Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Washington
Located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, Washington State borders Canada, Idaho, Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. Named after the country’s first president, Washington was the 42nd state to join the Union in 1889. Important industries in Washington include commercial fishing, farming, ranching, lumber production and manufacturing—but you can’t forget the presence of the tech sector that has a definite stronghold in the Puget Sound area either.
Washington has a diverse landscape, from the desert-like areas east of the Cascades to lush rain forests on the Olympic Peninsula. The Evergreen State’s mountain ranges offer some of the most awe-inspiring views in the country, including those of the Cascade Range in Western Washington, which comprises several volcanoes including Mount Adams, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. The Olympic Peninsula is home to the Olympic Mountains and hundreds of acres of lush vegetation in the Hoh Rain Forest. With 143 state parks and nine national parks interspersed within state boundaries, residents and visitors enjoy an abundance of recreational opportunities in fresh, clean air. When it comes to your ceremony and reception, you can enjoy a variety of beautiful wedding venues in Washington State with a number of indoor and outdoor options that provide a little something for everyone.
Follow along with your wedding checklist to make sure everything is done on time.
Top Wedding Trends in Washington State
According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, 53 percent of Washington couples prefer an outdoor wedding ceremony and reception. With such diverse scenery, a number of Wedding venues in Washington offer the ideal backdrop. Lush golf courses, lakefront retreats, coastal estates, private vineyards and public gardens make frequent choices.
Farmhouse lawn and barn wedding venues in Washington also make popular options for many couples. Big, red barns and hay bales along with vintage-style props like old pianos, work trucks and pitchforks give Washington wedding photographers abundant photo ops. Decorating with a mélange of items like galvanized tubs, mason jars, crockery, antique chandeliers and doilies infuses the occasion with old-time charm, which fits well with Eastern Washington’s folksy, rustic towns.
When it comes to an indoor ceremony or reception, some Washingtonians opt for a church, while others choose a public museum, hotel, restaurant or banquet hall. Many wedding venues in Washington, such as historical homes, bed-and-breakfast inns, resorts and lodges, give you and your guests the opportunity for a indoor-outdoor experience.
Washington Marriage Rates and Wedding Costs
Planning a wedding can be stressful, but knowing the numbers makes the process easier. The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study provides valuable information about Washington marriage rates, budgeting trends and more to help keep your expectations real and your last-minute surprises to a minimum.
Marriage Statistics in Washington State
In 2015, couples spent an average of 11 months planning their Washington weddings. The majority preferred a semiformal wedding at 68 percent, while 21 percent of Washington couples opted for a casual celebration. Just 9 percent of people getting married in Washington in 2015 had a black-tie affair. On average, couples spent $25,149, excluding costs for the honeymoon, and the cost per guest averaged $203.
Budget Breakdown: Average Costs for Various Washington Wedding Categories
With an array of costs, wedding spending can get out of control, but
The Knot Budgeter helps. Whether searching for Eastern Washington wedding venues, Western Washington wedding venues, florists, wedding planners or DJs, this handy tool allows you quick and easy access to all types of wedding vendors, and tips for keeping celebrations affordable. The table below shows average amounts paid by real Washington couples for a variety of wedding categories.
Top Cities in Washington to Tie the Knot
From Lake Washington wedding venues in Seattle or Medina to golf courses in Wenatchee, an abundance of locations around Washington State make picture-perfect wedding options. Two popular cities for tying the knot include:
Make It Legal
Getting a better handle on the budget process helps keep your wedding planning smooth and easy. And before tying the knot, it helps if you learn the ins and outs of making your marriage legal in Washington State.
Getting a Washington Marriage License
Residents or non-residents of the state can get a Washington marriage license at any County Auditor’s office without an appointment, and fees (usually around $59) vary according to the county. Typically, both individuals must be present and supply current photo identification. If couples cannot appear together, some counties have downloadable applications, which you and your future spouse can fill out.
Applying for a Washington marriage license requires no blood tests, witnesses or birth certificates. A divorce certificate is not required, but a final decree of dissolution must be filed before applying for a new marriage license. Marriage licenses obtained in Washington are only valid for ceremonies held within the state. There is a three-day waiting period, and a Washington marriage license is valid for 60 days.
