sequoia kings canyon

#8 Must Know Tips On How To Plan Your Sequoia National Park Elopement

#8 Must Know Tips On How To Plan Your Upcoming Sequoia National Park Wedding

Sequoia_Elopement_NellyCabanillas_Photography.jpg

Whether you’re planning to elope or have an intimate wedding in California- Sequoia National Park is the place to go ! Sequoia National Park is one of the few places in California were you can access rather easily meadows, ancient giants, mountain views, and granite slabs, in other words : Sequoia has so much diversity in scenery it makes it the perfect candidate to have a wedding here.

If you’re reading this congratulations!! That means you’ve decided to elope (which makes you pretty awesome).

Eloping means that you get to decide on the choices around your day, you get to make the rules, you get to truly make your day an adventure and make it about who you are as a couple! It’s pretty exciting stuff, but I get it: You decided to elope to make it as stress-free as possible and now your realizing there’s still some planning and decisions to make. After all this is probably your first time getting married in a national park so don’t sweat it! I’m going to outline step by step what you need to check off to have the best elopement day ever in Sequoia National Park .

We’ll cover everything from choosing ceremony locations, getting permits, where to book your lodging, what vendors you might need, and of course how to celebrate your big day.

1.) Dream + Brainstorm

First things first. You’re going to want to take a moment and come up with an overall vision for your day. Think about what you want your day to feel like? What activities do you want to have as a part of your elopement day? What do you want to wear? What does your ceremony look like? How do you plan on celebrating? Your day could have an outdoor picnic, maybe you want to stargaze, or kayak, maybe you want some s’mores by a fire, or you want to celebrate with loved ones after. Whatever it may look like for you, once you’ve had a chance to dream up and visualize your day we can move onto the planning portion.

-1H2B2303NellyCabanillasPhotography-Edit.jpg


2.) Choosing Your Ceremony Location

One of the additional perks of getting married in Sequoia is that they have a great selection of ceremony spots to chose from so you can share your vows at the spot that feels the most “you”.


My Top 3 Recommendations:

1. Beetle rock - sequoia national park

Beetle rock is a beautiful slab of granite rock formations that over look the high sierra and the Kaweah lake in the background. This is a super accessible location, it’s about a 2 minute walk from the parking lot, and accommodates small or large groups (although the surface of the rock is too uneven for chairs).

Beetle rock is a beautiful slab of granite rock formations that over look the high sierra and the Kaweah lake in the background. This is a super accessible location, it’s about a 2 minute walk from the parking lot, and accommodates small or large groups (although the surface of the rock is too uneven for chairs).

2. Parker Group - giant forrest loop

3. Zumwalt meadow

Check out the full list with photos below:

Wedding Ceremony Locations in Sequoia National Park with Pictures: https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wedding-locations.htm

Map Locations of Park that accommodates larger groups for a ceremony : https://www.nps.gov/maps/full.html?mapId=771783f1-db83-4eff-a54d-d1daef9f7941

 

* On a last note about choosing a ceremony location for those with adventure at heart, hear this: If you’re style of eloping is a bit more relaxed and you’d rather explore all day and wait to exchange vows until you stumble upon a place that feels like “both of you”, that is 100% ALSO an option! You’ll still need a permit which we’ll cover in a minute but keep in mind you make the rules on your elopement day.

-1H2B1728NellyCabanillasPhotography.jpg

3.) Permits

Permits are the one thing that you absolutely must have in order to have a seamless elopement day, Park Rangers do check for permits and it would be such a bummer to have your ceremony cut short because of paperwork!

Sequoia National Park requires a permit for weddings of “any size” meaning even if it’s just the two of you plus your photographer, you’re still going to need to fill out an application.

Sequoia_Elopement_Photographer.jpg

how to get a permit

1. Go online and fill out a permit application

2. Pick a date + choose your ceremony location

3. Pay a small fee (online or you can send a check)

4. Make sure to submit your application at least 30 days prior to your date (as it can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks for approval)

5. Once confirmed make sure to print out a copy and carry it with you during your elopement day

Sequoia Wedding Permit Application Link Below : https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wedding-permits.htm

* Pro Tip: As long as you take care of getting a permit for your ceremony location, your photographer doesn’t need any additional paperwork!

