How to Make an Epic Elopement Timeline

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One of your big reasons to elope may have been to avoid the minute-by-minute, rigid, stress inducing schedule that big weddings tend to include! With a traditional wedding, you have to make sure there’s enough time to say hello to every distant relative, enough time to get all the photos you want (and all the photos that Aunt Linda demands wants), and it often becomes a frenzy of rushing from one place to the next, stressing about time, and not even getting to enjoy your wedding day. So when you make an elopement timeline, it should be nothing like that

This guide is all about how to make an elopement timeline – tips for keepings things structured but go-with-the-flow, advice for putting the timeline together, and some sample elopement timelines to get you inspired!

Elopement Timeline Tips

There’s a lot to think about when you make your elopement timeline – so here are some tips to keep in mind!

Add Extra Time to Your Elopement Timeline

This is probably the most important tip when it comes to creating your amazing elopement timeline – always add a little more time to each part of the day. We all tend to underestimate how long things will take much more often than we overestimate, and it’s always better to have some extra minutes to spare than to be stressed about running late! Having extra time in case of traffic, closed trails or changes of plan, or delays in getting everyone packed into the car will make sure you can stay relaxed and present, without having to worry.

Have Your Elopement Timeline Go All Day…

There are a ton of misconceptions about elopements, and one of them is that they’re no more than an hour or two long – just a ceremony and some photos. That might have been true a few years ago, but if you’re planning an adventurous wedding, you know that your day is so much more than that! The day you get married includes everything from getting ready, spending time together, the ceremony, a small reception or an adventure, and everything that makes your day meaningful, personal, and unique to you.

A couple is walking on the rocks in Joshua Tree after their elopement ceremony, holding hands and looking down at the ground.

…And Have Your Elopement Photographer There All Day!

Your elopement deserves to be celebrated, and you deserve to be able to look back at the photos and see every part of your story told. It’s not just a ceremony – it’s getting ready in separate rooms and seeing the excitement on your partner’s face in the photos. It’s anticipating your first look with a huge smile on your face, hiking to that perfect ceremony spot together, soaking in a hot spring at the end of the night, exploring canyons in Moab, eating a cake with your loved ones, and any other adventure you can imagine! Your photos should remind you of all of it – how it felt, what you did, and how incredible this day was – so have your photographer there to document it all!

Think About Lighting

One of the most important things for photos is lighting – harsh sun looks, frankly, terrible! It creates shadows on your face, and you probably don’t want to be squinting through the ceremony. Considering lighting is important as you plan your elopement day, and planning your ceremony for sunrise or sunset, and doing your best to stick to more shaded locations during the day will be a game changer! 

You don’t have to be a photo expert – consult your elopement photographer for help!

A couple is standing on a beach in their elopement attire. They are facing the camera, and the bride is hugging the groom's arm while he kisses her on the head.

Plan a Unique Adventure

The best part about eloping is that there are absolutely no rules. The only thing you have to do on your wedding day is get married, and the rest is entirely up to you. Think about what would truly make this the most incredible day – how do you want to celebrate the beginning of your marriage?

Here are just a few ideas of things to do on your elopement day, but remember – there are no limits!

  • Start the day with coffee and pancakes together
  • Spend time with your dogs
  • Go for a hike
  • Take a scenic drive
  • Stop at an overlook 
  • Have a picnic
  • Soak in a hot spring
  • Elope with family and have a reception at a cabin
  • Swim in the ocean
  • Paddleboard in a lake
  • Rock climb
  • Take a surf lesson
A couple is squatting on a hiking trail on their elopement day, surrounded by green shrubs.

Be Spontaneous!

Remember, the elopement timeline isn’t supposed to be restrictive or leave you feeling rushed. Nothing should be forced on your elopement day! So if midday you decide to take a nap, or you see a pretty view and stop the car, or you feel like changing the plan, that’s all part of the magic of eloping. The timeline is a guideline and an outline of what you’ve got planned and where you need to be, but if the two of you are more go-with-the-flow, spontaneous types, let that part of you shine on your elopement day! 

Sample Elopement Timelines

You probably haven’t planned an elopement before, or made an elopement timeline – and it can definitely be hard to imagine how your small wedding can last all day! Here are some sample elopement timelines, so you can see what a real elopement day looks like.

Big Sur Elopement Timeline

7:00 Wake up slowly and watch the sunrise on the porch of your Airbnb

9:00 Make waffles for your partner, have breakfast together and get excited for the day!

11:00 Hair and makeup begins

1:30 Drive to trailhead

2:30 Begin hike through the lush green forest

4:00 Reach the beach!

4:30 Picnic lunch

5:30 Change into elopement attire

6:00 First look by the water

6:30 Ceremony on the beach – you exchange vows, promise to spend the rest of forever together, and get married!

7:00 Sunset photos and exploring

8:00 Hike back with your headlamps on

9:00 Drive back to the Airbnb for dinner and cake

Mt Rainier Elopement Timeline with Family

9:00 Breakfast at local cafe

11:00 Drive back to your adorable A frame cabin

12:00 Hair and makeup begins

2:00 Put on elopement attire

2:30 Bride first look with dad

3:00 Couple does a first look and sees each other for the first time all glammed up!

3:30 Ceremony in the forest behind the cabin

4:30 Picnic outside and toasts with family

6:00 Couple drives to Mt. Rainier National Park, family stays at Airbnb

7:00 Couple takes a nature walk for sunset photos, exploring, and some quiet time together!

8:30 Drive back to Airbnb to celebrate

Need Help Making an Elopement Timeline?

The best thing about hiring an elopement photographer (in my humble, photographer opinion) is that you don’t just get someone who will document your day – you also get someone who will be there for you through it all! You get an adventure buddy and planning assistant, and I help my couples with everything they need for the perfect elopement day.

I’ve got your back with location recommendations, permit help, and of course, making an incredible, stress free, perfect-for-you custom elopement timeline! 

Contact me, and let’s plan your incredible, once in a lifetime elopement!