Everything you need to plan your elopement in the Pacific Northwest

Washington STate Elopement guide

As a Washington State elopement photographer, let me tell you here first, the Pacific Northwest is one of the most stunning and versatile places to elope in the US. Born and bred here, I might be biased, but I'm going to give you the full run down of how to plan your Washington elopement. 

I’ve photographed over 125+ weddings and understand the amount of careful planning that goes into not just big weddings, but those beautiful elopements you see all over Instagram and Pinterest. We're going to walk you through the things you should consider when planning your Washington Elopement, the advice I have for you as a Seattle Wedding and Elopement photographer and of course, what your next steps should be for making this dream happen! So hop on in, we're going for a ride.

Your guide to planning an elopement in washington state

Elopement Basics

An elopement is a a private and intimate ceremony, often times with just the couple or their close family and friends. These ceremonies can take place nearly anywhere around the world and bring the focus back from the craziness that is the wedding industry, to the purpose of marriage; love. 

What is an elopement?

Weddings are deeply personal. There are layers of relationships, anxiety and excitement that are all at play during this part of your journey. Let's start with some basics about elopements. 

Eloping is just one of the many options engaged couples have for how they get married. The most common reasons many people elope is because they want to start the next chapter of their lives on their terms. They don't want the extra fluff, just them, their people and a gorgeous landscape to set the scene. 

Elopements aren't free, but they are very affordable when considering the average cost of a full wedding day is $30,000+. 

Elopements are no longer a secret ceremony that happens down in Vegas. Elopements ARE a beautiful way to proclaim your love, devotion and promises to your partner in front of the most important people in your world.

Why should we elope?

The cost of your elopement will depend on where you go, who goes with you and what is most important to you. I can tell you, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a big wedding. 

What will this cost?

Step-by-step

Let's chat about the steps needed in planning your Washington Elopement. Our state has so much to offer, so let's outline what needs to happen. 

Start thinking of your dream location

PIck a season

Find, Apply & Purchase your permits

Plan your trip (lodging, transportation)

book your vendor team

invite your people 

Top elopement Locations

When looking for the perfect location for your Washington Elopement, I wanted to give you a few ideas with the Best Locations in Washington State. Feel free to check out all these spots and let me know which stands out to you!

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park provides a variety of landscapes to chose from. There are rolling meadows, old growth forests, obviously mountain views and breathtaking sunsets. 

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Mid Summer to Early Fall
Drive Time from Seattle: Between 2-2.5 hours
Permits Required: Yes, $60 permit fee and $30 vehicle fee.

Check out this Mount Rainier Couples Session

Washington coastal beaches are right out of a movie set. With gorgeous rock formations, miles of beach and rows of washed up logs, this location can be stunning in sunlight and marine fogged days. 

Washington Coastal beaches

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Spring to Early Fall
Drive Time from Seattle: Between 3-3.5 hours
Permits Required: No permit required.

Check out this Ruby Beach Couples Session

The central cascades are some of the most accessible locations in Washington State's mountain range. With several options to choose from, these are an easy drive from Seattle. 

central Cascade Mountains

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Year Round.
Drive Time from Seattle: Between 1-3 hours
Permits Required: Depends on the specific location you request, inquire for more info.

Check out this wedding in the Cascades.

Gold Creek Pond is probably one of the easiest spots to access with some of the best views. This park is first come first serve but man, you can't beat the views for just having to walk less than .25 miles!

gold creek pond

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Spring - Fall (Winter is a little tricker to hike in)
Drive Time from Seattle: 1.5 hours
Permits Required: No permit, but it is first come first serve to both private and public events. Discovery Park pass required for parking at the park $10/day or $30/year).

Check out this Gold Creek Pond Couples Session

Deception Pass is just a quick shot up I-5 North from Seattle. This location offers breathtaking views over the ocean, allowing you and your guests to drink in the beauty of the PNW. 

Deception Pass

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Spring - Fall
Drive Time from Seattle: 1.5 hours
Permits Required: No event permit required, but it is first come first serve for both private and public events. Discovery Park pass required for parking at the park $10/day or $30/year).

