A complete guide on how to Elope in Washington
(Updated for 2024)
The Pacific Northwest is any couple’s dream for a romantic elopement surrounded the lush greenery, quiet woods on top of a mountain peak or by the waves as the sun sets. We are lucky to spend half of our year in Washington from May through September before spending ur Winter’s in the desert. We even personally eloped in Washington on a six day back packing trip around the base of Mount Rainier! This place is special to us and I am not sure we will ever stop exploring it because, well we will never run out of trials, climbs, lakes to kayak, etc.
If you crave adventure, mountains, water, good food and unique experience this could be for you!
So first things first before we start getting into the logistics of planning your Washington elopement, as I always tell all of my couples the first thing to do when planning your elopement is to think about what you want out of your day. What type of experience do you want to have? What do you want to be surrounded by? What do you want to do throughout the day together? Where are you staying? Make a date night of it and have fun! This will help you decide where you want to elope or help give you a general sense and we can narrow it down from there.
- Planning your Washington Elopement
- Where are the best places to elope in Washington State?
- When is the best time to elope in Washington?
- How to get to your elopement destination in Washington?
- Where to stay in Washington?
- How to Get Married in Washington State
- Do I need a Special Use Permit to Elope in Washington?
- How much does it cost to elope in Washington?
- Let’s Talk About Seattle…
- Washington State Timeline Samples
- Washington State Elopement Packages
- We’ll be your Washington Elopement Photographers
- Let’s start planning your Washington Elopement now…
- Check out some Washington Elopement Day stories!
Planning your Washington Elopement
Embarking on an elopement in Washington State is a journey of romance and adventure. Begin by envisioning the kind of experience you desire, whether it’s an intimate ceremony amid the rugged beauty of the North Cascades or a serene exchange of vows on the tranquil shores of the San Juan Islands. Consider the season, as each brings its unique charm, from wildflower blooms in spring to the fiery hues of autumn. Reflect on what resonates most with your personal story and the dream backdrop for your special day.
Washington Elopement Check list
Define Your Vision: Think about your ideal elopement setting and style. Do you prefer mountains, forests, or coastal backdrops? What activities does your ideal day include?
Set a Date: Choose a date considering factors like weather, accessibility, and personal significance.
Budget Planning: Determine your budget, including costs for travel, accommodation, photography, attire, and any vendors.
Select a Location: Research and choose your elopement spot. Consider scenic beauty, privacy, and any personal or sentimental value.
Understand Legalities: Research and fulfill legal requirements like marriage licenses and permits for your chosen location.
Book Vendors: Select and book vendors such as a photographer, officiant, and florist.
Plan Your Day: Decide on the structure of your elopement day, including the ceremony, any activities, and celebrations.
Accommodation and Travel: Arrange your travel and accommodation, ensuring they align with your elopement location and plans.
Finalize Details: A month before, confirm all bookings, check weather forecasts, and finalize your itinerary.
Enjoy Your Day: On the elopement day, immerse yourself in the experience and create lasting memories.
Where are the best places to elope in Washington State?
While Washington is full of stunning places to elope there are five that stand out to me! Here are the 5 best places to elope in Washington! Just keep in mind these are not the only places you can elope in this great state 😉
Mount Rainier National Park is a fantastic place to elope with just you two. Mount Rainier, is a prominent feature of Washington’s landscape known for its towering presence, snow-capped peak, and the surrounding forests and wildflower meadows.
Why we love it: Mount Rainier has stunning backpacking trails, beautiful waterfalls, alpine lakes, fire towers and accessible locations to elope at. Also, we ourselves eloped here!
Recommendations: Since this is a National Park once you start adding guests you get more limited about where you can go/get married at. Due to this, we recommend within the park only plan to have just you two. However, outside of the park, there are stunning A-frame cabins in Ashford and Packwood we have seen couples have family ceremonies or dinner at on their elopement day. Outside of Mt Rainier, you will find several options for eloping with stunning views on National Forest land which has fewer restrictions. If you have a larger budget to also spend on a venue-type location you may want to consider Cyrstal Mountain if you have a lot of guests.
