7 Reasons to Elope (+ 16 Perfect Places to Tie the Knot in the Northwest)

June 30, 2020

In my last blog, Love in the Time of Coronavirus: COVID-19 and Your Wedding, I shared a few wonderful alternatives to throwing a big wedding this year. Among those was the option to elope! If you’re here, elopement is probably an option you’re considering; and for good reason. As a wedding photographer, I have photographed so many different types of weddings. And, while I do love big weddings, I am partial to elopements. If you don’t have your own already, this blog will give you 7 reasons to elope.

Elopements are so magical and personal and lighthearted and so entirely about the couple.

While an elopement may not have been exactly what you envisioned for your wedding, my hope for you is that you’ll stop thinking of elopements as a ‘last resort’ and start opening your mind to all of the romantic possibilities of a single day that’s entirely about the two of you.

Before I dive into all the wonderful reasons to elope, I think it’s important to set the stage by addressing the obvious question:

What is an Elopement?

What do you picture when I say the word ‘elopement’? Perhaps you see a young couple perched whimsically on the cliffs of Yosemite or a marriage commissioner signing a marriage certificate at the county courthouse. While these are both fair examples, I challenge you to think BIGGER.

Because the truth is, an elopement is whatever you want it to be, and that’s the beauty of it.

An elopement is most distinctly characterized by the intention of the day. It is a highly personal, intimate celebration that is entirely focused on the couple (rather than the guest experience or family obligations). It is defined only by what the couple wants, and operates outside the confines and ceremony of a traditional wedding. Elopements can be any style, any mood, involve any events or rituals, include anyone, and be held anywhere. The options are quite literally endless!

After pouring over testimonials from real couples who eloped and reflecting on my own experiences as an elopement photographer, I compiled this list of 7 main reasons to elope.

7 Reasons to Elope

1: It’s all About You

It’s incredibly difficult to make a big wedding all about you. The more people you invite, the more opinions you invite, and the more obligations pile on. One of many reasons to elope is that you effectively free yourself from the expectations of a traditional wedding day to design a day that is authentically about you. 

For example, if you want to spend the morning going on a hike with your guests or playing records in your favorite coffee shop instead of rushing to the venue to check in vendors and make sure grandma isn’t lost, you have complete freedom to do so. 

What activities actually feel like you and represent you as a couple? Your only job as an eloping couple is to fill your day with those things (and also get married at some point) 

I have to tell you from this side of the lens that doing what makes you feel most like yourself, most excited, and most connected to your fiance’ always – ALWAYS – results in the best and most authentic and personal wedding photos. 

2: Your Options are Endless

When you have to plan for 200 guests, your options are very limited by what you can pull off and what you can afford. You have to take into consideration age differences, preferences, idea of entertainment, comfort level, tastes, costs, and everything in between. More often than not, logistics get in the way of what a couple really wants. 

When you only have to plan for 2 people (or even 20 people) that you know intimately, logistics are no longer a barrier, and you open the door to so many incredible options for food, venue, location changes, decor, activities, etc. 

3: It’s Better for the Environment

As a former environmental educator, I love to help couples make their wedding environmentally friendly. But between travel, single use clothing, venue, and catering (among other things), it’s incredibly difficult to throw an environmentally friendly big wedding (for more on this, read my previous blog, Tips for Planning an Eco-Friendly Wedding)

In the most obvious sense, eloping involves far fewer people, which makes it easier to reduce your carbon footprint due to fewer people traveling, receiving invitations, buying wedding clothes, needing lodging, eating, etc. 

If you’re a couple who shares these values, the environmental impact may be high on your list of reasons to elope. 

4: You Get More Time with the People You Love

This is HUGE.

How many times have you heard a couple say, “I barely even got to hang out with my best friend/sister/best man at my wedding, it all went by so fast!” ?

I have photographed a lot of weddings, and I hear a version of that nearly every single time. At a wedding of 200 people, you can spend just a few minutes with each guest and still not get a chance to talk to everyone

Elopements allow you to spend your day with your fiancé and the people who matter most to you.

Contrary to popular belief, elopements don’t have to exclude friends and family. It’s YOUR elopement, so go ahead! Invite the people who really know you as a couple and have supported you on a deep level with the comfort of knowing you won’t be pulled away to exchange pleasantries with acquaintances and distant relatives. 

Whether you run away with your fiancé or you gather your closest friends and family, an elopement gives you more quality time with the people who matter most.

5: Your Money Can Be Spent on What Matters Most

For some, throwing a big elaborate (expensive) wedding is a way to give a gift to their family and friends. For these couples, the event represents much more, and is an invaluable memory that is worth every penny. I fully support these couples. 

But many engaged couples don’t feel that way, and they absolutely shouldn’t have to conform to this tradition. 

So whether you simply don’t feel right investing all that money into one day, or would get more value out of putting that money toward a house, getting out of debt, traveling, or even giving just a few guests an unforgettable experience, eloping allows you to strip everything back and intentionally place your money where you place your value. 

