Hello, friends! Daria here.

Today I’d like to talk to you about elopement timelines.
‘How much coverage do we need?’ is one of the questions I get asked a lot, and I figured it’s high time to elaborate on this topic.
We’ll take a look at what an elopement timeline entails, and I’ll share my well-tested tips and tricks to help you conjure the best elopement day possible. With examples of real elopements and timelines of course!

Shall we?

An elopement timeline is more than just a schedule of events; it’s a carefully and intentionally crafted plan that ensures your day unfolds seamlessly from start to finish. Unlike traditional weddings with rigid timelines, elopements offer couples the freedom to design a day that reflects them and their story.

But what can your special day potentially include?
Before we start putting things together, let’s list several ‘building blocks’ of a typical elopement timeline.

Elopement timeline elements

Getting ready.

Imagine the morning of your elopement day as the first page of a new chapter in your love story. It’s a moment of quiet anticipation and excitement, where you take the time to prepare yourselves, not just physically, but emotionally as well. While the idea of ‘getting ready’ may seem trivial at first glance, it holds deep significance in the narrative of your elopement.
And don’t worry, we won’t be there to capture you half asleep, in your pajamas, holding a coffee. Typically, your photographer will arrive some 10-20 minutes before the makeup & hair are done.
Writing your vows down is also a perfect thing to do during the getting-ready process.

Pro-tip. Ladies, this one is for you. If you don’t feel like strolling around in your ‘home’ (aka hobo) clothes before you put that gorgeous dress on, you can opt for a morning gown just for the occasion. Here are some beautiful (and inexpensive) options for you to check out.

First look.

The ‘first look’ is a magical moment that adds a layer of intimacy and anticipation to your elopement day. It’s a chance for you and your partner to share a private, heartfelt moment when seeing each other in your wedding attire for the first time. Trust me, you’ll not only create beautiful, candid memories but also ease any pre-ceremony jitters and set the stage for a day filled with love and adventure.
For a traditional ‘first look’ you’ll want to get ready separately, but we’ve also had cases where one of the partners left the premises and waited outside while the other one finished the preparations.

Pro-tip. Is your cabin of choice too cozy to be getting ready separately? Substitute the first look by helping each other into the wedding garments. Zipping the dress on your gorgeous wife-to-be or fixing the tie on your handsome other half? Can’t get more romantic than that!

Ceremony.

The ceremony is the heart of your elopement, that very special moment when you and your partner declare your love and commitment to each other. In Iceland, the options for elopement ceremonies are as diverse as the landscapes themselves, offering couples the opportunity to choose a location and ceremony style that reflects their personalities and interests.

For those seeking a traditional touch, a church ceremony in one of Iceland’s historic churches provides a timeless and elegant setting for saying ‘I do.’

For couples who prefer a secular ceremony with a more natural backdrop, an outdoor ceremony conducted by a celebrant offers the perfect blend of romance and rustic charm.

And finally, for the true Nordic souls, drawn to the ancient Scandinavian traditions, a pagan Ásatrú ceremony offers a unique way to exchange vows, infused with Iceland’s rich cultural heritage.

The best news? In Iceland, anyone can marry legally, and any of the ceremonies mentioned above can officially legalize your marriage.

Pro-tip. If you’re looking for a symbolic ceremony, and legalities are not your priority, you can always exchange your vows in private, without any witnesses.

Adventuring + activities.

The ‘activities’ part of your elopement timeline is where the real adventure begins.
One of the biggest myths of an adventurous elopement is that there has to be a hike attached to it. But let’s be honest, not everyone is the resilient athletic type, and perhaps sweating and barely catching your breath until you reach the top of some mountain does not sound even remotely enticing. Guess what? It’s ok. The thing I keep repeating continuously to all our couples during the planning process – your day, your way!

Don’t care about walking for hours? Why not embark on a road trip instead? And if you’d like to spice it up, exploring Iceland’s (in)famous F roads in a super jeep could be a perfect way to go.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider a glacier hike or an ice cave exploration. Guided tours are available for all skill levels, allowing you to safely traverse Iceland’s otherworldly glacial landscapes.