Address: 39000 State Route 706 E, Ashford, WA 98304
Olympic National Park is filled with rainforests, towering ancient trees, moss-laden branches, breathtaking lakes, and rugged coastal beaches with driftwood and sea stacks.
Why we love it: You can easily spend a full day here or two days here having the most epic elopement. Many places are easy to get to and accessible for your elopement planning, but also there are amazing places that require 3-30 miles of hiking. We love the backpacking destinations in this park from the coast and up to the glaciers!!
Recommendations for your PNW elopement: Again, this is a National Park so with family and guests your location options get more limited, but I will say this park feels more family-friendly than a Mount Rainier elopement. Here there are family locations that you can use on the beach, by the lake and the mountain! If you are eloping here we recommend staying in Forks or Port Angeles.
Address: 3002 Mt Angeles Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362
Leavenworth is a quaint German-inspired town hidden away in the mountains with epic long trails that lead you to some incredible mountains, alpine lakes, and in the fall stunning larches turning yellow.
Why We Like It: This is a fun elopement location for adventure, a place to dine and go out with family and friends, stay in beautiful cabins along the river that you can float, and more!
Recommendations: If you have family joining you for your elopement there are a couple of family-friendly locations in town and at the local state park! However, we recommend this location if you are up for the hiking or rock climbing! If you are looking for a winter destination do not skip out on this spot, as the town turns into a magical wonderland during the winter time and there is great skiing!!!
Address: 800 Front St. Leavenworth, WA 98826
San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are uniquely charming, with their quaint harbors, scenic coastlines, and the possibility of spotting marine wildlife. The romantic sunsets over the water are hard to beat.
Why We Like It: Step away from the mountains just for a little bit from March to October you even get the chance to see whales along the islands! This is a great place to elope if you are looking for something peaceful, and slow-paced with mountain and ocean views.
Recommendations: We highly recommend Orcas Island, Sucia Island or the Friday Harbor area for your elopement if you are into hiking, kayaking, boating or sea life! These islands are super family-friendly for an elopement or perfect for just you two.
Address: 165 First St. South, Friday Harbor, WA (visitors center)
Last, but certainly not least you have the North Cascades National Park and Mt Baker Forest Service land. I have lumped these two together because they are side by side of each other the most Northern mountain range in the park and so stunning!
The North Cascades and Mt. Baker area is known as the “American Alps”, the North Cascades National Park is characterized by jagged peaks, alpine meadows, and pristine lakes. Mt. Baker, a prominent feature in the area, is a snow-capped volcano known for its stunning vistas, lush national forests, and serene lakes. This region’s diverse landscape, ranging from rugged mountain wilderness to tranquil forested valleys, provides an idyllic setting for a nature-inspired wedding ceremony.
Why We Like It: There are so many unique places to stay around here and in the park, think floating cabins on the lake surrounded by mountains! There is rock climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, hiking, boating and so much beauty. The closest bigger town is Bellingham, which is a lovely place to dine, drink or stay in. Did I mention you could easily leave from there to honeymoon in Alaska? We also love it because we call Mt Baker home! We choose it as our base because we love that the trails are dog friendly, the summer hiking is amazing, the winter access to a snow filled play ground are all top notch.
Recommendations: North Cascades have much more strict rules and higher priced permits, Mt Baker is super family-friendly and accessible. Both are worth checking out!
Address: 7280 Ranger Station Rd., Marblemount, WA 98267 (visitor center)
When is the best time to elope in Washington?
Washington is an evergreen state, it is known for being gray and rainy, but that is not always the case! Washington has a very unique weather pattern and a lot of deciding the best time to elope will depend on that first question I asked you, what does it look like around you? How does it feel? Etc. If you want the PNW vibe then maybe you want some rain and fog which means maybe October or May is for you. Maybe you want sunshine on your day if you can have it, then you want to think about July to early August. Snow melt starts to go away in May in some areas, but the higher altitudes of Rainier and most of North Cascades snow melt may not happen until July. If you want a winter wonderland, you can for sure have that too, we recommend Leavenworth or somewhere along Highway 90 area for that!
