Secret Yosemite Wedding


January 6, 2021
Words by Lauren Ertl
Photos courtesy of Kristen Carnes Photography

Yosemite National Park and the surrounding area is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year – some come for a weekend camping trip away from the city, some come for the outdoor activities and many come to simply take in the stunning views. Bret and Stephanie planned to visit the area for an entirely different reason: to say “I do” in secret!

“Bret and I knew we wanted to get married quickly. We had things happen in our lives that were true reminders of how short life is and we didn’t want to waste any more time,” Stephanie says.

If they wanted to make it happen in 2020, however, the couple had to come to terms with the fact that COVID would not allow for them to have their large, dream wedding. That’s when a new plan started to form.

“The property we were married on has been in my family for almost 100 years, while it is a stunning location it wasn’t top of mind when it came to having a wedding,” Stephanie says.

But, hosting a wedding on the family property meant Bret and Stephanie wouldn’t have to worry about locking in a venue with such short notice. To keep the event lowkey, the couple decided to invite their guests to a “weekend at the family cabin,” and make the entire wedding a surprise!

“I think with COVID everyone is overly understanding that weddings today are not traditional, and brides and grooms truly have to do whatever it takes to have a wedding that works for them,” the bride says.

Since there ended up being just 16 guests, Stephanie was able to manage the details on her own. The florist/cake vendor ended up being crucial in helping the couple achieve the look and feel they wanted for their wedding setup. Other decor elements were borrowed from Stephanie’s friend who actually owns a wedding design business. All-in-all the wedding was planned in just two weeks!

“Giving ourselves two weeks to plan this destination wedding seemed so overwhelming at first, but, honestly, it was a blessing that I didn’t have months or years to agonize over every detail,” Stephanie says.

Not only did the couple save themselves the stress of planning a large wedding, but they also saved quite a bit of money compared to their original plan (which would have cost them $75k – $100k.)

“It would have been great to have all our friends and family there,” the couple admits, “but having a destination wedding created memories for us that we could never recreate. What we did was far grander than any reception hall, clubhouse or hotel ballroom, and it was truly so simple.”

Vendors: Photographer: Kristen Carnes Photography; Florist: Sweet Dreams Cakes & Flowers; Gown Designer: Anthropologie

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