Eloping is a great way to celebrate your marriage without the stress of a full-blown wedding. But what kind of elopement do you want to have and what should the itinerary be like? Read on to check out sample elopement timelines that will serve as inspiration and help your day run smoothly.
What Can Your Elopement Be Like?
Although opting for an elopement rather than a big wedding saves you trouble when it comes to planning, that doesn’t mean that you have to skip the celebration altogether. The whole point of an elopement is to take the emphasis off of a big, crowd-pleasing party and choosing the elements of a special day that you two value the most. Maybe you want to get married in private then join friends and family for dinner, or maybe you’d prefer an intimate ceremony and casual reception.
One elopement must-have? A photographer to capture your special day. That doesn’t mean posing for pictures throughout your entire four, eight, or 12-hour elopement, but rather having someone on hand to capture the special moments as they’re happening, so you can look back on your day and cherish those memories forever.
What’s Important to Include in Your Elopement Timeline?
No matter what kind of celebration you plan, there are a few items you definitely should factor into your elopement timeline:
Time to Get Ready. When thinking about your elopement itinerary, don’t forget to factor in plenty of time to get ready! This means including an hour or more to get hair and makeup for a photoshoot or ceremony or time to shower after hiking and before the celebration. The last thing you want is to feel rushed as you prepare!
Driving Time. If your special day includes a commute, such as a short drive to a sunrise hike or a ride from your home or Airbnb to a restaurant, don’t forget to factor driving time into your elopement timeline. Make room in the itinerary for any traffic or delays that may occur, just to be sure that everything runs smoothly.
Hiking Time. Eloping at sunrise on the red rocks of Garden of the Gods or hiking to a spectacular viewpoint for your elopement photographs adds a little extra time to the schedule. How long this takes depends on what kind of shape you’re in or whether or not you’re familiar with the hike, so give it some thought and try to be generous with the amount of time you allot for this portion of the day.
Ceremony. If you’re planning on having an elopement ceremony, leave plenty of time for this in the schedule. Incorporate a grace period in case any guests you’ve invited arrive late, and be generous with the time to read vows, walk in a procession, or anything else you’ve planned. You’ll probably want extra time at the end to hug all your guests and snap a few pictures, too!
Celebration. Once the ceremony is over, it’s time to celebrate. If you’re planning on a reception or special dinner, of course you’ll want to block off a chunk of time for that in your schedule. Base this off of the amount of time you’ve reserved a table at a restaurant or hired a private chef for.
Photoshoots. No matter what kind of day you have planned, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve carved out some time for awesome photos. Storytelling is an important part of any elopement. You can send photographs to guests as a thank you or simply keep them to look back on and show the kids some day. Try to factor in time to wrangle up the whole family for family photos, and a few moments to document the first look or couples pictures.
Buffers. No matter what, try to include some buffers in the elopement timeline. This means either being generous with the amount of time you alot for each element of the day, or simply leaving ten or fifteen minutes in between items on the itinerary to account for any tardiness, delays, or just a moment to catch your breath.
Sample Four-Hour Elopement Timeline
A four-hour elopement is ideal for those couples who want to keep it short and sweet–maybe a quick, intimate ceremony followed by a meal with friends and families. If you’re planning to hike, you probably want to go with an eight or 12-hour elopement timeline.
3:00 pm – Elopement photographer arrives at AirBnB
3:10 pm – Getting ready photos
3:50 pm – First look photos
4:10 pm – Drive to elopement ceremony location
4:35 pm – Read vows
4:55 pm – Pop the champagne!
5:10 pm – First dance
5:25 pm – Family photos
5:45 pm – Couple photos & exploring
7:00 pm – Elopement photographer leaves
Locations in Colorado for Your Four-Hour Elopement
Looking for the perfect spots in Colorado for a quick elopement? Try these:
Sapphire Point in Breckenridge. Exchange your vows at this beautiful overlook with a view of the Dillon Reservoir and mountains on the horizon. Reach this elopement spot after a quick .1 mile hike, and bring along up to 35 guests! You can even get a catering permit to serve food here after your ceremony.
Lost Gulch Overlook in Boulder. A 17-minute drive from downtown Boulder you’ll find this picturesque viewpoint, where you can elope on what looks like the top of the world. This is best for a quick ceremony with just the two of you, then head into town for a celebration!
Sunrise Amphitheater in Boulder. You’ll get some of the best views in the area from Sunrise Amphitheater, along with built-in seating to easily accommodate all your guests. Plus, it’s a short drive back to Boulder, where you can host a dinner or throw a party in your AirBnb afterwards.
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. This free park is home to visually stunning rock formations and gorgeous views, and features a great sunrise hike elopement spot, along with a few areas that are ideal for welcoming guests. It’s close enough to Colorado Springs that you can fit both an elopement ceremony and quick celebration into those four hours!
Loveland Pass near Breckenridge. This charming mountain road lies at just under 12,000 feet and gives you mountain and alpine lake views with the sense that you are the only people in the world–perfect for an intimate elopement! Plus, keep the timeline under four hours by exploring the area with a handful of guests and taking photographs with each of the 360 degree views in the background. This pass is about a 45-minute drive from Breckenridge, or a little over an hour from Denver.
