How to Elope in Washington
All Your Questions About Eloping in Washington are
Washington is undeniably one of the most beautiful places in the United States—from snow-capped mountain peaks to rugged coastline to alpine lakes to glaciers, it’s a little bit of everything and a whole-lotta magic.
Over the years, we’ve explored Washington again and again, each time finding ourselves absolutely blown away by its limitless beauty, its opportunity for endless adventure, and it’s epically diverse landscape. For these reasons—and so many more—we think that Washington is the perfect place to elope.
But here’s the deal about Washington—it has everything. We’re not kidding, it has everything (glaciers and backpacking and skiing and coastline and wildflower and fall colors). Ad while all of that freedom is absolutely amazing, it can also be absolutely overwhelming.
That’s where we come in.
We’ve included a few helpful tips here to assist you in narrowing down your Washington elopement location process. At the end of the day, there are no wrong answers or wrong locations—as long as you and your partner are doing everything in your power to make sure your elopement day in your elopement location is exactly what you want, you’re doing this whole elopement thing perfectly.
How to Plan a Washington Elopement
Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about eloping in Washington
First, do some research. Below, we’ve answered frequently asked questions about elopements, provided advice on choosing a location, and even how to personalize your own elopement planning checklist!
Second, connect with a photographer or planner who knows the area. Two of the photographers on our team (Maddie + Amber) live in Colorado full-time and know this area incredibly well – we can find just about any kind of environment, at any time of year, to fit whatever it is you’re currently imaging.
Third, narrow down the details of what you want – environment, time of day, season, activities, guest count, etc. We can absolutely help you out at this stage and give you our best advice to plan a stress-free wedding experience!
The good news is, we’ve been in your shoes. Not only have we helped hundreds of couples plan authentic, truly unique elopement adventures – each of us at Adventure Instead eloped ourselves! We know first hand how good it feels to get married by planning a day true-to-you, centered on your love for each other, and without the stress and chaos of a big wedding.
Washington Marriage Laws & Legalities
A few must-know details about eloping in Washington.
You’ll have to nail down a few other Washington-state-specific details for your elopement though — specifically about your marriage license and your ceremony requirements.
Washington has some specific marriage-related requirements you’ll want to know before you elope:
- Once you’ve been issued a marriage license, you’re required to wait three days before you can use it.
- Your marriage license is good for 60 days after its issued.
- You’ll need to apply for your marriage license in advance— you can do this either in person or by mail. Check out the form here.
- The marriage license will cost $67 and will require both of you to include a current photo ID.
- You need to have an officiant at your ceremony to marry you as well as two witnesses to sign your marriage certificate.
HAVE QUESTIONS? DON’T SWEAT IT!
If you want to elope in an amazing location but you’re not a huge fan of the marriage requirements or restrictions in that location,t hat doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t choose that area.
In fact, we can help you elope exactly the way you want, wherever you want.
For starters, you can either do the paperwork before or after your elopement ceremony — it’s okay to keep those two things separate.
Also, all three of us are ordained! If you want us to sign as your officiant, we’re legally able to do so.
Need some witnesses? We can help you spontaneously collect some on the day of or you can bring two friends along (hint: some states, like Colorado, even allow your pet to be a witness at your wedding).
We know this process can be confusing—that’s why we wrote up a how-to elope database (here!) To help you navigate the ins and outs of elopement logistics.
Find Your Perfect
Washington Elopement Location
Start finding the perfect elopement location with these helpful tools:
Eloping in Washington means you’re gifting yourself the opportunity to do almost anything. Washington has hugely diverse landscapes. From rugged beaches to alpine lakes to rain forests to secluded islands to snow-capped mountains — if you want it, Washington most likely has it.
If you’re ready to start really digging into Washington elopement research, we’re so jazzed for you. While we’d be thrilled to help you get the ball rolling, we know how fun it can be to do your own research. Check out a few of these super useful tools (many of which we use to find incredible elopement spots) to start checking out this gorgeous state.
- Social Media (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook—check ‘em all)
- Travel Guides (like Lonely Planet)
- 4×4 Road Maps
- Local Guides & Guiding Companies
- Google Tools (Google Earth Pro, Google Maps, Google Street View)
- Oregon-Based Hiking, Climbing, and Adventure Forums
When you choose to elope is totally up to you (like everything else on your just us day), but we will share that we think that the best Washington elopement weather is going to happen anywhere between June through September.
These summer months are the driest (Washington has a reputation for being a pretty wet state for most of the year) and typically have the most comfortable temperatures, too.
Although fall and winter elopements are definitely doable in Washington (we’ve had several couples choose these seasons and they’ve made for some dreamy experiences and photos), the weather is more unpredictable.
