Epic Yosemite Elopement at Cathedral Beach & Rush Creek Lodge

December 30, 2022

When we tell you that we can’t believe this is our job, THIS ELOPEMENT is the prime example of that. We literally got to fly to Yosemite from other elopements in LA, Hawaii, & Montana to document THE most badass couple ever, and got to experience the magic of Yosemite alongside them + their loved ones. Like how did we end up here?! We’ve been SO excited to show you Katie & Leo’s Yosemite elopement at Cathedral Beach & Rush Creek Lodge. 

Katie & Leo’s Yosemite Elopement at Cathedral Beach

About this powerhouse couple

We could seriously talk about this couple for days, but we’ll do our best to keep it brief – they’re just too rad to NOT introduce you to them a little bit.

Katie works as a freakin’ senior producer at CNBC, covering Amazon & other trends in big tech. She’s both on camera & behind the camera all the time, and has participated in the creation of lots of viral videos. She was also the president at the National Press Photographers Association before this year – no doubt she’s a crazy hard worker & also a massive outdoor-lover. Oh, and she casually runs several miles every morning to start her jam-packed day!

Leo describes himself as a “life enthusiast” – and that really just paints a perfect picture of him. During their engagement session & our time previously spent with him & Katie, he was always climbing and balancing on random things. He’s actually a park ranger at Yosemite & he’s had every other random job possible previous to that – professional sculptor, bike and snowboard tour operator, adventure guide in Yosemite & all over California, a woodland firefighter, and now a firefighter/paramedic as well! Like what?! The most badass couple!

An adventure session at Muir Woods before the big day

Way back in January, we actually took a little California vacation and these two played tour guides for us – sooo we had to get some epic pics of them! We visited the gorgeous Muir Woods, where Katie & Leo first hung out, as well as Yosemite’s Lower Falls & Tunnel View, for a Cali adventure session. Couldn’t talk about their big day without showing you guys a few pics from this sesh first!🤩

Meaningful touches every step of the way

This elopement was all about FUN and adventure, but also about spending meaningful time with their loved ones. Katie & Leo both gave each other gifts on the big day – she gave him a children’s book showing the story of their relationship (so their kid can have it one day – talk about adorable), with their photos & stories of their adventures throughout. Leo’s gift to Katie was a puzzle that he created for her in which he wrote all of his favorite things about her, one on each piece!

Besides their sweet gifts for each other, Katie & Leo also packed a ton of special details into their elopement day. Katie’s mom, who she was very close to, passed away the year previously, so they included several things throughout the wedding to honor her – copper-plated decor, Katie’s necklace, photos of her, & more.

Oh, and fun fact – Katie’s dad’s tophat was from the 1930’s. Random, but we loved it!

P.S. their elopement hashtag was #leonlyoneforkatie. Like seriously, how cute are they?

A pre-elopement, fireside s’mores party? Yes, please!

Not only did these two have an absolutely epic elopement day, but all of their guests ALSO stayed the night before & after. Some even stayed an extra day or two to extend their vacation!

The night before the ceremony, Katie & Leo hosted a s’mores party (have you ever heard of anything more awesome?) by the fire & pool, with personalized, camping-themed cookies + s’mores grab bags. The morning after included yoga and a complimentary breakfast for everyone who attended. It was such a fun way to touch base with their friends & family before and after the big Yosemite elopement day!

Getting ready at Rush Creek Lodge & Spa

A Yosemite adventure elopement would not be complete without somewhere epic to stay. So Katie, Leo, and all of their guests stayed at Rush Creek Lodge, a gorgeous spa & hotel inspired by the natural beauty of Yosemite! They got ready at the lodge, and then Katie had a first look with her dad (none with Leo). The first look with her dad was super cute (and almost got ruined) because he was supposed to wait at the door, but instead walked inside where he was not supposed to go, smiling, and looking around. He said “Oh! Yummy snacks!” and we turned around and asked what the heck he was doing there🤣Luckily he didn’t see her then, and all was well!

