October 21, 2021

Washington State Locations for Your Intimate Wedding

Picking between Washington State Locations for your Intimate Wedding is so important! When it comes to your elopement day, you want to be somewhere that feels just right! For outdoorsy folks, that means outside in the beauty of nature. 

That’s why more and more couples are trading the ring of traditional wedding bells for the sounds of Washington’s wilderness. Depending on your location, that might sound like the crash of ocean waves, the chirp of birds among pine trees, or the quiet silence of a snowbank. 

If you’re envisioning an outdoor elopement in Washington state, you’ll have plenty of options. But if you’re asking yourself, “What are the best places to elope in Washington state?” I have your answers. Whether you want to prioritize a location with easy access or epic views, forest floors, beaches, islands, or mountain tops, this list of my favorite elopement locations in Washington has you covered. 

Your To-Do List Your
Washington State Elopement

Location is important but there are other factors to consider when you begin planning your elopement. Some of these to-dos will impact whether or not a location is right for your elopement. It’s best to think about them upfront. 

Plan Your Elopement Date

Planning your elopement date and location go hand-in-hand. Depending on the season, certain parks and locations may be closed or inaccessible. At other times, they may be overrun with tourists, making it hard to plan a private, intimate ceremony.

Of course, you’ll also want to plan your elopement around a time that works for your schedule. You’ll want to plan around your career so you can fully relax and enjoy your big day. Or if you have a special date as a couple, you might want to celebrate on that day. Just make sure to do some research to confirm your location will be accessible on your elopement day.

Research and Apply for Permits

State and national parks offer awesome access to nature, making them ideal spots for adventure elopements. But many locations within these parks require permits for events like elopements. The permitting rules vary from park to park. Be sure to research and apply for the necessary permits well in advance.

It’s also worth noting that many popular elopement locations are sometimes closed due to various circumstances (like COVID-19). Again, it’s always best to research and plan in advance so you’re not met with any wedding-day surprises!

Plan Your Vendors

One of the best parts of trading in a traditional wedding for an elopement is that you’ll cut way down on the number of vendors you have to hire. However, you will probably still want to recruit a small-but-mighty team to help with your day. Once you decide on a location, you’ll want to choose vendors that service that area. (On the other hand, if you have your heart set on a certain vendor, it might impact your decision about a location or date.)

Vendors for your outdoor elopement might include an officiant, florist (check with the location to make sure florals are allowed!), makeup artist and/or hairstylist, caterer, and, most importantly… 

Hire a Photographer and Videographer You Love

Ok, I’m biased, but a photographer/videographer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your elopement day. A photographer/videographer is with you during every moment of one of the most memorable days of your life, so you want to make sure they feel right for you!

There are a number of reasons why it’s important to hire an elopement videographer, but the most important is that it is the one vendor that helps you remember the details of your elopement in the long term. You’ll thank yourself for years to come! 

Research and Apply for Your Marriage License.

You have to apply for a marriage license in Washington state at least three days before your wedding. You can apply for a marriage license at any local office, and it will be valid at locations throughout the state.

If you’re visiting from out of state, you can apply for a marriage license online and have it mailed to you. A Washington marriage license is valid for 60 days after it’s issued. 

Plan Your Elopement Day Activities. 

Sure, your ceremony is where the magic happens, but you have a whole wedding day to enjoy! There are plenty of other activities you can incorporate into your wedding day, from adventurous options like rock climbing to kayaking to relaxing one-on-one time on a picnic blanket or in a quiet cabin.

If there are must-dos for your elopement day, it might influence your location decision (you can’t exactly mountain bike on the beach). So be sure to take this into account as you plan where to elope! 

Set a Timeline for Your Elopement Day

Elopements tend to be much more relaxed than traditional weddings, but that doesn’t mean you can go into it without a plan. Even if it’s flexible, you should have a timeline in mind for the events of your day—particularly your ceremony, but also meals and activities. Doing so ensures your day will go smoothly and you’ll be able to fully enjoy it. 

