Mandi & Thomas’ Gorgeous Intimate Smoky Mountain Elopement

General, Real Elopements,
5 min read Aug 4, 2020

For Mandi and Thomas, love came naturally. After meeting through mutual friends in college, these two just knew they were in it for long haul together, but also knew that a big, traditional wedding just didn’t feel like “them.” Instead, the pair chose to elope in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (a bucket-list location) on June 24, 2020, and celebrated by exploring the beautiful Smoky mountains and relaxing cabin-side! Just by looking at the photos from their day, you’ll quickly realize how gorgeous a Great Smoky Mountain elopement truly is! Scroll through Mandi and Thomas’ photos – and their love story – below!

How did you meet? What was your first impression of one another?

We met through mutual friends in college. We initially bonded over our mutual love for baseball! Thomas drove four hours (each way) to attend a baseball game with me and my friends, that’s when I realized he might be interested in me as more than a friend!

When did you first fall in love? How did you know?

From the beginning of our relationship it was clear to both of us that we would be together for a long time because we get along so easily. Since we started dating so young (19 and 20) we took a long time to grow into who we would be as individuals, and luckily we grew together instead of apart. Now that we are older and becoming more proper adults it has been a natural decision to finally get married.

How did you propose or accept the proposal?

Thomas inherited a family heirloom diamond from his grandmother. He is the fourth man in his family to give the diamond to his bride. When we received his grandmother’s ring her setting was very damaged, so we took it to a local jeweler and redesigned it to my taste, but keeping some aspects of it the same as how his grandma had it. Thomas proposed on December 23rd, which is actually the anniversary of my grandparents (he did not know this beforehand!). We always open gifts together at home before going to family celebrations, so the ring was wrapped under the tree as a gift!

What do you love about your partner?

Mandi: Thomas is very easy going and supportive of any goals I set for myself (I like to throw myself into hobbies and interests. I have lived abroad in France two times during our relationship, a Master’s degree, a yoga certification and a master gardener certification, I’ve also filled our house with about 100 plants! I have many interests and he always goes along with my crazy ideas.) He is calm in situations where I may tend to over react which is usually helpful.

Thomas: Mandi is a motivating force for me when I want to try new things. She knows how to get things done and encourages me in creative projects.

What is the greatest strength of your relationship?

We have always had a strong friendship from the beginning of our relationship. This has allowed us to grow together over the last 10 years, while still growing as individuals and pursuing our individual dreams. We both realized that when we are happy and fulfilled individually, we are able to nurture our relationship. We have great respect for one another and value each others opinions and ideas.

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Why did you decide to elope? 

We are both shy/introverted people and have never loved the idea of being the center of a bunch of people’s attention on our wedding day. We are each other’s best friend and love to celebrate special moments together. It felt more “us” to keep this day to focus on just each other and enjoy each other, instead of also worrying about other people and throwing a huge party. It was perfect to spend that day just the two of us and it was so low stress. We plan on having a reception to celebrate with our family and friends when it is safe to do so!

How did you find Simply Eloped?

I became aware of elopement companies through social media and did a lot of research Googling them and reading reviews.

How did you know Simply Eloped was the right fit for you?

We thought their elopement packages included a lot of important things we wanted to included in our ceremony at a fair price. We thought the quality of the photographers and videographers that work with Simply Eloped was superior to that of other companies I was looking at. We also loved the wide range of location options!

What attracted you to the venue you eloped at? 

We have always wanted to elope in a national park, because our bucket list dream is to visit all of the national parks in the U.S. So we looked at locations that specifically offer ceremonies in national parks! Neither of us had ever been to North Carolina before and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park offered a lot of different and beautiful settings for our photos! We were able to have the gorgeous mountains as a backdrop for our ceremony, and also explored the nearby forests with our photographer and videographer!

What activities did you do before the wedding? How did you prepare? How did you feel leading up to the moments of your elopement? 

We rented a beautiful cabin outside of the national park for the entire week of our wedding, and just spent the week hiking and exploring the park! The day of our wedding was very relaxed and peaceful! We spent our day getting ready together and enjoying the day!

Tell us about your experience with Simply Eloped leading up to and on your big day!

Planning with Simply Eloped was extremely easy and stress-free! I found the [staff] coordinators to be very helpful and thorough; they took all the time needed to answer our questions and concerns and I felt that they really cared about making us comfortable with our experience. Our officiant took the time to get to know us before the ceremony, giving us a questionnaire and talking to us on the phone during the weeks leading up to our ceremony. She really made the ceremony personal to us, which was impressive and so appreciated! On the day of our wedding we spent a lot of time exploring the venue with our photographer and videographer and it was genuinely so much fun spending that time with them and taking our fantastic photos!

How did you celebrate after?

We enjoyed dinner and drinks together at our cabin and then spent the rest of the week exploring the beautiful Smoky mountains! We plan on celebrating with our friends and family as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so!

What words of encouragement do you have for those considering eloping?

I absolutely recommend doing what feels right for YOU for your wedding. You don’t have to have a huge, fancy wedding just because that is the “norm”. If a private elopement, or smaller wedding with just a few family and friends feels right over a big ceremony and party, then I can’t recommend it enough! We had exactly the wedding we had been dreaming of, and everyone deserves the same!

Planning: Simply Eloped
Photographer: Cappy Phalen
Officiant: Amanda Jones
Videographer: Madison Kay

General Real Elopements
Written by Karen Norian

Karen Norian is an elopement photographer and has photographed over a hundred elopements. Karen has also worked as an elopement planner for Simply Eloped. She's been quoted in the New York Times, Brides, Hello Giggles, Bustle, Yahoo, and more.