Yosemite elopement ceremony at Cathedral Beach

Alright, enough backstory — we’ve now made it to the actual, official Yosemite elopement ceremony! It was held at Cathedral Beach, with iconic views of El Capitan & the Merced River in the background. They chose October for the beautiful weather, yes, but primarily for Yosemite’s more lax permit rules during that time of year.

Right before Katie walked down the aisle, they had a “ring warming,” where they passed around their wedding bands for their guests to hold & wish them good thoughts. 

Katie & Leo’s closest friends and fam held connected flowers to create an aisle for Katie and her dad to walk down, which was super sweet. Once they made their way down the aisle, their guests closed the aisle by coming together and creating a half-moon shape around the couple. After the first kiss, they opened up again and danced down the aisle to “6’s To 9’s!”

During the ceremony, they both drank from a Pueblo wedding vase to symbolize their families coming together, a vase used in traditional weddings for Native Americans in New Mexico, where Leo spent much of his childhood. Their close friend played guitar and sang for their ceremony, and another close friend (who originally introduced them) was their officiant!

Their vows were incredible & included the importance of Merced River + Yosemite in their relationship. The parks mean everything to these adventurous peeps – they’ve created many memories exploring Yosemite & doing a variety of other outdoor activities, so it was awesome how they incorporated all of that into their special day. 

A paddle boarding + hiking break for epic Yosemite elopement portraits

After the ceremony wrapped, Katie & Leo were going to rock climb but we ran out of time in the schedule. We did, however, paddle board on the Merced River, take a secret hike to an epic view of Half Dome (wayyy more secluded than Tunnel View), and briefly biked in the valley for some fun pics! Katie practiced in her wedding dress secretly before the actual day, and found out the best way to clip her dress so it wouldn’t get caught in her bike. She said to use dress clips & make sure your bike has a skirt guard AND a chain guard – just FYI in case you want to do the same!

During family photos, we actually saw a rock slide off the side of El Cap – it was crazy powerful and humbling to witness. It sounded like thunder for 30 seconds, and dust shot up everywhere, but luckily we were far enough away that it didn’t interfere.

For more fun ideas + ways to personalize your elopement just like Katie & Leo did, browse through our top 60 Unique Elopement Ideas for Your Dream Elopement Day!

National-Park-themed wedding reception at Rush Creek Lodge

Aaand then we made our way to their reception back at Rush Creek, where they, of course, had chosen a National Park theme. The details were awesome – their welcome sign, table names, seat reservations, & really all of their other details, were very classy & Pinterest-worthy! They even had drinks named after their pets as well as a photo booth, which somehow ended up with guests taking a photo in the form of a human pyramid.

They had live music from a one-man-band, Nathan Ignacio, and then, because we did a sneaky little same-day-edit in the car after their ceremony, everyone else who showed up to the reception got to watch Katie & Leo’s vow exchange. The numbers are limited for wedidng ceremonies in the park, so we loved that they invited more guests to the reception – there were a lot of happy tears going around!

The day wrapped up with a yummy dinner, speeches, and the couple + guests dancing the night away under the clearest night stars ever. Yosemite is incredible for sky & star visibility because there’s no light pollution, so it was absolutely magical.

We are SO freakin’ thankful that we got to hang out for all of Katie & Leo’s festivities, and that we got to document it all from start to finish. Once the party was over, we waved our goodbyes, and bam – we were off to our next elopement in Florida!

The Yosemite elopement vendor team

Huge shoutout to the incredible vendors who helped bring this awesome Yosemite elopement together!

Ceremony Music: Laura Paragano

Live Reception Music: Nathan Ignacio

DJ: Don Gordo Cabeza

Photo & Video: Elope with TKM

Reception & Lodging: Rush Creek Lodge

Bakery: Susie Cakes Bakery

Florist: Bear’s Garden Florist

Cookies for S’mores Party/Gift Bags: Finery & Cake

Want some help making sure your elopement day is JUST as epic as Katie & Leo’s? Check out our Ultimate Guide to How to Plan an Elopement!