white rose floral bouquet for bride with vow books photographed by Charlottesville wedding photographer

Debbie Perez

June 28, 2023

Uncertain of how to create an elopement timeline? If you’re just starting to plan your elopement, you may be overwhelmed. But have no fear – creating an elopement timeline isn’t as difficult as you might think!

As an elopement photographer, I’ve experienced and helped create countless elopement timelines. To help you bring your dream wedding to life, I’ve developed this guide on how to create an elopement timeline. Below, I’ll discuss all the elements necessary to make your elopement a luxurious and meaningful affair that you and your partner will never forget! Plus, I’ll share four elopement timeline examples to give you some inspiration for your special day.

Before we get started, you might be wondering – what is an elopement, exactly? You can learn more here – What is an elopement? 

Now, let’s get into it! Ready to learn how to create an elopement timeline? Let’s go!

How long does it take to elope?
How to Create an Elopement Timeline
Elopement Timeline Elements
Elopement Timeline Tips
4 Elopement Timeline Examples

Bride and groom follow their elopement timeline and hike up a mountain together as the sun shines down on them - captured by Virginia wedding photographer

​​How long does it take to elope?

First things first – how long is an elopement? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. That’s the beauty of an elopement – it can be as long or as short as you want!

That said, most couples find that a full-day elopement (i.e., 8 hours) is necessary for a relaxing and fulfilling day. It is possible to elope in just 2 to 4 hours. However, this short period is often too rushed – especially if you have elopement activities you want to include.

How to Create an Elopement Timeline

So, how do you plan an elopement timeline? To start, it’s important to identify the elopement timeline elements you want to incorporate. For example, are there elopement activities you want to include – like hiking, kayaking, etc.? What about wedding day traditions? You’ll need to schedule all of these aspects into your day. Once you’ve created a list of the most important elements, you can start organizing your timeline.

Below are some additional elopement timeline considerations that will help you plan the perfect day.

  • Determine what time of day you want to have your elopement (e.g., sunrise, midday, sunset). This will help you choose your start and end times.
  • Be sure to consider how far your accommodations are from your elopement location and factor in travel time.
  • Don’t forget about the weather! This can affect your timeline – so be sure to leave some wiggle room.
  • Consider the number of guests you’ll have at your elopement, as this will affect how long activities take.

Now that you have a better idea of how to create an elopement timeline, let’s explore some elopement timeline elements you may want to include.

Elopement Timeline Elements

man and woman hugging each other while on the beach and holding a surfboard for their outdoor engagement photos with Virginia engagement photographer

There are numerous elopement timeline elements to consider. Some of the most memorable elopement events you may want to schedule on your special day include:

  • Getting ready (and don’t forget bride & groom solo photos!)
  • An intimate first look
  • An exciting escape – e.g., a summit hike, kayaking/canoeing, off-roading through a rugged countryside, etc.
  • Exchanging heartfelt vows
  • Capturing family moments (i.e., family photos)
  • Couple’s photos. Looking for an elopement photographer and elopement photography pricing? Check out my guide to Elopement Photography Pricing.
  • Sunset champagne toast
  • A delicious celebratory feast and/or dessert

Have a list of the elopement timeline elements you want to include? Now it’s time to create your elopement timeline! Let’s look at some elopement timeline tips to help you get started.

Elopement Timeline Tips

As you plan your elopement, take time to consider the entire experience. Below are some elopement timeline tips to help you create an ideal schedule.

  • Prioritize your desires and what you and your partner want to get out of the day. These moments will make your elopement unforgettable, so choose activities you know will be special. Most importantly, be sure to give yourself enough time so these special moments don’t feel rushed.
  • If you relish adventure, take a hike to a remarkable lake or waterfall that you can explore together. Or perhaps begin your elopement with a romantic bike ride or soaking in a hot spring.
  • Do you have rituals that bring meaning to your relationship? For example, small things like doing yoga together or having breakfast as a couple. On your wedding day, honor this special bond by incorporating these little habits into your elopement timeline.
  • Try to plan your elopement outside of peak times and seasons, if possible. This will allow you to enjoy your elopement location without the crowds!
  • Give yourself extra time. Often, activities can take longer than expected. So, be sure to give yourself extra time. Pro Tip: Extra time is also nice to have so you can take advantage of spontaneous photo opportunities!
  • If possible, consider exchanging your vows during “magic hour.” This period (about an hour before sunset) provides the perfect lighting for your elopement photos!
  • When it comes to elopement photography, schedule approximately 1 hour for couple’s photos and 30 minutes for pictures with family and friends.

