How to Elope in Mount Rainier National Park
Updated: Jul 14, 2022
Eloping in Mount Rainier National Park
If you're looking for a spectacular place to elope, look no further than Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier is a Washington icon, often referred to as "the mountain". If you live in Washington, chances are that you've uttered the phrase "the mountain is out today" more than once. An active volcano, Mount Rainier enchants and captivates those lucky enough to visit. A truly magical place, Mount Rainier is one of my favorite places in Washington and is a spectacular choice as a location for your elopement. Check out this Mount Rainier Elopement Inspiration to see what your elopement day could look like!
"Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous US. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier's lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park's ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits". You can learn more about Mount Rainier and the National Park at its website.
If you're looking to elope in Mount Rainier National Park, I've got you covered! I'll help you step by step in giving you tons of advice so you can have the perfect Mount Rainier elopement.
***Leave No Trace Disclaimer***
We have a massive privilege in being able to access such amazing public lands in general and for your elopement day. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for a wedding venue, public lands are able to be used for nearly free. With that comes great responsibility- not only to care for the land, but to ensure it's protection and longevity.
Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics and best practices that we should all follow to not only enjoy our public lands, but to protect them as well. Simply put, leave it better than you found it!
Why should you care?
If you're getting married outside, it's probably because you're drawn to nature's beauty and love being outdoors. To keep nature beautiful, we must ensure that we enjoy it sustainably and responsibly. We're all in this together.
The seven principles of Leave No Trace are:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
I encourage you to learn more about how to keep our outdoors safe and best practices for recreating outdoors at https://lnt.org/.
Alright, now into the good stuff...
Checklist for Your Mount Rainier Elopement:
Find a Mount Rainier Elopement Photographer
I may be biased, but hiring your elopement photographer is one of the most important things you can do when planning your elopement. It is important that you find someone that you truly connect with- you're going to be spending your entire wedding day with them! Choose someone that you both get along with and feel comfortable around. Additionally, I would highly recommend hiring a photographer that specializes in elopements versus a photographer who does not. Elopement photographers are much more involved in the planning process that a typical photographer is. Find someone that is experienced, knows the area you are eloping in very well, can give you helpful advice, and help you with location scouting and figuring out logistics. And lastly, your photographer's images will most likely be the only photos you have of your elopement- especially if you are eloping just the two of you. Find someone who takes that responsibility seriously, who is experienced with photographing in different sceneries, weather, and lighting conditions. Trust me, your photography is something that you will want to invest in- these will be your memories of your day for years to come. Luckily, I know a pretty great Mount Rainier elopement photographer... and I'd love to connect with you and help you get started planning your elopement. Contact me and we can get started!
Pick a Date for Your Mount Rainier Elopement
Now that you have an amazing photographer, it's time to choose a date! While you can visit Mount Rainier year-round, the places you can visit during the winter are much more limited. Additionally, during the winter you are much less likely to be able to see Mount Rainier herself- clear skies and sunny, blue-bird days are rare throughout Washington winters. In my opinion, Mount Rainier National Park is best visited mid-June to September with July and August being the best months possible. During the summer, you have the best chance of having fabulous views of Mount Rainier. Additionally, the park has the best wildflowers I have ever seen in my life. Your photographer will be able to help you pick a date depending on what you want from your elopement day. If you have a certain trail in mind, try reading past trip reports online to help determine weather and trail condition patterns. Remember that snow can remain in the mountains well throughout summer, even into July or August!
Best Elopement Locations in Mount Rainier National Park
One of the main ways I help my couples is through location scouting and helping them find their absolute perfect place to say their vows at. Whenever I first start talking to a couple about their elopement, I always start by asking them how they envision their day. One of the very important aspects to an elopement is the type of scenery a couple pictures getting married in. Do you want to elope on top of a mountain, by a lake, or on the beach? Washington has endless places to adventure in and there are countless beautiful locations.
There is a trail for everyone- for all different types of abilities and for people looking for a multitude of landscapes, Mount Rainier has got them all. From gorgeous locations that you can drive right up to, and to rugged backpacking expeditions, there is a place that suits exactly the type of adventure you desire! Additionally, while the national park offers many gorgeous trails, due to how massive Mount Rainier is, gorgeous views of the mountain can be seen on a multitude of trails outside the boundaries of the national park. By opting to elope on land not in the national park itself, you will face less crowds, more solitude, and will not have to pay as much for a permit (or in some cases, not at all!).
