If you’re here, it probably means that the magic of Washington State is calling to you and shouting, “come elope here!”
I’m not surprised! For couples that share a deep appreciation of nature and the outdoors, the Evergreen State is a truly special place to celebrate your love story. But I also know it can be daunting to start planning your elopement, especially if you’re traveling from out of state.
So, I’ve created this guide with a few important tips to keep in mind for planning a successful Washington State elopement. I talk through all of these things the couples I work with and hope that it can be helpful for you too, no matter what stage of planning you’re in.
Washington is famous for its gorgeous mountains, but out-of-towners are often surprised to learn that a lot of places can remain covered in snow up until (and sometimes through) the summer months. If you have a few locations in mind, do some research to see what time of year they’re typically accessible. Each year is different, but this will at least give you an idea of what is normal. If you’ll be traveling through areas where there is a chance of snow, make sure you have a vehicle with all-wheel drive and prepare accordingly.
This is especially important if you’re eloping during the peak travel months of the summer. We have some pretty spectacular summers, which is something that locals and visitors appreciate. A lot of the parks and natural areas become overcrowded on weekends and holidays, making it hard to have a relaxing and enjoyable elopement experience. You’ll still find some crowds on weekdays, but it will be more manageable.
The Pacific Northwest is full of beautiful natural areas, from mountains to coastlines to rainforests. They’re magical, but also extremely fragile. I can’t emphasize how important it is to treat these natural lands with the utmost care and respect. The Leave No Trace principles are an awesome framework to follow to be a conscious visitor and minimize the impact caused by outdoor activities like hiking (and eloping!) I need an entire post dedicated to these principles, but here’s a couple basics to start.
Another part of being a good (and rule-abiding) outdoor citizen is obtaining the correct permits and passes needed to access public lands and natural areas. In addition to the regular park passes, many areas require that you also obtain a special use permit. In those cases, you’ll have to make a reservation or send an application in ahead of time. Be sure to also review any rules about group sizes and what is/is not allowed in specific areas. (This is something a local photographer and planner can help you navigate!)
By choosing to work with a local elopement photographer or planner, you’ll benefit from all of the knowledge and experience they have with elopements specifically in our state. They’ll have insight into the best spots (including some hidden gems), common pitfalls to avoid, and recommendations for other local partners. They’re also more likely to have knowledge about what permits and passes are needed for certain public lands and be up-to-date on any changes or developments.
Depending on where you are in Washington, the weather can be extremely different (and confusing). If and your guests are traveling from out of state, remember that even in the summer temperatures can drop pretty low at night in many parts of WA. If you’ll be doing a sunset hike, for example, be prepared by packing extra layers with you to stay warm when the sun goes down. Even if it was hot during the day, the temperature can drop by more than 20 degrees at night!
I couldn’t talk about Washington State without talking about rain. There is always a chance of rain here in the PNW, but July and August are usually our driest seasons. Washington is pretty diverse climate wise, and there are some parts of the state that get a lot more rain than others. The Olympic Peninsula, for example, is always going to have more rain than Eastern Washington. Take this into consideration when planning your elopement. If rain is a big concern for you, research what the average precipitation is like in different areas before committing to one location.
But no matter where you’re going, I like to have a back-up plan in mind. I also keep a pack of umbrellas in my car “just in case. However, I want you to know that you can have an incredibly beautiful elopement even if it’s drizzling outside!
On the other side of things, the PNW has seen some awful wildfires the past few summers. Be sure to follow any developments closely and stay in communication with your local photographer or planner who can give you an inside scoop. Last summer, for example, our whole region faced a ton of smoke, even in places hundreds of miles away from the actual fires. In these worst case scenarios, your vendor team can help with recommendations.
Like I said, we have some pretty fabulous summers here in the PNW, making it a popular spot for travel. Once you’ve got your elopement date locked in, be sure to start researching accommodations, especially if you have a larger group you’re looking to find lodging for.
There’s a few reasons it can be helpful to consider different times of year for your Washington State elopement, outside the popular months of July and August. For one, you’ll face less crowds, which is awesome both for the overall experience of your elopement and the environmental impact. There will also be less competition for accommodations and often lower prices, as well. You’ll also be able to find vendors more easily outside of the popular summer months (some vendors even have adjusted pricing for events taking place in the off-season.) Lastly, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the unique landscape of the Pacific Northwest during often-overlooked times of year. You can snowshoe across a winter wonderland, capture the colors of fall foliage, or enjoy how lush and green out state is in the spring.
There you have it!
Those are just a few of the main tips I have for planning a successful Washington State elopement. If you’re looking for some additional guidance while you plan your elopement, there’s a few ways I can help! You can also set-up a call to learn more about working together and talk through any of the pieces of elopement planning you have questions about.
Wishing you a magical Pacific Northwest elopement – happy planning!