Deciding on a
Washington Elopement Location

There are countless epic elopement locations across Washington, but there’s only one that will be witness to your elopement. Choosing the location for your elopement is mostly a matter of the heart, but there are also practical factors to consider as you make your decision. 

Here’s how to choose the perfect elopement destination for you and your partner: 

Daydream About What You Envision for Your Elopement Day

Some folks dream about their wedding day their whole lives, but whether or not that’s true for you, daydreaming about your day is the first step in choosing the right location. What environment do you envision—snow, beach, woods, mountaintop? Or even more simply—what do you envision wearing? (A sleeveless, ivory wedding dress might not work well on a muddy trail or snowy mountain top!)

Dreaming about what you want your day to look and feel like will help you narrow down your location! 

Brainstorm With Your Partner

Once you and your partner both sketch out elements of your perfect day, it’s time to collaborate. You’ll both have some hard no’s and absolute yeses, so when you combine those together, you’ll narrow down your list even further. While you both might need to make compromises, together you’ll hone in on the perfect elopement location! 

Check Out the Locations (ONLINE IF NECESSARY)

Once you narrow down your list of locations, it’s time to check them out! Ideally, you should visit the location in person to make sure it feels right. Sometimes a trail might be longer than you expect, or a park might be busier than you thought, and those are things you might not know without seeing the location in person.

However, visiting each location just might not be an option, especially if you’re visiting from out-of-state. If that’s the case, there are plenty of ways to learn more about locations online, from national forest websites to photos and videos from Washington elopement photographers and videographers (like me!). I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have about any locations! Rangers are also awesome resources who can answer questions about trails or locations.  

Consider the Practicalities

While a remote, wild wedding sounds romantic, it’s not practical for all couples. If you and your partner plan on inviting a small group of family and/or friends to your wedding, be sure to consider their ability (and willingness) to hike or adventure when deciding on your locations. 

Like I said above, it’s also important to make sure the locations you choose are accessible (or not packed with other visitors) on the day of your elopement. No matter what, you might have people around during your elopement on public land, but if that feels worth the trade-off of a traditional expensive venue, an adventure elopement outdoors is right for you!

5 Best Places to
Elope in Washington

Mt. Rainier National Park 

If you’re looking for an elopement destination that is pure Washington, Mt. Rainier National Park might just be perfect. The mountain itself is an icon of our state (it’s even on our license plates!). At 14,411 feet, it’s the tallest mountain in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s visible throughout the park. 

Mt. Rainier tops many elopement destination lists, and there are plenty of reasons why. It’s less than two hours from Seattle, making it one of the most accessible state parks for local and out-of-state couples. There are countless trails to explore, many of which are easy out-and-backs if you have a small group for your elopement. And the views are gorgeous, often highlighting the mountain the park is named for. 

When to Elope in Mt. Rainier National Park 

Much of the park is closed in winter, so you’ll probably want to avoid that season. The park is swamped in the middle of summer, so if you do decide on a month like July or August, plan for a weekday. The best part about a summer elopement is all of the wildflowers! If you choose a fall elopement, you’ll get to experience the changing colors of the trees, but the weather can be a little unpredictable, especially at higher elevations. 

Best Elopement Locations in Mt. Rainier National Park 

As long as your elopement group is small (less than 60 people), you’ll have plenty of options for where to get married within the park. Just be sure to apply for a permit at least four weeks before your elopement date! 

Some of my favorite elopement locations inside Mt. Rainier National Park include: 

  • Paradise: The name does not disappoint! Paradise is an area of the park with picturesque views of Mt. Rainier, whether it’s viewed above subalpine meadows filled with wildflowers or reflected in the lakes of Reflection Lakes. 
  • Sunrise: Sunrise is the highest area reachable by car in the park, and it offers the kind of sweeping views you might expect. From Sunrise Point, you can see almost 360-degree views of the surrounding meadows. 
  • Ohanapecosh: If you feel at home among the trees, consider Ohanapecosh for your elopement. Home to old-growth forests full of Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks, this part of the park is also drier than others.

