Venue searching is often one of the most difficult aspects of planning your wedding, as you can't do a whole lot in terms of planning or booking other vendors until you have your venue and date. I had been simultaneously checking out photographers, getting our final guest list together and looking at some wedding websites, but researching venues took a majority of my time and energy and I wanted to dedicate as much focus as possible to knock it out since we had been taking the early stages of wedding planning slowly and smoothly. One of my favorite venue finder tools that I used was The Venue Report.
Dave and I have always been a couple that enjoys the outdoors, exploring nature, and getting lost together on a hike. I always find our best conversations happen when we take walks together, and both of us envisioned getting married outdoors, immersed in nature. We toyed with lots of ideas (and by "we", I just mean me) from going back to Kenya for an intimate elopement with family, to heading to Montana to a ranch, or to hot springs in Colorado. After ruling out traveling too far for our day so that more guests would be able to share the day with us, Big Sur and Yosemite became the clear front runners. We kept revisiting the idea that we wanted our wedding to be a really fun destination spot for our guests to go to, that they wouldn't just be going to California for our wedding (as we have a fairly large amount of out of town guests), but that they would also be checking off a bucket list location. We also wanted our guests to be able to stay in one central location, ideally with cabins or lodges onsite to make a big lovefest of our wedding weekend with lots of activities for our guests to join.
After reaching out to venues in both locations and getting an idea of costs, it became clearer that Yosemite was going to be our front runner.
I made appointments at Rush Creek Lodge, Evergreen Lodge, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly known as the Ahwanhee) and Yosemite Valley Lodge. We (my mom, Dave and I) left on a Wednesday morning, and just over 3 hours later, we arrived to Rush Creek Lodge. It's a brand new venue that just opened. It's located about an mile outside of the National Park entrance with amazing rooms onsite, a great central location with a pool, and the event space is so new that it was still under construction. All of our guests could stay at one location, and farmtables and cross-back chairs were INCLUDED (wow, major benefits!). Take a look at some photos below:
I was surprised by how beautifully done all of the construction and design of the communal areas of the lodge were, it was certainly more appealing than I thought it would be! Next, we went just down the road to Evergreen Lodge. I've seen many images of weddings here, and knew this would be more my style. Again, lots of cabins onsite for all our guests, and a great central pool area and bar and restaurant.
We had so much fun exploring and envisioning our day in these spaces. We were staying in the valley and went off on another hour or so drive to Glacier Point before heading to Half Dome Village (formerly known as Curry Village) for dinner and to catch some zzz's. First, we hit this amazing view on the way in.
For all the times I had been to Yosemite when I was growing up, I had never been to Glacier Point, and oh my gosh, it was truly breathtaking! One of these day's we'll tackle Half Dome... Views of Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls were amazing, and so great they still had a decent amount of water running!
So much fun to see a deer just hanging out in the parking lot area at Glacier Point. From there we went back down to the valley and stopped at Tunnel View on the way right at sunset, another phenomenal view. You really can't help but fall in love with Yosemite!
We caught some margarita's, wine, and beer at the Pizza Patio area at Half Dome Village for dinner and headed to our Tent Cabin. The next day we had Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Yosemite Valley Lodge.
We arrived at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel a bit before our appointment and caught some coffee and a breakfast scone and sat on the back patio area to soak up some sun and some amazing views of Half Dome.
Sitting in the patio and feeling so surrounded by nature and the huge granite walls, I could tell Dave was getting the most excited about this location. As we started the tour, both Dave and I couldn't help but feel like this was the spot. This was the Yosemite we wanted our guests to experience, and loved the coziness of the valley area.
This is the one! No need to check out Yosemite Valley Lodge and overcomplicate our choices. We got all the right vibes and can't wait for our day! Our deposit and contract have just been sent in, and we can't wait to get married on August 19th, 2017 and schedule some really fun activities with our guests like biking, hiking, river floats, horseback riding, and just picnicking in one of the most incredible spots. We are so excited to have a spot like this to come back to year after year and feel so lucky we were able to find a venue we both loved so quickly.
My advice to those still searching for your wedding venue: It is very hard to find a "perfect" venue. No venue comes without some sort of compromise, whether it is a compromise of you and your partners views on what you want out of a venue, or the venue end time, the alcohol you can serve your guests, the required vendor list, the fee to be able to do X, or proximity to a specific location, etc. Dave and I have accepted that despite wanting our guests all in one location, they will end up spread throughout the valley. We are trying to turn this negative into a positive -- now our guests will experience Yosemite the way they want to, and stay where they want to. The wedding has to end by 10pm and the hotel bar only stays open until 11pm. Okay, so that means we are going to focus on the fact that we want to enjoy a whole weekend with our guests, so we're willing to overlook an earlier end time than what the other venues we looked at offered. Keep your head up, you will find your venue! Even if a venue you're looking at doesn't seem special at first, ultimately, wherever you pick will become special to you because that is where you will get married! Focusing on the positives of a venue over the negatives is always the way to go, as your guests will only see the positives (they don't know the other venue you looked at had a better view, or restrooms made of gold), and ultimately the reason why you're picking a venue in the first place, is so you can share your day with the ones you love and who love you most. They're there to celebrate you, not to find flaws in the venue you selected.
You can expect posts coming on wedding websites, invitations and photography... stay tuned.