A lot of people think of elopements as a “quickie” wedding – a way to avoid investing any time or money in your wedding day. They’re often thought of as just a ceremony, and maybe a few photos afterward.
But what if I told you that eloping is so not what it used to be and that your elopement deserves a full day – maybe even two?
Imagine this: you make pancakes together in the morning, then get ready separately – your stomach is fluttering with those excited butterflies, and you can’t stop smiling knowing that you’re about to marry the love of your life. The two of you have your first look at the mountain, then hike that list bit to the top, marveling at the alpine lakes and wildflowers as you pass by. You exchange vows at sunset, committing the rest of your lives to each other surrounded by mountain peaks, with no one else around. On the way back to your Airbnb you stop for a post-hike meal, and spontaneously have your first dance in the parking lot, swaying along to the cheesy radio tunes as it starts to drizzle, and laughing at the fact that you’re wearing a wedding dress in the rain and you couldn’t be any happier. That’s what eloping is all about – making memories you’ll never forget, having fun together and being spontaneous, and making sure your wedding day reflects who you are.
In this guide, I’ll talk about what to do on your elopement day, as it can be hard to imagine how a 12-hour elopement can look! You’ll be surprised at how quickly time passes.
How Can an Elopement Last All Day?
Maybe you’re still wondering if you really need all day for your elopement and if you really need a photographer for the whole day. Here are just a few reasons why the answer is yes!
Your Wedding Day Matters
Somehow, a lot of people came to the conclusion that a smaller ceremony means your elopement is insignificant, that it’s less important, and that it’s less meaningful than a traditional wedding. Well, I call BS!
Eloping means you’re being intentional about how you get married, and instead of going along with all the things the wedding industry tells you you “should do,” you’re spending the day in a way that actually makes your heart soar. This is still the day you get married, and that’s a big deal – why would a shorter guest list and a more adventurous location make your wedding day any less worthy?
Elopements Should be Stress Free
One of the biggest reasons that couples start thinking about eloping is that the thought of planning a big wedding stresses them out, or the thought of being around 100 people all day stresses them out, or the idea of reading their vows in front of an audience stresses them out… you get the point – big weddings are a lot of stress!
Eloping is about making sure your day is as stress-free as possible so that you can spend your wedding day having fun and enjoying yourself. A full day elopement gives you flexibility and time – which means you won’t be rushed, and you won’t be stressed about timing everything down to the minute. Elopements allow you to be spontaneous, and to change the plan – because your day should go exactly how you want it to, which means if there’s a pretty view you want to stop at or if you need a snack break, you can do that without stressing about time!
You Want Your Day to Feel Laid Back
So one of if not THE secret and absolute key to having a wedding day that feels laid back is having more coverage. The more time we have together the looser the timeline will be and the more relaxed you will feel. You’ll never feel rushed going from location to location or trying to squeeze in an activity you really want to do. Remember your elopement is not a photoshoot it’s an experience. By having more time together you’ll be able to really sink in and absorb the moments.
One or Both of You Feel a Bit Awkward in Front of the Camera
For my peeps who say at least one of them doesn’t exactly love having their photo taken this section is for you! P.S- that’s 99% of my clients so you are not alone if that statement resonates.
If you’re someone who gets nervous when a camera is in their vicinity or thinks they always do that one forced smile in photos or worry’s about things like “but what do I even do with my hands!?”. Or simply believes that they just don’t look their best in photos trust me when I say you will feel so much more comfortable the longer we are together! Think about it: the longer we hang the more time you have to relax and get comfortable. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than feeling rushed, right? Hello, anxiety!
Spend Time With Guests, and by Yourselves
If you’re inviting guests to your elopement, it can be really nice to take some time for yourselves throughout the day! You can spend the first half with your family and friends, then head off to hike alone or to have an adventure after your ceremony. Your guests are an important part of the day, but taking time to just be present with each other can be so magical. You can even have a two-day elopement – spend one celebrating with your loved ones, and one celebrating by yourselves!
What to Do on Your Elopement Day
So, what actually happens on an elopement day? How do you fill 10 or 12 whole hours?
The short answer is that you can do anything you want – and I mean anything! When you’re planning your elopement, think about what would truly make this the best day ever – it can be something that you and your partner love doing, or it can be something you’ve always wanted to try.
