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There’s a lot of talk out there about how gorgeous Washington is for a spring, summer, or fall elopement. I’m here to give a little love to winter! Eloping in the winter here in Washington definitely calls for a slightly bigger packing list, a few more travel considerations, and slightly limited options for location, but a winter elopement can be magical and so beautiful! This guide is full of everything you’ll need to start planning a wedding ceremony during the winter months.
How do you elope in the winter?
This is a big question! You might be thinking about how difficult it might be to fly or drive to your destination, what to bring so you don’t freeze your toes off, etc. Let’s start with the more logistical questions, and then dive into my winter elopement location recommendations at the end!
Winter Elopement Packing List
Every elopement is going to have a pretty standard packing list — you’ll want your elopement attire, a copy of your vows, your rings…you get it! For a winter elopement specifically, here’s some items I recommend bringing along. The number one thing to keep in mind for a winter elopement is that you’re going to want layers, and small ways to keep yourselves warm and comfortable. Especially in Washington, the mountain temperatures are even colder than in the cities. Here’s what to bring:
- A coat! Maybe two coats, if your jackets are light.
- Whether you’re wearing a dress or pants, tights or fleece leggings underneath your wedding attire can be huge in helping you stay warm.
- Gloves, hats, mittens, and thick socks
- Hand warmers! If you can’t find them at an outdoors store near you, Amazon sells big value packs, and you can keep them in your pockets for when you’re moving between locations or walking up a trail somewhere.
- Winter boots. You’re going to want something that rain or snow isn’t going to seep through, so that your socks and feet stay dry. An extra change of socks won’t hurt just in case, and you can throw a few hand warmers into your shoes as you’re walking, too!
- If you’re wearing a dress, consider a heavier fabric that might offer some extra protection. Velvet and silk can help, or you can pair a cape or shawl with your dress to cover your arms and shoulders. Likewise, for a suit, fabrics like tweed, wool, and velvet will give you the ability to move comfortably and keep you warmer.
Plan Flexibly for a Winter Elopement
There’s one other thing you’re going to want to bring with you for a winter elopement here in Washington, and it’s not a physical item! It’s flexibility! Unexpected, more severe weather has been more and more common here in the Pacific Northwest over the last couple of years. Heavier snowfall often closes sections of highway, and state and national parks have restricted access during this time.
Especially if you envision eloping anywhere around the Snoqualmie Pass, being flexible with your expectations or your date is necessary! The pass may close due to weather. Having a secondary, “just-in-case” backup plan will ensure that you still have a magical winter elopement experience, even if plans change.
Staying flexible is also important when it comes to travel. If you’re flying or driving to Washington, I definitely recommend planning your arrival with an extra few days of buffer time before your elopement. Just in case of flight delays, or weather that causes you to drive more slowly, you’ll want time to feel settled and relaxed before your ceremony.
Winter Elopement Locations
Now that you have a better idea of how best to prepare yourselves and your suitcases for a winter elopement, let’s talk about where exactly the best spots in Washington are! You can have an iconic wintery mountain view, or opt for an elopement on the coastline or even in the city. You don’t even have to go for a snow-covered area for a winter elopement! Let’s dive into all the best options.
Like I mentioned before, many places around the Pass will close due to harsh weather conditions. Make sure you check each of these places so that you know what’s available to you around the time you’re thinking of eloping there.
- Gold Creek Pond: This is a beautiful spot year-round. You will find snow here, and the snow-dusted pines make for a beautiful backdrop for your elopement.
- Snoqualmie Falls: The falls are typically enjoyed from the viewpoints and trails close to the Salish Lodge, which can be a great place to stay for your elopement, too!
- Pro-tip: This spot can get really crowded, especially after rainfall when the waterfall is flowing at its heaviest. I recommend eloping quite early or late in the day during the week to avoid crowds!
- Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest: You can get anything from a waterfall to a snowy peak as your ceremony backdrop in the forest!
- Pro-tip: You may or may not need a permit to elope in the National Forest, depending on the location. The good news is, the permit is often free! The process can get a bit complicated but don’t worry– I can walk you through the whole thing.
There are a few great choices in Olympic National Park for a winter elopement– you can have your pick of the scenery!
- Ruby Beach: It’ll definitely be cold with the wind chill, and maybe a little damp, but Ruby Beach (and the other beaches in the area) will be snow-free for the most part. You may encounter some dramatic fog!
- Pro-tip: This beach looks and feels different depending on the tides. Use a tide tracker like this one to know what to expect!
- Hoh Rainforest: This area may or may not be closed, depending on if there’s been any recent flooding or other rain damage in the area. The Hoh Rainforest is lush and green, and in my opinion a quintessential PNW experience!
- Pro-tip: Winter is much less trafficked here, but if you’re visiting at any other peak time of year, you may have to sit in a very long car line to gain entry.
- Hurricane Ridge: This area is bound to be snow-covered for a winter elopement! The road closures here can be tricky to navigate, so make sure you check out the park webpage here with information about what it’s like to visit this spot in the winter.
Eloping in the winter, while a little tricky, is a surefire way to give you a more private experience here in Washington. We may have to work a bit harder to find a suitable location that isn’t too cold, closed, or hard to navigate in the cold weather– but the reward of fewer crowds is worth it. And the cozy vibe of a winter elopement with your love is unbeatable! Reach out to me here if you want to talk over your options for a winter elopement with me!
Meet your winter elopement photographer
I grew up in South Florida, where we’d wait all year long for winter to come so the temperature would drop below 70º, so I still find snow enchanting! Western Washington has pretty mild winters, so I think it’s the perfect time to elope if you’re looking for a cozy experience with few crowds. I’m now a local Washingtonian, and I know this state well enough to be able to provide you with an incredible winter elopement in Washington! So if you’re looking for someone to support you through this planning process and give you authentic, timeless photos of your adventure, I’d love to chat more and see if we’re a good fit. I’m a full-time elopement expert, so you’ll be in good hands as you navigate this strange, wonderful process! Click here to learn more about me, your winter elopement photographer.