Sample Eight-Hour Elopement Timeline
An eight-hour elopement is right for you if you want ample time to explore and get all the most important moments documented by an elopement photographer. Check out this sample timeline:
12:00 pm – Elopement photographer arrives for getting ready photos
1:00 pm – Drive to trailhead
1:45 pm – Arrive at trailhead
2:00 pm – Begin hike
3:00 pm – Arrive at ceremony location
3:10 pm – Read vows
3:35 pm – Take celebratory shots
3:50 pm – First dance
4:00 pm – Exploration & couples photos
5:00 pm – Start hike back to car
5:45 pm – Arrive at car, drive back to AirBnb
6:30 pm – Private chef arrives
8:00 pm – Elopement photographer leaves
Locations in Colorado For Your Eight-Hour Elopement
Yankee Boy Basin in Ouray. Drive up to this basin in the midst of the San Juans for those craggy mountain views and slopes full of wildflowers for the ultimate elopement location. The photos will be out of this world! Plus it’s just over 30 minutes to drive to Ouray, leaving plenty of time to get ready for a celebration in “the Switzerland of America.”
Mohawk Lakes in Breckenridge. At Mohawk Lakes just outside of Breckenridge, a 3.3 mile trail reveals two different lakes, a waterfall, and old mining ruins. It’s the perfect area to explore after your elopement ceremony, take photos with dramatic backdrops, or even host a picnic for a group of friends by the water. These lakes are only a 30-minute drive away from Breckenridge, meaning you can easily return to your home or AirBnb without making it too long of a day.
Great Sand Dunes National Park Near Alamosa. For a totally unique Colorado elopement, go for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, where you’ll get a mix of desert and mountain views rolled into one. Take some jaw-dropping photos, host your ceremony, and then head to one of the nearby towns to celebrate. Alamosa or Crestone are favorites!
Sample 12-Hour Elopement Timeline
Choose this 12-hour elopement timeline if you want your entire day documented from start to finish. Incorporate all those precious moments of love and all the candid moments in between.
9:00 am – Elopement photographer arrives
9:20 am – Transfer vows to vow book with partner
9:50 am – Exchange meaningful gift
10:00 am – Getting ready photos
10:45 am – First look
11:05 pm – Drive to trailhead
11:50 pm – Arrive at trailhead
12:00 pm – Begin hike
1:30 pm – Arrive at ceremony location
1:45 pm – Read vows
2:15 pm – Pop champagne
2:30 pm – First dance
2:45 pm – Read letters from family & friends
3:00 pm – More exploring and couples photos
4:30 pm – Start hike back to car
6:00 pm – Arrive at car, drive back to AirBnb
6:55 pm – Arrive at AirBnb
7:00 pm – Private chef arrives for dinner
9 pm – Elopement photographer leaves
Locations For Your Colorado 12-Hour Elopement
Island Lake Near Silverton. If you’re up for a challenging, 7.7 mile hike with rewarding views for your elopement at the top, this is a must for a 12-hour elopement. Start before sunrise with your soon-to-be-spouse and any adventurous friends or family, and capture your first look in the light of early day. Then, celebrate in the old town of Silverton after!
Cathedral Lake & Electric Pass Near Aspen. Take a 5.4 mile hike up into the mountains by Aspen to a beautiful alpine lake. This place has all the makings of a picture-perfect elopement, and there’s plenty of room for any loved ones who don’t mind a long trek to join! Then, celebrate in Aspen at an AirBnb.
Handies Peak Near Lake City. Is there anything more special than an elopement in the midst of imposing mountain peaks? Hike a little over five miles to elope among the clouds near Lake City for an unforgettable experience.
Capture Your Day With Elopement Photography
No matter which elopement timeline or setting you choose, make sure you have a photographer there to document the day! And not just any elopement photographer…
I specialize in adventure and mountain elopements and spend the majority of my time hiking and camping across Colorado. After planning and documenting more than 50 elopements in the area, I know just what it takes to put together the perfect elopement timeline for a smooth and beautiful experience.
One of the services I offer my couples is location scouting or recommendations, and I have lists and lists of options to choose from… So happy elopement planning, friends. And if you’re ready to get the ball rolling on your special day, check out my Colorado elopement packages and reach out!
A couple and their favorite people celebrated they union in Westcliffe! The rain didn’t stop a thing–one of the most beautiful, love-filled weddings I’ve photographed. I had a smile on my face the entire day.
Brit & James met while students at USAFA! When they were planning their wedding, they knew they wanted to keep it intimate and to party all week long with their friends and family! Whispering River Ranch was the perfect place for all of them to stay for the week, the best basecamp while they explored […]
March 10, 2022
Mikayla is a Colorado elopement and wedding photographer. In addition to delivering beautiful galleries to her couples, Mikayla provides epic location recommendations, connects couples with talented vendors, processes any permits, and provides tips for a stress-free day!