How to Elope in Washington State

Our Guide to Eloping in Washington State

how to elope in Washington State | eloping couple enjoying the view of an alpine lake in the Washington mountains before their elopement ceremony

How To Elope In Washington State | Our Guide To Your Washington State Elopement

So you’ve chosen to elope in Washington State. First off, heck yes! You’ve picked one of the most amazing states to elope in. Not only does Washington have some of the most incredible national parks in the country (with Mt Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Park all being just a few short hours away from Seattle), but the landscapes of Washington State make it the perfect backdrop for an adventurous elopement. And that’s exactly why we’re sharing all the details on how to elope in Washington State and everything you need to do to bring your dream Washington State elopement to life. 

How To Elope In Washington State, By The Season

Eloping In Washington State Is Highly Dependent On The Weather

If you live in Washington State, you already know what I’m talking about. But if you’re planning on traveling out here for your adventure elopement, I’ll just preface it with this: the weather and seasons in Washington State can have a huge impact on your elopement day. By no means is this a bad thing, but it’s definitely something you’ll want to consider when choosing to elope in Washington State. 

How To Elope In Washington State In The Summer

  • When you choose to elope in Washington State in the summertime, you have a much higher chance of having a sunny day elopement (versus the constant overcast you’ll likely come across in the cooler months).
  • When you elope in the mountains of Washington State in the summer, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience the incredible wildflowers in places like Mt Rainier National Park.
  • Peak time for viewing wildflowers will be in the months of July and August.
  • Eloping in Washington State in the summer also means that certain mountain pass roads at high elevations (that typically close in the winter months) will be open. That ultimately means more elopement location options for you.

How To Elope In Washington State In The Fall

  • We love the idea of choosing to have your Washington State elopement in the fall. Why? Two words: fall colors.
  • Peak fall foliage dates will ultimately depend on the elevation and location of your Washington State elopement location, but you’re really looking at dates between mid-September through mid-October.
  • The fall will also be a bit cooler than the summer months, so if you like a little chill, but don’t want the full force of winter, this is a great season to plan your Washington State elopement in.

How To Elope In Washington State In The Winter

  •  If you love the idea of a snowy elopement, winter in the mountains of Washington State might just be for you.
  • You’ll want to be aware that in the winter months certain mountain roads will be closed or inaccessible, so make sure to plan around that.
  • Washington State winter elopements are the perfect elopements to have at mountain cabins or places where you and your partner can get cozy with each other. You can choose to embrace the cold and make the most of this cozy season.
  • If you’re planning your Washington State elopement at a lower elevation, be prepared for the winter months to bring drizzling rain and overcast skies.

How To Elope In Washington State In The Spring

  • Springtime is still rainy season in Washington State, so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for it.
  • If you like the rainy, overcast days, choosing to elope in Washington State in this season is perfect. The perk behind Washington State’s overcast skies? They make for great elopement photos! Definitely an unexpected perk to the lack of sun.
  • As with fall elopements in Washington State, spring temperatures won’t be nearly as biting as winter.

Personally we’re big believers that there really isn’t a “bad season” to elope in Washington State. It ultimately depends on what’s important to you as a couple. What type of vibe are you looking for? Do you want sunshine and wildflowers? Then it’s probably best to plan your Washington State elopement for sometime in late July or early August to have the greatest likelihood of seeing them.

If you love the idea of overcast skies and maybe a little bit of moody rain on your elopement day, a Washington State elopement in the cooler months might just be perfect. Unless there’s a thunderstorm or blizzard, no weather is really “bad weather.” Our advice? Embrace what mother nature gives you on your Washington State elopement day.

Once You've Narrowed Down A Season, You Can Jump Into Choosing A Location For Your Washington State Elopement

Similar to choosing a season, the location you choose for your Washington State elopement will ultimately depend on the vibe and feel you’re going for. The great thing about eloping in Washington State is the immense diversity of landscapes you can choose from. You’ve got mountains, beaches, rainforest, you name it. And with three incredible national parks all within a few hours of Seattle, there’s no shortage of epic elopement spots. Finding the best places to elope in Washington State can be such a fun process.

Our biggest advice for finding a location when planning how to elope in Washington State? Chat with your adventure elopement photographer. Why? As adventure elopement photographers ourselves, we know firsthand that part of our job is to keep a list of epic elopement spots for our couples to use. A lot of the time, these awesome spots are places that elopement photographers won’t share publicly. And that’s because usually the places you’ll find easily online or shared often are heavily trafficked trails that don’t really allow you to have a secluded and private elopement experience. 