Check out this session at Deception Pass

Mount Rainier National Park provides a variety of landscapes to chose from. There are rolling meadows, old growth forests, obviously mountain views and breathtaking sunsets. 

Lake Crescent

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Mid Summer to Early Fall
Drive Time from Seattle: 3 hours
Permits Required: Yes, $50 for Special Use Permit (3-4 weeks processing required)
Discovery Park pass required for parking at the park $10/day or $30/year).

Check out this session at Lake Crescent

Mount Rainier National Park provides a variety of landscapes to chose from. There are rolling meadows, old growth forests, obviously mountain views and breathtaking sunsets. 

Olympic National Forest

Fast Facts:

Best Time to Visit: Mid Summer to Early Fall
Drive Time from Seattle: 3 Hours
Permits Required: Yes, $50 for Special Use Permit (3-4 weeks processing required). Discovery Park pass required for parking at the park $10/day or $30/year).

Blog Coming Soon!

Permits & Marriage License

Looking up the permits to your location is extremely important. This can impact your timeline as well as your overall budget. While the permits in Washington are exceptionally affordable compared to renting a full venue, it's good to have all the info up front. It's also important to inquire with your park or location who do require permits, if there is an additional photography permit required. 

Permits for your location

Weddings are deeply personal. There are layers of relationships, anxiety and excitement that are all at play during this part of your journey. My approach to weddings is tailored to my couples but all include the following core values.

You will most definitely need to plan ahead for this one. You can pick up your license in King Country between the window of 60 days and 3 days before your wedding. Your license will cost you $69 and an afternoon in the courthouse line ;) 

Marriage License & requirements

One of the most important things to remember during your elopement is the golden rule of the outdoors; Leave No Trace. Anything you pack in you have to pack out. This includes trash, chairs and even the stuff you think is biodegradable. We do not allow our couples to use confetti since it is not biodegradable, but a champagne pop is! Just make sure you carrying that bottle out too!

Our parks are our connection to nature and we as a photography community treat them with the deepest respect because they allow us to capture insanely beautiful images. We ask that you join us in caring for them during your celebration. 

Leave No Trace

Transportation & Lodging

Are you having yourself and/or guests stay in the city of Seattle or somewhere closer to your location? Would you like to have getting ready photos prior to your ceremony? How far would you like to travel to and from on your elopement day? 

These will determine where you'd like to stay and how the schedule of your elopement day will lay out. Staying further from your location requires more logistics and travel time, staying close can offer a more relaxed schedule.

Things to consider

Whether you're planning to have guests or just you and your boo-thang, here are some tips for travel and lodging. 

AirBnB or VRBO are honestly some of the best options. They are flexible and can vary in size, location and amenities. There are some adorable options if you opt in for "getting ready" photos. 

Inquire with me for a list of my favorites near your location!

Where to look

Your Vendor Team

Florals! Because who doesn't love a juicy bouquet and long ribbon to play with? We can strap your bouquet to your hiking bag if needed :) 

FloralS

Team work, makes the dream work! Don't forget that you might need a few other people on your team. Here's who I'd add to the mix. 

There are some amazing makeup artists who not only can make you look like a million bucks, but they make it last! Some MUA are willing to travel with you for your session so they can do touchups throughout your elopement sesh. 

Hair & makeup

Adding a videographer not only contributes to "the more the merrier" but it can offer a different side to your story. Seeing things in motion can enhance your memory and of course be something to look back on a million times over. 

Videographer

Whether it's your friend who just got ordained or an officiant of some other kind, make sure you bring them with you and that they are on board for the adventure ahead!

OFFICIANT

Invite your people

Make sure your guests have plenty of planning time, just in case your elopement requires extra travel. Send them your recommendations for travel and lodging, along with an itinerary of what their time with you will look like. 

This is a perfect time to ask guests if they need any assistance with location accessibility (wheel chairs etc), so that you can plan for those accommodations. 

Prep Your Guests

Whether you have just the two of you and two witnesses or up to 20 guests, make sure you keep your people in the know!