Another option for adventurous couples is horseback riding! Icelandic horses are known for their friendly and curious nature. Smaller than regular horses, they are renowned for their gentle demeanor, making them perfect companions for riders of all levels.

Time for a break? A picnic offers a cozy and intimate way to pause. Whether you choose a simple homemade meal or a gourmet spread from a local catering company, dining alfresco will add a touch of romance to your elopement day. Keep in mind, that Icelandic weather can be quite unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in case outdoor dining isn’t feasible.

For couples who don’t mind getting wet, a dip in one of Iceland’s geothermal hot springs is a must. I’d recommend avoiding Blue Lagoon or the like and going for a secluded natural pool hidden away in the countryside instead. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuits, or enjoy the soak au naturel.

If you feel like splurging, a helicopter tour can be a wonderful way to see Iceland from a different perspective and reach some truly remote hidden spots.

Pro-tip. If you are the resilient athletic type, a hike is definitely on the table! There’s a large variety of trails in Iceland, ranging in difficulty and duration, with all kinds of final destinations to satisfy your cravings for an epic view and a challenge. We’re up if you are!

Things to consider

Alright, now that you know what your elopement day can entail, let’s look at some important aspects that will influence your decisions. While the flexibility of eloping allows for a more personalized experience, carefully considering the factors I list below will help you anticipate and address potential challenges.

Sunrise or sunset-based day.

Choosing between a sunrise or a sunset-based elopement can significantly impact the atmosphere and experience of your special day. The most important thing? Your personal preferences. Sunrise is a good fit for early birds – and by early I mean EARLY. Keep in mind, that makeup & hair typically take up to 3 hours, and unless you’re planning to come to Iceland in winter, you can expect the sun to rise anywhere between 2 and 8 am.
For the fellow night owls out there, a sunset elopement will definitely be a better fit. You’ll get to sleep in and start your day slow. However, this will also mean staying awake till late evening/night.

Pro-tip. When choosing a full day or day & night elopement, you can enjoy both sunset and sunrise, with a little nap time in the afternoon.

Sunrise vs Midnight sun vs Sunset

Traveling distances.

Regardless of where you will be staying – a cozy cabin, a chic hotel, or a remote wilderness retreat – consider how far you’ll need to travel to reach your chosen elopement locations. Factor in travel time, road conditions, and any potential delays. In our experience driving usually takes longer than expected, especially if gravel / F roads are involved. It can be particularly tricky for those who’ve never done ‘off-roading’ before, so allocating some extra time is always a good idea.

Pro-tip. While Google is more or less accurate with estimating distances and travel time, it gets somewhat wonky with the Icelandic F roads, and may not give you an estimate at all when those are closed during the off-season. Yes, the legal speed limit on gravel roads is 80km/hr but don’t expect to be going as fast at all times (unless you are in a super jeep). You can always double-check this with your photographer.

Planned activities.

As you’ve read in the section above, Iceland has a plethora of activities that can add an extra layer of adventure to your elopement day. In case you decide to include something else other than a regular road trip, make sure to check how much time you’ll need to allocate for each of them. For example, an ice cave exploration can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, and a horse riding tour runs about 1.5 hours.

Other people involved in your day.

While a typical elopement presupposes just the two of you, some couples opt to include close family and friends in their celebration. Even though your special day is all about you and your beloved, don’t forget to think about those who’ve decided to join you. Are they riding along with you after the ceremony? Will they have enough to do while you’re exploring?
Having your friends and fam with you at all times may sound like a lovely idea, but a hike or some other strenuous activity might not be a great fit for everyone. And in our experience, with some alone time (as selfish as it may seem) couples have better chances at fully enjoying their adventure.

Don’t forget to communicate with your vendors as well! You’ll want to know how much time to allocate to your makeup artist, or how long your ceremony will last.

Weather contingencies.

