wedding photography for rad, offbeat, alternative and non-traditional people

How to Plan Your Elopement Timeline

June 29, 2016

Wedding Tips

2015-08-08_00282015-08-08_0006Okay so you’re eloping. Probably because it seems simpler. It’s easy. However, if you’re like many people eloping you still want the occasion photographed so you can send photos back to friends and family to share in the celebrations. Or perhaps you’re not exactly eloping, but you are having a very short and sweet intimate affair with just a handful of guests. Either way you may still want to have a general timeline for the day.

I’ve photographed many elopements over the years. Today I’m sharing my favorite elopement timeline with you. I think this timeline lends itself well to tell the entire day’s story and not just the highlights.


My favorite elopements start with preparations. It may seem small and silly, but having these moments where you’re putting on a dress or tux and getting ready are beautiful. This is especially true with elopements. We could just photograph the ceremony and a few photos of you as a couple, but the preparations still tell the day’s story. It makes it seem like more than just going outside and saying a couple nice words to each other, taking a photo and having a nice dinner. I love the photos of you reading your vows over. The photo of you pinning back that one stray hair that just won’t stay. The one where your shoe comes off as you’re getting into the car to go where your ceremony is.

These photos set the stage for the rest of the day and showcase the anticipation and excitement for the bigger moments to come. I recommend about an hour’s worth of preparation photos. You may still be getting your hair done and having a glass of champagne, but that’s okay. It’s part of the story.

Travel Time

Most elopements involve some preparation time and then travel time getting to your elopement location. Sometimes it’s a short hike, or a drive. Make sure you build this time into your timeline. You can also have your photographer along documenting along the way. If you’re traveling together to your ceremony spot, maybe you’ll need to do a quick first look before you go too! I’d leave about 30 minutes for a first look and some travel time. You don’t want to travel too far.


The best thing about elopements is the quickness of the ceremony. You only need about 15-30 minutes maximum to get married and then sign your marriage license. A longer ceremony usually happens when a bride makes an entrance and there’s maybe an intimate group of guests attending. If you have a really small group of guests there I’d recommend bringing a couple bottles of champagne and doing a quick champagne toast with your guests after the ceremony. It’s a great transition to group photos and the next event. It can also still fit in that 30 minute time slot.

I would also recommend having your ceremony about an hour and a half before sunset so you can take advantage of that sunset light for your own photos afterward. Sunset/late evening light is always more flattering on skin tones and more romantic in my opinion. It suits elopements well.

Group Photos (optional)

If you’re having a few guests at your elopement, you might want to take a couple group photos. These shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Couple’s Photos

One of the best things about elopements is not being tied down to a big fancy venue’s timeline of the day. While venues and coordinators love for us to take 20 minutes to do couple’s photos, I often feel this isn’t enough time to get truly creative and dynamic photos. I love to spend about 45 minutes to an hour taking photos of a couple after they’ve eloped. We have the flexibility to go to a different location if there’s somewhere especially epic. In general, the more time you give your photographer to take photos of the two of you as a couple, the more creative we can be with the images instead of feeling rushed to get to the next event.

Travel Time

You may need a 10 minute travel time to get to the next spot!

Celebratory Toast/Drinks and Desserts

Once couple’s photos are done and the sun has set you can go with your little group, or just the two of you to a bar for drinks and desserts (or a later dinner depending on the time of year). When I’m with just the couple and no guests are attending this is the perfect way to finish the night. Have a little cupcake and some champagne to toast with each other. We’ll photograph it for about 30 minutes and then I’ll leave you to continue the celebration with each other or with your small group!

bizandjustin 19Basically, a 3 hour elopement makes for a nice relaxed evening and a great way to share the story with friends and family back home who were not in attendance!


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