Here’s what usually happens during an elopement, and some ideas of what to do on your elopement day. The ceremony is the main event – but what happens after?
Celebrate with Your Guests
If you invited guests to your elopement, one answer to the question of what to do on your elopement day is to celebrate with them! You can do cake, champagne popping, dinner, or just hang out at the Airbnb with your loved ones – or, bring them along for an adventure!
Plan an Adventure
On your elopement day, you should do something that makes you happy and reflects the two of you and your relationship – and here are just a few ideas of what to do on your elopement day when it comes to adventures and activities. Remember, you can do anything you want – so dream big!
- Go hiking
- Take a sunset sail
- Take a 4×4 tour
- Have a picnic
- Make s’mores over a campfire
- Take a helicopter tour
- Have a private chef cook dinner
- Soak in a natural hot spring
- Cruise around in a vintage car
- Jump into a waterfall together
Sample Elopement Timelines and Examples of What to Do on Your Elopement Day
All right, now you have an idea of what to do on your elopement day – so let’s look at some sample timelines!
Full Day Elopement
8:00 Pancake breakfast together with a pour-over
10:00 Put wedding outfits on
11:00 First look among the trees & exploration
12:30 Read letters from friends & family
1:00 Drive down the coast stopping along the way
2:00 Explore the forest groves, enjoy a picnic
4:00 Head to the ocean cliffs
5:00 Meditate together, get grounded
5:45 Cake cut and open some natural wine
6:30 Sunset photos
7:30 Frolic in the waves as the sun sets
Day and a Half Elopement
8:00 Yoga in the forest
10:00 Drive to trailhead
11:00 Begin hiking
3:00 Snack break at the summit
1:00 Explore, take a dip in an Alpine Lake
5:00 Set up camp
5:30 Change into wedding outfits
6:30 Exchange vows at sunset
8:00 First dance around the fire
6:00 Coffee and bagels by the campfire
7:00 Watch the sunrise & exploring
10:00 Begin hiking down
12:00 Arrive back at trailhead
Two-Day Elopement with Family
9:00 Breakfast just the two of you
11:00 Drive to trailhead
12:00 Begin hike to hot springs
3:00 Exchange private vows
6:00 Sunset soak in the hot springs
7:00 Drive back to the cabin
8:00 Dinner and s’mores over the campfire
8:00 Breakfast with family
10:00 Put wedding outfits on
12:30 First look overlooking the mountain
2:00 Hop in vintage rental car to ceremony
3:00 Ceremony on the ocean cliffs
3:30 Group photos
2:30 Everyone heads to the harbor
3:30 Sailing adventure and champagne
5:30 Sunset photos
6:30 Dinner with family under the stars
Why Your Elopement Day Deserves Full Day Coverage
So your elopement is an all-day thing – but do you need a photographer there the whole time?
A lot of couples think they can skip the photos when it comes to getting ready, or just have their photographer there for the ceremony and some photos after. But, these photos are going to be what you look at for the rest of your life to remember your wedding day – and when you do that, they should tell the whole story. You should be able to see the way your partner looked while they were getting ready for the few hours you weren’t together or how you looked at each other as you got ready in the forest together, you should be able to see all the little moments that made your day so amazing, and you should be able to relive your elopement day from beginning to end.
Some couples are worried that an elopement is like a 12-hour photoshoot and they’ll have to “be on” the whole time, but that isn’t the case at all! At a traditional wedding, there’s usually an hour or two scheduled for posed photos of the couple. But during your elopement, your photos will be of you having fun, adventuring, and exploring with me as your sidekick. Plus they’ll be downtime when we aren’t shooting at all. Most of the day will be about doing your thing, and you won’t even remember that the camera is there. It’s normal to be nervous about getting photos done, and it usually takes a little while to calm those nerves – which is why your photographer should be with you all day, so that you get comfortable and feel like you can be yourselves! That way, when you look at your photos, you’ll see yourselves having a genuinely good time – not posing awkwardly.
If you’re feeling inspired and you’re ready to start planning and figuring out what to do on your elopement day, contact me! I’ll help you pick a dreamy location, and plan the adventure of a lifetime.