Dawn Kelly Photography
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Yosemite FAQ



Yosemite FAQ


If you've made it this far, you're excited about the idea of eloping in Yosemite. Congratulations!

But now what?..... Whether you're a Californian or from out of the state or country, planning a destination elopement is overwhelming. Don't worry, I'm here to help! I've compiled some Frequently Asked Questions for you, but before you read on, please read our Wedding FAQ page and Yosemite Elopement Guide. Those pages will give you a good idea of how we run our business.

Hopefully this page helps. Remember, you can call or email me any time!


Q: We're from out of state and we don't know where to start. How do we do this?

A: I help each and every one of our couples plan their Yosemite elopement, from the initial booking through the album selection process. I'll really guide you through every step of planning, from deciding which airport to fly into to knowing where to eat while in the park.

You just need to contact me so we can have a phone or video chat consultation.


Q: What are the marriage license laws in California? How do we get our license if we're from out of state?

A: California makes it pretty easy for you to get married. You can get your marriage license at any of our County Clerk offices. You don't have to get your license in the county where you will be married. There is no waiting period. One witness is required, and I've been that witness many times!


Q: Is an additional permit from Yosemite National Park required to get married there?

A: Yes. Yosemite requires a permit to have an official wedding ceremony there. The permit costs $150, and you can find all the info and the application on their web site.


Q: How many people can we bring with us?

A: Elopements have definitely changed over the years. In the past, an elopement was when the bride and groom ran off all alone, in secret, to get married. Now, we consider an elopement to be a bride and groom, either alone or with a small group of guests, getting married and taking photos, without a reception. Some of our couples come solo, and others bring up to twenty people. It's entirely up to you!


Q: Can you help us find an officiant?

A: Yes we can, because we have two officiants on staff. An officiant is included in our All-Inclusive package.


Q: How many photos do you typically take in the four hour elopement package?

A: I usually deliver between 125 and 250 images.


Q: Can you help me find someone to do my hair and makeup?

A: Yes! I work with an amazing team of talented, reliable hair and makeup artists that go to Yosemite. Both our Gold and Platinum packages include hair and makeup.


Q: Can we do a First Look?

A: Yes! This is a great option if you're having a reception or meal shortly after your ceremony. Most of our couples do a First Look, then portraits, then their ceremony, then more portraits. That seems to work the best logistically.


Q: I see your packages include Planning and Travel. What does that mean?

A: Planning means that I will help you plan your elopement from the very first inquiry to delivering your dream album and prints. National park elopements can be quite complicated, because the parks have rules, regulations, and permits. I am skilled in everything it takes to elope in Yosemite, and have a lot of secrets in my back pocket. I reserve this specialized information for my paying clients.

We live in California's Central Valley, which is about 2.5 hours from Yosemite's valley floor. We don't charge extra for that travel time, and there are no hidden travel fees.


Q: Can we have some "getting ready" pictures?

A: Absolutely! Just because you're eloping doesn't mean you have to skip all the traditional wedding photos. Getting ready photos are a great way to round out your album. If you want these photos, you'll need to add some time to allow for that.


Q: We're having a big wedding and reception in Yosemite. Do you photograph full weddings?

A: Yes! I love doing any photos in Yosemite.


Q: What parts of Yosemite can we go to?

A: We can go anywhere that is open if we have the time. When I help a couple plan their day, we choose a starting point and an ending point, and we stop along that route. We can cover a good portion of the park in four hours.


Q: Where should we have our ceremony?

A: That's totally up to you. If you have more than ten people in your party, including your photographer, officiant, and other vendors present, you have to stick to the ceremony locations on their list. If you have less than ten people, you can get married anywhere in the park. This is something I help each couple decide based on time of year and what their desires are.


Q: We'd like to elope in Yosemite in a year. Can I book that now?

A: I'm sorry, but I don't book elopements more than six months out. I find that when I book an elopement too far in advance, some people change their minds or cancel. I have a wait list calendar for brides who would like to book a Yosemite elopement more than five months in advance. If you like, I can call you five months before your elopement date and you'll have first dibs.


Q: I saw on your web site that you don't go to Yosemite June, July, or August. Why?

A: The summer months are so wildly popular, and therefore incredibly crowded. There is a reason Yosemite has started limiting the number of guests in the valley to 21,000 visitors a day in the peak season (summer, Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend). There are so many people that the traffic is gridlock and it takes three hours to get from the gate to the valley, when it should take twenty minutes. The only way to shoot a wedding in the summer months is to start at sunrise, and we don't do that.


Q: I saw on your web site that you limit the number of weddings you take. Is that because my wedding isn’t good enough for you?
Absolutely not. In no way are we trying to be insulting, or make you feel like you’re not good enough or cool enough. We do limit the number of weddings and elopements we accept, because we strive to provide the best customer service and quality of work possible. We can’t do that if we are over-booked. We spend a lot of time with our clients, guiding them through the entire process, from the initial planning to the delivery of their album. The last thing I want is to take so many elopements that I burn out and lose the love for what I do, or worse, provide lazy or sub-par work. We are a boutique studio, so we take less jobs per year than most photography studios.
Your wedding photos will be one of your most precious belongings. You deserve to work with a photographer that you connect with, has the time to give your wedding all the attention that it deserves and that can capture the true essence of your personalities. We want to make sure we’re a good fit, that you will have fun with us on your wedding day, and that you will LOVE your photos. That’s the most important thing.
Many factors go into deciding which weddings we photograph, including (but not limited to) our calendar and travel schedule, number of current bookings, and your specific needs/desires that you have for your special day.



Now that you've read all the info, I'd love to start helping you plan your elopement! Fill out the contact form below and we can set up a phone or video chat consultation.