Washington Elopement Guide - How to Elope in Washington State - Tabitha Corinne Photography
Couple standing in an embrace on Mt Baker

Washington Elopement Guide – How to Elope in Washington State

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Washington Elopement Guide

In the northwest corner of the United States is Washington – a state known for diverse scenery, incredible landscapes, and gorgeous views! So of course, it makes an amazing elopement backdrop and adventure destination for any couple looking to tie the knot in a way that’s a little (or a lot) outside the box. You can climb mountains, explore deserts, and stand next to the ocean – all in just a few hours! If you’re thinking about a Washington elopement keep reading.

This guide will tell you all about how to elope in Washington state, and everything you need to know to plan the adventurous wedding day of your dreams.

Here’s what you’ll find in this Washington Elopement Guide:

  • Tips for Eloping in Washington state
  • The Best Time to Elope in Washington
  • Best Places to Elope in Washington State
  • Getting Legally Married in Washington
  • Things to Do When You Elope in Washington
  • Washington Elopement Packages – Are You Ready to Get Married in Washington?

Tips for Eloping in Washington

Your elopement is nothing like a traditional wedding – that’s sort of the point, right? So when you elope in Washington, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Prepare for Rain

Washington is known for stunning scenery, but it’s also known for rain! Much of the state is overcast for a big part of the year, with drizzle season usually starting in October and ending in May.

We’ll talk about weather and the best time to elope in Washington state soon, but for now, it’s important that you know that no matter when you elope, you should be prepared for rain! Bring a rain jacket and some extra socks, and remember that it’s all part of the adventure – no sunshine means no crowds, and the rain brings out the lush greenery of the state beautifully.

Prepare for Crowds in Washington

Depending on where you go and where you decide to get married, it’s good to remember some tips for avoiding crowds on your elopement day! The national and state parks can be crowded, especially in the summer. 

No matter what time of year you elope, I recommend choosing a weekday. Weekends are always busier anywhere you go, so as long as you avoid holidays, a weekday will give you a much better chance at having a private ceremony. 

Park Passes

There are three national parks in Washington, and tons of state parks and national forest land. Depending on where you decide to elope, you might need a pass – there are three types of recreation passes in Washington state.

The first kind is the national parks pass – entry to any of the national parks costs $30, and is good for 7 days. You can purchase these passes at the entrance. If you plan to explore during your stay in Washington, and you want to visit more than one national park, check out the America the Beautiful Pass – this one will get you into any national park in the country for just $80! It lasts for a year, so if you visit national parks often, it’s much better for your wallet. You can get these at any park entrance as well, or online

The next type of pass is the Discover Pass. This is the one you need for many of Washington’s state parks, and any state managed trails. A one day pass is $10, and an annual one is $30 – some parks have pay stations to purchase a day pass, and you can get one online or find in person locations here.

The last type of pass you may need in Washington is a forest pass. One important thing to know is that if you have an America the Beautiful pass, you can use this one and do not need a forest pass! Otherwise, for many trails in national forests, you’ll need the forest pass, which can be purchased at visitors centers or online. A day pass is $5, and an annual one is $30.

The Best Time to Elope in Washington

The weather in Washington is definitely not all sunshine and rainbows – but the rainy season does bring a lot of rainbows. Here is a breakdown of the weather in Washington, and the best time for your elopement!

Summer Elopements in Washington

Overall, summer is the best time to elope in Washington. The mountains are free of snow, the sun is shining, and July and August are perfect for hiking and exploring! This is also the most popular time to visit, so be prepared for crowds. 

If you want to elope in the desert of eastern Washington, keep in mind that summer temperatures can be in the high 90s, so it’s best to wait for fall!

Fall Elopements in Washington

Fall is a gorgeous time in Washington state. Early September is the best time to elope to avoid crowds and get optimal weather conditions, and to see the leaves change color! Keep in mind that the mountains and higher elevation areas can get snowy early in the season, so if you want to hike, don’t wait too long!

