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[Updated for 2022] How to Get Permits for Your Washington State Elopement

north cascades national park elopement

Post summary: if you’re in the middle of planning an elopement and you want to hold your elopement somewhere outdoors, there’s a chance you’ll need to get a special elopement permit. Below, you’ll find all the information you need on how to get a Washington state elopement permit at some of Washington’s most popular destinations, including our 3 national parks, a few state parks, & national forests!


If you’re an avid outdoor-lover who visits national & state parks often, you’re likely familiar with the idea of permits and passes! Typically, you need some sort of permit to enter any national or state land, and certain activities require additional permits. Did ya know that weddings & elopements are one of those other activities that require a special permit?!

I’m a firm believer that in order to celebrate your elopement in the most memorable, authentic way, you also need to follow the rules and take care of the land you’re celebrating on! We don’t want you to have an incredible elopement in the mountains, only to leave your ceremony area worse than how we found it - that’s not too fair to future couples & visitors, is it?

Keep reading for more reasons you need to get your correct permits, what happens if you don’t get your permits, and for permit details at some of the top destinations for a Washington state elopement!

National park wedding

Why do we need a permit?

Yes, permits can be a hassle! I’m totally get this, since I have to get permits at every national (& sometimes state) park that I photograph. They cost money, they take time to obtain, and they add just oneee more thing to your already-long-enough to-do list.

But in order to have a truly beautiful elopement all-around, you need to adhere to the rules & regulations of the land that’s offering you up a stunning backdrop!

Wedding permits

Leave No Trace

If you’re not familiar with the Leave No Trace organization, I have an entire blog post dedicated to how you can Leave No Trace with your adventure elopement!🤩 In short, it’s an organization that focuses on educating people about the earth & helping them minimize their impact on the land they visit.

Too often, I’ve seen couples be unaware of the impact their elopements have on the land. For example, I’ve seen couples bring giant arbors to the middle of forests, not realizing they’re contributing to the erosion of the land underneath. I’ve seen countless couples (and photographers) wander off of designated trails at state & national parks to get a “‘prettier shot,” all the while destroying the wildflowers and vegetation they’re stepping on😣

Getting the correct permits helps parks avoid overcrowding, put more money into taking care of the land, and ensure that visitors are aware of what is & isn’t allowed. By obtaining a permit for your elopement, you’re committing to staying on trails, following park rules, & taking care of the beautiful land you’re using to marry the love of your life!

Wedding permit

Keep it legal

If you get married in a state or national park without the correct permit, it’s simply not legal! The permit process is usually fairly straightforward, so it truly doesn’t add a huge weight to your shoulders. As your photographer, I also provide plenty of permit assistance as I’m likely more experienced in that area than you may be! 

Ensure your safety

Finally, getting the correct permits also ensures that you, your guests, & your vendors stay safe! Permits usually come with certain guidelines and restrictions that are in place for a reason: to keep you safe and allow you to have the BEST experience possible at your location. By not getting a permit, you may not learn about the rules set in place to regulate any potential dangers or unsafe locations/activities!

National park wedding

What happens if we don’t get our permit?

If you decide not to get the correct permit (whether by accident or out of ignorance), you could be charged a hefty fine by the park you’re in. You’re also disregarding the rules the park has set in order to take care of the land, and selfishly acting on what you want, versus what’s best for the land & future visitors.

But if simply not wanting to break the rules isn't enough of an ethical reason for you to get your permit, you can also be BANNED completely from state/national parks if you don't get one! I've seen countless photographers (even friends of mine!) get banned from parks because they didn't follow the rules, and blindly (ignorantly) photographed couples inside the park. And it's not just photographers/vendors - you & your guests can get banned, too, for not following the appropriate permit rules + guidelines!😨

I will always make sure I’m here to guide you through getting your permit - I promise you won’t have to do it alone!

National park wedding

Washington National Parks

Now, let’s go through Washington’s 3 stunning national parks and the slightly different permit requirements + processes for each one!

Mount Rainier National Park Wedding Permit

Entrance Permits/Passes/Fees: $30 per day per single vehicle, or $55 annual pass per vehicle

Permit You’ll Need for Your Elopement: Special Use Permit

Permit Cost: $60 non-refundable application fee + separate permit fee based on your elopement details

Permit Requirements:

  • Your photographer must obtain a separate permit

Permit Rules + Restrictions:

  • Your party size (you two, your vendors, & all your guests) determines which locations you’re allowed to use for your ceremony!
    • 1-60 participants: may use select predetermined locations (may include certain trails, picnic areas, roadside locations, & campground amphitheaters)
    • 60+ participants: may use campground amphitheaters
  • Here’s what’s NOT allowed for your ceremony:
    • Impeding the activities of other visitors
    • Roping off/blocking any areas/trails
    • Large decorations/equipment
    • Chairs, tents, or awnings
    • Confetti or anything similar
Wedding permit

How to Apply:

