Planning an Authentic Celebration with the help of an Elopement Photography Timeline
As an elopement photographer and planner, I get asked all sorts of questions when it comes to intimate elopement celebrations. My inbox is full of excellent questions, including “How do I ensure my elopement is environmentally friendly?” and “ Can I bring my pet?” But the most common on every couple’s mind is:
How much time do I need for my elopement?
A misconception for couples new to elopements is that the ceremony must be short, with only a few photos. This couldn’t be further from the truth! If you’ve chosen to elope and keep your wedding day small and intimate, the last thing you want to do is rush. Because of this, many couples underestimate the amount of time needed for their elopement celebration.
I am a firm believer that an elopement should be a time to slow down and bask in a day created specifically for you and your partner. Most couples I speak with wish they had a few extra hours added to the their day. As you begin your elopement planning process, take a deep breath, imagine your perfect day, and consider the following as you begin your planning process…
How Long Does it Take to Plan an Elopement?
Here’s the truth: an elopement may be simpler to plan than a wedding, but it will still require a plan.
Most couples take six months to plan their elopement
And when you consider all that goes into it, those can be a very fun (and busy!) six months. Take a look at your calendar, and add these tasks to your to-do list:
Reserve your Ideal Elopement Photographer
Elopement photographers are often booked out up to a year in advance, so it is important to get on their calendar as soon as possible. Furthermore, if your elopement photographer is also a planner and officiant (like I am!), they can help you create your ceremony and develop an elopement timeline.
Consider Who To Invite
Your elopement is whatever you want it to be! That means if you want to bring a few close family or friends to your celebration, make sure they have plenty of time to plan, especially if it is a destination elopement. (And while you’re at it, brush up on your elopement invitation etiquette.) I personally have found that elopements with groups of less than 10 guests allow you to still focus on yourselves and the true meaning of the day, while also spending more meaningful time with your guests.
Reserve Other Vendors
An elopement doesn’t mean you have to forgo food or flowers! Speak with these vendors ahead of time, so they are prepared for your big day. I provide my couples with an extensive 100-page guide that includes my preferred vendors for items such as attire, flowers, hair and makeup, catering, live music and desserts.
Obtain Documents and Permits
Oftentimes, there are permits required if your ceremony is in a National Park or National Forest! Ensure this permit is reserved before your celebration. Furthermore, different states have different requirements and marriage license laws. Research this ahead of time, (or ask your elopement photographer for the laws in the state you are eloping in.)
Gather Special Elopement Items
Rings, dresses, suits, oh my! Make sure you have all of the items you plan on taking to your celebration ready to go! (And keep in mind some items, like wedding dresses, take some time to arrive once they are ordered.)
Why do I need an elopement timeline?
Your perfect dress is ordered and the custom accessories have been purchased. But the planning doesn’t stop here! An elopement timeline will help you plan for how long your elopement should be. Still, convinced you should wing it?
5 Reasons Why You Need an Elopement Timeline
- An Elopement Photography Timelines Keeps You From Feeling Rushed. This is a day to remember and it should not be spent rushing from place to place or not being able to take in the beautiful scenery.
- An Elopement Photography Timeline Allows for Mini Adventures. Is there a spectacular field of wildflowers you just have to run through? A timeline, with some margin, allows for plenty of side adventures. Click here for ideas for your adventure elopement.
- Did someone say snacks? An Elopement Timeline Incorporates Time to Eat. Charcuterie boards, champagne toasts, or a simple granola bar, you will need some time to fuel during your big day.
- A Thorough Elopement Timeline Allows for a Leisurely Hike. If you are hiking in your elegant elopement attire, your hiking pace will likely be slower than usual.
- Capture the Best Nature Has to Offer with an Elopement Photography Timeline. Prioritizing sunrise, sunset, golden hour or blue hour? No better way to do this than with a thorough elopement timeline.
How many hours do I need for my adventure elopement?
You now understand the importance of an elopement timeline, but the question remains: “How many hours of photography do you need for an elopement?” Take a look at the sample timelines below, and see which resonates with you and your partner the most!
I also want to emphasize that it’s not just about the photographs…the experience you have and memories that you make together are the MOST IMPORTANT things on your elopement!!
