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A complete, detailed guide on how to elope in Washington state. Included is everything a couple needs to know. From location, what it means to elope in Washington state, officiants for their elopement, and more!
There are a ton of decisions to be made while planning a Washington State Elopement. So it can seem stressful! Below is a simple overview of what you need to get started.
Okay, to be honest, there’s a lot more tiny steps to eloping in Washington state. But that’s the overall gist of it, and I’m here to help you every step of the way in between then and now. Together, we’ll go over a personalized questionnaire to make sure you have a handcrafted eloping experience, and I know exactly where you’re at and how to help you the most. Together, we’ll cover topics like dress and suits/attire, vow books, setting up your ceremony, a timeline, whatever you need.
Here’s a more in depth look into how to elope in Washington State;
Washington is known for it’s mountains, rugged coastlines, and evergreen trees. Tons of couples come from out of state just to elope in Washington, and I’m going to break down each of the top locations.
A Washington state elopement guide is incomplete without at least mentioning Mount Rainier, but that’s not even it’s original name! According to the U.S. Department of Interior, “several Native American tribes called the mountain variations of Tacoma or Tahoma, which means ‘the source of nourishment from the many streams coming from the slopes.”
I also think it’s important to speak on it’s importance to Native American tribes, six of which share history with Mount Rainier. More from the U.S. department of interior, “The Nisqually, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Muckleshoot, Yakama, and Cowlitz all maintain relations with the park. Archaeological evidence traces indigenous use of this region back 9,000 years. For years, the park has reserved special areas for Native American Rituals and worship. This process provides spiritual and cultural resources to the current generations, linking today’s tribal members to their ancestors, who lived in the shadow of the mountain for millennia.”
It includes EVERYTHING you need to know and show cases a ton of Mount Rainier’s beauty.
Check out my more in depth guide of eloping at Mount Rainier here! It includes EVERYTHING you need to know and show cases a ton of Mount Rainier’s beauty.
Bordering Canada and roughly 2 hours from Seattle is Washington’s North Cascades National Park. With over 300 jagged glaciers to view, there are literal mountains everywhere you turn. North Cascades National Park covers over 505,000 acres, and has earned it’s nickname of the North American Alps.
For eloping in North Cascades National Park, the best time of year is late July through October. Due to it’s elevation and how far north it is, a lot of snow doesn’t clear and high ways don’t get plowed until July.
You can apply for a wedding permit here. There’s a $50 non-refundable Application Fee.
While places like Artist Point and Diablo Lake are phenomenal walk-up ceremony locations, the North Cascades is also ideal for hiking adventure elopements.
An hour and a half north of Seattle, Deception Pass State Park is Washington’s most visited state park. The waters of Deception Pass are where Skagit Bay meet the Pacific Ocean. Showing off features such as dense forestry meeting rugged cliffs and coast line, it’s truly a spectacular option for eloping.
For eloping, Deception Pass shines in it’s ability for walk-up locations. Perfect for intimate weddings or eloping with family and friends. Check out more on eloping with friends and family here!
Due to it’s stunning, ocean views – it’s best to plan the ceremony at sunset. Especially for those golden, iconic, west coast vibes!
Couples planning their elopement can apply for their permit here!
Only about an hour drive into the cascade mountains, east of Seattle, is Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Stretching beyond 140 miles along the Cascade range from the Canadian border down to Mount Rainier National park, it’s one of the most popular locations to elope in Washington state.
Featuring stunning hikes, walk-up locations, waterfalls, alpine lakes and mountains everywhere – you can’t go wrong.
The best time of year to elope in Mt-Baker Snoqualmie National Forest is June through October. It’s elevation is lower than other mountain ranges in Washington, so snow melt occurs sooner.
To apply for your wedding (special use permit), couples can go here!
The best part? DOGS ARE ALLOWED! According to the Forest Service, “National Forest guidelines require that dogs be on a six-foot leash at all times when it developed recreational areas and on interpretive trails. There is no leash requirements for most of the forest.”
To start, Gold Creek Pond’s name is deceiving. As soon as you arrive or see pictures of it, you’ll see it’s actually a beautiful alpine lake.
Easily one of the most iconic, popular locations for Washington State elopements. It’s only an hour away from Seattle, has a large parking lot, and the main view point is only a 4 minute walk from the parking lot. Trust me, I’ve timed it.