Our little tip? If an elopement photographer is sharing the name of a specific trail, there’s a good chance that this trail is probably a really busy one. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, if you want to elope in Washington State so you can experience the quiet and seclusion of the jagged mountains or rugged beaches, a busy place isn’t ideal. And frankly some of the best places to elope in Washington State are places off the beaten path.

All of that being said, when choosing your Washington State elopement location, it’s definitely helpful to brainstorm what types of landscapes speak to the two of you. Would you prefer a mountainous elopement ceremony? Or maybe something by the water? Bring these preferences to your elopement photographer and they can help narrow things down. We chat a bit more in detail out this in our Ultimate Elopement Planning Checklist, which covers basically the entire adventure elopement process from start to finish.

Acquire Any Needed Permits To Elope In Washington State

While eloping doesn’t necessarily require the reservation of a wedding venue, if you’re planning to elope in any of Washington State’s national parks or even national forests, you’ll likely need to acquire a wedding permit. Even though it may just be the two of you, your officiant, and your photographers/witnesses, these permits are still needed. A good rule of thumb is to assume you need a permit unless you’ve been informed otherwise. When in doubt, contact a ranger about your elopement.

Once you and your elopement photographer have narrowed down your preferred Washington State elopement location, they should point you in the direction of where/how you can apply for the needed weddings permits. One big note: in busy places like Mt Rainier National Park, you should expect the permit process to take a few weeks at the soonest. Unfortunately the awesome people who work in these offices are really overworked and usually under-staffed. The permit office is very busy, so if a specific date or time is super important to you, make sure you get your permit for your Washington State elopement as soon as possible (in fact, we recommend applying for one as soon as you have your location selected).

How Time Of Day Can Impact Your Washington State Elopement Ceremony

Best Times Of Day For Eloping In Washington State

When it comes to elopement timelines, we really only recommend two options to our couples: sunrise elopements and sunset elopements. Why? For starters, as elopement photographers, we specialize in finding the best light for our couples. Unless you’re dealing with an overcast day (which is definitely possible when you elope in Washington State!), sunrise and sunset will give you that golden, beautiful light that you just won’t find midday if it’s a sunny day.

Once you’ve determined the time of day for your elopement, chat with your elopement photographer about crafting your Washington State elopement day timeline. As elopement photographers ourselves, it’s our priority to make sure we’re there to help you through sorting out what your elopement timeline could look like. There’s no reason for you to have to figure it all out by yourself.

Why Elope In Washington State At Sunrise

  • Sunrise elopements in Washington State allow you to escape the crowds on the trails by getting there before the rush happens.
  • Sunrise elopements are an especially good choice if you’re looking to elope in one of Washington State’s popular national parks during their peak visitation seasons.
  • When eloping at sunrise, there’s a greater likelihood of privacy and potentially having your location to yourselves.
  • Sunrise elopements are a great option for couples looking to have a full-day elopement experience, because you basically have the WHOLE DAY ahead of you, to do whatever you want!
  • If you’re eloping in Washington State’s mountains, whether it’s Mount Rainier National Park or the North Cascades, weather tends to be most predicable and manageable in the early morning.

Why Elope In Washington State At Sunset

  • With sunset elopements, you still get to have the same light that you’d get during a sunrise elopement ceremony, but without the early wake-up call.
  • This option is a good one if you’re planning on having some guests present at your elopement, as it’s easier for guests to attend an elopement that happens later in the day.
  • Bouncing off the above point, though, you can always choose to have a sunrise adventure with just you and your partner and then regroup at sunset with friends and family for a small elopement ceremony in the evening.

How To Get Your Marriage License For Your Washington State Elopement

Now Let's Talk About How You Can Make Your Washington State Elopement Legal

How you get your marriage license will vary from state to state, which is why you’ll want to take into consideration Washington State’s laws and procedures before you make your elopement plans. Now, if you’re traveling to Washington State from somewhere else and planning to take care of the legal process of getting married before traveling, you can disregard this section. Let’s jump right in: the legal side of how to elope in Washington State.

