Whether your dream wedding day features crashing ocean waves, towering mountain peaks, serene forests, plunging waterfalls, sparkling alpine lakes, or a little mix of all the above, Washington has something for every adventurer! The day you get married should be a day you love – so if you want to tie the knot with an adventure in the top left corner of the US, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to elope in Washington state.
Here’s what’s in this Washington Elopement Guide:
- The Best Places to Elope in Washington State
- When to Elope in Washington
- Getting Legally Married When You Elope in Washington
- Washington Elopement Timelines & Things to Do
- Washington Elopement Packages
The Best Places to Elope in Washington State
This part’s a big deal – your elopement location is the place you’ll always remember as the one where the two of you began your marriage!
But Washington’s a pretty big state, with views and epic scenery basically around every corner – and with just about every kind of landscape you can imagine, how do you decide where to tie the knot?
Good news – I’ll handle location scouting, so you don’t have to deal with the decision overwhelm and analysis paralysis! Each couple is different, so I’ll get to know you, and what you’re dreaming of for the day you get married – what kind of scenery makes your heart beat faster? And speaking of elevated heart rates, do you want to hike a lot, a little, or not at all? Do you want to kayak, ski, helicopter, soak in a hot spring, have a chill picnic, see some jaw dropping stars, try a local coffee shop…? I’ll give you a list of recommendations that’s made just for the two of you, narrowing down your options so all you have to do is pick one that feels right for your day!
The Best Mountain Elopement Locations in Washington State
Washington’s mountains are pretty awe-inspiring. Whether you want to hike to the summit or look up at towering peaks from a wildflower meadow, some of the best places to elope in Washington State are in the mountains!
Here are a few of the spots where you’ll find the best mountain views.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is the state’s most famous peak, making an appearance as you drive through Seattle on a sunny day! This national park is incredible for elopements, with hikes ranging from short nature walks to strenuous treks, and gorgeous views of the evergreen forest, blooming wildflower fields, and of course, the mountains.
Close to the park, you’ll find a lot of Washington’s best cabins, A frames and Airbnbs!
North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades are so underrated! This park is the least visited of Washington’s three national parks, but not because it isn’t beautiful – it’s just a bit more remote, which means it’ll be easier for the two of you to find a secluded spot to exchange vows. There are countless alpine lakes (well, someone counted – there are about 300) tucked between the mountain peaks that are crowned by icy glaciers, and the views will absolutely take your breath away.
Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is huge, and it has a ton of different landscapes – you’ll probably see it under just about every landscape in this “best places to elope in Washington state” breakdown. Hurricane Ridge is famous for its views of the Olympic mountain range, and if you elope here, you’ll be able to choose from easily accessible picnic areas with sweeping views, or one of the many hikes that begin here!
Though national parks tend to get all the glory, many of Washington’s best views are found in national forests – public land that’s usually less developed than the national parks. Artist Point is located in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, close to the North Cascades. This spot is easy to get to, and as soon as you pull into the parking lot (and even before that – the drive up is an adventure in itself!) you’ll be greeted with unbelievable views of the mountains. Take the mile long walk to a more secluded view, or do one of the more challenging hikes that starts at the parking lot!
The Best Places to Elope on the Coast in Washington State
Washington has some incredible ocean views – and whether you want to exchange vows on a cliff towering over the water, feel your toes in the sand, or hike through old growth forest to reach ocean views, here are a few of the best places to elope on the coast in Washington state.
Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park is one of Washington’s most famous beaches. With driftwood, rocky sea stacks, and moody views, it’s a gorgeous place to tie the knot!
Shi Shi Beach
Pro tip – it’s pronounced “shy shy!” This beach is on the Olympic Peninsula as well, located in the Makah Reservation. It’s 4.5 miles to get to the beach, but there isn’t much elevation gain, so it’s a great trail for those who want to experience the forest and hike to their elopement location! You can even camp on the beach for some extra adventure.
Deception Pass is close to the city of Bellingham, and is a great coastal elopement location for those who want to be a little closer to Seattle – it’s under two hours to drive, while the west coast of the state is at least four. Deception Pass has easily accessible beaches, short trails that take you along bluffs over the ocean, and amazing opportunities for kayaking or paddle boarding!
