Dawn Kelly Photography
Home »
Yosemite Elopement Guide

Sunset at Glacier Point

Yosemite Elopement Guide & Packages

{Updated November 25, 2020}

If you're looking to have an elopement or microwedding in Yosemite National park, you came to the right place! We are the premier Yosemite elopement team. Our all-inclusive packages include planning, travel, photography, officiant, flowers, hair, makeup, and video. Whether you want a ceremony overlooking Half Dome, in the middle of a sun-filled El Capitan meadow, or along the Merced River, the majestic landscapes won't disappoint. Portrait possibilities are endless with the granite mountains, thundering waterfalls, ancient sequoia groves, and miles of meadows.

How to Elope in Yosemite National Park

This comprehensive planning guide will help you navigate your Yosemite National Park elopement. You will find information on

  • NPS paperwork
  • Marriage licenses
  • Ceremony locations
  • Seasonal weather conditions
  • Road closures
  • What to wear
  • Bringing guests
  • Bringing dogs
  • WiFi
  • Bathrooms
  • Dining options
  • All-inclusive packages

Current Conditions & Problems

When planning your Yosemite visit, review their Current Conditions page for weather, construction, wildfires, and road closures.

During the phased reopening of Yosemite National Park, please refer to their COVID-19 page for current information. As of right now, advance online reservations are required to enter the park. Please refer to their How to Make a Reservation page for detailed instructions on obtaining a day use permit. The park is being kept at half capacity. Elopements and weddings are restricted to a group of ten or less, including your photographer and officiant.

What is an Elopement?

The traditional definition of "elope", according to the Marriam-Webster dictionary, is to "run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent." Think Romeo and Juliette. Times have changed and so has the elopement.

Today, elopements are intimate affairs that often take place in a beautiful, scenic location. The bride and groom exchange vows alone or with a handful of loved ones in attendance. The rest of the day is dedicated to exploring the area for the best wedding portraits. It's a simpler, more affordable way to have a destination wedding.

Yosemite is one of the most popular elopement destinations in the world. When you look at the photos taken in the park, you can see why.

What is a Microwedding?

You may have heard this new buzzword going around. A microwedding is a very small, intimate celebration that has a guest count of fifty of less. There is usually a small and sometimes casual reception at a restaurant or in the couple's cabin.

Bride and groom kiss in Yosemite meadow

Why Elope?

Each couple has their own reasons for eloping. Most couples are drawn to the appeal of enjoying their wedding day without the stress of planning and managing a big ceremony and reception. The stress can lead to a dilution in the magic of getting married. You're joining your lives in a permanent promise to love each other forever. In a lot of ways, a wedding is for your family and friends. An elopement is just about you as a couple. Enjoy a personal and private experience that celebrates your love.

With the rising cost of the average wedding, an elopement can save you up to $40,000. Skip the expense of a large venue, extravagant florals, centerpieces, a DJ, favors, candles, decor, tables, chairs, linens, and a catered meal. Instead, save money for the important milestones of marriage, such as purchasing a home and having children.

Many of our clients have been down the aisle before and want to keep things simple their second wedding. Some are planning to join their children in a blended family and want a comfortable setting for them. Most have established households and don't need gifts from a registry. All want to save money.

You can use the trip as a honeymoon. Combining your dream wedding location with a vacation saves both money and time off work. Spend the day tying the knot and taking epic wedding photos. Then relax, explore, and hike in Yosemite's gorgeous landscapes.

Destination Yosemite Microwedding

What to Expect

While working with us, your experience is streamlined and stress-free. Our packages include planning services, so I will guide you through each step of the elopement process. From choosing your package to helping you complete your album order, you're not alone.

Planning services include a 45-minute video chat in which I answer all questions and we discuss:

  • Airport information
  • Lodging recommendations
  • Ceremony location
  • Photo locations
  • Filling out NPS park permit
  • Obtaining marriage license
  • Ordering flowers
  • Suggestions on what to wear
  • Cake, dinner and catering recommendations
  • Hair and makeup recommendations

I'm available for unlimited emails, texts, and phone calls. I keep our clients up to date on NPS updates and park conditions. Each couple receives a detailed questionnaire to fill out for our officiant. You will also receive a fourteen-page planning booklet in the mail, which includes:

  • Checklists
  • Places for important information
  • Ceremony rules
  • Travel tips
  • Vendor information
  • Important emergency phone numbers
  • Groceries
  • Casual dining
  • Wedding dining
  • Park activities

Why Yosemite?

Yosemite is the most beautiful location in Northern California. It's so majestic that people travel from all over the world to visit. We've worked with couples from Japan, Australia, Canada, the Midwest, and the East Coast. Yosemite is the perfect place for an elopement because there are hundreds of gorgeous spots to explore for photos. You'll have the most beautiful collection of wedding images ever.

About Us

Yosemite has always been a special place for me because I grew up outside the park gate. It was a regular occurrence to hop in the car after worship on Sunday and spend a few hours exploring and hiking around the park. Some of my most treasured memories are things like playing tour guide to every family member who ever visited us, school trips with best friends, ice skating with my crush when I was fifteen, picnics with boyfriends, hiking Vernal Falls with my husband weeks after our wedding.