You might face super low temps, tons of rain, or even a snow dump on your special day — especially if you’re looking to elope at a higher altitude.
Create a Personalized
Elopement Planning Checklist
Your elopement is going to be your day – no one except you and your partner know what will make you happiest and feel most celebratory, so be honest with your expectations! Your elopement won’t look exactly like anyone else’s, and there’s no perfect checklist for planning such a personalized day. However, the following general elopement planning checklist can be curated to your particular needs – let us inspire you! After photographing hundreds of elopements, we have a general idea of what most people do in order to have a stress-free planning experience. Wherever you choose to elope, hopefully this guideline will help you get through the moments where it feels like you have a dozen things to do at once!
Pick a Date
This can be done before or after choosing a location, but the time of year you choose to elope will affect where you’ll want to say your vows and what activities you can do to celebrate! For example: eloping in Colorado in the fall means you can choose a location with gorgeous golden birch groves, but that same place will be a winter wonderland in February.
Choose a Location
As stated above, choosing a location can come before picking a date or after. For instance, maybe you saw an image of a mountaintop elopement that you knew immediately was the place you want to elope! Well, depending on where in the world that mountaintop is, you’ll want to choose a date based upon which season makes the trail most accessible.
Hire a Photographer
Ideally, this will actually get done before steps 1 or 2. We love the flexibility of working with couples who haven’t set a date or location yet because that means we can find a time within our schedules that works for both of us! However, if you’ve set your heart on a date and location already, please reach out! There’s always the chance we’re still available. We’re heartbroken to have to turn away couples because we’re already booked for their date, so the sooner you reach out the better!
Reach Out to Other Vendors
The best time to find florists, planners, caterers, officiants, or other vendors is after you’ve picked a date and location. Local vendors will often be your best bet if you’re traveling for your elopement (flying with a cake can get messy), but you should choose whichever vendors fit your vision!
We have a list of vendors we’ve worked with before who all do a stellar job of crafting details perfect for your elopement! Whether you’re keeping things simple, or if you want to personalize all possible details – there are elopement vendors for that.
Familiarize Yourself With Local Laws
Do you want to get legally married at your elopement? You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to check with the state you’re getting married in to attain a license, and determine if you’ll need witnesses or officiants. We are all ordained and in most states can legally sign your marriage certificate, but each state is different.
Depending on your location, you might need to acquire a special use permit. National parks, state parks, and other outdoors spaces are always going to be cheaper than a wedding venue – but they aren’t all free. We’ll help you navigate the world of permit requirements if you choose an applicable location.
Purchase or Rent Attire
Dress, suit, jumpsuit, or romper – what you can comfortably get married in will depend a lot upon your location! Choose a lightweight fabric if you’re getting married on a warmer day, pack some nude leggings to wear underneath your dress if it’s winter. You’ll also want to choose attire you can move in!
Collect Details You Want to Include
Jewelry, jackets, hair pieces, blankets, shoes, food, drinks etc. – The details of your elopement day are one of the best ways to really let your own unique style shine through! Everything present on the day of your wedding is something you want to be there, so take the time to include what means the most to you.
If you’re eloping just the two of you – a personal detail you might want to include is letters from family or friends. Some couples we’ve worked with have asked their loved ones to write notes, record videos, or share the day in some way without actually being present.
Have a Plan B
Look, we can’t control everything. We’ll do our best to guide you toward a date and time in a location that is most likely to have the weather you’re hoping for at your elopement. But, the fact is, storms happen. Even if Plan B is just bringing umbrellas, have an alternate plan in case the weather turns.
When we are location scouting, we can include a Plan B into our initial plan – just to be safe! It might be your second favorite trailhead just down the road, or a completely different day plan if the night before we decide the clouds rolling in are too ominous. We 100% support couples falling madly in love with their elopement plan, but we promise to always be optimistically flexible. Sometimes life just doesn’t go as planned, but you’re going to have a beautiful elopement no matter what!
The steps to
As elopement photographers & guides, we don’t just show up & shoot – we help you craft and plan your day from scratch – to make sure your elopement is an unforgettably authentic experience you’ll look back on for the rest of your life!
We found elopement planning is not a linear process with clear, consecutive steps. It happens in stages. As with climbing most mountains, there are many ways to the top – but if you feel lost you can download and follow this guide. LINK TO GUIDE
Here’s a little peek into some of the information provided in our Ultimate Planning Guide & Checklist:
All the best plans start with a quality brainstorming session!
One of the greatest things about eloping is that you can truly go to the most awe-inspiring places in the world to say your vows.
