Ultimate Pacific Northwest elopement at Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park

Considering saying “I do” in the rugged PNW?

This Pacific Northwest Elopement guide is the perfect place to start!

Congratulations and welcome! My guess is you are here because you and your partner have decided to tie the knot, and I think that is a beautiful thing. As an elopement planner and photographer, I help couples celebrate their love in a variety of ways, but one thing that remains true in every couple I work with is this: their love is unique, and they want their celebration to be unique, too. That’s why I love elopements: they provide one-of-a-kind and fun ways for couples to declare their love. And for those looking to find a way to tie the knot that provides beauty, depth (and extraordinary photos!), the Pacific Northwest provides an unbeatable elopement location.

Whether you are still deciding if planning a PNW elopement is right for you, or can’t wait for the epic photos of you and your love under the blanket of northwestern stars, there is something in this Pacific Northwest elopement guide for everyone. At the end of the day, your marriage celebration is about you and your partner and the life you share. And if rugged adventure, pristine peaks, and misty beaches feel representative of your love story, then I can’t wait to share with you all that the PNW has to offer.

Why do I need a Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide?

The Pacific Northwest is fairly easy to travel to and equipped with major airports and friendly individuals are excited to show you the beauty of their respective state. However, when it comes to your elopement and one of the most special days of your life, it is important to have someone you can trust with you to ensure you are making the most out of your special day. This Pacific Northwest elopement guide will help walk you and your partner through the following:

  1. PNW Landscapes for your ideal elopement photos
  2. Elopement Activities within the Pacific Northwest
  3. Understanding PNW seasons for your envisioned celebration
  4. Sample PNW Elopement Timelines
  5. Planning your dream elopement

Together, we can uncover a celebration that creates a lifetime of memories, celebrates the uniqueness of your relationship, and promises some laughter and happy tears along the way. So before we go any further, what is an elopement, anyway?

Your Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide: Understanding the Basics

As an elopement photographer and planner based just outside of Seattle, PNW elopements include the two things I love most: epic marriage celebrations and the stunning views that our Northern states provide. If you have not yet been introduced to the wonder of these two things for your marriage celebration, then you are in the right place. But before we dive in, let’s start this Pacific Northwest elopement guide by going over some of the basics:

Defining Your Elopement

No longer are elopements a quick dash to the courtroom while family and friends are none the wiser. These days, elopements can come with as many (or as few!) of the wedding traditions as you choose. Want to wear a flowing white dress? You got it. Keen on a colorful bouquet? Let’s do it. Interested in a gourmet meal after the fact? I’ll call the caterer. Elopements don’t mean forgoing traditions. Instead, they mean only including traditions that you feel good about.

Simply put, an elopement is a way for you and your partner to officially tie the knot in a celebration that is authentic to you and your relationship. Elopements are also ceremonies recognized by the state and thus allow couples to legally marry. Generally, the only individuals that participate in the ceremony are the couple, an officiant, and occasionally, a few close friends or members of the family. (No more than 10 people total for a true elopement!)

The primary difference between an elopement and a wedding? The freedom to do what you choose! A smaller-sized celebration gives individuals the flexibility to get married in some very epic locations that you wouldn’t be able to complete with a larger wedding party. And with the wide array of activities and the romantic locations tucked away in the mountains or along the beach, all of the states within the Pacific Northwest provide an ideal location for you and your loved one to profess your love in the pristine outdoors.

What states make up the Pacific Northwest?

While all of the states within the Pacific Northwest have an ethereal “vibe” (picture mossy green forests, moody beaches, and incredible mountain views) there is quite a significant differentiation between the separate states that make up the beloved PNW:

  • Oregon: Oregon elopement locations come in all shapes and sizes from the stunning peaks of Mount Hood to the romantic Oregon Coast.
  • Washington: Eloping in Washington is a favorite for many outdoor-loving couples, with a wide range of national parks and iconic mountain backdrops to choose from.
  • Alaska: One of the wilder elopement locations, Alaska provides a natural playground for individuals looking to get married off the beaten path.

Unsure which state is the best fit for your specific needs and vision for your special day? That’s where this Pacific Northwest planning guide comes into play! Read on to discover some of the unique landscapes and activities you can find in our magical PNW states.

Why Elope in the PNW?

You understand the draw of elopements and understand the area that the Pacific Northwest encompasses, but the question remains: “Why is the PNW so special?” I am so glad you asked (because this is one of my absolute favorite topics to talk about!) The PNW is special for a variety of reasons, but I think it can be easily broken down into two major categories: the jaw-dropping landscapes and the year-round outdoor activities.

Your Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide: PNW Landscapes

Whether you are a beach person or a mountain person (or a “somewhere deep in the forest” type of person) this area of the country has something for you. I like to compare the landscape of the PNW to some of the epic international travel locations such as New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, and Iceland. (But with increased ease of travel!)

When you envision your special day, what backdrop comes to mind? Gentle ocean waves? Staggering cliffs? A starry sky? No matter your dream elopement, the Pacific Northwest is sure to have you covered.