  1. Complete this application form
  2. Email the completed form to mora_special_use@nps.gov
    1. If for any reason you need to try and expedite your permit (less than 4 weeks in advance of your date), include that in your email!
  3. Once your application is received, you’ll get a Permit Application Number & instructions on how to pay your application fee.
  4. If your permit request is approved, you’ll receive the permit.
  5. Once you receive the permit, sign & return it to the park for final approval.
Washington state elopement

Olympic National Park Wedding Permit

Entrance Permits/Passes/Fees: $30 per day per single vehicle, or $55 annual pass per vehicle

Permit You’ll Need for Your Elopement: Special Use Permit

Permit Cost: $50 non-refundable application fee + separate permit fee based on your elopement details

Permit Requirements:

  • Allow at least 3-4 weeks for permit processing
  • Your photographer will need to obtain a separate Still Photography Permit

How to Apply:

  1. Complete this application form
  2. Mail your completed application along with your $50 non-refundable application fee (through check made out to the National Park Service) to the below address:

Olympic National Park

600 East Park Ave

Port Angeles, WA 98362

  1. If your permit request is approved, you’ll receive the permit.
  2. Once you receive the permit, sign & return it to the park for final approval.
Wedding permit

North Cascades National Park Wedding Permit

Entrance Permits/Passes/Fees: no entrance fee!

Permit You’ll Need for Your Elopement: Special Use Permit

Permit Cost: $50 non-refundable application fee + separate permit fee based on your elopement details

Permit Requirements:

  • Your photographer will need to obtain a separate Portrait Photography Commercial Use Authorization

How to Apply:

  1. Email the park office to obtain the permit application.
  2. Pay your $50 non-refundable application fee through the NPS website here.
  3. If your permit request is approved, you’ll receive the permit.
  4. Once you receive the permit, sign & return it to the park for final approval.
Washington state elopement

Washington State Park Wedding Permits

Washington State Parks all luckily share the same permit requirements and process, so it’s laid out for you below no matter what park you’re eloping at! 

Some of the most popular state parks to visit in WA:

  • Deception Pass State Park
  • Larrabee State Park
  • Bay View State Park
  • Riverside State Park

Entrance Permits/Passes/Fees: Discover Pass (single-day pass: $10, annual pass: $30)

Permit You’ll Need for Your Elopement: Special Activities Permit

Permit Cost: $45 non-refundable application fee + separate fee based on party size (see below)

  • 25 people or less: $32.75
  • 26-50 people: $65.50
  • Per vendor: $50
  • Additional fees may apply based on your elopement details
Washington state elopement

Permit Requirements:

  • Your photographer will need to obtain a separate Film/Photography permit

Permit Rules + Restrictions:

  • You must submit your application & additional documents/payment to your park contact at least 60 days in advance
  • Here’s what’s prohibited for your elopement ceremony:
    • Damaging any vegetation or park property
    • Off-road vehicle use
    • Loud noises between 10:00pm and 6:30am
    • Use of meadow areas except on trails
    • Harassment of wildlife

How to Apply:

  1. Find your park contact through this PDF, based on the desired location of your elopement.
  2. Complete this Special Activity Permit Application.
  3. Submit your completed application to your park contact along with:
    1. A copy of a park map indicating the location of your elopement
    2. Payment of $45 application fee along with any additional fees laid out by your park contact
    3. Certificate of insurance in the amount of $1,000,000 general liability & $1,000,000 personal injury, naming State Parks as an additional insured
      1. Name of additional insured: Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, 111 Israel Rd SW, Olympia, WA 98504
Washington state elopement

Washington National Forests

Finally, here is the permit information that’s available online about two of Washington’s beautiful national forests!

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Wedding Permit

Entrance Permits/Passes/Fees: $5 day pass or $30 annual pass

The good news is that if you want to elope in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, you won’t need to pay for a permit! That’s right - you only need a Special Use Permit for this forest if you’ll be having a party size of more than 75 people. Which, luckily, if you’re working with me as your photographer, you likely won’t!

However, your photographer WILL need to obtain a separate Commercial Filming & Photographer permit to photograph your elopement.

Wedding permit

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Wedding Permit

Entrance Permits/Passes/Fees: $5 day pass or $30 annual pass

As of January 2022 when this is being written, there is no information online about whether you need a Special Use permit of some sort for weddings in the forest. I recommend reaching out to the respective Ranger District Office to find out specific information for the time of your elopement!

Wedding permit

I hope this information helped you to understand why it’s necessary & ethical to obtain a permit for your elopement, and also helped guide you through how to do so!

You can find further details on each of the locations’ websites (linked throughout this article), as the specifics may change over time!

If you’re looking for more Washington state elopement resources, or simply need some help planning your Washington state elopement, check out my article on the Best Places to Elope in Washington! Happy planning!

Washington state elopement

PIN FOR LATER

In order to make your dream elopement day happen, it's super important that we connect and that you feel comfortable with me! The best way to do this is to reach out and schedule a call so you can learn more about me and I can learn about you two so i can document what's real + the most important to you.

I'm ready! let's schedule a call!

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