The Best Places to Elope by a Waterfall in Washington State
Waterfalls make for a pretty incredible backdrop, and of course, Washington has plenty of them! Here are a few of the best ones.
Franklin Falls is a really popular hike just an hour away from Seattle. The trail to get there is a mile long, and the view is amazing! It’s a great balance of low effort, high reward views – but I do recommend a sunrise ceremony for this one, as it’s a pretty crowded spot most days.
Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls is in Olympic National Park, and offers an incredible view of a dramatic waterfall. The most popular trail to get to the falls is a short hike, but you also have the option to extend it and meander the longer trails to get a little more privacy!
The Best Forest Elopement Locations in Washington State
There’s something magical about walking amongst old growth forest that’s been there for thousands of years. If you want a serene, quiet spot to exchange vows, here are some forest elopement locations to consider!
Did you know that Washington state has its very own rainforest? Not the jaguars and toucans kind, but a temperate rainforest with moss, ferns, and lush greenery! There are lots of trails in the Hoh Rainforest, and each one is absolutely magical.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier, though best known for the mountain views, has some incredible forest locations too! Many of the trails walk through evergreen trees, but the short Grove of the Patriarchs hike has some of the best forest scenery – with giant douglas firs, western hemlocks, and western red cedars that tower over the trail.
When to Elope in Washington State
Washington isn’t exactly known for its sunny days and clear skies – we do get a lot of rain! So when you set a date for your Washington elopement, it’s important to think about the weather. This will also depend on where you elope (for example, winter lasts longer in the mountains than it does at lower elevations), so having an idea of where you want to tie the knot before you flip open your calendar can be helpful!
For most couples, summer is going to be a pretty ideal time to elope in Washington state! It’s warm, sunny, and we get a much-needed break from the drizzle.
Keep in mind that Washington has a lot of different climates – the eastern side of the state has more desert, so summers there are going to be really hot! The western side of Washington is cooler, so summers are pretty perfect for outdoor adventures. July and August are typically the best for predictable weather, and if you want to elope in the mountains, the snow usually doesn’t melt until July at higher elevations.
Early fall is one of the best times to elope in Washington! In September, the weather is usually still good, but the summer crowds go home so you’ll have some more privacy. Fall is a perfect time to elope if your location is in the desert of Eastern Washington, as temperatures will be more mild.
You can see some amazing fall foliage, and the North Cascades are especially famous for the larches – their golden needles in late September make the landscape even more amazing! Snow usually starts falling in the mountains in October, but it can be a bit unpredictable and some years bring early storms.
I won’t lie, winters are gloomy! But, if you want to ski or just love the snow, or you want to experience Washiington’s scenery without the summer crowds, you can definitely have an amazing elopement day in the winter.
The mountains will be covered in snow, and many roads will be closed – but there are lots of places where you can snowshoe, resorts where you can ski, and tons of winter wonderland to explore! Lower elevation areas and places near the coast don’t get a ton of snow, but they will likely be rainy – but bring some waterproof boots and enjoy the moody views!
Spring can be a great time to elope in Washington state, as the snow starts to melt and the weather warms up. Mountains will still be covered in snow, but you can start exploring lower elevation areas, or head to the desert! It’s also a great time to see waterfalls in full force, and to spot some wildlife.
Late spring is one of the best times to tie the knot – the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet, but the weather is often pretty nice. It can be a bit unpredictable, so be prepared for anything, but the good news is that when it rains, it’s usually just a light drizzle!
Avoiding Crowds When You Elope in Washington
You probably don’t want an audience for your elopement day, and along with weather, privacy can be a consideration when you choose your elopement date.
Inevitably, it’s a little difficult to balance good weather with few crowds – since the most popular time to visit a place is always when the weather is best! But, there are a few things you can do.
First, you can plan your elopement for shoulder season – this is the time right before or right after peak visitation. So for most places in Washington, that’s going to be May or early June, and September or early October! Summers bring more crowds, so scheduling your ceremony for shoulder season is a great way to avoid them, while having more favorable weather conditions.
No matter when you elope, I recommend tying the knot on a weekday! Weekends are more crowded everywhere you go, so if you avoid holidays, you’ll usually have more privacy during the week. You can also plan your ceremony for sunrise or sunset – sunrise is the most private, but sunsets are typically less busy than the middle of the day! Check out this sunrise hiking elopement if you need some inspiration!
