How to Create Your Perfect Elopement Timeline

What You Need for Your Elopement Day Checklist

“What should our elopement timeline look like?”

“How many hours should we book?”

“What do we do on our elopement day?”

“What kind of differences exist between the different elopement timelines?”

This (and other variations) is one of the most commonly asked questions I get as an elopement photographer. This is actually something that’s pretty unique to elopement and adventure wedding photography in that as your photographer, I am pretty involved in your elopement day-of planning. It’s not uncommon for folks to to only have pretty general details about their elopement when they first reach out (usually a general area and a date range- sometimes not even that!) so where I come in right from the get go is helping figure all of that out. And while that includes things like helping figure out where your elopement happens, day-of activities, vendor referrals, lodging recommendations, and even where to get the best cup of coffee, it *also* includes helping you figure out what you want your timeline to look like and how many hours of coverage to book.

::steps on soapbox:: and AHEM. And it will not be 1-2 hours. It’s your wedding day (how rad is that?!) and it deserves so. much. more. than just a piddly 2 hours of coverage, which barely allows for enough time for your ceremony and a few portraits. With just 1-2 hours set aside for your elopement, your wedding becomes a thing just to check off a list that you “did it.” Got married today? Check! Walked the dog? Check! Phew, glad we got those things over with.

Super lame. I get that is the experience some folks are looking for, but that’s not the experience I provide. With me, your wedding day isn’t just some other day that you happened to get married on. It’s your WEDDING DAY. It’s the best dang day of your lives! And it *will* be rad.

On my pricing page I have three packages listed; a half day elopement (4 hrs), a full day elopement (8 hrs), and a two day peak existence adventure. Of course, you’re not limited to just those options and it’s not uncommon to create a custom timeline and simply use those pre-existing packages as a base. Every elopement is different. The couples I work with have different priorities, want different things documented, do different things on their day. The main similarity is this- a focus on experience. So it’s super important that the amount of coverage you pick compliments the experience you want to have. This is far and away the most important thing to remember when crafting your elopement timeline- what kind of experience do you want?

One of the most common things folks want out of their elopement day is that it isn’t just fun, but that it’s stress free. I really, really keep that in mind when crafting folks timeline. The absolute last thing I want is for anyone to feel pressured or rushed. Chill, go-with-the-flow, and relaxed is the name of the game. I don’t you to feel like props being bounced from place to place just to get a few epic shots. Definitely not. I want you to be able to experience and fully inhabit your totally badass day with intention.

Some Elopement Timeline Planning Tips

Don’t underestimate those transition times.

Getting things ready for the car, packing up your ceremony site, leaving your airbnb- these all take longer than you think it will- probably twice as long And having ample time for these transition periods is so helpful because then you aren’t rushing- one, because it’s just more enjoyable and two, you’re less likely to forget something.

When I’m building a couples timeline, I make sure to plan lots of time around transitions. That way, when gathering your items take longer than expected, or hair and makeup runs long, or it takes an extra few to load of the Jeep, no one’s feeling rushed or panicked, because there was already plenty of time to allow for those random occurrences. So even when you’re running “late”, you’re still right on on schedule.

Build extra time into your day.

With any wedding (traditional or otherwise) things don’t always go according to plan. Folks run late, you take a wrong turn, the weather goes sideways… these things happen. When you build extra time into your timeline, these little hiccups barely register because you have plenty of time to adjust accordingly. I don’t know about you, but when I have a schedule for *anything* that is created so that things have to go according to plan… it creates so much more stress. I definitely don’t want you to have that experience on your wedding day, so having extra time built in is key.

When I create elopement timelines for couples, I plan for everything to take longer than expected. Maybe it takes a few extra minutes for that boutonniere to stay. Maybe on our hike we find a few magical spots we want to check out. Maybe you want to stay a few minutes longer, taking in the fading sunset light, and enjoy the last sips of your beer. I want to allow for all those possibilities so you can be spontaneous and really enjoy your day. It’s your rad elopement day! And part of what makes elopements so awesome is you can make these in the moment decisions. I make sure your timeline allows it.

Create the elopement timeline *you want*, not the one people think you should have.

