Eloping in the PNW

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

2020 Weddings. Cancelled. Postponed. Is elopement the "new normal?"

Change. Sometimes change is good. Often times in wedding plans you have to prepare for any sudden changes and be ready with plan B. But in this case, there was nothing even my magical wedding planner powers could do. Instead of fairytale weddings, the season was filled with cancellations and postponements. Our hearts break for the entire industry and to all the 2020 couples that have spent the last year meticulously planning their big beautiful dream weddings. But I’ve come to realize that this isn’t the time to feel defeated. It’s the time to grab life by the balls, count your blessings, and keep on keeping on.

During the past few months my brain has been stuck in a mental impasse with everything thats been happening in the world. (I know you can probably relate.) After months of scrambling and adjusting everything in my life, i'm finally getting the hang of things. What really makes us humans unique is our capability of problem solving even the most complex situations that we’ve never even experienced before. Hence this blog, which is my version of somewhat deciphering this inevitable circumstance which might very well turn out to be the “new normal” in the wedding world.

Who knew Zoom weddings would be a thing? We don’t know what the future holds at this point. But the show must go on.

What can we do?

In order to keep businesses alive, modifications have been made in order to abide by COVID-19 restrictions. According to a national poll that I recently came across, about 50% of wedding planners have decided to add smaller packages to their offerings. So, after quite some time of reflection, S&T Events would like to introduce our Couple Only Elopement package. This package includes full elopement planning, florals (bridal bouquet and bout), a small cake, and a bottle of bubbly. A complete package that's safe and compliant with COVID-19 restrictions. Winning!

Why you should think about it.

I always like to look at the brighter side of things. To be more specific lets start off with the advantages of eloping in Washington state. The most obvious reason is your budget. Your pockets will love this idea. Budget is a major factor and will dictate what kind of wedding you have. If you didn’t know by now, weddings are expensive. Complete shock with mouths wide open is the usual reaction I get when I tell a couple how much the cost is. Most of the time, budgets are split between the couple and their parents. That usually means the couple will feel pressured to oblige to what their parents want, instead of what they really want. But when eloping, you can easily manage your budget without having to pay an arm and a leg, or having to awkwardly ask your parents to pay for the venue. You only have to worry about personal purchases, and the vendors you decide to hire to make the day perfect.

Another substantial advantage is the lower stress level you will experience. A wedding is a ceremony where two people (not 150) are united in marriage. When you’re knee deep in planning, we frequently forget the real meaning of a wedding. Naturally all couples are concerned about their guests, but sometimes couples get so caught up on planning they don’t even realize that they end up trying to satisfy their guests needs instead of their own. Sometimes it even goes as far as causing a strain in your relationships with loved ones.

When eloping, you don’t need to worry about adding an extra vegetarian or gluten free option to the menu, creating the perfect seating chart, or finding the right bridesmaids dress that your bride tribe can all agree on. (That last one is tougher than you think.) You have the option to just completely avoid all of that overwhelming stress and keep your relationships in tact.

Who you should hire. #teamelopement

Is eloping sounding better already? If you’re already convinced lets talk about how to put the perfect elopement team together. If you’re a minimalist, the "must have" vendors to get you going are the officiant and photographer. For extra comfort, it would be nice to hire a planner, florist, videographer, and hair and makeup. Just remember, the more vendors you hire the less work there is for you, but more money is out of your pocket. (Pro recommendation: hire as many as you can afford so you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy your day.)

Now lets break down the advantages for hiring these professionals:

  • Officiant - If you want to save money and make it more personable, ask a family member or close friend to officiate. Or you can choose from a variety of officiants in the Seattle area who are willing to travel, and also come with plenty of experience.

  • Photographer - This is definitely going to be a heftier price tag. Yes photographers are costly, but are so worth every penny. If you were to splurge on anything, I would suggest it would be on a really fantastic photographer. Essentially after the wedding, memories are all you have to look back on. Plus who doesn’t want the most breathtaking, Instagram ready wedding photos to post?

  • Videographer - Photos and videos usually come hand in hand, but in this case its not a necessity but would be enjoyable to have a highlight video of the whole adventure. Just imagine those amazing drone shots over the mountains you’re eloping on. Video will let you relive that moment.

  • Florals - Flowers are always an option in design. You can always be creative and opt for a different kind of bouquet or no bouquet at all. But if you still want to be somewhat traditional, hiring a florist for one bridal bouquet and one boutonniere won’t hurt.

  • Hair and makeup - Who doesn’t want to look their absolute best on their wedding day? Obviously you can save some money by doing hair and makeup yourself, but these professionals are artists and will help you look incredible on camera. Unless you're an MUA and stylist yourself, ditch the stressful DIY and let a professional handle it. It’s definitely worth the splurge.

  • Planner - Ok, I’m trying to sound as unbiased as possible in this blog, but this is the one vendor you can hire to take care of every single detail. If you easily feel overwhelmed, it might be a good idea to look into a planner. Remember this should be a joyous and exciting journey. Don’t worry about a thing, hire a good planner.

Once you’ve decided which vendors you need to contact, don’t forget about personal miscellaneous items to add in your budget. Other important ticket items are rings, your attire, and a celebratory meal after the ceremony. And one more thing that I always remind my couples about are vendor tips, but note that they’re optional and a really appreciable review will be just as good.

When to elope.

So now that you somewhat have your budget figured out, its time to pick a date. We are all familiar with the many changing seasons in the Pacific Northwest. It really depends on what kind of vibe you want to set for yourselves when picking a season. If you’re leaning towards moody and dark, then during autumn and winter will set the stage. But if you’re looking for color and clear skies then look into the summer time. (Pro tip - if you decide on a summer elopement, consider a weekday to avoid the tourist crowds.) As for spring, it is a bit tricky here regarding the weather, you never know what you're going to get. So plan with caution.

For the right time during the day, there’s really only two options to get those gorgeous, airy, filter free elopement photos and that's sunrise or sunset. I would definitely recommend to ask your photographer about these details to capture the perfect lighting.

Where to elope.

Alright, we have our who, what, when, and now where. Yes, the courthouse is always an option, but there are so many better places outside. What type of landscape makes you happy? Do you want your backdrop to be mountains, the beach or lake, or the rainforest? Lucky for you, we have a vast number of options in the PNW. We have the breathtaking views at Mt. Rainier National Park, the whole Washington Coast, or the remarkable Hoh Rainforest just to name a few. Check out our other blog on the best places to elope in the PNW for some adventurous ideas!

How to legalize it.

Last but not least, the how? How to get a marriage license in Washington state. Typically there's a 3 day waiting period before it is active, and a 60 day expiration date. I’m not going to lie, it's pretty crazy during these times and we have to deal with a lot of government buildings being closed. Not to mention, processing times could take longer than expected. With that said, I highly suggest to check your counties website for specific instructions on how to apply. For example, in King County, their online marriage kiosk is not available at this time, so they’re only accepting applications via mail. Applications should be notarized and sent in with a fee of $69. Check those websites people! Or if you're a brave soul and have the time, you can also try calling to get more detailed information.

Remember, there’s no wrong or right way to get married these days. Follow your hearts and do what makes you happy as a couple. Be kind to one another and stay safe out there. #loveislove

Happy Planning!



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