A Romantic, Intimate Wedding Ceremony at Swinging Bridge Picnic Area in Yosemite

A Romantic, Intimate Wedding Ceremony at Swinging Bridge Picnic Area in Yosemite

Trent and Sara’s story hasn’t been the easiest, but it could be straight out of a romance movie. They met in Thailand, Trent being Australian, and Sara being American, they spent 2 years struggling with the issues of a long-distance relationship during the middle of a pandemic. After months of dealing with immigration issues, and meeting up with each other in the UK, Mexico, and Guatemala, by some twist of fate, Trent was able to get his K1 Visa much earlier than expected, and finally travel to America. Because of how unexpectedly things happened, they had less than a month to plan their wedding ceremony at Swinging Brididge Picnic Area in gorgeous Yosemite. Although it was a mad rush to get everything figured out, it all came together in the most perfect way.

Ready to say goodbye to the big, wedding planning stress and hello to a more intimate adventure? Use our elopement directory to start planning your elopement. 

About This Elopement Ceremony at Swinging Bridge Picnic Area in Yosemite

“After repeatedly checking the weather app, I was prepared for freezing conditions, only packing heavy sweaters, thick layers, gloves and beanies, but I woke up the morning of their elopement to clear blue skies, and perfect 60 degree weather. I headed out to Trent + Sara’s cabin Air Bnb in Yosemite West, where they had all of their closest family and friends staying with them. Even Trent’s mom, who faced countless obstacles and the possibility of 2 quarantines upon returning to Australia, found a way to be there. They both spent the morning getting ready, then had their first look out on the deck, overlooking a grove of sequoias, while their friends and family watched from inside. After, we headed into the valley to explore, running around the incredible meadows, checking out waterfalls, and spotting coyotes.

The rest of their friends and family met up with us, and they had the most beautiful ceremony, exchanging their vows with Yosemite Falls as the backdrop. When they were finally married, after all these months, Trent pulled Sara in for the biggest hug, and I could just see the pure happiness and relief he had, that they would finally be together – no more long distance.

Despite only having a month to plan, every part of their day was filled with so much intention, and so many thoughtful details.” [Carissa, the photographer]

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Deciding to Elope

“We chose an elopement for a couple different reasons. Firstly was time constraint. Trent is Australian and was waiting (in Guatemala) for his K1 (fiance) visa to be approved, so we had no idea when that would happen-the pandemic massively delayed normal processing timelines. So that made planning ahead, especially in terms of a formal wedding, very difficult. Traditional formal wedding locations require reservations months and month in advance, so we knew that wasn’t even a possibility for us. Secondly, traditional weddings are typically large, extravagant events and with only one side of our families able to attend, we knew it just didn’t even make sense to even shoot for that. And lastly, formal just isn’t our style! We absolutely loved the idea of having an intimate ceremony in a nontraditional location… I mean, what ‘venue’ could top Yosemite?!” [The couple]

Deciding to Plan an Intimate Wedding Ceremony at Swinging Bridge in Yosemite

“Yosemite National Park is my favorite place in the world! Trent had actually never been, but trusted me with making that call. And it did not disappoint! We had no idea, being in November, what the weather might do when we set the date (approximately 1 month out). We reached out to the permit office to find out which locations in the park were available for our proposed date. We researched each of them and determined Swinging Bridge was our favorite. It allowed for a slightly larger group size (20), there were picnic tables and restrooms in the area, and of course magnificent views! It was foggy in the am, perfectly blue skies as the day progressed and the fall colors were insanely beautiful!” [The couple]

Explore more locations to elope in Yosemite National Park.

Planning Your Yosemite Elopement Ceremony

“The process for getting an elopement permit in Yosemite National Park is actually super straightforward! It’s one of my favorite national parks to recommend to my couples for an elopement for that reason. Sara and Trent eloped at Swinging Bridge Picnic Area, which is one of the designated spots for a ceremony in Yosemite. It can accommodate up to 20 people, so it’s perfect for an intimate wedding! It’s located in the valley, so it can get busy! For that reason, I recommend holding the ceremony earlier in the morning or later in the evening. This will also mean great lighting for photos.

Yosemite is absolutely incredible, but it can get super busy (for good reason!). Because of this, I highly recommend planning your ceremony for sunrise or sunset! Not only will the lighting be so dreamy and beautiful at this time of day for photos, but it will also be way less busy than the middle of the day when all of the tourists are out exploring! I’d also recommend carpooling with guests as much as possible, because it can be hard to find parking sometimes!” [Carissa, the photographer]

Memorable Moments During This Elopement

From the photographer:

“The moments after Trent and Sara were pronounced husband and wife. I caught Trent staring at Sara with so much love, and he almost had a look of disbelief that she was finally his wife, and they would never have to be separated again. I caught that moment on camera and it’s one of my favorite images from the entire gallery.

I also loved the “aisle” that Sara walked through. One of my favorite things about being an elopement photographer is getting to see all the different aisles my brides walk down to their ceremony. For some, it’s a trail through a meadow of wildflowers, for others it might be a rocky ledge on the edge of a cliff. For Sara, she held her dad’s arm and made her way through a forest of sequoias with the sun glimmering through the leaves overhead. It was a gorgeous aisle to say the least.”

From the couple:

“I think everything about it was just perfect for us! We were in a beautiful place with my immediate family, a few close friends, and Trent’s mum! It was casual and simple, but everything was planned and picked very thoughtfully. It was the most special day for us, not only representing our relationship and our future, but everything we went through to get to that point.”

Estimated Cost of This Elopement

– Airbnb 3 nights for 10 people: $3,200
– Food: ~ $1,000
– Photographer: $3,500
– Officiant & permit: ~$500
– Everything else: ~$3,000

Learn more about elopement costs.

Details From The Wedding Day

“I love how simple it was! They planned this wedding so quickly, so there wasn’t a lot of time to fuss over little details or worry about things being perfect. Sara and Trent aren’t the kind of people to care about that stuff regardless though, and I think this wedding was a perfect representation of them. The day was focused on their relationship and this incredible commitment they were making to one another. They threw together a beautiful little picnic after the ceremony with incredible food and thrifted items, and it was absolutely perfect.” [Carissa, the photographer]

Final Words of Advice From the Photographer

“Focus on what really matters. It’s easy to get so caught up in all the little things, and the things you “should” do. Sara and Trent didn’t have the luxury of worrying about those things, and I think they were truly better for it in the end. They were just so grateful to even have the opportunity to marry each other, because for a long time they didn’t even know if it would be possible. That made the day all the more special to them, and I think that’s a great reminder for all of us – to worry less about the things that don’t really matter, because in the end getting to marry your person is the only thing that does.” [Carissa, the photographer]


Photography | Carissa Marie Photography
Wedding Dress | Grace Loves Lace

Photos From This Elopement Ceremony With Family at Yosemite


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