Holly & Chris

Winter Yosemite Elopement

And now, the second part of Holly’s wedding graduate tale. This half takes place in Yosemite, shot by amazing APW photographer Patrick Pike (elopements are his passion). If the first half of Holly’s wedding graduate story is about how weddings our for our families, the second half is about how weddings are also about meeting the deepest needs of our souls. So now we bring you the (breathtaking) Wedding Day Part II.

Planning a wedding when you’re already technically married feels a little strange… After saying our vows on Chris’ grandmother’s farm the Friday before, we were a little uncertain whether we should go ahead and still have some sort of ceremony in Yosemite. We were wearing wedding bands already, but didn’t totally feel married. Then I realized that we’d planned it for months, the flowers were set to be delivered, the photographer and pastor had been paid, a girl was coming to do my hair and makeup, and I’d never worn my wedding gown… As beautiful and meaningful as our backyard ceremony had been, I could hardly remember much of it because it was raining and Chris was shaking so badly and Charlotte was fidgety. We wanted to do something for just the two of us. And so we proceeded…

The days before our ceremony Yosemite’s weather was tempestuous as best. Snow, hail, and rain kept us from hiking as much as we wanted to, but we made the best of it and laughed when we had to learn how to use tire chains on icy mountain roads. I took pictures and giggled the whole time and we later warmed up by a fire.

The morning of our wedding the earth was blanketed in snow. Stepping outside our room it looked like we had stepped into Narnia. I did what I always do and thought “photo-op!”, took my boots and dress, tromped out into eight inches of snow, hung up my dress, and photographed it as the snow melted all over it.

I felt like a bride for the first time when Carole came to do my hair and makeup… Not a stressed-out mom, or a photographer, or anything else… but a bride… The feeling had eluded me for almost a year.

For the first time in as long as I can remember I allowed myself to relax and stop worrying about my daughter and my business and just let someone make me pretty.

I put my camera away and didn’t take a single detail shot of the flowers or the rings, which sounds simple but was actually a big deal for me. We talked about weddings and boys and all sorts of silly things. Chris hung out at the bar and read and drank.

Once I had been transformed, our photographer Patrick picked us up in his Jeep and drove us down to Yosemite Valley for our ceremony. We exchanged vows in Cook’s Valley as the sun dodged in and out of the clouds. The rain held off just long enough for Chris and I to tearfully read the vows we’d written to one another.

Personal vows were very important to me because Chris is quite introverted and does not often share his feelings with words. I knew that when he did, it would be powerful… For those moments the photographer and the pastor stepped away, leaving us completely alone with one another, surrounded by breathtaking beauty. We shared our hearts with one another and my husband committed his life not only to me but to my daughter. Our daughter.

Photos by: Patrick Pike; Hair & Makeup by:  Carol Cardinale of Bellisimo Brides; Officiant: Autrey Nassar

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  • So beautiful and personal – I really can’t get over just how gorgeous the setting is as well. I think what really made the most sense about this wedding was how you both wrote your own vows and said them privately to each other. I wish my husband and I had done something like this as neither of us felt really comfortable expressing our feelings in front of our family and friends (I’m an introvert as well). I can definitely see the beauty in eloping, especially after this post.

  • Ohhh ! Beautiful. Congratulations… all the best wishes. And this “The morning of our wedding the earth was blanketed in snow. Stepping outside our room it looked like we had stepped into Narnia.” So magical.

  • Lynn

    Oh wow. Beautiful. Very, incredibly beautiful.

  • Charity

    I love part 1 and part 2 of your wedding, but the end of this post has me in tears!

  • Love love loved this. Absolutely beautiful shots and beautiful wedding. And I loved that you two had said your own personal vows to no one but each other. Absolutely beautiful, amazing and gorgeous!

  • We shared our hearts with one another and my husband committed his life not only to me but to my daughter. Our daughter.

    The pictures are beautiful, the location was beautiful, but this… truly stunning. Much happiness to you both.

    • I agree. I was loving the rest of the post and came to the end and teared up. It really sums up exactly what getting married and sharing a family means.

      • cartascartas

        this post, especially those two sentences, moved me to tears. how generous of you and your husband to give your families the moment they wanted, and how wise and beautiful to keep the real, actual moment of transformation–from mother, photographer, daughter, friend–to bride and groom and then husband and wife, just for you. congratulations and my very best wishes for your baby family. :)

        • Thank you all. I really struggled with writing this post. I’m not sure why… I guess it was kind of hard to put it all out there. It was so personal and emotional. When I finished it off I felt like I needed to say something else, but I couldn’t figure out what… After reading your comments I’m glad I left it where I did :)

  • Wow. How stunning.

    I’m so happy that you navigated to a place where you could do something meaningful to you, and to your families, without losing out on either. Congratulations :)

  • carrie

    Tears. I have them. Breathtaking is the only word to describe. Congratulations!

  • Stunning photos and an important reminder that we have the (dare I say) obligation to meet our own needs in our wedding-making, in addition to our families’. Such a beautiful story!

  • What an amazing day that was! I still can’t believe how well the weather worked out :) I love how in everything you did, you did it for family.

