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the ultimate washington state elopement guide: PERMITS, LOCATIONS, CHECKLISTS, VENDORS + MORE!

WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER | THE CARDINALS

seattle wedding photographer

Hi! I'm Natasha! Your elopement photographer, dog petter and donut eater. While photography is my first love, connecting with people is my love language. You'll find me lovin' on the big moments, the quiet moments, the silly moments – but especially the in between moments. The moments that are unadulterated and unfiltered. The ones where you are the real you. Here on the blog you'll find all of my favorite tips, tricks and resources for planning a wedding that's all about those moments.

NATASHA CARDINAL

WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

So you're thinking of eloping in Washington state! AMAZING. The PNW is one of the best places to elope in the world (seriously, it's a world class unique elopement location), and Washington especially is pretty damn magical. With more biodiverse ecosystems than any other U.S. state you'll have unlimited access to rainforest, mountains, glaciers, high desert, mossy forests, waterfalls, alpine lakes, and stunning coastline elopement locations. And that's not even including all of the cool locations the city of Seattle itself has to offer!

But now you might be thinking, how the hell do I even plan a Washington elopement? Don't sweat it.
That's where we come in.

In this blog you'll find everything you need to know on how to elope in Washington state. Let's get right into it!

IN THIS GUIDE

How to Elope in Washington: Your Checklist
The Best Time of Year to Elope in Washington
The Best Elopement Locations in Washington and Permits
Where to Stay for Your Washington Elopement
How to Get Married in Washington: WA Marriage License Laws
The Best Elopement Vendors in Washington
Elopement Photography Packages

HOW TO ELOPE IN WASHINGTON: YOUR ELOPEMENT CHECKLIST

Just starting your elopement planning journey? This is where you should start!

  1. Choose the time of year you want to elope.
  2. Hire your Washington elopement photographer.
  3. Pick a date.
  4. Choose an amazing elopement location.
  5. Book your lodging.
  6. Hire your badass vendor team.
  7. Apply for any national park, state park, or city wedding permits (we'll talk about how to know if you need one later in this blog)
  8. Apply for a Washington marriage license.
  9. Get married! Woohoo!

CHOOSE WHAT TIME OF
YEAR YOU WANT TO GET MARRIED

Washington State has year round beauty and options for every season! Let's go over the pros and cons of every season to see what the best fit for your dream elopement is.

SUMMER

Pacific Northwest summers are renowned for just how damn perfect they are, and it's by far the most popular time to elope in Washington state because of how mild the weather is. June, July, and August are the three top months of the year to elope, and for good reason! You'll have long days with plenty of sunshine (the sun doesn't set until 9:30 midsummer!), temperatures ranging from 70 degrees to the mid-80s, dry air, and cool breezes. Because it's such a short season (snow doesn't melt in the mountains until mid-July usually), this is also the busiest time of year on the trails. Our local National Parks are in full swing and you'll have some other travelers to contend with, but if you're dreaming of a magical summer elopement it's worth braving the crowds! Think epic wildflower fields, green meadows, snow capped mountains and sunshine.


*NOTE: mid to late August into September is wildfire season in the PNW so something we take into account when planning your elopement is the possibility of smoke/fire. But no worries! We always have a backup plan!*

FALL

If stunning leave changes, cool temperatures, foggy mornings and evenings, and cozy days are your vibe, then a fall Washington elopement is for you. Leaves begin their color change in late September and usually are in peak color by the second week of October. Washington has spectacular larch trees that glow a fiery yellow up in the Northern Cascades! In September, October, and early November temperatures range in the 50s-60s, with some cloudy and misty days. But the colors and temperatures in the mountains are perfect for the romantic cozy feels. If you're planning on eloping in November, you might even have some snow in certain locations! Shifting into soup mode is in full swing. Still a popular time to elope, but you won't have to battle the worst of the crowds like you would for a summer elopement.


