Post Summary: Below is a full guide to planning a winter elopement in Washington, including a list of the best winter elopement locations, a packing list, safety tips, reasons why I love winter elopements, and more.
If you were to look up the best time to elope in Washington on Google, you’ll undoubtedly find that summer is the overwhelming answer. And yes, summer IS an incredible time to elope anywhere in the PNW, thanks to how spectacular our alpine landscapes are in the summer, and the iconic wildflower meadows many couples dream of. But allow me to make a different suggestion: why not take the (figurative) road less traveled and opt for a winter elopement in Washington, instead?
If you’re open to eloping outside of the normal summer months and going a little outside the norm, then this guide is for you: I’m giving you all of my top winter elopement tips, locations, safety advice, places to stay, attire tips, and a packing list to help you plan a romantic, oh-so-cozy elopement in this dreamy winter wonderland.
Why Choose Washington for Your Winter Elopement
Washington is not only one of the most epic summer elopement destinations, but one of the most magical winter elopement destinations in the country, too. I’d say that winter elopements here are a bit of a hidden gem, as the majority of couples choose spring, summer, or fall for their elopement—and that makes winter the perfect time for an elopement with fewer crowds, lower travel costs, and completely unique scenery!
I know that our summer scenery here in Washington is to die for; people literally travel from all over to see the blooming wildflowers at Mt. Rainier, or the crystal clear alpine lakes amidst the trees. But trust me when I say that the picturesque landscapes turn into something completely different, and increasingly magical come wintertime, when the snow caps the mountains, weighs down the tree branches, freezes over the lakes, and covers the ground beneath you. The diverse settings that Washington has to offer take on a whole new light in the winter; hiking through the lush green mountain meadows is traded for cross-country skiing through the white-drenched paradise, and the blue skies are traded for their moodier counterpart, fog and soft overcast light covering the landscapes. It’s SUCH a romantic time of year to be in Washington, especially during the holiday season!
Besides the breathtaking winter landscapes, Washington has some of the best winter activities and sports in the area—literally, Mt. Baker is known for having some of the best snow for skiing in the country and holds the world record for the most snowfall in one season! While summer in the mountains is a dream come true for hikers, winter brings opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, dog sledding, you name it. So if adventuring out in the snowy landscapes + cozying up by a fireplace with a hot drink afterward sounds like your idea of a good time, then a winter elopement in Washington would likely be a dream come true for you!
Despite the amount of snow that we get in the mountains here in Washington, our winter weather is actually pretty mild in most parts of the state, with average temperatures ranging from 15-35°F in January. Obviously this fluctuates depending on where you’re at—e.g. Coastal locations don’t often fall below 40°F in the winter months, whereas higher mountain elevations can be freezinggg, and mountain passes get a lot more snow—but in general, we don’t get super harsh winters. This means you can usually enjoy the enchanting snowfall without being totally bombarded by it, which is always a plus!
Washington also has a variety of winter-friendly wedding venues and elopement locations for you to choose from. Because we get a lotttt of rain throughout the year in many parts of Washington, we have plenty of venues that are prepared for that type of weather—aka venues that have beautiful indoor location options! And while some of the most popular elopement locations, such as Mt. Rainier, aren’t always accessible in the winter, we do have plenty of spots that are available all year-round, which I’ll tell you more about in a minute.
How to Elope in Washington in the Winter
1. Select the perfect winter date
First, you’ll need to choose your winter elopement date. I recommend doing a little research on locations in order to choose your date—you don’t need to pick your exact spot just yet, but have an idea of when your ideal locations will be open and accessible in the winter months. Keep in mind travel costs, your guests’ schedules, and accommodation availability, as well.
2. Choose the right winter attire
Next, be sure to choose attire that will keep you not only comfortable and confident, but safe and WARM above all else. Trust me, you can still be stylish and incorporate your own unique fashion sense while picking pieces that’ll keep the cold out! I’ve got some more attire tips coming later in this guide.
3. Pick a winter-friendly venue
Now it’s time to pick your location! As I mentioned before, Washington has tons of winter-friendly venues as well as outdoor locations that are accessible in the snow, which I’ll be diving into in the next section of this guide.
Can’t decide where you want to elope? Read my guide to How to Choose the Right Elopement Location For You to find out what factors you should take into consideration.
