Elopement Timelines: What to Do on Your Elopement Day

Filed in Ceremony, elopements — August 10, 2021

A lot of people still see elopements as a way to avoid the time and investment in a “real” wedding day – but what if I told you your elopement deserves to last all day?


Eloping is no longer about running off to the courthouse and tying the knot as quickly as possible – it’s so much more. Couples who elope do so because they want to actually enjoy their wedding day. Instead of throwing a party they don’t want, they get to plan a day that feels right for them, and reflects who they are. But, with the old, outdated definition of elopements, a lot of couples have a hard time imagining what a full day elopement actually looks like. 


This guide will give you some ideas of what to do on your elopement day, what an elopement timeline entails, and how to plan a wedding day that’s unique, special, and totally you!


Do You Really Need All Day?

It hurts my heart every time I hear it – “we probably just need a few hours, just a quick ceremony and some photos.”


So many couples believe that their elopement doesn’t need much photo coverage, that it won’t take very long, and that all they need is an hour or two. But think about this – why is your elopement any less meaningful or important than a big wedding? Why does a smaller ceremony mean the day you get freaking married doesn’t matter enough, or doesn’t deserve more than two hours?


You’ve decided to do something brave, to say “no thanks” to the pressure of the wedding industry, and to get married in a way that reflects who you are – and I’d say that’s pretty dang special.


So spend the entire day kicking off the beginning of the rest of your lives together – from getting ready to watching the sunset, this day’s a big deal.


What to Do on Your Elopement Day

Coming up with what to do on your elopement day is where a lot of couples get stuck – because for so long, elopements have been imagined as nothing more than a ceremony. So yes, there will be a ceremony – but what else?


Here’s the short answer – you can do anything! And I mean anything. That’s the beauty of eloping – there are no rules, nothing you can’t do, and no idea that’s too crazy. Don’t worry, I’ll get a little more specific. Here are some ideas of what to do on your elopement day.


Have a Reception

Some couples want to elope just the two of them, but others still want to include their loved ones! Eloping doesn’t have to mean leaving your people behind, and if celebrating with some family or close friends would make your day amazing, you can do that! You can celebrate at your Airbnb with cake and dinner, or invite your guests to adventure with you. Some couples like to have their guests with them for the ceremony, then take off alone to spend some time together – that way, you get to mix the privacy of your elopement and the joy of sharing it with others. You can even split your elopement into two days – one for friends and family, and one that you enjoy alone.


Keep Some Traditions

Eloping doesn’t mean you can’t keep the traditions that you do want! While some wedding day tropes may not be for you, others might be worth including. This can be cake cutting, a first dance, a unity ceremony (like handfasting or knot tying), toasts, and anything else that speaks to you.


Do a First Look

A first look is the moment when the two of you see each other for the first time. This can be really special to include in your elopement day, as it gives you a moment to yourselves, to be present with each other and soak in the excitement of what’s about to happen. You can also do one with your parents or any guests!


Get Ready Together

Some couples like to get ready together – but even if you get ready separately and do a first look, it can still be really nice to spend some time with each other in the morning! Give your day a slow, relaxing start with coffee or pancakes, and just take some time to slow down, be present, and get excited.


Plan an Adventure

This is the best part! Each elopement day is unique, and the adventure you plan will be an epic part of your day. This can be anything – but here are some ideas for what to do on your elopement day!

  • Hike to your ceremony spot
  • Take a Jeep tour
  • Go kayaking
  • Paddleboard
  • Have a picnic
  • Stargaze
  • Have a campfire
  • Go to In-N-Out
  • Take a helicopter tour
  • Surf

Whether it’s something you love doing together, or something new you want to try, just think about what would make this the best day ever!


Sample Elopement Timelines

Here are some examples of what to do on your elopement day, in action. 


Full Day Elopement With Family

9:00 Pancake breakfast

11:00 Hair and makeup begins

1:00 Put on ceremony attire

1:30 Jamie’s first look with dad

1:45 Couple’s first look

2:15 Drive to ceremony location

3:00 Ceremony

3:30 Photos with family

4:00 Picnic with family

5:00 Family goes back to Airbnb, couple stays for photos

7:00 Drive back to Airbnb

7:45 Champagne pop

8:15 Dinner & cake


H3: Two Day Elopement 

Day 1

10:00 Coffee and breakfast

12:00 Hair and makeup begins

2:00 Drive to trailhead

3:00 Begin hiking

6:00 Reach summit, change into ceremony attire

6:15 First look

6:45 Sunset ceremony

7:00 Snack break

7:15 Couple’s photos

8:30 Set up camp

9:00 First dance, dinner, and s’mores


Day 2

6:00 Sunrise photos

7:00 Coffee and breakfast

8:00 Pack up camp

8:30 Begin hiking

10:00 Return to trailhead, drive to hot springs

12:00 Soak in hot springs, picnic

3:00 Drive to Airbnb


Full Day Elopement Coverage

Some couples are tempted to have their photographer there for just part of the day, but I think a big part of a full day elopement is having it documented! Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean that your day is going to turn into an 8 hour long photoshoot. Not at all. 


Elopement photography is about capturing the couple enjoying their day, and I promise you’ll forget the camera is even there. You’ll just be doing all the fun elopement stuff, and when you get your photos back, you’ll be able to relive it all! 


As an elopement photographer, I don’t want to be following you around and forcing you to pose all day – I want to adventure, explore, and have a blast, while the camera just happens to be there. I’ll help you plan a day that’s totally custom to you, with ideas for things to do, and a personalized elopement timeline – so if you’re ready to start planning, contact me!