Here is a break down monthly of what Washington weather can be like:
- November to March – winter, expect rain, clouds and snow pending where you are
- April + May – rain, mud but some sunny days coming and lower elevation snow melt
- June – rain, snow melt, mud but sunshine in some areas
- July – sunny!
- August – Sunny and wildflowers!
- September – Rainy season is coming and may already be here, but this is also fire season
- October – Fall leaves changing, larches in Leavenworth, rain
Outside of the weather, the day you choose traffic could also heavily affect your elopement day! I highly recommend avoiding holidays and weekends if you can for an elopement at any popular trails and in any of the National Parks. Washington is an adventure-driven state, these areas are busy on the weekend! The 4th of July weekend in the Forks, WA area is a huge celebration, making this holiday a bad time to elope in Olympic National Park. You can also always consider a sunrise elopement to try and avoid crowds on the trails and in the parks.
How to get to your elopement destination in Washington?
If you are coming from out of state you most likely will fly. The main airport in Washington is SEA TAC an international airport located in Seattle. The beauty is that it is pretty centrally located, but you will want to rent a car to get to where you will be eloping. In most cases, if you want to elope in Washington, you can get to your destination in a non 4×4 car, but there also many off-road options you could choose, so you may want to look info rentals of this nature.
If you are eloping in the North Cascades/Mt Baker region you can fly into the smaller airport in Bellingham, but just keep in mind the ride from Sea Tac (if you are not commuting during the rush hours) is only an extra 2 hour drive and you could see more of the state.
If you are eloping on any of the islands you will need to take a ferry to your elopement destination. If you are eloping in Olympic National Park you can drive from Seattle or take the ferry and then drive. You will want to reserve your spot on the ferry prior and familiar yourself with the Washington Ferry System. The ferry system is a great way to get around the state with less driving pending where all you are going. Be sure to make reservations in advance and plan to arrive early. Also, plan for the ferry system to run behind schedule as this is a frequent issue.
You can also consider traveling via a Sea Plane. We love this for a couple of reasons, it is faster making it possible to visit several locations in one day you couldn’t otherwise do. They are also super fun and a unique experience to share together on your wedding day! Sea Planes can take off and land in places like Seattle, North Cascades National Park, and the San Juan Islands for a unique elopement experience.
Where to stay in Washington?
With all of these beautiful parks comes A LOT of places to camp! Tent camping in the national parks you will for sure want to make a reservation during the season. Some campsites in the park will have first come first serve sites and you will want to be there around 9 am to snag a spot and have a backup plan! Many of the National Parks have forest service land around them and you can usually find a spot there. In some places in Washington, you can camp and have a campfire on the beach! Outside of camping options some of the National Parks have hotels, cabins, or even floating stays on lakes!
Washington is known for some of the most beautiful cabins tucked in the woods! These are great for having a comfortable, roomy place to relax the night before, get ready, and/or have a small reception after. If you are planning to have any photos taken at the Airbnb you rent be sure you have permission from the homeowner.
Check out some great Airbnb options here:
- Cabin in Central Cascades
- Tree House in Redmond
- Riverside cabin by Granite Falls
- Cabin near Olympic National Park
- Beach front on one of the San Juan Islands.
Outside of campsites and Airbnbs there are many hotels in Seattle and the main towns. Around many of the tourist areas there are many resorts to stay at. You can also stay at some of the fire towers in Washington, by reserving online and hiking in. What a way to elope!!! Wake up in the morning on top of the world, just you two and right were you can elope!
I highly recommend waiting to book your stay until you know exactly where you will be eloping to avoid ending up with a few hours drive on your elopement day or limiting your elopement locations based on stay. The National Parks in these regions are BIG so you can book a place to stay near the park, but elope on the other side which can be a very far drive.
How to Get Married in Washington State
In the state of Washington, you will need an officiant and two witnesses to legally become married. Before the ceremony, you will need to apply for your marriage license, which you can do at the county government’s auditor’s office or online in Whatcom county only at this time. There is a three-day waiting period to obtain your license so if you plan to apply for your permit in person you will need to be there several days in advance. You must get married within 60 days of obtaining your license, or it becomes invalid. Fees for your marriage license are different per county. After you have held your ceremony and the documents are signed do not forget to mail them back to the county office!! Since marriage licenses in Washington are based by county you can visit this government site to direct you to the right county for you elopement. Do note, however, you can get your paperwork in any county, it doesn’t have to be the county you are eloping in. Also, we are both ordained and always happy to assist in being witnesses and or your officiant!