The goal of the dreaming and brainstorming stage is to form an overall vision for your day including a general area of the world and time of year you would like to elope.
Start by sitting down with your partner – some place comfortable – and imagine your perfect elopement day from start to finish.
Don’t get bogged down in details, what’s possible or not, or what’s realistic. It’s okay to keep your ideas vague! Have fun imagining all the possibilities.
For additional help and a list of things you should consider during this dreaming and brainstorming time – download our free Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist!
However fuzzy your vision is, it’s a great place to start! At some point during Stage 1 or Stage 2 is when most couples choose to contact us as elopement photographers and guides. We love helping couples turn their “fuzzy” vision into a concrete plan with our extensive travel knowledge, location suggestions, and planning tools!
RESEARCH & LOGISTICS
Once you’ve come up with the overall vision for your day, Stage 2 is all about digging deep into research and figuring out what’s feasible. Your goal with this research is to make your adventure elopement vision a reality in the best way possible. This will allow you to start finalizing details.
Just like with Stage 1, we suggest creating a relaxed and fun environment to enjoy this process. Sit on your patio or couch with your laptops or phones – or go hang out in the travel book section of a bookstore after a coffee date!
Some important questions to ask at this stage of planning:
- What are the local marriage laws and requirements?
- How accessible is your site? Do you need a permit to have a ceremony or photos taken there?
- What is the weather like? How do you need to prepare?
- What kind of activities do you want to do? Do you want to do some sort of celebratory meal/drink?
If you’ve had trouble with this stage or feel like you’ve gotten stuck – don’t be afraid to ask for help! It’s worth getting the right support to make your dream elopement day possible. For more information and other important logistics you should consider when planning your elopement day, download our free Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist!
As elopement photographers and guides – Stage 2 is where we tend to help couples the MOST with their elopement planning process. We absolutely love helping make your vision come to life!
MAKE SOME CHOICES & START BOOKING
Now that you’ve decided what is important to you and you’ve dug deep into research, it’s time to make some choices and start booking things! The goal of this stage isn’t to finalize every single detail – but to get the most important things into place so you can fill in the details from there (Stage 4.)
Start by picking your date and location. Consider what dates hold meaning for the two of you – then see what aligns! Does your date work with your dream lodging or location? Does it work for anyone joining you? Don’t forget to check for holidays and special events that may also affect your chosen elopement location.
For picking your spot, decide first on the general area you want to have your ceremony (so you can book travel and lodging). The exact spot where you stand to say your vows can be spontaneous and discovered on your day – or scouted just before!
Once you’ve nailed down your date, location, and booked lodging, the hardest and most pressing parts of your planning process are complete. Take a break to celebrate, tell your family and friends (if you want to), and start getting excited that you’re one step closer to your dream elopement day!
FINALIZE DETAILS & GET READY
You are in the final stages of your elopement planning process and it’s getting exciting! Stage 4 is all about filling in the details now that you have the main parts of your plan set in place.
There’s a lot of things to keep track of in this stage – so we’ve formatted it like a checklist! We suggest breaking up the many decisions into bite-size pieces. You can set due dates in your calendar, or keep a running to-do list.
Download our FREE Ultimate Elopement Planning Guide & Checklist so you can continue to plan your dream elopement and check items off as you go along!
A couple of things to think about in this stage:
- Gathering and purchasing your attire and accessories.
- Booking your vendors.
- Planning and booking any fun activities you’re doing on your day.
- Building your timeline and planning your ceremony for your day.
The day before your elopement, make sure to relax, take it easy, and go to bed early. You have an important day ahead of you!
HAVE THE BEST ELOPEMENT DAY!
You made it! All of your hard work brainstorming, researching, and planning is done. All that’s left is to enjoy the heck out of your elopement day!
Be present with your partner and let your emotions fly. Make sure you soak in every moment and enjoy the time spent together. Enjoy your relaxed timeline and don’t worry about how you look. Don’t stress— if you have a great experience together, great photos will follow.
When you return home, tell your friends and family! Have a party, barbecue, dinner, or reception surrounded by your loved ones. Consider ordering an album from your photographer so you can view the whole story of your day and relive the memories. Display your printed photos around your home to remind you of your perfect day.
YOU’VE DONE IT!
You’ve figured out how to elope –
now it’s time to plan your dream
No matter where you choose to elope, make the day about the two of you —pick the spot, the ceremony, the time, the season that means the most to you. Whether you want to find a spot all your own in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or any other area in the PNW (or beyond), we can help you get the plans for your adventurous just us elopement day rolling!
We’d love to help inspire your Washington elopement plans— reach out to chat with us about your Pacific Northwest elopement dreams!
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