Winter Elopements in Washington

Washington in winter is a quiet place – the rainfall is close to daily, but the good thing is that it’s rarely stronger than a drizzle! If you want to go skiing or elope in the snow, the mountains are gorgeous this time of year. But for hiking or for warm weather, winter isn’t ideal. 

Spring Elopements in Washington

Washington comes back to life in the spring, as the snow in the mountains begins to melt. Late spring can be a great time to hike in lower elevation spots, but higher elevation areas usually won’t be clear until July. Eloping in late spring can be a great way to avoid the summer crowds!

The Best Places to Elope in Washington State

My favorite thing about Washington is the scenery! And choosing your elopement location means finding your favorite landscape – you’ll have plenty of options, but here are some of the best places to elope in Washington state.

The Coast 

Couple sitting on the edge of a cliff on the Washington coast

On the west side of Washington state is the rocky, rugged Pacific coast. These aren’t surfing beaches like the ones in Southern California – these are moody waves, with sea stacks poking through the water and cliffs over the ocean, and tide pools visible when the tide is low.

Cape Flattery is the northernmost point in the country, offering a trail through the lush woods that becomes a wooden boardwalk with stunning views of the ocean below. 

Further south you’ll find the town of Forks, famous for its appearance in the Twilight movies. Nearby, there are several stunning beaches – including Ruby Beach and Kalaloch Beach, which are stunning places with jagged rocks lining the coastline. 

Olympic National Park spans the peninsula, which means that it’s the best national park to elope in if you want to see the coast! A permit is required, and costs $50.

The Mountains

Photo of Mt Rainier at sunset

Washington’s mountains are one of the state’s most incredible features! There are several mountain ranges, and each of the three national parks are amazing for mountain views.

Mount Rainier National Park is home to Washington’s most iconic peak, and offers hiking trails, alpine lakes, and fire lookouts perfect for exploring the mountains. A permit to elope at Mount Rainier is $60!

Olympic National Park has just about everything – so you’ll find mountain peaks there as well! Hurricane Ridge is one of the best places to see the peaks, and the Olympic National Forest is right near the national park and has similar views, but is less crowded and doesn’t require a wedding permit.

North Cascades National Park is less popular, and offers some of the most incredible views! There are alpine lakes tucked between the peaks, and you can easily find a private spot to say your vows. A permit for this park is $60.

One of my favorite places in Washington is Artist Point – with no permit and no hiking required, you can elope amongst mountains and jaw dropping views. You’ll see Mount Baker, and other snow capped peaks surrounding you, and there are several hiking trails that start at Artist Point if you want to venture farther.

The Desert

Couple cuddling together in the desert

Though the desert probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of desert landscapes perfect for your Washington elopement! This side of the state sees much less rain, but it does get snowy in the winter.

The best places to elope in Washington’s deserts can be found in the Columbia River Gorge, on the border of Oregon. There are remote sites, like Horsethief Butte, amongst the dry grass and the deep canyons! Dry Falls State Park is a unique spot that used to be a waterfall, but is now a 400 foot tall cliff in eastern Washington.

A Waterfall

A waterfall makes a stunning elopement backdrop, and you can find them all over Washington state! 

Palouse Falls State Park in eastern Washington features a huge, cascading waterfall that falls over the desert landscape, and is one of the most popular falls in the state. In Olympic National Park, you’ll find greenery that surrounds the lush waterfalls, with Sol Duc Falls being one of the best!

While technically not in Washington, if you cross the border and check out the Columbia River Gorge from the other side, you’ll find the highest concentration of waterfalls in the country! Easily accessible falls like Latourell and Horsetail Falls are perfect for couples who don’t want to hike, or you can explore the more remote trails for some quiet views.

The Forest

Between the temperate rainforests and dense pine tree groves, you’ll find tons of woodsy trails to explore! Olympic National Park is home to one of the largest temperate rainforests – the Hoh Rainforest, where you can explore moss covered trees and ferns.

Grove of the Patriarchs in Mount Rainier National Park is an easy boardwalk trail that goes around giant, towering trees that will make you feel like you stepped into a fairytale!

