Elopement and Intimate Wedding Planning Timeline and Checklist


Elopement Photographer

Couples and photographers often underestimate what it takes to plan an elopement or intimate wedding. I often receive Instagram DMs from photographers stating how they didn’t realize the work involved to photograph an elopement, including that they didn’t anticipate being the wedding planner. Couples often get overwhelmed because, more than likely, this is their first time getting married and they have no idea where to start. I felt this way too when I got married!

As an adventure wedding photographer and guide, I bring order to chaos. I’m your personal wedding planner and photographer! I ask the questions no one else is asking, and bring up items you would never even think to ask. This is based on my hands-on experience planning and photographing elopements and weddings around the globe. I’m here to bring your vision to life and create an experience and wedding day reflective of your personality, rather than just a day of formalities.

Some of the questions and ideas can be found in my Elopement and Wedding Guidebooks! You get personal, hands-on attention and all my problem-solving skills when you book me, of course! 

Below is a general framework you can use for planning your elopement or intimate wedding!

Adventure Wedding Photographer
  1. Identify Your Vision

It’s easier to go from the larger vision to the smaller details. Think about how you want to feel and spend your time on your wedding day. What would you plan if you got to be 100% yourself and do whatever you wanted? Below are some of the questions I ask couples when identifying their vision and experience for their elopement location.

  • Is there a location or place with personal meaning or significance in your relationship’s history? For example, do you both love to hike? If so, maybe you want to hike on the morning of your wedding and then clean-up and exchange vows during sunset.

  • Do you have rituals or traditions together? For example, if you drink coffee every Saturday and play your favorite music, perhaps you want to incorporate that into the morning and getting ready.

  • What place or setting makes you feel 100% you? For example, do you love the ocean and want to plan a wedding along the Baja California coast? Or, do you prefer the desert and want to plan your wedding during an Arches National Park or Dead Horse State Park sunset?

I always encourage couples to think about how they feel the most connected and different ways to intertwine that into their elopement or intimate wedding.

Yosemite National Park Elopement Photographer

2. Identify Important Elements to Incorporate

Once you have a general vision for your elopement or intimate wedding, make a list of all the events and memories you want to incorporate. My Wedding and Elopement Guidebook does a great job of walking you through the different portions of the day. I am also here to chat about what the day could look like, including various events, traditions and rituals.

Here are some common events included in elopements and intimate weddings.

  • Adventure outings, like yoga, canyoneering, hiking, biking, kayaking, trail running and more. You name it! Anything goes! 

  • Photos of you getting ready

  • Exchanging gifts and/or letters prior to seeing one another or before the ceremony

  • First look photos

  • The ceremony and vow exchange

  • Family portraits

  • Couple portraits

  • Toasts 

  • Dinner or dessert. This could take place at an Airbnb, restaurant, campsite or other creative reception locations.

There are many other items you can include, such as a first look with your parents or a sibling. This is your wedding day, so make it unique to you!

Moab Elopement Photographer

3. Create A Timeline

Once you decide what to include in your elopement or wedding day, I start creating a timeline factoring in your adventure outing, getting ready, transportation to the ceremony and lighting for your portraits. If you select a location with more people or crowds, one of the most important factors when planning your timeline, is to avoid them.  I always create padding in the timeline because I don’t want you or your family and friends to feel rushed, especially with time for getting ready and traveling. I help you set aside time for just the two of you and the events you value. 

Below is a sample elopement and intimate wedding timeline…

10 AM - 12 PM - Adventure outing

12 PM - 1 PM – Relaxed time together or hanging out with family and friends over lunch or at a campsite. This is a great opportunity for me to capture candid moments! It also helps put nerves at ease.

1 PM - 2:30 PM - Detail shots of your rings and any other accessories, along with getting ready shots 

2:30 PM - 3 PM - First Look

3 PM -3:30 PM - Drive to ceremony location

4 PM - 4:30 PM - Ceremony, vows, readings, toasts 

4:30 PM - 5:30 PM – Couple’s portraits around the ceremony location and other nearby spots

5:30 PM – 6 PM - Drive back to the Airbnb, hotel, campsite or restaurant 

6 PM - Celebration (dinner, dessert, BBQ, drinks, music, speeches, stories)

This timeline is by no means exhaustive of the options or order of your day! This is simply to offer an idea of how I create a timeline and plan to give you the best wedding day experience. You can move things around, add or leave out other events according to your personal preferences. I often have couples combine their adventure outing with their portraits during golden hour, hiking and going to various locations for two or three hours. Some even bring along wine or their favorite craft beer to enjoy at sunset. Also, many couples plan an adventurous day-after session in their wedding attire! This may all sound overwhelming, but know I am here each step of the way to help! 

Hopefully this provides an idea of what your elopement could look like! I love planning unique elopements and intimate weddings for my couples. I believe elopements and intimate weddings allow you the opportunity to have a thoughtful and laid-back wedding day, remembering each moment!

Work with an Experienced Wedding Guide and Adventure Photographer

I am the owner of Map + Compass Photography. I have a passion for outdoor adventures and creating custom weddings. I offer destination elopement packages and adventure wedding photography packages to make planning your day easier. Create a wedding experience reflective of your unique relationship. Contact me today to start planning your adventure wedding.