Sample 6-hour Elopement Timeline
11:30am – Photographer to arrive at lodge for Getting Ready photos
12:10pm – First Look outside of lodge
1:00pm – Hold Ceremony
1:30pm – Champagne Toast
1:45pm – Cut Cake
2:20pm – Everyone to meet at front of Lodge for photos with all guests
2:45pm – Take photos of couple around the Lodge
3:30pm – Drive to parking area for waterfall
4:00pm – Take pictures around waterfall and along river
5:00pm – Depart waterfall
5:30pm – Return couple to lodge
Sample 8-hour Elopement Timeline
11:00am – Getting Ready photos (photography begins)
12:00pm – First Look – Bride with her Father
12:30pm – Depart Airbnb
1:00pm – Arrive at nature area parking area
1:15pm – First Look with partner
1:30pm – Picnic with guests at picnic area
3:00pm – Ceremony, First Dance, champagne toast, cake cutting
4:00pm – Photos with guests & couple only portraits
5:00pm – Depart ceremony location for portrait area location (couple only)
5:30pm – Arrive in trailhead parking lot and walk to photo locations
6:00pm – Sunset photos around mountain vista during golden hour
7:00pm – End of photography day
Sample 10-hour Elopement Timeline
7:15am – Photographer arrives and photography begins
7:30am – First Look at cabin
8:00am – Depart cabin for ceremony location
8:30am – Take portraits of couple along River
9:10am – Depart for ceremony location
9:25am – Everyone arrives at ceremony location
9:30am – Hold ceremony
10:15am – Have snack at picnic area
11:00am – Couple and photographer depart ceremony location for trailhead
11:30am – Arrive at trailhead & begin hike
11:30 – 1:30 – Photos are taken along the trail during the hike
1:30pm – Reach alpine lake. Couples changes back into wedding attire and take photos
2:30pm – Depart alpine lake and return to trailhead
4:30pm – Depart trailhead
5:00pm – Arrive at cabin. Cut cake and hold reception for guests.
5:15pm – Photography ends
Sample 16-hour Elopement Timeline
Ready to picture yourself the morning of your Mount Rainier elopement? It may go a little something like this:
7:00 am – Hair & Makeup Artist arrives at a cozy Airbnb at the bottom of the mountain
7:30 am – Couple gets ready while snow falls gently out their window
9:00 am – Photographer arrives at Airbnb
9:30 am – First Look photos
10:15 am – Enjoy picnic lunch
11:00 am – Depart Airbnb
Noon – Arrive at Reflection Lake & Hike up to the ceremony location
1:30 pm – Ceremony at top of Pinnacle Peak
2:15 pm – Hike back down
3:30 pm – Photos at Reflection Lake (Champagne toast here)
4:00 pm – Depart Reflection Lake
5:30 pm – Arrive at Sunrise Visitor Center – Have another snack and cut the cake!
6:00 pm – Hike to the desired location for sunset and star photos (~3 miles to lookout)
8:00 pm – Golden hour starts – Portraits at golden hour with Mount Rainier in the background and on Fire Lookout
9:20 pm – Photos under the stars
Midnight – Hike back down – Return to Visitor Center & drive to Airbnb
1:30 am – End of day
If the thought of this experience sends shivers up your arms and makes you smile ear to ear, then a Mount Rainier elopement may be the exact way to celebrate your love story.
Testimonials about Elopement Timelines
And if you still aren’t sold on why you need more than a few hours for your elopement, here are 3 testimonials from eloping couples who chose to allocate more than 8 hours for their elopements and why it was the best decision for them –
Why Should my Elopement Photographer Also Be an Elopement Planner?
By now, you understand that there is a lot more that goes into an elopement than simply a passion for the adventure and the one that you love. Fortunately, it is possible to find elopement photographers who also serve as elopement planners. Having someone familiar with planning an elopement in nature is incredibly beneficial for creating your elopement timeline and having the day you envision.
Your elopement photographer should:
- Have experience in the region where you are eloping
- Know how long it takes to get to places
- Understand the time needed for certain activities
- Be familiar with the times of day for the best lighting
- Be familiar with the regional weather patterns
- Know where and when are the more private times of the day/season
How Do I Get Started in Planning my adventure elopement?
Feeling inspired to start planning your celebration and elopement timeline? I recommend checking out these epic ideas and planning tips for your dream elopement to get you started. If you still have questions about your elopement photography timeline, or how long you should plan for your elopement, reach out! There is nothing I love more than helping you plan and capture the celebration of your dreams!
WOW. I’ve never seen such a detailed guide for elopement timelines. I love how you gave example timelines. This is SO HELPFUL!!
Thank you! I am so glad that you found this helpful!
This is sooo hlepful! A lot of couples really don’t think of how long they truly need to plan without too much stress & then how much time they need for their elopement day.
I am glad you found this useful to help with elopement planning!
Yessssssss! I keep wanting to raise my minimum duration because longer is better (in my opinion) especially for elopements!! Having that time for you and doing just what you want to?? Priceless!! So much great information and always wonderful for couples to see timeline examples for how their day may go and what it might feel like. Love this and gorgeous photos as always.
You should raise the minimum. I feel like it’s important for us to help couples understand the importance of devoting the time they deserve, so they have no regrets.
WOW. This is seriously one of THE most helpful posts ever, for both couples AND photographers. This is inspiring & useful for new elopement photographers like myself. I’m definitely saving this to look back on as it has so much in depth information!
I am SO glad that you found it to be a helpful elopement timeline planning resource!!
I’m also an advocate that elopement should be treated like a real wedding (cuz it is) so it does need to be longer than two hours! I love this educational post <3
It’s one of the most important days of your lives together and should be treated as such – I’m glad you agree!!
I love this resource so much! It’s super helpful to know from an expert how much time is needed for an elopement. Thank you for the table of contents as well, which makes it so easy to navigate!
Thank you for the great feedback!
perfect info!!! Of course elopements should ne a whole day affair!
I’m glad that you agree that elopements should be a full day affair!