You must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a marriage license in Washington, with a few exceptions. Individuals who are 17 years old may apply for a Washington marriage license with a signed release form from a parent or legal guardian. Individuals who are 16 years old must obtain a court order from the Washington Superior Court before applying for a marriage license.
Individuals Who Can Solemnize Weddings in Washington State
Before getting married in Washington, it’s imperative to know who can conduct your ceremony according to state law. The following officials can solemnize a marriage:
- A justice of the supreme court
- A supreme court commissioner
- A court of appeals judge
- A court of appeals commissioner
- A superior court judge
- A superior court commissioner
- A judge of a court of limited jurisdiction
- A licensed or ordained minister, priest, rabbi, imam or similar religious official
If you choose to change your last name, start by getting a new Social Security card. The Social Security Administration website provides an easy online application form to print out and bring with you to your local office. Along with the form, you’ll also need to bring your marriage certificate and your driver’s license, state identification card or passport. Your new card arrives within weeks after all the necessary paperwork is submitted. Taking your new social security card to the local DMV with a copy of your current driver’s license results in a new license quickly. Use both new forms of identification for changing names on your passport, credit cards, insurance policies and bank accounts.
Don’t forget to provide your new last name to your work payroll department, post office, voter registration, and mortgage, insurance and utility companies. For a hassle-free name change, fill out one quick and easy form at HitchSwitch for a reasonable fee.
Permit Requirements for Washington Wedding Venues
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board requires a banquet permit for weddings and other one-time events held at private business establishments or public places. The permit allows for service and consumption of liquor by couples and their guests. You can visit the Board’s website to apply for a banquet permit.
Washington’s landmark buildings and heritage sites in state parks also require day-use permits if you’re hosting a wedding in one of these spaces. The following Washington State Parks have facilities available to rent:
- Cama Beach State Park
- Cape Disappointment State Park
- Fort Townsend State Park
- Fort Worden State Park
- Kitsap Memorial State Park
- Peace Arch State Park
- Saint Edward State Park
- Scenic Beach State Park
Contact the Washington State Parks department for all necessary forms.
It’s All About Timing
Timing makes all the difference when it comes to a fabulous Washington wedding. According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, 51 percent of Washington couples choose summertime for their wedding celebrations. Fall weddings also rank high in popularity, 30 percent of Washington couples marrying in autumn, and only 18 percent choose spring or winter weddings.
The Four Seasons in Washington
Fall temperatures in Washington State average 49 degrees, while winter temperatures dip to about 33 degrees. Temperatures rise to an average of 48 degrees in the spring and about 64 degrees in the summertime. In general, you’re likely to find warmer, even hot, temperatures east of the Cascades during summer, but things stay cooler around Puget Sound and on the coast. While precipitation averages 1.28 inches in the summertime, it rises up to 5.22 inches in the winter.
This state is notorious for its precipitation, and amounts of rainfall in Washington vary depending on location. Coastal areas on the Olympic Peninsula receive up to 160 inches of annual rainfall. When it comes to heavy snowfall, the western slopes of the Cascade Range take a beating, with more than 200 inches of annual snowfall in some places. Areas in the rain shadow east of the Cascades only receive about 6 inches of precipitation annually.
