As an adventure wedding photographer, I’ve traveled to many spectacular destinations, but there’s just something special about Yosemite. It’s a sacred land, and every time I visit, I discover something new to love and I think any Yosemite wedding photographer would agree that this park is the ideal spot for an intimate wedding or elopement.
If you browse through my Yosemite portfolio, you will see that my goal as a Yosemite wedding photographer is to take advantage of the natural beauty of the park and use that as the backdrop for your photos.
I’ve spent years exploring Yosemite, and I can find unique locations that will elevate your wedding photography from the ordinary to the extraordinary. I also don’t simply focus on taking photos, I curate unforgettable experiences for my clients. Our photography session isn’t just a few minutes snapping pictures, it’s a complete experience.
Over the years working as a Yosemite wedding photographer, I have discovered a few universal truths about planning a wedding in this national park. My best pieces of advice are as follows.
- Consider An Off-Season Wedding
Yosemite National Park is a popular destination and millions of people from around the world visit the park every year. Even during the pandemic, more than two million people visited Yosemite. Most of the tourists visit from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so if you can plan around those days, you can skip the crowds and the traffic and perhaps even the high costs associated with a wedding during the high season.
It also is important to note that temperatures in Yosemite Valley can rise into the 90s and even higher. Still, if you want (or need) a summertime wedding, I am game and will happily trek into the Yosemite wilderness at any time.
Still, my favorite times of year might be April and early May, when the waterfalls are at their peak or perhaps October or November, as the leaves begin to change color. Even the winter months are full of charm. There really isn’t a bad time to head to Yosemite, but the crowds are large during the summer as well as the week of Thanksgiving and right around Christmastime.
- Consider A Small Wedding Or Elopement
I have shot all kinds of weddings in spots around the world, including Hawaii, Colorado, Alaska, all over California and even the Italian Alps. Through the years, I have shot everything from huge weddings with hundreds of guests to intimate elopements that include just the couple, myself and an officiant.
While only you can decide what type of wedding you want, in my opinion (and I think many of the best wedding photographers would agree), the smaller more intimate events tend to be the most meaningful. Whether it’s just the two of you or a small selection of friends and family, weddings tend to be less far less stressful and more meaningful when you keep it simple.
Surround yourself with the people you love the most and you are guaranteed a better experience. And there’s a lot to be said for the ease and affordability of a smaller wedding or elopement. Rather than spend thousands on a wedding and reception, you can save that money for future adventures.
- Book Wedding & Reception Sites Quickly
If you do want a larger wedding, it is important that you book Yosemite wedding venues as quickly as possible. There are a limited number of venues in and just outside the park. Some of the most popular options, such as The Ahwahnee, the Wawona Hotel and Tenaya Lodge book up quickly. The Yosemite Valley Chapel, a popular and picturesque site for wedding ceremonies also books up quickly so once you have a target wedding date in mind, start making calls and getting a feel for the availability.
Many couples opt for an outdoor ceremony, and why wouldn’t you with so much natural beauty? If you want an outdoor ceremony, contact me and let me know your wedding date and I can help you find a fantastic location for the ceremony. Often, I will take the wedding couple off by themselves for a photography session in an amazing location, and this will be separate from the pictures from the ceremony and reception.
Another fun option would be to schedule your engagement photos in the park. We can hike to an amazing location, take some pictures and these can be used for your “save the date” announcement or even as part to decorate your wedding invitations.
- Provide Guests With Multiple Lodging Options
If you are planning a destination elopement in Yosemite, it’s not tough to find lodging for just the two of you. However, if you are planning a larger wedding, finding accommodations can be tricky. There are plenty of options, but they tend to book quickly, so be sure to give guests ample time to book rooms.
Yosemite offers a wide range of options, including inexpensive, rustic locations and even campsites. The Ahwahnee and Tenaya Lodge are more upscale options, but they do have a higher price tag. Within the park and just outside the park, there are many guesthouses for rent and these often can accommodate large groups, even up to 20 guests. Renting a few guesthouses can be a fun option as many of these include amenities such as hot tubs and pool tables, etc.
- Yosemite Has Some Unique Rules
Whether you are planning a large wedding or an elopement, permits are required for the ceremony and the photography. These permits cost $150 each, and you will need to apply for them several months in advance. For adventure photography sessions without a ceremony, we might not need to worry about permits for that, but if for your ceremony and traditional wedding photographer, permits are needed. Keep in mind, permits are not granted on most holidays.
Additionally, to help preserve the park for future generations, there are a few other rules. For instance, you cannot get married under a sequoia tree. We certainly can capture some pictures under one of these beauties, but ceremonies can not be held by a sequoia. You also cannot release anything, such as butterflies, doves, rice, confetti, etc.
If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, you cannot provide seating (except for guests with special needs) and no décor is allowed, such as flowers, signs, balloons and other items. Drones are not allowed, and you must be careful to avoid stepping on any plants or plant life.
This might sound restrictive, but it helps preserve the park and there are plenty of locations for larger wedding parties, such as some of the hotels as well as many picnic areas, which can accommodate anywhere from 20 up to 100 guests. If you are planning an elopement or a wedding with 10 or fewer participants, you definitely have many more options for your ceremony site than larger parties.
As an experienced Yosemite wedding photographer, I can provide you with some more specific planning advice during our initial consultation. We can talk about the best photography locations as well as locations for the ceremony and reception if you are hosting a larger wedding.
My main focus, of course, is finding the perfect location for your wedding or elopement photography. This could be next to a waterfall, on a lookout point with views of El Capitan or Half Dome, in a meadow in Yosemite Valley or someplace completely unique and off-the-beaten-path. No matter what type of adventure photography you want, as a Yosemite wedding photographer, I can find a location for memorable photos you will cherish for a lifetime.