Your Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide: PNW Activities

Perhaps my favorite thing about elopements in the Pacific Northwest is the opportunity to incorporate an activity that celebrates your partnership. Whether you and your future spouse met on an outdoor adventure, defined your relationship by how many peaks you have hiked, or are simply up for something new, the PNW is a great place to find adventure (big or small.)

Eloping in Oregon

Oregon elopements are what the romantic’s dreams are made of. Here are a few of my favorite Oregon elopement activities:

Eloping in Washington

If Oregon is for the romantics, then Washington is for the adventurers! I love an elopement that comes with a good story, and the activities that come with Washington elopements are sure to provide just that:

My favorite Washington elopement activities include:

Eloping in Alaska

For those who love to get off the beaten path, or whose love has been defined as “roaming wild and free” then Alaska may have some activities to pair with your elopement that allows your spirit to explore. Here are a few of my favorites:

Understanding the Best Time to Elope with this Reliable Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide

One of the best reasons to connect with a PNW elopement photographer and planner is they can help you choose locations and activities that align with the dates you have in mind for your unforgettable elopement experience. (Keep in mind, a good elopement planner can also help you do the inverse, and assist in choosing the right time of year for the specific photoshoot you have in mind, or the activity you just can’t miss.)

As your Pacific Northwest elopement professional, here is what I recommend keeping in mind when you choose the best time of year to elope:

Eloping in the PNW in Summer

There is something special about a summer wedding. The long temperate days, the sunny afternoons, and of course, wildflower fields bursting with color. Hikes and national parks tend to be a little busier during the summer months, so it can be beneficial to conduct a sunrise wedding to ensure the space you choose to host your ceremony is intimate and serene.

Eloping in the PNW in Fall

Fall is an incredibly special time in the PNW, both on the water and on land! Not only does this area of the country provide some of the most stunning autumn colors in the world (hello, larches!)  It is also the time of year when whales migrate. This means your fall elopement could be even more special while catching a glimpse of our underwater friends.

Eloping in the PNW in Winter

Winter elopements can often make for some of the most vivid memories. There is something so special about cozying up to your loved one after saying “I do,” and this is especially true in the crisp winter air. If winter activities are your thing (they are my thing!) then having a winter elopement that captures you with the joy of your favorite snow activity can make for some beautiful memories. Another benefit of winter elopements? The chance to see the breathtaking Northern Lights that often are visible in certain places within the PNW.

Eloping in the PNW in Spring

It’s true! Rain on your wedding day symbolizes good luck. And what better way to ensure good luck than scheduling a springtime elopement? Rain is fairly common in the spring for most of the PNW, but with that comes thousands of shades of green that make for incredible photo backdrops. It is also worth mentioning that many people forgo the rain and wait for sunnier days to venture out into nature, so you are more likely to have the national park or amazing view all to yourself.

The Ultimate Timeline for PNW Elopements

Next up in our Pacific Northwest elopement guide: considering how much time you need for your elopement adventure. Like anything about the elopement style of celebrations, you can customize your experience to be exactly what you need: whether that is a quick and easy trip to a scenic overlook or a multi-day adventure filled with sunrises, outdoor activities, and a few friends and family celebrating alongside you.

The first step is determining how long to plan for your elopement? Sit down with your partner and determine all that you want to include when celebrating your special day. That will give you a good jumping-off point for determining just how long to plan for your once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide: How Much Time to Plan?

A true planner at heart, I help all of my clients thoroughly plan out their elopement experience (of course, leaving plenty of time for you to stop and smell the wildflowers, and pop the champagne!) Because couples are so diverse in their desires for their special day, the length of time each couple needs to fully celebrate the event will vary greatly.

When I work with clients, I offer 4-hour, 8 hour, 10 hour, and customizable multi-day packages so they can feel empowered to make the day authentic to their plans. Only looking for a morning of snapshots? We can do that. Ready to dive into multiple hikes at multiple locations and outfit changes, ending with photos under the starry night sky? I am in for that, too. Helping couples imagine their ideal elopement and bringing it to fruition is one of my favorite parts about being a Pacific Northwest elopement planner, and photographer.

PNW Elopement Sample Timeline

Curious about what a customized timeline could look like for you? Unsure how it could possibly take 12+ hours to elope? The short answer is this: when it’s one of the most epic days of your life, several hours can feel like the blink of an eye.

Check out these sample timelines below (and also check out additional timelines available within this resource.)

Sample 6-hour Elopement Timeline 

11:30 am – Photographer to arrive at the cabin for getting ready photos

12:15 pm – First look at the cabin

12:45 pm – Drive to ceremony location

1:00 pm – Enjoy your Ceremony at the base of a mountain

1:45 pm – Champagne toast

2:00 pm – Take photos with all your guests

2:30 pm – Enjoy your favorite donuts

3:00 pm – Drive to the parking area for the waterfall

3:30 pm – Take pictures around the waterfall and along the river

5:00 pm – Depart waterfall

5:30 pm – Return couple to cabin

Sample 2-Day Elopement Timeline

Day 1 –

7:00 am – Hair & Makeup Artist & Photographer arrive at cozy Airbnb

7:30 am – Partner goes to another location to change & wait for First Look

9:30 am – First look photos outside of Airbnb

10:15 am – Depart Airbnb for Cape Flattery

11:30 am – Arrive at Cape Flattery & hike to ceremony location

1:00 pm – Ceremony along the cliffs of the Northwestern most point of the contiguous United States

1:30 pm – Take photos around Cape Flattery

2:30 pm – Enjoy picnic lunch

3:00 pm – Depart for Rialto Beach

5:00 pm – Arrive at Rialto Beach – Have a snack and cut the cake!