Washington Wedding Dates to Avoid
To provide plenty of guest lodging and wedding venue opportunities for your attendees, you may want to avoid certain dates when planning your event. National holidays and special community events can sometimes narrow the availability options for Washington wedding venues and hotels. Popular events in Washington attracting many residents and out-of-town visitors include:
- The Seattle Boat Show (Late January to early February, Seattle)
- Seattle St. Patrick’s Day Celebration (mid-March, Seattle)
- Skagit Valley Tulip Festival (April, Mount Vernon)
- Bloomsday Run (Early May, Spokane)
- Seattle International Film Festival (mid-May to early June, Seattle)
- Fremont Fair (mid-June, Seattle)
- Spokane Hoopfest (Late June, Spokane)
- Washington State International Kite Festival (late August, Long Beach)
- Bumbershoot (late August to early September, Seattle)
- Ellensburg Rodeo (late August to early September, Ellensburg)
- Pig Out in the Park (late August to early September, Spokane)
- Washington State Fair (early September, Puyallup)
- Issaquah Salmon Days Festival (early October, Seattle)
- Leavenworth Oktoberfest (early to mid-October, Leavenworth)
Great Guest Experiences
Having a wonderful Washington wedding starts with creating great guest experiences for your loved ones. Little details like baskets of sun umbrellas (or actual umbrellas, because it’s Washington, after all), flip-flops and sunscreen stations make beach weddings special, while warm blankets or pashminas make thoughtful offerings for evening outdoor celebrations in chilly autumn air. Getting your guests involved in the planning process also makes a fun idea—as part of the RSVP, let them vote on wedding details like the signature cocktail or your wedding’s theme song.
Provide a comfy lounge complete with cushy chairs, couches and soft pillows away from the action for quiet adult conversation, and supply a kid’s room for little ones. Stocked with a babysitter, toys, movies, games and art supplies, children enjoy a space of their own and parents appreciate a little grown-up time. To make gift-giving simple for your wedding guests, establish your wedding registry and share it with your guests on your wedding website.
Around the State: What to See in Washington
Breathtaking scenic views, sites steeped in history and a variety of cultural offerings leave your Washington wedding guests with a plethora of options for what to see around the state. While some out-of-town family and friends may want to grab a camera and trek through a city, state or national park, others may enjoy a more refined experience like touring a museum or a winery.
Favorite Washington attractions to check out include:
- Olympic National Park
- Grand Coulee Dam
- North Cascades National Park
- Woodland Park Zoo
- The Space Needle
- Pike Place Market
- Washington State Capitol
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Lake Chelan
- Columbia River Gorge
- Snoqualmie Falls
- Mt. Baker Ski Area
- Spokane’s Riverfront Park
- Beacon Rock State Park
- Lake Sammamish
Finding Your Way: Washington Travel Information
By road, plane, water or rail, wedding guests can get around Washington State in a variety of ways. In the Seattle Metro area, they can take buses, trains, the monorail, ferries or a light-rail tram that stops directly at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Downtown Seattle. The amphibious “duckmobile” in Seattle makes a fun way to travel for the young at heart.
For the convenience and comfort of your West Coast–dwelling guests, the Amtrak Cascades train travels as far south as Eugene, Oregon, and as far north as Vancouver, Canada, and Amtrak’s Coast Starlight route travels between Los Angeles and Seattle daily. Sea-Tac International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Washington, but other airports in Spokane, Moses Lake, Wenatchee and Port Angeles also service the state.
People getting around Washington by car, whether on I-5 or U.S. Route 101, receive helpful information from The Washington State Department of Transportation website. In addition to road and highway information, the site offers updates about construction, weather, ferry traffic and conditions on mountain passes.
Go Local: Food and Favors
Washington residents and visitors appreciate fresh, local products, whether grown on land or pulled from the sea. Restaurateurs often take advantage of the cornucopia of fresh ingredients, particularly locally caught salmon, halibut and lingcod.
The Seattle Metro area offers delicious cuisine to suit any kind of palate, from savory street food to dishes created by James Beard award-winning chefs. People living all around the state of Washington benefit from the catches of commercial fishermen and fruits and vegetables grown from fertile Washington soil.
Source fresh seafood and produce for your Washington wedding reception to give guests a true taste of local flavors. Treating guests to state-inspired wedding favors makes the event even more special.
Washington Flavors: Unique Regional Foods
When it comes to seafood, few states offer better products than Washington. One local favorite, Dungeness crab, is named after a small port on the Olympic Peninsula. Washington residents and visitors also enjoy sinking their teeth into fresh-caught salmon, oysters, clams, mussels and geoducks.
Delicious fruits and vegetables grown in Washington include apples, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, melons, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, chiles and corn. The majority of cherries grown in Washington are sweet, and people all over the Western United States enjoy the bounty of bing and Rainier cherries that come from Washington every year.
