How to Elope in Washington: A Complete Guide
Updated: an hour ago
Do you want to elope in Washington? Well, you've come to the right place. Hi, I'm Kathleen, a Washington adventure wedding & elopement photographer, and your new friend. I put together this comprehensive Washington elopement planning guide with adventurers like you in mind, informing you on everything you should know before having your elopement in Washington.
I moved to Washington almost a year ago, and it was hands down one of the best decisions I've ever made. I've always been drawn to the mountains, and Washington has an endless amount to explore. I love spending my free time going on hikes with my dog Ranger. If I'm not out there hiking a new trail, you can bet I'm probably thinking about it or planning my next trip! I have a list of hikes I want to complete that's a mile long, and countless locations I love exploring. Home to incredibly diverse scenery, and some of the most breath-taking, stunning views around- Washington is the outdoor enthusiast's paradise and the perfect elopement destination.
Checklist For Your Washington Elopement
1. Find a photographer
Choosing an elopement photographer is one of the most important things to do! It is important that you find someone that you truly connect with- you're going to be spending your entire wedding day with them. Plus, your elopement photographer will be able to help you with location scouting, logistics, and planning. It's important to also choose someone who knows the area well, and is experienced with elopements. Luckily, I know a pretty great Washington elopement photographer... and I'd love to connect with you and help you get started on planning your elopement or adventure wedding. If you want to elope with me, contact me and we can get started!
2. Pick a date
After you find a photographer, set a date! In my opinion, the best time to visit Washington is May-October. May-June & September-October are more of the "shoulder season", with July & August being prime months to visit. The weather may be slightly more unpredictable in the shoulder season, but there will be significantly less tourists (and locals) hitting the trails, giving you a higher probability for seclusion. Depending on what region you want to elope, be sure to research the weather. Snow can still be in the mountains well into the summer, which is an important factor to consider when planning. Check out below where I go more in depth about the temperature, & avg. precipitation for different locations.
3. Pick a location
Now, you should start deciding on a location to elope! This is a huge part of how I help in the planning process. For every single one of my couples, I do customized location scouting and send a variety of ideas that align with their vision & wants. I've listed my favorite generalized locations in this guide to help get you started! To find amazing locations, I love using Washington Trail Association, local hiking Facebook Groups, AllTrails, Google Maps, and state directories to find locations. These resources are fantastic for you to utilize. Note: I only disclose my "local secret", most favorite spots to my couples- you can become one of them by contacting me.
4. Decide your timeline and work out the details
Next, it's time to start working on more of the nitty, gritty details. Decide if you want to elope with guests or just the two of you. Figure out what you want your ceremony to look like, and start writing your vows. (Learn more about how an elopement ceremony works here!) Go shopping for your elopement attire (Check out this Adventure Elopement Wedding Dress Guide)! Add in any extra adventures you want to do on your day (more on that at the end of this blog). Think about whether or not you want to have a "first look", and if you want any celebratory drinks or food. Book any necessary travel, rental cars, and lodging. Consider planning a special surprise for your partner, and think about any special details you may want to include.
Then, compose your timeline- leaving lots of time for spontaneity, so you don't feel rushed or stressed. Work with your photographer to decide the best time of day and lighting for photos. Make sure to leave lots of time to celebrate and enjoy the moment! If you're struggling to create a timeline, check out this article talking about ideas of what to do on your all-day elopement.
5. Hire other vendors
Decide what other vendors you want to hire to help with your elopement. Examples of good vendors to consider are: an officiant, hair & makeup artist, florist, elopement announcements, food & drink, and any additional adventure activities. You can include whichever vendors you'd like, and skip the ones you don't want- it's your day!
6. Get your permits & apply for your marriage license
Make sure to research what permits you need to visit, park and hike at a location. Additionally, some locations will require you to have a permit to get married there or for your photographer to take photos of your elopement. Don't skip getting your permits! You don't want to risk getting a hefty fine, not being able to have your elopement documented and even thrown out of a location simply because you didn't take the necessary steps. Learn more information on permits for Washington elopements to make sure you're covered!
If you're getting legally married on your elopement day- don't forget to get a marriage license. Keep reading below to find out how to make sure your elopement is legal! Alternatively, many couples choose to complete the legal paperwork at home either before or after their actual elopement day for ease of mind and simplicity, The day you say your vows and commit your life to your partner is your wedding day! Don't let paperwork and technical logistics get in the way.
7. Get married
This is it! This is the day you commit your lives to one another and get married. Get ready for an epic day full of fun, love, and adventure.
Below you will find the average temperatures and days of precipitation for each of the "prime" months to visit Washington. I received this data from the closest nearby towns to each location. Please note that temperatures drop significantly and precipitation may vary the higher you go into the mountains. Know that in some higher elevation, mountain locations, snow can be present well into the summer and can even make access to trail heads difficult. Always do specific location weather research, these data points are just an estimate! Additionally, read past trip reports online- they are very helpful for you to determine past weather/condition trends for your location, as well as giving you more recent information about the trail. Make sure you know what conditions will most likely be like before travelling to a location!
Average high/low temperatures:
Mount Rainier Mount Baker/North Cascades
May: 48/32 65/42
June: 53/37 69/48
July: 62/43 76/51
August: 63/44 76/51
September: 56/40 68/46
October: 47/33 59/38
Olympics Snoqualmie Pass
May: 64/43 58/43
June: 68/47 62/48
July: 72/50 71/54
August: 74/51 70/55
October: 60/42 52/43
Average days of precipitation:
Mount Rainier Mount Baker/North Cascades
May: 13 10
June: 10 8
July: 5 7
August: 5 6
September: 8 9
October: 14 9
Olympics Snoqualmie Pass
May: 13 14
June: 10 10
July: 6 5
August: 5 5
September: 8 9
October: 14 15
Making It 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.
Favorite Washington Locations
Washington has some of the best trails in the US, and is a paradise for adventure enthusiasts and outdoor lovers alike. With countless trails to choose from, there is something to please all. From the rugged coast, lush rain forests, towering volcanoes, stunning mountain ranges, serene alpine lakes, and waterfalls- Washington truly has it all. Check out some of my favorite regions to explore! I only share my top favorite, secret locations with my couples- become one of them by contacting me!
Mount Baker Wilderness and North Cascades National Park
The Mount Baker Wilderness & North Cascades are my absolute favorite spots in the entire world. This summer I plan to hike & camp here as much as possible! The North Cascades is one of the least visited national parks, making it the perfect place for those who seek seclusion and the wild.
Olympic National Park
From lush rain forests, beautiful mountain ranges, and the rugged coast- Olympic National Park is the most diverse option for those wanting a variety of sceneries on their elopement day. The beach pictured below is one of my favorite beaches I've ever visited. The sea stacks were unlike anything I'd ever seen before!