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With rugged coastlines, lush forests, crystal blue alpine lakes, and towering mountain peaks, I think it’s easy to see why Washington state is an incredible elopement destination! You can hike through the woods and end up looking over the ocean, or start your morning in a hot spring and end the night watching the sunset over the mountains. If you’ve decided to tie the knot in the Pacific Northwest, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to elope in Washington state. And if you still need a little convincing, I’ll bet that by the end of the guide, that decision will get a little easier!
Choosing an Elopement Date
When trying to figure out how to elope in Washington state, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make when it comes to planning your Washington elopement is to choose a date for the ceremony! Before you start flipping through your planner (or maybe scrolling through your Google Calendar), there are a few things you’ll need to consider.
Weather in Washington State
The northwest is famous for its rainy days, and Washington’s rainy season begins in October and ends in July – though the sun does begin to come out in spring, and showers become much less frequent. Especially on the Olympic peninsula (which covers much of the land west of Seattle), the weather is gray and wet for most of the year. Eastern Washington, which is lesser known and less frequently visited, is categorized by dry desert landscapes – so while it doesn’t rain nearly as much on this side of the state, it does see a lot of snow in the winter!
When you decide on a date to elope in Washington state, consider what kind of scenery you’re hoping to see. Higher elevation areas stay snow covered into mid summer, so if you want to hike or see some mountains, August is the best month to elope! On the other hand, if you’re hoping to hit the slopes and do some skiing, winter is perfect for you.
Because July and August bring the best weather to Washington, they also bring the most crowds. If you want some more privacy on your elopement day, consider eloping in the off season! Late spring and early fall are often mild in terms of weather, but the crowds are much thinner. Though you may run into some rain showers, the great thing about Washington is that when it rains, it rarely ever pours! Most days are just a light drizzle – and rain means even fewer people will be out and about!
And if you do choose to elope during the summer, I have a few tips that I like to give to eloping couples to ensure a little more privacy.
First, always try to plan your elopement for a weekday. Weekends bring more visitors to parks and outdoor spaces, so eloping during the week can help a ton! (Be sure to watch out for holidays and three day weekends.) My second tip is to plan your elopement ceremony for sunrise. I know, I’m not a morning person either, but hear me out!
There’s something so magical about being the first ones at a location, and getting to say your vows without a single soul around, while the sun comes up and paints the sky in different shades of pink behind you. Then you have the added bonus of being able to spend your whole elopement day as a married couple; no worries about the anticipation building for hours and hours if you don’t want to see each other before your first look or ceremony!
Okay, still not feeling the whole waking up before the sun thing? Opt for a sunset ceremony. It may not be quite as private, but there will be fewer people than there are mid-day, and the lighting is killer.
Choose an Elopement Location in Washington
Easier said than done! There are so many amazing spots to choose from, how do you decide where to elope? I recommend starting by thinking about what kind of scenery you’d like to see – here are some options to get you inspired!
Washington state offers several different mountain ranges – so you’re in luck! You can tie the knot at an easily accessible spot like Hurricane Ridge, where you can see jaw dropping views right from the parking lot, or opt for a hike in Mount Rainier National Park, where your hard work will be rewarded with sweeping 360 degree views.
The Washington coastline offers some of the most amazing scenery around, whether you’re down at the beach or standing on a cliff that overlooks the ocean. There are countless beaches along the coast, and the jagged rocks peeking through the water make an amazing backdrop. You can even stop by the town of Forks and see if you run into the Twilight wolf pack at La Push, baby. It’s La Push.
Alpine Lakes Elopements
From easily accessible lakes by Mount Rainier to harder climbs in the North Cascades, the still, quiet water of alpine lakes make an incredible elopement location. With over 700 mountain lakes, you’ll have no shortage of blue waters when you elope in Washington!
Washington is known for its greenery, and if you want to elope amongst the trees and feel like you just walked into a fairytale, there are plenty of forests to choose from. You can hike through the woods of North Cascades National Park and end up on top of a mountain, or visit the Hoh Rainforest and wander through a stunning display of moss, ferns, and greenery.
Learn About Washington’s Marriage Laws
Amidst the adventures, scenery, and excitement of your elopement day, there’s also a few bits of paperwork you’ll need to do to ensure that you’re legally married!
You can get a marriage license at any Recorder’s Office in the state of Washington, that’ll be valid anywhere in the state. And if you’re not local, this process can be completed by mail! Just visit the office’s website (here’s the one for King County), and download the application. You’ll need to mail it in, along with the application fee ($69 for King County, but this can vary throughout the state). You will then receive your marriage license in the mail. If you live in state, you can also apply online and visit the Recorder’s Office in person!
The marriage license expires after 60 days, so don’t do this too far ahead of time! There is also a three day waiting period, which means you must wait three days after obtaining the license to use it. After your elopement ceremony, your officiant will send the marriage license back, and you’ll be married!
To elope in Washington, you will need an officiant to sign your marriage license. You can hire an officiant who can join you for your adventures, or have a friend or family member perform your ceremony! Getting ordained is free and easy on ULC.org (that’s where I got my own Reverend title!), and if there’s someone you trust to perform your ceremony, this can add a great personal touch.
You will also need two witnesses to sign your marriage license, but if you weren’t planning on inviting any guests to your elopement, don’t worry, you still have options! The only requirement for witnesses is that they be over 18, so any of your elopement vendors can sign. You can also find two people throughout the day to be your witnesses- random hikers are always stoked to help out!
Hire an Elopement Photographer
And the best way to know exactly how to elope in Washington state? Hire an expert elopement photographer to guide you through the process! Even when you’re planning a small ceremony, there’s a lot to think about – choosing a location, getting the right permits, figuring out what you’re going to do and when to do it, and so much more! You’ve probably never planned an elopement before, but us photographers who specialize in adventures like yours are the experts, and we’ll be there to guide you through it all.
When I got engaged last year, I knew that if I weren’t a full-time elopement photographer, I would have no idea how to elope in Washington state! Luckily I’ve been learning all the best tips for eloping here since I moved to Seattle in 2020.
If you’re ready to start planning your Washington elopement, I’d love to dive right in and help you with these first steps! Learn more about Washington elopements here, and if you’re ready to start planning your own PNW adventure, contact me!