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Understanding Elopement Timelines: Your Go-To Guide

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What is an Elopement Timeline? 


I think it’s partly true to say that the magic of an elopement day unravels on its own. There’s something about those sweeping views, picking a place that’s special to you and your partner, and honestly, just doing things the way you always wanted to that makes things so incredibly meaningful. 

But you know what most people don’t realize? The other half of that magic lies in a little bit of planning–and more specifically, in creating an incredible elopement timeline.

A lot of people hear the word “timeline” and waver a bit. To some, it sounds really rigid, like a strict to-do list you have to keep time with, or else the whole day is ruined. It may sound void of spontaneity, too structured, and like something that zaps the joy and wonder out of a day that’s supposed to be filled with, you know, joy and wonder.

But that’s 100% not what an elopement timeline is. In fact, an elopement timeline is the #1 tool on my list to help couples make sure they do everything, see everything, and experience everything they want on their day without feeling rushed, stressed, or anxious. 

You can see how it sounds magical, right? 

But what exactly is an elopement timeline in the first place, and how can something as simple as a blueprint for the day be such an epic resource? This blog dives into all the details (and more) to help you better understand elopement timelines. 

A bride and groom stand at the water's edge of a Colorado lake during their adventure elopement, following along with their elopement timeline plan.


Here’s a really important diction about timelines that I think every couple should know–when I say “elopement timeline,” I don’t mean a minute-by-minute agenda of what your wedding day is going to look like. 

Rather, an elopement timeline is a blueprint, a guideline, a shining light that points you in the right direction toward having the wedding day of your dreams. 

An elopement timeline is a loose guideline that walks you and your partner through your entire elopement day with gentle suggestions for timing–that way you can ensure you’re fitting everything in, spending intentional time enjoying every moment, and float through your day stress-free. 

And here’s the thing, an elopement timeline doesn’t generate on its own or appear out of thin air. You and your partner call the shots and create the day of your dreams–I’m just there to help you piece it all together in the best way possible. 


What’s Included in an Elopement Timeline?

The short answer to this question? Really whatever you want. There are tons of timelines that include elements like getting ready, a first look, a morning hike, a ceremony, a reception, portraits at sunset, etc.–but ultimately, every timeline will look different for every couple. 

Here’s a very basic example of what an elopement timeline might look like for a couple who’s planning a sunrise hiking elopement in Colorado. 

  • 2:30 am: wake up call
  • 3:00-3:45 am: drive to the trailhead 
  • 3:45-4:30 am: getting ready & first looks 
  • 4:30-5:30 am: hike up for sunrise 
  • 6:00-8:00 am: coffee, breakfast, exploring the mountaintop at sunrise, & portraits
  • 8:30-9:30 am: vows & private ceremony 
  • 10:00 am-12 pm: mountain top lunch, snacks, and exploring 
  • 12:30-2:30 pm: slow hike back down the mountain
  • 3:30-4:30: reception in a mountain town with family and friends 

A bride and groom hike up to their elopement wedding in the San Juan mountains.

But that’s just one example. Let’s say a couple wants a short and sweet sunset ceremony without a ton of hiking and an easy-going drive up to the summit. 

  • 3 pm: Meet at Airbnb 
  • 3:15-4:15 pm: slow and intentional drive (with plenty of scenic stops) to the ceremony spot 
  • 4:15-5:00 pm: exploration and enjoyment of ceremony spot 
  • 5:15 – 6:15 pm: vows and ceremony
  • 6:30-7:30 pm: sunset exploration and couples portraits 
  • 8:00-8:40 pm: drive back down to town
  • 9:00 – 10 pm: reception with friends and family 

And remember, it’s your timeline–if you want to change things up on the day of, do it. If you want to explore one location the entire time and forget about a second location because you’re having so much fun, we can make that happen. An elopement timeline is a guideline–a blueprint for how the day could go if you wanted to fit it all in. 


What are the Benefits of an Elopement Timeline? 

Some people think that setting time limits on activities or creating a schedule limits their spontaneity or puts a muzzle on their ability to just exist on their wedding day–but that’s not so! Elopement timelines are meant to help you enjoy and experience your day to the fullest, so that means they’ll guide you without ever making you stress about time. 

More than that, elopement timelines help you to spend more mindful, intentional time enjoying the present moment. With a guideline, you don’t need to worry or stress about what’s next, about “staying on schedule,” or rushing through anything. You simply get to be, to exist, and to soak in each second as it’s happening. 

A bride and groom soak in their Colorado adventure elopement, following along with their timeline.


What Goes Into Creating an Elopement Timeline 

The beautiful thing about elopement timelines is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all agenda. Every couple, every elopement, and every dream day looks different–which is why your elopement timeline is going to look different than someone else’s.

