Adventures · Sustainable Living · wedding

Ahwahnee Marry You {Our Yosemite Wedding}

Hello all, today I am going to talk about something so especially dear to my heart: our wedding day. April 5, 2019 was pure love and magic. I got to marry my best friend and love of my life, and in our very favorite place on Earth: Yosemite National Park.

When we sat down after Andrew proposed, back in November 2017, we wanted to begin by choosing a venue that we felt would suit us. We wanted it to give us the feeling of nature being involved in our wedding as it has been deeply involved in our relationship, somewhere we love, and somewhere we could host an intimate wedding. We almost eloped but couldn’t stand the thought of our families not being there! We both immediately thought of the same place: Yosemite National Park.

We took our first trip together about four months after we began dating, when I asked Andrew if he’d want to come stay in our family’s cabin by Yosemite. He has never been and I was eager to show him how beautiful it was up there. We hiked around the Valley, he was in complete awe of El Capitan, and we said “I love you” there for the first time. It was a natural fit for our wedding, as it means so much to us!

Planning a wedding in a national park can be a challenge, but it is so worth it. We booked our wedding at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly and hopefully once again will be The Ahwahnee Hotel) with the hopes of having the ceremony on their wedding lawn, with Yosemite Falls in the background. We chose the intimate Mural Room for our reception because it has an adorable copper fireplace and the most beautiful mural of Yosemite’s flora and fauna, commissioned when the hotel opened in 1927, and it was so cozy and perfect.

The night before our wedding, we had a rehearsal and a casual welcome dinner, where we got to say hello to everyone, hand out welcome bags with homemade cookies, and just start the merriment! We wanted it to feel like everyone had been whisked away on an adventure vacation, and about half of our guests had never been to Yosemite before, which made it such a special experience. At the end of the evening, we went off to separate cabins in Yosemite West to sleep and get ready for our big day!

It was difficult to sleep, as we were both so excited and not in our own beds (ain’t no pillow like my own pillow, am I right?), but after a couple cups of coffee, all was well! I think I may be the only person who was happy they put a Starbucks into Yosemite, if only so I could have my fancy coffee order on my wedding day! I began to get ready, curling my hair and doing my makeup (yes, I did it myself!). It was really important to me that I looked like myself on my wedding day, but just like a slightly more glammed up version. Caryn-plus. Forest fairy-princess. *cue sparkle emoji*

*taken on my phone

*taken by me
*taken by me

My bridal party included two very close friends, two cousins who I am so close to, and my new sister-in-law! I surprised them with robes and champagne when they arrived and we started celebrating a little early, which was so much fun, despite the world’s toughest cork removal. Having them as my amazing bride tribe was wonderful: I felt so loved and supported going into my big day!

My bridesmaids were getting readying the house as well, and I lucked out but they, unfortunately did not: Yosemite West lost all power after Andrew and I left for our first look, so anyone who wasn’t ready had to improvise big time! This where I’m super grateful to my friends and family for coming on this adventure with us, because there were many bumps in the road on this adventure but again, SO WORTH IT. Love you guys.

My mom (lovingly known around these parts as “the mamahawk”) got in on the fun with us! She is glowing! I love seeing her so happy. She woke up with me super early on the morning of, when my silly self forgot to turn off my 6AM alarm, and we came out to this back deck and talked about life and how crazy it is that it was my wedding day! We listened to the birdsong as the sun rose and laughed at the blue jays who sounded like they were laughing at us. I was so grateful she got up early and took in the first sunshine with me – my dad was usually the person I would share the sunrise with, and so it felt like his presence was there with us at sunrise.

After all of the getting ready and early celebrating, it was time to see my very-soon-to-be husband! A few of us ladies piled into the car and took a little drive down the mountain to Tunnel View, an iconic spot for views in Yosemite. The drizzle began and the fog had arrived, bringing the one thing I had been worried about leading up to the wedding – rain. But I wasn’t worried in the moment, just happy to be able to see Andrew and finally get to marry him. I got out of the car and saw my Groom, so dapper in his new blue suit, staring out at Yosemite Valley.

Isn’t he the most handsome groom?! Here are some shots of him getting ready over at his house, and while I wasn’t there to tell the tale, it seems like they were having a great time:

Our photographer, Ed, spots me and guides me to Andrew under an umbrella, and has me tap his shoulder. Andrew turns around, and immediately becomes choked up at the sight of me, and then I’m crying too. So happy to have finally made our dreams come true, to be seeing each other on our wedding day, surrounded by nature and love.

It was so nice to have some time together before the wedding, to get all of our photos, get rid of some jitters, and just spend the majority of my wedding day with my love. If you’re thinking of having a first look, here’s my advice: DO IT!!!! We had all of our photos done before the ceremony, so afterward, we snuck away for a few photos but then got to enjoy our entire reception. Plus, I was with Andrew almost the whole day, and a good chunk of that time was just the two of us (and Ed).

