How to elope in Washington State

So you want to elope in Washington, hell frickin yeah! Seriously, I am so excited for you, this is such an awesome decision and the first step to planning something totally magical and perfect just for you!

But now that you’ve made this choice you are probably a little overwhelmed with just HOW to elope. So let’s start with the basics, here is a rundown on the things you’ll need to do and consider to get started =)

  • Choose a location and date!
  • Decide on the type of experience you want
  • Hire your rad vendors
  • Apply for your marriage license/permits

When & Where

The nice thing about living in Washington is there are no shortages of amazing possibilities for where to elope! Obviously with so many choices this can also be a challenge to narrow down, so start broad. By first thinking about the time of year and type of location you would like most you can start putting together a list of ideal possibilities to begin your search.

Do you want a sunny summer day for your elopement? Brilliant fall colors? A snowy wonderland? Beautiful spring flowers? Obviously Washington is a little bipolar when it comes to totally predictable weather, but this will help narrow down a timeframe.

Next it’s time to think about the type of location you want. The really amazing thing about living in this corner of the world is that within a 2 hour drive in any direction from Seattle you can pretty much find any type of location you could image! We’ve got mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, islands, forests, rain forests, deserts, and a whole network of amazing local, State, and National Parks to choose from.

Once you have an idea of the type of location or the style of experience that you are interested in, narrowing down the possibilities will become much less daunting and a lot more fun!

The Day

Next let’s start to think about the type of day you want. Do you want to plan something totally intimate with just the two of you? Do you want to include a small number of guests in your wedding experience? Do you want to make this an adventure experience? Do you want to make this an entire weekend of adventures and amazing experiences?

No two elopement experiences will be the same. There are no rules or roadmaps that need to be followed, so you really can create your own experience based off the vision you want for your day. So take some time to think about what is important to you.

Here are some things to consider:

Accessibility and logistics – Planning something totally remote and in an epic location is amazing! But it’s also a little more challenging to coordinate, especially if you are planning to include guests.

Permits – Generally you will need a permit if you plan to elope in any of Washington’s National Parks or Forests. This process isn’t especially overwhelming, but it’s definitely something to be aware of, and to provide adequate time for. Typically you’ll want to apply for your permit at least a few weeks prior to your day. For especially busy locations within Mt Rainier National Park you’ll want to apply even sooner! Basically once you have your location picked out, it’s probably a good idea to begin this process to make sure you’re good to go when the time comes!

Timeline – Unlike the timelines for traditional weddings that are heavily tied to all of the events of the day, the timeline for your elopement will be largely dependent on what you’re planning. Will there be a long commute involved? Do we need to catch a ferry? Will there be hiking involved?

Don’t worry, you aren’t on your own with this, as your photographer I’ll be there every step of the way helping organize and plan with you.

Hire your dream team!

Now that you’ve got an idea of what you want, it’s time to start putting together your team to pull it off! Once again, every experience is different and the number and types of vendors you’ll need will depend greatly on what you want to plan.

Florals – This could be just simple bouquets and/or boutonnieres, or an entire floral display to use as a background element of your ceremony, or really anything in between.

The Attire – Do you want to dress more casual or formal? Do you want multiple clothing changes throughout the day?

Video – Hiring a videographer for your elopement can be an incredible investment in documenting and reliving the memories of your day.

Officiant – To make it legal, you’re going to need someone that is ordained in Washington state.

Hair and Makeup – Just because you might be heading off into the woods or up a mountain doesn’t mean you don’t still want to look amazing!

Cakes and Food – Do you still want to have a wedding cake? Do it! Want to have a picnic with your brand new spouse and/or your guests afterwards, perfect! Just because you are eloping doesn’t mean you can’t still eat 😄

Entertainment – Still want to dance and party with your people? Go ahead and plan a reception for after the ceremony! If you want a DJ or a band, go for it! Rule #76 of elopements, there are no rules!

Photography – Obviously you want a badass photographer! Lucky for you I know a guy 😉

The Marriage License and making it legal

Washington state law requires that you apply for your marriage license at least 3 days prior to your wedding date, and no more than 60 days in advance of your date. You can apply in person at any of the local offices, or online if you prefer! Although each county will issue you a license, they are all valid anywhere in the state! Here are the requirements and steps to applying for one in King County – https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/records-licensing/recorders-office/marriage-licensing.aspx

Along with your marriage license you will also need 2 witnesses to sign your paperwork, and an officiant who is ordained in Washington state to perform your ceremony and make it all official.

However, if you want to simplify your day, you don’t have to actually get *legally* married that day. Some people choose an elopement experience to do something totally epic just for them and then go to the court house or have a more local ceremony later on to make it all official. It’s really up to you how you want to approach this 😃

Wrapping it up

I know that it’s a lot to consider, and the amount of options and possibilities can be overwhelming! I recommend attacking this from the top down, once you start narrowing it down it will become easier and your vision will become more clear!

As an elopement photographer I love to be involved in the planning and dreaming process! I can’t wait to hear what interests you and coming up with amazing location ideas and plans for your day that match your vibe and vision.

The beautiful thing about elopements is the unrestrained possibilities! So let’s dream up something incredible and absolutely perfect for you! This is your wedding day after all, and you deserve something AMAZING!

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