We recommend getting your paperwork in Tacoma if you are eloping in Mt Rainier as their take-home document has a photo of the mountain on it 🙂
Step-by-Step Guide for Legal Requirements in Washington:
- Choose an Officiant and Witnesses: In Washington, you need an officiant and two witnesses for your marriage.
- Apply for a Marriage License: Apply at a county auditor’s office or online (currently only in Whatcom County). You can apply in any county, not necessarily where you’re eloping.
- Consider the Waiting Period: There’s a three-day waiting period after applying for your license. Plan accordingly, especially if applying in person.
- Mind the Validity Period: The license is valid for 60 days post-issuance. Marry within this timeframe.
- Check the Fees: License fees vary by county, so confirm the cost for your specific county.
- Post-Ceremony Steps: After your ceremony, ensure the marriage documents are signed and mail them back to the issuing county office.
- Choose a Convenient Location for Paperwork: If eloping in Mt. Rainier, consider obtaining paperwork in Tacoma for a special document featuring a photo of the mountain.
- Official Government Resources: Visit the Washington government site for detailed information and guidance on obtaining your marriage license.
Do I need a Special Use Permit to Elope in Washington?
Outside of pulling your marriage license, paying the fee and then mailing the documents back you may need a permit for the location you have selected to elope at. If you are eloping in a National Park you will want to go to the park’s website and go to special permits and follow the instructions. With any questions or concerns it is always best to reach and speak to a ranger of the park. Outside of national parks every where else has their own set of rules, some places you will not need a permit at and some you will. It is best to start pulling permits as soon as possible to be able to get everything squared away properly!
Here are Adventure and Vow we cover all of our photography/commercial permits up to $250. As we see a lot of FS lands starting to charge per guest count which can be higher in cost pending who all is coming with you. We help you apply for your special use permit by connecting you with the right park ranger, helping you complete the permit application and finding the information needed. We recommend waiting to apply for your permit until you have a plan for your elopement because the more accurate information you can provide the easier the process is. Permit cost depends on where and how many people are attending usually you can expect to pay $0-$500 for a permit in most cases.
How much does it cost to elope in Washington?
This is not a one-size-fits-all answer, it could range from $8,000-$30,000 or more! It depends on what is important to you on this day, what you want to spend on and your travel. Here is a checklist of things to write down and budget for that can help you determine the cost of your elopement in Washington!
- Photographer with an elopement package
- Attire + Adventure Gear
- Permits ($0-$500)
- Rental Car
- Florals ($25 – $600)
- Officiant (included in our services, or you can ask a friend/family member)
- Vow Books + other wedding related items
- Marriage paperwork $85
Let’s Talk About Seattle…
While Seattle itself is not an ideal elopement location, unless you are looking for a city elopement it is a great place to visit before your Washington elopement. SEA TAC will take you near by Seattle and you can rent a car to get there or you can take a train from the airport to downtown. While the Public Market is a tourist hot spot, it is that for good reason. If you get there early in the morning you will find it less crowded. It is a great place to grab a coffee and morning pastry and shop for fresh food for your stay in Washington or road trip. The fresh flowers make beautiful, stunning flower bouquets. Over all it is a beautiful city to start your trip off. If you are eloping somewhere like the San Juan Islands you can look into taking a seaplane to your next stop. Your ferry ride to Olympic National Park area will leave out of Seattle as well. If you are coming through at night check out some of the Speakeasy underground bars, Racheal’s Ginger Beer, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and or some of the local bars. There is also a flagship REI store in Seattle so if you forget anything you may need for your adventure elopement you can easily pick it up there!