Even though elopements are a rad choice because you get to shirk traditional expectations, they still have the pesky habit of showing up. And I want to empower all the couples I work with to create the day you *truly* want. The sky is the limit and you have a rare opportunity to shape a day that is the perfect reflection of you. So if you want to eat cake first- do that. If you want to get ready together in a cute airbnb or campsite- do that. If you want to make breakfast in your van and take in the canyons views as you drink your coffee, do that. If you want to party first, say your vows second or not know exactly where or when you’ll say your vows- just that when you see the spot you’ll know…

DO THAT. Whatever you imagine for your best day ever, that can be what you do on your elopement day. Not sure what you even *can* do on your amazing elopement day? Here’s some ideas to get your gears turning:

Rad Things to do During Your Elopement

  • Hiking
  • Having a favorite beer/glass of champagne/zesty drink of your choice
  • Sharing a first dance
  • Having a picnic
  • Off-Roading
  • Kayaking/Canoeing
  • Parasailing
  • Helicopter Tour
  • Rappelling
  • Rock Climbing or Bouldering
  • SkyDiving
  • Base Jumping
  • Slacklining or Highlining
  • Canyoneering
  • Mountain biking
  • Sightseeing
  • Doing a river float
  • Taking a motorcycle ride
  • Riding bikes
  • Horseback riding
  • Soaking in a hot tub
  • Relaxing in a hammock together
  • Doing yoga together
  • Drawing or painting
  • Checking out local breweries or distilleries
  • Drinking tea or coffee
  • Fishing
  • Playing in the snow

And if you want even more ideas for elopement activities, check out this post with tons of fun elopement ideas.

Elopement Timeline Examples

I am fully a learn-by-example person, and I know some of you are, too, so I wanted to put together some sample timelines to really envision what different days and different packages could look like.

2 Day Intimate Wedding in Moab

My two day elopements typically include one full (8 hour) day and one half (4 hour) day, but can be customized to anyones hopes and dreams. Two day elopements are perfect for couples wanting to include friends and family but are also wanting some adventures for just the two of them. A two day elopement could also be a great fit for backpacking elopements or for couples wanting to explore multiple locations that are harder to get to.

Oh, I can practically hear you through the internet. “Aimee, how can you possibly fill 12 hours with elopement stuff?!” Oh gentle reader, read on! One of my favorite elopement hacks, especially with 12, 8, and even 6 hour days, is split that time over the course of one day so it’s not 12 consecutive hours. That way you get to really maximize the pretty light at sunrise AND sunset, take a break midday, and reconvene for some amazing views and celebration at sunset.

Here’s a sample two day elopement!

1:00pm- Photographer arrives at Under Canvas Moab for details and finishing touches.

2:15pm- First look at Under Canvas

3:15pm- Head to ceremony location with family

4:15- Arrive at location, short walk to ceremony site with guests

5:00- Ceremony, followed by a few family portraits

6:00- Family departs, couple remains for a few private portraits.

7:00- Leave ceremony site, return to Under Canvas, celebrate with dinner and s’mores!

10:00- First Day wraps!

Next morning!

6:15am- arrive at Arches for morning adventure

6:45am- Sunrise and exploring around Arches National Park

8:15am- Leave Arches and head back to Under Canvas

9:30am- Enjoy coffee, breakfast, and snuggles on your first day as a married couple.

10:15am- Wrap second day of elopement adventure!

Check out this Two Day elopement!

8 Hour Jeeping Elopement in Sedona

Full (8hr) elopements are great when you want to see multiple locations or have one primary location that’s a bit more difficult to get to (PRO TIP: Spots that take more time to get to or are more difficult to access often mean you are way more likely to have some privacy there. Eight hour days are great for couples who really want to prioritize privacy). It gives you plenty of time to check out more than one spot and really experience a full day of adventure.

1:00- Arrive at airbnb to capture details and finishing touches

1:15- First look outside airbnb

1:30- Depart for ceremony site in jeep rentals

3:00- Arrive at location, get situated, explore!

4:00- Intimate two person ceremony

4:20- Celebrate with Champagne picnic, watch the sunset.

5:30- Leave Ceremony site, drive back to trail head, short break for freshening up and food!

7:30- Arrive at second, nearby location for star photos!

9:00- Wrap up evening!

Want to see more of a full 8 hour day? Check out this amazing Zion National Park Elopement.

Quick 4 Hour Elopement in Yosemite

Half day (4 hr) elopements are perfect for folks who only want to go to one location. Four hours goes by so very fast (faster than you think-it even catches me by surprise, too) it’s really best suited for days that have one central location. Travel time can really eat away at your hours, so things like getting ready photos, star photos, or long hikes/drives aren’t super conducive to 4 hour elopement days.

