Getting married in Yosemite’s winter embrace is the stuff of fairytales. Imagine a natural altar where snow-kissed peaks soar, branches of ancient sequoia trees protect, and vows echo off 3,000-foot shimmering granite walls. Indeed, there is nothing more romantic than a winter wedding in Yosemite.
Whether you and your loved ones gather under crisp, blue winter skies or in a beautifully decorated event space curated by local professionals, your ceremony will be unique and the memories of your big day will be forever forged. As John Muir wrote of this vibrant place: “between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” Open it up and let the journey begin!
Why a Winter Wedding in Yosemite?
Planning any wedding is a delicate dance. The spontaneity of love balances with real-world logistics as the level of excitement rises for you and your partner. But there’s a certain consideration that’s always top of the list: where and when.
Winter weddings in Yosemite boast a trifecta of benefits. The first, of course, is unmatched natural beauty. The mood is pure romance with longer shadows and sparkling reflections. Second, Yosemite is much less crowded in winter. There are moments when it almost feels like you have the Park to yourself. And last but definitely not least, the cost in winter is typically less than spring or summer nuptials.
Where Can I Have My Winter Wedding Inside Yosemite National Park?
With a little planning and thoughtful consideration of Yosemite’s delicate beauty, having your wedding inside the Park will be an unforgettable tale that is colorfully shared at anniversary parties for decades to come.
Note: A $150 special use permit is required for any outdoor location within Yosemite National Park (certain locations require event monitoring charged at an additional $50 per hour). All applications are administered by the National Park Service and cover a two-hour window. Acceptance is on a first-come/first-served basis. No outdoor ceremonies inside the Park are allowed on holiday weekends (Sat-Mon).
Yosemite Valley Locations
Set at 4,000 ft, Yosemite Valley is accessible in winter to provide some tantalizing options. Here are the available outdoor and indoor locations for your winter wedding.
After entering the Arch Rock Entrance along all-season Highway 140, the Cascades Picnic Area is located just west of Yosemite Valley and can accommodate up to 30 guests in a peaceful, wooded setting along the Merced River.
Aptly named, Bridalveil Fall weddings can accommodate up to 50 guests and gather in a forest clearing where this stunning year-round flow first comes into view. In winter, the waterfall mist collects on the surrounding rocks as a frosty white — the same color as a bride’s veil. The paved trail makes this location wheelchair accessible.
For vows on a moody winter beach, the Swinging Bridge Picnic Area can accommodate 20 guests along a lazy bend in the Merced River. Open year-round except holiday weekends (Sat-Mon).
Located in a clearing where 2,425 ft Yosemite Falls peeks through the pines, the Lower Yosemite Falls Paved Trail is winter accessible and able to host up to 50 guests (monitor required). This popular spot has restrooms nearby but no parking, so shuttle bus/drop off required. Open year-round except holiday weekends (Sat-Mon).
Perhaps one of the cutest, most storybook venues for any wedding is the Yosemite Valley Chapel. With its cumulus-kissing spire and 40 ft center aisle (9 rows of pews on each side), this historic site can accommodate up to 125 people and catches the eye of every visitor who passes by.
Weddings at Curry Village provide a natural hybrid of stunning views, banquet space at the Curry Village Pavilion and winter activities such as ice skating in its famed outdoor rink. For those adventurous guests who want to stay on-site, heated tent cabins can be booked to create a base camp for marital bliss.
Tucked along the Merced River a short amble from iconic Yosemite Falls, the Yosemite Valley Lodge is a romantic retreat for saying “I do.” Floor-to-ceiling glass and a dedicated wedding planner will make your reception “mountain chic.” Can accommodate up to 125 guests.
With its designation as a National Historic Landmark and AAA Four-Diamond Hotel, having your winter wedding at the Ahwahnee is the pinnacle of luxury in a national park setting. Accommodating up to 150 guests, the floor-to-ceiling glass will create a seamless “snow globe” effect where the surrounding natural beauty infuses your big day with big love. Destination wedding, indeed.
With the South Fork of the Merced River cutting through this wooded valley in Southern Yosemite, the historic community of Wawona adds a dash of local spice to any ceremony. The elevation here is the same as Yosemite Valley (4,000 ft) making it winter accessible, yet Wawona receives a fraction of the visitors.
Located in a forest clearing just southwest of the trailhead parking area, the Chilnualna Falls site can accommodate up to 50 people. The first viewpoint of Lower Chilnualna Fall is .25 mi up the trail (moderate climb), and in winter interesting ice formations can provide a moody post-ceremony walk for adventurous attendees.
