Elopement Timeline Tips & Ideas

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One of the best things about elopements is the flexibility of time — you and your partner get to choose how you want to spend your day and what locations, adventures and activities you want to include.


A lot of the elopements I photograph are actually all day (i.e 8+ hours) — and I love that more and more couples are including fun activities and what they love to do together in their day! When it comes to building your elopement timeline, I’m a huge advocate for planning it to be a full day of adventure and having it be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

If you’re wondering how your elopement can even be an all day adventure, you’re in the right place! This guide is all about elopement timelines – what happens on an elopement day, how to make one, and why your day should be more than just a ceremony and a few photos.


Before we talk about how your elopement can be an all day event, let’s talk about why

Here’s the thing – big weddings get 8, 10, even 12 hours, and why should your wedding day be any different? Choosing to downsize, be intentional about how you get married, and spend your day with just your partner and maybe a few loved ones doesn’t make your day any less special, or any less meaningful, and it doesn’t make it any less deserving of your care and attention.

You’re getting married! That deserves to be celebrated – and eloping is all about the experience you have, and how you feel. With a day that lasts 8+ hours, you spend the entire day celebrating the two of you, you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the day without rushing through, and you get to make sure that the day is truly meaningful and true to who you are.


One of the best ways to get inspired for your own elopement is to imagine what a wedding day can look like when there are truly no limits. When you can do absolutely anything you want, when your wedding is a reflection of the two of you, and when there are no obligations, no pressure, and no rules!

Here are a few sample elopement  timelines, so you can see what’s possible!

Sunrise Hiking Elopement

2:00AM Wake up excited for the day!

2:30AM Make coffee and pancakes for you and your partner to enjoy as you look out at the stars outside your cabin

3:00AM You do your hair and makeup while your partner finishes up packing your hiking bags

4:00AM Drive to trailhead in Banff National Park

4:30AM Put on your headlamps and begin the hike in the dark

6:30AM Reach the summit just before dawn

6:45AM Change into your wedding attire

7:00 You do a first look, soaking in what’s about to happen

7:30 Exchange vows and have your ceremony with no one else around, as the sun is rising, lighting up the mountains in orange and red

8:00AM Take photos and explore 

8:30AM Set up and enjoy a picnic by the lake

10:30AM Begin the hike down, taking photos and stopping to enjoy the view along the way

12:30PM Drive to a nearby lake

1:00PM Inflate your paddleboards and go for a paddle in the serene blue water

2:00PM Come back to shore

2:30PM Drive to your cabin to meet up with your family for a lunch reception

Couple hiking to peak of Lake Louise on their elopement during sunrise.

Sunset Helicopter Elopement

10:00AM Have breakfast with family at a local cafe

12:00 Drive back to Airbnb

12:30 Hair and makeup begins

2:30 Put on wedding attire

3:00 Do a first look outside the Airbnb

3:30 Drive to ceremony spot in the forest, meet the family there

4:30 Take a short nature walk to your spot

4:45 Exchange vows surrounded by your loved ones, with a ceremony officiated by a family member

5:15  Champagne toasts and picnic with family

6:30 Drive to Rockies Heli, family goes back to Airbnb

7:00 Begin helicopter tour over the mountains as the sun begins to set

8:30 Land, come back to Airbnb  

Couple at Moraine Lake for their elopement at sunset.


Most couples haven’t planned an elopement before, so it can definitely be hard to imagine what the two of you can do for an entire day. I don’t blame ya – but you’d be surprised how fast it all goes by on the big day!

Here’s an overview of what can go into an elopement timeline, but keep in mind that one of the best things about elopements is how customizable they are – so you can tweak these, add your own twists, and leave out anything that doesn’t feel right.

Getting Ready for Your Elopement

The day begins with getting ready – this can include spending some time together in the morning, along with doing hair and makeup and putting on your attire. If you’re hiring a professional hair and makeup artist, consult with them, but two hours is pretty typical. Add about 30 minutes to get your attire on, unless you prefer to put it on after you get to your elopement location (couples who hike often pack their dresses or suits)!

First Look

If you do a first look, add about 30 minutes to your elopement timeline – but talk to your photographer to be sure, and to see if you’ll do some couple’s photos during this time.

Couple during their first look on their elopement at Lake Louise.


Ceremonies can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, or longer if you’re incorporating more religious, cultural, or family traditions.

Couple getting teary eyed and emotional while exchanging vows during their hiking elopement in Banff

Photos With Guests

You’ll be taking photos throughout the day, but if you have guests, it’s great to schedule some time for some more formal group photos! Depending on how many people you have, 30 minutes is usually enough time. 

Couple’s Photos

Talk to your photographer about this one (and honestly, about everything else!), because you’ll likely be adding time to each part of the day to ensure there’s plenty of time for photos of the two of you! You may also want to schedule 30 minutes to an hour for some formal shots.

Couple taking portraits on their elopement day in Banff.

Reception, Adventure, or Whatever You Want

Make sure your elopement day is perfect for the two of you – and plan something amazing! You can do this before or after the ceremony, and it can be a hike to your ceremony spot, dinner with the family, a sunset soak in a hot spring, a kayaking adventure, rock climbing, ice cream… literally anything you want to do, we can do it on your elopement day! Check out this guide for some unique ideas to make your elopement day truly special.

Couple enjoying ice cream on their elopement day
Couple hugging and enjoying the sunset view during their elopement.


When you make your elopement timeline, here are some things to keep in mind!

Remember Travel Time

The time it takes to go from where you get ready to your ceremony spot, and any other drives, hikes, or traveling you’ll do throughout the day should definitely be part of your elopement timeline. Add some extra time for traffic, photo stops, or any unexpected roadblocks.

Add More Time Than You Think You Need

And speaking of extra time, do this for every part of the day! Having some minutes to spare is always better than feeling rushed and stressed out, so add time to each part of your elopement timeline. Remember transition times (things like the time it takes to get everyone into or out of the car), and have some buffer time – this will help you stay present and relaxed, and will allow you to be spontaneous and have fun with your elopement day!

Think About Lighting

When it comes to photos, lighting is one of the most important things. Plus, to avoid squinting into the sun during your ceremony, it’s great to plan your elopement timeline around the light. Sticking to shady locations during the day, and having your ceremony closer to sunrise or sunset will ensure amazing light, and will prevent harsh shadows in your photos.

Hire an Elopement Photographer

The best tip I have for creating your elopement timeline is to have a professional do it for you! Part of my job as an elopement photographer is to make a custom timeline for every couple, keeping in mind lighting, what you want to do, and making sure there’s plenty of time for you to enjoy the day. 

Contact me if you’re ready to plan your elopement, and let’s talk about your unique elopement timeline!

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