The secret to having a stress-free elopement day is planning ahead. One of the most important things you can do in your planning process is to create a timeline for your day so that you know exactly when and where you need to be.

If you’re not sure where to start in creating a timeline or you’re wondering just how many hours of photography coverage you need for your elopement, I want to answer those questions for you.

Let me walk you through everything you need to determine the amount of time you need and how to create the perfect timeline for your day.

Why you need a timeline

A timeline is what will keep you organized and on time for your day. It’s an essential planning tool that will help remove stress from your day and even help you get better photos from your day.

Not sure how the two tie together? Let me explain.

Staying organized will keep you calm and stress-free, resulting in better photos. Because when you’re relaxed and living in the moment, it will show.

It’s also the easiest way to keep everyone involved in your elopement day on the same page. Knowing how your day is going to look will help you with planning the rest of your day. Whether you’re just getting started in the planning process or if you already have vendors booked, creating a timeline will help you stay organized throughout the planning process, fill in the gaps of your day, and ensure your day runs smoothly.

That’s why a comprehensive timeline is such an essential tool to have!

How many hours of coverage do you need

The big question with a short answer: it depends. Just what does it depend on? Well, that’s all about what you plan on including in your day.

Logistics to Consider

When making your timeline, there are some logistics that you need to consider when choosing what time to schedule various aspects of your day.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to get a better idea of how much time you need:

  • Are you bringing any guests with you?
  • Will you be bringing any pets along with you?
  • Are you getting ready together or separate?
  • Will you be doing a first look?
  • What activities are you including in your day? This could be a first dance, cake cutting, hiking, having dinner with your family, etc. Anything that has meaning to you that you want to include in your day!

How to make your timeline

Take all of the parts you want to include in your day and start listing them out and how long you think they will take. Start organizing that list into the order that you imagine them taking place throughout your day.

Now, figure out the most important part of the day and go from there.

Do you want to hike to a stunning mountain view to exchange vows as the sun rises?

Or would you rather have your ceremony later in the day and prioritize a magical blue hour photo session in the evening?

What about celebrating with your family after the ceremony? 

Figure out what the most important part of the day is and what time you want to have it at and build from there. This will give you a pretty good idea of how your day will look and how much time you need.

Keep these in mind when selecting times for events throughout your day:

  • Sunrise – it’s best to be at your location an hour before the actual sunrise time to allow time to find the perfect spot, set up, allow a little big of “just in case” time, as well as to see those beautiful colors before the sun actually rises over the horizon.
  • Sunset – just like sunrise, it’s best to be at your location an hour before the actual sunset time.
  • Blue Hour – right after sunset, blue hour can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour long.
  • Moonrise – this is when the sun appears over the horizon. The exact times vary depending on the lunar phase and location.
  • Crowds – depending on your location, peak times are usually the middle of the day.
  • Weather – this will vary depending on your location, but knowing the weather patterns is important information when scheduling your day.
  • Buffer Time – it’s always best to include a few minutes of extra time as a buffer in case of unexpected traffic, your hike taking longer than expected, or just to have a few minutes to not be rushing.

Example Elopement Timelines

Need a little help seeing what it could look like? I’ve got your back! Here are a couple of example elopement timelines to give you an idea of what your day could look like.

Example 8 Hour Elopement Timeline

12:00pm – Meet up at your cabin.

12:30pm – Couple finishing getting ready. Detail photos.

1:30pm – First Look with each other. 

2:00pm – Portraits at the cabin and surrounding forest.

2:30pm – Drive to trailhead.

3:00pm – Arrive at Trailhead. Start hiking to ceremony location.

4:00pm – Arrive at ceremony location. Explore, find the perfect spot. Have a picnic lunch together.

4:30pm – Ceremony and vows.

5:00pm – celebrate being husband and wife!! Pop some champagne, take some “just married” portraits, spend a few minutes together.

6:00pm – hike back to car and head to the lake.

7:00pm – arrive at the lake and take some epic golden hour+sunset photos.

8:00pm – Photography coverage ends.

how to create an elopement timeline

12 Hour Elopement Timeline Example with a Break in the Middle of the Day

3:30am – Meet at trailhead and hike to ceremony location.

4:30am – Arrive at the ceremony location. Explore, find the perfect spot, then change into wedding attire.

5:30am – Have your first look as the sunrises and take some portraits

6:00am – Ceremony and exchange vows.

6:30am – Celebrate being married! Take some gorgeous sunrise photos, have a picnic breakfast, and watch the sunrise.

8:30am – explore some more together.

9:30am – hike back to the cars.

10:30am – arrive back at the trailhead. Split up to rest, eat, etc.

6:00pm – meet back at the cabin. Take a few photos at the cabin.

6:30pm – Have dinner cooked by a private chef.

8:30pm – Have your first dance.

9:15pm – Drive to the next photo location.

9:45pm – arrive at location. Find the perfect spot for photos.

10:00pm – take some stunning photos with lanterns and the milky way.

11pm – Photography Coverage Ends

How many hours of photography do you need for an elopement?

Still need help figuring out your timeline?

If you’re still struggling to put all the pieces together, check with your elopement photographer or planner to help you figure out the details.

Don’t already have a photographer booked? I help couples plan memorable wedding experiences in the great outdoors and document them too! I’d love to help you plan your perfect elopement experience!

Share your timeline

Once you finalize your elopement timeline, it’s time to share it with everyone involved in your day. Send a copy to your photographer, any guests that are joining you, and any other vendors you’re including in your day. Don’t forget to print out a paper copy for yourself as well.

Create a backup timeline

As with any activity taking place outdoors, it’s always best to have a backup plan ready to go. Because weather can be unpredictable, and sometimes expected closures due to wildfires or other accidents happen, you should be prepared with a backup plan. This includes backup locations for your ceremony, portraits, and anything happening outdoors.

Make sure to send this to anyone who has your primary schedule as well as a printed copy. Because it’s better to be prepared and not need it than to not have it when you need it.

I hope this guide was helpful and answered your question of how much coverage you need for your elopement day.

Happy eloping!

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