  • Feasible time for Every Activity: It’s easy to get caught up in everything (and you should!), but if you want to make sure you’re leaving room for every element of your elopement day, this is the way to do it.  
  • Lighting, Lighting, Lighting: You should get married and enjoy whatever part of the day is most exciting to you both, but I won’t lie–sunrise and sunset lighting are the best for those glowy, beautiful portraits of the two of you. Your elopement timeline should keep lighting in mind! 
  • Buffer Time: Things actually take longer than we think–even when we plan! Your elopement timeline should offer you and your partner plenty of buffer time to enjoy every moment without rushing around trying to fit it all in. Your elopement timeline should let you run a half-hour over the plan in one spot and leave you with enough time to still experience the next important thing. 
  • Spare Room for Spontaneity: Elopement timelines should leave you plenty of room for spontaneity. Want to hike a little further? Jump in that lake? Make another cup of coffee on the mountaintop? Stop and breathe it all in? Do it! Your elopement timeline should leave you room for all the options! 
  • To-and-From Time: Most people don’t plan for the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B and back, but your elopement timeline will! It’s easy to forget about how much time it actually takes to get to the spots you want to explore, so having your elopement timeline leaving proper space in your day for this will ensure everything goes smoothly. 
  • Accessibility & Timeliness: Your elopement timeline will take into consideration accessibility, the time it might take to hike or traverse something, and ensure you’re working with realistic timing expectations.  

Let’s Plan Your Elopement Timeline Together 

At the end of the day, your elopement–how it looks, how it feels, and how you experience it–is entirely up to you. I’m just here to help you make it happen. 

As your elopement photographer, I’m there to capture every moment of your day in the most authentic way possible, but I’m also there before the day ever starts to help you plan and create a wedding day that matters to you. 

Are you ready to kick off your elopement planning journey? I’m here to help you. Reach out to me anytime to start talking about eloping, the magic behind it, and how to make your dream elopement day happen. 

Join the Facebook Community, Mindful Elopements, filled with free resources, free videos, engaging conversations and questions, and other couples that are exactly like you, in the same place, trying to book an adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer.



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Alex, Coastal Elopement

"We loved our experience having Marcela as our elopement day photographer.

What was even more special about our experience was her ability to set us at ease months before our day. Through constant communication leading up to, and during, the day we got eloped. Her personality is that, in just four days time, we felt as if we've known her for years. 

Ah, but you're wondering about her photos. We loved every thing about them especially the raw emotion captured in many of the shots."

Caitlin, Alpine Lake Elopement

"My husband and I have been trying to put into words how simply amazing working with Marcela was.

From the start we could tell she truly cared about us, our relationship, and our story. She asked us so many questions, valued what we wanted, and kept up with the ever changing plans that came along with planning a wedding.

She made us feel so comfortable, made us laugh till we cried, and captured our true wholesome love for each other."

"We loved every moment of the day she helped create. Marcela was the perfect photographer for our adventure elopement! She worked tirelessly to make our adventure into marriage happen after our first options were snowed in! Great Sand Dunes felt like the perfect unique place for two Floridians who met in the mountains.

She made us comfortable to be ourselves throughout the whole day while making her job look effortless and fun. Our cheeks hurt from smiling, laughing and a few tears.

Marcela captured every precious moment! Her photography is absolutely stunning every way! I highly recommend Marcela for your elopement or wedding!"

Lauren, Sand Dunes Elopement

Amy, Forest Elopement

"Instead of telling us how to pose or interact with each other, Marcela gave us prompts that seemed simple but made a huge difference.

She asked us to talk about our first date. We discussed the weirdest things we loved about each other (which made us laugh) and how we could fulfill each other’s love languages. Amy and I played games with each other and Marcela captured the energy that happened naturally between us.

I love this shoot because it perfectly captures the love we share. It’s incredible to see that love and admiration encapsulated in a photo! Thank you for this!"

Chris, Anniversary Session

"The photos we just got back from Marcela are giving me CHILLS!! They are absolutely stunning!!!

She did SO MUCH more than just photograph us — she created special moments that I’ll cherish forever. She encouraged Con & I to genuinely interact & share intimate moments together. She prompted us to tell each other things that we love about one other, ways that the other person inspires us, & how being together has positively changed us.

It was more than just a beach shoot. We ended up giving each other precious, heart melting encouragement & that makes these photos all the more treasured to me."

Andrea, Red Rocks Elopement

"We had a pre-meet with her before the big day which definitely helped me feel more relaxed going into the wedding day. She gave us great suggestions and things to think about to be ready with on the wedding. On the day of she showed up early to help scope out the venue. She was creative to try and pull extra joy into our photographs.

When I look at these photos I see more than just beautiful images. I feel the moments that Marcela helped us experience and the connection we had.

I can't thank Marcela enough! We will treasure these moments forever!"

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