What activities should you include in your elopement?
If you are planning an elopement, you might be wondering how on Earth to begin thinking of your timeline and what elopement activities to include. There are still a lot of misconceptions out there about eloping, and one of the biggest is that it’s just a “quickie” ceremony. Nowadays, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Elopements aren’t secretive, quick events anymore. Couples who choose to elope invest their time, money, and effort into making their day a unique and adventurous celebration. You can read all about eloping here, but most importantly, you should remember that eloping is all about you. Where you decide to go, what elopement activities to include, how you spend your time, and whatever traditions, ideas, or other things you decide to incorporate can turn your elopement into something unique and totally custom-tailored for you. Comparatively, sooo much different than the Vegas chapel your family is probably envisioning, right? Read on for my timeline suggestions and elopement activities to include for your own elopement!
You deserve a day of celebration
Some people still hold on to the idea that elopements should only be a few hours, or are even a “lesser” version of a wedding (SO not true, by the way). And maybe even when you set out to plan your own elopement activities, these feelings can creep in. Hear this: the very fact that you’ve decided to do something different – to focus on what actually matters–makes your elopement even more meaningful. Big, traditional weddings often last from 8, 10, or even 12 hours – so why should your day be any different? I believe that your elopement day deserves the time and attention of any wedding day, and that includes a whole day of documenting, celebrating, and doing the activities or traditions that speak to you and will make you both want to relive this day over and over again. This is not just a “quickie” ceremony – it’s an entire day dedicated to celebrating your relationship and the kickoff of your marriage.
Take the time to truly enjoy your day
You are doing this thing differently. You’ve probably decided to elope because the thought of planning a huge wedding is giving you the heebie-jeebies and sounds stressful. So don’t make the mistake of only scheduling a handful of hours for your elopement day — you’ll end up feeling rushed and stressed out by any little delay when the whole day should be relaxing and you two should be soaking in every moment together. I want you two to have a day you never want to end. As far as what you do to make that happen? Totally up to you! There are LOADS of elopement activities to include and traditions you can add to your day to make it yours. The first thing I recommend doing is imagining a *perfect* day together. What things do you do? What environment are you in? Is there food? Nature? Water? What do you want to remember years from now?
Do what you love and ditch the rest
Remember that this day is for you, and when considering time, feel free to include any and all activities that are meaningful to you and will be fun for you two. This is your day! In this HUGE post, I’ve got elopement activity ideas, inspiration, and sample timelines to jump-start your planning! Hopefully, this will get the wheels turning on what’s possible to make this day all about what’s special to you. You’ll also find REAL sample timelines based on half-day, full-day, and 2-day elopements. So buckle up and get ready to make this day all about YOU!!
Before we dive into elopement activities, here are just a few wedding day elements that couples who are eloping usually choose to include as part of their day together:
Starting the day together:
You could just be “getting ready”, but why not add more elements to make the day cozy? You could have coffee together on the deck of your cabin, whip up breakfast together, hang out with your dogs, or even enjoy a morning bubble bath together to relax and get your morning started.
If you don’t already have them written out, you could use some time during your day to write out your vows to each other. On paper, in a keepsake book, or in a special journal are great ways to copy them down.
Whether it’s at your getting-ready spot or in the mountains, seeing each other for the first time in your wedding attire can be an incredibly special moment. All the planning, getting ready, and preparations have led to this moment – you’re about to be married! Making time for these moments together is something that most of my couples value and really love to have together.
This is a key part of the day that combines all the things that are special to you. This is where you look your person in the eyes and make your own special promises to each other. Your ceremony could include a ring exchange, vows, gifts, readings from your favorite books or literature, playing an instrument, or songs that are significant to you… the sky’s the limit. Whatever you want to include in your ceremony that’s special to you, you should go for it.
If you plan on having guests present for your vows and ceremony, this would be the time when they would join you.
Photos with guests
If guests are a part of your elopement, following the ceremony we can take photos of everyone celebrating with you! I love capturing these group moments together – it’s not often that everyone is together, looking sharp, in a beautiful space together – so we’ll make sure to get some candid photos and some group photos of whoever you decide to have present for your day.
Reading Letters from Friends and Family
Sharing a First Dance Together
Elopement activities to consider for your day:
This elopement activity is huge. And before you think a hike is a big daunting task, there are MANY levels of hiking depending where you go. All the way from a short walk on level ground to conquering a 14er – if nature and beautiful views are something you want to take in as part of your day, consider a hike together! I can help you find the perfect trail for your skill level and the type of scenery you’re envisioning.
Take your day on the water with a dreamy kayak or canoe trip together. You could start your day with this activity to see the sunrise, you could paddle to your ceremony destination, or just take it slow to enjoy the views together from the water.
Jeeping or Off-roading
Consider renting a jeep or 4X4 to explore more, further, faster!
Grab a drink of a coffee in town
Adventure can be found anywhere. Visit a new brewery together, check out the town you’re staying in, grab some coffee and have a little date!
Don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks! Stop for a quick trail snack, or take some time to pop some champagne and sip some bubbly together to celebrate!
How does a romantic, mountainside picnic after your vows sound? If you two love to chill, and want some time to soak everything in together and eat, planning a picnic during your elopement day is an amazing way to relax and unwind in a beautiful spot.
Visit a museum or scenic spot together
Do you two love art? Explore a new museum or visit your favorite museum together for a serene stroll through an exhibit.
Perhaps you love sport climbing or wall climbing and want to share the experience of climbing something together for your day. This is a super fun and adventurous activity so if you’re not a pro, you may require a guide!