4. Hire a photographer experienced in winter elopements
Finally, it’s incredibly important that you hire a photographer who has experience photographing winter elopements. There are a LOT of factors to consider when it comes to winter photography, including protecting your camera gear from the elements and making sure you know how to keep your couples safe—so be sure to find someone who knows what they’re doing. I personally have photographed countless winter elopements across the PNW, so you can trust that I’ve got you every step of the way.
Top 10 Winter Elopement Locations in Washington
I've compiled a list of the 10 best places to elope in Washington in the winter, including some of my favorite low-elevation locations in the mountains, gorgeous rainforests, and picturesque spots along the Washington Coast.
Leavenworth is the #1 option on this list thanks to the fact that it is literally a winter paradise. While it’s an incredible summertime destination, with endless outdoor recreation opportunities available in the mountains nearby, this cozy Bavarian town becomes even more charming and magical come wintertime, with festive German food and holiday decorations all around. I’m pretty sure winter is actually the busiest time of year in Leavenworth as far as tourists and crowds go, despite its spectacular summer activities, so that says something! There are plenty of stunning venues in the Leavenworth area if you’re looking for a traditional venue, as well as a neverending list of things to do in town, from shopping at the charming local stores to taking a Nordic skiing adventure to visiting the Nutcracker Museum. I can’t recommend Leavenworth enough if you’re looking for the ultimate winter wonderland elopement destination that’ll get you in a festive mood the moment you arrive!
Gold Creek Pond is one of the few mountainous locations in Washington that’s easily accessible in the winter. Located at the top of Snoqualmie Pass, this stunning pond (which feels more like a lake) is super close to the city, so it’s an easy spot to get to for your ceremony or elopement portraits with the mountains in the background! The loop around the pond is even paved and ADA-accessible, assuming of course that it’s been cleared of snow and isn’t too icy.
3. Mt. Rainier (Longmire area)
If you’re familiar with Mt. Rainier, you might be surprised to see it on this list as it’s not usually a great winter elopement location! This is because the majority of Rainier’s roads close around mid-October or earlier, but did you know you can still access the base of this glorious mountain? Longmire is located in the southwest corner of the national park, just under 7 miles from the Nisqually park entrance, and is one of the few areas of the park that’s open year-round. Venture along the Trail of the Shadows Loop for views of mineral springs (either via hike or snowshoe, depending on the trail conditions), or simply follow the plowed road through Longmire and check out the suspension bridge that hangs over the Nisqually River. If you’re more experienced with winter hiking, you can usually also access the Wonderland Trail from Longmire to Cougar Rock Campground, as well as the Rampart Ridge Trail!
Obsessed with the idea of eloping at Mt. Rainier? Same! Don’t miss my full guide to How to Plan an Epic Mount Rainier Elopement, where you’ll get the inside scoop on everything you need to know.
If you’d rather be closer to a city, Spokane is super beautiful in the winter and has plenty of accessible outdoor locations nearby, including the lower parts of Mt. Spokane (unless you want to ski!), Riverfront Park, and Palouse Falls State Park. If you don’t want to go skiing, snowboarding, or hiking, there are also tons of cozy indoor activities available such as wine tasting, touring microbreweries, or dining at one of the many delicious restaurants that downtown has to offer!
If you’re looking to elope at one of the best ski destinations in the PNW, Alpental Ski Area in North Bend is the place for you. It’s one of the base areas at the Summit at Snoqualmie, offering some of the deepest ski runs in the PNW and the most night skiing in the US. Alpental has options for everyone, no matter your level of expertise when it comes to skiing—whether you’re a total beginner or you’re a seasoned skier/boarder looking for expert terrain! North Bend is also just an incredible area to explore, with places like Gold Creek Pond and Rattlesnake Lake nearby.
The Columbia River Gorge spans across both Washington and Oregon, offering diverse landscapes and a variety of epic activities all year-round. The Gorge is one of the top destinations for waterfall elopements, as there are countless waterfalls located in the trees, some just off of the scenic highway, and the majority of the waterfalls can be visited at any time of year, including Latourell Falls and the iconic Multnomah Falls! Exploring the Gorge in the winter is just as magical as it is in the summer, in a totally different and surprisingly beautiful way, with opportunities ranging from scenic drives along the highway to hikes among the trees to cozy Airbnbs with views of the snow-capped mountains.
