Should You Elope at Sunrise or Sunset?

A couple having a sunset elopement at the beach during golden hour, captured by a California elopement photographer.

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You’ve probably taken a selfie during golden hour before, and maybe you’ve even taken one with some alpenglow in the background as well. If you know anything about these two times of day, then you know that these two times of day provide the absolute best lighting for photos. The light is warm and soft, the colors are beautifully enhanced, and the crowds are minimal. 

If you’ve never heard the terms “golden hour” or “alpenglow” before, don’t worry. I’m here to break it down for you. 

Golden hour is the time right before sunset and right after sunrise where the lighting is softer, more even, and warmer than any other time of day. Alpenglow usually happens during sunrise when the mountain peaks turn pink after sunlight is reflected off clouds or when direct sunlight starts hitting the peaks. It’s not widely known what actually causes this phenomena, but regardless, it’s gorgeous!

As an elopement photographer, I make timelines for my clients before their special day, and when doing so, I always make sure the ceremony or most important part of their day is during sunrise or sunset to take advantage of golden hour or the stunning alpenglow.

This isn’t to say that mid-day elopements won’t give absolutely stunning photos, because they will! However, if you’re really wanting those images to pop, I highly recommend reading through this article to see if you should elope during sunrise or sunset.

A bride and groom sitting and kissing at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego, California during their sunrise elopement.

Sunrise elopement pros

Less crowded

This is definitely the top reason for choosing to do a sunrise elopement. Often times, the prettiest mountains, beaches, and forests are overtaken with crowds during sunset. This can be true with sunrise as well, but it really depends on the location. For example, certain places in Grand Teton National Park or Yosemite can be flooded with photographers in the morning waiting to see the alpenglow across the peaks. However, even the busiest national parks can be completely empty during sunrise. It all depends on the location you choose. Another great thing about sunrise elopements is that not many people are generally hiking up to a mountaintop at three in the morning, so if you’re an early morning riser who doesn’t mind waking up that early to hike to the top of a mountain, then a sunrise elopement sounds like the perfect elopement time for you.

It's a great start to the day

It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s so true! Your relationship has always been an adventure, and your wedding day should be no different. If you’ve ever woken up to catch a sunrise, you know that the first minutes can be less than pleasant. You’re tired and wondering why you woke up in the first place, but after seeing that sunrise, it makes it all worth it. You feel energized, accomplished, and excited to take on the rest of the day. Imagine waking up this early knowing that in a few short hours or minutes, you’ll be getting married to the love of your life. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day!

Better weather

The weather in the morning is often way better than during the day. A lot of the times, if it calls for rain, it’s way more likely to rain during the middle of the day, making sunrise a great time to elope if you want to skip out on the bad weather. This obviously is different for each area, but in general, you’ll have better luck with a sunrise elopement if you take weather into consideration.

It's cooler

Have you ever been on a hike during the middle of a super hot day? It’s definitely not the most pleasant and often ends in extreme fatigue and sweat. Something great about sunrise elopements is that it’s way cooler and much more pleasant than hiking in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest. It preserves makeup, and it’ll make you feel much more comfortable.

You have the rest of the day to spend as a married couple

Something that’s really great about sunrise elopements is that because they’re early, you have the entire rest of the day to do whatever you want, and that includes taking a nap! During sunset elopements, it can often be tiring to do a ton of activities, feel the butterflies and nerves all day, and THEN get married. At the end of the day, you’re pretty worn out. Sunrise elopements allow you to take your time throughout the day and also gives you time to rest if you need it. Interested in checking out a sunrise elopement? Check out this Sunset Cliffs Elopement in San Diego!

A couple playing on the beach during their sunset elopement.

Sunset elopement pros

You get more sleep

This is definitely the largest reason to have a sunset elopement. Many people aren’t morning people, and that’s totally fine! Sunset elopements allow you to sleep in and take the day at a slower pace. Doing this allows you to really soak in your wedding day and take your time to get ready. If waking up at two in the morning to get ready for your day doesn’t sound like something you want to do, then don’t. Have a sunset elopement instead!

Less crowded

Compared to mid-day, there can definitely be less people at your elopement location. While it heavily depends on the location, there will be less crowds which means there will be more intimacy and privacy for you and your partner to exchange vows. While sunrise is generally better for crowds, sunset comes close behind. If you want to really make sure there are no people at your ceremony, then I recommend going with a sunrise elopement. However, if you’re not too worried about a person here or there, then sunset would be a great time for you.

You can get some epic star images

Something great about sunset is that your ceremony or pictures don’t have to stop when the sun goes down. After the sun disappears, there’s another period of light known as “blue hour.” It makes the images have a tint of blue and makes the sky look absolutely amazing. Even after blue hour when the sun is completely gone, the moon is bright, and the stars are out, you can get some very beautiful images of you and your partner’s silhouettes surrounded with beautiful, bright stars. However, it can be a bit tricky to walk down a dark trail if you choose to hike on your elopement day, so just keep that it mind.

It won't be as cold

Early morning can be extremely cold depending on where you elope. Another thing that’s great about sunset elopements is that the sun has been up all day keeping the ground and air nice and warm. It’s great for couples who aren’t fond of the cold. As the sun continues to set, you can add a few more layers to keep warm if needed.

It's a great way to end the day

While sunrise elopements can be a great start to the day, sunset elopements can be a great end to the day. If you like the anticipation of something, then having your ceremony at the end of the day is the perfect cherry on top. After this, you have time to celebrate with a nice dinner and call it a day. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day.

Interested in having a sunrise or sunset elopement? Check out my elopement packages along with a ton of additional resources covering all things elopements, such as this guide all about how to elope in Yosemite.

Need help planning your elopement in California? Check out this post all about how to elope in California along with a post filled with all the best places to elope in California.

Need help planning your dream adventure elopement?

Snag your FREE elopement guide! The same exact one I send to all my couples, filled with tips and tricks about how to prepare for your dream elopement, whether it’s a sunny elopement in California or a cold elopement in Alaska!

A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.
Brianna Parks, a California elopement photographer.

Hey there, I'm Brianna!

I’m a California elopement photographer who had a big traditional wedding, and I can’t tell you how many arguments there were about my day.

I was pressured to pick a certain venue, certain colors, certain guests, and it felt like I was spending thousands of dollars to play host at a party that had nothing to do with the connection between my husband and I.

Don’t fall into the trap society has constructed around big weddings. Instead, buy the plane ticket, get the wedding dress  dirty, and turn your stressed out wedding day into a carefree, adventure filled elopement experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.

Snag your FREE elopement guide! The same exact one I send to all my couples, filled with tips and tricks about how to prepare for your dream elopement, whether it’s a sunny elopement in California or a cold elopement in Alaska!

Brianna Parks, a California elopement photographer.

Hey there, I'm Brianna!

I’m a California elopement photographer who had a big traditional wedding, and I can’t tell you how many arguments there were about my day.

I was pressured to pick a certain venue, certain colors, certain guests, and it felt like I was spending thousands of dollars to play host at a party that had nothing to do with the connection between my husband and I.

Don’t fall into the trap society has constructed around big weddings. Instead, buy the plane ticket, get the wedding dress  dirty, and turn your stressed out wedding day into a carefree, adventure filled elopement experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

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