Fifth Photography shares with us a spectacular elopement at Yosemite National Park! This elopement is full of inspiration for the bride-to-be desiring a bold and earthy destination!
Yosemite National Park has always been a special place to me and since I started photographing weddings almost a decade ago, it has been a dream of mine to photograph weddings and elopements there. So when Frank and Melissa inquired if I would be interested in photographing their elopement, I couldn't even begin to express my excitement. They made my dream of being an Yosemite elopement photographer come true. Their elopement was in December, which is a wonderful time to be in Yosemite as the park's greatest flaw, the endless hordes of tourists, is at a minimum. Instead of sitting in traffic jams in the middle of the valley, the park was rather empty. All the better for enjoying the word class views Yosemite has to offer.
For elopements, I always travel to the destination at least a day early in order to have the opportunity of scouting out the locations we have decided on. I left my family's cabin in Mariposa and headed into the park to check out Swinging Bridge picnic area where the elopement ceremony would be held. Interestingly, the bridge at Swinging Bridge does not in fact swing at all. But what it lacks in swinging, it more than makes up for in charm. The area is popular for elopements and anyone who visits can see why. Who doesn't want the majestic Yosemite Falls as the backdrop for their ceremony? While scouting out the location I was lucky enough to see the falls be wholly enveloped by a rainbow and it was utterly magical. Satisfied with my recon work, I headed out and got ready for the big day.
A new day dawned and I headed out to meet up with Frank and Melissa at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. At the ceremony site, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Melissa's parents and Franks mom and aunt who had made the trip out to bear witness to their elopement. Despite the fact we were all meeting each other for the very first time, there wasn't an ounce of awkwardness and they made me feel right at home. Nestled between two towering pines, that so perfectly framed the majestic Yosemite Falls in the background, Frank and Melissa had their elopement ceremony. As the bride and groom said their vows to each other, and exchanged rings, it was easy to see just how much these two loved each other. Truly two halves made whole. After the elopement ceremony concluded we proceeded to do family photos and it was insisted that I be in the photo as well. I don't always join in family photos but when I do, awkward band poses are the way to go.
I love doing elopement photography because most of my time is spent doing creative portraiture, as opposed to the more event coverage work that makes up the bulk of a traditional wedding. Romantic portraits are the main reason why I shoot weddings. So as the sun set, we headed out into the meadows of Yosemite to create stunning photos in the golden light of late afternoon. The result was a series of photographs and memories that Frank and Melissa, as well as myself, will cherish for a lifetime.
Q: Tell us about your wedding! What was the inspiration behind your day? Did you have a specific theme, style or color palette? Did you incorporate any cultural or religious traditions in any part of your day?
A: Frank and I (Melissa) are very laid back and don't like all the fuss that can sometimes come with larger weddings. We chose to have a small elopement in Yosemite, with the Yosemite Falls as our backdrop, and only our parents, officiant, and Norm (our amazing photographer) present. We used the natural setting around us as the colors for our wedding. We both aren't very religious, so we chose to incorporate a knot tying into our ceremony where we both took turns tying an infinity knot and pulling it tight to symbolize our love.
Q: Let's talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?
A: No decorations are allowed during ceremonies, so we embraced the gorgeous natural setting of Yosemite as our wedding decor. Our ring box was a glass terrarium that we filled with our favorite gemstones and our rings sitting on a bed of moss. The reception was a simple dinner that was held at the Yosemite Valley Lodge, which had stunning floor to ceiling windows that allowed us to take in the views of the nature around us.
Q: What were the florals like in your wedding? Did you use flowers in any of your design elements like the bridal bouquets, centerpieces or ceremony backdrop? Did they play an important part in the overall style of your wedding?
A: The only flowers that we used were for the bridal bouquet and the boutonniere. We chose to be environmentally friendly and use faux flowers, so we wouldn't interfere with any of the natural wildlife around us. The flowers were varying shades of purples and burgundy, which we felt matched the fall/winter setting of Yosemite.
Q: Did you personalize the day in any way (food trucks, guest entertainment etc.)? What were some of your favorite parts of your wedding?
A: Our day was personalized by being simple. Frank and I drove to Yosemite on the day of the wedding, with our cake, and met our parents there. We had a small ceremony, followed by a small dinner, and of course cake. The cake may have been one of the biggest parts of our wedding, even though it was a small cake, only meant to feed 6 - 8 people. We wanted the cake to be as simple as the rest of the day, so we chose to have the top decorated with sliced fruits, and didn't use a cake topper. The inside of the cake was a simple white sponge with white creme and strawberry filling. There was enough for everyone and nothing was wasted!
Q: Let's talk fashion. How did you both choose your wedding day look? Describe the looks in detail.
A: I (Melissa) actually ordered my dress online in my usual dress size and then had it tailored to a more custom fit. The dress was a simple A line cut with a halter neckline that had a detailed white lace top and a keyhole back. The bottom of the dress flowed from the natural waist and was made of layers of white tulle. Because we were getting married in Yosemite in December, I wanted to wear boots that I would be warm in and be able to walk around in. Luckily for me, Frank is 6'4", so I could get away with wearing the 4" white boots that were hidden under my dress! I was also wearing leg warmers and got a shrug and gloves to wear once the sun went down. We kept the jewelry simple with raw amethyst earrings and raw clear quarts tiara. Frank looked handsome in his black dress pants and matching black vest. He loves bowties, and chose to wear a classy velvet and satin black bowtie to match his pants and vest. He wore a gray tweed coat and gray plaid scarf when it got colder outside. His outfit was complete with his shiny black boots that he knew he had to have for his wedding day. We both tried to keep our fashion as simple as the rest of the day!
Q: How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.
A: Frank and I went to high school together, but didn't actually meet until we had both already graduated, despite having a lot of the same friends. We met playing games with friends and have been pretty inseparable since! We were together a little over 4 years before we got married, and there was no real proposal. We didn't need one. We both knew that this was the person we wanted to spend our lives with, so there was no need to ask. We just talked about getting married and both knew that we wanted something small that we could cherish forever. The whole planning of the wedding only took about 3 months!
Q: What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?
A: The most anticipated part of the day was just getting to Yosemite. We had to drive for about 4 1/2 hours to get there on the day of the ceremony, and we were bringing the cake in a cooler. We arrived slightly later than planned because of road work being done on one of the main roads into Yosemite. Once we finally got there, we kindly asked the lodge staff to keep the cake in the fridge until after dinner. Then we quickly got changed and went off to the ceremony. Everything went so smoothly after we arrived.
Q: Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you'd like to share with other couples planning their day?
A: Some advice for your wedding day: bring snacks. The time between the ceremony and dinner, we used for taking photos. We wish we had brought some snacks so we could eat them in between taking the photos. We did make it to dinner, but we were pretty hungry! Some advice for marriage: don't go to bed angry, and don't sweat the little things. And everything is a little thing!
Ceremony: Yosemite National Park
Photographer: Fifth Photography
Happy Wedding Planning!