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
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 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!
Even if you 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 (make sure to watch out for holidays and three day weekends) can help a ton! My second tip is to plan your elopement ceremony for sunrise. Don’t exit out of this page yet - even if you aren’t a morning person, 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. 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.
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 over 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 any vampires ;)
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.
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!
Learn About Washington’s Marriage Laws
Amidst the adventures, scenery, and excitement of your elopement day, there’s also a little bit 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. Luckily, 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 don’t worry– if you weren’t planning on inviting any guests to your elopement, you still have options! The only requirement for witnesses is that they be over 18, so any elopement vendors can sign. You can also find two people throughout the day to be your witnesses- everyone is always stoked to help out!
Hire an Elopement Photographer
An elopement photographer will be the best guide to planning your Washington elopement! 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 so much more! You probably haven’t done a lot of elopement planning, but a photographer who specializes in adventures like yours will be the expert, and they’ll be there to guide you through it all.
And hey, I happen to know a local photographer that’s ready to help you elope in Washington state! Learn more about Washington elopements here, and if you’re ready to start planning your own PNW adventure, contact me!