elopement timeline planning

If you’re here, you’re likely wondering what an elopement timeline is, or how to build one. When you choose to elope, the stress of a big wedding likely came off your shoulders. Although, now you might be feeling unsure of what steps to take to plan an elopement. This is typically because elopements are extremely unique and personalized experiences. That being said, you can kind of do whatever you’d like. But how do you make sure the day flows in a cohesive, relaxed way?

As an elopement photographer that helps my couples with all of the planning, I’ve been building elopement timelines for a while now. I’m going to go over everything you should consider while building one yourself.

How Long Does an Elopement Last?

Odds are you’ve never eloped before. So let’s answer the first and most basic question. How long does a an elopement last? This is going to be entirely up to you. However, choosing to elope over having a big wedding doesn’t mean there’s less to celebrate. Even at big weddings, a ceremony generally lasts somewhere between 15 minutes to an hour. The rest of the day is getting ready, and celebrating.

That being said, what is really left to decide is how you want to celebrate, and what fun things you want to include in your day to come commemorate it, as well as create your own traditions that resonate with you. This could be hiking to a ceremony location. Other examples include: hiring a private chef, exploring a national park, having an intimate reception with your loved ones, and so much more. If you love the idea of saying your vows and simply spending the evening relaxing after, this is totally an option. However, some couples spend the entire day enjoying activities together to celebrate, and some couples even opt for multi-day elopement.

What is an Elopement Timeline

hawaii elopement

An elopement timeline is the thing that glues together everything that is important for you to experience during your day. It’s also a really great way to make sure any guests or vendors are dialed in and know exactly where to be and when. My elopement timelines that I create for my couples are quite thorough.

I use elopement timelines to make sure we know everything about our logistics, and a way to make sure everything is coming together cohesively to create a day that feels relaxed and stress-free. The elopement timelines I build include the time of the sunrise and sunset, a link to AccuWeather so you can easily check the day of conditions, the entire day-of plan from getting ready to finishing up, as well as a packing list, estimated drive times, addresses of each location, and the shot list of all the guests you want family photos with.

How to Build an Elopement Timeline

First, you’re going to want to know some of the major steps of planning an elopement. You can take a look at my thorough guide here. First, you want to find all of the locations included in your day. Ceremony, hike, picnic location, photo location, whatever you want. This can be as few or as many as you’d like. Next, hire your vendors. Then, decide on activities you want to include.

Once those major steps are complete, it’s time to start building your elopement timeline. Once again, this is something that I do for my couples that hire me. If you’re doing it on your own, I would start with figuring out what time do you want to have the ceremony. Start working backwards from there. I always suggest giving yourself at least two hours to get ready. After the ceremony, add in the other locations and activities you’ve planned on. Then, figure out drive times and add those. Make sure to give yourself a buffer time between each event. This ensures a relaxed day regardless of if things go longer than planned or not.

What Does a Multi-Day Elopement Look Like?

smith rock oregon elopement

In the same way that an elopement timeline is different for everyone due to how personalized they are, multi day elopements are equally unique. Although, people have them for similar reasons. For example, if a couple wants to have some guests, but also spend time solo, a multi day elopement is a great choice. This way you’d spend a day just together, and another day with guests.

Other couples have destination elopements and really just want to be able to spread their celebration over the course of more than one day due to being in a new and exciting location. Multi day elopements are extremely popular when couples have a destination wedding and include guests. This is because couples want to enjoy intentional time doing some pre-determined activities with people who traveled so far to be with them. It’s really just about splitting up your time and celebrating with events that last more than one day.

Activity Ideas for an Elopement Timeline

Throughout reading this blog post, you’ve heard me mention activity ideas for allotment timelines multiple times now. There are so many different ideas for activities on your elopement day. While this is going to be just the tip of the iceberg, here’s some ideas for you to consider:

  • Going on a hike
  • Exploring a National or State Park
  • Having a bonfire
  • Having a picnic
  • Star-gazing or astrophotography
  • Swimming
  • Cliff jumping
  • Visiting waterfalls
  • Camping
  • Glamping
  • Bar hopping in town
  • Hiring a private chef
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Helicopter tour (landing on glaciers, mountains, etc)
  • Board games
  • Lawn games
  • Dancing
  • Desert
  • Private boat ride with champagne and dinner
  • Pool party
  • Kayaking
  • Paddleboarding
  • Sightseeing
  • Scenic driving with time to stop for pictures
  • Visiting hot springs
  • Enjoying cocktails
  • Exchanging gifts
  • Reading letters from friends or family

Like I said, these are just some ideas you can consider. There could be a lot more ideas that are Taylor to you and your partner and things that you like to do together. You can work them into any elopement timeline or of course, I have a multi day timeline to ensure you have time for everything you need.

Ready to Build Your Elopement Timeline?

You now have all of the tools to start working on your own elopement timeline. If you’re still in the beginning stages of planning your elopement, and all of these steps are feeling a little overwhelming to you, reach out! I help all of my couples find their dream locations, get permits, find vendors, and build her entire elopement timeline for them.

Don't forget your free elopement planning checklist


You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

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