Lessie McFarlane

May 28, 2020

Downtown Seattle Elopement Photographer Photography 36

Washington State Elopement Planning Guide

My Blog

Pacific Northwest Elopement Planning Guide

So you’re planning to elope in Washington state? You’ve definitely chosen the right place for an epic elopement, especially if you’re a couple who loves the outdoors. Washington has some jaw-dropping locations that are perfect for a wedding getaway. Choosing which one should be the backdrop to your wedding is the hard part! You have many options, but knowing where to pick for the time of year is a must if you want to get the right conditions. There’s more to think about when you’re planning your elopement too, from what you want the day to look like to all of the paperwork and permits that you need to do the deed legally.

Planning and executing any wedding to your exact requirements can be tricky at best, and an elopement always adds that extra element of unpredictability. But you probably wouldn’t be thinking about an elopement if you’re all about having as much control as possible. Even though you might not be able to control the weather, there are still plenty of things that you do get to decide. As a PNW elopement photographer, I’m going to take you through how to plan your elopement in Washington and where you should go.

Joshua Tree California Elopement Photographer Photography 41

Why Elope? (And Why in Washington?)

If you’re not yet sure whether elopement is right for you, let’s take a look at a quick rundown of some great reasons for eloping in the PNW.

  • A wedding that’s just for you: it’s intimate, low-pressure and has no more than perhaps a handful of guests, if you decide to invite anyone at all.
  • No pageantry: for some couples, all of the bells and whistles of a wedding are too much. They want a more authentic experience that’s true to their personalities and values.
  • Ditch the drama: weddings are the perfect events for family drama to come out of the woodwork. Sometimes it seems like they drive people crazy. But elopement can help you avoid that and focus on enjoying your ceremony.
  • Get rid of the stress: an elopement requires a little planning, but nowhere near as much as a full-blown wedding, helping you to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Enjoy the experience: if you think that experiences are more important than material stuff, eloping could be the right choice for you. There’s less focus on decorations and gifts, and more on the experience of marrying the one you love.

But if you’re thinking of eloping, why should you pick Washington state as the location? Well, as a destination wedding photographer who’s also a local, I’m obviously going to say that there are some incredible places that will ensure you end up with the wedding photos of your dreams. If you’re someone who loves the outdoors and you want your elopement to be a real adventure, you have an amazing choice of locations in Washington. Even better, it has a diverse range of settings and environments, from mountains to coastlines. Everyone can find somewhere that suits their tastes and fulfills their dreams.

Tacoma Wedding Photographer 10

Eloping in Washington State: When and Where

There’s no season that’s inappropriate for eloping in Washington. Sure, you’re not going to get year-round sunshine like you’re in LA, but each season has something going for it. Whether you want a bright and sunny day, a snowy winter wonderland, deep fall colors or even the drip-drop of April showers, you can find the right place for your elopement. However, there are certain things that you need to keep in mind during each season. You’ll always have the weather to contend with, and this can affect the logistics of your elopement. For example, in the winter, some roads may be closed, and you’ll need to be prepared for rain.

Here are some of the best locations for your elopement in Washington based on when you want to get married.

Mount Rainier National Park – All Year Elopement Opportunities

Mount Rainier is one of Washington’s most iconic peaks, and the national park around the dormant volcano is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for adventure. It’s accessible all year, making it ideal for your elopement no matter when you decide you want to do it. With lakes, forests, beautiful trails and, of course, the imposing Mt Rainier overlooking you, any couple can find the perfect spot for their elopement in the park. Be sure to choose a Tacoma elopement photographer who knows what they’re doing if you want to create some perfect memories.

LizRobEngagement 9984

Lyons Ferry State Park – Best in Spring

If you’re looking for somewhere a little smaller and more obscure than a big national park, this state park is a bit of a hidden gem. It has some lovely green lawns, but you don’t have to go far to discover something a little more rugged. You can enjoy views of the convergence of the Snake and Columbia rivers, and luscious green hills, which look best in the spring. This park is quiet, so great for anyone wanting to keep things on the down-low.

Orcas Island (San Juan Islands) – Best in Summer

Orcas Island is sleepy in the winter, but gets super busy in the summer, especially with events like the trendy Doe Bay Festival taking place. If you’re looking for a little adventure and you’re willing to take a ferry, a trip out to the island could be perfect for your intimate wedding. You can get married on the beach, at the top of Mt Constitution or even in a lovely indoor location, like the wooden A-frame chapel at Outlook Inn.

Snoqualmie Mount Baker National Forest – Best in Winter

A winter wedding can be wonderful, but it might require a little extra preparation. Snoqualmie Mount Baker National Forest is a great option for this time of year because it’s a popular place for skiing. Other winter activities like snowshoeing make it an amazing choice if you want a snowy adventure. Waterfalls, lakes and incredible mountain views could all be the backdrop to your elopement in the forest.