Olympic National Park is by far one of the top winter elopement destinations in Washington, as many of the diverse landscapes across the park allow for year-round adventures, especially spots along the coast and deeper into the rainforest. Some of my favorite winter elopement locations in ONP include Lake Crescent, the Hoh Rain Forest, Ruby Beach, and Rialto Beach; each spot offers its own unique scenery and natural beauty that looks just as stunning in the winter as it does in the summer.
8. Mt. Hood
This one is technically located in Oregon, but it’s so close to and accessible from Washington that I had to include it on this list! Mt. Hood Meadows is one of the biggest ski resorts in the state, about 70 miles east of Portland, and part of the Mt. Hood National Forest that spans over 1 million acres of gorgeous landscapes. Mt. Hood Village is such a romantic setting that offers SO many amazing winter activities including sledding, skiing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing, making it the ideal winter destination for any type of couple.
Lake Wenatchee is a perfect place for your elopement ceremony or portraits if you’re staying in Leavenworth, featuring beautiful mountain views and a beach that’s open year-round. Once snow hits the ground, you can explore the state park via cross-country ski or snowshoe, and you can even camp during the winter if you really want a true PNW adventure!
10. Snoqualmie Pass
Finally, anywhere along Snoqualmie Pass that you can safely access is a top-tier winter elopement destination in Washington. The pass gets a ton of snow in the winter (so much that it’s often closed to cars), which makes it perfect if you’re dreaming of an elopement in the middle of a truly snowy landscape! You may or may not get views of the Cascades depending on how foggy or snowy the skies are, but even if you don’t, the snow-covered trees and wintry wonderland make up for it.
16 Memorable Activities to Do During Your Winter Elopement
Planning activities you’ll love is a key part of creating your dream elopement, as that’s what will really make your experience memorable whether it’s just the two of you, or you and a group of family and friends. Below are some of my top winter elopement activity recommendations that will apply to any winter location, not just Washington!
1. Find a local outdoor ice skating rink to skate together
2. Explore scenic winter landscapes with a romantic snowshoeing adventure
3. Hike to a scenic spot with a beautiful winter backdrop for your ceremony or photos
4. Enjoy yummy s'mores + hot drinks around a campfire
5. Snowmobile through the snowy mountains
6. Bring a sled for some downhill fun in the snow
7. Experience the magic of winter with a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow
8. Build a snowman together
9. Cozy up by a fireplace, either indoors or by an outdoor fire pit, and enjoy each other's company
10. Take a helicopter to a glacier in Alaska for some truly epic portraits
11. Have a romantic candlelit dinner in a cozy cabin or intimate winter setting
12. Have a snowboarding/skiing adventure down your favorite mountain
13. Relax in a hot tub together under the stars
14. Bring thermoses of hot chocolate and toast to your love
15. Book a couples' spa day for some well-deserved relaxation and pampering after your elopement
16. Go for a dog sledding experience through snowy landscapes
What to Pack for Your Winter Elopement
Now, let’s talk about what to pack for your winter elopement, because it’s super important to make sure you’re well-prepared when it comes to being out in the snow for long periods of time.
Long-sleeved wedding dresses are the way to go. Opt for a gown with sleeves to keep you warm, or at least wear a thick faux fur stole or shawl; these accessories will add a touch of glamor and warmth for outdoor photos, and will make sure your shoulders stay warm! Thermal undergarments are going to be your best friend, as well, especially thermal or fleece-lined leggings (like these), or undershirts that you can wear under your dress as an extra layer. Make sure they blend in with your skin tone and don’t stand out underneath your attire!
You’re going to want to choose a thicker fabric for your suit or tuxedo to keep you warm, such as wool, as well as a tweed or wool overcoat to serve as a stylish (and warm) layer for outdoor photos. Grab a thermal dress shirt and other thermal underclothing, as well, to keep the chill at bay while you’re outside, and make sure they don't show through your outer layers.
Here are some winter elopement accessories you won’t want to forget:
- Winter boots: Insulated, waterproof boots for both comfort and style
- Gloves: Thermal or lined gloves to keep your hands warm during your ceremony
- Earmuffs or a winter hat: Protect those ears from the cold!
- Scarf: To keep you stylish and warm
- Bridal jacket
Hair & makeup
Ask your hairstylist to help you come up with a solid weather-resistant hairstyle; something that will be able to withstand potential rain, snow, or wind. You’ll also want to have your MUA use long-lasting, waterproof makeup that will stay flawless despite the winter elements.
