August 18, 2021
Considering eloping in Washington state? Woohoo! I may be biased, but you’ve made the best choice. Washington is truly one of the most amazing states and is the dream for any sort of outdoor adventure elopement. If you’re ready to find out how to elope in Washington, here are the 10 most important steps to follow, based on all my Washington elopement experience!
1. Choose your location
First, is one of the most fun parts of planning an adventure elopement: choosing your location.
The location of your elopement plays a huge role in how your elopement day goes. It sets the mood, impacts the weather, and most importantly, can add a ton of meaning to your big day.
For example, if you and your partner have a favorite spot to hike: elope there.
In fact, maybe there’s a spot you’ve always dreamed of visiting together or the place that you got engaged in & that now means the world to you.
Or hey – maybe you both just feel the most at peace in the mountains (same) and want to feel that way on your elopement day.
There are so many ways your elopement location will bring meaning to your day. So let’s go through some of the best places to elope in Washington, and you can start narrowing down your perfect location!
If you know me or are at all familiar with my work, you probably know that Mount Rainier is truly my happy place. It’s where I feel most at home, where I’m able to hike and enjoy the outdoors, and where I can be present in nature. That means it’s also my absolute favorite place to take my couples.
I love this park because it not only offers the most epic mountain views but also provides a ton of variety location-wise. It’s really a place you can never get tired of, and that you’ll never be able to finish exploring!
I’ve got a whole article for my couples on the Best Places to Elope at Mount Rainier National Park, where I go into a tonnnn of location details. But for now, I’ll go over a few of my favorite spots in the park!
The Paradise side of the park is named pretty dang accurately – it’s a wildflower paradise, the one you probably see in photos of Rainier most often. This part of the park is filled with lush greenery, wildflower meadows, and alpine basins to die for.
If you’d rather elope at a location with a more barren, epic tundra landscape, the Sunrise side of the park would be for you! It’s got just as epic of views, but with more of an open, dry vibe than the luscious meadows of Paradise.
Mount Rainier Elopement Inspiration
If you want to check out some more real-life elopement inspiration at Rainier, take a look at the galleries below!
- Rainy Mountain Elopement at Packwood, WA Airbnb | Mt. Rainier
- Cara + Zach’s Mount Rainier Adventure Elopement
If you think of the Washington coast when you think of a Washington elopement, then Olympic National Park might be the right location for you instead of Rainier!
Olympic National Park is more of a trek from Washington & Oregon’s major cities, but it is so dang worth it. The park is actually filled with not only stunning coastal spots but also luscious rainforests, lakes, & waterfalls!
Ruby Beach is my favorite beach on the Washington coast for its super beautiful sunsets, moody PNW vibes, and amazing rock formations. It’s a far drive from anywhere in Washington, which is why I suggest making a beach camping trip out of your elopement if you choose to elope here. However, you get to sleep under the stars + don’t have to drive a ton of hours in one day roundtrip – win-win!
And be sure to check out the two galleries below for Ruby Beach elopement inspiration:
- Olympic National Park Elopement at Marymere Falls & Ruby Beach
- Talon + Payton’s Romantic Ruby Beach Anniversary Pictures
The Hoh Rain Forest is an absolutely incredible rainforest location inside of Olympic National Park. It’s filled with lush green canopy, unique tree & root formations, and moss + ferns everywhere. This rainforest is seriously a dream location for a forest elopement, especially if you also want access to beaches nearby!
Lake Crescent is a lake inside of Olympic National Park that’s easy to access & provides beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains. For instance, the lake has a dock you can walk out on to be near the water, and has got pretty green trees lining the water – perfect for if you want water access + to be near the trees!
And Lake Crescent also provides access to the Marymere Falls trailhead, which leads to a super beautiful waterfall inside the forest. This is the perfect area for any couple who wants to be by the water and get mountain views but also hike & say your vows in front of an epic waterfall!
2. Pick a season
After choosing your perfect elopement location, you’ll need to decide what season you want to elope in. There are a few things you’ll want to consider when it comes to picking a time of year for your elopement.
