Our Yosemite Valley Wedding Adventure

Anton and I got married on September 15th of this year. We invited 80 loved ones out into the Sierra Nevada and said our vows on the banks of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley.

How can I begin to put into words the expanse of emotions and experiences packed into the two days we spent in the mountains getting married? It was both deeply intimate and almost uncomfortably public. I found my emotions skittering wildly in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.

Throughout it, I found my hands reaching for Anton’s arm or hand, found myself tucking against him and looking up into his eyes to see the same delight and amazement I felt reflected back in his eyes. I’d feel anchored, steady, and connected. For a while at least, the pull and expectations of other people would fade behind the deeper connection between us.

This blog post includes details of our Yosemite wedding—the fantastic vendors we used, our vows, the ceremony in its entirety, and a sampling of the photos from the weekend. It’s mostly for me to remember everything, as well as to share with friends and family. It might also be useful if you are planning a Yosemite wedding.

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Vendors

Reception: Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort
Photographer: Patrick Pike 
Wedding Planner: AddyRose Design
Location: Sentinel Beach, Yosemite Valley

We got engaged at our favorite semi-secret spot in Yosemite, and then spent several months trying to find a good location for our wedding and reception. Eventually, we realized nothing felt as right to us as Yosemite itself.

Having a wedding in Yosemite is both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult. It’s a trivial fee to book the beach for a couple hours in the morning, and we easily obtained a permit. But hosting a reception or putting our friends up in the Valley would have been exorbitantly expensive. We ended up having our friends stay at the Yosemite Bug, which is about an hour outside of the park. Caroline, who owns the Bug, was a joy to work with. She helped us figure out parking options for our less-than-mobile older relatives, created an amazing all-vegetarian buffet, and put together packed lunches for our guests to eat in Yosemite Valley after our morning wedding. It was more fun, less expensive, and more authentic to us than anything offered by the official Yosemite Valley vendors.

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Roshel, the owner of AddyRose Design, was our wedding planner. I thought it was ridiculous to hire a wedding planner at all, especially since we know Yosemite Valley and had planned everything already. But I was wrong. This summer, fires closed Yosemite Valley for weeks and many of the drivers working at the park didn’t return after the park reopened, so the concessionaire was totally unresponsive when we tried to arrange a bus to get our guests from the Bug to the wedding location. Roshel is the only reason we got a bus at all. Roshel also saved us hours of driving—picking up chairs in Fresno, driving them back to Fresno after the wedding, and also driving an hour to pick up the cupcakes from Mariposa. The Yosemite area is gorgeous but everything is so far apart that, without Roshel, we would have either spent half our wedding driving around or forced our friends to do it for us.

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Patrick Pike was our photographer, and he’s exceptional. I’ve included low-resolution versions of some of the photos he took of the wedding, but if you’d like to order prints of anything (either these photos or the dozens of others he took) please let me know and I can get you access to Patrick’s site to order prints. Patrick was the only photographer we found who was able to really make Yosemite as much of the story as us. He clambered up to our favorite secret spot in Yosemite and was able to capture the beauty of the place where we had our second date and started to fall in love.

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Overview of Our Yosemite Wedding Weekend

We knew we wanted to have a lot of time with our loved ones, and also share our love of Yosemite Valley with our closest friends. So we let our wedding unfold over a few days.

On Thursday evening, Anton and I hosted a small dinner with all the family members who were able to come to town early at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel) in Yosemite Valley.  On Friday, Anton and I spent the morning decorating the Bodie Room at Yosemite Bug, and then welcomed our friends as they rolled in over the course of the evening. Our friends Dave Ambrose and Jeanne Haegele played acoustic guitar and sang while folks gathered in the June Bug Cafe and shared wine and dinner.

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Saturday morning, Anton and I left early and staked out a parking spot near Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley. Our dear friend Leah Jones had brought us fancy pastries for our wedding day, so we drank tea and watched morning wash over the granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley while eating pastries.

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After 10 AM, we took a long walk up to Sentinel Beach for our ceremony. We rounded out the morning with a group photo, and then gave everyone packed lunches, which most people ate there on the beach. Then, Anton and I headed off into the Valley for photos, and returned to meet guests at the Bug around 5 PM. We had drinks outside and then went into the Bodie room for a buffet dinner, speeches, and dancing.

Sunday morning, we were up early and met guests in the June Bug Cafe as they came down for breakfast. We stayed there all morning, and then packed up the decorations from the Bodie Room around noon and headed off for two nights at Benton Hot Springs to decompress.

