building the perfect elopement timeline

Building the Perfect Elopement Timeline

There’s a common misconception that elopements are just a quick ceremony. You say your vows, exchange rings, and go home.

And while that used to be true, elopements are no longer something you do in a hurry. Eloping is about getting married in a way that feels true to you, and the whole day should be an experience! 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.

For more information 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!

What makes an elopement day different than a traditional wedding day? It mostly all lies in the timeline. The bride and groom are climbing up rocks next to the ocean because they left room for exploring and spontaneity on their elopement day.

Elopement Timelines vs. Wedding Timelines

One of the biggest differences between an elopement and a traditional wedding is the timeline. With weddings, it often seems like the entire day is spent running from one place to the next and stressing about making sure you have enough time for all the people you need to see, photos you need to take, and things you need to do. Every minute is accounted for on the timeline, and everything is scheduled.

An elopement timeline, however, gives couples a lot more flexibility and room for spontaneity or changes to the plan. While the timeline will outline where you need to go and how long each part of the day should take, it’s a lot less rigid than a wedding timeline. Instead of spending your wedding day stressing about not having enough time, couples get to enjoy the day and be present with each other without worrying about rushing anything.

What Goes on the Timeline?

If you’ve never planned an elopement before, it can be hard to know where to start. There’s a lot more to it than just the ceremony, but what actually happens on an elopement day? How can it last the whole day?

Getting Ready

It can be tempting to skip the getting ready photos and write them off as an unimportant part of the day. But in reality, these photos often end up being some of my favourites. If you’re not getting ready together, photos are the only way you’ll be able to see the smile on your partner’s face, how excited they were to marry you, and all the nervous “this is it!” moments while they got ready. Even if you are getting ready together, it’s so easy to miss all the little moments where they look at you, or to forget all the little jokes you tell each other. Photos are meant to tell the whole story of your elopement day, and it all starts here!

First Look

Many couples question if they should do a first look on their elopement day, and if you aren’t getting ready together, I say yes! If you’re inviting guests to your elopement ceremony, the first look gives you a chance to have a moment to yourselves before it happens. Even if it’s just the two of you, first looks build up the anticipation and excitement of the day, and many couples say that the moment where they first saw each other, the stress of planning and the anxious anticipation all melted away.


This is it! Most elopement ceremonies are pretty quick – if you’re just reading vows and exchanging rings, it can be as quick as 10-15 minutes. But, if you have any special traditions that you’re including, make sure to account for that in the timeline!

Photos with Guests

If you have guests attending your ceremony, you’ll need to schedule some time for photos with them! While the whole day will have plenty of candids with your loved ones, the more formal photos are just as important. How long this will take definitely depends on how many guests you have, but on average it takes around 30 minutes. It can be really helpful to write out a list of group combinations that you want to get, because it can be hard to remember in the moment! Giving your photographer a list to read off of ensures that things go smoothly and that no one is forgotten.

Couple’s Photos

While you’ll have plenty of candid photos throughout the day as you adventure, it’s good to make time for some more formal photos too! As a photographer, I stay away from “pose-y” shots that make you look and feel stiff and awkward – that’s not what this is about! I’ll make this part just as fun as the rest of the day, don’t worry.

Activities and Adventures

This is what really makes each elopement day unique. Whether it’s hiking to your ceremony spot, rock climbing after your ceremony, or having your first dance around the campfire, make time to do something you love! Eloping is all about the experience, which means the entire day is all about you and your love. I can’t think of a better way to start off your marriage than with something that really reflects the two of you and your relationship.

Elopement Timeline Tips

Now that you know what goes into an elopement day, let’s talk about how to create the perfect elopement timeline!

Leave Some Wiggle Room

In general, things tend to take longer than you think – especially when you have guests! It’s always better to have too much time than not enough, so add some cushion time between every activity on your elopement timeline to ensure that you don’t have to rush. One thing that people often forget is “transition times” – things like loading things into the car or getting everyone out the door take time too! Having that extra time in your timeline ensures that you won’t have to stress if you hit traffic or things don’t go according to plan.

Avoid Mid-day Ceremonies

I always recommend that couples plan their ceremony for either sunrise or sunset. The lighting is best at those times, because the sun isn’t shining to create uneven shadows. To ensure that you have the best view and the best photos possible, plan around good lighting for your ceremony! And don’t hesitate to ask your photographer for advice – they’re the lighting expert!

Plan an Adventure

Throughout the day, make sure you’re doing what truly makes you happy! This day is all about you, your love, and starting your lives together. So whether you want to have a picnic or ride in a helicopter, stargaze or go sailing, the world’s your oyster! No idea is too crazy, and anything is possible – when else are you going to get a day that’s all about you?!

Hiring an Elopement Photographer

While most wedding photographers do photograph elopements as well, there are a lot of benefits to hiring someone who specializes in elopements. An elopement photographer will know the ins and outs of adventure elopements, and will be an expert in finding incredible locations, getting the right permits, and yes, building timelines! Along with the misconception that elopements are quick and hasty, there’s also the misconception that you only need a photographer for “a few hours.” But the truth is that this is still your wedding day – and it’s important! You deserve to have beautiful photos of every part of the day. Luckily, I know a photographer who’s passionate about helping couples elope – hint, hint, it’s me! So if you’re ready to talk about your elopement day, contact me!

Sample Elopement Timelines:

Elopement Tips





I’m your elopement hype girl and a photographer for the goofball lovers + those who want to make their wedding day an adventure. I’m also the owner of a converted camper van and love exploring the outdoors. You’ll find my heart on this blog. Whether it’s documenting my real life couples or giving my brides + grooms the tips + tricks they need to plan their best elopement, I’ve poured my heart out for you here. 

I'm Liv Hettinga


Building the Perfect Elopement Timeline

  1. Stacie Struble says:

    Yes. I love these tips–really makes me wanna elope and have you photograph it! Step one, find someone to elope with me!! Tragically single but still loving everything you’re offering here!

  2. Lauren Han says:

    This is SO helpful and makes eloping seem less intimidating and confusing – this is such a great resource!!

  3. Leo says:

    Thank you for putting this together! It’s opened my eyes to how to shape our day…especially the example timelines, so useful!

  4. Dina says:

    These tips are amazing and I love how easy you make it look!!
    Seeing the timelines was very helpful and definitely gave me so many ideas of what my elopement could look like!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. This is full of useful information – makes it so easy to plan out the best elopement ever! Thank you 🙂

  6. Lauren says:

    You are a freaking GENIUS!!!! These tips are gold. Thank you so much for this post, I honestly think this puts everything in perspective, and love that you included a timeline for an elopement!

  7. Claire Hunt says:

    This entire blog is a well of information for an eloping couple! Thank you so much for sharing all of these timeline tips! It’s really obvious you know your stuff 🙂

  8. Kristen says:

    Wow this is so thorough and well thought-out! All your couples will love this resource for planning their day!

  9. Andrea says:

    Love all your tips, especially the extra ones. Couples are going to really enjoy this reading + your beautiful images.

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"Liv is extremely talented and great to work with! She gave us enough direction in our shoots to know what to do but still left tons of room for candid, genuine moments. Nothing beats seeing real smiles and laughter in your photos! She was more than willing to collaborate and go for some sillier ideas, and was always super encouraging. She's an incredibly sweet person and we felt very comfortable to be ourselves around her. Liv's talent is beyond just the technical knowledge, she really has an artist eye for beautiful photos. Her editing style is perfect, not too dark or light but still brings personality with the warm tones she adds. I HIGHLY recommend working with Liv!!"

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