How to plan an elopement day timeline?

Planning an epic elopement day timeline just got a wholeeee lot easier!

Why should you have an all-day elopement?

Forget about a simple 2 hour elopement with a quick legals-only ceremony and a one hour portrait photo session – your wedding day deserves so much more than that! The day you marry your life partner – the day you will celebrate every year, deserves so much more than that. Nope, instead, welcome in the idea of an all-day elopement!

Okay, okay, let’s back up a second. Firstly, let’s clarify what an elopement is. Here at The Wild Pair we believe:

β€œTo elope is to have the freedom to go anywhere – to do anything – on your wedding day. Your elopement is a uniquely crafted, intimate wedding experience that embraces your shared values, hopes and dreams, and rejects the expectations, traditions and distractions of the outside world.”

– The Wild Pair

So, with that in mind, an all-day adventure elopement is a day where you and your partner celebrate your marriage by crafting a day that is authentically you and celebrates your shared values.

At this point, you still might be struggling to actually picture what this looks like, but don’t worry, we’re about the lay it all out for you!

Sydney Beach Elopement

What do you do allllllll day?

The beautiful thing about elopements is that they are not defined by society or tradition. This means that your elopement day can literally be whatever you want it to be!

As adventure elopement photographers and guides, most couples we talk to and work with dream about eloping in the great outdoors, surrounded by nature – whether that be by the crashing eastern coastline, surrounded by the Blue Mountains or in the Australian outback. Our couples dream about a day that is way more than just a 2 hour local shindig.

So when dreaming up what your all-day elopement could look like, and planning your elopement day timeline, ask yourself:

  1. What is the best adventure we have ever had together?
  2. How can we create the best day of our lives? What activities should we include?
  3. When we say our vows, what scenery do we want surrounding us? Who do we want there?
  4. When we’re finally married, how do we want to spend those first few hours together?

Now the trick with this little exercise, is to forget about your best friend’s wedding and your grandma’s advice. Forget about all of the wedding inspo you’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest. Think about you. What are your values? What activities do you love to do? How do you want to celebrate your wedding day?

Sydney Beach Elopement

How many hours of photography do you need?

So, as you can imagine, often the answers to these questions result in planning an epic elopement day timeline filled with adventure and quite frankly, a 2 hour photography session just simply doesn’t cut it.

So how many hours do you really need? Well, we would say at a bare minimum you need 6 hours of photography, but depending on the adventure, you could want up to 2 days! Around 8-10 hours would be the average.

Why would you need 8 hours photography for an elopement? Because just like any wedding day, it’s about capturing the whole story.

At any big traditional wedding a photographer will capture:

  1. Getting ready photos
  2. First look photos (depending on the wedding)
  3. The ceremony
  4. Portraits and bridal shots
  5. The reception

Now most couples wouldn’t dream of having less than 8 hours of wedding photography, and neither should couples who choose to elope! Capturing the whole day is just as important for elopements (in fact, some would argue that it’s more important because no one is there to witness the day – the photos have to tell the whole story!). So when planning your elopement day timeline, make sure you’re factoring in your photographers start and finish time and you’re getting all of the big moments of the day documented.

Sample Timelines

So, that brings us back to your elopement day timeline and what this epic adventure could actually look like! Let’s dive into a few examples:

A Drive or Walk-In Elopement

  • 10:00am – Enjoy a relaxing morning with a home cooked breakfast or head out to a local cafe or restaurant.
  • 12:00pm – Start to get ready for your elopement. This will likely include hair and make up. Remember, if you want a first look then make sure you have two separate spaces to get ready.
  • 2:00pm – If you’re opting for a first look then now is the time! You can either do this at your accommodation or you can travel separately to a special spot to experience the first look.
  • 3:00-5:00pm – It’s showtime. Depending on your type of adventure, you might drive or walk into your elopement location. Exchange your vows and rings, cry and laugh, and go on an adventure with your photographer for your portrait session.
  • 5:00-6:00pm – Wherever you are, set up a picnic (or have it set up for you) and enjoy some champagne (or beer) and cheese while watching the sun come down. So far, it’s been an epic day but it’s not over yet.
  • 7:00pm – Head back to your accommodation and enjoy a meal cooked by a private chef. When you think about the hundred odd guests your not paying for by eloping, a private chef isn’t all that expensive!
  • 9:00pm – Round the night out with your favourite music and an intimate first dance. Bonus points if there’s an outdoor fire and you can top of the day by toasting marshmallows!

