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Creating Your Elopement Timeline

October 21, 2021

WOO! You’ve decided to elope! But now you’re looking at the possible vendors you might want to hire for your elopement and you have no idea what to tell them in terms of time. Have no fear! This blog post is going to help you figure out what kind of timeline your elopement day needs. But of course, always consult with your photographer or other vendors about what their recommendations are for each of these items.

shoes and watch for elopement timeline

1. Getting Ready – 3 hours

Getting ready is a must for your wedding day! No matter what kind of look you’re going for or when in the day you plan to get into your wedding clothes, getting ready is a thing that has to happen. Because it’s just the two of you, it won’t take the HOURS that getting ready would take for a conventional wedding where there are parents, bridespeople or groomspeople to factor in. Men tend to be able to dress and be ready in under an hour. Ladies usually take closer to 2 hours in order for hair and makeup to be factored in (whether DIY or professional). This is also the time of day when your photographer will be capturing detail shots of your clothing and accessories, which for both of you comes out to about an hour of photography. So for getting ready, my recommendation is to block out 3 hours of time. 1 hour for detail photos and 2 hours for getting ready photos of each of you. Plus it’s also a thing where you may spend an hour or so at your house, hotel or AirBnB doing your hair and packing for your elopement hike, then another 30-ish minutes on the trail changing out of hiking clothes and into wedding clothes.

2. Maybe a First Look – 10 minutes

I always advocate for a First Look whenever I can, but for elopements it isn’t always necessary. If you two are helping each other get ready for the day, there is no reason to stage a First Look because you’ve already seen each other. First Looks for elopements can be beneficial if your getting ready location has separate spaces for you both and the secrecy can be kept until a First Look moment. Another good time for an intentional First Look is if you start your elopement day not in your wedding clothes and change into them on the trail or some other location during your elopement day. All in all, it takes about 10 minutes for a photographer to stage a First Look and document the first few minutes of “I can’t believe we’re getting married!” interactions.

3. The ceremony – 15 minutes

Because this is your elopement, there’s no need to build extra time into the timeline to account for guests arriving and finding seats, as well as lining up a wedding party. So at most your ceremony is going to last 15 minutes in order for your officiant to say the necessary items, share your vows with each other, and maybe have a family member read something if you are including family guests. The great thing about a ceremony on an elopement day is that you don’t even need to choose a specific time if you don’t want to. You can just know that at some point on your adventures you’re going to want to take a few minutes to have your ceremony together. That said, if there are facets of your day that require a specific time (like things with tickets), then it’s better to have an idea of where you might want to have the ceremony so that you can know you’ll make your ticketed events on time.

4. Your Adventure! – 2 Hours to ???

This portion of your day is the most exciting, as well as the most difficult to nail a time frame to. If you’re just going to the local park to explore and get married in beautiful gardens, it probably won’t take very long. If you decide to take on a super challenging mountain hike, it could be 4-10 hours of hiking, resting and photo taking depending on your trail. The adventure portion of the day is where most of your wedding portraits will happen, and so you should really consult with your photographer about what a realistic time frame is for the things you want to do. They’ll know how much time they need for photos, and can factor that into the estimated time to complete your activity.

5. After the Adventure – 1 to 4 hours

Maybe you hire a private chef for a romantic dinner for two. Perhaps you and your immediate family are going to a special restaurant. It’s possible that you want to just chill and binge on junk food after your adventure. Maybe you’re such fun loving people that after your hike you decide to hit up a local brewery or two! Similar to activities, this part is hard to nail a specific time frame to because it all depends on what you decide to do. Again, your photographer will be able to give you advice on how long they would want or need to adequately capture it.

6. Travel Time (+15 minutes)

Travel takes time and on an elopement day it’s more time than you think because you’re coordinating a bunch of stuff, too! My general rule of thumb is to take the normal travel time and add 15 minutes in case of traffic and for the pack-in/out of everybody and their things.

7. Are Two Days Needed?

Sometimes, you want to take an epic adventure that your parents or Grammie just can’t go on with you. BUT, you still want them to be there when you say “I do.” This is where it’s beneficial to break your elopement into two days: 1 day for an awesome adventure in your wedding looks, 1 day for a sweet and simple ceremony and gathering with your VIPs.


Really, there is no standard elopement day timeline, so be sure to really think about all facets of your day and consult with your vendors about how long they anticipate the portions of the day that you’ll be using their services.

Pin this Elopement Timeline post for later!

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  1. Andrea Brandt says:

    Hi Emma! This is great info for couples planning their elopement! I love the ideas you have for adventuring and afterward. A private chef? Count me in! 🙂

  2. Nate says:

    So much value in here! So many people feel confused and unsure about their elopement timeline! This is a great way to help bring some clarity and guidance.

  3. Terri says:

    Great timeline ideas! Way to put it in perspective

  4. Terri says:

    Really great ideas! So much to iron out.

  5. Laura says:

    This is super helpful information! Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how long things actually take from a photography and actually getting ready perspective !

  6. Great informative guide on how to plan a timeline and how much time to account for each step

  7. Adam says:

    This is so so helpful. Elopement timelines can sometimes be so overwhelming and you’ve really done a good job breaking it down. Thanks!

  8. Marla says:

    Perfect advice– that extra buffer of time is SO important. When has anything ever gone according to plan?

  9. Traci says:

    Love sample timelines, thanks for sharing!

  10. Lexi Hoebing says:

    Great advice here! Elopements might appear to go by the seat of your pants, but it actually takes a lot of planning to make sure there’s time for everything without it feeling overwhelming!

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