October 2, 2019

How to Plan An Elopement – With Timeline Examples

I can understand if you’re wondering how to plan an elopement! As a photographer and videographer who has helped countless couples elope over the past 6 years, I get it! It’s hard to know what to do when planning your elopement or small wedding. And, it’s especially hard if you’re doing it in the outdoors!

The best part about the freedom of elopements, can also become the hardest part.
You can do ANYTHING you want to do, and yet for some, that might seem overwhelming.
I’m here to help!

Here are a few simple steps to follow to help you start planning your elopement day:

If you’re still not sure what an elopement really is, check out this blog post first!

Breanna and Trevor had an elopement that they really had to plan for - they decided to hike up a mountain for sunrise in their wedding clothes! They stand hugging each other as the sun comes over the mountain in the background.

Steps for how to plan an elopement

1. Think About What Makes You Happy

Sit down together with no distractions and chat about what you both enjoy doing most. What makes ya’ll the happiest and makes you feel alive and connected? Make a big list and write everything down that you come up with, even the “silly” or small things.

2. List Places You Already Love or Want to Visit

Think about all the places you would like to be when you get married. Write down all of the places that come to mind. Would you go somewhere new, or somewhere you have been before and have grown to love? Would you stay at home or prefer to travel?

3. Decide Who Will Be With You

Decide whether or not you want to include any family/friends or not. If you do want to include them, how much of your experience do you want them to be a part of? All of it or just bits and pieces? A lot of couples who want family and friends around choose to have family present for the ceremony and a small reception but then adventure the rest of the day solo.

4. Narrow Down

Look through both of those lists and start circling your favorite ideas. When deciding how to plan your elopement, having these key things clear will really help!

5. Start Matching Things Up

Compare the things you’ve circled and see what you’ve come up with – do some activities match up with certain locations? I bet they likely do.
After talking through all your options, you will have to decide on one area.
Once you’ve got a general idea of where you want to elope and what experiences you would like to have…

A couple is hugging and laughing during their elopement beside a river in the forest. If you want to know how to plan your elopement you can do so in the winter with simple clothes on like them!

6. Research Seasons/Weather

For the locations that you’ve picked, start researching the weather for those spots based upon what Season you want to elope in. If you want snow, find out what months are best for that. If you want fall colors, find out when peak leaf season is in that area. This will help you narrow down date options. A date decision is usually needed to finalize a booking with your photographer/videographer.

7. Find your Photographer/Videographer

Reach out to your Videographer/Photographer/Planner – I personally love helping my couples plan out all the details of their elopement experience to make sure it runs smoothly and is exactly what you dream of!

– Extra Tip

What do you do about needing an officiant and witnesses in some states?
Most of my couples get “officially married” at the courthouse either before or after their elopement day with me.
Your photographer/videographer can be a witness but some states require two.
If your going to have a small ceremony with family and friends, you can likely find an officiant who will do the ceremony outdoors. Ask your photographer/videographer for recommendations.

Example timelines to plan an elopement

I always leave plenty of space into my couples timelines so nothing ever feels rushed. I want your wedding day to be relaxed and care-free. There is no strict regulations on following these timelines, they are just guides to help the day have some structure so that you are having the best experience possible!

When wondering how to plan an elopement this image of a couple kissing is a great inspiration. They are on a mountain at sunrise surrounded by plants and are kissing in their wedding outfits.

4 Hour Asheville Elopement
Timeline Example

5 AM : Videographer/Photographer gets shots of details at your home/airbnb (the landscape, the house, special things laying around, any pets present, etc.)
You help one another get dressed in your wedding clothes, taking your time and enjoying the process of seeing each other all gussied up for your wedding day.
5:45 AM :
Head out to hot air balloon flight meet-up location
6:15 AM :
Begin hot hair balloon flight
7 AM : Watch the sunrise from the sky over the beautiful mountains
7:15 AM : Return back to the ground
7:30 AM :
Head to a local mountain view or waterfall with a very short hike
8 AM : Share your personal vows in this natural space
8 AM :
take some time to enjoy nature together, have a breakfast picnic and make some tea/coffee
9 AM : 
Coverage ends and you enjoy the rest of the day resting and doing whatever makes you happy!

6 Hour Colorado Elopement
Timeline Example

5 AM : meet at your favorite hikes trailhead for longer early morning adventure hike
7:00 AM :
arrive at mountaintop & change into wedding outfits
7:30 AM :
Share your vows as the morning light begins
8 AM :
Watch & enjoy the sunrise 
8:30 AM :
Make some warm coffee/tea in the jetboil
9 AM :
first dance on the mountaintop 
9:30 AM :
Hike back down and enjoy stops at waterfalls, bridges, vistas, etc.
11 AM : 
Say goodbye & reflect on what a special day you had!

10 Hour Washington Elopement
Timeline Example

12:30 PM : Meet up at house or airbnb for details and getting ready shots
1:30 PM : First look moment where you see each other for the first time in your wedding clothes, exchange gifts and just enjoy being together for a moment
2 PM : small ceremony in the backyard under the trees with a handful of family and friends
3 PM : backyard lunch picnic with everyone together
4 PM : Head out for a walk to your favorite local ice cream shop
5 PM : head to helicopter station
5:30 PM : Take a helicopter ride over the nearby mountain views
8 PM : head back to house
8:30 PM : private chef’s special dinner is ready – eat the best meal of your life made just for you!
9 PM : make a bonfire and have s’mores!
– First dance in front of the firelight
10 PM : Go stargazing and take star photos
10:30 PM: Say Goodnight and fall asleep happy as couple be!

I believe in you! You got this! You will have the best elopement day no matter what, as long as you stay true to who you are and go with the flow.

For more elopement planning videos, check out my Youtube Channel!
If you want more personalized help, I plan timeline for every couple that books me as their photographer and/or videographer!