Yesterday was our 1 year wedding anniversary. David and I got married on June 9, 2018 in Yosemite, California.
When we got engaged, one of the first things we agreed on was that we wanted to get married in an outdoor ceremony. But we disagreed on whether to elope or have a wedding with guests. I was pushing for an elopement, he was pushing for a ceremony with family and friends present. We compromised with a small, intimate, destination wedding. In hindsight, he was absolutely right about wanting our family and friends there.
We picked Yosemite because I’d grown up going as a kid and it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. When we took a trip out there to look for venues, he fell in love too. The valley is split in half by the Merced River and is surrounded by imposing granite cliffs and dramatic waterfalls.
We had our ceremony and reception at Rush Creek Lodge, located just outside Yosemite National Park’s gates. It is a brand new and beautiful property with great rooms, tons of activities, a great tavern, and fantastic restaurant. The staff and wedding coordinators were amazing and had experience with weddings at their sister property down the road. Rush Creek had the exact feel we wanted for our wedding.
It was really important to David and I that we have a small, personal, and intimate wedding. We invited our closest family and friends and were so touched to have 34 guests make the trip out to Yosemite to be a part of our big day.
David, my parents, and I flew out to San Francisco on the Tuesday before the wedding. We spent the night in the city and picked up our marriage license before heading out to Yosemite the next day.
We got to Rush Creek Lodge on Wednesday evening and on Thursday David and I went into the park for some quality time together before our guests started to arrive. We had a wonderful day exploring Yosemite and getting to visit Glacier Point, where we’d originally planned to have our ceremony. Glacier Point overlooks the entire valley with breathtaking views and is a popular wedding ceremony site. However, getting all our guests to and from Glacier Point during the park’s busiest season was a logistical nightmare. We were going to rent party buses but with traffic in the park it could have been 2 hours one way . We did not want to put our guests through that when they’d already have to travel to our destination wedding. Instead we opted to have our ceremony at Rush Creek Lodge. We got back to the lodge just in time to have dinner with some of my family that had arrived.
On Friday the rest of our guests started to arrive and David went into the park with his groomsmen for the day. Meanwhile, my dad, and I built the chuppah at the ceremony site. I put on tons of sunscreen but still managed to get a sunburn that looked like a farmers tan in the wedding photos.
On Friday afternoon we had a rehearsal. It was the first time we got to meet our wedding officiant, Lauren Snead in person after months of video calls getting to know her. David had initially pushed for a Rabbi, but since neither of us really observes Judaism, I felt that having a Rabbi marry us would would be very disingenuous to who we are as a couple. I felt very strongly about wanting a secular officiant, and it helped that it was impossible to find a Rabbi that was willing to come out to Yosemite and that would perform a wedding on Shabbat. After our first call with Lauren, David agreed she was the perfect fit for us. We’d really bonded with her in the months leading up to the wedding, and to finally meet her in person at the rehearsal was wonderful.
During the rehearsal Lauren had us stand in a circle with our immediate family and David’s groomsmen. She had everyone take a turn wishing us well and I was bawling by the time we got around the circle. I was so touched that these people had come all the way out to Yosemite for our wedding and it was such a beautiful moment to share with the people we loved. After the rehearsal we had a dinner for all our guests. We wanted to give everyone a chance to meet and mingle before the wedding and it was wonderful to catch up with everyone.
I spent most of Saturday getting ready with my mom, sister, niece, and David’s sister. Even though David had four groomsmen, I chose not to have bridesmaids. It just wasn’t something I wanted after having been one myself several times and seeing how stressful it can be for the bride. It was our wedding, so we did what we wanted. I got ready with the most important women in my life and they all helped to keep me calm.
Before the ceremony David and I had a first look in a wooded area near the lodge. I will always treasure those moments alone together before the craziness of the wedding. It was a chance for us to just focus on each other. After the first look we took some pictures along a river, then our immediate family and the groomsmen joined us for group pictures. Our photographer Joleen was absolutely amazing. She has shot many weddings at Rush Creek Lodge so she knew where to go to get some great shots before the ceremony. We’d really wanted to take wedding pictures in the park, but in peak season, the traffic times were too unpredictable and we didn’t want to risk being late to the ceremony. Instead she took pictures nearby before the ceremony, then on the Monday after the wedding she took us into the park for a second, all day shoot. Our photography package included an engagement shoot, but she let us use it for a second wedding shoot in the park instead. She was absolutely amazing to work with and made our dream of having wedding pictures in the park come true.
After taking a ton of pictures with family and the groomsmen, everyone headed up to the ceremony site. I stayed back to wait for one of the coordinators to come get me. I had decided to walk myself down the aisle. I love my dad with my whole heart, but I hate the patriarchal concept of him “giving me away” to my husband and the transfer of ownership that old tradition used to represent. Long before the wedding, I’d explained my feelings to my dad, and he fully supported my choice.
Our ceremony was everything I’d ever hoped it would be. While I’d always looked forward to having a fun reception, the ceremony had always been the most important part of our wedding for me. It was such a meaningful moment when David and I made vows to one another. From the start of the planning process, the biggest priority for me was that the ceremony be true to who we were as individuals and as a couple. I wanted a modern and progressive ceremony free of religious and traditional customs that are often antiquated and sexist. David tends to be a traditionalist, but when it came to the ceremony, he really respected and supported my feelings. The only things he really pushed for was having a chuppah and breaking the glass, which were fine with me. We worked with Lauren and she created a ceremony and vows that were absolutely beautiful and perfect for us.
After the ceremony, David and I headed down to the reception with our guests. We had a nice outdoor cocktail hour before the sun set then sat down for dinner. The reception hall had two walls of windowed doors that slid open to the make space feel more open to the outdoors and we had a beautiful view of the sunset over the mountains. After dinner, David and I had our first dance, then I had a father-daughter dance with my dad. Unfortunately, David’s mom wasn’t able to attend the wedding so he didn’t get to have a dance with her.
The reception was so much fun and our DJ Zeb did a fantastic job of setting a fun mood and getting everyone dancing. Since it was a small wedding, we really got to spend time with everyone during the reception. We couldn’t have asked for a better party to celebrate our marriage.
For some of us, the party continued after the reception. We were up late with our friends, savoring as much of the day as we could. I didn’t want it to end. On Sunday we spent time with our guests before they left and spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool and around the lodge.
On Monday David and I got back into our wedding clothes, and I got back into hair an makeup for an all day photo shoot in the park. We spent 8 hours trekking through the park with Joleen. We started on the valley floor and ended at Taft Point. It was a mile hike to Taft Point, which wasn’t easy in a wedding dress, but it was absolutely worth it.
Monday was our last night at Rush Creek before heading to Napa for a mini honeymoon.
Our Yosemite wedding was the perfect way to start our marriage. We had the time of our lives and we were so lucky to be able to share it with the people that matter most in our lives. I will always be thankful to the family and friends that made the trip out to Yosemite for our wedding and I will treasure my memories from that day for the rest of my life.
Wedding Ceremony & Reception: Rush Creek Lodge // Wedding Officiant: Lauren Snead Photographer: Joleen Willis // Hair & Makeup: The Hair + Makeup Co. // Flowers: Sweet Lilacs Studio // DJ: Zeb at Sounds Elevated // Catering: Rush Creek Lodge // Cake: Tangled Hearts Bakery // Chuppah: Under the Chuppah