Yes, I keep hammering this point everywhere across our website. Icelandic weather can be harsh and unpredictable, regardless the season. Always have a plan B in place, whether it’s indoor alternatives or backup locations for your ceremony and portraits. If in doubt, ask your photographer(s)! We have experienced pretty much everything the local weather can come up with, and we’ll know what to do.

Pro-tip. Two websites that are worth keeping an eye on when your elopement date is getting close – vedur.is for weather forecast and weather warnings, and safetravel.is for all sorts of tips and advice when traveling around Iceland.

Tips and tricks

What to avoid

1. Overpacking your schedule
I know, I know, it’s your first visit to Iceland, you’re eloping, beyond excited, and wanting to cram as many locations and activities into your day as humanly possible. While it’s certainly tempting, resist the urge – otherwise you’ll end up feeling rushed, overwhelmed and tired, and all the enjoyment of your special day will go down the drain.

2. Planning your ceremony mid-day
As an experienced photographer, I can assure you – mid-day light is the absolute worst. Luckily Iceland doesn’t happen to have that many sunny days but if you want to make the best out of the lighting situation, try to move things around and avoid having anything important (like the ceremony) when the sun is at its highest.

3. Neglecting breaks and rest
Again, it may seem like a waste of precious time and a missed opportunity, but the truth is, it would be so incredibly exhausting both for you to be in front of the cameras all the time, and for us to spam that shutter button constantly. If your elopement timeline is over 6 hours, plan for a nice break in between (preferably with food!), and don’t forget to snack + drink on the road.

What to embrace

1. Prioritizing Meaningful Moments
It may seem trivial but focus on the moments that matter the most to you and your partner. No need to chase current Junebug weddings trends or whatever is popular on Pinterest – choose activities and locations that hold personal significance and meaning to you.

2. Embracing Spontaneity
Even the most perfect, thought-through plans fail, and the very nature of an elopement is its go-with-the-flow vibe. This is especially prevalent in Iceland (see the weather remarks), so staying open minded, allowing for some spontaneity and being chill about the things you can’t control will make your experience so much more enjoyable.

3. Seeking Professional Guidance
You don’t have to figure everything out on your own – that’s what we’re here for! Asking for help and assistance from experienced elopement photographers who can offer valuable insights into crafting your timeline is allowed and encouraged. We’ll be more than happy to help you!

Real elopement timeline examples

I think it’s important to mention, there are no rights or wrongs here – it’s all up to you and your personal preferences. And no, I am not going to try and upsell, and claim that only 12-hour elopements are valid and meaningful, while those who go for 4 hours haven’t got the slightest idea of what a true elopement is. I’ve documented the most heartfelt and endearing elopements that lasted a couple of hours. I’ve also shot the most epic adventurous elopements spanning over 2 days. The main idea here is to make sure that your wishes and priorities are met!

I can’t speak for every photographer out there, but I can certainly give you a rundown on how we do thing at Ást og Hraun. No dry numbers and abstract ideas – let’s take a look at examples of real elopements, real timelines, and real galleries below.

Mini elopement (4 hours)

A mini elopement is ideal for couples seeking a shorter, more streamlined experience. It’s also a great match for those who are mindful of their budget. Typically, it will include a ceremony and 2-3 locations to explore. With 4 hours at your disposal, the best approach is to keep it simple and get the most out of your time. Ask your photographer to find the locations in close proximity to each other (to avoid long driving distances), and skip the break – you can always munch in the car if necessary.

Sunset mini elopement in Reykjanes

4 PM – we pick up our couple at a cozy Airbnb in Reykjavik
5 PM – a secular ceremony at Kleifarvatn Lake on Reykjanes peninsula
5.30 PM – we proceed to explore the surrounding area and several locations close by
8 PM – we finish our coverage at the cliffs

Half a day elopement (6 hours)

Two extra hours might not seem like much, but they can be a game changer if you’d like to have those getting-ready moments or the first look captured. It will also allow you to travel further or explore a location that requires a longer walk or a hike.