Here are some sample timelines inspired by real elopements. Each timeline can be tailored to fit you, your location, and your vision for your wedding day – but these are a good start to begin envisioning what your very own elopement adventure together could be like.
Full-day Elopement in Broken Bow, Oklahoma
- 7:30 AM set out for a sunrise canoe trip on Broken Bow Lake
- 10:00 make breakfast and coffee together
- 11:30 Hang out and write out vows
- 12:00 start to get ready
- 1:30 finishing touches
- 2:00 first look together at the cabin
- 2:45-3:45 begin the hike to the ceremony destination along Friends Loop Trail or Eagle’s Nest
- 3:45-4:45 ceremony
- 5:00 pop champagne to celebrate!
- 5:00-6:00 champagne toast and picnic together by the water
- 6:00 – 7:00 Sunset portraits along the lake
7:00 head back to the cabin for dinner together
- 8:00 start up the fire pit, snuggle up together for a few cozy nighttime portraits
- Photo coverage ends
- 12:00 arrive to hotel/airbnb for detail photos + getting ready together
- 1:45 finishing touches and getting to see each other dressed for the first time
- 2:00 drive to the ceremony location downtown at a local brewery
- 2:30 ceremony + vows
- 3:00 a few just married photos with friends and family
- 3:30 Head to a local art museum to check out the exhibits
- 4:30 relax and grab a beverage (and a snack!) at your favorite little wine bar downtown
- 5:30 rooftop champagne toast together overlooking the city
- 6:00-7:00 sunset portraits in the city
- 7:00 head to a restaurant for an intimate dinner with friends and family
- 8:00 photo coverage ends
Two-day Colorado Micro-Wedding with guests (when I got married, this was my timeline! 😁)
- Small day hike with family and friends to explore the area
- Drinks and snacks in town at a local brewery
- Dinner at the cabin
- Fire up the hot tub and the firepit, relax with friends
- 11:30 Breakfast and coffee at the cabin
- 1:00 start to get ready for the day and set out details
- 2:00 Write out vows
- 3:00 getting ready final touches
- 3:45 first look together outside the cabin
- 4:00 gift exchange in private
- 5:30 ceremony + vows at the cabin
- 6:00 – 6:30 some just married photos with family and friends
- 6:30 – travel by car to the portrait location
- 7:00 – sunset portraits together along mountain, lake, and ridge
- 8:00 – head back to the cabin
- 8:30 – dinner on the deck of the cabin, relaxing with family and friends
Two-day Italy Elopement
- Arrive in Lombardy Italy, make your way to your rented villa
- Relax in your Airbnb and take it easy after traveling
- Take a swim together or hang out at the beach (spritz, anyone?)
- Have a nice dinner along the lake together
- Wake up with coffee and breakfast on your patio together
- 12:30 begin getting ready at the villa
- 12:30 – 2:00 hanging out, getting ready, photos of details you may have brought with you
- 3:00 – first look together on the patio of the villa
- 4:00 – private ceremony together in the garden
- 5:00 – charter a boat for a ride around lake como
- 5:15- 7:00 couples photos and sunset photos on the boat
- 8:00 private dinner together
Half-Day Big Bend Elopement
- 12:00 Getting ready together at Airbnb
- 1:00 relaxing at the Airbnb and writing out vows
- 2:00 finishing touches to getting ready
- 2:30 first look together outside the Airbnb
- 3:00 set off for the Santa Elena Canyon Trail (backup location Boquillas Canyon Trail)
- 4:00 arrive and begin hike to the ceremony spot
- 5:00 ceremony + vows
- 5:30 celebrate!!!
- 5:45 explore the canyon, find a spot for a first dance together by views of the river
- 6:15 – head back to the trailhead, portraits along the way
- 7:00 – take the scenic road back to the Airbnb, stopping for sunset portraits and starlight portraits along the way
- 9:00 – arrive back at Airbnb, photo coverage ends
The beautiful part about your elopement is how flexible it can be. The things you can do together are limitless – this truly is a day to slow down and soak it all in together. These timelines and activity ideas serve as a frame of reference or a starting point for what is possible. Just remember that anything is doable on your elopement day, and planning your day starts by thinking about the kinds of elopement activities to include and the environments that bring you the most joy. So don’t limit yourself here, anything is possible when you throw out the rulebook and elope!
Elopement Timeline Tips
Finally, here are just a few more things to keep in mind when creating your elopement timeline, or deciding what elopement activities to include:
Being in nature poses risks for things not going perfectly to plan – it’s just the fact of being outdoors. Having some flexibility if something doesn’t go exactly to plan will not only help you relax and enjoy the day as it unfolds but can be a great way to experience something new. And have all the fun memories!
Allow extra time
Traveling, hiking, and activities all take time. My best advice is to allot more time than you think for an activity or part of the day. And book more time than you think you might need – you will SO enjoy being able to go with the flow and not worry about a timeline!
Hire a dedicated elopement photographer
Okay okay, obviously, I want you to hire an elopement photographer (me!!) for your day, but here’s why: Each part of your day is so important. You deserve to have someone documenting every moment! You deserve gorgeous photos that tell the entire story of your day and transport you back to how you felt every single time you see them.
As a photographer who specializes in elopements, I’m passionate about empowering couples to do what feels best for their day and providing an amazing, tailored photography experience to every couple I work with. I believe that couples of all kinds deserve to celebrate in the best way for them, and it’s my mission to be a resource for eloping couples, to help you throw out the rule book and design the day of your dreams. If you have any questions or are ready to start planning your own day together, contact me here!