Elopement Tips for Couples Wanting to Have an Amazing Experience

There’s a misconception that elopements are just a quick ceremony. You sign the papers, exchange rings, and go home. And even if that used to be true, elopements are no longer something you do in a hurry. Eloping is all about the experience! The entire day should be about celebrating your love in a way that truly reflects who you are as a couple. Just because your elopement is smaller than a traditional wedding, doesn’t make it any less meaningful – this is still the day you get married to the love of your life! The whole day should be an experience, and your elopement timeline should reflect that.

If you still have questions about what eloping actually means, check out this post. But, to learn about what goes into an elopement timeline and how to create one that’s perfect for your unique day, keep reading!

Building Your Elopement Day

Elopements are all about flexibility – where you go, how you spend your time, the wedding traditions you incorporate or don’t – you really can plan a day exactly the way you want to! But how long should you plan for your elopement day? Remember that this is your wedding day, it’s the celebration of your love and it deserves to be special!

Your elopement is not just about taking photos, your experience matters! My goal is to inspire you to have an amazing wedding experience and NOT make it feel like an all-day photoshoot! To give you an idea of what that can look like, here are all the parts of an elopement day:

1. Getting Ready

Some people think they don’t need a photographer for this part, but this is such an important moment of your elopement day. Because this when your special day starts! Some couples choose to get ready together, while others decide to separate. If you want to have a first look, I recommend getting ready separately.

2. First Look

It’s the first moment you see someone or they see you on your wedding day! It is a newer wedding day tradition, often replacing the moment when seeing your partner for the first time as they walk down the aisle. It can be used as a alone time with just your partner.

First looks can totally take place at elopements too, and it’s one of my favorite moments! Even if you’re eloping just the two of you, you can get ready separately and enjoy all the emotion of a first look experience!

3. Ceremony

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s when all the emotions come together!

There’s usually the vows exchanging – some couples that are eloping with family/friends opt to read their vows right after the first look, privately, then they have the ceremony with the guests – and the rings exchanging. Depending on where you elope, an officiant/minister may have some words before or after and you may need to sign your marriage license (if you didn’t sign it before). And of course, have your first kiss as a married couple!

You can always choose to integrate unique, meaningful elements into your elopement ceremony. Here’s some examples:

  • Sand pouring
  • Breaking the glass
  • Feet washing
  • Time capsule
  • Plant a tree
  • Handfasting (Cord) Ceremony
  • Unity Ceremony
  • Tie the knot
  • Sage Smudging Ceremony

4. After the Ceremony

So you’ve just had your first kiss, now what? If you’re having guests with you, this is probably a good time to spend some time with them, take a few family photos, do a champagne toast and even a first dance (or if you prefer you can do the first dance privately).

If you’re eloping just the two of you, the first thing you should do after your first kiss is to pause and really soak it all in! Look around, stare at each other, hold your partner close (and maybe now have a first dance!).

This is also the moment for some adventure! Check out the list below for some great options!

Elopement Activity Ideas:

  • Paddle board
  • Kayak
  • Helicopter tour
  • Sailboat or Catamaran tour
  • Hike a mountain (sunrise or sunset)
  • Go off roading or Book a Jeep Tour
  • Go Horseback Riding
  • Swim at your favorite beach/lake
  • Explore somewhere you’ve never been
  • Have a picnic outdoors
  • Ski/snowboard/cross country ski
  • Go Camping or Glamping
  • Rent a unique stay (airbnb or hotel) and have a ceremony with family and friends

As you can see, there are so many possibilities to make your wedding day unique to you!

Other Ideas to Make Your Elopement Day Extra Special

  • Re-read love notes from years past to reflect back on your story
  • Recount your past adventures together and pledge to take new ones
  • Exchange wedding gifts
  • A great way to include family and friends in your day even if they’re not present in person is to ask them to write letters to you both. Open the letters after the ceremony and read them together.

Elopement Timeline Ideas

I wanted to list out some example timelines to give you an idea of how your elopement day could look like and also help you decide how long you should hire an elopement photographer for. This will totally depend on what you’re planning to do on your day.

All day “just us” elopement timeline:

Two different locations + two different activities

5:00am — photographer meets couple at trailhead and hike up to the mountain

6:00am — arrive at the top and change into wedding attire

6:30am — sunrise first look + ceremony

7:00am — enjoy some coffee + explore the surrounding area + have a first dance

8:00am — hike back down

9:00am — drive to second location

10:00am — arrive at lake for some kayaking adventure

11:00am — champagne toast + picnic by the lake

12:00pm — read letters from loved ones

12:30pm — change and go for a swim

1:00pm — photographer leaves, couple continue to enjoy their day privately

Airbnb elopement with family:

A relaxing ceremony by the lake + a short hike for some couple portraits

1:00pm — photographer arrives + getting ready separetly for the first look

2:30pm — couple’s private first look + vows reading outside the Airbnb

3:00pm — ceremony by the lake with family

3:30pm — family portraits

4:00pm — photographer and couple drive to an overlook for some sunset portraits + explore the area

5:00pm — drive back to Airbnb

5:30pm — champagne toast + reception with family

6:30pm — photographer leaves

Extra tips:

  • Add extra time. People tend to underestimate how long an elopement day is and how long everything will take. It’s always better to have extra time than not enough, and leaving some room between activities or events will save you a lot of stress! In case of traffic, or if it takes everyone a little while to get out the door, you’ll have plenty of time and won’t have to worry.
  • Be Flexible. While you do need an elopement timeline to make sure you and everyone else knows what’s going on and where you need to be, this isn’t the same as a traditional wedding timeline! Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, sometimes you see an overlook you want to stop at while you’re driving – so don’t be afraid to be spontaneous!

Get in touch with me today and let’s start planning your elopement day experience!

You can save this guide for later using one of the images below:

Elopement Timeline and Activity Ideas

Planning resources

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