I’m a wedding & elopement photographer for laid back couples that value the idea of being married more than just having a party. They want photos that show their true selves and represent their love of nature, and prefer to be more natural than overly posed.
Home to some of the most diverse and extraordinary ceremony spots in the Pacific Northwest, Washington State is the perfect place for lovers to reconnect, unwind, and embrace their adventurous side. Whether you dream of hiking to the top of a volcano with your partner to say vows or want an intimate a-frame cabin wedding in the mountains, Washington has it all. I’m a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer who loves helping laid-back couples tie the knot in beautiful places. This guide contains all my favorite ceremony locations and accommodations, along with some of my best tips and tricks you need to know before you elope in Washington State!
July through October is the best time to elope in Washington State if you and your partner want a mountain ceremony in the North Cascades or Mt. Rainier National Park. Summer into early Fall is the most popular time to visit Washington, so expect crowds, especially at popular tourist destinations like National Parks or well-known beaches.
If you and your partner are interested in a skiing elopement in Leavenworth or want to have some fun in the snow at Stevens Pass, December through March are the best Winter months to visit Washington. Olympic National Park and the coastal areas along the peninsula are accessible year-round. However, these areas are much rainier than other areas of Washington, especially during Winter and Spring.
Much like the time of year, picking the perfect time of day all depends on your priorities for your elopement ceremony. Eloping at Sunrise can be more secluded, with an increased chance for better weather and magical lighting like “alpenglow” on east-facing locations. Sunset can also be secluded, and while the weather may be more unpredictable in the evenings during certain times of the year, it’ll be warmer, and you and your partner get to sleep in. If you can’t decide on a time of day, you can always choose a full-day elopement package and do both Sunrise and Sunset!
Eloping on a weekday offers lower crowd levels, even during peak seasons. I recommend a midweek date for any elopement in Washington, no matter the time of year, but especially if you’re visiting during Summer. Parking lots fill up quickly and add an extra level of stress that’s unnecessary. Traffic can also be problematic during weekends around cities like Seattle and in popular sightseeing areas. As a bonus, if you’re trying to book a high-demand vendor or accommodation, they’re more likely to have availability on a weekday than a weekend.
When visiting Washington State, I recommend couples fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac)! Not only is it a major hub for well-known airlines such as Alaska and Delta, but it’s also an easy airport to navigate. Most elopement locations in Washington are outside Seattle and Tacoma’s city centers, so I suggest couples rent an SUV. Sea-Tac offers complimentary shuttle rides to off-site rental car companies. Alternatively, you can rent a car for airport pickup through app rental services such as Turo! Seattle traffic can be pretty heavy year-round, so if you plan on flying into Sea-Tac, be sure to account for time spent navigating the bustling city!
Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by one of the country’s most beautiful National Parks. In Summer, bright wildflowers bloom across the park’s lush subalpine meadows. Colorful autumn foliage paints the park’s tree line red, yellow, and orange in Fall. In Winter, Mt. Rainier’s snow-capped peak showcases the rugged beauty of the active volcano. During late Spring, snowmelt powers the park’s roaring waterfalls. If you and your partner want a dramatic mountain elopement, I highly recommend Mt. Rainier National Park. My favorite ceremony locations include Nisqually and Paradise. Entrance into the Mt. Rainier National Park costs $30 per vehicle. For $55, you can opt to purchase an annual pass instead! A special use permit is required to elope in the park, but as your elopement photographer, I can help you and your partner obtain one with ease!
Home to some of Washington’s most incredible natural landmarks, such as Mt. Olympus, Olympic National Park is comprised of subalpine forests, four temperate rainforest valleys, and over 70 miles of Pacific coastline. If you and your partner dream of a magical outdoor experience for your elopement, Olympic National Park is perfect for your celebration. It’s a bountiful green oasis full of wildlife, hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, and more! My favorite ceremony locations include the HOH Rainforest, Lake Crescent, and Hurricane Ridge! Entrance into the Olympic National Park costs $30 per vehicle. For $55, you can opt to purchase an annual pass instead! A special use permit is also required to elope in this park!
