How Do I Legally Elope in Yosemite?!
Yosemite is such an amazing destination to have your intimate wedding! Huge mountains and cliffs, massive waterfalls, killer lighting — what more do you need for an epic elopement?! Surprisingly, or maybe not so, there are a few things to take care of before you run off to Yosemite to get hitched this weekend. The first thing to take care of is the wedding permit. Is it your marriage license? Nope, well maybe that too. What’s the deal?! We’re here to fill ya in.
How to Get a Wedding Permit and What is it?
The wedding permit is how the park service regulates how many people can be in one place at one time. This place is pretty unique and to keep it preserved and pristine, National Park Service (NPS) wants to know whats going on and keep some of these popular locations from getting so trampled. The permit is called a Special Use Permit, it’s $150, and takes a little time to get due to the processing. NPS only operates via snail mail for this, and you can find the permit right here (https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/weddings.htm). Just look for the “download the application” link right in the beginning. There is a lot of useful information on this web page too, so take a look.
Typically the bride and groom, or the wedding planner will apply for this and will be responsible for the site and everyone involved (including the photographer, officiant, guests, etc.). The form must be printed, filled out completely (and we’ll go over what to fill out for some of this soon), and mailed in with a check or money order. Then it’s mailed back to you to sign and mail back. The bride or groom’s Social Security Number MUST be on the form to be processed, or they will not do anything with it. Once you receive the final permit, you’ll bring it with you and you must have this in your possession at the time of the ceremony. The rangers in Yosemite will check these, and if you don’t have it expect a hefty fine! All this mailing takes some time, so plan ahead!
Making it Official with the Marriage License
You’ll need your marriage license too. It’s $60 and available at a County Clerks Office. As long as it’s the public license (as opposed to the private), you can use it in any county in California, so you can get it wherever, and then bring it back to be recorded after the ceremony. This will legally bind you. You can find more about this here (https://www.mariposacounty.org/253/Marriage-Licenses-and-Civil-Ceremonies).
Some of the fields on this form are a bit confusing, so we’ll list those below and then include a form to reference (with my own info as a sample). Hope it helps!
Proposed Activity: Just write “Wedding Ceremony and Photos” for this.
Preferred Time/Location: We’ll talk about these together and decide before you send this in.
Alternate Dates/Locations: An alternate date won’t matter here, so leave it blank. A backup location should be included in case the preferred is unavailable for some reason, and we can chat about this a little more as needed.
Maximum Number of Participants: This includes all involved (bride, groom, guests, officiant, photographers, etc.)
Maximum Number of Vehicles: Same as above, and we can chat about this more too. Usually, we can take just one car to make things easier and get some shots on the way!
List of Equipment: Input “Handheld camera equipment”
Individual in Charge: This will be the Bride unless there is a wedding planner involved.
Have you visit the area? Just check the YES box. We’ll be scouting the location to make sure everything is all set for the ceremony beforehand.
That’s it! Check out this sample for an example: