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Orcas Island Wedding & Ross Lake Elopement
Lizzie & Pitor
You have six weeks to plan a wedding, acquire all the details, book accommodations, and make it perfect. What do you do? Well, Lizzie & Piotr took that time and planned a float plane ride to a mountain lake, a hike to an overlook, a delicious mountain picnic, and an island weekend complete with a family dinner reception. They redefined “making the most of it” and their epic Orcas Island wedding is one we’ll always look back on with admiration. Keep reading to learn more about how to plan an elopement on Orcas Island, how to get to Ross Lake by float plane, and see images from this epic elopement adventure!
Plan a Wedding on Orcas Island
Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands in Washington state. You can reach it by ferry from Anacortes, take a seaplane, or sail from harbors all across the Washington coast. It’s a lush green place, sparsely populated, with cute modest houses and lots of outdoor recreation. Olga, Doe Bay, and Deer Harbor are three beaches and tiny towns known for their artistry and history. It’s the perfect place to explore for a few days and home-base if you want to experience the natural beauty of the San Juan Islands.
The food on Orcas Island is incredible! There are abundant farm to table restaurants and fresh seafood available all seasons. Summer is significantly more busy, with visitors flocking to the trails and beaches, arriving by packed ferries a dozen times each day. The number of year-round residents is small compared to the foot traffic, but that’s the case for all the San Juan Islands. To really get a feel for island life in Washington, you should visit in the off-season where the beaches are quiet and the winters are much less harsh than you’d expect.
If you’re planning an elopement on Orcas Island, start by finding a cozy rental! There are dozens to choose from with balconies overlooking the ocean, and many have forested land or beach access that would make an ideal spot for a first look. For the ceremony, you can stick to the beaches or climb Mount Constitution, which is the tallest point in the San Juans. Overlook the dozens of Washington state and Canadian islands, the gorgeous waters of the Puget Sound, and get married in a truly Pacific Northwest environment. On a clear day you can see Mt. Baker off in the distance! Even if you’re not going to get married on Orcas, it’s a beautiful location to retreat to after an adventurous elopement.
The only ways to get to Orcas Island are by water, or air. From the island, you could take a floatplane up and explore the other islands from the air, or venture further off to discover an inland body of water. That’s exactly what Lizzie and Piotr did for their elopement – they hopped on a place and went to venture around Ross Lake in the North Cascades, before coming back to Orcas the evening of their elopement.
Ross Lake Elopement via Floatplane
Lizzie began her morning in Seattle, where she got her hair and makeup done by Geraldine Gigi Legaspi and Vina Gisella. before boarding a floatplane to Orcas Island. It was a crisp, cool autumn morning and the first flight of the day was stunning – Lizzie was so excited to spot a whale from the window of the plane! When she arrived at the dock and stepped off the plane, she was absolutely stunning. Piotr was standing there to meet her, holding flowers. She and Piotr shared a sweet first look on the dock, then got back into the plane and headed inland, toward the Cascade mountains.
Flying over western Washington was an incredible experience for all of us, as we all love the Pacific Northwest! We were each swiveling our heads to look out the windows at the rushing waterfalls, blue lakes, and different shades of green patches as we crossed fields, forests, and valleys. We were so excited to witness the best of the best of Washington from the sky! Our pilot landed the floatplane on Ross Lake, which is a reservoir in the middle of the North Cascades. It’s near Diablo Lake, a popular site off Highway 20. On a sunny day, both lakes shine bright blue and it was incredible to witness the color as we came in to land.
The floatplane landed on Ross Lake and the people who work there (there’s a resort on site) were so excited to witness a couple in wedding attire disembark. They helped our pilot tie up to the dock, and cheered for Lizzie and Piotr! We then left the boat with a picnic, and headed off on a short hike through the woods behind the resort cabins. The walk was about half a mile to an incredible overlook above the lake – the bright blue water was a stunning backdrop for Lizzie and Piotr to share their vows. What made the location even more special was that they had been hiking out here before. Their fond memories of these trails, and all the amazing times they had shared together, gave so much meaning to an otherwise already gorgeous day.
After sharing their vows, Lizzie and Piotr unpacked a charming picnic of champagne, crackers, and prosciutto. We then hiked back down to the dock, where we had initially planned to take a boat out onto the lake, but we were running short on time. Instead of rushing the experience, they decided to just enjoy our moments on the shore before the floatplane was scheduled to take off. However, right at that moment a man landed his speedboat at the dock and had the cutest old fluffy dog sitting in the passenger seat. Lizzie called out, “are you coming over here to give us a ride?” The man replied, “do you want one?” Lizzie said “yes,” and the next thing we knew we had climbed into this stranger’s boat – his co-pilot living her best life and napping the whole time.
This was the sort of boat that made sure you know it was a “speed” boat. The ride was probably only five minutes, but with every turn we were hanging on for dear life! We were quite literally flying over the water! I looked over at Piotr and saw his face scrunched up as if he was thinking, “this is fast!” Lizzie had the biggest smile on her face, and her hair was flying everywhere! I had the quick thought that this was a mistake, because photos were far from done for the day. But the absolute joy this spontaneous boat ride gave us – it was 100% worth it!
After a few minutes and some sharp turns, we returned to the dock. Somehow, Lizzie’s hair looked perfect! It was time to go, so we got back into the floatplane and flew over western Washington back to Orcas Island. While in the air, Lizzie messaged her dad that they were flying over a small town off Highway 2, and he happened to be in a store within sight. He got to witness the plane flying over with his daughter and new son-in-law waving through the window – it was such a sweet moment!
When we returned to Orcas Island, we got off the plane and into our cars to watch the sunset at the beach in Eastsound. Our floatplane pilot and the person at the front desk who checked Lizzie and Piotr into their hotel room were the two who signed as witnesses on their marriage license, while I signed as the officiant. There are only a few words that legally need to be witnessed for someone to sign your marriage license, and this is how couples can manage to get legally married just themselves, even in states that don’t allow self-solemnizing. We’ve signed as officiants on dozens of marriage licenses, and so often people who are either hiking the same trail, or even at a trailhead, are stoked to sign as witnesses when we explain that the couple are eloping. It’s the perfect way to have a private ceremony and still get legally married!
We watched the sunset from Eastsound, and it was one of the most colorful evenings I’ve ever witnessed! We didn’t think the sunset would be so spectacular because of the amount of clouds, but somehow they just made it that much more incredible. The whole sky lit up bright pink and orange, and reflected those colors out into the ocean. It was the perfect end to an incredibly adventurous elopement!
Lizzie and Piotr decided to stay on the island for a couple days, and even planned a reception dinner with close friends and family that same weekend. They were able to have exactly the elopement day they had imagined! They didn’t sacrifice anything about their intimate journey to Ross Lake, and then gave their loved ones a part of the adventure by bringing them out to the island to celebrate soon after.
This elopement was certainly one of the more layered and complex celebrations we’ve been part of – there were multiple flights, floatplane landings, a hike, and it was all coordinated perfectly! Lizzie had managed to get her dress and flowers, and Piotr got his suit, all in six weeks – proving there are truly no limits to what you can dream up when planning an adventurous elopement!
Are looking to plan an Orcas Island wedding, or an adventurous elopement anywhere in the world?