Because of the vast amount of time I've spent in the park, I know it thoroughly. I've mastered photographing in each location, understanding the light and knowing what each location looks like throughout the day. I also have a long list of unique secret spots that aren't used by other photographers.

I've teamed up with the best vendors I could find, and we have Yosemite elopements down to a science. Our special system provides a stress-free solution to a destination elopement that seems very daunting. Simply put, we are the experts.

Me and my husband - Photo by Briggs Photography

For more testimonials, go to our Testimonials Page.

Yosemite Ceremony & Portrait Locations

When choosing your ceremony location, there are several things to take into consideration. Guest count, time of year, accessibility, and restrictions determine which locations are available. Yosemite requires a special use permit, which costs $150. (This permit is necessary whether you are having an official ceremony in the park or not.) This permit reserves your ceremony location for two hours, ensuring you will have the space to yourselves. It also allows us to take photos throughout the park for 24 hours. Be sure to consult Yosemite's Weddings Page for in-depth information on permits and other information. Consult their Ceremony Locations Page for specific elopement ceremony locations.

Glacier Point

  • Views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country
  • 7,214 feet elevation, 3,214 feet above Half Dome Village (on the valley floor)
  • Group capacity 50
  • Accessible by car from approximately late May through October or November*
  • Two large parking lots offer plenty of parking
  • Short, paved (wheelchair accessible) trail takes you all the way to the point
  • Pit toilet bathrooms (the flush bathrooms have been closed for two years)

Glacier Point is my favorite spot to photograph couples because of the majestic views of the valley, mountain ranges, and Half Dome. This is a stunning spot with beautiful scenery for a ceremony.

*Glacier Point Road will be closed for the entirety of 2022 for road maintenance. It will be open the entirety of 2021.

Glacier Point wedding ceremony

Yosemite elopement silhouette Half Dome

Yosemite elopement guide Glacier Point

Tunnel View

  • Views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Three Brothers, and Bridalveil Falls
  • 4,400 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car year-round
  • Two medium sized parking lots offer parking, and it's tough to get a parking spot when the park is crowded.
  • Short, paved (wheelchair accessible) access right off the parking lots
  • No bathrooms

Tunnel View is a dramatic landmark as you head to Yosemite's valley from the route 41 entrance. Between Yosemite's valley and Glacier Point Rd, it was designed to astound drivers as they pass through the Wawona Tunnel on their way into the park.

Photo opportunities are limited, as it's just two parking lots with a rock wall.

Bride and groom at Tunnel View

Bride and groom at Tunnel View with fog

Spring elopement at Tunnel View

Tunnel View is one of the ceremony locations listed on Yosemite's web site. It's not ideal for a ceremony because there is zero privacy. Tour buses are constantly arriving, unloading excited tourists. This is also a favorite spot for landscape photographers, who stake their claim and refuse to move.

Yosemite elopement tourists


  • 4,000 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car year round
  • Tons of lodging, including Big Trees Lodge and cabins inside The Redwoods in Yosemite
  • Access to the Merced River
  • Mariposa Grove is located in Wawona.
  • Activities include horseback riding, hiking, camping, bird watching, fishing, golfing

“Wawona is like a bright green emerald set between the sparkling diamonds of Yosemite Valley’s waterfalls and the red rubies of the Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove.” – Yosemite visitor, early 1900's

I have fallen in love with the huge area of Wawona! Did you know that the valley is only 5% of the park? Don't miss out on the variety the park has to offer. If you stay in Wawona, there's great opportunity for us to explore the area and work our way towards the valley.

Wawona Yosemite wedding

Bridal Veil Falls

  • This area will be under restoration in 2020
  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car year round*
  • One medium-sized parking lot; very difficult to find parking on busy days
  • Paved trail (wheelchair accessible) takes you to the base of the waterfall, or into a wooded area with the river rushing through
  • Pit toilet bathrooms

*Bridal Veil Falls area is under restoration for 2020 and 2021 and therefore closed to ceremonies and wedding photos.

Bride and groom with Bridal Veil Falls Yosemite

The Merced River

The Merced River runs through the entire park, starting in the upper country. There are many gorgeous spots in Wawona and the valley.

Bride and groom in Wawona

Bride and groom on boulder in Yosemite

Bride and groom with Merced River in Yosemite

Yosemite elopement bride on log

Wawona Yosemite microwedding

Yosemite bride and groom sitting on log

Bride and groom in Merced River at Yosemite Valley

Bride and groom at Merced River in Wawona

Valley View

  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car year-round
  • Located along Northside Drive immediately before Pohono Bridge
  • Access to the Merced River
  • Views of El Capitan, Three Brothers, and Bridal Veil Falls
  • Pit toilet bathroom

This little spot looks out at the valley from the western end of the loop. There is a small parking lot with about ten parking spots. Photo opportunities are limited and ceremonies aren't possible here.