After our first look, it was important to us to get a few pictures in other spots around the Valley, like El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, before heading the Ahwahnee for our family portraits. When we got out of the car at our second location, El Capitan, it was POURING rain. I switched out of my dainty pink ballet flats and into my Hunter rain boots. I learned quickly that tulle sticks to rubber when wet, which made things interesting and definitely kept me on my toes! It added a sense of comedy to being out in the rain though, and the levity was nice – Andrew and I came prepared with an umbrella, as did Ed, and we got out there in the rain and had a blast!

Isn’t that shot of us crossing the street so fun?! I love it!

I LOVE that you can literally see the rain dripping off of us and all around us in these. I think the rain added an element of drama and beauty to Yosemite Valley that I wasn’t expecting to love and ended up really enjoying, especially seeing our photos.

After our playful portraits in the rain by El Cap, we headed closer to Yosemite Falls, and the rain decreased to a light sprinkle for these portraits. There is clouding in the Valley behind us, but you can still spot the falls!

When we were done at Yosemite Falls, we headed to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel to warm up and get ready for family portraits and the ceremony! We arrived before everyone else, so I was able to take off my rubber boots and warm my feet by their grand fireplace. Our families began to arrive and we took some photos out on the covered patio where we were married, and then when that was over, we took some time to relax separately with our families (and have a glass of champagne because those public speaking anxieties are higher when you’re declaring your love in front of everyone you care about). I sipped on champagne by the fire with family all around while Andrew greeted our friends who were just arriving. I was so sweetly greeted by a family at the hotel; their daughter said, “wow, you look like a princess! Where is your prince?” And it was the sweetest thing ever. They stayed nearby to watch as we got in line for the processional, and then it was time for the ceremony to begin!

Andrew’s eldest sister officiated for us, and I helped write the ceremony. We each wrote our own vows, and it was honestly all so beautiful and thought out that I wish I had someone take a video for us! We had wanted the ceremony to be full of meaning and love, and I feel that we accomplished it. Andrew’s vows were so beautiful, and I’m so glad we have special booklets with them written inside so that we can look at them always.

And then, all of a sudden, we had crossed over the threshold and we were MARRIED!

I love that the happiness is so clear on everyone’s faces as we were able to interact with everyone after the wedding! We even had a few FaceTime guests in attendance!

The sun decided to join us as we said our vows, so Andrew and I snuck away as everyone went in for cocktail hour for a few minutes to soak in that we were husband + wife. We were both so happy in that moment, and I’m so glad we took a few minutes to ourselves to immerse ourselves in the moment and feel it.

We snuck away to a little bridge by the hotel that, if you follow the trail, will lead you to mirror lake. The sun shone down on us and it felt like the earth was celebrating right alongside us and blessed our marriage.

We came back to find all of our nearest and dearest in the Mural Room, and went straight to the side patio to have our first dance while we still had some golden light. We chose the song, “Take This Heart of Gold” by Mandolin Orange as our first dance song, and it was so beautiful.

After that, we sat down to dine and relax with our families and friends. We made our way to each table, we enjoyed the excellent food (seriously, the food was AMAZING), and a few speeches and roasts were given. I loved having time to speak with each table and give people the time, not feeling rushed, and by the end of the night I felt so loved and supported, and MARRIED. Three months later, I’m still excited to say it!

We recreated an image from my grandparents’ wedding, using the bride + groom coupe glasses they used just one month shy of 50 years after their wedding date. I have been saving these to use since my mema passed away, and it felt so special to honor her this way.

Can you spot the words <<avere>> and <<tenere>> ? They mean “to have” and “to hold” in Italian, which I took five semesters of in college.

We chose a guest book that could be wall art, so we can look at it every day and think about how amazing our loved ones are to have come out on our wedding adventure with us. We are so grateful to be surrounded by positive, adventurous, loving people.

I bought this jacket on Poshmark and used acrylic paints to add half some, California poppies, dogwood, and lupine (all found in Yosemite Valley) along with my new name and our wedding date. This was a labor of love but I’m so glad with how it turned out! I also bought used because I was trying to make our wedding as sustainable as possible. I bought my dress used (stillwhite is where it’s at, all you future brides!) and we had faux flowers that we now use to decorate our house. I did my best to make sure nothing went to waste, and it wasn’t perfect, but we tried! If you’re looking for sustainable bride tips, let me know!

So, with our wedding complete, and feeling deeply loved, we spent a few more days exploring Yosemite before heading home for a mini-moon. Our official honeymoon is going to be next spring, around our one year anniversary, and we’ll spend two weeks in Europe! But that’s for another blog post.

More information

Photographer | Ed Pulella Photography

Dress | Willow by Watters | BHLDN | bought used through Stillwhite

Suit | Men’s Wearhouse

Bridesmaid Dresses | Lulu’s

Venue | The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel)

Invitations | Minted

Music

Processional | “Can’t Help Falling in Love” Kina Grannis

Recessional | “Electric Love” BØRNS

First Dance | “Take This Heart of Gold” Mandolin Orange

Three months have passed since our blissful wedding day, and I am still so excited to be married to my best friend. Our love is so strong and I look forward to discovering all that our future has in store for us.

xoxo

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