Yosemite Elopement Guide

Throughout our adventures, Yosemite has been a magical place for us, capturing the love stories of countless couples. This stunning park, with its breathtaking vistas, holds a special place in our hearts—it’s where we’ve witnessed pure joy and love, and it even inspired the backdrop for my wedding photos. Eager to share this magic, we’ve put together a friendly guide to help you elope in Yosemite, infused with all the warmth and insider tips we’ve gathered over the years. If you find yourself with lingering questions or in need of a bit more guidance to tailor your day perfectly, we’re here and eager to assist. Don’t hesitate to reach out through our contact form for a more personalized chat about your Yosemite elopement photography needs. We can’t wait to help bring your vision to life!

Why have a Yosemite Elopement?

As one of the most well-known parks in the US, Yosemite National Park is not just a destination; it’s an experience wrapped in awe-inspiring natural beauty. For couples passionate about the great outdoors, Yosemite provides an unparalleled backdrop, from its majestic granite cliffs to its serene meadows and captivating waterfalls. It offers a unique, intimate, and serene setting far from the city’s chaos.
For those seeking a stunning and adventurous elopement, Yosemite National Park offers unparalleled scenery and boundless opportunities for exploration, making it an ideal setting to celebrate your love.

When to have a Yosemite elopement

Timing is everything for a Yosemite elopement. Spring and fall are the sweet spots, offering milder weather and fewer crowds, with the park’s natural beauty in full display. While summer brings more visitors, and winter may present accessibility challenges due to snow, these seasons still hold their unique charm. A professional Yosemite elopement photographer and videographer can capture the essence of your special moment, no matter the season, making even unpredictable weather look magical. Here’s a list of things to consider when picking the perfect time for your Yosemite Elopement.

Elopement Photo of bride and Groom holding hands at taft point during sunset
  • November-February: The winter months present a serene, quieter Yosemite, ideal for winter elopements, offering a peaceful and intimate experience
  • March-May: offers the spectacle of Yosemite’s waterfalls at their peak, alongside dramatic weather that can add a touch of epicness to your photos and videos, though higher elevations may be inaccessible.
  • May-August: Despite being Yosemite’s peak season, you’ll enjoy warm weather, open roads, and longer days. Consider a sunrise elopement to avoid crowds.
  • September-November: This is my personal favorite, with the benefit of higher elevations of the park being open (Glacier Point, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, and Tioga Pass). Also, the weather is cooler (but not too cool, and the light is softer providing a beautiful glow throughout the day.

Pro Tip: Make sure to check for road construction and closures during planning.

Other Considerations:

Another thing to keep in mind is how the length of the day can affect your plans, especially in the valley, where the sun dips behind Yosemite’s towering cliffs earlier than you might expect. Especially in the fall, winter, and early Spring planning around this natural schedule is key to making the most of your time in the park. To dodge the stress of navigating through traffic, especially when moving between picturesque spots, opting for a weekday elopement can make your day even more seamless and enjoyable.

Finally, when considering the time of year, if you are looking to access the higher elevations like Glacier Point Road & Tioga Pass, these roads are typically only open from sometime in May to sometime in November, due to dangerous conditions from snow and ice. When these roads are closed, the only way to access attractions such as Glacier Point, Taft Point, and Sentinel Dome, is via the Four-Mile Trail, or Panorama Trail, which are both strenuous hikes, and are only open when conditions allow for safe wilderness hiking.

Choosing Between a Yosemite Elopement or an Intimate Wedding

Choosing between an elopement and an intimate wedding is a personal decision that hinges on the size and style of your celebration. An elopement in Yosemite tends to be a very private affair, focusing solely on the couple and possibly a few guests, often set against one of the park’s beautifully iconic landscapes. In contrast, an intimate wedding might include a few more guests and use one of the venues just outside or within the park, such as Evergreen Lodge, Rush Creek Lodge, Tenaya Lodge, or the Ahwahnee Hotel.

How to Elope in Yosemite

Choose an Elopement Location

Yosemite is filled with stunning locations like Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and Tuolumne Meadows, each offering its unique setting for your ceremony. Consider the lighting and time of day for the best photographic outcome, and remember to secure a permit for your chosen location. A knowledgeable Yosemite elopement photographer can offer valuable insights into selecting the perfect location. Here is a list of our favorite locations to consider.