Serene alpine lakes, lush meadows filled with wildflowers, unobstructed views of Mount Rainier, and fire lookouts, I've discovered many beautiful hikes and areas that are hidden gems near Mount Rainier. Most of my very favorite places with views of the mountain are actually outside the national park itself! Location scouting for my clients is one of my biggest passions, and in my free time you can probably find me hitting the trails and chasing new views. I only give away my very best locations to my couples, so get in contact with me if you want to become one of them!
Hire Other Vendors for Your Mount Rainier Elopement
Now it's time to decide what other vendors you want to hire to help you with your elopement and what you want to DIY. The vendors you choose are completely up to you- one of the best parts of eloping is that you can do whatever you want. Common vendors you can consider include: an officiant, hair & makeup artist, florist, a videographer, private chef, elopement announcements, and any additional adventure activities. Pick and choose whomever you'd like- it's your day!
Permits for Your Mount Rainier Wedding
If you are going to be eloping in Mount Rainier National Park itself, you will absolutely need permits for your elopement day. If you decide to elope outside of the park somewhere that still has amazing views of Mount Rainier, a permit may or may not be needed (ask your photographer!). The permitting process can be incredibly confusing and overwhelming- let your photographer help you. Permits help protect the lands we love and recreate in. They are not very expensive- especially when you compare the price of a permit to the price of a traditional wedding venue. Additionally, if you don't get the required permits you are risking your elopement day. Mount Rainier has a high amount of rangers patrolling and they WILL ask to see your permit. Failure to have a permit can result in fines and you getting kicked out of the park- essentially ruining your elopement day. Trust me, it's not worth it. Still not convinced? Read more about permits for your Washington elopement! Here are the permits you will need: (these rules are subject to being changed at any time*)
Special Use Permit for Actual Wedding Ceremony
A special use permit is required to be submitted by the couple getting married. The application fee is $60. Must be submitted 4 weeks in advance!!
A permit is also required for the wedding to be photographed, and costs $150. Must be submitted 90 days in advance!!
Making Your Mount Rainier Elopement Legal
If you're signing your paperwork on the day of your elopement, you want to ensure it's legal! Washington marriage license fees vary by county, and are required at the time you apply. They must be obtained at any County Auditor's office in the state. There is a 3 day waiting period in Washington- meaning you have to get your license at minimum 3 full days before your elopement date or it is invalid. Washington marriage licenses are valid for 60 days after the 3 day waiting period ends. To obtain a Washington marriage license you do not have to be a resident of the state. One or both parties need to appear in person for marriage license application, however there is an alternative method enabling absentee application via mail. You do not need to get married in the same county you receive your license in, it is valid for the entire state.
An ordained officiant must perform a ceremony for you to be legally married. I am an ordained officiant and can perform a short, legal ceremony if you choose. If you desire a longer ceremony, you will need to also hire an officiant. All marriage licenses must be signed by the officiant and two witnesses (min. age is 12). If I'm not acting as the officiant, I can sign as a witness if needed. If you're eloping with just the two of you, witnesses can be fellow hikers or visitors (most people will be more than happy to be a witness for you!). We can do the legal ceremony with witnesses, and then you two can exchange your vows privately.
Places to Stay in Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier is a large park and has many different entrances. I highly recommend holding off on booking your lodging prior to choosing your location, it can take longer than you would expect to get from one side of the park to the other. To reduce the amount of travel time on your elopement day, I highly encourage that you stay somewhere close to your location (especially if you want to do getting ready photos). Personally, I love staying in Airbnbs and cabins when I travel. Plus, Mount Rainier has tons of beautiful A-frame cabins that would be so much fun to stay in. Check out a few of my favorite options:
Choose Your Activities, and other Details
Now that you have all the major and important decisions made, it's time to decide on the smaller details. Do you want to elope with guests, or just the two of you? If you're eloping just the two of you but want to include family or friends in some way, consider having your closest loved ones write you letters to read on your elopement or Facetime them when you're getting ready. How do you want your ceremony to look like? Begin thinking about what you want to say in your vows (and on that note whether or not you want to write them in vow books as keepsakes from the day). Go shopping for your elopement attire (if you need inspiration, check out this Best Elopement Wedding Dress Guide). What activities do you want to include on your elopement? Ideas include: hiking, having a picnic, kayaking, taking a helicopter or airplane tour, backpacking, stargazing, having a private chef cook you a meal at your Airbnb, or having a *safe* campfire with smores. Do you want to have a first look, or get ready together? Do you want any celebratory drinks or food? Would you like a first dance? Consider planning a special surprise for your partner or of any special, sentimental details that are unique to you or your relationship that you would like to include.
