Chapel Hill, NC-
My family and I attended a very special wedding ceremony this past April at the whimsical and enchanting Chapel Hill Carriage House on Jones Ferry Road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We were ecstatic to support my cousin, Matthew Duarte, (son of my mom’s sister Fran Austin Duarte) as he celebrated his marriage to his lovely bride, Ellie Bolas.
You see back in Fall 2018 the two planned to wed, but Hurricane Florence had other plans for North Carolina (and their special day). The day the two spent a year planning from their California home— dreaming of beautiful memories to be made with dearest friends and family back home in North Carolina— would have to be postponed.
True to the couple’s fifteen year partnership, commitment and independent spirit, the two fled Raleigh out of the hurricane’s path to the North Carolina mountains and eloped— as not to let Florence ruin the special union between these two strong, love-filled souls.
However, they promised their families to return from their home in California in Spring 2019 to celebrate and renew their vows among their loved ones. They held true to their promise and on Saturday, April 13th, 2019, their special day finally arrived like a dream come true.
It was a…
The ceremony was conducted by a dear friend of the couple who knows them in and out. There was meditation, reflection, laughter, memories, poignant handwritten vows— and passionate kisses.
Not to mention, the most gorgeous setting!
PSA- Anyone looking for a wedding or party venue should seriously consider Chapel Hill Carriage House for a multitude of reasons:
1) They have baby goats 🐐!
2) You get to feed the resident Alpacas 🦙😃!
3) Children absolutely LOVE this place: games, grounds to play and run, and lots of charm and whimsy!
But let me place my focus back on the special bride and groom.
YES, I am biased because they are family. BUT, their journey is an incredible one and I’d like to brag on them just a bit.
The two began dating fifteen years ago while attending undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill— Matt, a student of Psychology and Ellie, always the over-achiever, a double major in Environmental Studies and Religious Studies. A UNC couple with dreams of the world ahead of them.
Upon graduation, Matt earned a travel scholarship which allowed him the opportunity to travel to Japan 🇯🇵 for a solitary pilgrimage across the country to visit and study Buddhist Temples and Japanese culture.
Ellie studied abroad as well and spent time in Tibet. After graduation she would go on to travel to Turkey and Japan to teach English as a second language.
Following their international journeys the two settled back in the United States and found themselves at home on the West Coast in California where they have blossomed and embraced the state’s natural beauty to include surfing those awesome California waves.
Matt has worked for Student Conservation Association, where he led young adult teams doing service work such as trail building and habitat restoration in wilderness settings. In addition, through REI’s Outdoor School, he has taught outdoor adventure classes.
Currently he teaches First Aid for backcountry enthusiasts with NOLS Wilderness Medicine. He is also a certified yoga instructor and is working toward a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
And if his plate isn’t already full, he carves time out to volunteer at a local prison in California where he is part of a horticultural inmate rehabilitation gardening program.
Ellie, a Graduate Group in Ecology, Master of Science Candidate, at University of California, Davis, is researching two rare carnivores, island spotted skunks and island foxes, that live on the California Channel Islands.
Prior to graduate school she performed research on wildlife living in and around Los Angeles (such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes) with the National Park Service, a project she is returning to for her PhD.
Ellie has also worked as an outdoor science educator and currently works with initiatives to increase diversity in science.
These two people are amazing.
When asked what the secret is to their incredible journey and relationship, Ellie answered, “I don’t know any secrets to a long lasting relationship, for us, it’s just that we really like being around each other and we like to make each other laugh. Also, we both love being outside, which is part of why we love living in California- there are so many great opportunities to adventure outside and we love it all, from surfing on the coast to hiking in the mountains to wandering in the desert.”
How fortunate the world 🌍 is to have two mindful, intelligent, fun-loving, and holistic souls to share their passion for betterment of the planet and humanity as well as a sincere commitment to each other.
I’m proud to call them family.
Here’s to many more years of happiness, adventure, and travel!
Cheers to y’all, Matt and Ellie!
– Alison Paul Klakowicz
Author of Mommy’s Big, Red Monster Truck
Host and Creator of Hodge Podge Blog and Podcast
Alison Paul Klakowicz is an Eastern North Carolina native, children’s book author, blogger, podcaster and creative writer. She is a military spouse who resides in Fayetteville, NC with her husband, Adam, and son, Mak.