6:00 pm – Read congratulatory letters from family & friends

6:30pm – Share champagne toast & then enjoy favorite beers brought from home

7:00 pm – Photos along the beach during golden hour & blue hour

9:20 pm – Photos under the stars

11pm – Hike back to car & return to Airbnb

Day 2 –

7:00 am – Depart Airbnb for Hoh Rainforest

8:00 am – Watch the elk & hike around the Hoh Rainforest

10:00 am – Depart for Airbnb

11:00 am – Enjoy BBQ lunch

End of elopement experience

Taking the Next Steps: Your Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide

If you are beginning to imagine yourself twirling in a wedding dress surrounded by glittering snowy peaks, or lacing up your hiking boots before taking your first hike as a married couple, then chances are a PNW wedding could be an incredible fit for you and your love story. But before you bring out your snowshoes and start booking Airbnbs, there are a few logistical aspects of eloping that are important to consider.

Your Pacific Northwest Elopement Guide: Planning the Details

While the majority of the elopement planning process is brainstorming creative and fun details that make the experience authentic to you and your partner, there are some legal items to consider. Each state has different rules and requirements, so it is important to get the down low of what is required to obtain your wedding license and any other details that are necessary to legally marry (for example witnesses, officiants, interviews, etc.)

Additionally, some locations, such as national parks, will require specific permits to enter, and additional permits to legally wed on their premises. Doing your research ahead of time will ensure you don’t encounter any surprises when elopement day draws near!

The Benefits of an Elopement Photographer and Planner

If you get one thing out of this Pacific Northwest elopement guide, then let it be this: if you are planning an elopement celebration in the PNW, a planner is a must! Many individuals elect for an elopement as more of a carefree and stress-free alternative to weddings and forget that any successful adventure comes with a healthy dose of planning.

As a Pacific Northwest elopement professional, and overall lover of elopements, I believe everyone should make their elopement as authentic as possible. For some this may mean letters from loved ones, for others it may be photos in the early morning mist, all of which require a little extra forethought and planning. Still not convinced a photographer and planner is necessary for your PNW elopement? Consider these items your elopement planner can assist with:

Provide Accurate Travel Times

The Pacific Northwest may seem like a wild oasis for natural beauty, but traffic and crowds can still prevent you from getting to your destination on time. A Pacific Northwest elopement guide and planner can help provide you with accurate travel times to make it to your sunrise, trailhead, or AirBnB in plenty of time for the planned activities.

Provide Accessible Routes

Snow, wind, rain, and wildfires are all common in our beautiful Northwestern states. This means that some roads and hikes may be closed when these unforeseen situations arise. Having an elopement planner ensures there is always a plan B so a little early spring snowstorm does not deter your elopement dreams!

Advise on Sunrise vs. Sunset

Let’s face it: elopement planners know the schedule of sunrises and sunsets better than just about anyone. (After all, they make some of the most gorgeous and inspiring photos.) An elopement planner and photographer can ensure you are catching the best light for the season you are eloping and the feel of the photos you are hoping to capture.

Creating a Day for a Lifetime of Memories

Whether your idea of a perfect elopement includes elevation gain, the first glimpses of the sunrise, or a slow and cozy morning with your partner, your special day should encompass this authentic expression of your love. I hope this Pacific Northwest elopement guide has provided you with some valuable information so you can create the marriage celebration of your dreams, no matter what that looks like to you.

If you are planning to get married in the Pacific Northwest in 2023 and would like to learn more about how I can help you create a day that truly sparkles, reach out at any time. From the intimate details to the photographs that capture a lifetime of memories, I would be honored to help you capture and celebrate your new partnership.

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  1. So many great recommendations and ideas – love the cover photo . . . the first time I hiked that trail I thought of how beautiful it would be to plan an intimate elopement there!

  2. Holy smokes!!! This truly is the ultimate guide for PNW elopements!!!! I love the breakdown about different seasons, so important to keep in mind.

  3. You weren’t kidding when you said this was the ultimate guide! I love the seasonal features and think I’d be choosing Summer with those wildflowers. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow!! So much great information! The PNW is definitely one of the best places to elope and this will be so helpful for any couples considering PNW elopement!

  5. The PNW has so many incredible places to elope! If I were eloping I’d seriously consider going to Alaska–those glacier shots are so cool! This is a great guide for anyone wanting to elope in the PNW!

  6. You had me at that opening waterfall photo! That’s rainforest paradise right there, and then you’ve provided such great information after I finally stopped gawking at the glacier blues and rainforest greens.