Another unique option for your Wawona wedding is taking advantage of the Redwoods in Yosemite. Offering full wedding services at their Event Center, the Redwoods in Yosemite also manages more than 120 rental cabins where all your guests can stay close to the matrimonial action. If you are looking for something smaller scale, there are several cabins where ceremonies can be performed on-site, be that a spacious deck or surrounding property.
Big Oak Flat Locations
The higher elevation of Big Oak Flat can mean more snow for your winter Yosemite wedding, but if the conditions are right and your party feels adventurous there are two unforgettable spots set among the giant sequoia trees.
Tuolumne Grove (6,200 ft) inspires couples with its beauty and longevity, creating a peaceful natural altar that dates back to ancient Roman times. Ceremonies can accommodate up to 30 guests, and must remain on the paved footpath that descends through the grove.
Set at 6,000 ft, the Merced Grove is another sequoia-laden site for your winter wedding. Ceremonies can accommodate up to 30 guests, and must remain on the footpath, which is unpaved.
Note: Winter weather can impact both road and trail conditions for these two sites. Please plan accordingly and do not stand on the shallow roots of the sequoia trees as it’s prohibited.
Winter Wedding Venues Near Yosemite National Park
Tying the knot outside of the Park in one of Yosemite’s gateway communities opens up a world of possibilities. By combining the Sierra foothill setting with full-service venues and fewer regulations, your winter wedding is guaranteed to make everlasting memories.
In winter the Tenaya at Yosemite really does have a fairytale vibe, and as an award-winning mountain resort it brings the most creative wedding plans to life. Located two miles from the South Entrance to Yosemite National Park and situated on 75 forested acres, the Tenaya can accommodate the largest of weddings with multiple venue choices and has discounted Winter Wedding Specials January thru March. Mazel!
Located just outside the Arch Rock Entrance to Yosemite National Park, weddings and reception space by Yosemite Resorts are the closest to Yosemite Valley providing exceptional convenience. The Yosemite View Lodge (8 miles to Yosemite Valley) features two venues and can accommodate up to 60 guests, while the customizable event space at the Yosemite Cedar Lodge (14 miles to Yosemite Valley) can accommodate up to 175 guests with a large stone fireplace. Both are perched above the Wild & Scenic Merced River along the dramatic canyon approach to the Park.
The Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort hosts wedding parties from all over the word with its signature, out-of-the-box style. Located in Midpines, CA at an elevation of 2,300 feet, the Bug will work with you to create an enchanted winter wedding using such spaces as the Bodie Room and their Ridge Top Plaza (weather permitting). Sierra dreaming!
Also located in Midpines, AutoCamp Yosemite integrates sophisticated design with the natural beauty of the Sierra foothills to create a venue worthy of your destination wedding. There are several venues to choose from, including a mid-century modern Clubhouse with outdoor terrace. What adds to AutoCamp’s unique charm? Its collection of well-appointed Airstream trailers that serve as comfy rooms for you and your guests. One-of-a-kind.
Pro Tips For Your Winter Wedding in Yosemite Mariposa County
Whether you’re rocking and rolling ala Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” or having a stately affair in a well-curated venue, the powers will always be beautifully vested and the pronouncements will always end with those two magic words: I do.
Here are some rules, regs, and pro tips for a successful celebration of your love.
- Yosemite National Park is open to the public and therefore cannot prevent other visitors from being near outdoor locations. Season (winter), day of week (weekdays) and time of day (mornings) all play a role in reducing the number of people who will be in the Park.
- For intimate gatherings (11 or fewer people) you can have your ceremony anywhere in the Park (except open meadows, riverbanks or at the base of sequoia trees). Permits are still required.
- Pets are not allowed at any ceremonies inside Yosemite National Park. If your furry friend is high on the guest list, check with venues outside the Park to see if they are allowed.
- The beauty of winter also comes with some unpredictability. It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan for outdoor ceremonies and always check current weather, road and trail conditions.
- Yosemite is a sensitive habitat where plants and wildlife require special care. Helium balloons, rice, birdseed, confetti and flower petals are prohibited at all ceremonies.
- For a wedding day win, consider pairing stunning photos taken inside Yosemite with all the conveniences and services provided by wedding spaces outside the Park.
- To get a more nuanced feel for what will be surely be one of the most memorable days of your life, visit Yosemite Mariposa County in advance to make the location satisfies all your needs.