How to Elope in Seattle
If you are not just wanting to visit Seattle, but elope there that is totally do-able and there are a ton of fun ways to do it! The best thing about eloping in Seattle is you can fly in, take the tram into town and then you don’t have to rent a car! You can elope on a sail boat tour off the coast of Seattle at sunset. You could elope on a houseboat or any boat in Lake Union, by the way, you can honeymoon in one of the hot tub boats!! Or you could take a sea plane from Lake Union to one of the mountain lakes or islands and then have it bring you back to the city after the elopement! You could elope at a local brewery, coffee shop, the courthouse, local park Airbnb, etc!! It is a big city, so the world is your oyster, pun intended since there is a famous oyster restaurant in the city 🙂
Washington State Timeline Samples
Planning a timeline is never easy, even for elopements. That’s why as your elopement photographer’s we spend the time with you to create a totally custom timeline based on the things you would enjoy. That said, check out below a few elopement timeline ideas from the past.
Sunrise to Sunset Mt Baker Elopement Timeline
- 6:00 am: Getting ready at the Airbnb cabin with hair and make up
- 7:00 am: Begin the hike to waterfalls
- 7:30 am: First Look
- 10:00 am: Private Horse Back ride and brunch picnic by the Nooksack River
- 1:00 pm: Back to cabin to freshen up + write vows
- 2:30 pm: Start hiking
- 4:00 pm: Arrive at top of trail – break for snacks, water, getting into wedding attire again.
- 4:30 am: Private ceremony + Vow exchange
- 5:00pm: Sunset portraits and create memory box for an anniversary
- 6:30 pm: Return to the trailhead, greeted by friends and family.
- 7:00 pm: Celebrate by a fire back at the Airbnb over a chef prepared dinner
- 8:30pm: Farewells
Sunset & Stars Elopement Timeline at Mt Ranier
- 12:00 pm: Arrival and preparation at Airbnb
- 1:00 pm: Lunch and relaxation
- 2:30 pm: Start getting ready (hair, makeup, attire)
- 4:00 pm: Leave for trailhead
- 4:30 pm: Begin hiking up
- 6:00 pm: Arrive at the top, explore area
- 7:00 pm: Sunset vow ceremony
- 7:30 pm: Golden hour photos
- 8:00 pm: Picnic dinner at the summit
- 9:00 pm: Start hike back down under the stars
- 10:30 pm: Milky way photo by lake on the drive back to the Airbnb
- 11:00 pm: Celebrate with cake and champagne
Washington State Elopement Packages
Ready for your Washington elopement? Fantastic! When it comes to capturing your big day, consider our elopement photography packages. Designed for those seeking at least half half-day-long adventure in nature, these packages offer everything from mini elopements to 2-day elopements, complete with full planning support, personalized guides, and a custom timeline to ensure your day is as unique as your love story. On your free consult call, we will. help you decide which package is best for you!
You can expect these in every package:
- Two international award winning photographers with over 150 elopements under their belts.
- Officiant + one witness as needed
- No Travel fees
- Virtual + In Person Scouting of your elopement location
- Elopement “Bible” 95 pages guide on how to get the most out of your day + planning tips
- Leave No Trace Guide for you + your guests (if you have any)
- Personalized timeline for you + your guests (if you have any)
- Vendor recommendations
- Drone coverage if allowed (not allowed inside of the parks, but at some stays + NF land)
- Same day sneak peak images sent to your phone
- Full photo gallery within 5 weeks + video is delivered within 8 weeks if you choose to add on our video service.
As our home state, we can not express enough how much we love capturing elopements in Washington. Our washington elopement packages start at 6 hours of coverage for a quick but meaningful wedding to multi-day adventures that can scale up to the mountains and down to the moody coast! Our packages are designed with you in mind, your experience and crafting a wedding day with an unforgettable adventure!
We’ll be your Washington Elopement Photographers
Are you thinking of eloping in Washington? Reach out to us! We are here for you every step of the way from eloping planning, the logistics on the big day and of course preserving all the memories for you to look back on forever. We believe choosing an adventure elopement allows you to get married in a way that is a true reflection of what marriage may be. You may have to support each other up the trail, you may have to make choices together due to weather, you get to experience something new and beautiful together! We can not wait to help you get started bringing your dream day together to life here in our home state!