  • Yosemite Fall
  • Yosemite Chapel
  • Mariposa Grove
  • Olmsted Point (Opens mid-2024)
  • Tanaya Lake (Opens mid-2024)
  • Swinging Bridge
  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Glacier Point (Opens mid-2024)
  • Taft Point (Opens mid-2024)
  • Tunnel View
  • El Capitan Meadow
  • Sentinel Dome (Opens mid-2024)
  • Bridal Veil Fall
  • Vernal Fall

Obtaining a Marriage License and Special Use Permit.

The Three Ways to Get Married in California

There are 3 ways to get married in California.

  1. Have an Ordained Friend or Family Member officiate the wedding. This is the most personal way, especially if you’re having friends or family members already attending your elopement as guests. Feel free to share this link to the California Wedding Laws and here’s a link to become ordained.
  2. Hire a wedding officiant from Yosemite or a nearby area. This can be the most convenient, especially if you’re not having any friends or family attend your elopement. Here’s a list of officiants in Yosemite.
  3. Getting Married in your own country or state then coming to Yosemite for a symbolic vow exchange. This can be the easiest option especially if you’re traveling internationally.

Obtaining a California/Yosemite Marriage License:

You must secure a marriage license at least 30 days before your ceremony. Applications are available online or in person at your local county clerk’s office, a critical step before your big day. For Yosemite, you’ll want to visit the Mariposa County Clerk’s Office. When visiting the Clerks office, each person needs to bring a form of picture I.D. that also indicates your date of birth (usually a driver’s license or passport) at the time you come in for your license. The marriage license is valid for 90 days from the date of issue, and must be recorded within 10 days after the ceremony takes place. Learn More about obtaining a California marriage license.

Mariposa County Clerk’s Office Address:
4982 10th St, Mariposa, CA 95338
Hours: Mon-Fri: 8 am – 5 pm, Sat-Sun – Closed

Yosemite Elopement Permits & Reservations

Before your elopement, you’ll need to obtain a special use permit when getting married within Yosemite. These permits must be obtained at least 3 months in advance, and we recommend applying up to a year in advance to secure your preferred date and location. The permit costs $150 and ensures access to designated areas within Yosemite for your ceremony.

Yosemite Reservation System

Yosemite has recently implemented a reservation system to enter the park on certain dates. This reservation system limits the number of people inside the park on a given day, ensuring a better experience for everyone. To obtain a reservation you’ll want to visit recreation.gov.

Pro Tip: A ticketed entry is different, and will be needed along with your reservation. The ticketed entry can be purchased at the gate, or online when making your reservation. Alternatively, your ceremony or lodging reservation inside the park will serve as a valid ticketed reservation for members of the wedding.

Navigating Yosemite

Plan your logistics well in advance. Yosemite’s vastness requires careful planning, from transportation to exploring its breathtaking landscapes.

Traveling to Yosemite

Located in Northern California, Yosemite is accessible by car or plane, with San Francisco International Airport being the nearest major airport. Regional airports also offer closer access points.

Choose Where to Stay

Yosemite’s accommodations range from campgrounds to luxurious lodges and cabins. Consider your budget and preferences to find the perfect stay for your elopement adventure.

Set a Budget

Budgeting for your Yosemite elopement is key. Include costs for travel, permits, lodging, and, importantly, Yosemite elopement photography and videography services. Anticipate unexpected expenses to ensure a smooth experience.

Yosemite Environmental Awareness

Eloping in Yosemite comes with a responsibility to preserve its beauty. Practice Leave No Trace principles and adhere to all park regulations to minimize your environmental impact.

Find the Right Photographer and Videographer For Your Yosemite Elopement.

Hey there! We’re Ryan and Elijah, the faces behind the photos and videos throughout this article. Capturing your elopement is essential, and Investing in professionals who are familiar with Yosemite and understand the park’s unique landscapes is essential to making your Yosemite elopement experience one you’ll treasure for a lifetime. Contact us to learn more about how we work with our couples to create a one-of-a-kind elopement experience.