down from Los Angeles!) to put together a lush bouquet and gorgeous, multi-colored flower crown inspired by Frida Kahlo. "Because the desert colors are so muted, I wanted to have a pop of color with my flowers, which were purple, red, orange, and pink and consisted of orchids and roses," she shares.
For the desert setting, Chris chose a linen suit in a tan hue from SuitSupply, which he paired with Gucci loafers.
I wanted the elopement to be this sun-drenched ethereal, intimate, and relaxed experience that was aligned with the natural beauty of the park and the desert.
"I wanted the elopement to be this sun-drenched ethereal, intimate, and relaxed experience that was aligned with the natural beauty of the park and the desert," Victoria says.
"The easiest of planning was picking which part of the park to get married in because it is all so beautiful and finding," admits the bride. "The night before, Chris and I checked out the area and chose these two gorgeous Joshua trees that formed an arch as the ceremony spot."
The bride's mother and father escorted her down the "aisle" to meet Chris under the two Joshua trees.
Victoria drafted the ceremony script alongside Charlotte of The Vow Keeper, who acted as their officiant on the big day. She and Chris also shared personal vows. "We wrote our own vows and had everyone in tears," she adds.
Nothing compares to the total elation we felt during the ceremony, holding each other’s hands, surrounded by our family, in this absolutely surreal landscape.
"Honestly, nothing compares to the total elation we felt during the ceremony, holding each other’s hands, surrounded by our family, in this absolutely surreal landscape," says the bride.
Due to COVID, the couple admits that it was actually quite difficult to get a marriage license in the Los Angeles area. The official office was backed up for appointments until November and every other location was closed; luckily, they were able to find a notary last-minute and picked up the paperwork as soon as they arrived in California.
"It was really important for us to have our family by our side, but we did not think it was safe for them to travel to New York, and we also did not want our grandparents or any other immuno-compromised relatives traveling at all," explains the couple. "So we decided to have just my parents and sister, and Chris’s mother, brother, and nephew."
As an added safety measure, the entire wedding took place outdoors, socially distant from other groups, and the couple's officiant wore a mask throughout.
I think the most important thing is to really drill down into what is important to you and your partner and why and then plan an event that reflects and captures you as a couple that you can truly enjoy
The night ended back at the Airbnb, where a private chef prepared a Mexican feast. "We love Mexican food and have traveled to different parts of Mexico multiple times so it was important for us to share our love of Mexican food with our family," says Victoria of the menu choice.
Looking back on their reimagined elopement, she advises other couples to follow their lead. "It’s really easy to get caught up in what a wedding should look like and end up in a situation where you’re including a bunch of traditions and elements that don’t actually hold any personal significance to you as a couple," admits the bride. "I think the most important thing is to really drill down into what is important to you and your partner and why and then plan an event that reflects and captures you as a couple that you can truly enjoy."
Venue Joshua Tree National Park
Officiant The Vow Keeper
Bridal Gown Nadine Merabi
Bridal Cape The Lotus Bloom Company
Jewelry We Dream in Colour
Mother of the Bride Dress Adrianna Papell
Groom's Attire Suit Supply; Gucci
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands Robert Fabrikant
Floral Design Chesca Makes Things
Catering Chef Grecia of Salt and Leisure
Photography Christine Ta of For Love and Light Photography