One of the main differences between a traditional wedding and an elopement is the timeline. Wedding timelines are pretty strict – there isn’t much room for spontaneity and a change of plans. Every minute seems to be planned out to ensure that there’s enough time for all the photos you need to take, all the people you need to talk to, and everything else that needs to get done. So many couples say they hardly remember their wedding day because they were constantly rushing from one thing to another, and didn’t get to enjoy the day.
And that is SO sad! Isn’t your wedding day supposed to be about spending time together and, you know, actually enjoying the best day of your life? That’s why elopement timelines are much more flexible, and they are built with the idea that you should have a good time on your wedding day. They’re all about getting time together, being present and in the moment, and doing what makes you happy.
There’s a misconception that elopements are just a quick ceremony. Thirty minutes to say your vows, and you’re outta there.
But, that’s not what eloping is about anymore! Your day should be a once in a lifetime experience, and you deserve more than just a quick ceremony. It should be a day that really reflects who you are, your relationship, and the start of your life together.
Traditional weddings get a whole day – so why shouldn’t yours? Here’s a look at what goes into an elopement timeline.
Elopement Timeline Tips
Most couples have never planned an elopement before – so it can be difficult to know where to start! Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re crafting a timeline for the day.
Leave Some Wiggle Room
One rule of thumb is that things usually take longer than you expect them to – especially if your elopement includes guests. Remember to leave some time for transitions – things like putting things in the car and getting everyone out the door, as well as a little bit of extra time for things like traffic and finding parking. It’s always better to overestimate how much time you’ll need than to stress about running behind!
Plan an Adventure
An elopement isn’t just a ceremony! Think about what would really make this the best day of your life – hiking, kayaking, stargazing, a helicopter ride? Whether it’s something you both love to do together, or something new that you’ve always wanted to try, this is the time to make it happen!
Avoid Midday Sun
I always recommend that couples plan their ceremony for either sunrise or sunset.
Now, if you aren’t the early bird type, the thought of waking up before the sun might sound unappealing, but hear me out! Sunrise is universally the least busy time of day. Even the most popular spots will be empty, or at least nearly empty early in the morning. While everyone else is sleeping, you’ll get a gorgeous spot all to yourself and a private moment to say your vows.
If sunrise isn’t your thing (I can’t blame you), opt for a sunset ceremony! Both sunrise and sunset offer the best lighting – without the harsh shadows that midday sun creates, your photos will be absolutely stunning.
Hire an Elopement Photographer
Along with the misconception that elopements are a quick ceremony and nothing more, there’s also the idea that elopements don’t require a photographer, or that it’s enough to hire someone for “just a few hours.”
Here’s the deal – your wedding day matters! The fact that you’re eloping doesn’t change that, and if anything, an elopement is even more meaningful because you’ve decided to truly do your wedding, your way. You deserve to have the entire day photographed so that you can look back on your photos and see the full story. From getting ready to running off into the sunset together, your day is important!
Hiring a photographer who specializes in elopements, as opposed to a traditional wedding photographer, ensures that your photographer will be able to help you with all the logistics of eloping. As an elopement expert, they’ll be ready with advice, recommendations, and timeline tips.
*HINT* click here to learn more about my elopement photographer services
What Goes into an Elopement Timeline?
Now that you’re ready with tips to help you create an elopement timeline, let’s talk about what actually goes on that timeline! While every elopement day is unique and different, here are some common events that happen throughout the day.
Getting ready photos are one of those things that people sometimes think they can skip – but think again! There’s so much that goes on before the elopement day really begins. There’s the excitement of getting married to the love of your life, the pre-ceremony jitters, the “it’s really happening!” smiles. Some couples choose to get ready together and others do it separately, but either way, looking back on the photos of your partner being so excited to marry you will never disappoint.
Many couples decide that getting ready together feels more right to them, but if you get ready separately, I always love when couples do a first look. If you have guests attending your ceremony, the first look gives you a moment away from everyone to just be together. Even if your elopement is just the two of you, a first look creates a really exciting moment, and many couples say that seeing their partner for the first time on their wedding day was the moment that all the stress and anticipation of elopement planning melted away.
The moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s time to say your vows and officially tie the knot. Most ceremonies last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, and if there are any religious or cultural traditions that you want to include in addition to the vows and the rings, make sure to account for that in your timeline.
Photos with Guests
While the whole day will be all about candids, it’s nice to get some formal photos with your guests (if you have any) as well. If you have more than a few guests, it can be really helpful to come up with a list of groupings or combinations prior to the big day to ensure that you don’t miss anything!
Activities and Adventures
Whether it’s hiking to the ceremony spot, roasting smores, or hopping into a kayak, this is what makes your elopement day truly special. Whatever your heart desires, this is the day to do it! No idea is too crazy.
Sample Elopement Timeline
While a full day elopement may seem like a lot, the time goes by surprisingly fast! Here’s an example of what a full elopement day can look like.
Full Day Adventure Elopement Timeline
8:00 am – Make breakfast together in an Air BnB, then soak in the hot tub
9:00 am – Get ready together or in separate spaced (both are great options!)
10:00 am – Have your first look at the Air BnB property, then walk around exploring
11:00 am – Drive to scenic lake, canoe and explore the area
12:00 pm – Have a picnic at the lakeshore, cuddle, and relax
1:00 pm – Drive to trailhead
2:00 pm – Start hike, stop to take photos and explore along the way
3:00 pm – Reach the summit, individual portraits
4:00 pm – Exchange your vows and celebrate with a champagne pop, first dance, or with music
5:30 pm – Sunset portraits
6:00 pm – Watch the sun go down
6:30 pm – Hike back with lanterns and stop for photos beneath the stars
7:30 pm – Drive to Air BnB
8:30 pm – Have a private chef cook you dinner
9:30 pm – Cuddle by campfire
Need Help with Your Timeline?
Another great thing about hiring an elopement photographer? A big part of my job is helping couples throughout the planning process – so with everything from location recommendations, to permits, to – you guessed it – the timeline, I’ve got your back! So if you’re ready to elope and plan your incredible day, contact me!