Bride and groom kissing at Valley View Yosemite

Bride and groom with Valley View Yosemite elopement

Bride and groom hugging at Valley View

Mariposa Grove

  • 5,600 feet elevation
  • Group capacity 30
  • Accessible by car April through November
  • Large parking lot with 300 spaces
  • Access to the Merced River
  • Mariposa Grove is located in Wawona
  • Flush bathrooms
  • A shuttle bus is taken from the visitors' center to the grove*

This is Yosemite's largest and most mature Sequoia grove, with over 500 mature trees. Some were adult Sequoias when Christ walked the earth. During the Civil War, President Lincoln signed legislation protecting Mariposa Grove and Yosemite's valley. It became "public use, resort, and recreation," protecting it for future generations. In 1906, the grove was made part of Yosemite's official park. This was a landmark decision and the first of its kind, which led to the National Park System.

*There will be no shuttle service from the visitors' center to the grove during summer 2020 due to COVID-19. The grove can be accessed on foot with a two mile hike along Washburn Trail or the Mariposa Grove Road.

Mariposa Grove Yosemite elopement

Bride and groom walking through Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove wedding

Bride and groom in Mariposa Grove

Yosemite's Wooden Walkways

Yosemite's valley is connected with pathways and wooden boardwalks. The entire valley is accessible on foot or bicycle. Many of these wooden walkways stretch across protected meadows and wetlands, protecting wildlife. All these unique boardwalks are accessible from parking lots and easy to get to for creative portraits.

Bride and groom on Yosemite's wooden walkway

Yosemite elopement wooden walkway

Yosemite falls with wooden walkways bride and groom

These walkways look very different in each season, the landscape changing from green ponds to fall foliage as the year progresses.

Yosemite wooden walkways fall bride groom

Bride and groom fall Yosemite elopement

Bride and groom wedding portrait with Yosemite falls

Sentinel Beach

  • Views of Yosemite Falls
  • Located on the bank of the Merced River
  • Group capacity 100
  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car in the dry months, closed during rain due to mud
  • One small parking lot with around a dozen spaces
  • Dirt and sand to walk on
  • Pit toilet bathrooms

If your Yosemite wedding is on the larger side, Sentinel Beach is a great option. With the Merced River and views of Yosemite Falls, the backdrop is ideal for your ceremony. In the fall, this area is the first for fall leaves.

Bride and groom at Sentinel Beach Yosemite fall

Fall at Sentinel Beach bride and groom

Bride and groom tossing fall leaves at Sentinel Beach Yosemite

Spring Yosemite elopement at Sentinel Beach

Fall at Sentinel Beach Yosemite

Cathedral Beach

  • Views of El Capitan
  • Located on the bank of the Merced River
  • Crowd capacity 50
  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car in the dry months, closed during rain due to mud
  • One small parking lot with around a dozen spaces
  • Dirt and sand to walk on
  • Pit toilet bathrooms

This little beach location is nestled in the woods along the Merced River, providing a quiet and private ceremony location. With El Capitan and the Merced River, the scenery is perfect for wedding photos.

Bride and groom with dog Cathedral Beach Yosemite

Bride and groom kissing in front of El Capitan

Swinging Bridge

  • Views of Yosemite Falls
  • Located on the bank of the Merced River
  • Group capacity 20
  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car year-round
  • One small parking lot with around a dozen spaces, very tough to find parking on busy days
  • Paved paths (wheelchair accessible) take you back to several meadows and the bank of the Merced River; to the right is a large meadow with views of the falls
  • Pit toilet bathrooms

This area has a lot to offer and is gorgeous in every season! With a bridge, meadows, trails, woods, and the river, there are plenty of wedding photo opportunities. In the spring, the river is high and rushing, with as is Yosemite Falls in the background. In the fall, the river is so low that you can walk around in the pebble-filled riverbed.

*This area is currently under restoration. The meadow to the left of the footbridge is closed to foot traffic.

Bride and groom kiss at Swinging Bridge Yosemite

Winter snow elopement Swinging Bridge

Fall elopement at Swinging Bridge

Mature couple elopement Swinging Bridge Yosemite

Yosemite elopement Swinging Bridge Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls

  • Views of Yosemite Falls
  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Group capacity 30
  • Accessible by car year-round
  • A large parking lot across the road at Yosemite Valley Lodge provides plenty of parking
  • Paved path (wheelchair accessible) take you to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls
  • Flush bathrooms

This area is set up with a convenient and beautiful ceremony spot. Granite steps form the wedding alter and small boulders encircle the space. It's a perfect location if you have elderly family members and guests because it's an easy, flat walk from Yosemite Valley Lodge across the street. There are also a multitude of wedding portrait locations in the trees and along the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail.

Yosemite elopement at Lower Yosemite Falls

Yosemite elopement bride and groom at Lower Yosemite Falls

El Capitan Meadow

  • Views of El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks
  • Group capacity 10
  • 3,966 feet elevation
  • Accessible by car rear-round
  • Parking along Northside Drive
  • No bathrooms

This vast and gorgeous meadow is gorgeous year-round. In the spring, it's lush and green. It's especially beautiful in the fall with golden grass and changing leaves. Located in the middle of the valley, it is a convenient location for ceremony and portraits. We love to use the fallen tree at the El Capitan outlook, where you can see teeny tiny climbers ascending the granite face.