Elopement Timeline Tips: How Many Hours Do We Actually Need?
Post Summary: If you've ever wondered how many hours you need for the perfect elopement timeline and why, then this is for you! In this blog, we will cover: the amount of time most couples book and why, examples of some of the unique activities you guys can do to get the most out of your elopement experience and a couple example timelines as well!
How long should I hire an elopement photographer for? It's one of the first questions couples usually have when they have decided to go for an elopement. It's a question I get asked all the time. How many hours do you hire your elopement photographer for?
Ready for the short and sweet answer? I don’t think you’re ready.
Here it is: 8-10 hours.
Yup. Seriously! That’s what clients usually book me for! So, there’s your quick answer and I didn’t make you read the whole blog and get to the bottom just to tell you “it all depends.” I wouldn’t do that to you.
Right up front I want you to know that I’m not just an elopement photographer. Typically when my couples reach out to me, the don't have much planned other than a general date in mind and a possible location (and even sometimes less than that!) I always come along side my couples and help them plan their dream day(s) from the beginning: what locations they'll go to, what activities they like to do, their outfits, vendors, lodging and so much more. So even though you're hiring me as your elopement photographer, I also help fill the roles of wedding planner, legal witness, travel guide, pack mule and so on.
Oh, and I also eloped! And when I eloped I made a whole dang day out of it. I hired my photographer for 2 days and we partied like it was pre-Coronavirus (because it was). So, when I say that you should hire your photographer all day, I’m not just making a sly sales pitch. It really matters for a dozen reasons (all of which are listed below).
Photo Styles and Elopements
People aren’t typically serial elopers. So, I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and guess that you’ve never eloped before. Here’s what you can expect.
Well, first, let’s get something clear. We’re not talking about one giant, nonstop photoshoot. It’s not 8-12 hours of “stop, start, turn, smile, kiss, now be suuuper cute.” We’re talking about a day that unfolds naturally, with events and the ceremony and maybe sky diving? Again, just to clarify, however long you book doesn’t mean that’s how long you’ll be posing in a photoshoot.
Next, you really need to know your photographer’s style and process to know what the day will be like. Some photographers are heavy on posing, so you can expect more of the feeling of a photoshoot. Others want to take you on a serious adventure, backpacking, climbing mountains, real hardcore stuff. Me? I’m more of a lifestyle/documentary photographer. That means I’m there to help and guide when needed, but most of the time I’m blending into the background getting those candid shots of who you two really are together.
That’s the photo style. Next, we should probably talk about what the actual day can look like.
What’s an Elopement Like?
Here’s where I am going to tell you that it all depends. The actual elopement day can look as different as night and day (literally) for each couple. Some may want to go to the county courthouse and then spend the rest of the day on a lake in their hometown. Some people might want to go to Morocco and ride camels to the top of a sand dune and get married at sunset. Others might want to say “I do” while bungee jumping from a helicopter. There is no one way to do an elopement. There is just your way.
I can help with all of the planning and really lock in the dream day for you. But one thing that all elopements should have is the feel of not being rushed, taking your time, really breathing and taking in each moment. Your day should feel like the greatest love story you’ve ever read. For some people love is an adventure. For others love is a Jane Austen romance. And others still like a down to earth, back to nature kind of love story. And if you’re living your love story, you want it to last as long as possible. You want to be fully present in that story. I consider this the most important aspect of my job (if you can call living the dream a job!). And this is yet another reason that you want all day coverage for your elopement. Who wants to feel like they’re being rushed through a tour of their own wedding? No thanks.
Remember this is your one single day. The only one you get. You want to remember it forever. You want to look back at the photos and feel your heart skipping a beat. Feel the rush of excitement. Feel every moment like you're living it all over again.
That's what an elopement should be like.
Why You Need at Least 8 Hours
A traditional wedding typically requires 8-12 hours of coverage. That’s how much you need when you, like Aerosmith, “don’t want to miss a thing.”
Now here’s where people start to think that they might need less coverage for an elopement. They think things like: “But I don’t have a million guests and family members to get group photos with” or “But I’m not going to have the cake cutting part, the first dance part, the toasts, the first look, and on and on.”
First off, you can actually have all those things if you want to. You could have a little (or big) shindig before or after your elopement to celebrate with all the people you love. You can do literally anything that is possible within the constraints of time and space. But you might not have all those things. Instead, you are going to have a full day of everything that you do want. Take your entire day and make it yours instead of someone else’s. There are a lot of myths about elopements, and the hour coverage is one of them. If your day is just as special and sacred as a traditional wedding (and it is!), then you should have a wedding photographer for your full experience. And that full experience — if you want it to last and you don’t want to feel rushed — is probably going to take at least 8 hours.
But What Do I Do for 8-12 Hours?
Great question. It’s the most important question to ask yourself. But before I begin, I want to note that I am not saying that all elopements must last for 8-12 hours. It’s not a requirement. I remind you, there is just your way. But to have it your way, do everything you want to do, go where you want to go and see what you came to see, it will take some time.
Again, if you were writing the dreamiest day in the most epic love story ever told, what would your characters do? What would YOU do? What WILL you do? Take some time and think about if you could craft the best day ever together (which you are!), what would you do from the moment you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Where would you go? What would you see? What would you eat?
Here are some options. By no means are these meant as a checklist. It’s more of a list to get yourself thinking about your own vision.