Leavenworth is a quaint, Bavarian-inspired village in Central Washington. The town is well-known for its holiday celebrations and events. In Winter, Christmastown and Winter Karneval bring visitors to the small Washington village from all over the world. Along with festivals, cold weather activities such as skiing, sleigh rides, and snowmobiling make Winter one of the most fun times to visit Leavenworth. In May, locals and tourists greet the beautiful weather of late Spring with Maifest. In September, Oktoberfest kicks off Fall with dancing, food, and lively beer gardens!
North Cascades National Park is three hours outside of Seattle and absolutely massive! If you and your partner love exploring and unplugging in the great outdoors, North Cascades National Park’s incredible landscape is nothing short of an adventure. The park is home to over 700 mountain lakes, 93 soaring mountain peaks, and 300 brilliant blue glaciers. While choosing just one elopement location is almost impossible here, some of my favorite ceremony spots include Mt. Baker, Artist Point, and Washington Pass Overlook. Entrance into the park is free year-round, and it’s a dog-friendly park! A special use permit is required to elope in the the North Cascades.
From Long Beach to Rialto, La Push, Ruby, Moclips, and the San Juan Islands, Washington State’s coastline is 3,026 miles of dramatic sandy shores, bays, and inlets. Pacific Northwest beaches are the perfect backdrop for misty, dream-like celebrations, and Washington State’s shores are no exception. From charming beach towns to oceanic activities, you and your partner can enjoy everything from whale-watching excursions to picnicking on the beach. There’s nothing more romantic than a cinematic, coastal elopement next to towering sea stacks, piles of driftwood, and lush marine meadows!
A quiet getaway on the banks of the Nisqually River, Hebe’s Hideout is located near Ashford, Washington, just minutes from Mt. Rainier National Park. In recent years, the a-frame Cabin has become a popular intimate wedding and elopement location, perfect for a quiet vow ceremony in the forest. The cabin is also equipped with many great amenities, such as wifi, a wood-burning stove, and an outdoor seating area with a bonfire pit.
Luxury meets rustic charm at Heartwood Cabin! Located near Packwood, Washington, and just outside Mt. Rainier National Park, this modern, cozy a-frame cabin features a cedar hot tub, bonfire pit, wood stove, and wifi.
Located on the Olympic Peninsula and just under 15 minutes from Olympic National Park, this Port Angeles Guest House is the perfect place to unwind and relax after a long day spent adventuring. Providing everything from beach blankets to board games, this accommodation is simple yet breathtaking, with beautiful water views of nearby Freshwater Bay.
A truly unique accommodation amidst Washington State’s quiet wilderness, The Greybird Retreat is located in Glacier on the western side of the Cascades. Equipped with a gourmet kitchen, outdoor shower, and hot tub, The Greybird Retreat is ideal for couples looking for a place to stay that’s equally as adventurous as their vow ceremony.
The perfect mountain getaway for a Summer hiking elopement or Winter wedding spent skiing; The Timberhawk is located in Deming, Washington, on the western side of the Cascades. It’s just 20 miles from Mt. Baker Ski Area and only minutes away from some of the state’s finest hiking trails.
If you and your partner want the convenience of being close to great shopping and dining, while also having backdoor access to amazing hiking, mountain biking, and back-country ski trails, Trailside Vacation Home is the accommodation for you! Located just outside of Winthrop, Washington on the eastern side of the Cascades, this home away from home features modern luxuries like a fully equipped kitchen, jet tub, and barbecue grill.
Located near Leavenworth Ski Hill, Na-Mu Lodge is an accommodation and celebration space all wrapped into one. If you and your partner want to plan an elopement reception with family and friends, Na-Mu is the perfect private getaway and gathering spot. With four private suites, a bunk room, panoramic mountain views, chef’s kitchen, and large dining area, Na-Mu Lodge is great for making memories with the ones you love.
This brand-new bungalow in Long Beach, Washington, is pet-friendly and within walking distance to shopping, dining, and the beach. Pacific Coast Beach Getaway features a sauna, hot tub, and firepit in a private backyard.
