How to Plan Your Washington Elopement

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Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday! Today on the Banter Blog we’re chatting all about what you need to think about/ plan for when you’re planning your perfect Washington state elopement.

According to Wikipedia, an Elopement is “colloquially speaking, is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving a hurried flight away from one's place of residence together with one's beloved with the intention of getting married.”

But most of the time, Elopements are planned a little more than ‘spur of the moment’ ceremonies, depending on where you want to get married.

So here we go: How to plan your dream WA state elopement:

#1) Start Small

Elopements are usually no more than 30 people, so don’t think you have to plan to invite everyone you’ve ever met. Think small when it comes to eloping. Simple things like a dress, a location, a couple family members, and maybe cake after. Don’t overthink this! It’s super easy to overthink, but really, you just need to get wedding planning down to it’s bare bones.

#2) Where you want to go. Want to climb? 

There are TONS of amazing locations you can go to to Elope. You’ve probably seen those extravagant elopements on mountain tops and along the Grand Canyon, but you don’t have to go that big. If you want to- great! Take me with you! But there are tons of national parks in WA state that you can hike to, climb a mountain, go to the beach, really anywhere that fits your favorite vibes.

If you plan on climbing, I recommend not hiking/ climbing in your wedding dress, but if you want to get that dirty wedding dress vibe thing going, be my guest! Elopements are a lot more laid back and chill so really anything goes. Also bring tons of water, snacks, maybe a touch of extra makeup for photos, and hiking boots.

#3) Guest List 

Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to invite the world. Elopements are around 30 people so maybe that could be your benchmark. Elopements are mostly family only, an officiant, and you two getting married! One thing with how many people you plan on inviting: if you plan to have them sit down during the little ceremony, think about renting chairs or having them bring camping folding chairs. But most of the time, people are standing if you’re hiking a mountain. A folding chair might be hard to carry along with all the hiking gear.

Your guest list is just the most important people in your lives that you want to see there when you tie the knot.

#4) What to wear 

This is where you can totally get creative! Some brides like the classic white dress with maybe some more flare on the gown to make it more unique, or you can wear literally whatever you’d like. A skirt with a top, a romper, hell, even jeans! It’s totally up to you!

The image at the top of this blog post was a Mt. Rainier Vow Renewal I photographed last fall and she just found her dress online for less than $100. Some brides spend more on a boho-inspired dress or something more unique than the traditional wedding gown just because elopements don’t cost as much as a full blown wedding, so they use that extra money for their custom gown. It’s really all up to you and what you want.

#5) What to bring like chairs, change of clothes, cake, something easy.

I kind of mentioned these things above, but if you wanted to hike in a change of clothes then change into your wedding outfits, totally do that. Maybe bring like deodorant, extra makeup, towels to dry the sweat away, hairspray, basically like a little toiletry kit. haha

Depending on if you want your guests to stand during the ceremony, might want to rent some chairs, or have them bring camping chairs, etc.

Desert after the ceremony is common. One elopement I photographed at Deception Pass had just a little cake and cupcakes mini reception after they had their ceremony overlooking the sound. It was sweet and really adorable! Just something simple that you love.

#6) When/ time of day to elope 

The weather in Washington is always nuts, so be sure to look at the weather ahead of time to plan. The spring time in the mountains are usually filled with snow still and are super wet. Late summer and early fall would be super perfect with the sunshine. Even with clouds, it would still be warm. If you want a winter mountain elopement, then you totally have more months to choose from. Mt. Rainier this year had snow around October-April. Snow is still melting up there! But that also means some roads might be closed, too, so just something to keep in mind.

Summer and Spring time mountain/ lake/ or beach elopements would be much warmer and the trails would probably be easier to hike/ climb.

Also want to think about the time of day to elope. Some couples love Sunrise and hike up a mountain and get married right when the sun comes up. Others love golden hour in the evening so they can also have the golden sunshine for epic photos. Keep in mind that if you’re planning to elope in a national campground or somewhere that has “closed at dusk” rules, definitely check into that so you’re not locked out into the wilderness.

#7) Officiant + Paperwork + Permits

Always check if you need permits! Some parks require the photographer to have a photography permit, some require you to rent a campground, maybe even hiking permits, parking permits for your guests, etc. So be sure to check in with the park/ area and ask a park ranger what you may need for you and your guests.

Any paperwork: don’t forget to bring your marriage license (and a pen!) or any other wedding contract you might need. Some couples just wait to sign it all after the hike, but some just bring it with to be officially legally married on a mountain top. Up to you!

Your officiant: Maybe give them the paperwork? These days, you can have anyone be your wedding officiant and marry you anywhere! So make sure they are registered and acknowledged by the state that they are an officiant, and they have the proper paperwork, etc.

So there you have it! Just some things to think about when it comes to planning your perfect Washington State Elopement! Just remember that you can make it to be whatever you want and desire. The sky is the limit and you’ll seriously have an epic and awesome elopement!

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions or if you need help planning your elopement photography!