So you’ve taken the leap and decided to elope! Congratulations! I believe eloping is the absolute best way to get married, it boils your wedding day down to what truly matters and allows you to spend quality time together the day you get married.
Some people may assume an elopement is no more than saying your vows and spending an hour taking some portraits – I am here to tell you your wedding day is SO much more than that. The day you get married MATTERS, you are committing to the rest of your lives together. You will look back on and celebrate this day for the rest of your lives. Choosing to elope means giving space to be fully present on your wedding day, it means having the time to relax and take it all in. It means intimate moments and quality time, adventure and experience. It does not mean compromising or cutting yourself short.
This blog covers what you want to consider when building your elopement timeline as well as gives sample timelines with different scenarios. I want you to take some time and envision what your day could look like with each timeline! Your elopement day is YOURS and you can customize it however you wish! I just take my experience to give you some tips and advice.
I am an elopement photographer and guide based out of Texas so these timelines will be tailored to different Texas elopements!
Eloping ain’t what it used to be!
Your Grandparents may hear the term elopement and imagine a couple in a tight situation running off to Vegas or the nearest courthouse to do the deed. While running off to Vegas does sound fun and some courthouse weddings can be stunning that’s not your only option when you choose to elope!
I believe eloping is when a couple chooses to take their wedding day into their own hands and have a super intentional day just for them. Ditch the copy-paste formula of the traditional wedding industry and get married the way YOU want!
With all of that being said elopements are still new and unfamiliar territory. While traditional weddings have planning resources and guides busting at the seams elopement resources are far and few in between. So it may be hard to imagine exactly how to spend your elopement day or what your timeline might look like. That’s where I come in! My passion is to help couples bring their dream elopement to life, I am here to help you dream big and make sure you have just as much fun planning your elopement as you do on the elopement day itself. Because I believe your experience matters above all else!
Here’s a quick overview of my best advice when building your elopement timeline;
- If you want to have more privacy choosing to elope on a weekday at sunrise will be your best bet. National and State Parks can be crowded on weekends and around sunset!
- Travel time between locations can eat up a lot of time. Be mindful of travel and include it in your timeline.
- Give yourself about an hour and a half for hair and makeup.
- Being flexible and having backup options is so important! Bad weather, unexpected trail closures, change in accessibility. A lot of things can have an impact on locations and timing. Having a plan b and being flexible can save you!
- Don’t jam-pack your timeline! Leave room to be spontaneous and so you can be fully present on your elopement day.
- The best light for photos is around sunrise or sunset.
What This Blog Covers
- Why weather is important when building an elopement timeline
- What to do if you want an intimate Setting for your elopement
- Timeline samples
- The impact light can have on an elopement timeline
- Travel time between locations
- Make time for a meal
- Having flexibility in your elopement timeline
- How photos fit into elopement timelines
Questions to ask yourselves in the beginning of your elopement planning;
It can feel overwhelming when you first start dreaming of your elopement and thinking about what your timeline might look like. Here are a few questions I like to ask couples when we start building their elopement timeline!
- What are your favorite memories? When do the two of you feel the most connection? Think about how you would spend a weekend getaway. Would you wake up before the sun or sleep in and have coffee?
- Are you drawn to a specific type of landscape? The desert, mountains, pine trees or any bodies of water? Is there a unique hike on your bucket list? Travel time varies when getting around different landscapes
- Are there any activities you’ve always wanted to try together? Climbing, kayaking, skydiving, making your own wine, riding horses? If you want to try any specific activities or excursions on your elopement day you will need to be scheduled in to fit your timeline.
- How do you want to feel on the day you get married? Do you want your day to be more relaxed and restful or are you up for an adventurous hike through the mountains or kayaking down a river??
- Do you imagine eloping just the two of you or are there people you couldn’t imagine this moment without? Whether or not you have guests will play a role in building your timeline.
Why weather is important when building an elopement timeline
The weather may not always have a huge impact on an elopement timeline. But if you are eloping in Texas in the middle of summer it will. The majority of elopements take place outside! Being caught outside in Texas in the middle of the day in the dead of summer can make for a rough experience. Unless you are planning to swim or kayak!
To beat the heat of summer I recommend eloping at sunrise. Then either split the day in half so you can take a break at the hottest time of day or take on the heat and plan to go swimming or kayaking!
Timeline Tips and Examples
Below are a couple of different timeline samples to show what an elopement timeline might look like. They also include hourly coverage on the left to show what different packages will cover in terms of photos. Each sample has a description attached underneath.
Remember your elopement is YOURS. You can take things out that you don’t want and replace them with experiences of your own!
Below is a general timeline sample that would work well in warmer months. Remember the sunrise time changes throughout the seasons so this timing would vary from season to season. I also included what the photo coverage would capture with different packages like a 4, 5 and 10 hour package.
This sample is to show a timeline for anyone who may want to sleep in, have their ceremony in the middle of the day and take advantage of sunset! Or you could move things around and have ceremony at sunset. Keep in mind that most places are much more crowded at sunset than they are at sunrise. Especially popular parks! Remember the sunset time changes throughout the seasons so this timing would vary from season to season. I also included what the photo coverage would capture with different packages like a 4, 5 and 10 hour package.
