So you’re planning your PNW elopement, and the first thing you’re trying to do is pick your location + date! I know it can be overwhelming trying to choose the perfect PNW elopement location, and then to pick the best time of year to elope at that location. Especially if you’re not native to the PNW! Which is why I’ve put together this guide to how to choose the best time to elope in the Pacific Northwest.
And if you’re not from here + have heard anything about Washington & Oregon, you might think that it’s alwayssss raining everywhere you go, 24/7. Sure, there might be rain and clouds in the PNW more often than in other parts of the country, but 1) I promise it’s not always rainy, and 2) the rain can actually be SUPER beautiful and peaceful.
In this blog post, I’ll be going through what the seasons look like in the PNW + weather throughout the year, what time of the day/week to elope (sunrise vs. sunset & weekdays vs. weekends), and the best time of year to elope for specific landscapes (such as wildflower meadows). I’ll be wrapping it up with where to elope each season, and how to deal with bad weather, plus more helpful PNW elopement guides + tips! Enjoy!
Let’s start off with a general overview of what each season looks like in an average year in the PNW!
If you want the best chance at a sunny day, and you’d much rather be warm than chilly on your elopement day, summer will be your best bet! Places like the coast and the mountains can still be fairly chilly in the summer, especially in the mornings/evenings, and the WA/OR deserts get dry + hot during the day. Days are long in the PNW in the summer and give you plenty of time to celebrate your elopement for a full day, without having to worry about the sun setting too early!
Summer is the best season for hiking in the PNW, since most of the snow will be melted at higher elevations during the warmest part of the summer. You’ll have he best chance of hiking without running into any snow that could block off higher parts of trails, but you will need to be aware of the potential for wildfires, especially in the drier parts of the PNW.
Fall in the PNW is absolutely UNREAL, y’all. The way the foliage EVERYWHERE turns gorgeous shades of red, orange, and yellow truly makes all of my autumn dreams come true every damn year. You know I’m addicted to Pumpkin Spice Lattes and everythingggg fall + spooky season, so I thrive in the PNW once late September-October hit!
The temperatures drop all around the PNW once fall hits, and sadly the days get shorter. If you stick to early-mid fall, sunset doesn’t happen TOO early quite yet. If you want longer days, head to the desert instead of the mountains so that you get as much out of the sunshine as you can.
One thing to be aware of in the fall here is that snow can come earlier than expected. So if you’re planning an elopement at a higher elevation in the mountains, I recommend having a backup plan or two just in case snow comes early and blocks off the trail you need to take to get there!
Winter isn’t the best time of year to elope in the PNW simply because of how cold it can get, the potential for rain + snow, and the short AF days. If you want to celebrate your elopement outdoors for a full day, you might want to consider breaking the celebration up into two days, instead, since the sun rises late and sets pretty early! But there’s nothing better than cozying up by the fire or in a hot tub at the end of your elopement day in the freezing weather. You know I love me a good book or movie in the warmth when it’s cold outside.
If you really want to elope in the winter, you’ll want to pick a location along the coast where it likely won’t snow, and where temperatures will stay at least a little milder! Ruby Beach & spots along the Olympic Peninsula are great examples of places that stay somewhat dry in the winter, and are usually a safe bet when it comes to winter weather.
Spring is a freaking gorgeousss time in the PNW y’all!! The wildflowers begin to bloom in the mountains, the rain makes the forests + foliage become so lush and vibrant, and the days start to become longer again. If you’re okay with rainy days, then spring is an amazing choice for your elopement. The PNW rain is seriously so peaceful and creates a moody, beautiful atmosphere to celebrate in. I always encourage my couples to embrace the weather, more on that toward the end of this blog post!
Spring is also when snow starts to melt, so you may be able to hike to higher elevations but again, have a backup location in place in case there’s still snow where you wanted to have your ceremony!