This Washington State elopement guide wouldn’t be complete without a recommendation for accommodation in one of Washington’s most famous small towns, Forks. Full of friendly locals (and lots of Twilight memorabilia), Forks is centrally located to some of Washington’s best beaches like Rialto, Ruby, and La Push. This tiny home in Coastland Camp is a cozy, romantic getaway with a unique, wood-fired outdoor hot tub.
From sightseeing activities in Seattle to adventurous excursions in Washington State’s vast wilderness, there are so many activities available all around the state! Here’s a list of some of my favorites:
You and your partner can grab your marriage license at any County Clerk’s Office nearest your elopement location! Before visiting, fill out the marriage license application online. Once a marriage license is issued, Washington State requires a three-day waiting period before a ceremony can occur. So, be sure to visit a County Clerk’s Office of your choosing on a weekday, at least three days before your elopement ceremony. A one-time license fee is typically around $70, and you and your partner will both need to be present to provide government-issued identifications at the time of your visit.
To make the marriage official, two witnesses and an officiant must be present during the ceremony. The ceremony must also take place within 60 days, once the three-day waiting period has passed. After the ceremony, the signed marriage license needs to be turned in to the County Clerk’s Office you received it from within 30 days of your ceremony!
One of the many beautiful things about eloping is that you and your partner can customize your ceremony to be whatever you want! While some couples choose to get a marriage license before their elopement day, many don’t! It’s totally fine to get married in Washington State without a marriage license. Say private vows, celebrate with one another and then worry about the legalities later!
Depending on the location of your Washington State elopement, ceremony permits may be necessary, especially on lands in National or State Parks. Be sure to check online or with park staff or rangers ahead of your ceremony date. Some ceremony locations that require a permit either need to be obtained weeks in advance or book up quickly, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to nail down the details! As your elopement photographer, I’ll help you secure permits once we decide on a location together!
Hiring high-quality, local elopement vendors can help bring your dream ceremony to life! One of my favorite florists local to the Pacific Northwest is Alexis with The Slow Cult. While hiring amazing local vendors like The Slow Cult isn’t necessary, they will undoubtedly help ease the stress of your big day. If you plan to elope in Washington State, hiring local vendors familiar with your ceremony location will ensure your elopement goes off without a hitch! When hiring vendors, research and read reviews, chat with them over the phone, and thoroughly read contracts before signing. If you’re unsure which vendors would be the right fit for your celebration, I’m happy to share suggestions with you as your elopement photographer!
While planning your Washington State elopement, make a list of all the items you’ll need to pack for your adventure! Here’s a list of elopement packing essentials to get you started:
11:00 am – Photo coverage begins with detail/getting ready photos at an a-frame cabin!
1:00 pm – First look and a-frame cabin portraits.
2:00 pm – Vow ceremony at a-frame cabin!
2:30 pm – Take wedding party portraits.
3:00 pm – Drive to Mt. Rainier National Park!
4:00 pm – Hike and explore around Mt. Rainier National Park.
6:00 pm – Celebratory drink toast!
6:30 pm – Sunrise portraits with Mt. Rainier.
7:30 pm – Drive back to a-frame cabin.
8:30 pm – Outdoor dinner reception at a-frame with family/friends!
9:30 pm – Dancing and cake cutting.
10:30 pm – Stargazing next to a bonfire while sharing s’mores!
11:00 pm – Photography coverage ends.
Leave No Trace is a wonderful organization that aims to protect the outdoors by spreading awareness about sustainability practices. When on your epic adventure elopement in Washington State, be sure to respect the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace so that the beauty of Washington can stay wild and pristine for generations to come:
Hi, I’m Erica, a Pacific Northwest elopement photographer! If you and your partner want to plan an epic elopement, I’m here to capture a day you’ll never forget! Be sure to check out my Washington State elopement packages and contact me via my inquiry form here! If you want to learn more about getting married in Washington State, check out this dramatic mountain elopement near Mt. Rainier National Park! I can’t wait to meet up with you and your partner and capture your love story in Washington State!