Golden hour November elopement in Snaefellsnes

11 AM – we arrive at the hotel to meet our couple and document them getting ready
11.40 AM – a secular ceremony within 15 min walk from the hotel
Noon – portraits in the area
12.30 PM – a little coffee break/warm-up at the hotel
1 PM – driving to the black sand beach and taking some photos there
2.30 PM – driving to a different location on the coast for more photos
4 PM – arriving on the northern side of the peninsula and capturing more photos as the sun goes down
5 PM – finishing our coverage on a lava field

Full day elopement (8-10 hours)

I will admit, full day elopements are our favorites, as they give you enough time to include and fully enjoy all the essential parts of a typical elopement. You can set it up pretty much anywhere in Iceland, and pick any of the remote hidden locations or include an exciting activity of your choice.

Adventurous full day elopement in the south of Iceland

1 PM – we arrive at the cabin to meet our couple and document them getting ready + first look + family photos
2.30 PM – heading out to the church for the ceremony
3 PM – ceremony in the church + family portraits outside
4 PM – dinner break
5.30 PM – photos at the first location
7 PM – photos at the black sand beach
8.30 PM – photos at the glacier
11 PM – finishing our coverage at the waterfall

Day & Night elopement (12-14 hours)

This one is for those who want the ultimate adventure! You can split the hours in 2 days – usually a longer first day, and a shorter second day. Or opt for something truly unique, like having your elopement stretch well into the night (hence the title), which can be especially exciting during the summer months with the midnight sun phenomenon. This timeline suits well for exploring different parts of the country or locations that are hard to reach, and is perfect for longer types of activities, like an ice cave tour or a geothermal pool visit.

Midnight sun elopement in the Westfjords

3 PM – we arrive at the cabin to meet our couple and document them getting ready
4 PM – heading out to the first location on the mountain pass
4.30 PM – photos at the first location
5.30 PM – photos at the second location
6 PM – photos at the waterfall
7.30 PM – dinner break
9 PM – photos at the black sand beach
Midnight – intimate ceremony in the mountains
1 AM – a break at the cabin before heading out to the geothermal pool
2 AM – relaxing in the pool
3 AM – finishing our coverage

Four steps to plan your elopement timeline

Alright, now that you know absolutely everything there is to know about elopement timelines, here are 4 practical steps to follow when you are ready to start planning your own.

1. Brainstorm

Find a nice quiet time with your beloved, grab a glass of your favorite drink, cozy up on the sofa together, and let your imagination run free. What comes to mind when you think about your elopement? How do you see the day unravel? What would you like to include in it? What are the most important elements and experiences you’d like to share? Write everything down, and don’t worry about the practical possibilities (the budget) or the order of things – for now your main goal is to figure out the general outline of the day and what you would like to fill it with.

2. Set a rough timeframe.

Decide on when you’d like your day to start and finish. Does an early rise sound enticing? Or would you rather go for a midnight ceremony? Once the starting and finishing points are there, divide the time in between with 1-hour increments.

3. Start adding the elements.

Some of them will be difficult to move around – like sunrise or sunset, ocean tides, vendors’ arrival + departure, etc – note those down first. With others, you’ll have more flexibility. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Remember – your day, your way.

4. Share the timeline with your photographer

Most photographers will be more than happy to help you iron out all the remaining details, and make corrections if necessary. Trust me, you’ll want input from someone with experience and knowledge of the vendors, local roads, weather and locations.

Pro-tip. You really don’t have to wade through the planning thickets alone. I love helping our couples figure out how to structure their day, and if asked, I’ll gladly chime in during the brainstorming phase.

Final thoughts

I know, planning something completely new that you’ve never done before, in a country that you (most likely) haven’t visited can be a bit intimidating. But I honestly believe that intentionally crafting your elopement, just the way you want, is a big part of the whole elopement experience, and it’s a truly exciting and rewarding process! Plus don’t forget, we are always here to help you.


That’s all I have for today. Thank you for reading and until next time!

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