A Meaningful Elopement in the Rolling Mountains of Yosemite

grooms embracing near mountains
Rebecca Theresa Photography

Kendrick Shaw, right, and Mark Stoddard met online over 10 years ago, in September of 2010, when Kendrick was on a friend's birthday trip. They became engaged after a decade together, in October of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic surged around the world. The pair knew relatively quickly that they wanted to marry sooner rather than later, understanding that lockdowns and travel restrictions would make doing so difficult. So, they made what they say was an easy choice—they decided to elope.

"We wanted to celebrate us without the stress of COVID-19 and interfering restrictions," they tell us, adding that, in truth, they had always envisioned eloping. They ultimately loved the ease of it—everything about the process, they share, was straightforward, including sourcing their location. Yosemite National Park made sense to the travel-loving Texas natives, who had a reverence for Northern California, but hadn't yet experienced the area. They made a road trip out of it, journeying up and through the state in the days leading up to their vow exchange.

The only road block, was, well, an actual road block: "We really had no issues the entire planning process, other than the fact that the road to Taft Point, a viewpoint in Yosemite, was closed," they say. "But our amazing photographer scouted for two days to find the perfect alternate location." They were able to find a beautiful spot on a crested mountaintop, which offered breathtaking views of the undulating terrain and towering Giant Sequoia trees. As they shared their emotional promises with each other under the gaze of a golden sunset, they realized that they were exactly where they needed to be.

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Welcome to Yosemite

wedding landscape with mountains and waterfall
Rebecca Theresa Photography

"We have always loved California—especially Northern California," says the couple, who journeyed throughout the state in the days leading up to the elopement; both Kendrick (a wedding photographer) and Mark travel regularly for work, and the region was one they mutually loved, but hadn't yet thoroughly explored. "Yosemite alone would make the perfect backdrop, so it was an easy decision for us," they say. "Plus, the pandemic wouldn't allow us to travel out of country, even if we wanted to. We stayed in downtown San Francisco at the Proper Hotel and drove to Yosemite that morning."

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Elopement Adventure

accessories for wedding
Rebecca Theresa Photography

The pair's overarching goal for their ceremony-for-two was simplicity. "We aren't flashy guys and not really into big, over-the-top productions," they say. "That's why we decided to elope and make the experience special for just us."

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Pre-Ceremony Portraits

grooms in embrace in wilderness
Rebecca Theresa Photography

"It all happened so fast," Mark and Kendrick say of their time in Yosemite. "We were running a little late because of traffic and the park had closed the main road due to construction so we had little time to soak in the moment." The weight of the moment didn't hit until their pre-ceremony portraits and ensuing vow exchange were over. "After, we got to just sit there in our car and really let it soak in—we finally did it!"

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Cozy Neutrals

close up of groom's attire
Rebecca Theresa Photography

Before changing into his elopement ensemble, Mark posed in a camel-hued coat and patterned shirt—and flashed his wedding band for the camera.

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All in the Details

groom in jeans, hat, and coat
Rebecca Theresa Photography

Kendrick accented his first outfit with a black hat and cognac-hued boots.

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Golden Hour Quick Change

grooms getting ready
Rebecca Theresa Photography

As the sun began to set, the duo changed into their ceremonial attire; Mark opted for a silver suit and camel turtleneck from Banana Republic, while Kendrick donned a black ensemble from H&M. Their clothes spoke to their elopement's color palette, they say, which spoke to their surroundings and personal aesthetics.

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Organic Boutonnières

groom's boutonniere
Rebecca Theresa Photography

Kendrick was a floral designer before he transitioned into wedding photography, so he handled their boutonnières. He paired bunny tails with seasonal buds, and wrapped the pieces together with black ribbon.

08 of 15

This Is the Spot

grooms during ceremony
Rebecca Theresa Photography

"We got officially married back in our home state, Texas," the pair explains, which made their time in Yosemite—which was just the two of them—more special.

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The Vow Exchange

groom looking over vows
Rebecca Theresa Photography

They took turns exchanging their vows, which they read from matching booklets.

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A Few Tears

grooms reading vows during ceremony
Rebecca Theresa Photography

Both Kendrick and Mark cite sharing their emotional promises as the highlight of the day.

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Sealed with a Kiss

grooms kissing during ceremony
Rebecca Theresa Photography

After delivering their vows, they sealed the moment with a kiss.

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Band Together

close up of grooms' wedding bands
Rebecca Theresa Photography

The grooms' matching wedding bands were custom made in Mexico.

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A Splash of Whiskey

grooms enjoying whiskey
Rebecca Theresa Photography

"Mark is a big fan of bourbon," says Kendrick. "Our hotel had a bottle ready for us when we got there, so I suggested that we do a celebratory shot after we finished, and he agreed. It was a last-minute idea."

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Popping the Bubbly

grooms opening champagne
Rebecca Theresa Photography

The couple's videographer, Joshua Mcfarquhar, also thought having a bottle of Champagne on hand would be apropos. He stashed it in his bag until the moment was right and the pair could pop some celebratory bubbly on a mountain crest in Yosemite.

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grooms holding hands looking toward mountains
Rebecca Theresa Photography

Photography, Rebecca Theresa Photography
Venue, Yosemite National Park
Videography, Joshua Mcfarquhar
Kendrick's Attire, H&M
Mark's Attire, Banana Republic; Steve Madden

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