In addition to food, Washington produces a variety of artisan wines and beers with distinct, local flavors. Many local wineries and breweries like Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville and Icicle Brewing Company in Leavenworth have tasting rooms where your guests will love sampling freshly made hard cider and other aperitifs. When it comes to drinks in Washington, you really can’t forego coffee. Washingtonians know their brews, and a multitude of local coffee roasters offer blends that pair expertly with your reception dessert offerings.
Washington Favors: State-Inspired Gifts for Wedding Guests
Wedding favors with a local flair offer guests a unique Washington experience. While adults might enjoy gift bags stuffed with bottles of local artisan beer, children appreciate goodies like chocolate-dipped Washington berries, caramel apples or iced sugar cookies cut in the shape of Washington state. Bags of coffee beans tied in ribbons with your wedding colors definitely give your guests a taste of state flavor.
If you and your fiancé are alumni of a particular Washington college or university, treat guests to fun, sports-inspired favors. Washington State Cougar key chains and pennants or Washington Husky wristbands and lanyards make fun gift bag goodies for Washington wedding guests of all ages. Considering Washington’s reputation for greenery, gifting guests with native bulbs they can plant, such as the harvest lily or common camas, is a fun way to help them remember your celebration later on when their blooms sprout up.
Check out The Knot Shop for other personalized favors.
Whether you envision heading to the coast for a windswept summer affair or are planning a rustic country celebration, there’s almost no end to the variety of venues around the state to select from. Start out by taking a look at all the ways in which two of the Evergreen State’s most popular cities can help you express yourself and captivate your guests.
Because approximately 60 percent of the state’s residents live in the Seattle metroarea, it’s no surprise that the city of Seattle makes a favorite location for exchanging Washington wedding vows. Housing roughly 684,000 residents—a number that jumps to about 3,700,000 when you include nearby Tacoma and Bellevue—Seattle is an hourglass-shaped city nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington (so there’s no shortage of beachy nooks to serve as quiet backdrops for your vows). Important industries in the city include manufacturing, software, aerospace and commercial fishing.
With an abundance of scenic views and fresh, salty air, Seattle and its surrounding area make a popular choice for couples desiring an outdoor wedding. Favorite outdoor venues in the Seattle area include the Seattle Marriott Waterfront, Washington Park Arboretum, Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Course and venues on the outskirts like Willows Lodge in Woodinville, Swiftwater Cellars at Cle Elum and Rock Creek Gardens in Puyallup. If you prefer an indoor ceremony and/or reception in Seattle, opt for venues like the Arctic Club Hotel, The Hall at Fauntleroy or the Rainier Club.
For local vendors in and around Seattle, check out:
- Reception Venues
- Wedding Planners
- Wedding Bands
- Bridal Salons
- Wedding Photographers
Located on the Spokane River in Eastern Washington, but west of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Spokane has a population of roughly 213,000 residents. The city received its name from the Spokane people, a Native American tribe whose name means “children of the sun.”
People enjoy living in Spokane because the city offers a hip urban vibe, but they don’t have to go far to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities. Residents walk along the city’s scenic riverfront, travel to nearby Coeur d’Alene Lake in Idaho or visit the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney for warm-weather fun.
When it comes to wedding venues in Washington, Spokane offers a variety of beautiful indoor and outdoor locations. The Barrister Winery in Spokane, High Country Orchard in Colbert, and Belle Victorian Gardens in Deer Park make ideal venues for an alfresco celebration. If you’re looking for an indoor venue in Spokane, check out the Lincoln Center, Spokane Convention Center or Glover Mansion.
For local vendors in and around Spokane, check out:
- Reception Venues
- Wedding Planners
- Wedding Bands
- Bridal Salons
- Wedding Photographers
Check out more Washington wedding inspiration here.
Don’t forget to download The Knot Wedding Planner app—it’s a must-have for on-the-go planning.
Download for iOS: Wedding Planner App by The Knot
Download for Android: The Knot Wedding Planner