Mariposa & Yosemite

A family tradition: Three generations exchange vows in Yosemite Chapel

The rain kept coming, and Yosemite National Park was filling up fast with water.

It was December 1955. Bob Chivers was a young carpenter there, about to leave the park and head south -- to propose to the girl of his dreams.

"I was supposed to be there before Christmas," Bob reflected.

A few hundred miles south, Louise Lindquist was anxiously waiting -- wondering if he was coming and wondering, too, if he really loved her. The day of his planned arrival came and went, with no sign of her beau. Little did she know the circumstances surrounding their blossoming romance ...

"Phone service was out. I couldn't call, and I was four days late," Bob continued. But he did finally get there -- with an engagement ring.

As a young girl, Louise and her family spent every summer camping in Yosemite. After high school it just seemed natural to get a job there. She worked in the gift shop in the "old lodge," while Bob worked on construction in the "new lodge."

They met in September, and by Christmastime, he had made up his mind. Little did he know how their wedding plans would shape a tradition that would span three generations ...

They were married the following April -- at the Chapel in Yosemite. "Where else? That's where we lived, that's where we worked," Bob said. Not only did they honeymoon at the park, they also made it their first home together, as there was plenty of carpentry work to keep him employed.

(Today, the "old lodge" no longer exists, and the "new lodge" is more than 50 years old. The Chapel was built in 1879, and is the oldest building still in use.)

Fast-forward 20 years or so. It was the late 1970s, and Bob and Louise's girls were all grown up.

Their daughter, Carol, said, "I didn't ever think about getting married there until Kenny Giorgi proposed. I asked him what he thought about it, and my parents liked the idea." So, in June 1978, the family had another wedding in the park.

"There were so many of our relatives and family friends who came, some from other parts of California and some from out of state. The Chapel was full! I don't remember a lot of the details -- just how excited I was to be marrying Kenny," Carol continued. The glow on her face was undeniable.

Fast-forward 25 more years to 2003, when the Giorgis would return once again to that same sanctuary to watch with tears in their eyes as their only daughter, Christie, exchanged wedding vows with Nathan Winters.

"I never really thought about it, either, until Nathan and I started getting serious," said Christie. "We toured with our college singing group, and while in the area, we spent a day at Yosemite. When I mentioned that my mom and grandmother had both gotten married there, someone remarked, 'You and Nathan should get married here, too!' Of course, we were embarrassed -- we weren't engaged at the time. When we did start making wedding plans, though, and found out the Chapel was available for the date we set, we were thrilled."

With a good amount of precipitation that year, the grass was lush and green, and the waterfalls were gorgeous.

"For some reason, we only reserved one room for the wedding party to change in," Carol said. "The guys had to change in a closet down the hall."

Still, it was a glorious day as Christie Giorgi and Nathan Winters were married in the same church as her parents and grandparents, surrounded by three generations of well-wishers.

Faith Moore is the wedding coordinator for the Chapel, and her husband, Brent, is the minister of its small congregation.

"We've had many couples get married here," Faith said. "From all over the world. Not many churches have been around long enough to serve three generations of brides, but we do get a lot of mothers and daughters. For Christie and her family it was something very near and dear to their hearts." "One girl grew up here while her mom worked as a nurse. She decided at a young age that she would someday be married in the Chapel," Faith continued. "So many times I hear the same sentiments from other visitors."

Probably the most memorable wedding the Moores have been a part of involved a bunch of kids with kazoos. "The couple both worked as volunteers with disabled children. The groom-to-be was somewhat disabled himself. For the ceremony, they brought all the kids and had them play their kazoos for the wedding march and the recessional. There wasn't a dry eye in the place."

For those who love Yosemite, but were married elsewhere, each year on the first Sunday in May, a wedding vow renewal service is held "en masse."

"The Chapel isn't only used for weddings," said Faith. "We've even had engagements take place here. People will mail things to me, to place inside the sanctuary for when they come to propose. And after they're married, some will come back to dedicate their children or to celebrate an anniversary. They'll also have memorial services here for loved ones, and scatter their ashes close by. There's such a tenderness for this place. It becomes a meaningful part of their lives and their heritage."

Christie said, "When we were having photos taken afterwards, several park visitors saw us and commented. One couple told us they had been married right there 50 years ago, and another couple was celebrating their 15th anniversary."

While Louise, Carol and Christie never intended to start or continue a tradition, it is something they will always cherish.

"That was something -- really something," Bob Chivers said after watching his granddaughter walk along the same aisle he and Louise walked 47 years earlier.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@cwo.com.

  Comments