Due to it’s accessibility and popularity, Gold Creek Pond can get pretty busy on weekends. There are picnic tables and a trail that goes around the pond, making it an easy and relaxing set up with an adventurous vibe.
For popular locations and sites such as Gold Creek Pond, I always suggest my couples plan a week day elopement. Wedding vendors are typically more available, you’ll get much more privacy for your vows, and you won’t have to fight over the best spot!
Another iconic location for Seattle locals and tourists is Franklin Falls. It’s extremely popular for hikers and beginner hikers, because it’s only 2 miles round trip with 364 feet of elevation gain. It’s only an hour away from Seattle, so any afternoon you can find tons of people enjoying this easy hike with a huge pay off!
For complete transparency, it’s a busy location due to the aforementioned reasons. To ensure privacy during an elopement ceremony, I’d strongly suggest planning a sunrise, weekday elopement. Afterwards, you’ll have the entire day to celebrate however you want to!
A little bit closer to Seattle than Franklin Falls and Gold Creek Pond is Rattlesnake Lake and Rattlesnake Ridge. The lake is at the base of the ridge, and the trailhead is just a couple hundred feet from the lake. In the winter and spring, it’s common for the lake the flood. But at the end of summer and mid fall, the lake bed dries up giving it a Mars-like scenery.
The lake itself is similar to Gold Creek Pond, in that it’s only a minute or two away from the parking lot. Since the trail is also nearby, it’d be perfect for an accessible ceremony at the lake, then an adventure to the ridge for killer sunset photos!
One of the best places to elope in Washington state is Olympic National Park. Sprawling and covering the majority of Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula is Olympic National Park, covering 1,442 square miles. It includes several different eco systems and locations to elope. Featuring a rugged coast line, a large rainforest broken into multiple spots, and mountain ranges as far as the eye can see.
You can see the Olympic mountains from Seattle, and the park is about 2-4 hours from Seattle depending on where you go.
Eloping couples can find their wedding permit page here!
The best time to elope in the mountains is late July through early October. If you’re looking at the rainforest or rugged coast, you can push it as early as March or April; but the best weather is always in the summer months.
Featuring soft sand, rocks to climb and walk on, and piles of washed up logs – there’s a ton of fun and exploration to be had at Ruby beach. An incredible spot for photography since there’s so much to work with, sunsets here are perfect.
One of my absolute favorite locations in the world, and to shoot elopements in – the Olympic rainforest. It’s isolation in location creates an incredibly peaceful drive, and provides privacy for exchanging vows. The hanging moss and dense flora on the forest floor soaks up sound, and the second you leave the parking lot you’re filled with peace and serenity.
Sitting above Port Angeles is Hurricane Ridge. It’s a fairly accessible location with a visitor’s center and a highway leading up to it. It’s only a 40 minute drive from Port Angeles, making it a perfect location to elope in Washington State.
Since the mountains are typically covered in snow until July, the best time to elope at Hurricane Ridge would be July through late September or early October.
An honorable mention is Lake Cushman in Olympic National Forest. It’s a only an hour and 45 minute drive from Seattle. It’s fairly accessible all year round, but the lake bed dries up in the fall making for some rad stumps to hangout with!
Yes, you can elope in the city! Seattle is an incredible town with a ton of potential for urban elopements. You’d be able to explore the city, check out Pike’s Place Market, the first Starbucks ever, and really get a feel for the largest city in Washington.
Technically in Oregon, The Columbia River Gorge is worth mentioning simply because it’s beautiful and borders Washington. About 3 and a half hours from Seattle, and only an hour from Portland (where the major airports are), it features stunning cliffsides, open fields, blooming wildflowers and hikes everywhere!
On a very basic level, all you need in Washington state is an officiant, two witnesses, a ceremony and a marriage license/certificate. However, I’m a firm believer that elopements deserve to be celebrated and special just as much as a traditional wedding. At the end of the day, you’re getting frickin’ married and that’s a huge mile stone – there isn’t a doubt in my mind that you deserve to make it special, and have it documented.
An officiant is somebody that’s ordained, and will perform the ceremony. Getting ordained is actually a really easy process, and here’s a link to get ordained!
Your officiant could be somebody you hire, it could be a close friend, a family member, basically anyone that strikes your fancy. It’s becoming more and more popular for couples to have a close family member or friend officiate their ceremony, and I think that’s a great way to keep things simple, and meaningful.