Lessie Blue Photography Tacoma Wedding Photographer 1144

Hoh Rainforest – Best for Fall

Couples who choose to get married in the fall often want to enjoy some stunning fall colors. Hoh Rainforest, in Olympic National Park, is the ideal location for this very thing. Be sure to take a destination wedding photographer with you if you choose this place for your fall wedding, because you’ll want to capture this magical forest, which is full of life. The best thing is, it’s not even too busy at this time of year.

Planning Your Perfect Day

When you’ve chosen a destination for your Washington elopement, you can start thinking about everything else you want to do on and around your wedding day. For a truly adventurous elopement, you can plan some fun activities to enjoy as a couple or maybe with the few guests you invite too. Like your choice of location, what you decide to do might depend on the season and the weather.

Joshua Tree California Elopement Photographer 64

Take a Hike

No matter where you choose to have your elopement, going on a wedding day hike is a fun way to take in your surroundings. There are walking trails and paths for you to follow, with varying levels of difficulty so you can choose how strenuous you want your walk to be. It’s a great way to take in the surrounding scenery, and it could be an opportunity for your Seattle-Tacoma elopement photographer to get some unique photos too. Consider hiking out to a photographic location like a waterfall. For a twist on hiking in winter, why not consider snowshoeing instead?

Get Out on the Water

Not only is Washington a coastal state, but it has plenty of beautiful lakes and rivers to explore too. If you’re someone who loves to be on the water, or you want to try something new, there are a few ways you can plan to end up in a boat during your elopement trip. Boats come in all shapes and sizes, so you can decide whether you want a trip on a yacht or a ferry, or if you want to move under your own power in a rowboat or a kayak.

Take a Bike Ride

If walking isn’t really your thing, another way to go on an adventure could be to use your legs for peddle power instead. You might take a leisurely and calm bike ride along a trail, or you could spend some time mountain biking on slightly more challenging terrain.

Go Skiing or Snowboarding

Planning a winter elopement? Why not spend some time on the slopes either before or after you get married? If you’re someone who loves the snow, it could be a thrilling way to add some excitement and adventure to your wedding trip. It might even be how you decide to spend your honeymoon.

Take a Helicopter Tour

Seeing Washington state from above allows you to really take it all in. If you’re not afraid of heights and you’re looking for some breathtaking views, getting up in the air will deliver. You could also think about hiring a helicopter to get you to your elopement location, whether it’s up a mountain or a fancy venue with a helicopter pad.

Go Climbing

There are plenty of mountain-based adventures that you can get up to around Washington. For one more idea, you could go climbing to fulfill your sense of adventure. Climbing to the spot where you want to get married might be a bit ambitious, but there are plenty of climbs that you could attempt before or after your ceremony.

Don’t Forget All the Legal Stuff

Eloping allows you to drop a lot of the time-consuming wedding planning that you can feel pressured to do. But there’s one thing that you’ll still have to do, and that’s making sure you get all of the legal stuff right. You might not choose to have a legal ceremony in Washington; maybe you’re taking care of that elsewhere, and you just want to have a symbolic wedding. However, if you do want to make it official, you need a marriage license.

Downtown Seattle Elopement Photographer Photography 14

Washington Marriage Licenses

Marriage licenses in Washington are applied for at the county level, but you can use your license anywhere in the state. To get married legally, you need to apply for and receive a marriage license, participate in a civil or religious ceremony, and complete and return the Department of Health Certificate of Marriage. You can apply for your license in person or by mail. It’s also possible to apply online, then pick up your license at least three days before the wedding.

You should have two witnesses who can witness your marriage and sign the marriage certificate. If you want to keep things as small as possible, your Seattle elopement photographer could act as a witness for you. Your marriage needs to take place within 60 days of receiving your license, but it’s not valid until three days after it has been issued. That means if you’re traveling from out of state, you might need to plan to be here for a few days before your ceremony.

Park Permits

Another thing to keep in mind is getting permission to get married in one of our beautiful national or state parks. If you have one of these locations in mind, you will most likely need a permit for your wedding ceremony. You can check the website for the park that you want to get married in, where you can find information about whether you need a permit and how to apply for one. It can take several weeks for your application to be processed, so be sure to leave plenty of time for it to be approved. You wouldn’t want to miss your own wedding ceremony because of a problem with paperwork.

Find Out More About Washington Elopement Photography

Don’t forget about your destination elopement photographer when you’re planning your Washington elopement. If you’re not going to have a long list of wedding guests, you’ll definitely want some photos of your special day to show friends and family. Contact me if you’re looking for someone who’s up for the challenge of documenting your elopement, no matter where in Washington you choose to have it.

Tacoma Wedding Photographer 76