sunrise vs sunset elopement

Sunrise vs Sunset: Tips for Planning Your Elopement

Choosing when to elope can be one of the biggest challenges for couples, and it’s especially hard when you don’t have all the information to make your decision. So that’s what this guide is for! We’re going to break down the pros and cons of sunrise vs sunset elopements, explain how location plays a role, and tell you why splitting your coverage might be the perfect solution!

when to elope at sunrise vs sunset

Why does choosing sunrise vs sunset matter for your elopement?

Sunrise vs midday vs sunset, what’s the difference? About an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset is a magical time of day called golden hour when the sun casts a soft, golden light across the landscape. This time of day creates a stunning backdrop for elopement photos, with the warm, diffused light making couples glow and giving images a cinematic feel.

Most of the elopements we photograph are 8-12 hours long, meaning a lot of the photos we take are during the middle of the day when the sun is higher and the light can be harsher. We know how to work with lighting and can take great photos any time of day, but shooting at golden hour gives images a different look and feel than at midday.

Around this time is also when most elopement locations are the quietest (but this depends on the location) and locations feel different! At sunrise, there’s a sense of solitude and tranquility as most people are still asleep, creating a more intimate and private experience. At sunset, while there may be more people around, the mood is often relaxed and celebratory.

If you’re dreaming of a private elopement with glowy and romantic wedding photos, we recommend planning key events around sunrise and sunset!

Sunrise Elopements

Pros to a sunrise elopement

Sunrise elopements come with their own set of perks that can make your day feel extra special! Picture this: you wake up and get ready while it’s still dark out, drive to your elopement location without seeing another car on the road, hike to your completely private ceremony site, and just as you’re about to say your vows soft, golden light paints the sky and surrounds you.

If you’re looking for complete privacy on your wedding day, chances are a sunrise elopement is for you! The early hours offer a sense of privacy, giving you a quiet, intimate moment to start your wedding day together.  Plus, there’s something symbolic about kicking off your marriage with the rising sun, signaling a fresh start and new beginnings!

Cons to a sunrise elopement

Although the pros of a sunrise elopement are pretty amazing (complete privacy, incredible light, and a sense of intimacy) the cons can be big for some couples. Waking up before the crack of dawn might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, especially on such a big day. The early start can be particularly challenging if you’re not a morning person or if you’re dealing with other wedding-related stress. Additionally, the light at sunrise changes quickly, so you have to plan your events for the right time or you could miss it. Also, it’s hard to know if you’re going to get a good sunrise until you’re there. We’ve photographed multiple sunrise elopements that ended up being completely fogged in but you don’t know until you’re there.

Sunset Elopements

Pros to a sunset elopement

A sunset elopement brings an entirely different vibe that’s hard to beat! Plus, you get to enjoy a chilled-out morning before the big moment, which is a nice way to start the day! Sunset elopements give you evening light that’s warm and inviting, creating a romantic and cozy atmosphere.

Although sunset isn’t as private as sunrise, it still offers a much greater level of privacy than midday. Most locations will only have a few people around, and if you don’t mind being able to see someone in the distance, a sunset elopement is a great option! You can also make adjustments to your timeline in advance if unforeseen weather or other circumstances make your original plan not ideal. In some national parks, for example, it’s common for some locations to be surrounded by fog while others are completely sunny. Sunset elements give you the ability to see how the weather will play out before you’re there.

Cons to a sunset elopement

Now for the cons. Firstly, sunset is a popular time for tourists and other couples, so you may have to contend with crowds at popular elopement locations. This can take away from the intimacy of the moment and make it harder to find a private spot for your ceremony. Additionally, if you’re running late to your ceremony, it runs later than planned,  or if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you might miss the ideal lighting conditions for your photos and end up in the dark. Lastly, planning a sunset elopement can be a little challenging logistically, as you’ll need to time your ceremony and celebrations around the setting sun. Depending on the time of year and location, that could mean it’s pretty late.

How to choose between sunrise vs sunset?

Choosing the best time to elope depends on a variety of factors, including your personal preferences, the location of your elopement, and the overall vibe you want to create. If you’re a morning person and love the idea of starting your day with complete privacy, a sunrise elopement might be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you prefer a more relaxed and celebratory atmosphere, a sunset elopement could be more your style. Consider the lighting conditions at different times of day and how they will affect your photos. Additionally, think about the activities you want to do before or after your ceremony and how the timing of your elopement will impact those plans.

Another thing to consider is your actual elopement location. On the East Coast the sunrises over the ocean and sets over the land. So if you want glowy photos next to the ocean, sunrise is the best time. On the West Coast, it’s flopped, so sunset may be ideal for you! If you’re getting married in the mountains, check to see how the sun affects how they look. At sunrise, depending on how the mountain faces, you could get an incredible effect called “alpenglow” where the sun hits the mountain and gives it a beautiful red-ish gold glow! Also, consider how popular your elopement location is and what it’s known for. Some elopement locations are hidden gems and will likely be quiet regardless of what time of day you go, but others may be crowded depending on the time. Some national park locations are known for their incredible sunrises or sunsets. Talk with your photographer about when your elopement location is busiest so you can avoid the crowds!

Ultimately, the best time to elope is the time that feels right for you as a couple, so trust your instincts and choose the timing that will make your elopement day truly special.

Bride and groom stand holding hands at sunrise vs sunset elopement

Can’t decide? Don’t!

And if you can’t decide, you don’t have to! Splitting your coverage between sunrise and sunset lets you capture the best of both worlds, avoiding harsh midday light and getting those dreamy morning and evening shots. You can do this two ways: full-day elopement or splitting your coverage between sunrise and sunset.

A lot of couples have a hard time deciding between sunrise and sunset for several reasons. If you’re eloping with guests, it may be difficult to get everyone up and ready for a ceremony at sunrise. Or you may just want a gallery that’s full of the best light! Whatever your reasons are, it is completely doable to have both a sunrise and sunset elopement!

Chat with your elopement photographer (or us!) about what a sunrise and sunset elopement could look like for you based on the vision you have for your wedding day!

Whether you decide on a sunrise, sunset, or split elopement, the choice should be all about what feels right for you as a couple! You truly can’t go wrong! Both options bring their own kind of magic, from the peaceful serenity of a sunrise to the romantic glow of a sunset. It’s all about capturing the vibe and atmosphere that speaks to your love story. So, trust your instincts, go with the flow, and make your elopement day as unique and beautiful as your relationship. After all, the best part is celebrating your love in a way that feels perfectly ‘you’.

If you are looking for your elopement photographer or want to work with us, reach out here!

Meet your photographer team

We’re Bridget & Ryan!

Adventurers turned adventure elopement photographers specializing in national park and hiking elopements! We help couples craft a wedding day that feels authentic to them in a meaningful and epic location. Life’s an adventure, let’s make your wedding one too!