December 5, 2020

Should You Have a Sunset or Sunrise Elopement?

Couple kiss at sunrise during their elopement

Should You Have a Sunset or Sunrise Elopement?

Post Summary: Eloping at sunrise is a great option for those who want to don’t want a first look, value more privacy and for potentially better weather! But eloping is just as great of an option. Eloping at sunset will give you plenty of time to get ready, do a first look and take time during the day to enjoy yourselves. Each is an amazing option, it’s just a matter of choosing what’s right for you! Still not sure if you want a sunset or sunrise elopement? Find out the pros & cons of both elopement types to find out which one is right for you!


Imagine your dream elopement, up on the Colorado slopes or toes in the sand on a beach in Maui. The weather is bliss, exactly as you imagined it. You’re wearing your dream dress or pantsuit, feeling your most gorgeous, your life partner gazing lovingly into your eyes as you say the words on your heart. It’s the ceremony you’ve always wanted, without all the pressure of saying ‘I do’ in front of a hundred people.

You may have all the details of your unforgettable elopement already in mind. But something that couples who choose to elope get to do is decide the time of day without worrying about guests. When you elope, your day is all about you. This is yet another choice you’ll have as you plan your incredible day together.

So how do you go about choosing a sunset or sunrise elopement? No matter where you want to elope, it’s not so easy to decide on a time of day. That choice affects not only your ceremony but also the day you’ll have together as well as your photos. Depending on which one you choose, your moments will translate differently into photography.

Sunset, the time that the sun is lowest in the sky, is known as the golden hour, when soft, warm, glowy light will illuminate your ceremony with the most vibrant colors. Sunrise has its upsides, too. If you’re eloping in the mountains, something called alpenglow happens early in the morning, a beautiful effect that causes peaks to turn pink from the sunlight reflecting off the clouds.

Read on for the pros and cons of sunrise and sunset elopements to see which one is right for you!

newlyweds celebrate their elopement in front of their Best Day Ever ceremony panel at sunrise
newlyweds smile at each other after saying their vows at sunrise

Sunrise Elopements

The number one complaint I hear about sunrise elopements is that you have to wake up extremely early. (Like, middle-of-the-night early.) Depending on where your location is, you may need to wake up as early as 3 am to get to your location in time for sunrise. If you’re planning to hike a fair distance to get to your chosen location, you may be looking at getting ready when it’s still dark and hiking before the sun comes up. 

You know what that means: a more private ceremony since many people aren’t willing to wake up and make it to the sunrise. Just know that it depends on your location. Depending on the location you want (namely, Grand Teton National Park), alpenglow photography is only growing in popularity and there may be many other couples there at the same time.

The hike into your location may also feel a lot more comfortable. With cooler weather earlier in the morning, it won’t be such a challenge to regulate your body temperature while you’re hiking. Say it with me: hiking on a hot day is NOT fun.

With most of my couples, I’ve found sunrise elopements to typically have better weather (if it rains, it’s usually in the middle of the day, not first thing in the morning) and beautiful, glowing light that just can’t be replicated at any other time of the day. It’s a beautiful way to begin your unforgettable day together. You’ll spend the rest of your hours married, and if you want to do an activity later on, like dinner with family, you’ll have the time.

My general advice is this: If you’re not a morning person, it may not be the best idea to do a sunrise elopement! You may also want to reconsider sunrise if you’re not comfortable hiking in the dark or dealing with a little cold weather. 

couples runs into the sunset after their elopement day ends
groom lifts bride into his arms and almost kiss during a rainy sunset

Sunset Elopements

The golden hour is another popular choice for eloping couples ready to go on an adventure. If you’re someone who wants to take their time and have the whole day leading up to your ceremony and photos, this option could be perfect for you. Not only do you get to sleep in, but you’ll also have warmer weather and plenty of time to get ready. Sunset elopements are also a good idea if you’re considering a first look. These photos can be difficult to stage if you’re doing an elopement before sunset. If you get ready in the afternoon, you’ll have tons of time to get to your location in just enough time.

Since many eloping couples love the alpenglow affect at sunrise, you may find that sunset is more private since most hikers don’t want to embark on a hiking trail when it’s getting close to sundown. The light is different at this hour, too. It’s warmer, softer, and dreamier.

Another fringe benefit is what happens after your photos. If we’re hiking far into a national park, we might witness a sky full of stars and capture these moments, too (star photos are epic!). What better way to end the day?

There are a few considerations to keep in mind before you make the decision to have a sunset elopement. Hiking trails can be slightly more difficult in the dark. If you’re having a summer elopement, sunset will be later in the day, which could push back dinner plans. Plus, more people generally hang around to watch the sunset so you may not be looking at a totally private elopement.

bride and groom hold hands as they walk on the beach after their sunset elopement
husband and wife walk into the sunset as they end their elopement day

Choosing Your Elopement Time

It’s not so easy to choose a sunrise or sunset elopement, but whatever you choose you’ll have truly adventurous, beautiful, memorable images to help you remember the day. Just remember to avoid 10 am to 2 pm because that is when the light is the harshest. An experienced photographer can definitely capture photos at this time of day, but the best practice is to reserve this time for less important photos, like getting ready for your ceremony. Then the photos you’ll frame and keep forever of your ‘I do’ will have the perfect sunrise or sunset lighting, just as you always dreamed.

No matter what, nothing is stopping you from witnessing both sunrise and sunset, no matter which time you want to have your ceremony. I have packages that cover the full day so we get the best light twice, and everything in between. Together, we’ll build the elopement you’ve always wanted and make sure you have everything you need to make your adventurous wedding day one you’ll look back on with joy. Learn more here.


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