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Our Vows

We wrote our vows together over many weeks, slowly honing in on exactly what we wanted to say to each other. Here are the final vows we made:

My love, we have created a world between us that is more dear to me than any place on this physical earth. I promise to build this relationship with you on our own terms. I will pursue this love fearlessly, even when it’s challenging, and let passion and connection be our guides.

I take you as you are, loving who you are now and who you are yet to become. I promise to listen to you and learn from you, to support you and turn to you for support. I will walk through life with you, choosing paths that lead to fulfillment for both of us, and help us grow closer together. I will love all of you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.

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Our Full Ceremony

When we were working on building the ceremony, I spent many hours looking online at other people’s wedding ceremonies and vows. I found it incredibly helpful to be able to read the full scripts of other weddings, and so I’m including the script in its entirety both because the ceremony was so meaningful for us and because it might be helpful for other people trying to figure out their own weddings. I thought our readings and vows were perfect, though in retrospect I think the ceremony seemed a little long and I would have cut back on some of the storytelling about our relationship.

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JASON: Dear friends,

Thank you for everyone who came today, out into this beautiful and peaceful place that means so much to Anton and Rainey.

Please take a moment, if you would like, to bring out your cell phone, take a photo, and remember this moment. And then once you’ve captured it, maybe posted it to Instagram, we would kindly ask that you turn off your device and tuck it away for the rest of the ceremony.

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You’ll notice that we’re out in the splendid outdoors today, and part of being in a natural setting includes respecting it and ensuring others can enjoy it. So we don’t have any speakers or sound systems. We ask that if you’d like to hear, try to lean in, and if you can’t catch every word then we apologize.  Know that we appreciate you being here anyway. If you have a child who feels the need to express themselves, we have some cool water and shade back by the picnic tables.

Anton and Rainey are so happy you could be here to celebrate with them. Each of you is here because you matter deeply to them, and having you here to be a part of this union makes it more meaningful. The couple also knows that there are some who can’t be here today. Let’s take a moment of silence to think of those .

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Anton and Rainey have brought two rings that they will exchange later in the ceremony as a symbol of their ongoing love and commitment. The rings have a texture that’s modeled after redwood bark. Towering, beautiful and enduring: the perfect symbol for a lifelong commitment between nature lovers. And Anton’s is titanium, because he’s that much of a backpacking nerd.

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To include all of their dear ones gathered here today in this ceremony and their union, as we get started, we’re going to pass these rings around. Please quickly pass the rings from hand to hand, and as it touches your hand please send them the support and love and good wishes that you’d like for the couple.

How they met

For most people, getting married in Yosemite Valley would be an exotic “destination wedding.” For Anton and Rainey, it’s more like a back-yard wedding. Their second date–ever–happened about three hundred meters that way, where Anton was living in a tent for the summer of 2012.

They’d met that May, at a happy hour in San Francisco. Rainey had arrived in the city two years earlier and was still finding her footing, and Anton had just quit his job and was planning to spend the entire summer camping in the mountains and volunteering for the park. He was going to be leaving the following week. Rainey already had friends in Yosemite Valley, and was sneaking off to the mountains whenever she could get away from work. When he mentioned he was leaving to live in Yosemite, an instant connection was made, as they shared a deep love of this place.

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For the first 5 months of their relationship, they communicated over text and email, and saw each other only on the rare occasion that one of them could drive 200 miles to see the other. They started falling in love in this Valley. Anton introduced Rainey to backpacking, and Rainey introduced Anton to an array of secure messaging tools that they would use to communicate from afar. They fell in love, but in the first couple years things weren’t easy. More often than not, Rainey’s evening hours were dedicated to work and didn’t leave much time or energy for a relationship. And Anton had his own chaotic life, figuring out his exit from corporate life and whether he could manage a relationship while moving around and living out of tents half the time.

203_rainey_antonA little over three years ago they took the plunge and decided to try living together. These are two people who are both… particular… about their living space, and both used to having their own sovereign territory. There was a real concern that living together was going to tear them apart. Instead, they found that they fit: that sharing simple moments at home brought a consistent, quiet happiness; and that building a shared nest helped bring them closer together.

They also explored more of the world together: backpacking in the Sierra and Colorado, hiking rainforests in Brazil and beaches in Hawaii. Earlier this year, they spent three months exploring the South island of New Zealand while living in the back of van which they called the Snack Wagon. It turns out, you learn a lot about a person by living in a van with them for three months. For Anton and Rainey, it reaffirmed that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.

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The foundation of this ceremony was written in that van. Anton and Rainey would drive the van to a lake or a river far away from wifi and with no cell service, turn on string lights, pour whiskey into plastic camping cups, watch the stars come out, and talk for hours about what was important to them and what kind of a life they wanted to build together. As you witness this ceremony, they hope that a little bit of the magic of that time is brought to this moment.