    An Adventure Hiking Elopement

  • 6:00am – You’ve got a big adventure ahead so you need to rise early to fuel up and get your hair and make up done before you head out on your hike. Bonus points if you hire a hair and make up artist that will hike in with you!
  • 9:00am – With your wedding attire packed and hiking boots on, you head out to the trailhead. Enjoy the serenity and each other’s company as you hike to your elopement location.
  • 1:00pm – Your exact arrive time will depend entirely on the hike you choose! When planning your elopement timeline, remember to factor in the time it will take to hike back. Sunrise and sunset elopements are absolutely possible (in fact, these will give you the best photos!), but just remember that you will have to either hike there or back in the dark (which we are totally up for!).
    When you arrive you will spend a bit of time finding the exact spot you want to say your vows. It’s then time to get ready – touch up your hair and make up and put on your wedding attire. Yes, on hiking elopements most couples will go commando style and get dressed out in the open!
  • 2:00pm – It’s time to get married! Exchange vows and rings, pop some champagne and revel in the fact that you are finally married!
  • 3:30pm – After hiking up, it’s time to turn around and hike back (unless you want to make it a two day adventure and camp overnight!). Many couples will choose to hike back in their wedding attire and ‘trash the dress’.
  • 7:30pm – After a long, epic day you arrive back at the tailhead. It’s time to head back to your accommodation and pick up the celebrations there with a private meal and maybe a hot bath after that long hike.


A Sunrise Elopement

  • 2:00-4:00am – Yes, a sunrise elopement starts early. How early your day starts will depend entirely on whether you are driving or hiking into your elopement location and how far away it is.
    First thing to do is to get ready! This includes making sure your bag is packed, doing your hair and make up and getting dressed in your wedding attire. If you’re hiking in, you might decide to get ready at your elopement location.
  • 5:00-6:00am – When you arrive at your location, you will spend some time choosing the exact spot you want to get married. It’s then time to exchange vows, rings and the first kiss just as the sun peeps up over the horizon. Note: your photographer will be going crazy because the light will be so epic!
  • 7:00am – Go exploring with your photographer and capture the joy of your first hour of marriage on camera. Portrait sessions are always a highlight of the day.
  • 9:00am – Did someone say breakfast? Yep, you read right. If you’re opting for a sunrise elopement you should absolutely pack a picnic rug and some croissants and enjoy a private picnic breakfast. Bonus points if you hire a chef to cook for you onsite!
  • Midday – NAP! Yes, often when people opt for a sunrise elopement they split the day up with a nap to recover from the ridiculously early wake up call!
  • 5:00-6:00pm – You started the day with a sunrise ceremony so it’s fitting to end the day at sunset. Head to an amazing location, either by yourselves or with a few loved ones, and share a meal while you watch the sun sink back down below the horizon.

Extra Planning Tips!

There are some things you should think about, regardless of the type of adventure elopement you have, when planning your elopement day timeline.

Give yourself time and space – When planning your elopement timeline, always add a bit of extra time – a bit of breathing room. There’s nothing more stressful that having to race from one place to the next, or worrying about being late on your wedding day. Remember, this is your day, done your way. So add some extra breathing room to make sure the whole experience is as far from stressful as possible!

Turn it into a holiday – To really make your elopement experience special, most people will turn it into a mini-holiday (or even a mega-holiday!). At a minimum, we would suggest booking some accommodation near your elopement location for the night before and the night of your elopement. This means there will be no extensive traveling on your elopement day and you don’t need to worry about rushing to check in or check out.

Include sentimental moments/activities – Your wedding day is super special; if there was ever a time for romance and being sentimental, your wedding day is it! So think about ways you can build this into your timeline. Big traditional weddings have heaps of these things included – the first look, speeches, the first dance etc. There is no reason why you can’t include these in your elopement day timeline as well, in your own unique way. Bonus Tip: If you’re having a ‘just us’ elopement, ask your loved ones to write you letters that you can read after your ceremony.

Including guests is totally okay – Just because you’re eloping doesn’t mean you can’t have guests. The decision to have guests or not at your wedding is a completely personal one. Elopements are not defined by the number of people that are present. Elopements are defined by the intention of the day. You can still have the freedom to do what you want, where you want, for your elopement and still include a few guests. So where is the line between an elopement and a traditional wedding? If you start to find yourself worrying about what your guests want, and what they think you should do, then there is the line!

Remember, eloping gives you the freedom to craft a day that is authentically you! If you need help planning your elopement day timeline, get in touch! We’re not only your photographers, but your elopement planners and guides as well.

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