4.) Marriage Laws

One of the most common questions around elopements is : Are they even official? Are you actually getting married? Ok so how does it work? Let me tell ya, elopements are of course the real deal, they are as important (if not more haha) as any traditional wedding!!!

Let’s talk Legalities

You’re going to need to figure out how to go about getting the legal paperwork for a marriage certificate, getting an officiant, witnesses, etc.

California Marriage License Information: www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/Marriage-License-Information.aspx



don’t let paperwork get in the way

If the logistics of getting a marriage license signed in the place you intend to elope seems complicated, keep in mind that completing the legal paperwork at home is totally an option! In fact 85% of my couples who elope choose to complete the paperwork before or even after their elopement day!!

Remember: You get married the day you commit your life to your partner, not when a piece of paper says so.

5.) Where To Book Your Lodging

This is where it gets fun. You get to choose + personalize what experience you want! Things to consider: do you plan on camping at one of the campgrounds? Or are you renting an airstream? Prefer a little more comfort? Check out some of the popular lodging inside the park:

Three_Rivers_CA_Elopement.jpg

My personal favorite when it comes to booking lodging in Sequoia National Park is actually looking up homes and cute cabins on Airbnb and Vrbo.

The trick here is that you should be looking at places to stay in “ Three Rivers, CA” area which is the town right before the park entrance. Pro-Tip: It’s good to check in google maps the distance between the place your considering booking and your ceremony spot to make sure that it’s not too far away. For reference, I was able to find a great Airbnb that was only 3 minutes away from the park entrance!

6.) Logistics

Although Sequoia isn’t nearly as crowded as say, Yosemite National Park on a hot summer day, it does still get plenty of visitors! Here are a few things to plan around and to take into consideration.

season vs offseason

Planning your elopement date during the peak summer season has it’s up’s and downs. The perk of choosing a summer season is that the weather is beautiful and the most stable (during June-August ; meaning there’s less chance of running into problems like closed roads, rain, snow, and frosty wind.) Perfect weather attracts more visitors and can mean that normally private spots/locations can be overcrowded and take away from your experience.

Choosing a Fall/Winter Season to Elope means that it is of course more secluded and private, yet weather can become a concern. Rain, snow, bad driving conditions, closed roads, are all issues you can run into. Weather can change rather quickly so make sure to be prepared.

Always make sure to check weather + local road conditions before you go.

Photo Jun 19, 10 29 22 AM copy.jpg

weekday vs weekend

This goes for any elopement: you will have more chances of having a more intimate and private elopement experience if you elope during a weekday. Popular areas in the park such as the Giant Forest, The Log Tunnel, Moro Rock, and Crescent Meadow will be considerably less crowded as well as any trails you might take.

If you can’t elope on a weekday and decide for a weekend elopement, the level of visitors will depend also on the season you’re going in. For example if you decide to elope in the summer season in Sequoia, you’ll want to make sure to start taking photos at sunrise and start at the Giant Forest Loop area first, and then make your way to any other areas such as the General Sherman.

-IMGL8129NellyCabanillasPhotography.jpg

I highly recommend this because the road up to the Giant Forest area closes at 8am on the weekend and anytime after that you’ll need to take the shuttle service into these areas. Shuttles run constantly about every 10 minutes. However note that if you start later in the day and take shuttles, it can become very overwhelming navigating small crowded seats in your wedding attire with any guest you may have and with tourist. Be forewarned that in the most popular photo areas like Log Tunnel on weekends, there can often times be lines of people waiting to take their photo.

In other words: start early and avoid the crowds.

Pro Tip: An ideal timeline of your day could be: Have your ceremony at sunrise at Moro Rock, make your way to the Giant Forest for your portraits, shoot at Tunnel Log, and Parker Group, (they are all within relative distance of each other about 5 minutes). Then take a break, get breakfast, head back to your lodging, take a nap, and have your photographer re-group with you later on in the evening to finish off portraits at sunset.