  • Zan

    This is beautiful and amazing and heartfelt. I love Yose and I love that you two went there for your wedding, incredible! But wait, I need to step out of gush mode and be a teensy bit shallow:

    Those are some KILLER shoes lady!! Love ’em!

    • Edelweiss

      I just skimmed the rest of the comments to make sure somebody called out how great those shoes are! Ok, now I can read the deep stuff…

      • Annad

        Me too! The shoes rock.

  • FawMo

    This wedding is so beautiful. And the story is so powerful. I love that you said your vows privately to each other, reminds me of the whispered end of “Lost in Translation”.

    (ps: Do you have more photos to share? Can you come back as a Wordless Wedding?)

  • This is so amazing. It reminds me of what John Muir said about Yosemite:

    “.. no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life…as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures…”

    To have your ceremony, your so very private moment, there must have been incredibly powerful and magical.

    • Amandover

      We almost had a John Muir reading in our ceremony!
      “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made. That this is still the morning of creation. That mountains, long conceived, are now being born, brought to light by the glaciers, channels traced for rivers, basins hollowed for lakes. The whole wilderness in unity and interrelation is alive and familiar…the very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly…When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

      There is something powerful and deep about saying your vows surrounded by Nature, and I totally get the family backyard/Narnia elopement combo. : )
      Congratulations, Holly!

  • Totally bawling and learning through the lessons you share here. To let myself be the bride… to live in the moment. Wonderful. Thank you.

  • ka


    Is all I can find to say about this ceremony. Ok, and maybe stunning, transformative, and magical.

    Way to find a way to have the best of both worlds! Congratulations!

  • Love.

    Little known fact: I too almost hired Patrick for a Yosemite elopement. We decided to have a local wedding with family and friends instead. This post confirmed my suspicion that I would have been happy either way.


    • If I remember correctly, it ended up snowing in Yosemite on the day you wanted to get married up here. Not exactly warm.

      • So sweet of you to remember. Really, it would have been ok. My husband would have loved the snow enough for two people.

  • melissa

    I married in Yosemite as well and met Patrick Pike, Carol Cardinale and Autrey Nassar. They are all good peeps!

  • valeria

    Oh!such a dreamy place to marry.All the best for you!

  • RachelC

    Wow how unbelievably beautiful. I absolutely adore both pieces of this wedding graduate post. The picture of your daughter with the ring box is absolutely the most precious thing ever, and these shots in Yosemite?? Inimitable. The fact that you needed both these weddings to have the full, true experience speaks to you and your husband’s knowledge of each other and yourselves and I think that is a huge deal. I admire EVERYTHING about this. Endless kudos and congratulations to you – this made my day :):)

    Also – holy SHOES Batman!!!! <3

    • I think that is my favorite picture of the family wedding as well. Both Patricks (the FL one and the CA one) did a phenomenal job. We were very fortunate.
      The honest truth about the shoes… They only stayed on for a few minutes. I couldn’t really wear them tromping around Yosemite. All the rest of the shots were taken wearing hiking boots under my dress. :)

  • Moz

    This is such a beautiful grad post, thank you so much for sharing it with us. Congrats on your marriage xx

  • wow, both of these posts were incredible. Quite possibly my favorite grad posts yet. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  • How beautiful! We had to do an everybody or nobody and had to opt for a nobody wedding (we are from far apart different countries). How nice that you managed to do both, and the you had such beautiful ceremonies. The pictures at Yosemite are breathtaking!

  • I literally gasped. So, so beautiful.

    And reading your vows to each other in private absolutely tugged at my heart. So sweet, so touching, and so personal. I love it.

    Also. STILL JEALOUS. I want a second wedding now.

    • It’s never too late for a second wedding! ;)

  • Suzanna

    I love and appreciate APW dearly, but this may have been the first time I actually teared up at a grad post. So beautiful!

  • Abby C.

    Oh my gosh, what an amazing elopment! I find myself getting misty eyed, and Wedding Grads DON’T make me that way, as a rule.

    Congrats to such a lovely couple, and thank you for sharing.

  • Wow. Both weddings are so beautiful and you both look so insanely happy. The chain reaction of phone calls to plan the family wedding made me tear up a little, and then the intimacy of the Yosemite wedding really did me in. I’m so glad you got the opportunity to do both, have your friends and family present as well as have time to feel like a bride and have time alone with your new husband. He looks so much like my cousin Julian that for a second I was really confused!

  • Jen

    The photos are breathtaking but the words even more so.
    Thank you so much for sharing both parts of your wedding with us.

  • Thank you for sharing! I love the photos of both weddings. We’re doing it backwards (eloping first but still having a large community ceremony and celebration), but we’re still doing the same thing. I feel like the outdoor ceremony we’ll be having next week is for _us_, and the community celebration is to present us in hospitality and grace to our gathered loved ones. This whole thing was sort of forced upon us (long story not involving immigration), but now that I’ve warmed up to it, I like the opportunity to make a meaningful connection in multiple ways with my intended.

  • I am so glad we saw both sides of this story. What an amazing, personal ceremony opportunity.

  • Amanda McCarthy

    Holly, Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful memories! I so wish that we could have joined you all at Grandma’s for the first ceremony. We are all so excited that Chris found you and added both you and Charlotte to our family. Hope to see you soon!

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