How to Get Legally Married in Washington and Plan Your WA Wedding
If you're a hopeless romantic whose favorite romantic comedy is Sleepless in Seattle, Washington State may just be the perfect destination for your wedding. Located in the Pacific Northwest, the state of Washington is known for its foggy weather, beautiful mountain ranges, lumber production and agriculture. Given the state's robust geography from the Cascade and Olympic Mountains to the Hoh Rainforest, many couples opt for an outdoor wedding at a national park, local farm or a seaside venue along the Puget Sound. Equally popular is an indoor ceremony and reception, especially in its larger cities including Olympia, Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma. The state of Washington was one of the first US states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012.
On the topic of saying "I do," the marriage license process in the Evergreen State is rather straightforward. The state of Washington only requires a completed application form and a license fee, plus a trip your County Auditor's office. Things can be a little more complicated if you want to change your name after the ceremony, but this handy guide will outline each step. For now, read on to learn more about the marriage license application and finding Washington venues and vendors for your big day.
How to Get Married in Washington
Before you steam ahead, read through Washington's government website and the specific requirements for the WA county where you will be married. The application process varies by county so it's important to double-check the relevant websites.
Is there a waiting period to get married in Washington?
The state of Washington requires a three-day waiting period before you can solemnize your marriage with an authorized officiant.
What are the legal requirements to get married in Washington?
Washington's legislature has certain requirements for those who can enter into a legal marriage. You and your partner must be at least 18 years of age to apply for a marriage license. However, if you are 17 years of age you can apply for a license as long as you have written consent from your parent or legal guardian.
Under state law RCW 26.04.050, your wedding ceremony must also be solemnized by an active or retired officiant from the following list:
- Justices of the Supreme Court
- Judges of the Court of Appeals or of the Superior Courts
- Supreme Court or Court of Appeals commissioners
- Judges of tribal courts from a federally recognized tribe
- Any licensed or ordained minister, priest, imam, rabbi or official of any religious organization
What's considered a common law marriage in Washington?
A common law marriage is a legally recognized marriage between two people who have not gone through the marriage license process. The state of Washington does not recognize common law marriages according to RCW 26.04.140.
Washington Marriage License 101
As mentioned, the marriage license process varies by county but the following generalized requirements are applicable to most.
What do you need to get a marriage license in Washington?
While requirements for a marriage license can vary, it's good to have the following information on hand:
- A valid photo ID (i.e. a driver's license, state-issued ID card, military ID or passport)
- Your Social Security Number/card
- Proof that your previous marriage (if applicable) has ended
- Additional personal and parental information to complete the actual marriage application form
Blood tests are not required to acquire a Washington marriage license, nor do you need to have a witness with you when you visit the County Auditor's Office. However, the state law does require at least two witnesses of 12 or more years of age to be present at the marriage ceremony.
Another important note is that you do not need to be a resident of WA to obtain a certificate or be considered married by the state. However, your marriage license will only be valid in the state of Washington.
What does a Washington marriage license cost?
The cost of a marriage license varies between counties. On average, a Washington marriage license will cost $59 but can increase in price. Make sure to double-check the county's website to confirm how much the license fee will be and whether they only take cash or can accept debit or credit cards.
How long does it take to get a marriage license in Washington?
If you apply for a marriage license in person, it will take three days for the application to be processed and approved. However, if you apply online or by mail, it can take a few weeks for your license to be processed by the County's Auditor. It is recommended to complete the application earlier rather than later.
After your marriage certificate has been approved, it will be valid for 60 days which means you must solemnize your union within two months of the issuance.
Can you apply for a marriage license online in Washington?
The short answer: yes. But be aware that this may make the waiting period longer. You can print the marriage license application and fill out the PDF online and mail it with the license fee to your County Auditor's office. However, you will still need to sign the document in front of a notary. If this is not possible for you and your S.O., we recommend reaching out to the county's office.
How do you get a copy of your Washington marriage license?
The process for obtaining a certified copy of your marriage license is pretty straightforward, but the downside is that there are more application fees. The first step is to complete the application and mail the form to the Department of Health. You will also need to pay a $25 fee per copy. Depending on whether you submit the application and fees in-person or online, it can take as little as three days or up to 10 weeks to receive a copy of your marriage certificate. Check the Washington State Department of Health for more information about accessing your marriage records.
How to Plan a Washington Wedding
You can let out a sigh of relief; you've completed the Washington marriage license process! Now it's time to start planning the wedding ceremony and reception, which means choosing the perfect venue and vendors for your special day.
The Different Cities and Areas to Consider for a Washington Wedding
Before you chose your venue, it's important to familiarize yourself with Washington's various regions. Popular cities including Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver and Bellevue are popular locations for an informal or glam wedding and are all filled with daytime and nightlife activities to keep your guests occupied. If you and your S.O. want something on the quieter side, consider opting for an outdoor wedding at a Washington State National Park (not to say that there won't be tourists frequenting the mountains). These landmarks are accessible year-round but do require a one-day Discover pass. If you are dreaming of a seaside wedding ceremony and reception, Washington also has you covered. Some options are Anacortes, Bellingham, Port Angeles, Hansville and Seabrook. There are also the various islands in Puget Sound easily accessible via ferry.
What to Look For in a Washington Wedding Venue
Once you have a general location for your wedding ceremony and reception, it's time to chose a venue. As previously mentioned, the state of Washington has many state parks that are the perfect venue for an outdoor wedding, but there are also many cute inns, luxurious resorts or convention centers, public museums and golf clubs to chose from depending on what sparks your interest.
How to Find Washington Wedding Vendors
The state of Washington is recognized for its agriculture and production of various foods including apples, pears, raspberries, apricots, grapes, asparagus and potatoes. A lesser-known fact about Washington is that the state is also known for its wine production. That being said, you and your wedding guests will be eating well at the wedding reception. When choosing a Washington State caterer, look for vendors who prioritize local and seasonal fare. Consider hiring a bar service for your reception as well.
And don't forget about the decor! A local decor company or florist can embellish your wedding ceremony and reception even more with gorgeous floral arrangements. You can even include the Evergreen State's flower: the Pacific rhododendron.
The Best Times of Year to Have a Washington Wedding for Good Weather
An important factor to keep in mind before mailing save-the-dates is the type of weather you would prefer for your wedding day. While the state of Washington is known for its stereotypical foggy and drizzly days, it still experiences a range of weather. Generally speaking, west of the Cascades has cooler summers and winters, while east of the mountain range experiences warmer summers. If you are opting for an outdoor wedding in the summer months, it may be best to stick west of the mountains while the opposite is true for a fall or winter wedding.