Elopement Timeline: How to Plan a Day Rooted in You

November 3, 2020

There’s a common misconception that elopements are just a quick ceremony – you say your vows, exchange rings, and you’re done. But here’s the thing, after shooting elopements for over four years we know it can be so much more.

Maybe running off for a quick ceremony is what eloping used to be, but not anymore! You’re eloping, but that doesn’t make your day any less meaningful or special. If anything, the fact that you were brave enough to ditch traditions and let go of expectations makes this day even more incredible – you’re doing your wedding your own way, and that’s something to celebrate!

It’s a day that is rooted in you as a couple. It’s an experience crafted from the inside out- starting with the love you share and building into an incredibly unique day that will kick off your best adventure yet.

Elopements are all about creating an experience. Your wedding day should be about the things that matter most to you, and you should spend it doing what you love. Whether that’s hiking, rock climbing, stargazing, or just sitting on the beach, eloping is about you and what you want.

Big weddings last all day – so why shouldn’t yours? Here are our tips for building an elopement timeline!

Leave Some Wiggle Room in Your Elopement Timeline

LGBTQ+ Elopement Day Timeline

An important aspect of elopement days is the fact that they aren’t rushed. You aren’t running from one place to another, you aren’t squeezing in time for photos, you aren’t making sure that you’ve talked to every person there. Eloping is all about taking things slow, enjoying the day, and soaking in every moment of the best day of your life.

That’s why it’s important to build in some extra time between events or activities. Keep in mind “transition time,” which means things like loading stuff into the car, setting up for the ceremony, and distributing dinner or snacks. 

As a rule of thumb, things usually take longer than you think you will, especially if you have guests along for your elopement day. There’s also things like traffic, gas station stops, and bathroom breaks. By allowing at least a few extra minutes for each part of your day, you’ll be less stressed and there will be less pressure on everyone to keep things moving.

Avoid Mid-Day Ceremonies

Beautiful lighting for elopement day timeline

Mid-day sunlight is the worst when it comes to photos. That harsh sun creates shadows that aren’t flattering, in contrast with the even lighting that sunrise and sunset bring. When the sun is rising, or setting, the light spreads evenly and creates a gorgeous glow that photographs amazingly!

We recommend planning your ceremony for sunrise or sunset, or as close as you can get. Watching the sky light up in shades of pink and orange will be absolutely beautiful, and your photos will look great too!

Plan an Experience

What do you want to do on your elopement day? Whether it’s hiking, spending time with your family, roasting marshmallows, or literally anything else (no rules, baby!), think about what would make this the best day ever and include that in your timeline!

If you aren’t sure about what you want to do, don’t worry! We recommend hiring a good photographer who doubles as a planning assistant (hint, hint… we happen to know somebody), who will be there for you every step of the way to help make this the best day of your life, and take the stress of planning off of you!

Book an Elopement Photographer

Meet your elopement photographer

Just like there’s a misconception that elopements are just a short ceremony, there’s also a misconception that you only need a photographer for 1-2 hours on your elopement day. 

Think about it this way – big weddings get full day coverage, so why shouldn’t you? Your day is just as meaningful and important, and you deserve to look back on your photos and be able to relive every amazing moment!

A photographer who specializes in elopements will also be able to help you with finding a good location, getting the necessary permits, and even building the timeline.

What’s Included in Your Elopement Timeline?

While there’s no one way to build an elopement timeline, here are some of the things that you can include in your day!

Getting Ready

Getting ready photo from elopement day timeline

It might be tempting to skip getting ready photos, but this part of your day is so important! Getting to look back on the anticipation and the excited butterflies as you were getting ready to marry the love of your life can be so magical. Some couples get ready separately, so if you go that route, photos are the only way that you’ll see what your partner was doing during that time! You’ll get to see the happy tears, them writing the final touches of their vows (we all procrastinate sometimes), how excited they were to marry you. 

When you’re putting your elopement timeline together, leave some time for breakfast, coffee, and just relaxing before the big day gets rolling.

 First Look

First look from elopement day timeline

A lot of couples wonder if they should do a first look, and we think the answer is yes! If you aren’t getting ready together, a first look is such a special moment. If you have guests coming to your ceremony, the first look gives you an opportunity to be alone for a bit before. It gives you a moment to breathe, enjoy each other, and remember what this day is about!


Elopement ceremony for elopement day timeline

Most ceremonies last about 15 minutes. If you have an officiant, check with them to see how long they think it’ll take! During the ceremony you’ll read your vows, exchange rings, and anything else you want to include, like a rope tying ceremony or a surprise for your partner.

Photos with Guests

family photos for elopement day timeline

If you have guests at your elopement, schedule some time for formal photos with them! Depending on how many people you have with you, it can be helpful to write a list of different combinations that you want to make sure no photos are forgotten! This usually takes about 30 minutes, but it could be more or less depending on how long your guest list is!

Activities and Adventures

night photos from adventure elopement

Whether it’s hiking to the ceremony spot, celebrating with family after, or having your first dance around the campfire, plan some fun things to do to make your elopement day complete! Think about the experience you want to have and what you want to do, and remember, you can do anything you want! Nothing is too crazy.

All Day Elopement Timeline Example

Incase you are like us, you may be wondering what an example of an all day elopement looks like. Here is a sample timeline from Jason & Tyler’s Yosemite elopement.

5:00am Getting ready photos at Jason & Tyler’s cabin in Yosemite West

6am Head up to Glacier Point for first look 

7am Jason & Tyler’s first look at Glacier Point

7:15am Sunrise couple photos at Glacier Point

7:45am Family arrives at GP parking lot / Karissa, Mike, Jason, Tyler and all guests meet up pre-ceremony to circle up to chat through the plan for the day and remind guests of leave no trace ethics while we’re in the area

8am Ceremony at Glacier Point

8:30am Family photos at Glacier Point

9:00am Packed picnic food for everyone to enjoy

10:00am Mike and Karissa take Jason & Tyler for more adventure photos in the Glacier Point / Glacier Point Rd area

10:30am Head into Yosemite Valley to explore and catch photos at Jason & Tyler’s special locations from their relationship: El Capitan Meadow, Stoneman Bridge and the Ahwahnee forest

11:30am Arrive at El Capitan Meadow for photos, followed by photos at Stoneman Bridge and Ahwahnee forest

1:00pm Midday break to rest up before the evening

6:00pm Meet back up at Jason & Tyler’s Cabin for cocktails & dinner with a private chef

7:30pm Cake & S’mores at the cabin

8:00pm Stargazing and astro-photography photos behind the cabin

8:30pm Wrap up 

Need Help Building an Elopement Timeline?

If you’ve never put an elopement timeline together (we assume most of you haven’t), it can seem a little overwhelming. But, good news! We’re here to help you with that. We take care of all the logistical stuff, so that you don’t have to! You can focus on what matters most – being in love and getting married. Sound good? Contact us so that we can get started!

yosemite elopement day for a perfect all day elopement

Follow along on Instagram