WINTER

The ultimate snuggly romantic time of the year, Winter is when the quintessential Pacific Northwest weather is. In December, January, February, and most of March you'll have the moodiest days perfect for sitting around a fireplace, drinking hot cider or cocoa, saying your vows with misty skies or huge snow drifts. If you're a snow bunny, this is also the perfect time to slap on some snowshoes, skiis, or snowboards and make your elopement the coolest winter adventure.

Winter is the least popular time of year to elope because it requires a bit more planning and your locations are limited due to the weather, but if you love cloudy and rainy, plenty of mist and fog, and mountainy winter wonderland, it's perfect for you. Winter is a unique time of the year to elope because you'll have most of the trails and touristy spots to yourself if you're willing to brave the weather. Temperatures can be in the 40s in lower elevations and in Seattle where snow is unusual, but are often in the 20s or negatives in the mountains. But it's the BEST time of year to plan the coziest Airbnb elopement deep in the forest.

SPRING

Fog, mist, more snow and cloudy days fill March, April, and May, but it's one of the greenest times of the year in lower elevation area and out on the Olympic Peninsula! In my opinion a springtime elopement is perfect for locations like the Hoh Rainforest where things will be glowing green as temps warm up. You'll most likely have cloudy, rainy days in most of Washington, buuuut it's perfect for those that want to embrace the coming warm weather, avoid pretty much all crowds. I don't recommend planning a mountain elopement for the spring because temperatures are warm enough where the snow is unstable, however this is a great time of year for a Seattle city elopement when the cherry blossoms are in bloom in March and early April, a moody coastal elopement, or a cozy Airbnb elopement on the Olympic Peninsula.



WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT
LOCATIONS AND PERMITS

This wouldn't be a guide on how to elope in Washington without tackling the most important part! WHERE to elope! There is absolutely no shortage of breathtaking elopement locations in Washington. In fact, there's so many that it can be overwhelming to choose! But in this list below you'll find my top recommendations and my favorite trails or places nearby to elope, and permit requirements for all of them.

MT. RAINIER NATIONAL PARK

An icon, a legend, Mt. Rainier is the pinnacle of PNW mountains. Not only is Mt. Rainier a badass volcano, but she's the tallest mountain in Washington at 14, 411 feet!

Permits

Recommended Locations (all very popular trails but worth it if you're willing to brave some crowds):

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SUMMER MT. RAINIER ENGAGEMENT

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK

Olympic National Park is extremely diverse in landscape and is the biggest National Park in Washington! You'll find everything from rainforest to glaciers, snow capped mountain, to rocky coast and sandy beaches here.

Permits

Recommended Locations

CLICK HERE TO SEE A HOH RAINFOREST ENGAGEMENT

MT. BAKER

Mt. Baker is one of my favorite places in all of Washington. Brian and I even eloped here ourselves! We know all of the best spots for an elopement any time of year here, so you can't go wrong with a Mt. Baker elopement. Below you'll find a link to our Ultimate Guide to Eloping at Mt. Baker also!

Permits

  • no permits needed for weddings under 75 people
  • you'll need a Northwest Forest Pass ($35 annually) or a $5 day-pass that you can get at any of the Mt. Baker parking areas if you bring cash. 

Recommended Locations

ELOPEMENT LOCATIONS NEAR SEATTLE

If you're not up for a hike but still looking for a beautiful private place to elope, there are so many beautiful locations under two hours drive from Seattle! Some of my favorite types of elopements are ones that are in cozy tucked away Airbnbs and backyards. So here are my top picks for the perfect places just outside of Seattle, that are a full on experience themselves!

  • Canyon Creek Cabins 
    • The Canyon Creek Cabins are my absolute top choice for any rental in the PNW. If you can book Cabin #1 you won't be disappointed, but honestly all of their cabins are stunning. Dog friendly, tucked in a mossy forest just an hour and half from Seattle, with some of the most unique architecture out there, it's undeniably one of the most gorgeous places you can elope that's not a national park. (photo credit: Canyon Creek Cabins)

CLICK HERE TO BOOK CANYON CREEK CABINS

  • Timberstilts Treehouse 
    • An extremely unique set up that would be a true PNW unique experience and not just a stay! If there's enough snow in the winter you have the option to be snowmobiled in with all of your stuff. This location would be insane for photos, and you could do your ceremony right on the property! Luxurious, but still with a cabin-y feel and a very cool way to spend your elopement time. (photo credit: Timber Stilts Airbnb)

CLICK HERE TO BOOK TIMBER STILTS CABIN

WHERE TO STAY FOR YOUR WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT

Not sure where to stay for your Washington elopement? No problem! I've put together lists of all of my favorite Airbnbs for all of the best elopement locations. Check them out below!

