A Photographer’s Guide to Creating All-Day Elopement Packages

Photographers are sometimes their own worst enemy. We think inquiring couples didn’t ask for something because they didn’t want it. But in reality, it’s more likely they didn’t know it was an option or didn’t realize what it would be like for them. All-day elopement packages are one of these things—couples are absolutely interested, but too few photographers prominently market this as an option. Couples have a clear idea of what a big wedding is because it’s widely accepted and displayed. It’s up to a photographer to communicate the value of an all-day elopement experience if they want couples to book it.

Your clear vision for what an all-day celebration can be is going to help couples decide what kind of day they want. Whether you’re speaking with clients who were planning a big wedding but might be open to eloping or talking to someone considering an elopement, it’s likely they haven’t heard of all-day elopement packages. This lack of understanding means there is a lot of room for opportunity and creativity if you can thoroughly communicate your vision for what their elopement day could be. 

[Read: Book Your First Elopements with These Marketing Techniques]

Since couples rarely come to us requesting all-day elopement packages, we begin by laying the groundwork on our website and social media channels. If a couple finds us on Google or Instagram, every piece of our marketing channel exists to educate them about all-day elopements. Once a couple has inquired, we reiterate that message in the initial phone call, our emails and the resources we send to help couples plan. 

Be extremely intentional about your message and your audience as you craft your own marketing plan. Ask yourself who you’re trying to communicate to and what they might appreciate learning. Don’t assume that couples eloping or planning weddings have as much knowledge about the options available in the wedding world as you do. In fact, assume that they know less.

[Read: How to Price Elopement Photography and Determine Your Value (No Undercutting!)]

Upselling for Good Reason: Elopements Deserve More Time Than Many Photographers Offer

planning for all-day elopement package, couple heads to helicopter with maddie mae of adventure instead
Elopements can be packed with activities that would allot for an all-day elopement package.

There’s this assumption in the photography world that eloping couples aren’t willing to book photographers for more than an hour or two, and that’s why elopement packages are rarely listed as longer. Why is this? In the last five years, I’ve focused solely on photographing elopements and have never spent less than 4 hours with each couple. I’m usually booked for 8-10 hours.

Couples don’t want shorter elopements, but the assumption that they do leaves photographers sabotaging themselves without even realizing it.

[Read: What Does It Really Take to Photograph Adventure Elopements?]

To bring couples on board for all-day elopement packages, you need to believe that the couples you work with deserve all-day coverage. If you don’t believe this, neither will they.

If a couple comes to us asking for only a couple hours of photography, my response will always be something along the lines of: “But this is your wedding day, the whole day deserves to be documented for you to look back on in the same way that a couple planning a traditional wedding will have photos from their whole day to help them immortalize the experience.”

I say that because I believe every word, not because my goal is “upselling.” While yes, an all-day elopement package is more expensive, the value is priceless.

Elopements are not photo shoots. This is the day they will share their vows, and this will be their anniversary forever. How it is documented will affect how it is remembered, and if a vast majority of the day is not documented, those moments might be lost to time. Couples must be educated on the fact that having photos of the whole experience is genuinely worth the extra documentation. 

How to Offer Eloping Couples the Time You’d Give a Big Wedding

Don’t be afraid to ditch your one- or two-hour elopement packages if you really want to prioritize photographing all-day elopements. When a couple inquires, it is your opportunity to paint them a picture of what an all-day elopement package can look like.

Show them other all-day elopement galleries and present an example of an all-day elopement package timeline. Explain that photos of their whole experience are important so they can show people who weren’t present. I like to ask couples, “Throw all logistics out the window. If the two of you could craft one single day to experience the best date ever, what would that day look like? Where would you go, what would you eat, drink, etc.?” Put the ball in their court to expand what they believe is possible for the day they get married. Make it clear that even if a couple only plans to have a short ceremony, they will likely still designate the whole day to be special.

