Should You Elope at Sunrise or Sunset?

So you’ve made the decision to elope. Now along with choosing WHERE you will elope is deciding WHEN? Deciding to Elope at sunrise or at sunset can be a tough decision but we’re here to help make it easier for you. When it comes to planning the timing of your elopement ceremony, what’s going to give you the best experience. After all, the experience is why you chose to elope in the first place!

A vast majority of photographers (including myself) will tell you that the best time of day to take photos is sunrise or sunset. Is it still possible to get good photos in the middle of the day? Absolutely! If your photographer is experienced in dealing with harsh light, you can still have awesome images. The main difficulty with shooting in the harsh sunlight is avoiding what we call “raccoon eyes” from the sun being directly overhead and causing harsh eye shadows. This is why we suggest sunrise or sunset so the sun is lower in the horizon causing less unappealing shadows.

Have you ever heard anyone use the term “golden hour?” Golden hour is the period of the day just before the sun sets or after it rises, when the light is warmer toned and softer than usual so that photographs taken in it have a pleasing quality. This is when a lot of the epic images you see online are taken. So, here’s a few pros to consider to help make your choice.

sunrise or sunset elopement
The Grand Canyon at Sunrise

Sunrise Elopement Pros

The Light

There is nothing like a good sunrise! For most of our sunrise elopements, we start the day in the dark and as we are hiking or driving, the sun starts peeking over the horizon.

If you’re getting married in the mountains you might get to experience what we call Alpenglow. 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. While Alpenglow isn’t guaranteed, its amazing when it happens!

The Privacy

In my opinion, the best reason to elope at runrise is the seclusion it offers. Let’s be honest, the idea of waking up at zero dark thirty is not appealing to me. But that also means most other people will be sleeping in and won’t be out yet. It takes dedication to get up early AF to do your hair and makeup and get ready but if your open to suck down a pot of coffee and hit the trail at 4AM to have the first light of day all to yourselfs then I say DO IT!

Of course, this isn’t a guarantee at all locations. For example, some locations like Yosemite, the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado and Arches National Park have 10-50 photographers nearly every day waiting for sunrise because that’s when the mountains glow pink and the view is very easily accessed.

The Weather

In many mountainous areas, the weather is usually better at sunrise. More often than not, if the forecast calls for rain, it’s way more likely to do so during the middle of the day. This does vary for different regions but in general, you’re more likely to have better luck with a sunrise elopement.

It’s Cooler

Have you ever been hiking in the middle of a super hot day? Especially here in Texas! You feel like your taking a hike through Hades. It is NOT pleasant and usually ends in dehydration, extreme fatigue and a sweaty everything. Sunrise is way cooler out and makes it much more pleasant to hike in. You will be MUCH more comfortable and your hair and makeup will thank you for avoiding all the sweat.


A sunrise elopement is great if your planning on doing something afterwards. Like hanging out with family, excursions or dinner reservations. Sunsets can be fairly late, especially in the summertime. Which makes is hard to plan certain activities afterwards. One fun thing if your doing any hiking for your elopement is that the trail is super dark on your hike up, so after your ceremony its like a whole new experience on the way down!

sunrise or sunset elopement
Big Bend National Park at Sunset

Sunset Elopement Pros

The Light

As with sunrise, the location and direction it’s facing can make the lighting more ideal for sunset. Most elopement photographers will have an app for determining where the sun will be on your wedding day!

Warmer weather

Depending on where and the time of year your eloping, early morning could be extremely cold. What is awesome about a sunset elopement is that the sun has been up all day and now the air and ground are nice and warmies. As the sun continues to set, you can add a few more layers to keep warm if needed.

Getting to sleep in

What matters most is having the best experience on your wedding day. If the thought of waking up so early to do your hair and makeup and be ready in time to get on location before dawn gives you the hives, then sunset may be better suited for you.

Being 100% in the moment and enjoying every minute of your day reflects in your photos. If you’re not having the best day of your life, it will reflect in your images.

Less Crowded

While it depends heavily on the location, there is more likely to be less crowds at sunset. It might not be as secluded as sunrise but if your not worried about a few stragglers walking around you will be good. In summer where sunset times can be well after 8 PM, most hikers have already returned for the night. In the spring or fall, when it is between 5-7 PM, most people have left for dinner.

Some places that are super popular and well known for their sunsets such as Lipan Point at the Grand Canyon might be better to try during sunrise.

You Can Get Some Epic Star Images

My favorite thing about sunset elopements is that we don’t have to stop when the sun goes down. After the sun is gone, there is another period of light known as “blue hour.” It makes the images have a tint of blue and makes the sky look absolutely amazing. Then once blue hour is over and the sun is totally gone we can get some epic photos of you surrounded by bright stars. That is, if cloud clover allows! If you had a hike to your location make sure you go prepared with headlamps and lights for the hike back down. Hiking down in the dark can be a serene and peaceful experience if properly prepared.

sunrise or sunset elopement
Sunset over Lost Mines Trail in Big Bend

It’s worth taking the time to talk to and trust your photographer. Everything we suggest is to help give you the best experience. We can’t guarantee exactly how a day is going to pan but we can do everything we can to prepare and educate you. The weather forecast and season will render locations differently. Choosing locations and times that work as a progression of those locations is what comes with working with an experienced elopement photographer!

We would love to help you plan a beautiful sunrise or sunset elopement! Click here to contact us with any questions!


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