You Will Need To Apply For Your Marriage License At Least 3 Days Before Your Washington State Elopement

Unfortunately there is a three day waiting period after you’ve been issued your marriage license before you can actually use it for your Washington State elopement. And after this three days has passed, you have 60 days to actually use it. Our recommendation? If you already live in Washington State, pick up your marriage license about two weeks beforehand. The last thing you want is to have to worry about this document the week of your Washington State elopement.

If you’re traveling to elope in Washington State, make sure you give yourself enough time to get your marriage license and account for the three day waiting period. You can take this waiting period as an opportunity to get out and explore Washington State’s national parks while you’re in the area. Not a bad way to spend your time.

The In-Person Marriage License Pick-Up

  • Step 1: Fill out the online marriage license application.
  • Step 2: You and your partner must come in to pick up your license at least 3 days prior to your Washington State elopement. You’ll both need to bring photo ID and pay a $69 application fee.
  • Step 3: This isn’t really a pick-up step, but more of a post-elopement step. Your officiant will need to drop your marriage license off no more than 30 days after your elopement in Washington State. Most officiants should already know this, but if a friend or family member of yours got ordained to perform your Washington State elopement, you’ll want to make sure they’re aware of this. They can drop it off in person or mail it in.

The Mail-In Option

  • Step 1: Complete this marriage license application (different from the one linked above!) and have it notarized.
  • Step 2: Mail in the completed and notarized application, along with a check or money order of $69 (this is your application fee).
  • Step 3: Once your application has been processed and your marriage license is ready, you can go pick it up (make sure to factor in the 3 day waiting period before you elope in Washington State)!

FAQS About Washington Marriage Licenses

There are a few key parties that need to be present to sign your marriage license after you elope in Washington State: you, your partner, your officiant, and your two witnesses. As elopement photographers, we’ve served as witnesses before, so if you want to keep your ceremony as private as possible, with just the two of you and your officiant, we’ve got your back. We’re happy to sign as witnesses!

Technically your officiant is responsible for returning your marriage license. They can do so in person or mail it in, but it needs to happen within 30 days after you elope in Washington State.

You have a few options when it comes to officiants for your Washington State elopement. They include the usual suspects you might expect, like justices, judges, ordained ministers and priests, etc. You can find a full list on King County’s marriage license page.

And yes, if you want a friend or family member to officiate, then can! BUT, they need to be ordained to perform marriages in Washington State.

Things To Do When You Elope In Washington State

Elopement Activities Other Than Your Elopement Ceremony

Elopements have changed a lot these days, and for the better! They are no longer viewed as quick, secretive ceremonies and rather seen as an adventurous one-of-a-kind experience that also happens to include saying vows and signing a marriage license. So many couples are choosing to make their elopement day “theirs” by including fun activities together that you’d ordinarily never be able to have with a traditional wedding. 

Whether it’s soaking in a hot tub with your boo in an a-frame cabin outside of North Cascades National Park after you’ve said your vows, or having a private chef come cook dinner for just the two of you, the opportunities are endless. Don’t think of these as wedding activities; rather just fun activities you’d do if someone gave you the day off to do whatever your heart desires. Ultimately how you elope in Washington State is totally up to you. This is your elopement day after all: you get to make all the rules. 

Looking For More Resources On How To Elope In Washington State?

As Seasoned Adventure Elopement Photographers, We've Got You Covered.

If you want the A-Z, comprehensive elopement checklist, we’ve already made one! Our Ultimate Elopement Guide covers everything from prioritizing your elopement budget to figuring out what to pack for your elopement day. It’s a long one, but a good one. It’s the exact checklist we used to plan our own elopement (yup, we eloped too, so we personally know what you’re going through!) and the one we use to help our couples plan theirs. Print this one out and keep it somewhere close so you check things off as you plan your Washington State elopement.

Not sure how to tell your friends and family you’re eloping? We have an article all about sharing the news of your elopement plans with them and helping them get on board with the process.

Trying to figure out which shoes you should be wearing on your adventure elopement day? No worries, we’ve got you’ve covered on that one as well.

Think eloping in Washington State might be perfect for you and your partner? Take a peek at our elopement packages and let’s bring that PNW elopement to life.

P.S. As mountain elopement and adventure wedding photographers, we pride ourselves on not just documenting your elopement or small mountain wedding, but helping you navigate all the little details of how to elope in Washington State — like sorting out the perfect time of year for your national park elopement. We’ve been in your shoes with our own elopement, and that’s why we’re in this industry in the first place. We want to help.

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