Here we go. You could…
Start with yoga
Visit your favorite coffee shop
Play on the beach
Dune buggy through the desert
Visit an aquarium
Work out together
Take time for worship and devotions
Jeep tour through the waterfalls and jungles
Starry sky photos
The sky isn’t even the limit! You can dream as high as you want. Pretty soon moon vacations are going to be a thing. Just think about that.
Maybe now you’re getting the picture that your one day can actually fill up pretty fast. You’re creating your own adventure. Your day is a movie and you are the directors and stars. It will go by so much faster than you think.
And maybe now you’re thinking 8 hours of coverage might not even be enough. You’re going to need 8 weeks! OK, let’s not get too carried away. But I hope you get the picture (I made a pun, get it? ;)).
Now that you're thinking about what your ultimate epic wedding day experience looks like, it still might feel a little overwhelming trying to map it all out in your head. I totally get that! So here are some example timelines to help give you a better understanding of just how quickly your day fills up!
Mini Elopement Day Timeline: 4 Hours
The minimum amount of time available to book is four hours (only available for local elopements). Some photographers will do even quicker elopements, but I have found that this is the shortest amount of time in order to be able to document your wedding day in the proper way it deserves. This time is perfect for a first look, your ceremony and some portraits!
3:00 pm: Begin getting ready separately in your rented cabins
4:00 pm: Have your first look right outside your cabin
4:30 pm: Head to the nearby forest for the ceremony
5:30 pm: Have an incredible ceremony and say your vows!
6:00 pm: Take photos of you + guests after the ceremony
6:30 pm: Take a few sunset portraits in the local area
7:00 pm: Photo coverage ends
What else can you do with 4-5 hours:
- A 1-2 mile hike round trip with just the two of you. Giving ourselves one hour per mile will let us have the perfect pace for photos along the way and to be able to get to our main location at a comfortable pace.
- Any hiking can totally be substituted with a killer Jeep your excursion, horse back riding, helicopter tours, dune buggies other any other activities you'd like to include in your day.
Jeep Elopement Day Timeline: 7-10 Hours
Eight to ten hours of coverage is perfect with couples who value having their whole wedding day story told, who plan on having more than 15+ guests and/or who want a truly unique, dare I say, adventurous elopement day experience - anything involving lots of driving, multiple locations, helicopter / jeep tours etc.
1:00 pm: Getting ready photos at Airbnb - hair, makeup, all the things!
2:00 pm: Time for your first look close to Airbnb
2:30 pm: Head to the Jeep outfitter for your elopement adventure
3:00 pm: Take the Jeep up to the canyons and explore
4:00 pm: Say your vows at the top of the canyon basin
4:30 pm: Do some light hiking and take some photos
5:30 pm: Take Jeep back down the canyon and drop it off
6:30 pm: Have an epic dinner with friends and family + get photos with all your loved ones
8:00 pm: Take a few sunset portraits in the local area
9:00 pm: End the day after some epic sunset photos
What else is possible? Here are a couple more examples of what you can do with 7-10 hours:
- An 6-7 mile round hike! I only recommend this option though for couples who aren't having any guests and who are confident in their hiking abilities - we will most likely be hiking in the dark at some point for this one! (Hello starry night photos!) For anything longer, I recommend booking a multi-day wedding experience.
- A 2-4 mile hike with just the two of you. This will give you plenty of time to have a relaxing ceremony and reception experiences with guests as well.
- Any hiking can totally be substituted with a killer Jeep your excursion, horse back riding, helicopter tours, dune buggies and more. Whatever makes you guys feel like you! With a full day of coverage, you can truly make your wedding day experience all your own and get the most out of every second.
Hiking Elopement Day Timeline: Multi Day
Did you know I offer multi-day packages?! In my opinion, these are the absolute BEST way to get the most out of your elopement experience.
2:00 am: Meet up at the trailhead and begin hiking up the mountain
4:00 am: Stop and take some starry night photos along the way
5:30 am: Change into your wedding attire and have the most epic first look at sunrise with the alpine glow in the background
6:30 am: Find perfect spot to say your vows
7:15 am: Explore the trails, lakes, wildflowers and take epic photos
8:00 am: Stop and relax for a bit while making breakfast
10:00 am: Begin the hike back down taking photos along the way
12:00 pm: First day ends and we relax and prep for Day Two
9:00 am: Meet up and head to kayaking tour through the nearby alpine lake
12:00 pm: Explore the lake, find a place with no people to have an epic and private lunch picnic
1:00 pm: The day two adventure ends - but you life together is just beginning!
Multi-day elopement truly are the best way to have the most epic adventure and wedding day experience possible. Here are a few more ideas of what is possible:
- Book an all-day excursion with a travel / tour company! The possibilities are endless here. You could ride camels through the desert of Morocco, a private safari in Johannesburg, a catamaran cruise along the Na Pali Coast, swim with manta rays in Bali or even off-roading in Moab.
- Use one day for your wedding and one day for your honeymoon and have photos from both!
- Spend one day all to yourselves and one day with your friends / family and other loved ones.
The beauty with eloping is that you have so much control over your own experience and making sure it's one that you will enjoy and remember for the rest of your lives! Good luck planning your adventure together. If you're already a booked couple of mine, hopefully this blog helps give you some inspiration on what your day could look like! And if you haven't booked yet and need help planning, I’m your gal! Drawing up an epic day is my favorite part of this gig so don't hesitate to reach out and ask me questions!
Dream big. It’s your love, so let your day reflect what you value. Happy eloping!
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