I love having my couples pack an emergency kit to keep on hand for their elopement during any season, but it’s especially important to be prepared in the wintertime. Here are a few important things you should keep in your emergency winter elopement kit:
- Hand warmers: Keep a few on hand for a quick warm-up when you need it. Rechargeable ones like this are my favorite!
- Blanket or shawl: Super useful for outdoor ceremonies or to throw on in between photos.
- Hot packs: Place these in your pockets for extra warmth during your ceremony.
- Microspikes/crampons: To help you safely venture across icy/snowy terrain
- Thermos filled with hot chocolate, tea, or soup: To keep you full and warm between the events of the day
10 Safety Tips for Your Winter Elopement
Let’s continue on that same note with some key safety tips for your winter elopement. Like I said before, it’s important to be prepared for any and every scenario no matter what time of year you elope, but it’s especially crucial in the winter, when conditions can be much more expected and can quickly take a turn for the worse. Below is a list of my top 10 safety tips to ensure you have a safe, smooth, and stress-free winter elopement in Washington no matter what may come your way!
1. Constantly check the weather conditions
2. Use Twitter for park updates
3. Use the WSDOT website or app to see current road conditions & alerts
4. Check live webcams if your elopement location has them
5. Make sure you have winter-appropriate tires and necessary equipment like chains, de-icer, etc. If you rent a car, make sure it's one that can drive well in snow.
6. Carry an emergency kit in your car with essentials like blankets and snacks
7. Budget plenty of extra time for travel
8. Understand the unpredictable nature of winter weather and be prepared to handle possible rain or snow
9. Have backup plans in place for outdoor ceremonies in case of extreme weather
10. Follow the Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact
Where to Stay for Your Winter Elopement
Finding a great place to stay is equally as important as picking the right elopement location when it comes to winter elopements, as you’ll be spending a lot more time indoors than you would during the summertime! Luckily, Washington is absolutely filled with winter-friendly and hella cozy accommodations for you and your guests to enjoy when you’re ready for a break from the cold + snow. Depending on your elopement location and your group size, you’ll likely have a wide range of options to choose from, from tiny Airbnbs all the way to spacious 5-star ski resorts.
Here’s a list of winter-friendly accommodations that you’ll get to choose from for your Washington elopement:
- Cozy cabins
- Lakeside Lodges
- Mountain Chalets
- Snowy Resorts
- Ski Resort Lodging
- Historic Inns
- Beachfront Cottages
- Treehouse Retreats
- Luxury Mountain Retreats
- Hot Springs Resorts
- Cottage Resorts
Figure out what type of vibe + atmosphere you’re going for, and then start looking into what your specific location has to offer!
I hope this guide has helped show you just how magical a winter elopement in Washington can be, and how many endless possibilities there are for you to create a dreamy, uber-romantic day in this winter wonderland of a state! While Washington is undoubtedly breathtaking in the summer, there’s just something so unique and charming about winter across these snowy landscapes, and I’d encourage you to really embrace the magic of a winter celebration if you’re down to brave the colder weather.
And if you’re not quite set on a Washington winter elopement yet, that’s totally okay! I’ve got a ton of elopement guides for different locations up on the blog that you can check out, from the PNW all the way to Egypt, Bali, and Thailand. If you know Washington is the place for you but you’re not sure what location to choose, you can browse through all my Washington elopement guides here.
Once you’ve read through this guide and peeked through my website, take a look at my Washington winter elopement packages + pricing below to see if we’re a good fit for your elopement—and if so, I’d freaking love to connect and get to planning your dream elopement here in Washington!
Washington Winter Elopement Packages & Pricing
- 4+ hours of elopement photography coverage
- Your own personal elopement guide & consultant
- Unique and personalized location scouting
- Vendor recommendations
- Permit and marriage license assistance
- Hand-crafted elopement timeline
- Created just-for-you activity list
- Unlimited guides and resources
- 100+ page How to Elope Guidebook
- Optional complimentary officiant service
- Digital online gallery with full resolution image and printing rights
- Sneak peek images within 1 week
- Photographer travel fees covered anywhere in Washington
Starting at $4,500
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If you loved this guide, I’ve got sooo many more planning resources I know you’ll love just as much—here are some of my favorites:
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