From dreaming up the vision, to weather and time of year, to vendors and timeline construction! I like to keep things straight forward, so let’s dive into the what, who, where, when and how of having a Mount Rainier Elopement.
What’s up! Meet your friendly, neighborhood Mount Rainier Elopement photographer (that’s me).
To start, I grew up only 2 hours away from Mount Rainier. It’s basically my backyard, so I like to think I know the area pretty well. In the summer, I enjoy hiking there for fun with my friends or with my couples on their special day. Either way, I’m happy as a clam.
I started adventure elopement photography a few years ago and immediately fell in love with how it mixes my favorite kinds of photography, adventure in landscapes and love.
The first thing I ask my couples, is what do you want your wedding day to look like? Ask yourself and be honest, what is that you really want your elopement to look and feel like? Take a moment to really imagine it and talk it over with your boo.
Do you want to hike for sunset views as the sky turns colors above Washington’s most iconic mountain? Would you enjoy throwing on headlamps, hike for sunrise, and meet your family at an AirBnB? Or you could say your vows at an old fire lookout and meet up with your family at a cozy cabin. Really, anything is possible.
The whole premise behind having an adventure elopement is that you get to do whatever you want. Those are just a bunch of ideas and things I’ve witnessed over time as an elopement photographer, and your answer will dictate how we go about planning your Mount Rainier elopement. When you allow yourself to dream up of what you really want, the possibilities are endless.
If you want to hike, you may want to consider your guest list’s physical ability, which makes for a great transition to…
Generally, I consider elopements to be less than about 25 people. Anything beyond that, and you start to lose the ability to have a ceremony with ease inside one of Washington’s iconic National Parks.
If you check out Mount Rainier National Park’s website, you’ll see that party size determines which locations maybe used for wedding ceremonies. Up to a dozen guests can basically have their ceremony anywhere, including some trails and other areas of the park. With up two dozen guests, you start to lose the ability to have everyone go on a trail, and might be restricted to road side locations and amphitheaters. Check out what the national park said for themselves about it here!
If you want it to be just the two of you, that’s totally cool, I’m a huge fan of intimate, quiet ceremonies. If you want your mom, your goofy uncle Steve and a couple roommates from college to be there, that’s fine too. It’s all about what you two want around here.
So here’s some questions you may want to ask yourself when determining your guest list;
-Who’s made a large, positive impact on your life, or your relationship?
-Is there anyone that you’re concerned would steal the show or make it about them? You don’t have to invite or include anyone.
-Who do you know that’d be genuinely happy to see you get married (no matter the circumstances)?
From there, you can get a solid idea of who you want to be present for your wedding.
Mount Rainier National Park covers about 369 square miles, pretty big, right? For all of my couples, I provide custom location lists and scouting for their ceremony location based on what they’re looking for.
In my experience, there’s 3 major areas that people choose to elope or have their ceremony in. On the northern side of the mountain, there’s Sunrise Visitor Center. On the southern side is Paradise/Henry Jackson Visitor Center, and on the southeastern side connecting these two places is the Tipsoo Lake area. Beyond that, there’s a few hikes that are outside the park with incredible views of Rainier.
The Tipsoo Lake and Paradise areas have the best walk-up locations that are perfect for hosting guests that may not be the hiking type, or require certain accessibility (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). Perfect for micro-weddings, intimate weddings, elopements with family, whatever you want to call them!
Paradise/Henry Jackson Visitor Center area is a fairly accessible area of the park with great views, paved trails, and hikes in every direction. And the road is also plowed year round, making fall/winter access easy, just bring chains!
The Sunrise Visitor Side also features stunning hikes and views of the mountain. No surprise here, the Sunrise side holds true to it’s name because the sunrises are insane. On a clear morning, Rainier will light up in beautiful shades of pinks and oranges; also known as alpenglow. It’s only open from about late July into September, so it’s not as accessible as Paradise, but it’s entirely worth the payoff.
Summer is the peak visitor season in the park, and for good reason! With much more stable weather conditions, the chances of clouds or rain are much lower. But to be completely honest though – cloudy, moody weather is still possible. It is the Pacific Northwest, after all. Late July is usually when the snowmelt has completed, and the wildflowers start to come out and bloom.
On Friday and Saturday afternoons, visitation time peaks; which can cause traffic jams at the entrances. Additionally, it can hinder your ability to really have privacy during your ceremony. Which is exactly why I’m a huge fan of mid-week elopements! The park gets much quieter, especially around sunrise and sunset. And typically, there’s much more flexibility with Mount Rainier Elopement Permits and ceremony locations to choose from.
In the fall, visitor counts start to drop, the colors start to turn in the park, and so does the weather. It basically turns into a typical, moody Pacific Northwest dream. At this point, the road to Sunrise Visitor Center has likely closed. On the Paradise/Henry Jackson Visitor Center side, snowfall begins to happen more frequently.
In the winter, it’s a beautiful, winter wonderland with temperatures almost always below 40 degrees. So be sure to bring hand warmers, a base layer, and a jacket. The road to Paradise is still plowed, so snowshoeing and eloping is still perfectly possible. The weather in the spring and winter is a little less predictable, but I’ve gotten pretty good at checking the forecast and understanding how the mountain works. Basically, you want to check the forecast surrounding your elopement date/time along with the date/time. For example, if your ceremony is at 5 PM on Tuesday, you’ll want to check the morning weather and evening weather. Wind can bring in cloud coverage, fog and rain pretty quickly when you’re busy having fun.
In this section we’re going to go over the legalities of pulling this off. However it’s actually not as scary as it sounds.
First, you want to make sure you have your date, ceremony location, and guest list pinned down. According to Mt Rainier’s website, you need to apply at least 4 weeks ahead of the requested date. On their site, they provide specific instructions (like email address and the permit itself) on how to proceed. It costs $60.
If you want to legally become married on your elopement day, you can apply for your marriage license with Pierce County (which Mt. Rainier resides in). You can find that here;
Additionally, you can consider the marriage license a paperwork thing and leave it for another time. Or if you’re travelling from out of town, it’s totally okay to leave that for something at home. Some couples get married in a court house, and still have an epic elopement. It’s all about what YOU TWO WANT.
I give all of my eloping couples help with timeline construction. This helps all of them relax, knowing that there’s structure to their day without having to worry about what happens next. Everyone I’ve worked with has wanted those epic sunset/sunrise photos, so it’s only natural that almost all of my timelines have been built around sunset or sunrise.
After we work on your custom questionnaire and get a pretty good vision for how your Mt. Rainier Elopement will look, I’ll put together a draft timeline to send over for your approval. If you don’t like it or think it needs to be adjusted, just let me know and we can tweak it until it work. I always pad timelines as well in case something comes up or doesn’t go as planned.
Here’s an example of a real timeline I put together for Tara & Jeffrey’s Mt. Rainier Elopement.
Okay, first moves on you. Fill out my inquiry/contact form and provide all the details you can. I’ll respond ASAP about your Mount Rainier Elopement and schedule a phone call to make sure we’re a perfect fit. We’ll set up a custom package just for you, and be good to go!
Plan for Adventure; we start dreaming and bring all the details of your perfect Mount Rainier Elopement to life. I send over a personalized questionnaire, custom location list, and vendor recommendations that match your vision.
All the magic comes together here and I will be there for you every. Single. Step. Of. The. Way.
Whether it’s the announcement to your family, finding a place to eat, timeline construction, figuring out permits, or where to stay, I GOTCHU.
We all show up, have the time of our lives, become best friends, and live life happily ever after. Yep, just like that.