HOW TO ELOPE IN WASHINGTON:
MARRIAGE LICENSE LAWS

In Washington state you can pick up a marriage license from any county office and it's valid throughout the whole state! You do not need to get a marriage license in the county you're getting married in. The state of Washington has these requirements for a couple to legally get married:

  • Application fee is $62.00
  • Minimum age to marry is 18.
  • Waiting Period: There’s a 3 day waiting period.
  • License Validity Time: You'll have 60 days from the day you get the license to return it to the auditors office.
  • Residency: You do not need to be a Washington resident to apply for a license or be married in the state.
  • Witnesses: Witnesses are not necessary to apply for a license, but state law requires that at least two witnesses be present at the ceremony. Witnesses should be at least 12 years of age. Need an extra witness? I'm happy to witness your ceremony!

Couples planning to getting married in the state of Washington may be obtained a wedding license from the Whatcom County Auditors office. All of the necessary forms can be obtained in person or online: Whatcom County Auditors Office, 311 Grand Ave #103, Bellingham WA 98225.

CLICK HERE FOR MY BLOG POST ON HOW TO LEGALLY

GET MARRIED IN WASHINGTON STATE

VENDORS

Need to hire some vendors still? Check out some of my favorites below!

Florists:

Planners/Coordinator:

Hair/Makeup Artists:

Pet Wedding Day Coordinator:

Personal/Group Charcuterie Boards:

MEET YOUR ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHERS

washington elopement photographers the cardinals elopement photography

We're Natasha
and Brian!

Your Washington elopement photographers, dog petters, and donut eater focused on creating the dreamiest and real photos of your elopement. But we're so much more than just photographers. When you work with us, you get built in elopement planning experts, trail guides, snack holders, dress fluffers, tissue providers, and friends.

We know exactly what it's like to plan an elopement, because that's what we did too! We eloped on a misty August day at Mt. Baker with our sweet dog Fern and 7 of our closest friends and it couldn't have been more us. Creating an experience that's undeniably you is what we know best.

LEARN MORE ABOUT US HERE!

ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY PACKAGES

WASHINGTON ELOPEMENT PACKAGES

01

02

03

SUNRISE/SUNSET

HALF DAY

FULL DAY

For that couple that's ready to pack in every experience they can from sun up to sun down. This package is perfect if you want sunrise and sunset coverage so you get the best of both worlds! This time can be split however you'd like throughout the day, so we don't miss a thing.

Short and sweet for the couple that's all about keeping it simple. We'll cover your I do's, go on a short hike or visit your favorite local spots, and take some damn sweet photos along the way.

The sweet spot for all of the essentials. We'll cover your getting ready photos, head to your ceremony location, go for a hike, eat-drink-and-be-merry, visit the most beautiful locations for photos, have a romantic dinner.

~ 8 hours of coverage

~ premium bespoke wedding album

~ timeline + location planning

~ guides, questionnaires + resources

to inspire the best adventure ever

~ sneak peek gallery

~ travel + tax included within the PNW

~10 hours split between sunrise and sunset

~ premium bespoke wedding album

~ timeline + location planning

~ guides, questionnaires + resources

to inspire the best adventure ever

~ sneak peek gallery

~ travel + tax included within the PNW

~ 4 hours of coverage

~ timeline planning + location planning

~ guides, questionnaires + resources

to inspire the best adventure ever

~ sneak peek gallery

~ travel + tax included within the PNW

$6,000

$4,800

$7,400

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