By a Lake

Washington’s lakes ranged from ponds in the city to alpine lakes in the mountains! If you want to elope by the water, check out Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. The lake is surrounded by mountains, and you can stay in a lodge right on the water!

Reflection Lakes in Mount Rainier National Park features clear blue waters and makes for a peaceful, quiet elopement location, and you can check out North Cascades National Park for tons of alpine lakes! 

Getting Legally Married in Washington State

To get legally married when you elope in Washington, you’ll need a marriage license – and a couple of signatures! 

Getting a Marriage License in Washington

You don’t need to live in Washington to get a marriage license, but you do need one to get married here! This can be done at any county clerk’s office in the state, and many counties will let you apply by mail – which makes it convenient for out of state couples!

The King County office in Seattle allows online applications, and you’ll need a photo ID and $69 for the licensing fee. Fees can vary by county, so double check if you’re going to a different county clerk! After you complete the application, the office will call you with instructions for paying the fee. 

You will have to come in person to pick up your marriage license, at least three days (but no more than 60) before your ceremony, so plan ahead if you’re traveling! After the ceremony, your officiant has 30 days to mail the marriage license back.

Washington Officiant

An officiant needs to sign your marriage license to make things legally official. You can hire an elopement officiant to adventure with you during your Washington elopement, or you can have a friend or family member get ordained on ULC.org! It’s quick and easy, and a great opportunity for a personal, meaningful ceremony.

Witnesses

Along with the two of you and your officiant, you’ll also need two witnesses to sign your Washington marriage license. If you’re having guests at your elopement ceremony, they can sign as long as they’re at least eighteen. But, if your elopement is a “just us” kind of thing, don’t worry! You can find any two people throughout the day, or ask some of your vendors to sign the papers.

Things to Do When You Elope in Washington 

The most exciting part of your elopement day is planning all the fun adventures you’ll have! Here are just a few things you can do when you elope in Washington.

Explore Seattle

The city of Seattle is known for its coffee, and if you like to explore urban cities, you can’t miss it when you’re visiting Washington! The parks are fun for walks, and you don’t have to go far to get out in nature. Just a short drive from the city you’ll find Snoqualmie National Forest, full of hiking trails and stunning overlooks.

Go Skiing

If you’re eloping in the winter, hit up one of Washington’s many ski resorts! The Summit at Snoqualmie is close to Seattle and perfect for a day trip, or you can stay at the resort. For backcountry skiing, you can go to Mount Rainier!

Go Hiking

And if you elope in the summer, there are countless hiking trails to wander down in Washington. You can do a backpacking trip, a day trip, or an easy stroll through the woods – no matter what you’re looking for, there’s a hike for you!

Visit Leavenworth

Washington state is home to a cute Bavarian town called Leavenworth. The whole town is designed to look like a German village, with adorable architecture, Bavarian food, and festivals year round. It’s a unique experience, and there are mountains to explore just outside of town!

Go Whale Watching

Washington offers some of the best places in the world for whale watching from July through October, but especially in September and October. The San Juan Islands offer some of the best spots to see orcas, and occasionally humpback whales! You can take a tour or try your luck from the shore.

Kayak or Paddleboard

There are countless lakes where you can rent a kayak or canoe (or bring your own), or go for a paddle in the water! This can be a really relaxing way to spend your wedding day, so if water sports are your thing, consider incorporating this into your elopement!

Stargazing

Imagine ending the night under the Milky Way! There’s nothing more magical than a sky full of stars, and there are many remote wilderness areas in the state where you can stargaze. Summer is best for this, as there are fewer clouds in the sky, and the Olympic Peninsula offers some of the most remote terrain.

Washington Elopement Packages

If you’re ready for your adventurous Washington elopement, contact me! As an elopement photographer, my job is to make sure you have the most incredible day ever. That includes finding the best places for you  to elope in Washington, making sure you get the right permits, he;lping you navigate marriage laws, making a timeline, and more.

Get in touch to talk about Washington elopement packages, and let’s start planning!

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