4 things to consider:
The first obvious one is the weather. Pick a season that you know you’ll be comfortable in and you’ll be able to feel your best self in.
For instance, if you hate the cold and despise snow, probably don’t pick winter, or late fall/early spring depending on your elopement location. If you can’t stand being sweaty & really don’t want to sweat through your expensive outfits, avoid the middle of summer and places with dry heat.
We want you to feel 100% like your best self on your elopement day, not be irritated by the weather or upset if the weather doesn’t go as planned. Being in the PNW, rain is always a possibility no matter how sunny the forecast is – so I always like my couples to be ready to make the best of whatever we get hit with.
Make sure you read this article on Dealing with Inclement Weather at Your Session or Elopement for my best tips on preparing for & making the best out of any weather!
You’ll also need to consider what sort of crowds there may be at your location during certain times of the year. For example, summertime at Mount Rainier National Park is typically the best season for mountain elopements, since there’s less snow at low elevations and warmer temperatures. However, that also means that more people visit Rainier at that time, therefore making locations busier.
If you’re fine with that, great! But I know that some couples want to keep their elopement as private and intimate as possible, and may not want 50 people nearby to hear their vows.
Fortunately, since I know the locations mentioned above so well, I do know more secret, non-touristy locations that we can hit up for your elopement.
If you do choose a more popular location, here are two ways you can try to avoid crowds:
- Elope at sunrise instead of sunset
- Elope on a weekday
3. Road + trail conditions
Since we are in the PNW, a lot of the beautiful locations you’re considering for your elopement will likely be affected by snow, rain, and cold weather come late fall/winter/early spring. That means that often during colder seasons, certain roads and trails might be impacted by snow or ice.
You can stay up to date on road + trail statuses through the National Park Service’s website (see below), and I also recommend having a couple of backup locations just in case the weather changes last-minute!
4. Leaving No Trace
Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind how you’ll Leave No Trace with your elopement in the season you choose. If you’re not familiar with the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, they’re guidelines to follow to minimize your impact on the environment when spending time outdoors.
I have a whole article on How to Leave No Trace with Your Mountain Wedding at Mt. Rainier that I highly recommend you read while planning your elopement, even if you’re not eloping at Rainier. I’m incredibly passionate about leaving locations exactly as (or even better) we found them, so no matter your elopement location or season, we’ll be putting these principles into practice.
Make sure that when choosing your season, you keep these principles in mind! For example, if you’re eloping in the summer, there will likely be lots of tourists around that aren’t following these principles. If you see tourists walking on the wildflowers, will you be tempted to follow them for the pretty photos? If it’s rainy and you bring your dog along, will you still be ready to pick up your dog’s waste on the wet ground? Be realistic about these things & plan ahead for what leaving no trace at your location + in your elopement season will look like.
3. Hire your Washington elopement photographer
After picking your location & season, it’s time to hire your Washington elopement photographer!
To get an idea of what the process of working with me as your elopement photographer looks like, check out this article. It outlines what it’s like having me by your side as your photographer, so you can get a feel for whether or not we’re the perfect fit!
Take a look at my elopement packages below to choose what the right package is for your day:
And after that, reach out to me here so we can start planning your dream Washington elopement!
4. Choose your date
Wondering why I’m telling you to choose your date after hiring your photographer, instead of after picking your season? This is because it can be easier to get your dream elopement photographer if you choose a date based on not only your availability but also theirs.
Elopement photographers book dates far in advance, and weekends book up much quicker than weekdays. If you want to make sure you get your dream photographer, hire them based on their availability within the season you want to elope!
5. Hire the rest of your vendors
Now, it’s time to hire the rest of your dream team of professionals who will bring your elopement day together!
Take a look at this article if you’re wondering How Much Does it Cost to Elope in Washington State, and for a list of my favorite Washington wedding vendors – from florists to officiants to planners & more. In fact, these are all vendors I’ve worked with in the past & trust to give my couples amazing experiences!