7.) Celebrate!

-IMGL1460NellyCabanillasPhotography.jpg

Music

If you want music to be a part of your ceremony (live or recorded) make sure you plan on how to play it, and double check for any noise restrictions in the location you chose.

Food

Pack a picnic to eat at an epic spot, or hire a local special event coordinator to set up a sweet heart table for the two of you with a cheese & charcuterie board, or you can’t go wrong with simply bringing pizza + beers. Whatever your style is plan on scheduling some meal time!

Champagne + Confetti + sparklers

I love when couples add some fun celebrations to their day! Don’t be afraid to get creative as long as we follow the Leave No Trace Principles. We all love some bubbly just make sure to be conscience of picking up the cork after the epic photo shot! If you’re thinking of having confetti consider local leaves or local eco-friendly confetti. Sparklers are super fun and make for some awesome photos at night but make sure to double check for any fire bans + restrictions.

General Sherman Trail

General Sherman Trail

8.) Hiring Vendors

Hiring vendors is completely optional and will vary depending on what your envisioning for your day.

Here are some things to consider:

hair + Make up

Will you be doing your hair + make up yourself or professionally? How will you touch up through out the day?

If you do plan on hiring a Hair + Make Up artist I recommend looking for vendors in neighboring towns such as Three Rivers and Visalia. Given the nature of elopements often times for a sunrise ceremony brides start hair/makeup before dawn (for example one of my brides started at 3:30 am) make sure to ask if they are willing to meet you at your getting ready location.

Pro-Tip: A good setting setting spray can withhold rain and keep you looking fresh until the end of the day. Check out this 16 Hour Water Proof Setting Spray!

Here are some Vendor Recommendations near Sequoia:

Hair + Makeup : Sabrina Tanaka

Makeup: Linda Martin

Makeup: Makeup By Forever Liz

florals

Tip: Consider coordinating your bouquet to your location + environment.  Florals: Mae&Co

Tip: Consider coordinating your bouquet to your location + environment. Florals: Mae&Co

Is having a bouquet/boutonnière important to you?

If it is you can hire a local florist in the neighboring towns or you can consider picking them up from a vendor at a larger city on your way there. Just make sure to take into consideration travel time or if you’re going to be arriving a few days early to Sequoia do you think they will last until your elopement day? Pro-Tip: If you can’t find a last minute florist just go the DIY route and pick up some florals at a Trader Joe’s/ mom and pop shop/ etc. while your on your way to Sequoia and assemble a unique bouquet.

Here are some Florist Recommendations near Sequoia :

Florals: Beard & Bloom

Florals : Sweet Memories

Florals : KB Flowers Fresno

Reception venue + Etc

If you invited friends + family to tag along to your epic elopement day and want to celebrate afterwards you can consider the following:

Finish off your elopement cuddled by the fire with hot cocoa and s’mores!

Finish off your elopement cuddled by the fire with hot cocoa and s’mores!

You can head back to your Airbnb, order food and keep the party going! If you’re camping you can of course grill it up around the fire and s’mores or for a larger guest count you can check out Wuksachi Lodge they offer banquet catering for weddings.

Photo Jun 18, 6 08 03 PM (1) copy.jpg

If you’re looking to host a sweet little outdoor reception you can consider The Ol Buckaroo in Three Rivers,CA and you can book their food truck, the Buckaroo Diner restaurant or take over the entire place depending on your event, size and needs.



A finishing note: Remember an elopement is about you two coming together to share your vows and commit your lives to one another. Enjoy, have fun, and go with the flow.

Photo Jun 18, 6 07 25 PM copy.jpg

wrapped together after your elopement day under the stars

one of the most beautiful feelings in the world

A summer afternoon in Sequoia National Park.

A summer afternoon in Sequoia National Park.

Sunset Campground - Kings Canyon

Sunset Campground - Kings Canyon

-NellyCabanillas_SunsetCliffs_Elopement_Photographer6823-2.jpg

want to book your sequoia

(or elsewhere) elopement?