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There are four sections to this ceremony, each representing some aspect of the relationship that is important to Anton and Rainey, and a commitment they’d like to make to one another for the years ahead. They’ve invited a few close friends to read different sections.

To begin, Alyssa. Alyssa is one of Anton and Rainey’s favorite backcountry companions. She and Anton were partners a decade ago, and have remained good friends ever since. They walked the John Muir Trail together, over 200 miles starting just up at the end of this valley. And she and Rainey survived a very adventurous expedition to Half Dome together through six foot snowdrifts in 2017, which is a good story to ask about over drinks later tonight.

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ALYSSA: Rainey and Anton were brought together by their shared love of adventure.  They both have a willingness to take risks and to say “yes” to new experiences. Anton quit his safe and stable computer job to spend his time roaming the wilderness and figuring out how to make a life full of things that matter to him.  He’d rather enjoy the road on a motorcycle than be safer in a car.

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Rainey came to California with everything she owned in the back of a PT Cruiser, and spent a month camping across the country with her dog, even though before that she’d never set up a tent. She loves solo travel — whether that’s exploring the countryside of Russia or Romania on her own, or slipping over the Golden Gate bridge for midweek camping in Marin.

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As a friend to both Rainey and Anton, I was convinced of their compatibility a few years back when Anton excitedly told me about what Rainey had gotten him for Christmas:  a map of the Pacific Crest Trail. He told me that they were going to try to backpack the entire thing, in multiple trips. And, if that isn’t a good sign of compatibility, then the fact that they survived  miles of mud in the New Zealand rain forest, lightning storms on the Colorado Trail, and finding vegetarian food in Brazil, then it sure seems like they’re a very good fit.

Their relationship works like a base camp from which to launch more ambitious expeditions (both metaphorically – by trying new things and taking risks in life, and also literally having adventures). Each encourages the other to try new things, step out of their comfort zone, and keep exploring.

And they plan on keeping it that way.

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Now, a reading from the Mountains of California by John Muir:

Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.

JASON: Next, Somaieh. Somaieh has known Rainey since they were in the second grade together, and their friendship has survived multiple cross country moves and several decades. They call each other soul sisters.

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SOMAIEH: Rainey and Anton have found their partners in each other. They will create meaningful memories as they journey through the world together. But partnership isn’t just about sharing adventures; it also means supporting one another. Taking care of someone you love– picking them up when they’re down, helping them achieve their dreams–is a privilege. It gives meaning to life. And today we celebrate that Rainey and Anton have found each other to support.

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Many of you already know this, but for those of you who don’t: Rainey is a superhero. Her day job is defending our freedoms online. She then goes home to run her own consulting business, helping other nonprofits accomplish their missions. And in her spare time [as if she has any!], Rainey campaigns on the behalf of whistleblowers and imprisoned journalists.

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Anton is honored to be the person who gets to take care of her, while she fights to save the world–from putting home-cooked meals in front of her at the end of a long day, to proofreading consulting reports, to being a safe person she can talk to about the challenges she faces.

Anton is not someone who typically seeks support. He gets satisfaction from accomplishing things for himself. He likes to solve his own problems, methodically, thoroughly and with a minimum of fuss. He’s learned to minimize his problems, including the number of people entangled in his problems.

So it’s a big deal that Rainey has earned Anton’s trust as someone with whom he can share his worries. She knows when to help and when it’s better to just be there for him. She is someone he can reach out to, and knowing she’s there lightens his burdens.

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A reading from Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, “An Origin Story” from No Matter The Wreckage

“But I have seen the best of you and the worst of you, and I choose both. I want to share every single one of your sunshines and save them for later. I will tuck them into my pockets so I can give them back to you when the rain falls hard. Friend, I want to be the mirror that reminds you to love yourself. I want to be the air in your lungs that reminds you to breath. When the walls come down, when the thunder rumbles, when nobody else is home, hold my hand, and I promise I won’t let go.”

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JASON: And next, Emily. Rainey and Emily dated in college, and after some heartbreak they eventually formed a close friendship that has lasted for over a decade. Emily flew out from Austin Texas by way of a conference in DC to be here today.

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EMILY: Freedom in a relationship can mean many things. For Rainey and Anton, it means the freedom to create a life that each person finds fulfilling, and knowing your partner supports you in creating that life. It means finding and pursuing your passions with the full support of a partner whose love is more like a kite string than a ball and chain. Freedom means knowing that you have the right to think and feel and speak your truth, and know that it is welcomed and supported by the one who loves you.

