Sunrise Elopement vs Sunset Elopement

Filed in: Elopements

Should you Elope at Sunrise or Sunset?

Deciding if you should elope at sunrise or sunset can be a tough decision! The best decision is the one that best fits the experience you want for your elopement. You chose to skip a traditional wedding for a reason and have the adventure of a lifetime, so your experience is ALWAYS the most important factor when making decisions!

It’s worth taking the time and trusting in your team. I promise we do everything to help bring that vision to life. There’s no exact formula for how a day will turn out. There are different pros and cons to choosing a time of day for your elopement and each location. In addition, the weather forecast and the season will render images in a different way.

Washington Elopement | Megan Montalvo Photography

Most photographers will tell you that the best light is around sunrise or sunset on a clear day. That doesn’t mean photographs can’t be taken between let’s say 9am and 2pm. It just means you need a photographer who’s experienced in working with harsh light. Then allow yourselves to trust their judgment when it comes to doing so! All-day adventures are AMAZING. Choosing locations and times that work as a progression of those locations is what comes with working with an experienced team!

Washington Destination Elopement Locations | Megan Montalvo Photography

Sunrise Elopement

I totally understand that we’re not all morning people. When I have to wake up early for a sunrise session, I barely sleep thinking  I’ll sleep through the 5 alarms I have set. I enjoy staying warm and cozy and having slow mornings with my tea or coffee. But, time and time again – my favorite images come from sunrise. There’s something so amazing about the serenity, the intimacy, the sounds and the light at this time of day. Whether you’re a morning person or not, I wouldn’t knock it without reading below.

Seclusion: Experience shows that most people feel the way I do about being productive before the sun rises and choose sleep over sunrises. This can work to your advantage for your elopement ceremony because even popular locations tend to be quiet at this time.

Weather: Weather on your elopement day will vary greatly by region and season. Typically, areas with rolling thunderstorms form in the afternoons. Mornings in the PNW (with the exception of Summer) usually start with some fog and slowly change throughout the morning. This produces such an incredible difference and variety in your photos.

Better light: Depending on the location and view, the light may be more ideal at sunrise. If the area is exposed and facing east when the sun rises, the light will hit the surrounding area first. If you have mountains, you’ll start off your day with a beautiful alpine glow.

It’s colder: It’s always colder in the mornings so when looking at the weather, chances are you’re going to start off your day with the “lows.” Depending on your location and whether you enjoy the cold or warmth, you can use this to your advantage.

A great way to start your day: What better way to start your day? If you choose to hike, this time of the morning can feel somewhat like meditating. You can only see as far as your headlamp, so there’s no disappointment about false summits. On the way back, you’ll have an entirely new experience seeing the trail for the first time.

Time: If you’re planning on doing something after like time with family or dinner reservations, you’ll have plenty of time for that! Sunsets (especially in the Summer) mean really late nights (sometimes ending around 10-11pm!) The same can be true for the reverse. If you tend to run late or stress about times, mornings may not be for you. The BEST light on a cloudless day is FIRST thing so timeliness is important and sometimes means 2am starts! We typically start before the sun is up which sometimes means hiking in the dark. The exciting part about this is a new adventure on your way back down!

Hair and Makeup: Your hair and makeup are freshest at the beginning of the day for the BEST light with those wide-open backdrops.

How to have a destination sunset elopement | Megan Montalvo Photography

Sunset Elopement

We all love a glowy, warm and golden sunset! Most of the time, choosing sunset allows for more flexibility in the earlier part of your day. During peak season it will generally run through dinner and I mean, we all love food. Check out a few pros and cons to eloping around sunset below:

Intimacy: If you’re hiking to your elopement ceremony, it can be more secluded if it’s not a popular spot because people generally try to get back before dark. If you’re choosing an easy-to-access location and eloping during a popular season, it can be less intimate during this time.

Lighting: Just like sunrise, the location and direction it’s facing can make the lighting more ideal for sunset. I have a fancy app for determining where the sun will be on your wedding day!

You can sleep in longer: Having the best experience on your wedding day matters most. If you feel anxiety rising about having to do hair, makeup, drive and start at a trailhead or location before dawn, then sunset may be better for you despite weather and lighting. 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.

It’s warmer: Just like sunrise, this is up to your preference, location and season!

The best light is at the end of your day: It takes everyone a little bit of time to warm up in front of the camera. By having the best light at the end of the day, most couples are like “what camera?” I love interacting with couples, shooting documentary-style and making sure you’re having the best day of your life instead of simply taking posed photos. Most people haven’t had this type of photo experience so, despite all of the previous being said, it takes a little to get comfortable with a camera!

The giddy hike down: Hiking down after everything is said and done is a lot of fun. You’ll be over the moon happy and reliving every moment of your day.

Intimate Mountain Top Elopement | Megan Montalvo Photography

If these pros and cons haven’t answered all of your questions about whether you should elope at sunrise or sunset, feel free to email us and we’re happy to help! 

To see elopements photographed by MMP, click here!

If you’re still trying to decide if an elopement is right for you, check out our blog “5 Reasons To Elope or Have an Intimate Wedding.”

Megan Montalvo is a PNW Elopement Photographer based out of Seattle, Washington. Megan offers intimate wedding and elopement photography to surrounding PNW destinations such as Tacoma, Olympia, Mount Storm King, Lake Crescent, Hurricane Ridge, Mt. Rainier, Lake Quinault, Snoqualmie, Snoqualmie Pass, Cle Elum, Suncadia, Leavenworth, Ruby Beach, Cape Kiwanda, Canon Beach and the San Juan Islands.

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Welcome to the blog! I’m a small-town Florida girl and Army wife relocated to the Seattle Suburbs, documenting love from one coast to the other. I live for a good PNW mountain breeze, sweat pants, and local eats. Let's be friends!

Hey there! I'm megan-
Washington Elopement and Intimate Wedding PHOTOGRAPHER



The Sanders Estate is the perfect combination of southern vintage elegance and outdoor beauty. It was no surprise that these two had a stunning day filled with sunshine, beauty and sentiment.

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