3:30pm- Meet at Taft Point trailhead, start hike, taking photos along the way

4:30- Arrive at Taft Point

5:00- Find spot for vows

5:15- Celebrate with champagne! Explore, enjoy the epic sunset

6:20- Start return hike

7:30- Wrap up for day!

Here’s a peek at what a 4 hour day looks like!

As you can see, there’s a huge swath of differences between these three examples. The difference between 4 hours and 8 hours is… a lot. Most of my couples wind up opting for between 6 hours and 2 days of coverage. Your rad adventure wedding is an adventure of a lifetime that you’ll look back on for the rest of your lives together. Your elopement day is just as special and even more awesome than traditional wedding days- it deserves just as much coverage, attention, and fanfare. And folks are just better able to enjoy the day when their elopement timeline allows for chilling, exploring, and taking it all in.

Elopement Packages

Alright, lets talk nuts and bolts. I’m based out of Flagstaff, AZ and consider places like Northern Arizona, Moab, all of Southern Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, etc to be my backyard. And know that I don’t charge any travel fees for stateside elopements or adventure weddings. So what’s included and what does it cost?

  • All packages include photographer travel expenses 
  • Unlimited assistance with planning and logistics. This means I’m there to help with location guides, vendor referrals, elopement timeline construction, packing list, local gems to check out, and act as just general hype woman.
  • Online gallery of stunning high-res images and full printing rights.

  Four Hours: starting at $5900 | Eight Hours: starting at $7900 | One 8-hr day + 4 hr day: starting at $11,000

Curious about more?

view packages + pricing

— Ryan + Styhiln

Ready to have your own adventure of a lifetime?
I'm Aimée Flynn, Southwest based adventure wedding and elopement photographer, mega nerd, former therapist, and taker of the epic pics. But don't think I'm here just to take pretty photos (though there will be pretty photos a-plenty) I’m here to guide you through every step of your elope elopement experience; I’m your location scouter, gatherer of all in info, formal wear wrangler, & hype committee. 

I’m also a storyteller. Your storyteller. And while I'm here for the epic, magazine-cover-worthy, totally bananas moments, I'm also here (and to be totally honest, live for) those goofy, silly, unexpected moments that adventure always seems to bring. I'm here to tell your story in the honest and epic fashion it deserves.
Hey friend, I'm so stoked  you're here!

  1. I am in love with these images and it’s really making me miss the American west browsing through your timelines. I can’t get over how good your images are!!

  2. Kelly says:

    your personality shines through all of your writing always making it so enjoyable to read! this article is so great for couples who need a little help planning their elopement timeline. it really breaks it down and i love how you give examples! any couple is lucky to have you as you obviously know what you’re talking about! love it!

  3. Kathleen says:

    This blog is so helpful and the photos are absolutely stunning. You demonstrate the amazing value of all-day elopements and why you should create a full day experience versus a 1-2 hour experience. Your timelines were very helpful to visualize what a real elopement day can look like. Love it!

  4. Sienna says:

    I love posts like this because they help couples see their elopement as a tangible experience! Great resource for sure.

  5. Laura says:

    I love the breakdown for elopement timelines. I think this is a great realistic resource for couples who are having trouble imagining the amount of coverage they actually need. Great article!

  6. Dylan says:

    This is an incredibly helpful guide to timing your elopement activities just right, and the images that illustrate this blog post are just phenomenal!

  7. Heather Huie says:

    I love that you give thorough examples of different timelines– it helps envision the possibilities so much better!

  8. Stacy says:

    What an awesome resource for elopement timelines! I love how you stand on your soapbox, because this information is so important for couples to know when planning their elopement.

  9. Cassandra O says:

    This is such an incredible resource for couple planning an elopement! I love all the epic things you can do to level up the experience as well! PS- your photos are INSANELY GOOD!!! <3

  10. Jesse Johnson says:

    This is such a well put-together walkthrough of how to create a timeline! I love the tips about adding in extra time and transition time, I feel like that’s overlooked so much and just factoring that in can help the day go so much smoother.

  11. […] Looking for more elopement resources? Check out these blog posts on how to elope with friends and family or how to create your dream elopement timeline! […]

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