A Yosemite wedding is also an excuse for a fun little getaway for you and your guests! Everyone wants to linger a little longer to take in this beautiful place. Looking back, I wish I’d had a chance to stay a day more, and maybe next time I will!
Anyway, I want to introduce you to this couple, Stefanie and Scott. I want to let you in on what I know as their wedding photographer about how they planned their Yosemite Valley wedding.
I first connected with Scott when he was planning his proposal to Stefanie.
Here are some shots of the gorgeous couple from that wonderful time in their lives – fresh fiances!
PS – love National Park weddings and engagements? Check out this Grand Canyon engagement.
About the couple
As they explain on their wedding website, this was not exactly love at first sight! This couple met at Toastmasters SF. Their friendship deepened gradually over time, the fires stoked by evaluating speeches and serving as club officers.
Before long, members of their close-knit community began pointing out their compatibility. The rest is history!
The couple got together officially in July 2016, and Scott proposed almost exactly a year later. He commissioned a beautiful engagement ring by Custom Made Jewelry, inspired by Stefanie’s lotus tattoo. For the occasion of their wedding, they commissioned Custom Made once again.
Choosing your venue
As the proposal was in such an urban spot, I was surprised and overjoyed when they told me they were planning to get married in Yosemite National Park. It really is a dream for most Bay Area photographers to shoot there!
The San Francisco couple wanted to do something that felt real and true to them. They certainly have a taste for the epic!
At the time they were contemplating their wedding, the couple knew that a move to Denver, CO was an imminent possibility. They wanted a wedding venue that felt like iconic California.
As a way of saying goodbye to Stef’s native state, and Scott’s adoptive home of several years, they decided to tie the knot in California’s most famous National Park. It would be fun to have everyone be part of a celebration that was filled with nature, relaxed vibes, and soul fodder.
They achieved their goal of a relaxed, beautiful day shared with about 50 of their closest friends and family.
Stef and Scott had their ceremony at Glacier Point Amphitheater and their reception at Curry Village (formerly known as Half Dome Village). It was a true joy to photograph this Yosemite wedding!
Planning their Yosemite wedding
Stefanie is a planner by nature and also by profession. Impeccable planning skills are absolutely required when considering a National Park wedding.
Why? Well, there are many hoops you’ll need to jump through as you go along the planning process. Everything from applying for your desired location through to the day of, you’ll need to abide by a set of procedures.
With no cell signal available at Glacier Point, you do have to think through complex logistics in advance for a seamless day.
Applying for your location entails a permit you’ll need to apply for at this Yosemite page on the NPS website. There are also quite a few policies and rules to get up to speed on. Nothing scary, but worth bearing in mind.
You’ll need to choose your location from the Yosemite ceremony sites listed here. Glacier Point was a great choice for the couple’s size of group and of course the stunning view.
Stef and Scott kept their guests informed about the order of events, what they should wear, where they’ll need to be and when – and many other details, via detailed email prior to the wedding.
Stefanie even provided a thorough Guest Guide Google doc, complete with map, schedule, packing advice and planning tips! Though she says the organization of it all was a little stressful, I think she was clearly in her element!
Order of events at Glacier Point Amphitheater wedding
The previous evening as soon as I’d arrived we actually snuck in a little Yosemite Valley engagement session. It was too good an opportunity to miss! (I’ll be blogging this one at some point!)
We kicked off the wedding day photography at 7.30 am on a beautiful Sunday in September. I was staying at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and traveled to the Ahwahnee where Scott and Stef were staying.
I split my time between Stef and Scott separately. They got ready in rooms on different floors, Stef actually in her parents’ room. It was a really early start for Stef with hair and makeup starting so early! She made a truly stunning bride with a dress by Anomalie.
They chose not to do a first look which meant separate transportation and making sure their paths didn’t cross until the ceremony!
Ceremony start time
The ceremony started at 9.30 am at Glacier Point Amphitheater. Yes, it was just as magical as it sounds! The backdrop couldn’t have been more spectacular.
It’s a fab location for photography in the morning as it has a beautiful, glowy backlight before the sun gets too high in the sky.
After the ceremony, we dove into a group photo and then family formals. This was honestly so much fun. They were an incredibly organized and diligent group! Plus we only had 6 groupings to get through.
Sticking to that sort of number meant it was a real pleasure for the couple, not a chore! We got through them in 20 mins as planned.
A chartered bus ferried Stef and Scott’s 50 guests from Glacier Point to Curry Village. The couple stayed with me and we took photos in a few locations we found on the way. We had to be pretty nimble finding spots.
As I’m looking mainly for what light would work, I’m guided by that as well as where we can pull over and also where isn’t overrun with tourists. Finding info on exactly which spots to choose in an area as large as this is super tricky.
Short of scouting it ahead of time at the exact right time of day (for light) and year (for crowds), it’s wiser to go with your gut to find places that work in the moment.
Reception at Curry Village
A simple buffet lunch was being served in one of the dining areas at the rustic Curry Village when we arrived. The guests were playing games, chilling and getting to know each other.
There was a quiz in the little booklet that the couple produced to entertain their guests. As you may have noticed from their proposal shoot, Stef and Scott are a couple that love anything to do with riddles, words, games and puzzles!
A few touching short speeches were given by family members and friends. That got some great reactions!
The last thing on the docket for my photography coverage was photographing the cutting of the cake! Their cake was topped with a custom cake topper depicting the couple with their husky, Oz.
Unique features of Glacier Point Amphitheater
Most people are aware that the #1 feature of this location is the view! The outdoor location is stunning. Also, being a National Park, the rental fees are much lower than a private venue.
My info is mostly from the NPS Yosemite ‘locations’ page. It’s always advised to check directly with the Parks service before making any plans.
Maximum capacity at the Amphitheater is 50 people. Monitoring is required for groups of between 35-50 guests.
Guests are seated within the south end of the amphitheater. They sit directly on the stone slabs that line the semi-circular amphitheater. This couple had their guests sitting on cute blankets for a bit more comfort. The blankets then doubled as favors!
The elevation at Glacier Point Amphitheater is 7,214 feet. Storms can occur year-round due to the high elevation. The earliest availability is the Tuesday after Memorial Day (subject to weather) through September 30th due to the annual Glacier Point road closure.
Weddings are not scheduled at the site in July and August due to the high volume of tourists.
It’s strongly recommended to begin your 2-hour site rental in the morning before noon. If you then wanted to go on to have a reception (brunch, champagne, cake-cutting dancing, etc) you would deal directly with the Park’s hospitality partner. Info below!
Yosemite weddings info page from NPS
Yosemite wedding locations page from NPS
Seasonal road closures page from NPS
Yosemite Hospitality partner (for receptions)
Vendor information and referrals from Yosemite.com
Venue Glacier Point Amphitheater
Photography Zoe Larkin Photography
Day-of coordinator (friend) @salor_nuj
Rings Custom Made Jewelry
HMUA Megan Cary Artistry
Game booklets Rock It Prints
Favors Prickly Cute
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Oh and you can learn more about my services at the links below. Hoping I’ll be back at Glacier Point Amphitheater soon, shooting your lovely wedding!
Spot the unicorn when you hover over any image on this page =)
Photos from Glacier Point Amphitheater wedding