Yosemite Wedding at the Ahwahnee with Preppy Yellow + Navy Details

Jennifer + Kevin
October 21, 2012
Yosemite National Park, California

California State Route 120, the Eastern entrance into Yosemite Valley is scheduled to open this Saturday.  To celebrate I thought I'd bring you this gorgeous Yosemite Mountain Wedding at the elegant Ahwanee Hotel. Jennifer offers fantastic Hindsight Advice for considering your guests for your destination mountain wedding and how to choose vendors in a rural area, so keep reading after you look at these gorgeous wedding pictures!

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Why a Mountain Wedding?

Since I was about four years old my family has come to Yosemite multiple times a year to visit. It holds a special place in our hearts and I have many fond memories of the park. I also lived outside the park during Junior High and High School and became intimately more familiar with the park itself, its beauty and all that it has to offer. I’ve always loved the Ahwahnee Hotel so it made sense when I was looking at wedding venues that I considered the Ahwahnee. While we did consider other venues, my heart just wasn't in them. So when I called to check availability at the Ahwhanee they had one date available that would accommodate my wedding size so we jumped on it – it was 6 months to the day out from when we got engaged, but I made it work.

Where did you find your inspiration?

I love the fall so I only considered a fall (October) wedding. Fall in Yosemite is gorgeous so that was inspiration number one and then I used fall colors to determine the wedding colors and flowers. I wanted to keep it very soft and natural, but romantic all at the same time. My colors were navy blue, fall/burnt orange and a soft yellow (the tablecloths were champagne colored and the napkins were navy blue). The flowers were whatever was in season, but soft in color, garden flowers with natural succulence – all placed in mason jars that I procured. We had candles everywhere and used branches and other natural objects to decorate them with. I wanted a relaxed, but still formal atmosphere.

What were some personal details you incorporated?

  • While this was our special day, I wanted to be sure our guests had a great time as well. This meant really thinking about my guests. First of all, lodging in Yosemite is really difficult, especially since you don’t get a large room block with the Ahwahnee. We knew we had to coordinate somewhere between 150-200 people so we started with booking as much lodging as we could ourselves. My family always stays at the Redwoods in Yosemite when we go, so we rented around 15 cabins for the weekend and then coordinated amongst our friends and family on who was staying with whom. The feedback I got was very positive because people had a great time staying together and not in typical hotel rooms (those that wanted a hotel room used our room block). Second, safety was a top priority. I did not want my guests drinking and driving on unfamiliar back country roads so I chartered buses for both nights (rehearsal and wedding) so that no one had to drive anywhere. This was probably some of the best money I’ve spent to ensure the safety of my guests. Plus there is a huge convenience factor for them as well (unless they miss the bus – which luckily no one did).
  • Another thing we did was given that everyone was from out of town we hosted a BBQ as the rehearsal dinner where all of our guests were welcome. This gave everyone a chance to mingle with us before the big day and it worked out so well.
  • Prior to the wedding I emailed to each guest a wedding packet that included detailed directions from multiple locations on how to get to where they were staying. I also included a list of activities and things to do in the park, including my favorite hikes. We also included information regarding bears, food, gas, etc. so people were fully aware of what to expect when they arrived. If they were staying in a cabin I nominated a cabin captain to be in charge of coordinating arrivals/departures with those guests in that cabin along with any food or other items they may want to have on hand.
  • Upon arrival, for each guest I had gift bags that I made and dropped off at each respective cabin/hotel. This included a personal welcome note that I hand wrote for each guest or group of guests if it was a cabin, a backpack (which could be used for hiking), water, trail mix, granola bars, muffins, oatmeal, a flashlight, a printed version of the wedding packet along with a schedule of the weekend’s events, emergency contacts, contacts of where their friends/family were staying, and a magnet (we created a magnet for our wedding that was a photo I took of the valley with our wedding date printed subtly in the corner). Magnets are my thing so everyone on my side knew this was a personalized touch from me.
  • At the wedding itself, we chose details that I knew certain family members or friend groups would appreciate. This runs anywhere from a candy station (our gift bags), to the photo booth (this was a smash hit) to the DJs we used, to the alcohol we chose to having flip flops (we LOVE to dance and high heels get uncomfortable so I was sure to have flip flops for all the girls) and pashminas (for those who didn’t listen to my weather warnings – it snowed that night).
  • Everyone attending our wedding knew that I love wine so for the place cards I used corks from bottles of wines I drank over the year(s) as the place card holders. I made these with my parents (my mom is crafty) and I thought about each cork I had and if it was a bottle that conjured up a memory for some particular person they got that cork. Or if I knew something about the person that could be related to the wine or the vineyard I would try to match that as well. It is a silly detail, but I had fun with it.
  • I really centered the weekend around our guests and made the flow of both evenings go well so that at no point was anyone bored or waiting for something else. I think this paid off as the feedback we got from our guests was very positive.

Your favorite moment of the day.

Gosh – there were so many it is hard to choose; since you are making me I would say my top moment would be our first look; it was in the field next to the chapel and it was sunny and warm and when Kevin turned around I can vividly remember him utter, “Wow”. We did this ahead of the wedding because I didn’t want to miss any of my reception or have guests waiting for us.

Three things you're glad you did.

  • Hire a wedding coordinator (Roshel Ryan of Addy Rose – she is AMAZING!!!!!!)
  • Having our wedding photos done pre-ceremony
  • Making our wedding the best day of my husband and I’s lives

What was the best piece of wedding advice you got?

  • To take a step back at your reception, even if only for a minute, and observe what is going on; it is humbling to see all of the guests that have traveled from near and far (in our case very far) to be with you and look at all of your hard work come to fruition.

What piece of wedding planning advice do you wish you followed?

  • N/A – I feel like there wasn’t anything that I wish I could have done – I did everything I wanted to do and then some.

Anything you wish you hadn't worried about?

  • No – that is why I hired Roshel – so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything day of and if I was worried about something ahead of time I had her to help me out.

How did you choose your vendors?

The Ahwahnee gave me a preferred vendor list and I vetted that through people I knew, Yelp and in person meetings. I chose my vendors based on how easily I was able to get along with them, whether I felt they understood my vision for the day, and whether I thought they could handle my type A personality. We also had close friends who we incorporated into our event such as our wedding officiate, our videographer, and our DJs. They were honored to be asked and loved bringing their special talents to our day (of course they were first and foremost our guests too so we made sure they weren’t on duty all night and could enjoy the evening’s festivities).

What is your very best advice to other mountain brides?

Mountain weddings require a lot of time and coordination no matter how big, small or detailed you want to make them. Just be aware of this and surround yourself with the best team of people to help you from your family and friends to the vendors you choose. I cannot reiterate how much I LOVED Roshel Ryan so if you have it in your budget to hire a wedding coordinator (she has several different packages to choose from) do it!!!!

Yosemite Wedding Vendors

I found a lot of great handmade details from Etsy as well.