Wedding day timeline, how to plan your wedding day - image of eden and Jack on their elopement day at Cactus Country, Victoria

The Ultimate Elopement Timeline Guide

Your elopement is unique and one of a kind. In fact, there is no such thing as a typical elopement. But there are a few must-haves that you’d regret not capturing…

Imagine this…

Your elopement is just around the corner, and you’re thinking about the logistical side of things.

You know, the when? where? and for how long?

Well, you’re not alone.

Almost all my eloping couples ask about the specific wedding timeline at least a few weeks before their big day.

And my answer is always the same:

“Your elopement is unique and one of a kind. In fact, there is no such thing as a typical elopement. But there are a few must-haves that you’d regret not capturing…”

So, in this post, I’ll go over these must-have moments of any elopement. And give you a general wedding timeline that you can use as a template to help you plan your own romantic adventure.

Lock in your date, choose your location, and let the planning begin!

Getting Ready

Estimated Time: 2.5 Hours

Getting ready is more than just doing your hair and putting some clothes & makeup on.

It’s an opportunity to prepare yourselves both physically and mentally for the most beautiful moments of your lives. (And yes, this might include some breakfast & coffee too. Just to make sure you’re not grumpy the whole day.)

But how you get ready is totally up to you.

You can get ready at the top of a trail after a long hike. Or you can get ready in a small cabin in the woods before embarking on your great adventure together.

And if you want to take each other’s breath away, you can even get ready separately, at different locations too.

Your getting ready photos will mostly be spontaneous shots full of anticipation and excitement. Once-in-a-lifetime memories that would be impossible to stage, fake, or even repeat.

First Look

Estimated Time: 1 Hour

Ideally, this is the moment you see each other for the first time. It could be where you get ready, your ceremony location, or somewhere else entirely.

It’s a beautiful & authentic moment, and the photos here will be filled with your genuine emotions. Your smiles, your laughs, and your tears…

But hold on…

Didn’t I just say that you can also get ready together?

Well, yes.

But you’ll still get your first look. The moment you’re both ready, and take a pause to shift the focus from yourselves to each other. That’s when you’ll be overwhelmed by your emotions, and both realise: “Holy cow, we’re about to really do this!”


Estimated Time: 2+ Hours

These are probably the only truly staged (or semi-staged) photos you’ll have of your elopement. But trust me: you want these photos too.

After all, these are the beautiful pics that you see all over Instagram when you search for the top elopement photos. These are the ones that you’ll put on your wall.

And these are the ones that have one purpose, and one purpose only. To strike awe for decades to come, and showcase the beauty of your fairytale with breathtakingly perfect photos of the two of you in love on your special day.

But when you decide to have your portrait session is totally up to you.

You can have it before or after your ceremony. At your first look location, or mid-hike. It can also happen in short bursts throughout your day. It all depends on your timeline & environment. 

Remember though, that most people need a while to relax in front of the camera. So, one longer portrait session leads to better photos that many short ones.

But regardless of the when, my advice is this. If you have the luxury of a bit of extra time, then use it to do your portrait session at multiple locations. This will add tons of variety to your portfolio, and let you experience several different environments as well.


Estimated Time: 2+ Hours

If you have more than one location on your elopement day – which you should – you’ll have to get around somehow.

Now, getting around might take you just a few minutes, a few hours, or it might even become the highlight of your day (like hikes, helicopter rides, driving, boat rides, hot air ballooning, etc.).

It all comes down to the number of places you want to visit, their accessibility, the distance between them, and how you want to get there.

Some means of transportation will give you a unique opportunity to get incredible photos for your elopement gallery. I mean, who doesn’t like hot air balloon photos, or epic mountain top pics?

Others – like car rides – may not seem that exciting at first glance. But I promise, we’ll make the most of those too!


Estimated Time: 1 Hour

Now, I’ll start off by saying your ceremony can be as short (or as long) as you want. I’ve witnessed ceremonies that were 5 minutes, and others that lasted nearly an hour with religious elements woven into it. Nothing is set in stone – it’s your big day, you do what you want. However, your typical civil ceremony will be about 30 mins.

If you want, your ceremony can be about the two of you saying your vows. Or – on the other end – you can have all the bells & whistles and go for a whole scripted “performance”. You know, with music, reading letters from friends & family, and performing rituals.

Your ceremony photos will be overwhelmingly beautiful, emotional, and powerful. They’ll be filled with your purest emotions, and capture the first moments of the rest of your lives together authentically and perfectly.

Reception / Picnic

Estimated Time: 2 Hours

Whether it’s just the two of you, or you have a few friends & family there for you on your big day, taking some time to “breath it all in” is never a bad idea.

If it’s just the two of you, you can pop a bottle of champagne, eat some snacks, or have a picnic. You can even get a full-on private chef to prepare a home-cooked meal for you!

On the other hand, if you do have a few friends & family present, you can set up a reception to celebrate together with your nearest & dearest.

Whatever you choose, make sure you choose the right location for your reception or picnic. You can have it out in nature, at your small cabin in the woods, at a venue, or even at home. It all depends on how you want to spend the rest of your beautiful day. Also, make sure to take your travel time and the time it takes for you to freshen up into account as well.

The photos from your reception will be light-hearted & fun photos full of laughter and joy. At this point, everyone gets to loosen up a bit, and that will definitely add some magic & spice to the last few photos of your elopement album.

Hey, I hope this article got you excited about planning your own elopement!

Get in touch so I can help you turn the chaos of planning your big day into a fairytale dream. And be there for you on your special day to capture every one of your beautiful moments for you to keep for eternity.