When you decide to elope, you ditch the traditions and get to have a simple, private, and meaningful wedding day experience. Washington offers so many incredible places to have as your backdrop! Here are some steps to guide you through the process.

A couple eloping in the North Cascades kissing in front of the mountains.

1. Choose a general location

Maybe you have a specific spot in mind, or it’s as general as Olympic National park. Do you want to say your vows on the beach, at a mountain lookout, or an indoor location? This is something that your photographer can help you narrow down based on your preferences and vision! If you need some inspiration, here is a a blog post talking about where to elope in Washington.

2. Choose a date and time

Is there a date that is meaningful to the two of you? Do you want to have a snowy backdrop or warm summer sunshine? Washington has a fairly short hiking season for those locations at higher elevation, generally between July and early October. Here’s a blog post talking about what each season has to offer. Pro tip: Eloping on a weekday is a great way to avoid larger crowds, especially in the busy summer months.

3. Hire your photographer and vendors

The right photographer will help you throughout the entire planning process. They can recommend locations, the best time of day to have your ceremony, and help plan out your timeline. Once you have your location and date nailed down, you can start reaching out to other vendors. Such as florists, hair and make-up artists, and anything else you are planning to include.

4. Book lodging

If you are coming from out of town and need a place to stay before and after your elopement, booking lodging as soon as you have your date set is the next best step. Browsing hotels, Airbnb, or Vrbo is a great place to start. If you plan on having the ceremony or reception at the place you are lodging, be sure to check with management about requirements and restrictions. Some places do not allow wedding ceremonies or small gatherings and it’s important to check the rules before booking!

5. Obtain permits

Depending on the location that you choose to have your ceremony, you may need a permit. Permits are sometimes required for professional photography and special events (i.e. a wedding ceremony). This is a process that your photographer can help you research and navigate.

6. Plan activities and timeline

Do you and your partner have a favorite hobby you enjoy together? Think about including it in your elopement day! This could be an outdoor activity such as hiking, rock climbing, paddle boarding, or off roading. You can also include things like a picnic with your favorite foods and desserts, popping champagne, mixing drinks, private vows, or opening letters from loved ones. The possibilities are truly endless here! Once you have an idea of what you want to include on your day, your photographer will help you come up with a timeline to put activities in order and make sure they are all captured!

7. Obtain marriage license

The most important thing to note here is WHEN to get your marriage license! Washington has a three-day waiting period and a 60 day expiration from the date of issue. This means that you can get your license up to 63 days in advance but no later than 3 days before your ceremony date. King county has some very helpful information on their website and you can read that here. Washington State does require that the ceremony has an officiant and two witnesses to sign the certificate. If you’re nervous about saying your vows in front of anyone, I highly recommend having a simple legal ceremony followed by private vows. You and your partner can share vows at a more private location so you don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing or looking on.

8. Enjoy your elopement day!

However you decide to spend your elopement day, make sure to take the time and soak it all in. Find quiet moments with your partner where you can appreciate the love that you have for one another. Enjoy your day and don’t take it too seriously. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and that’s ok! The important thing is that you’re with the single most important person in your life and you have a lifetime ahead of you to spend with them!

A couple in wedding attire kissing in front of a cherry blossom tree. They are eloping in Washington State.

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