Last but not least! This is a full day elopement timeline! This timeline breaks your coverage in half so you can take advantage of both the sunrise and sunset with a little break for a nap or some food in between. This is my favorite way to capture elopements! I love being able to experience sunrise and sunset in the same amazing day.
What to do if You Want an Intimate Setting for Your Elopement
If you want to have more privacy then eloping on a weekday at sunrise is the way to go. I recommend arriving to your trailhead and being willing to hike before the sun rises. This way you can experience the sun rise from your ceremony location!
There are so many ways you can spend your elopement day. Some couples choose to hike three different trails. Maybe you’ll want to spend time reading letters from loved ones. Or have a picnic and do some 4×4 exploring!
You can do whatever you want! Book a tour guide for unique access to certain locations. Book a helicopter ride, plan a kayaking trip, horseback riding, drive dirt bikes around, have a pizza party. Seriously, do what you want!
The impact light can have on an elopement timeline
The best light of the day is usually around sunrise or sunset. Deciding what you want to happen during the best light is a good place to start when building your timeline. I’ve seen couples choose to have their first look as the sun is rising followed by their ceremony. There have been couples who have their first look before the sun so they can say their vows at sunrise! Then I have had couples who arent morning people. So they had their first look in the middle of the day while saying their vows at sunset. There are no set rules!
I will add that Mid day is the harshest light. While shooting in harsh light can provide some really unique results I don’t recommend having your ceremony or couples portraits mid-day.
Consider Travel time between locations
Driving, hiking, biking or even walking from one place to another will add travel time to your elopement day.
Travel time between each location is super important to consider when building your elopement timeline. Take Big Bend for example, it’s a HUGE park. For Big Bend, chances are your Airbnb is going to be at least an hour from any trailhead, then once you are in the park even trailheads can be hours away from each other! So map out all of the locations you plan to use and include the travel time in your timeline.
Make time for a meal
Don’t forget to plan for a meal! Whether it be a picnic or something more elaborate. Waking up at sunrise for a hike means you will be exerting a lot of energy. I recommend setting aside some time in the middle of your day to replenish! Take it from someone who has photographed many full-day elopements. That time in the middle for a break and some food is a life saver.
Having Flexibility in your Elopement Timeline
Making sure you have wiggle room in your timeline is probably the most important bit of advice I can offer.
A plan b option on your elopement day is important in the case of bad weather or unexpected closures. I recommend having a plan b and plan c location as well as being flexible with your timeline. This could mean waiting for clouds to clear, rain to stop, opting for sunset or even postponing to the day after you originally planned. Being flexible is key!
Make sure you leave room in your timeline to breathe!
Building in extra time to be spontaneous means then you can take all of those little extra adventures. Like pulling off to the side of the road to check out a beautiful overlook. Explore a different area or trail, snag souvenirs from the park headquarters and talk to the park rangers. Park rangers always have the best insight on the parks! And they get so stoked when couples come in dressed in their wedding attire.
That wiggle room will give you room to breathe, enjoy your day and be fully present together. The last thing I want is for you to feel rushed from one thing to the next. I want you to truly experience the day together!
How photos fit into elopement timelines
I always try to emphasize that elopements are not full-day photoshoots. I like to schedule in a few minutes after the ceremony to take some intentionally directed photos of couples and families if they have guests but for most of the day I am documenting rather than posing or directing. So trust me when I say, it is NOT a full-day photoshoot.
Why I recommend a full-day elopement
Your elopement is your wedding day. This is a day that is sacred, one that marks the ending of one way of life and the beginning of another. Marriage is a big commitment and not something to be taken lightly.
I truly value your elopement day and believe that you shouldn’t feel the need to cut it short.
Allowing for a full-day timeline or even a two-day experience means that you will have a full story to reminisce on. With photos documenting the entire story of your elopement. This means you will have every detail and moment to look back on.
Having your full-day documented is especially important when you think about the fact that you don’t have a huge guest list. Photos will be the only way for your loved ones who won’t be with you in person to experience the day with you.
Photos will outlive us. I am typing this as I look at a framed photo of my grandparents on their wedding day sitting on my desk. Neither of my grandparents is alive today. These photos will hold meaning for a long time, make sure they tell the full story so the people we love will know how it felt.
Do what you want!
Do what you want to do on your elopement day! It is a huge day and I know you value it. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to spend it! If you want to go skinny dipping in the lake in the middle of December do it. If you want to have a picnic in the middle of the desert go for it. Take whatever it is that makes the two of you feel most alive and connected and incorporate that into your timeline. This day is the beginning of your life together, make it epic!
Thank you for reading!
I sincerely hope that this blog gave you some insight and ideas on building your own elopement timeline. If you are interested in any more of my elopement planning resources you can find those here. I am also always sharing tips, stories and more about myself on my Instagram so follow me if you want to see some of that!