The Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Washington

So you are thinking about getting married in Washington and you don’t know where to even begin? Well, you are in the right place! Navigating state laws, rules, and regulations can seem like an uphill task, and that’s even before we mention the fun stuff like booking venues and vendors!

I am ready to help you let’s dive right in.

As an experienced Washington wedding photographer, I have been privileged to be part of many special celebrations. Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and the planning for this day should be filled with excitement and not stress. 

So, from marriage licenses to elopement considerations, read on and let me hold your hand as we plan your ultimate wedding together!

A couple stands at the end of a wooden dock, sharing an intimate moment by a tranquil lake with forested shores and houses in the background.

Washington State Weddings

Washington State, for me, is the perfect wedding destination, offering a diverse range of natural landscapes and a wide variety of wedding venues. Whether you opt for picturesque coastlines or would like to trek up a mountain for your special day, Washington State has it all!

There’s also not much planning needed for the weather, with venues offering inside/outside ceremonies, from vineyards to elegant ballrooms and a moderate climate here; there’s always a great wedding day waiting on the horizon!

If you are flying in friends and family for the day, then the major cities here are perfect to offer easy access for out-of-town guests to celebrate and indulge in world-class wines (there are more than 1,000 wineries here) and farm-to-table dining. Washington really does have it all, and don’t get me started on the food here!… not that I am biased!

A close-up of a couple embracing on a wooden dock, with the man gently holding the woman's hand and the woman resting her head on his shoulder.

Washington State Marriage License Requirements

So now you’ve learned why you should be getting married in Washington State. Let’s now learn the nuts and bolts of how to get your marriage license and the cost in Washington, whether you live here or not!

Luckily enough, Washington is one of the easier states to get married in, so preparing to get married here should feel like a breeze. As long as you are over 18 and legally free to marry, then you are good to go!

If you are planning a quick wedding, then it is worth noting that Washington has a mandatory 3-day waiting period. This can not be waived and does not begin until you have purchased the license. The steps for getting your license are as follows –

  1. Fill out the application form online – you can apply in person or by sending it by mail.
  2. Submit your application and fee of $72. The easiest way is for you and your partner to attend the court yourselves, with your ID and fee money. There, you will be given that all-important marriage license! Pretty easy so far! You can also do this by mail, but you will need the assistance of a notary, with more guidelines for this on their official website. Your license is then valid for 60 days while you prepare for your big day.
  3. The best step so far, it’s time to get married!! You would have received your marriage packet in the mail beforehand. On the big day, these papers will be signed by your witnesses, officiant, and yourself. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, more on this later!

If you are from out of town or from a different country than the US,  it’s also super simple. The only thing you need to provide is a Social Security Number (SSN); if you don’t have one, it may cause delays, but it can still be done.

Thankfully, Washington is also a progressive state in terms of LGBTQIA+ marriages, and there are countless venues that embrace these. The paperwork is exactly the same, which is as it should be!

Who Can Officiate A Wedding In Washington State?

So now that you are getting married in Washington and you have your license, you need to know who can officiate a wedding in Washington state.

State law is very clear on who you can have as your officiate on your big day. For example, you can’t get married AND ‘DIY’ the marriage ceremony! You can have a minister from any state, as long as they perform it actually in Washington of course. But it can be any ordained minister or priest of any religious belief.

If a minister isn’t for you, then active or retired judges and superior court commissioners are also able to perform the ceremony.

Short answer: Anyone who is ordained in any religion! 😜

Do You Need A Witness To Get Married in Washington State?

The simple answer to this is yes! You need two witnesses before your wedding is officially held in Washington State. Some wedding companies will even provide these for you, as you do not need to know the witnesses personally. 

The witnesses must be over 18 and sign the paperwork, along with the official, before it’s returned to the issuing court to have the marriage registered and legalized. Following this, you can apply for your much-awaited marriage certificate!

How To Elope In Washington State

If you want more freedom in your ceremony or don’t want a traditional wedding, then you may decide on an elopement! I am here to tell you that Washington State is great for this option, too! You do not need to find or go to a specific venue to get married here, and as long as you find your legal officiant, you can perform a ceremony anywhere you choose!

Just check that your two witnesses are willing to come along and that it’s permitted on the land, and then you will be good to go. Speaking of permits, if you plan on getting married in one of the many national parks in Washington State, then these are definitely a must!

Permits for Elopements

Each state park will have its own individual rules and requirements, and as an elopement photographer, I will also need a photographer’s license. So, when you have decided on your perfect elopement location, head straight to the website and check the permit requirements for that specific location. 

Don’t fear if you’re starting to sweat thinking the permits are hard, I actually do all this permit homework for my clients so you just get to have fun when you’re mine.

For the most part, they are pretty straightforward and clear about how to apply and if you actually need a permit. Just be sure to plan ahead of time and not leave it until the last minute.

Permits at these parks won’t break the bank, but just remember, what you want to do or how many guests you have arriving at the park may influence the pricing.

Time of Year to Elope in Washington

An important consideration for elopements, which may be less of an issue than getting married in Washington, is the time of year you choose to do it.

Washington’s national parks are very popular all year round, so unless you want groups of hikers or families playing with children in the back of your pictures, then it may be wise to choose a less popular weekday or around the holiday seasons.

The weather will be your best friend or your worst enemy, especially in the more remote locations, so make sure you have considered this when booking the date, and of course, suitable clothing! You can wear any style of dress, but let’s not forget our winter coat during the snowy months. Also, it’s good to check the location isn’t closed for the winter season either.

Final Thoughts: Getting Married In Washington

Well, there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed my post on getting married in Washington and picked up a few useful tips. Getting these basics right can ease the stress of planning your special day, leaving you more room to get excited about the main event.

If you’re now thinking about booking a Washington wedding photographer who’s just as comfortable in your venues and in hiking boots climbing Mount Fremont to capture your dream day, then I’m your human!

If you want to learn more about my photography service pricing, click here. Or, if you’d just like to chat and see if we’re a good fit, click here. I can’t wait to hear all about your big day!

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We help quirky and untraditional couples find joy and adventure on their special days by providing passionate and wild photography that captures the big moments of love… and all the little candid ones in between.


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