Keep these elopement timeline tips in mind to create a magical day you and your partner will never forget!

Now, before you start planning your elopement timeline, it can be helpful to see an example. Let’s take a look at a few elopement timeline examples.

4 Elopement Timeline Examples

Charlottesville wedding photographer captures bride and groom holding hands and walking through a field together at sunset as planned in their elopement timeline

To provide a glimpse of what it looks like when all the elements come together, here are some elopement timeline examples. Feel free to take these examples and make them your own!

Elopement Timeline Example #1

10:30 am – 12:00 pm: Late morning light trail walk to a lake or a walk around a historic downtown where you indulge in the yummy goodness of the different tastes of the many eateries.

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm: Hang out with family at the reception campsite or the picturesque view from your Airbnb. This is also an excellent time for your elopement photographer to capture candid moments, like friends lounging in hammocks, you and your partner doing crossword puzzles, etc.

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Get ready.  

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Drive to the ceremony location.

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm: Vows, ceremony, champagne toast.

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Couple’s portraits around the ceremony spot/nearby locations.

5:30 pm – 6:00 pm: Drive back to the campsite or Airbnb.

6:00 pm – ONWARDS: Celebrate the day with friends, family, and light activities (BBQ, s’mores, dancing, speeches, etc.).

Timeline Example #2

6:00 pm – 6:25 pm: First look pictures at Airbnb. Tip: during this time, take some pics with your pup!

6:25 pm – 6:40 pm: Drive to the ceremony location (e.g., suspension bridge) and meet the officiant. 

6:40 pm – 6:55 pm: Walk to a beautiful and quiet spot (e.g., Belle Isle) for vows.

6:55 pm -– 7:15 pm: Vows.

7:15 pm – 7:45 pm: Pictures with elopement photographer.

7:45 pm – 8:00 pm: Walk back to the parking lot, and snap additional photos on the way back.

8:00 pm – 8:05 pm: Drive to the parking deck.

8:05 pm – 8:10 pm: Get to the parking deck rooftop.

8:10 pm – 8:40 pm: Take pictures on the rooftop and dance to your wedding song.

8:40 pm – 8:50 pm: Drive to a speakeasy for post elopement party.

8:50 pm – 9:00 pm: Snap some final pictures.

Elopement Timeline Example #3

5:30 am – 6:00 am: Get ready.

6:00 am – 6:10 am: Drive to sunrise location.

6:10 am – 6:15 am: Walk to the ceremony location.

6:15 am – 6:30 am: Vows.

6:30 am – 7:30 am: Couple’s portraits.

Timeline Example #4

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Get ready/hair and makeup.

3:30 pm – 3:45 pm: First look and private moment. Tip: have a first-look song playing in the background for a truly romantic moment.

3:45 pm – 4:20 pm: Head to the theatre.

4:20 pm – 4:55 pm: Take photos inside the theatre.

4:55 pm – 5:30 pm: Walk to an ice cream shop.

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Take Skyline Drive back to AirBnb. Hop out at a few overlooks along the way for pictures. Tip: don’t forget to capture a tunnel shot!

6:30 pm: Arrive at AirBnb.

7:00 pm – 7:20 pm: Ceremony, vows, time capsule box, sign the marriage certificate.

7:20 pm – 7:45 pm: Portraits around the AirBnb.

7:45 pm – 8:15 pm: Cake cutting, first dance, champagne toast.

8:15 pm: Final elopement photos.

I hope the ideas above are helpful as you set up your elopement timeline. If you’re still unsure about how to start, just shoot me an email, and I’d love to help you plan the perfect timeline for your elopement!

Want to learn more about planning an elopement? Check out my Elopement Planning Guide.

Let’s Create the Perfect Elopement Timeline, Together.

Devise your dream elopement experience, and I, as your guide, will ensure every detail is taken into consideration – from the timing of your hiking adventure to the precise lighting necessary to capture that perfect moment. I will work with you to craft the ideal timeline, allowing you and your partner to relax and fully embrace the day!

How to Create an Elopement Timeline [+4 Elopement Timeline Examples]

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