You’ve found your forever person. AND you’ve decided to forego a traditional wedding. Your venue? The great outdoors in the Pacific Northwest. So… now what? You start planning your elopement timeline!
While part of the fun of elopements is that they tend to be a bit more spontaneous in nature, bringing a little bit of structure to your big day can reduce stress and allow you to capture the moments that capture your forever, well, forever!
Being a gal who specializes in PNW adventure elopement photography, my goal is to create a day that is relaxing, exciting, memorable and planned out just enough to photograph all of your must-have shots as well as leave some room for spending quality time together, exploring, and getting those candid and impromptu shots.
Here are some of my tried and true tips about planning your perfect elopement. Before diving into the fun stuff, there are a few logistical things that need to be figured out. Once the decision to elope has been solidified, you’ll want to do the following:
1. Decide what season you want to elope in
2. Pick your ideal location
3. Find and book your favorite Washington elopement photographer
4. Read up on marriage laws in your area
And you can find out allll about those things on my other blog post, How to Elope in Washington State.
Once that’s completed, you can move on to the fun stuff — figuring out the photography timeline!
The nice thing about eloping is that it’s on your timeline. There aren’t many other people you need to consider, so it really frees up your schedule and gives you a lot of options as far as locations and timelines go. This day is all about you and the unique ways you’ve chosen to celebrate.
Here are some things to keep in mind for your elopement:
– Consider getting married on a weekday (this means trails are significantly less crowded, and reduces the risk of having lots of onlookers for your intimate moments)
– Give yourself 2 hours for hair and makeup and make sure your stylist can “adventure-proof” your look
– Depending on the location(s), give yourself extra travel time. You’ll likely need to account for weather, breaks, and impromptu photos along the way
– Lighting is the most harsh at midday, so avoid having the ceremony during that time
– Give yourself 15 – 20 minutes to exchange vows, 60-90 minutes for bride and groom photos, and 20 – 30 minutes for photos with any guests that may be present
The most important thing to remember is that it’s your elopement! Be flexible, go with the flow, and realize that you may end up changing the actual spot day of — and that’s okay! Your hair might get messy from the elements, your dress might get dirty, but your photos will be epic, and at the end you will be married to your best friend. It’s not an all-day photoshoot, it’s a crafted experience to launch you into married life with a bang.
Okay now – the moment we’ve been waiting for. A few example elopement timelines to give you a feel for planning out your day!
2:30pm – arrive at beach parking lot, getting ready and into wedding attire!
3pm – head down to the beach and explore together, epic photos along the rugged coastline
4pm – ceremony amongst incredible rock formations
4:15pm – celebrate! Sign marriage license and pop champagne.
4:45pm – run back to car to grab cozy, warmer clothing to wear over your wedding attire
5pm – have a picnic on the beach
5:45pm – we take some gorgeous sunlit photos as the sun begins to set
6:10pm – start up campfire, cozy up and have some hot drinks
6:30pm – coverage ends and we part ways as you head into full on honeymoon-mode
10:30am – Take a slow morning together over coffee and breakfast at the sweetest airbnb in Roslyn, Washington, Roslyn Digs. I’ll arrive to start taking detail shots, and getting ready shots as you prepare for seeing each other in your wedding attire for the first time. Also could be a great time to exchange gifts to one another.
Noon – First look in a secluded wooded area near a creek. We take some photos and I also allow you to have some alone time together.
1:30pm – Jump in the car and head out to Cle Elum Lake for ceremony (meet a few guests if applicable)
2:30pm – Ceremony
3pm – Sign marriage license, guest photos, “goodbye for nows”, more photos exploring around the lake
4pm – Drive back to cabin
4:30pm – Enjoy your evening back at the cabin for bonfire, smores and hot tubbing with your friends
5pm – coverage ends, we bid adieus, and I get super pumped to get you some sneak peek photos of our time together
2:30am – Meet at the designated trailhead (Hair and makeup is done! Wedding attire is packed!)
3am – Start hiking on up!
5:30am – arrive at location, change into wedding attire
6:30am – private letter-reading, and saying your vows as the sun rises
7am – sign marriage license
7:30am – have breakfast burritos and coffee and mimosas. Exchange gifts to one another.
9am – traipse a little further down the trail and take time to explore, have quality time, and revel in the natural beauty around you
10:30am – quick break and re-fuel before heading back down
11am – we head down the mountain, you don your “just married” sign on your backpacks if you’re into that 😉
1:30pm – arrival at trailhead where you are met by some of your closest friends and family to welcome you back down and celebrate!
2pm – tailgate/picnic with your people
2:30pm – we bid adieus and you take the rest of the afternoon to chill, go hard with your friends, or celebrate however feels best to you
10:30am – Arrival at sweet airbnb near the Oregon coast (maybe some guests are there too)
11am – Exchanging gifts and enjoying breakfast/a slow morning together
Noon – Finish getting ready separately
1pm – First look in secluded area amongst the trees + photos together
2pm – Downtime and getting in the car to head to the beach/ceremony area (just couple and photog/video)
2:30pm – Time to take it in, explore, and take photos together
3:30pm – Guests arrive to ceremony spot
4pm – Ceremony
4:30pm – Sign marriage license
5pm – Photos with guests, toasts, celebration hour!
6:30pm – Catered dinner or takeout (pizza anyone?)
7:30pm – Campfire gets started
7:45pm – I steal ya for a few epic shots in the last light of the day
8:15pm – Continue to celebrate your love and marriage with friends into the night!
Day 2 – Intentional day with just the two of you to celebrate
3pm – We meet up a few hours away from the coast at a beautiful Oregon trailhead
3:30pm – Get all packed and start making our way up
5:30pm – Get back into wedding attire at good “almost there” point
6pm – Frolic around in the mountains
7pm – Break for snack and water
7:30pm – Photos and snuggles together as a married couple, the sunset falling down upon the mountains
8:15pm – Make our way down the mountain
10pm – a few lingering photos together with the stars, and we part ways as you officially start honeymoon life
Activities for the morning of your elopement
Read letters to each other
Spend time drinking coffee or mimosas
Make your favorite breakfast together
Help each other get ready
For the afternoon of your elopement
Ski or snowboard
Epic picnic by a scenic view
For the evening of your elopement
Have a campfire (booze n smore’s anyone?)
Mini-reception with friends
Hot tubbing back at the cabin rental
Have a camp out with loved ones
Continue your overnight backpacking trip
First dances to your favorite quirky song by the campfire
Did this post get you inspired to try something new in your elopement timeline? Just keep in mind, you chose this experience to be one that you’ll remember forever. Factor in extra time, don’t let yourself feel rushed, and allow things to unfold as they will. Elopement timelines are built to be flexible and to honor all of the activities and moments that feel meaningful to you and your partner. Relax, sit back, ask your elopement photographer to take care of this part, and get ready for a day that’s so much more than a wedding timeline.
Emma Studley Photography | Pacific Northwest Elopement Photographer
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Emma Studley Photography
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