Elopement Timeline Tips
Back in the day… Like 5 years ago! Eloping used to mean that a couple drove to the courthouse, had a 10-minute ceremony, and that was it! They were done with their wedding day.
So a lot of couples have trouble imagining anything different.
What if I told you that your wedding day deserves more than just a quick ceremony? Or, if I told you that this is the day you get married to your best friend and that that’s a really, really big deal?
Having a small ceremony and choosing to spend your wedding day doing what makes you happy doesn’t make your day any less meaningful, special, or important! So, this guide is all about elopement timelines. How to make one, what to do on your elopement day, and how to make sure your day is special.
A full-day elopement doesn’t mean you spend the entire time posing for photos, and it’s definitely not just a photoshoot for 10 hours. A full-day elopement can last anywhere from 8 – 12 hours, and some couples even do a two-day elopement instead! If you’re having trouble imagining what this looks like, you’re not alone!
But eloping is about doing what makes you happy, and it’s about making time for the things that matter to you. That means you can do anything on your elopement day – and I really mean anything. You can rent a houseboat and party with your closest friends, you can have one day to spend with family and one to hike by yourselves, you can go paddleboarding in the morning and then have a ceremony at sunset, the options are literally endless!
Every couple deserves a wedding day they absolutely love, so think about the things that would make your day truly incredible. Dream big!
There are some things, like the ceremony, that happen on just about every elopement day – so here are some things that will go on the elopement timeline. Remember, everything about your elopement is customizable, so you can do this in whatever order suits you, leave things out, and add things in!
The morning of an elopement usually starts with getting ready. Before the official stuff (getting glammed up, putting on your elopement attire) starts, you can schedule some time for breakfast together, maybe even some morning yoga or a cup of coffee on the porch – it’s all about spending time together and soaking in what’s about to happen!
Once it’s time to start getting ready for the main event, this can include hair and makeup, and getting dressed. If you’re hiring a professional, consult them about how long hair and makeup will take – two hours is usually pretty standard!
Then, schedule some time to put on your ceremony attire. If one or both of you are wearing a dress, I recommend about 30 minutes – those things can get tricky! For suits, 15 minutes is usually enough. Some couples also prefer to drive to their ceremony location and change there or pack their attire on a hike and change at the top.
If you’re doing a first look, this usually happens right before the ceremony. This is the moment the two of you see each other for the first time in all your wedding clothes! Some couples feel like it’s more “them” to get ready together than to split up and do a first look-after.
The ceremony is the main event on the elopement timeline – this is where you tie the knot! Ceremonies can be anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on what you have planned. A simple vow and ring exchange won’t take too long, but if you have guests, an officiant, or you’re planning a religious, cultural, or otherwise significant ceremony of some kind, it can take longer.
You can (and should!) consult your elopement photographer about how much time to schedule for photos throughout the day. If you have guests, you’ll need about 30 minutes (maybe more) for some formal photos with them, and there will also be time for a couple’s photos of the two of you. Usually, I’ll add some extra time throughout the day for photos while we adventure and do whatever elopement activities you have planned, but it’s also nice to dedicate an hour or so to some more formal photos!
This is the part that makes every elopement unique! After the ceremony you can have a celebration with your guests, you can take off for a solo adventure, you can bring your guests along for some activities, you can do anything! Plan something amazing – a 4×4 tour, some time for a picnic, an evening of watching the sunset, a surfing lesson… anything you can dream up, we can make happen.
Now that you know what to put on the elopement timeline, here are some tips for making one!
As you make your elopement timeline, make sure to always add more time than you think you need to every part of the day, and to leave plenty of room between activities.
Things always take longer than expected, and having some buffer room will help you stay stress-free and relaxed. You’ll have plenty of time for everything you want to do, and you also have some flexibility to be spontaneous if anything comes up (like traffic) or there’s a nice view you want to stop at!
Don’t forget about “transition time” too – this includes things like packing the car to go to your ceremony location, and getting everyone out the door. These things take time, and the minutes can add up – having extra time is something you’ll never regret doing.
Traditional wedding timelines often plan the day by the minute – but this isn’t what you want on your elopement day! The elopement is all about relaxing and enjoying the moment, so instead of scheduling every second, think of this as an outline of the day – it gives you structure and lets you know what’s happening when, but it’s not a strict schedule that you have to follow militantly.
Lighting is so important, especially for your photos. Mid-day light, especially if you’re tying the knot somewhere without shade, can be harsh, and it doesn’t look good in photos – plus, you don’t want to be squinting into the sun! Planning your ceremony closer to sunrise or sunset gives you the best lighting, and creating your timeline around this can make a huge difference.
Your elopement photographer will be the expert on lighting! Part of my job is actually to create a timeline for you, keeping in mind lighting, what you want to do, and customizing it to your day.
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