Your witnesses can be anyone that isn’t the officiant. If you’re having friends or family attend your wedding, it can be any two of them. If you’re having a smaller ceremony, it could be me and a nearby hiker. A witness could be a waiter at the restaurant you visit afterwards, there’s no rules!
Tara signed her marriage certificate on the front of her husband’s truck in Mount Rainier National Park, with their officiant by their side.
Marriage licenses in Washington state are given and handled based on what county you’ll be getting married in. So if you’re getting married in Seattle, you’ll want to apply through King county. Here’s a link!
Most counties have the same guidelines to their marriage licensing. A 3 day waiting period to use it, and a 30-60 day expiration.
Because the basic needs of getting married are so small in Washington, it means you can get really creative with having your wedding, your way. You can save a ton of money from avoiding venue and catering costs, and use it to invest in a meaningful experience that you’ll love forever.
You could hike in Mt. Rainier National Park, take a seaplane onto Ross Lake in the North Cascades, stay at a lodge in Olympic National Park. The options are endless, and this is a day that’s all about YOU!
The amount it costs to elope in Washington state, or elope anywhere, is that it varies a bit with a few different factors coming into play. Technically, you could get married at a courthouse for the cost of a marriage license at about $50-$100. However, let’s be real, you deserve to have a kickass wedding – especially when you’re having an elopement or a small wedding.
Here’s a breakdown of the costs you can expect for eloping;
This isn’t a 100% definitive answer, you can cut things out if you need to like travel & accommodations and hair & makeup and do them at home if you live in Washington. Or, you can also spend a lot more than this if you add additional photography coverage, hire a videographer, add a small venue to your elopement ($1,500-$7,000), hire an event planner ($2,000), book some luxurious lodging, etc.
Since the majority of the elopements I shoot are in a National Park or National Forest, you can almost guarantee that you’re cutting costs on a venue though.
For all of my elopements, I basically act like the planner. I provide total hands on guidance for anything you need. Vendor recommendations, timeline construction, you name it and I’m there to help. All of my Washington State Elopement Packages include my guidance, so you’ll never feel like you’re on your own. I gotchu.
The answer to this question depends on where you’re looking. Generally speaking, an elopement package is a product or service that an elopement vendor is providing in an all inclusive cost. In this scenario, since I’m an elopement photographer and guide, I’m going to be giving a break down of my elopement packages.
Other examples of elopement packages can come from videographers, venues, officiants, and other common wedding vendors. A couple should expect that the package includes everything they need from that vendor. For example, a venue may include the venue, an officiant, a photographer, and a timeline. A videographer may include time on site, editing, and a final video of a certain length.
The cool part about my packages is that they all include everything a couple needs to elope.
Starting at $3,600
The short answer – yes. The average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $33,900 according to CNBC. COVID certainly changed things in 2020, bringing the average cost down to about $20,000. Which is most likely because guest counts dropped significantly, and venues and catering were both significantly less expensive because of that.
As a direct comparison, the average cost of a wedding in 2019 was $21,700 more than the top cost ($12,200) I listed above. In 2020, the difference was $7,800. To put that in perspective, that’s a down payment on a house, a new car, or an entire honeymoon.
YES! It is 100% okay to elope then have a party or reception. Almost all of my couples that have gone with my Washington State Elopement Packages have done this.
This is a very easy way to save money, spread out your budget, and still celebrate a huge milestone with your friends and family. There is absolutely nothing wrong or selfish about it. Your true friends and family members will love you and be happy for you getting married in a way that’s important to you!
You can also have a meaningful, deep vow-sharing experience in the privacy of an elopement, and alleviate the pressure of sharing vows in front of loved ones. Essentially, you could have two ceremonies! One for just the two of you, and one for friends and family as well.
First off, the definition of eloping has changed a TON over the last few years. It used to mean that couples ran away to Vegas without notice, or just have a cheap shotgun wedding. But that’s changed!
At the end of the day, you’re getting freaking married, and that’s worth an incredible experience.
After photographing weddings and elopements, I’ve come to my own definition of having an elopement. It isn’t black and white, and there’s no hard line in the sand.
Eloping or having a micro-wedding, intimate wedding, or destination wedding – is just as meaningful and valuable as any other kind of wedding.
It doesn’t have to fit into any kind of box. You don’t have to have a party, or a huge venue, or tons of people there. You’re allowed to do whatever the hell you want, and THAT means it’s YOUR wedding, YOUR WAY! Which is a truly special experience.
Want to know how to elope in Oregon? Check out this blog post!