Create Your Mount Rainier Elopement Timeline
Now, with the help of your photographer, it is time to compose your timeline. Leave room for spontaneity and extra time so you don't feel rushed or stressed. Don't underestimate transition times or how long it takes to hike somewhere. Make sure to leave lots of time to celebrate and enjoy the moment! Let yourself soak in every bit of the sunset and breeze, take time to really live in the moment and experience every second. I also recommend working with your photographer to decide the best time of day and lighting for your photos based on the location you choose. Some locations photograph better at sunset while others are best at sunrise. Still need help visualizing what a real elopement day timeline looks like? Check out these sample timelines for more inspiration.
Sample Timelines for Your Mount Rainier Elopement:
2 Person Elopement with a 4 Mile Hike
1:00- Photographer arrives, getting ready & detail photos
2:00- First look, couples portraits, get ready to go
2:30- Leave Airbnb
3:15- Arrive at trailhead, gear up
3:30- Start hiking
5:30- Arrive at top, explore around, touch ups
7:15- Ceremony ends, sign paperwork, pop champagne to celebrate, first dance, more couples portraits
8:15- Start hiking down, take photos with the stars
10:00- Arrive at trailhead, photography coverage ends
Intimate Hike Followed by Ceremony with friends and Family
3:00 am- Meet at trailhead, start hiking up and stargazing
5:00 am- Arrive at summit, get changed & ready for sunrise
5:15 am- Alpenglow begins, First look, private vow reading
5:30 am- Watch sunrise, couples photos, first dance, explore around summit
7:00 am- Start hiking back down
8:30 am- Arrive back at trailhead, head to ceremony site, meet up with family and get ready for ceremony
9:00 am- Ceremony with family and friends present
9:30 am- Ceremony finished, photos with family & friends, pop champagne to celebrate!
10:15 am- Family photos finished, head to have a brunch celebration
12:00 pm- Photo coverage wraps up
2 Person Elopement with No Hiking
4:00- Photographer arrives, getting ready & detail photos
5:00- First look, couples portraits, get ready to go
5:30- Leave Airbnb
6:00- Arrive at location, get ready to go, get to main spot and set up
6:15- Read letters from friends and family
6:45- Ceremony ends, sign paperwork, pop champagne to celebrate, first dance, couples portraits
8:30- Head back to Airbnb
9:00- Arrive at Airbnb, have dinner catered by private chef
10:00- Have campfire and smores, stargaze
10:30- Photography coverage ends
2 Day Backpacking Adventure
12:30- Photographer arrives, getting ready and detail shots
1:30- First look, couples portraits, get ready to go
2:00- Leave Airbnb
2:45- Arrive at trailhead
3:00- Start hiking
5:30- Arrive at top, set up camp, explore around, touch ups
6:15- Read letters from friends and family
6:45- Ceremony ends, sign paperwork, pop champagne to celebrate, first dance, couples portraits
8:30- Stargaze and take photos with the stars
9:00- End for the day, hang out & go to bed
4:30- Wake up and get ready
5:00- Start hiking to lake
6:00- Sunrise, arrive at lake, take couples portraits
7:00- Inflate paddle boat and paddle on the lake or go swimming
7:45- Breakfast picnic and coffee
8:15- Hike back to camp
9:30- Arrive back at camp, pack everything up and get ready to go
10:00- Hike to fire lookout
12:00- Arrive at fire lookout, explore, eat lunch, take photos
2:00- Hike back down
6:00- Arrive at trailhead, photography coverage ends
Now for the fun part- you and your partner get to go get married and have the absolute best day together. Relax, have fun, and enjoy the day you've been waiting for.
Pin It For Future Planning!
Want More Resources?
Learn more about what you can do on your all-day elopement and get timeline suggestions!
Struggling on what to wear on your elopement day? Check out these best elopement wedding dresses that are perfect for any adventure!
Wondering why people choose to elope? Here are 6 Reasons to Have an Elopement.
Ever wonder How Much Does an Elopement Cost?
Hire a Photographer for Your Mount Rainier Elopement
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm here to help guide you to having the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it. I would love to help you plan your elopement and answer any questions you may have! Learn more about me or my Washington Elopement Packages.
Get in touch with me and let's start planning your dream adventure.