A couple staring at each other by the waterfall in Hocking Hills, Ohio

Elopement Timeline Tips – How Long is an Elopement?


October 25, 2021

Not too long ago, elopements were reserved for couples who didn’t want to invest time or money into their wedding day. A 10 minute ceremony at the courthouse and the knot was tied. But elopements have changed a lot since then – and what if I told you that your elopement deserves an entire day?

If you’re wondering how an elopement could possibly last all day, this guide is for you! We’ll be talking about full day elopements (and why they’re the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, the best thing ever… you get the point), and some tips for building the perfect elopement timeline. 

Pin this photo to guide you in creating an elopement timeline later!

Do We Really Need a Full Day Elopement?

Imagine this – you wake up and start the morning slowly, making banana bread together and a pot of Earl Gray to sip while you watch from the porch of your Airbnb as the sun comes up over the mountains. You have butterflies in your stomach, the kind that tell you, I can’t wait. When it’s time to get ready, you split up, but you can’t get the huge smile off your face as you curl your hair and put on your makeup. You slip into your wedding attire and step outside for your first look in front of the adorable cabin in the woods. You and your partner see each other for the first time, and you hop in the car to drive to the wildflower meadow where you decided to say your vows. After the ceremony, you go for a hike through the old growth forest, winding through ferns and mossy tree groves before emerging on a breathtaking cliff by the ocean. Your entire day is spent enjoying every moment, soaking in every view, and being present, together.

Elopements are all about slowing down and being intentional – planning a day that you’ll love. So many couples say they hardly remember their wedding, because they were so busy trying to keep up with the schedule, make sure everything was going smoothly, and say hello to every guest, that they didn’t get to spend any time together, and they didn’t stop to take in what was happening. Eloping allows you to be intentional about how you spend your wedding day, but don’t make the mistake of rushing it! Taking a full day to slow down, move with intention, and experience every part of your day allows you to relax, and enjoy everything as it unfolds.

A smaller celebration doesn’t make your day any less meaningful or special, so why should your wedding day become something you rush through? Why should it be just a “quick ceremony” and nothing more? Your elopement deserves more than that, and you deserve to enjoy every minute, remembering that this is the day you get married – and that’s a pretty big deal. 

A couple staring at each other by the waterfall in Hocking Hills, Ohio

How Long is an Elopement?

So, how long does a full day actually last? How long is an elopement?

I recommend a minimum of 8 hours for your elopement day – and while this may seem like a lot, you’d be surprised at how quickly the day goes by! Think about the last time you were engrossed in doing something you love. Didn’t it seem like the day just slipped away from you?

In the next section, we’ll talk about the elopement timeline, and what actually happens during a full day elopement! 

The Elopement Timeline

To give you an idea of what a full day elopement looks like, here is every part of the elopement day, and what goes into an elopement timeline!

Getting Ready

I find that starting the day with intention, and taking some time to check in can do wonders – and this is especially true on an elopement day! You can take some time in the morning to hang out together, enjoy each other’s company, and feel the anticipation of what the rest of the day will bring – whether that means making breakfast, having a morning yoga sesh, or just cuddling up together to have coffee.

When it’s time to do hair and makeup, or to put on your wedding attire, some couples separate, while others like to get ready together. If you have a hair and makeup artist, consult with them to figure out how much time you need, but two hours is usually enough! 

First Look

If you got ready separately, a first look is a fun, meaningful addition to any elopement timeline. This is the moment when the couple sees each other in their wedding attire for the first time! I recommend scheduling 30 minutes for this one, giving you enough time for the first look and for a few photos together.


Some couples have their ceremony later in the day, so remember, there are no rules when it comes to your elopement! But when you’re planning your ceremony, think about what you want it to include. Most elopement ceremonies include vows, a ring exchange, and a kiss to seal the deal, but you can also add cultural, religious, or just-for-fun traditions like handfasting, a unity ceremony, or a surprise for your partner.

For some ideas of what to do during your elopement ceremony, check out this guide!