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Creating and maintaining freedom within a relationship isn’t always easy. Giving our partner freedom requires that we love fiercely but not tightly, remaining responsible for our own feelings and needs, able to keep ourselves entertained and take care of our own business so that our partner can have the space they need to be their own person. Rainey and Anton have a relationship where Anton can come here to work and play in the summers, and where Rainey can throw her full energy into work to create a better digital future or explore mountains and wild places on her own when that’s what her spirit needs. Each can stand on their own while the other pursues the things that are important to them. Maintaining the balance of support and freedom is a lifelong challenge that they happily accept.

Here is a reading from James Kavanaugh called “To Love is Not to Possess”:

To love is not to imprison,
Nor to lose one’s self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one’s inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child’s scars
Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

JASON: And finally Roxane. She and Anton met as part of the San Francisco Sex Information crew, making the world safe for good sex and have remained close ever since. Now Roxane, her husband Dave, daughter Madeline and furry loveball Hattie are like family for both Anton and Rainey.

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ROXANE: Anton and Rainey commit to building a relationship that reflects their love in a way they both find deeply fulfilling. That means measuring the relationship based on how deeply it calls them into presence and love and how meaningful it is to them both, rather than by external definitions or expectations. It means being willing to grow together, and being willing to be transformed by the love they share.

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This means letting go of the masks they hold up to other people, and tapping into a deeper, more authentic self.

Rainey spends a lot of her life organizing people and movements, stepping into leadership roles, working on campaigns that have real ramifications for the future of society, and real life-and-death consequences for individual people. But in this relationship, she gets to be something different. She gets to be herself, and nothing more. In Anton, she has found someone who loves her for her true self, who wants her to be exactly who she is, and nothing else.

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Anton has been living an unorthodox life for a while. He traded the wealth and security of a tech career for the freedom to focus on things that are most important to him. He has struggled with feeling pressure to conform to more conventional measures of success. In Rainey, he’s found someone who loves him for his true self, who wants him to be exactly who he is, and nothing else.

This depth of honesty helped them find a deeper connection, deeper than anything they’ve ever known before. They each promise to seek out and lean into that connection, even when it’s difficult, even when it means letting go of something else, because through this relationship, they’ve found deep joy and love being their true selves.  

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A reading from a section of Love by Roy Croft
I love you
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find
I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple.
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.
I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good.
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.

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JASON I’d ask that whoever has the rings will kindly bring them to the front. Thank you.

Rainey and Anton, in the last six years you’ve come to know the person you wish to spend the rest of your life with. Someone who will be with you in your darkest hours, who will comfort you and stand by you, who will share in your triumphs and happiest memories. Today and from this moment going forward, you will be a family.

You’ve written some vows for each other

VOWS:

RAINEY: My love, we have created a world between us that is more dear to me than any place on this physical earth. I promise to build this relationship with you on our own terms. I will pursue this love fearlessly, even when it’s challenging, and let passion and connection be our guides.

I take you as you are, loving who you are now and who you are yet to become. I promise to listen to you and learn from you, to support you and turn to you for support. I will walk through life with you, choosing paths that lead to fulfillment for both of us, and help us grow closer together. I will love all of you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.

JASON: Rainey do you take Anton as your partner for life?

I do.

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JASON: You may place the ring on Anton’s finger. 

ANTON: My love, we have created a world between us that is more dear to me than any place on this physical earth. I promise to build this relationship with you on our own terms. I will pursue this love fearlessly, even when it’s challenging, and let passion and connection be our guides.

I take you as you are, loving who you are now and who you are becoming. I promise to listen to you and learn from you, to support you and turn to you for support. I will walk through life with you, choosing paths that lead to fulfillment for both of us, and help us grow closer together. I will love all of you and have faith in your love for me, through all our years and all that life may bring us.

JASON: Anton, do you take Rainey as your partner for life?

I do.

JASON: You may place the ring on Rainey’s finger.

JASON: Anton, Rainey, from this moment forward, we recognize you the way you have already come to understand yourselves: as partners for life. So, kiss already!

Before we leave this spot today, the happy couple would like nothing more than to take a group photo with everyone who is beloved to them. And if you’ve been to one of the many protests that Rainey has organized over the years, you will be in no way surprised to know she wants a big group photo to remember this event by. So we are going to ask everyone who is willing to take a moment and follow the directions of our photographer who will help gather us in a group photo. Once we are done, there will be packed lunches and water by the picnic tables.

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One thought on “Our Yosemite Valley Wedding Adventure”

  1. You’re wedding was absolutley perfect. I’ve known you Rainey for i guess well into a decade now, and had the pleasure of meeting Anton for the first time on our walk to the cafe the Friday before your ceremony. Your energy as individuals is beautiful and as a unit even more so. Thank you so much for having us be a part of such a special moment in your lives. May the universe and all of its stars shine on you both for the rest of your days.

    Like

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