With any type of wedding, big or small, the timeline is one aspect that can make or break your experience. It can make you feel rushed, or like there is no time to actually be present and in the moment. That was something I as an elopement photographer wanted to fix. I hated seeing that for couples. I wanted to make sure this was a day that they could look back on with nothing but gratitude. Sharing how to build your elopement day timeline is one way to educate yourself as the planning start to begin.
What is an elopement day timeline?
When planning your elopement day, thinking about the timeline might not be at the top of your priorities. You might be dreaming of the perfect day, marrying your partner, all dressed up in a romantic location. But to get to that point, first we need to sort out the logistics so the day can go smoothly! While traditional weddings require a long list of scheduled events, an elopement day timeline can look a lot differently. You're really starting from a blank slate. You have the freedom to add on whatever you want, in any order you like!
So what is an elopement day timeline then? Well, it's whatever you want it to be! That may feel SO freeing to some couples, but it can also feel overwhelming when you don't know where to start. That's where I come in. As an experienced elopement photographer, I step in and help my couples craft a uniquely tailored wedding day that's perfect for them. By providing resources on locations, packing, writing vows, and even how to include family, as well as giving guidelines on creating a timeline that suits their vision for their day. If you're feeling lost and don't know where to start with creating your timeline, this post is for you!
Key tips on how to create your elopement timeline
Creating an elopement day timeline can be super simple, or it may require some extra logistical planning. It really depends on the kind of day you and your partner are wanting to have. Adventure elopements or weddings typically will include a portion of the day dedicated to an outdoor activity of some kind. Whether that be a walk or hike to a scenic location, or horseback riding in the mountains. There is a TON of flexibility to add in experiences, rather than traditional structured formalities.
Important things to think about
Lighting is something photographers think about A LOT in their work. In order to capture a good image, we are always considering the lighting. Where the light hits, if there's shadows, when the sun rises/sets, etc. It varies in different areas such as forests vs open fields, indoors vs outdoors. If you need help deciding when the best time to take photos is, ask your photographer about their ideal lighting timing for the day you are eloping.
Location + seclusion
When ordering the timeline of your desired events (vows, portraits, picnic, etc) it can be really beneficial to consider the location you have chosen (and if you haven't done that head to this post on How to Choose Your Elopement Location.) Some areas may be more populated at peak hours during the day. Others may not even be accessible at a certain point (like the tides at the beach, or parks closing)
Reception or celebration timing
If you're planning to have a reception on your elopement day, whether that be a small private affair or a bigger party with guests, timing will be crucial. You need to decide on a specific starting and ending time. That way you can book your dinner, or tell your guests when to arrive. If you're not having a reception, you might have more flexibility with an end time to your day. Your elopement isn't limited to a venues curfew!
Something so unique about elopements is the flexibility in the day to include shared experiences through activities. Without the formalities of a traditional wedding, you open up so much time to enjoy the day however you see fit! Whether that be hiking, horseback riding, taking a local tour, kayaking, outdoor sports, or anything you enjoy doing together. Adding in time to have fun and create memories together is so worth it. If that is something you want to include into your day, give yourself extra space so you don't feel rushed. You don't want to spend the day hiking only to turn right back around in a rush to get back before dark. Properly planning in advance will give you a relaxing day with little to no stress when you approach it with an adaptable perspective.
Elopement Timeline Examples
To really bring this all together, I wanted to give you some real life examples of some of my past eloping couples and what their timelines looked like.
Emily and Dylan had a two day elopement to get best of both worlds for their wedding experience. They personally really wanted a mountain elopement, but then they (and their families) really wanted to celebrate with their closest people as well. So they had a day for just them, then a day for a backyard wedding celebration. And honestly, it was perfect.
When building the timeline, we focused on the hike and making sure we had a mountain to adventure all over, and plenty of time at the top.
For their backyard celebration, they wanted to get ready with their friends, do all the formal photos, champagne toast, special dances, speeches and dancing. Basically, a wedding just shortened and so much fun.
Full Day Elopement
Sarah and Ryan had an all day elopement that incorporated getting ready, ceremony in a separate location, a lunch at a farm, then later on a hike and star gazing.
As we were building the timeline, we had to think about driving times, as well as ensuring the least amount of stress for them and their guests. For their lunch reception, we wanted to give plenty of time to relax and enjoy each person before heading out on their second adventure with just one another.
It's fun to be able to incorporate things they love such as star gazing and hiking!
Julie and Jeff originally had a full wedding planned, but they quickly realized that it wasn't what they wanted. So they cancelled it all and planned an intimate wedding with their closest family and friends.
Their main priorities were a ceremony on the cliffs, then a hike to say their vows. We prioritized timing around these two moments, then revolved the rest of the day around those.
Because we built in plenty of time, the schedule ran so smoothly and they had the most perfect stress free day.
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