If you have an officiant performing your ceremony, consult with them to find out how long this portion of the day will take! I recommend 15 minutes for a simple ceremony that includes just vows and rings, and up to 30 minutes if you’re incorporating anything else.


If you’re inviting family or friends to your elopement, schedule some time for photos with them! You’ll also need a little bit of time for couple’s photos. 

Don’t worry – a full day elopement is not an elaborate, hours long photoshoot! Most of the day will be spent exploring and enjoying yourselves (and I’ll document all those moments), so the photos you get back will tell the authentic, real story of your elopement day, exactly how it happened. 

If you’re eloping with guests, schedule about 30 minutes for some photos with them. And for couple’s photos, I recommend about an hour of dedicated photo time – but check with your elopement photographer! Throughout the day, add some time to every activity to ensure there’s plenty of time for photos along the way.

Adventures and Elopement Activities

This is the part of the day that’s truly unique. The love the two of you share is unlike anyone else’s, and your story is different from any other. Your elopement should be as unique as you are! There’s no limit to the adventures and elopement day activities you can include in your day.

This can mean a hike to your ceremony location, a dip in some hot springs at sunset, a 4×4 tour of the landscape, renting a kayak, jumping in an alpine lake, rock climbing, dinner with the family, camping with your friends… you name it! For more ideas of things to do on your elopement day, check out this guide. Think about what would make this day a true reflection of who you are, and what your love is all about.

Elopement Timeline Tips

When you start crafting an elopement timeline for your unique day, here are some tips to keep in mind!

Add Buffer Time

There’s nothing worse than feeling rushed – and elopements are about avoiding that! To ensure you’re not stressed, add a little more time than you think you need. As a rule of thumb, things tend to take longer than we expect them to, and it’s always better to have extra time than not enough! Don’t forget to consider things like driving, traffic, and packing bags before moving from one place to the next.

Value Your Elopement Day

One of the most important tips for planning your day and making the elopement timeline is to value your elopement! This day is a big deal – you’re committing to spending the rest of your lives together, and your day should be everything you want, and nothing that you don’t.

Make sure that you’re truly thinking about what’s right for you, and what’s important on your day. If you want your family there, but want some time to yourselves, plan your ceremony with guests and spend the evening adventuring alone – or consider a two day elopement. If you want to try something you’ve never done, go for it! If there’s something the two of you love doing together, incorporate this into your elopement day.

Remember – it’s all about you.

Consult an Elopement Photographer

While the photos are important, and you should be able to have a tangible memory of this incredible day, the experience you have on your elopement day is so much more valuable!

My goal as an elopement photographer is to ensure I’m prioritizing you, your unique vision, and who you are throughout the process. I want your day to be stress free, and authentic – so I create an elopement timeline for all of my couples, custom tailored to you! I’ll help with the entire planning process, working with you to create an elopement day unlike any other, and one that allows you to show up as your whole self.

Contact me if you’re ready to start planning your elopement!

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  1. David Hevesi says:

    There are so many good tips! Thank you so much for sharing. The photos look stunning.

  2. Sienna says:

    Totally agree with the idea that elopements are all about intention. Planning buffer time is super smart, too! Thanks for such a helpful article!

  3. Maria says:

    Yes, I so agree with what you write! An elopement is definitively an all day moment!

  4. Emma says:

    Such great advice, thank you for laying it all out so clearly!

  5. Nate D. says:

    I love that you’ve got such great reasons to elope and how to build a truly holistic timeline for the day. A full day of coverage is paramount to getting all the details. I love that you also include the buffer time. So smart because traffic happens, something happens, the inevitable, whatever. So good!

  6. This blogpost explains so well the importance of an elopement. Well done! An elopement is as important as a traditional wedding!

  7. Rita says:

    So well said, and explained. I hope every couple who wants to do something different will chose elopements, as they are more about you than pleasing anyone else :))

  8. Justyna says:

    Yaaaas…..consulting an experienced elopement photographer should be number one! They will have you with everything…the entire planning process!

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Mary Andrikus is a Kentucky & destination wedding, elopement & family photographer. Mary strives to create photography experience that you can relax into.

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