North Cascades National Park 

The North Cascades don’t get as much hype as some of Washington’s other areas, but they should! Nicknamed “the Alps of America,” North Cascades is home to jagged peaks, lush forests, glaciers, and alpine lakes. Parts of the park are beautifully rugged, making for some seriously dramatic elopement moments. 

This is the ultimate destination for your more adventurous couples. There are more than 400 miles of trails along the park’s valleys, including some of the best backpacking trails around. The best part? It’s one of the least-visited parks in the country, which means you’ll have a better chance at a truly intimate elopement than at other locations. 

When to Elope in North Cascades National Park 

All of the parks are situated at a high elevation, which means a wintertime elopement isn’t usually accessible. The snow that piles up in the winter tends to stick around, with most trails clear by mid-July. 

August and September bring wildflower season (and better weather!) to the North Cascades. Fall is also a beautiful season for elopement in the park, especially if you can catch the colorful changing of the leaves.  

Best Elopement Locations in North Cascades National Park

In order to elope anywhere in North Cascades, you’ll need to apply for a permit. It’s always a good idea to call the park and speak with a ranger regarding where you can and cannot elope, as these locations do sometimes change. 

  • Washington Pass Overlook: The wheelchair-accessible, quarter-mile trail offers a breathtaking view of Liberty Bell Peak. In fall, the side of Liberty Bell is covered in golden larches (pine trees that change color with the season). 
  • Cutthroat Lake: Don’t worry, this is one name that doesn’t exactly preview the location! Framed by a ridge of golden rock, this lake is beautiful, and the trail is pretty easy compared to most in the park.  
  • Lake Chelan National Recreation Area: Deep in the North Cascades, this nearly 62,000-acre area surrounds the stunning, 50-mile-long Lake Chelan. There are plenty of campsites for those planning a real elopement adventure!  

Snoqualmie National Forest

If you’re outdoorsy but still love the comforts of city life, then Snoqualmie National Forest might be your best bet for a Washington elopement. It’s just 45 minutes outside of Seattle, so it’s a great option for couples who want to elope in nature but stay or extend their celebrations in the city. 

Like many of the wildlands around Seattle, Snoqualmie National Forest is home to alpine lakes, glacier-capped peaks, old-growth forests, and lush meadows. However, the elevation is lower than other parks, which means there are areas that are accessible and snow-free year-round. 

The only downside of Snoqualmie is that it’s one of the most-visited national forests in the country, so you lose some of the intimacy you might have with more remote locations. But if convenience is your priority for your ceremony, you can’t beat Snoqualmie! 

When to Elope in Snoqualmie National Forest

With wildflowers in summer and fall leaves in autumn, the most vibrant, colorful elopements take place in these two seasons. But if you’re looking for a winter wonderland vibe with snow-capped mountains, spring and winter are great options! Again, Snoqualmie offers more accessibility in the colder months than many other locations in Washington, so if you have your heart set on a winter wonderland elopement, Snoqualmie might be for you! 

Best Elopement Locations in Snoqualmie National Forest

Smaller groups—like elopements—may or may not need a permit, so it’s always best to contact the forest service just to make sure! You can find contact information here to call about your location. Your photographer/videographer might need a permit in order to capture your elopement, so be sure to confirm that as well!

  • Snoqualmie Pass: Within the low-elevation pass, there are waterfalls, lakes, and jagged peaks, most of which are accessible year-round. The area is particularly well-known for its alpine lakes, like the turquoise-tinged Annette Lake and the well-named Snow Lake (perfect for a wintery hike and elopement!).  
  • Snoqualmie Falls: As the most popular waterfall in Washington, this location isn’t exactly a secret, but it definitely lives up to the hype! You can catch epic views of the 270-foot falls from above or below, both of which make for incredible elopement moments. 
  • Artist Point: Easily accessible by car (making it perfect for group elopements), Artist Point offers 360-degree views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. There are also alpine lakes and, in summer, wildflower-filled meadows. 
  • Gold Creek Pond: This site, formerly a gravel dump for the construction of I-90, is now the most picturesque pond! It’s ADA-accessible and perfectly frames the mountains.

