The towering granite cliffs, ancient sequoia trees, and rushing waterfalls of Yosemite National Park draw visitors from all over the world. It’s no wonder why so many couples flock to the park each year to tie the knot with Half Dome in the background! If you’re planning your own Yosemite elopement (or thinking about it), there are a few things you’ll need to know first. Luckily, we’ve got the scoop on the United State’s 3rd oldest national park, and we’re willing to share!
Set an Elopement Date
The first thing you’ll need to do for your Yosemite elopement is set a date! But, before you open up your Google Calendar, let’s talk about a few things you’ll need to consider.
Yosemite National Park Weather
It’s important to remember that the difference between Yosemite’s highest and lowest points is over 11,000 feet. That means that even when it’s warm and sunny down below, many of the hiking trails are still buried in snow. Here is a graph of the average temperatures in Yosemite:
As you can see, summers can get very hot, while winters can be freezing! The best time for a Yosemite elopement is May or September – when the weather is a little more moderate, and it’s not as crowded as summer! However, higher elevation areas might see some snow.
If you’re planning to hike to high elevations, summer is your best bet to avoid snow. But make sure to bring lots of water – hiking in 90 degrees is no joke! For adventurous couples who want to add skiing to their elopement day, Yosemite is a wonderland in winter months.
Avoiding Crowds During Your Yosemite Elopement
Summer is by far the busiest season in Yosemite National Park. That’s why we recommend eloping during shoulder season – which means the time right before or right after the park’s peak season. For Yosemite, this means May or September. Because peak season coincides with the best weather in the park, eloping during the off season might mean that the weather can be a little unpredictable. But, you’ll have a lot more privacy!
Even if you elope during the peak season, there are still some ways to avoid running into crowds on your elopement day! The first thing we always recommend to couples is to plan your elopement for a weekday. Because most people are off work on weekends, Monday through Thursday are much less busy in national parks.
Another tip for getting some privacy is to plan your elopement ceremony for sunrise! If you’re immediately turned off by the idea of waking up before the sun, don’t rage-quit this page yet! If you get to even the most popular places early, you’ll likely get the whole place to yourself – or at least, almost to yourself. You’ll have space to read your vows without interruptions and onlookers, and you’ll get to watch the iconic Yosemite sunrise, when the cliff faces look as though they’re on fire with the orange glow. Still not stoked on a sunrise ceremony? Opt for sunset instead! While it won’t be as empty, you’ll still have less people around than you would in the middle of the day.
Choose an Yosemite Elopement Location
Because Yosemite hosts so many elopements, they have a list of approved locations where you’re allowed to have your ceremony. Don’t worry if your dream location isn’t on the list! There will be plenty of times to explore and take photos anywhere your heart desires.
Here are some approved spots for your Yosemite elopement:
- Cascades Picnic Area
- Lower Yosemite Fall Paved Trail
- Swinging Bridge Picnic Area
- Cathedral Beach Picnic Area
- Sentinel Beach Picnic Area
- Bridalveil Fall
- Glacier Point Amphitheater
- Chilnualna Falls Trailhead Parking Lot
- Tenaya Lake Beach
- Tuolumne Meadows Lodge Area
- Tuolumne Grove
- Merced Grove
For the most up to date information about ceremony locations, check out nps.gov!
The Legal Stuff
Filling out paperwork might not be the most exciting part of your elopement day, but it’s important to make sure your marriage is legal and valid! We did the hard work for you though – here’s how to legally get married in California!
To obtain a marriage license, you’ll have to visit any county clerk’s office in California. There’s no waiting period, but your marriage license expires after 90 days. If you’re traveling from out of state, make sure to get to California early so that you have time to pick up your license! Fees vary depending on what county you’re in, but a California marriage license costs between $40 and $90.
California requires an officiant to sign your marriage license, but you have a few different options when it comes to finding one!
You can hire an elopement officiant who’s willing to join you on a hike, climb, or whatever adventure you have planned. You can also have a friend or family member perform your ceremony! All they have to do is get ordained on ULC.org (it’s unbelievably quick and easy), and they’re set! If you have a loved one you trust, this can add a really nice personal touch to your elopement.
In California, you need at least one witness to sign your marriage license, but you can have up to two. Don’t worry if you weren’t planning on inviting guests to your elopement! As a two person team, one of us is ready to be not only your personal paparazzi for the day, but also your witness. You can ask any of your vendors to sign, or even a stranger you meet on the trail!
No matter how small your elopement ceremony is, you will need a permit to elope at Yosemite National Park. You can find the permit application here. It costs $150, but this money goes to protecting the park! Apply for your permit early to ensure the park rangers have enough time to process it, and to ensure that you get your ideal ceremony spot.
Hire Your Elopement Vendors
A lot of wedding and elopement vendors fill their calendars up to a year out – so don’t hesitate to inquire early!
While most wedding vendors take on elopements too, hiring vendors that specialize in elopements has a lot of benefits. They’ll be the expert on all things elopement, and can help with everything from location recommendations to getting the right permits, to building your elopement timeline! Hiring a team that you trust can take a lot of pressure off of you – because planning even a small ceremony can be stressful!
Booking Flights and Lodging
Booking flights and lodging early on will get you the best prices, and guarantees that you’ll find somewhere to stay close to the park!
The Fresno-Yosemite International Airport is the closest airport to Yosemite National Park, but most people choose to fly into the San Francisco International Airport. SFO is much bigger and offers more flight options at lower prices, and is only a 3 hour drive from the park!
Where to Stay
From cozy Airbnbs, to luxury hotels, to unique glamping sites, you’ll have plenty of options for accommodations during your Yosemite elopement! There’s nothing better than having a home base to come back to after a day of adventures, so pick a spot that can feel like home. For unique Airstream suites, luxury tents, and adorable cabins, check out Autocamp Yosemite!
Ready to Elope in Yosemite Park?
If the incredible scenery of Yosemite National Park didn’t speak for itself, we hope this post spoke to you! If you’re ready to elope amongst the towering sequoias and cliff faces of Yosemite, contact us! We’re ready to start planning your incredible day of adventure.
Photo & Video: Wildflower Photo Co. | Hair: Britney Lee |Makeup: Corin Pacheco | Catering: Willow Creek Catering
Cake & Florals: Sweet Dreams Cakery |Invitation suite: Line Avenue Calligraphy | Welcome sign: Stone and Co Designs | Agate place-cards: Eden & Eve Calligraphy | Yosemite West Cabin: Scenic Wonders | Jewelry and hairpiece: All About Romance | Custom Nat’l Park sign: EmbellishmentsStudio