But, the best thing you can do to find a secluded spot to exchange vows is to elope in a lesser known, less popular location! Don’t worry – I can help you with this! My location recommendations will include hidden gems that offer gorgeous views, without the crowds.
Getting Legally Married When You Elope in Washington State
Paperwork isn’t that fun, but you’ve gotta do it to get legally married during your elopement!
Luckily, Washington makes getting a marriage license pretty easy, and you don’t have to live here to apply. Your marriage license needs to be from Washington, but you can get one from any county clerk’s office in the state.
For couples traveling to elope in Washington, it’s usually easiest to apply with the King County office in Seattle – because you can submit the application online and get your marriage license in the mail!
To get a marriage license from any office, you’ll need a photo ID, along with an application fee. The fee depends on where you apply, but in King County it’s $69.
After you get your marriage license, there’s a three day waiting period, and it expires 60 days after the waiting period – so you’ll need to get married within that time, have an officiant and two witnesses sign it, and return it to the office!
Now, don’t panic at the word “witnesses” if you aren’t planning to invite any guests! As an elopement photographer, I know how important freedom and privacy are, so I’m actually ordained and can sign as your officiant. You can also hire an officiant or have a friend or family member get ordained, but if a “just us” day is what you’re after, I can do the legal stuff. As for witnesses, the only requirement is that they’re over 18, so you can ask your elopement vendors to sign, or even find two people at your elopement location – people are always stoked to help out!
Elopement Timelines and Things to Do When You Elope in Washington
The best thing about eloping? Your day is totally yours.
That means you can do absolutely anything on the day you get married! So plan an adventure that reflects who you are as a couple, and think about what you truly want your wedding day to look like.
Washington state offers plenty of adventures – kayaking, hiking, skiing, helicopter tours… just about anything you can imagine! To get you inspired, here are a few sample Washington elopement timelines that will give you an idea of what an elopement day can look like.
Artist Point Elopement With Family
9:00 Wake up in your cozy forest cabin, and start the day slowly with coffee and breakfast together
11:00 Your family comes to meet you at the cabin, and the two of you split up to get ready separately as your hair and makeup artist works their magic
1:00 You both get dressed, shed a few tears with your parents, and get excited for the first look
1:30 First look outside the cabin
2:00 Everyone hops in the car and you drive to Artist Point
3:00 You arrive and take in the view, have a quick snack, then walk the short trail to your ceremony spot
4:00 Ceremony officiated by a family member
4:30 Family photos after everyone congratulates you
5:30 You walk back to the parking lot and have a picnic with your family
6:30 Family drives back to the cabin, and the two of you hike around and explore, taking couples photos as the sun sets
8:00 You drive back to the cabin for dinner and cake with the family!
“Just Us” Hiking Elopement
3:00 You have an early wake up call, but you hop out of bed, excited for the adventure you have planned!
3:30 The two of you have coffee and breakfast, then start getting ready together
4:30 You’re done with hair and makeup, so you load the car and take off for the trailhead
5:30 Arrive at the trailhead, put on your headlamps, and start hiking through the forest
7:30 You get to the summit as the sun is rising, covering the mountains in a pink glow
7:45 You both change into your elopement attire, then do a first look
8:00 You begin the ceremony and read your vows to each other
8:30 We take some couples photos as you explore the area
9:00 Take a break for food and cake!
10:00 Pack up as other hikers start arriving, and make your way back to the trailhead
11:00 Drive back to the Airbnb and take a nap
1:00 Head to your helicopter tour!
2:00 Helicopter tour begins, and you soar over the mountains, experiencing the most incredible views
4:00 Helicopter tour ends, and you go to a local restaurant for dinner
Washington Elopement Packages
Ready to plan the adventure of a lifetime?
I’m all about making sure each couple has an elopement day that’s perfect for them – so I’ll help you plan a day that’s uniquely you! Whatever ideas you’ve got cooking, we can make them happen. I’ll give you personalized recommendations for every part of the day – locations, vendors, places to stay, things to do – and create a custom timeline. I’ll be by your side the entire time, guiding you through everything you need for the perfect elopement day, and joining you for whatever adventure we create!
To learn more about Washington elopement packages, and to start planning your one of a kind adventure, contact me!