Now, let’s talk about what time of day + time of the week is best to elope in order to avoid the most crowds, especially if you elope in a national park, or any other popular spot that tourists visit often.
One of the best ways to avoid a bunch of crowds at your elopement location is to elope at sunrise. Most tourists come later in the day, especially if you’re eloping at a national park or popular state park, so sunrise will be one of the BEST times to elope in peace! Getting up at the crack of dawn can be tough, I know, but it is sooo worth it for the peaceful atmosphere you get at sunrise + for the experience of watching the day begin. It’s truly magical when you get up and it’s still pitch black out, then you hike while the sun rises, say your vows at golden hour, and get to watch the sun come up + listen to the pure quiet around you. I definitely think eloping at sunrise is one of the most phenomenal ways to elope!!
Check out Ricki + Jake’s Sunrise Elopement at the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor and I promise you’ll be convinced to elope at sunrise!
Eloping at sunset is also an absolutely amazing experience. Just imagine walking/hiking to your elopement spot as the sun is setting, saying your vows during golden hour, and celebrating with your loved ones as the sun drops behind the mountains/horizon + popping a bottle of champagne during the soft magic of blue hour. I cannot explain ENOUGH how in love I am with blue hour + dusk; a lot of couples think that photos have to end once the sun goes down, but that’s so not true! Taking photos at dusk under the moonlight + stars, or with glowing lanterns, is absolutely magical. We can even take photos in front of your car headlights if it’s pitch black outside!!
Ale + Naty eloped on the beach at sunset and let me tell you, the lighting was some of the most STUNNING light I have ever ever experienced. Take a look at their Whimsical Oregon Coast Sunset Beach Elopement here!!
In general, I always recommend eloping on a weekday if possible, because that’s when there are way less tourists at most popular locations! Weekends can get suuuper packed at places like Mount Rainier or Cannon Beach, where crowds flock to on their time off/family vacations. So if you’re able to plan a weekday elopement, especially at sunrise, you’ll have the best chance of eloping in the peace + quiet away from other visitors.
If you’re asking, “Okay Dawn, I know all about the seasons now – but can ya just tell me real quick what the best time to elope is if we want [wildflowers/fall colors/sun/etc.]?”
I’ve mentioned a few locations already throughout this blog post, but here’s a list of all my favorite PNW elopement locations, organized into the best seasons to elope at each one! Some locations such as Ruby Beach are mentioned in the winter, but may also be great options for other seasons as well. Don’t worry if you see a location you want for your summer elopement in the winter section. The seasons aren’t mutually exclusive!
Now to wrap this up, let’s briefly talk about what happens if you have bad weather on your elopement day?!
By “bad,” I mean weather conditions that are unpredictable/not ideal for all couples, such as rain, snow, fog, smoke, etc.
Summer in the PNW always brings the potential for wildfires, winter brings snow + ice, and spring (well, basically all year) brings lots of rain. But that does NOT mean the weather has to ruin your elopement day!
I always always tell my couples that “bad” weather isn’t all bad, as long as you embrace + make the best of it! The rain can be absolutely magical, with the quietness + peace it brings. Umbrellas look adorable in photos, and let’s be honest. what’s cuter than dancing in the rain in your elopement attire?
Here are my top tips for making the best of inclement weather on your elopement day:
The weather for Stephanie + Austen’s intimate wedding at Mount Rainier was WILD. Due to the rain & forest fires, sooo many plans were up in the air! Their elopement location ended up being covered in fog + was super rainy, and the view they wanted was nowhere to be seen – but they totally embraced it and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY.
It ended up pouringgg rain for my session on the Oregon Coast with Kiela + Derrick. But instead of letting it ruin the day, they smiled, laughed, and ended up looking like an adorable couple dancing in the rain in a romantic comedy!
Now that you know allll about what the seasons are like in the PNW. I hope you feel confident choosing the best time of year for your elopement! I’m more than happy to help you pick the best season + date for your celebration. Reach out here and let’s start chatting!