6. Get your marriage license
This can be one of the more boring parts of elopement planning, but it’s essential: getting your marriage license. Marriage license requirements vary depending on the county you live in as well as where you’ll be eloping, so I can’t give you any specific details.
However, I do recommend doing this as early on as possible. That way, you’re not rushing to do it last-minute only to realize you won’t get it in time!
Head to this website & find the link to your county to learn about how to get your marriage license.
7. Apply for your permits
Along the same lines, you’ve gotta apply for + obtain your necessary location permits. If you’re eloping in a national park, this is important to make sure you get married legally within the park.
This is another step you NEED to do as far in advance as possible, as park offices can easily get backed up and permits can take a while to be approved, sent, and obtained.
You can find a full list of Rainier’s permits and passes here, but the main one you need to pay attention to for your elopement at Mount Rainier is the special use permit.
Here are the restrictions & conditions of this special use permit, according to the park’s website:
“Party size determines which locations may be used for wedding ceremonies.
- 1-12 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include select trails, picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters.
- 13-24 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include picnic areas, roadside locations, and campground amphitheaters.
- 25-60 participants: may use certain pre-determined locations, which may include roadside locations and campground amphitheaters.
- 60 + participants: may use campground amphitheaters.
Ceremonies may not:
- Impede the activities of other park visitors.
- Areas may not be roped off or blocked in any way to the general public.
- Modest decorations may be allowed (additional permissions required).
- Additional permissions are required for professional photography/videography; please include photographer contact information in the application form.
- The setting up of chairs, tents, or awnings is not permitted.
- Throwing of rice, confetti, etc. is not allowed.”
Most importantly, you’ll need to apply for this permit well ahead of time (at least four weeks before your requested date, but I recommend doing it as far ahead of time as possible) by completing this form and emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Olympic National Park, you’ll also need to get a Special Use Permit & allow at LEAST 3-4 weeks for processing.
To do this, download and fill out the permit application. Then, send the completed application along with the $50 non-refundable application fee via check (made payable to the National Park Service) to the address below:
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Ave.
Port Angeles, WA 98362
If your application is approved, you’ll receive a permit that you’ll then need to sign & return for final approval. After that, you’ll receive your official permit and you’ll be ready to go!
8. Book a place to stay
Once it’s getting closer to your date, you’ll need to book a place to stay. Most importantly, I always recommend that my couples make a trip out of their elopement and find a great place to stay for a few nights, rather than just the night of their elopement. It makes for a much more memorable time together, and gives you the chance to explore without being rushed!
Check out this article for the Top Western Washington Airbnbs for an Intimate Airbnb Wedding for some awesome places to stay. And keep reading for a few specific places near Rainier & Olympic NP!
Where to stay in/near Mount Rainier National Park
Where to stay in/near Olympic National Park
9. Plan your activities + timeline
Now, time for some more fun stuff. You need to plan out your elopement activities and timeline!
This is when you get to come up with what you want to do on your elopement day (or the day surrounding your elopement). Think outside of the box: consider what would make your day the most memorable, the most YOU, and the most special for you both.
Here’s a list to get your brainstorming started:
- Go swimming in Marymere Falls or Lake Crescent at the end of the night
- Take a canoe/kayak/paddleboard out on Lake Crescent
- Hike through the Hoh Rain Forest
- Camp at a campground near Ruby Beach & end the day over a campfire with beer + s’mores
- Go on a sunrise hike at Mount Rainier to get that epic alpenglow
- Take a sunset walk on Ruby Beach
- End the day with a bubble bath in your cute Airbnb
- Hit up a local restaurant, bar, or brewery for dinner + drinks
10. Do the dang thing
And finally, the day is here: it’s time to celebrate!
Take it all in, do your best to be present, and stay in the moment. Don’t worry about photos – that’s what I’m here for. Enjoy the time with your partner and breath in the nature around you, wherever you choose to have your adventure elopement!
I can’t wait to help you create the most memorable elopement experience ever.