Money shouldn’t necessarily be one of your main reasons to elope, but it is a noteworthy perk!

6: You Have Less Stress, Obligation, and Planning

Unsurprisingly, many couples elope because the idea of planning a big wedding is stressful and tied to a slew of family obligations. For some couples, this pressure can be a positive thing – an exciting adrenaline rush, even. But for many couples, putting all that focus and all those expectations on one day is simply no fun. 

If the idea of planning a big wedding feels overwhelming, pay attention to that, check in with yourself, and consider whether eloping may be a healthier and more enjoyable option for you. 

7: You’re Not Limited to Just One Day

Perhaps you had to cancel your wedding because of coronavirus but you don’t want to compromise getting married this year or compromise your dream of having a big wedding celebration. Or perhaps you simply can’t imagine saying your intimate wedding vows in front of a group of people but still want to celebrate with family and friends. 

Great news: You don’t have to choose! Do both! 

Elopements don’t have to be the beginning and end of your wedding story. Many couples treat it like part one of their celebration and opt for an elopement first and wedding reception later. Even if you are already legally married when it happens, your big celebration will still be special. Your friends and family will be just as eager to celebrate with you. 

So live out your grand, mountain top elopement fantasy this year and throw your big wedding celebration on your wedding anniversary. Have a vow renewal party a few years down the road, whatever makes you happy! This has been a tough year and we all need a reason to celebrate, now more than ever! 

(For other wedding alternatives, read my previous blog: Love in the Time of Coronavirus: COVID-19 and Your Wedding.)

Where To Elope in the Northwest

Eloping is a magical experience worthy of just as much celebration and excitement as a big wedding. If the 7 reasons above haven’t convinced you to elope, check out these amazing northwest elopement locations:

Washington state has an endless number of beautiful locations to fit any mood or aesthetic. From romantic urban charm to rugged mountain ranges, Washington is home to some of the most beautiful indoor and outdoor scenery, making it the perfect backdrop for your elopement.  

Note: If you choose to elope in a state or national park, make sure to plan ahead for it. Many parks have COVID-19-related closures and require special permits. You can find more information about permits and environmental considerations on my blog. Read: Getting Married in Washington’s State and National Parks: Everything You Need to Know. 

Small Elopements

Snoqualmie Pass – Home to the breathtaking Snoqualmie Falls and a number of picturesque views. 

Gifford Pinchot National ForestThis forest land includes the infamous Mt. St. Helens, and is surrounded by hundreds of scenic hiking trails. 

Eastern Washington – The desert-like landscape of Ellensburg. The rivers and Bavarian charm of Leavenworth. The beloved lake and vineyards of Chelan. In all, Eastern Washington has something for everyone. 

Mount Rainier National Park: So many beautiful locations! Some of my favorites are: Paradise, Sunrise, and Tipsoo Lake.

North Cascades National Park: Mountain views, glaciers, and lakes, and home to Artist Point (which is arguably one of the most beautiful panoramic views in the state). 

Olympic National Park: Nearly a million acres and several ecosystems – including a rainforest. Some notable favorites are: Ruby Beach, Rialto Beach, Second Beach, Hoh Rainforest.

Seattle Municipal Courthouse: There is something so romantic about running off to get married at a courthouse!

Small Weddings

Treehouse Point – A unique, fairytale-esque treehouse village in the forest, check! Elopement and small wedding packages, check! Onsite (treehouse) lodging for you and a few guests, CHECK. This place is so dreamy.

Parsons Gardens – A beautifully landscaped public park with romantic coves and seating areas. A true gem in Queen Anne and perfect for small weddings.

Victorian Valley Chapel (Orcas Island) – A quaint, historic, open-door Victorian chapel nestled in the magical woods of Orcas Island. 

Your Backyard – Think about it! It’s convenient, free, you’re friends with the owner 😉 , DIY decorations, and a party that lasts all night – What’s not to love?! 

Volunteer Park Conservatory. Seattle’s famous capitol hill greenhouse that grows hundreds of tropical and subtropical plants and hosts up to 25 guests. 

Woodinville Lavender – A beautiful lavender farm with wedding and elopement packages and onsite amenities. 

The Corson Building – A family home-turned-food and event space, this house is a charming, unique venue with so much character. 

The Wayfarer – Beachfront seafood restaurant and whiskey lounge, and ceiling-to-floor views of the one and only Canon Beach. 

Kubota Garden – A picturesque, peaceful, 20-acre Japanese Garden in the heart of Seattle, maintained for nearly 100 years.

I hope this blog showed you just how romantic and fun it can be to plan an elopement. It’s a wedding, it’s YOUR wedding, and it deserves to be revered with just as much honor and celebration. 

As a wedding and elopement photographer, I believe wholeheartedly that elopements are just as important as big weddings and should be documented in detail to preserve the memory of your entire wedding day. 

If eloping is the route you decide to take and you give me the great honor of being your photographer, I promise to document every beautiful, mundane, hilarious, romantic, and reverent moment that makes the day uniquely yours.

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