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Eloping in Washington State: A Comprehensive Guide

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July 31, 2020

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Valerie Savercool

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Why should you consider a Washington elopement?

It’s no secret that we love helping couples plan elopements in the Pacific Northwest. You can get married in the PNW any time of year and in just about any type of scenery you can imagine. And as much as it feels like a betrayal for us (two born and bred Oregonians) to say this, Washington State is peak PNW vibes and a dream backdrop for an adventurous elopement. We moved to Washington this year for a reason, after all! Here are some of our favorite reasons to consider eloping here:

Reasons to elope in Washington:

THE WEATHER IS INCREDIBLE

No really – hear us out. Both summers and winters are beautiful and mild. You might have heard that it rains a lot in Washington, especially in Seattle. And while there are definitely plenty of days with gray, overcast skies, cloud cover and fog make for some epic moody lighting.

WASHINGTON WAS PRACTICALLY MADE FOR ADVENTUROUS HIKING ELOPEMENTS

Washington has three national parks and five national forests to explore. The state also features five active volcanoes, four of which have erupted within the last 250 years. I mean, what better way to kick off an incredible marriage than with an adventurous elopement on top of a volcano?

NOT INTO HIKING ON YOUR ELOPEMENT DAY? NO PROBLEM

There are so many other ways to experience Washington for your elopement. You can do a bike tour of the San Juan islands, eat your way through the streets of Seattle, go kayaking on one of the state’s many lakes, or do a helicopter tour through the mountains to get to the perfect, secluded ceremony location (without breaking a sweat).

HOW TO (LEGALLY) ELOPE IN WASHINGTON

GET YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE IN WASHINGTON STATE

1. Apply for your marriage license in any county in Washington – it does not need to be where you reside or where you will be getting married. Marriage license fees range by county but are between $60 and $70

2. There is a mandatory 3 day waiting period between when you can apply for your marriage license and when you can get married, so plan accordingly, especially if you are coming from out of state

3. Find an officiant and two witnesses to observe your ceremony

4. Your ceremony will need to be within 60 days of applying for your marriage license, and the signed forms will need to be returned within 30 days following your ceremony

Some counties even have fully online applications. To get this process started, click here

OR

DO THE LEGAL STUFF ON ANOTHER DATE

Complete all the legal paperwork either before or after your elopement ceremony. Many of our couples choose to do this so they don’t have to worry about jumping through all the legal hoops on the day of, particularly if Washington will be a destination elopement for them. This also opens up opportunities for couples to self-solemnize their own wedding (i.e. not have an officiant or any witnesses)

HIRE A BAD-ASS WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

That’s us! Plus, did you know that we’re legally ordained and can sign as your officiant and one of your witnesses? Or as both witnesses if you choose to have someone actually officiate your ceremony.

 DO YOU NEED A PERMIT TO ELOPE IN WASHINGTON?

Often the answer to this question is yes, especially in the national parks. We help our couples navigate the permitting process, but best practice in general is to get in touch with the Special Use office at the National Park, or the local ranger in charge of the area in which you want to elope to see what you need to do to get legally married in that area. Permits usually range from $100-$300 in National Parks. That’s much cheaper than a traditional venue, much cheaper than a fine (or being asked to leave) on your wedding day, and goes to support these beautiful places.

Click here to check out our Washington elopement packages

What time of year should you elope in Washington?

Ultimately, Washington has two distinct seasons – rainy season and summer. Winters are fairly mild at lower elevations, and summer temperatures rarely rise above 85°. However, just because it rains often doesn’t mean you can’t elope in the spring, fall, or winter. Fall in Washington offers an explosion of color, and winter offers many opportunities for snow in the Cascades.

It is important to note that if you intend to elope in the mountains or in the national parks, the best time of year for this is early July-September. Outside of this time frame, many of the trailheads and roads are covered in snow. But if you are looking for a snow-shoeing adventure to your elopement location, winter is perfect!

Top 10 places to elope in Washington State

1. MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK

2. NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK

3. OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

4. SEATTLE

5. MOUNT BAKER

6. GIFFORD PINCHOT NATIONAL FOREST

7. THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS

8. MOUNT SAINT HELENS

9. LEAVENWORTH

10. THE ENCHANTMENTS

Native land in Washington: an additional consideration

Part of how we can respect the beautiful landscapes that we get to enjoy is by making informed, socially conscious decisions about how and where we recreate (or marry).

There are 29 federally recognized Native American tribes located on reservations throughout the state of Washington. However, it’s important to remember that all land in the U.S. is stolen land.

Regardless of whether your chosen elopement location appears to be close to current-day native land, we recommend taking a look at a map of which tribe that area used to belong to, for a deeper appreciation of the history and cultural significance of the space.

Additionally, consider donating to the tribe native to that area.

Best places to stay in Washington for your elopement

Regardless of your exact elopement location, you’re going to need somewhere to stay and get ready. Washington has some of the coolest AirBNBs tucked throughout the state. From mountain cabins, waterfront houses, and – for real – treehouses, like real treehouses, that you can stay in, there is no shortage of epic getting ready spots for your elopement day. We’ve put together a few of our favorite finds on AirBNB, many of which are dog friendly! Click here to check them out.

ARE YOU READY TO GET STARTED PLANNING YOUR OWN EPIC ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT IN WASHINGTON?

We can’t wait to get started helping you make all your wedding dreams come true. With 3 years of practice helping guide couples in crafting their perfect wedding day experience, we’ve got all the tools you need to make your dreams a reality. We’re ready to help you pick the best, unique location, connect you with local vendors, and create an adventure-filled and stress-free day. All you have to do is have an amazing time together and get married! We can’t wait to be your elopement photographer and wander with you.

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