Olympic Peninsula / Olympic National Park

At first glance, Olympic National Park offers a lot of the same stunning views and adventures as the other areas on our list: snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests, waterfalls, and lakes. But thanks to its location on Washington’s coast, it also offers beaches sprinkled with driftwood for a different—but still totally PNW—vibe. 

The national park stretches across the Olympic Peninsula, which is located across the Puget Sound from Seattle. This stretch of land, surrounded on three sides by water, is home to some of the most diverse landscapes in the state. You might recognize popular destinations like Lake Crescent and Ruby Beach, but there are countless destinations within the park and peninsula to consider for your elopement! 

When to Elope in Olympic National Park

Spring and summer bring sunny days to this area of Washington. That sunshine also helps the meadows around the national park burst into wildflower bloom this time of year. Most of the park remains accessible year-round. It’s also a great option for elopements in fall and winter (especially in the moody rainforests!). 

Best Elopement Locations in Olympic National Park

As always, make sure you apply for a special use permit. Make sure to get permission from the NPS to elope at the location you choose!

  • Lake Cushman: Like many of Washington’s national parks, Olympic has plenty of gorgeous alpine lakes. The pebbled shore of Lake Cushman is a favorite, especially when the fog hugs the surrounding mountains. 
  • Hurricane Ridge: Driving to the top of Hurricane Ridge in wintertime (the road is cleared, but snow chains might be needed) offers epic, snowy elopements like none other! There are both short and long hikes, depending on your preference, plus it’s only 17 miles from Port Angeles. 
  • Rialto Beach: The black sand beaches of Rialto feel so moody and romantic, it’s a perfect elopement destination! If the beach is busy, you can dip into the nearby forests for a more intimate setting. 

Eastern Washington 

When you think “Pacific Northwest elopement,” you probably think of old-growth forests, overcast skies, and soaring mountains. You could also think of swaying prairie grasses, golden canyons, and year-round sunshine. Eastern Washington promises all that and more, making it a perfect (and underrated!) destination for your adventure elopement. 

Eastern Washington is surprisingly different from the western part of the state. There are no fewer opportunities to enjoy nature. There are waterfalls, lakes, and forests, as well as high deserts, canyons, and rocky caves. 

When to Elope in Eastern Washington 

Summertime brings high temps and more crowds to Eastern Washington. In the high desert where the sun can really beat down on adventurous couples. If you plan your elopement for summertime, be sure it’s a weekday and in the morning/evening. 

The other three seasons have a lot to offer for couples in Eastern Washington. You can have fall colors in autumn. The contrast of snow in the golden canyons in winter. In the spring, you can have warmer days.

Best Elopement Locations in Eastern Washington 

With the proper prep, you can get married in any Washington State Park. Just make sure you contact the state park agency to confirm the site you’re considering is ok and apply for a special activities permit

  • Palouse Falls: Palouse Falls pours down from a rocky canyon, which really sets it apart from other waterfalls on this list. It’s super remote, which means it’s the perfect location for couples hoping for an epic waterfall backdrop without all the crowds. 
  • Riverside State Park: This is actually the biggest state park in Washington, which means there are plenty of scenic spots for your elopement. In the Bowl & Pitcher area, a swinging bridge stretches across the river for particularly photo-worthy moments. 

Your Washington Elopement Photographer,
Videographer, and All-Around Planning Helper!

While I’ve outlined some awesome elopement options above, this is only the beginning of Washington adventure elopement locations! If you’re having trouble narrowing down your choices, that’s where I come in. 

Together, we can identify the kinds of locations that will feel juuuuust right for you and your partner. I can help you decide which elopement destination makes the most sense for you and even suggest other trails or activities to explore. I’ll help make sure you get all your ducks in a row before and on your big day so that you can focus on what matters most: marrying your person!