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.
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.
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 elopement day. Chances are it’ll be great!
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.
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.
All of that being said, when choosing your 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.
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.
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 in as soon as possible (in fact, we recommend applying for one as soon as you have your location selected).
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 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.
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.
Unfortunately there is a three day waiting period after you’ve been issued your marriage license before you can actually use it. 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 elopement.
If you’re traveling to Washington State for your elopement, 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.
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.
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. Adventure elopements have become couples’ way of taking a step back and deciding that they’d like their wedding day to be about more than just fancy decor and a strict, stuffy timeline.
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.
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 go.
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.
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 plan out 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.
Sure, we pride ourselves in taking killer photos of killer people in killer places, but we’re firm believers that your adventure wedding photographer should be so much more than that. They should be a resource and guide to you during the whole adventure elopement planning process. So if that sounds like your vibe, we’d love to chat with you about your dream adventure elopement.
Check out some of our favorite elopement and adventure wedding planning resources:
The Colorado Rockies are our home. We know these mountains like the back of our hand, and we love helping our couples plan their Colorado adventure elopements. Our land is your land, peeps. so let’s get you mountain married!
We specialize in photographing small adventure weddings in the great outdoors. We believe small weddings empower couples to be themselves on their wedding day, which is what makes us so honored to be a part of them. There’s nothing better.
We like to say we’re adventurers first, photographers second. Which frankly, is what we think makes us good at what we do. We live and breathe the outdoors lifestyle, and we make sure our adventure wedding photos show off your adventurous side too.
Not everyone loves tradition, but that doesn’t make your adventure wedding or elopement any less important.
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