Tips For Planning an All-Day Elopement Timeline

first look during all-day elopement timeline by adventure instead
Elopements contain the same visual expectations as bigger weddings, like the couple’s first look, pictured here.

If you’re unsure where to begin with crafting an all-day elopement timeline, begin with a traditional wedding timeline:

1. The day begins with the couple getting ready.

2. Then they often have a first look and go on to the ceremony.

3. After the ceremony, they get portraits taken, pop some Champagne and eat a meal.

4. The time that might be otherwise spent documenting a reception dance floor is instead spent with this hypothetical couple as they end their day cozying up next to the fireplace in their rental cabin. 

For an eloping couple, some of those details might be a little different, but it’s a great place to start. Be specific as you begin crafting a timeline for your couple. One of the best things about eloping is having less stress on the day you get married, but planning time to be present doesn’t mean your elopement timeline needs to be vague or have empty moments. Build time to chill into a descriptive vision for this couple’s experience, and help them imagine just how incredible it’ll be to enjoy their whole day together on their own terms.

The Scope of the Elopement Location

If you’re planning an outdoor elopement, one of the most important technical parts of crafting an elopement timeline is knowing the sunrise and sunset times. The actual amount of light where you are is affected by fixtures on the skyline, if you’re on the north face of a hill, and if the area is forested.

Don’t just rely on your weather app. Use tools like Google Earth to see how the sun moves through the sky at different times of the year, or scout the location beforehand.

How to Plan for a City Elopement

Not every elopement is a hiking elopement; urban elopements can be all-day adventures too. If you know your couple is looking for a city experience, think about ways to fill that time exploring the best parts of the city.

I recommend thinking about urban elopement timelines this way: If you had friends coming to town to visit for a day, what would you suggest they do? Do all the things and have all the fun, and at some point during this epic day, the couple will say their vows and commit their lives together. The ceremony is truly the peak experience on this day, but the idea is about creating an authentic and unique adventure for the two of them.

Example of an All-Day Elopement Timeline 

eloping couple flies in helicopter in all-day elopement package by adventure instead
Even a simple elopement can easily turn into an all-day elopement package—let alone when big activities like helicopter rides are baked into the day.

Below is an example of an 8-hour elopement timeline that I’d give to a couple planning a short hiking elopement with one or two locations. Details like the length of a hike, the driving distance between locations, and the exact sunset and sunrise moments would affect these times. For the sake of this example, let’s say the sun sets at 6 p.m.

12 p.m. Meet at the rental cabin and document the final touches of getting ready. 

12:30 p.m. Step outside to document the first look in front of the cabin.

1:00 p.m. Pack up and head toward the ceremony location (let’s say it’s a 30-minute drive).

1:30 p.m. Begin 2-mile hike from the trailhead, stopping along the way at a viewpoint.

2:30 p.m. Arrive at the ceremony location and document the ceremony.

3:00 p.m. Pop Champagne and have a picnic.

4:00 p.m. Read letters from family and put on music for the first dance.

5:30 p.m. Take portraits and explore the trail back until the sun goes down.

6:30 p.m. Arrive back at the trailhead and head back to the rental cabin.

7:30 p.m. Cozy up by the fireplace.

8:00 p.m. End of session.

couple kisses at their ceremony during all-day elopement by adventure instead
It’s important for photographers to educate couples on the importance of all-day elopement documentation. They won’t regret it.

Communicating how valuable elopement photography is will open up a world of possibilities for couples, and the result will be a day that’s better than they expected. Photographers have more control over the narrative than they think. Offering all-day elopement packages as the norm, rather than the exception, will result in more couples looking for this from the onset. 

Maddie Mae is an adventure elopement photographer through her business, Adventure Instead, based in Colorado. She was named one of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography in 2018. Join a community of adventurous wedding and elopement photographers and take your business to the next level with tons of free trainings, collaboration and genuine connections by Adventure Instead.

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