New Zealand is a stunning destination for an elopement. With breathtaking landscapes, diverse scenery, and a relaxed and welcoming culture, it’s no wonder that so many couples choose to celebrate their love here, as well as of course Kiwi couples eloping at home. In 2013, New Zealand become the 13th country to legalize same sex marriage, and since then it has also become a popular country for same-sex couples to come to for their elopement.
If you’re considering eloping in New Zealand, here’s how to plan your perfect day. First though, what does it mean to “Elope”?
What is an Elopement?
An elopement is a wedding ceremony usually planned in secret, often involving just the couple, an an officiant and the legally required witnesses. It is often a private, intimate ceremony that can take place in a unique location, such as a beach, forest, or mountaintop (where traditional weddings may not be able to). Unlike a traditional wedding, elopements are usually simple and low-key affairs that prioritise the couple’s love for each other over the spectacle of a large event.
Why would a couple choose to elope?
Elopements have become increasingly popular in recent years, as many couples seek to forgo the stress and expense of a traditional wedding and instead focus on the intimate moments and experiences that matter most to them. Of course, due to the disruption to travel caused by Covid-19, many couples have also been forced to consider marrying in a small ceremony, as their family and friends couldn’t travel to them. However, there are also some very appealing benefits to planning an elopement over a large wedding.
Benefits of an Elopement
- Intimacy: Elopements are often more intimate and private than traditional weddings, which can be overwhelming and stressful for some couples. Elopements allow the couple to focus on their love for each other and create a special, personal experience that is shared only between them.
- Unique Location: Many couples choose to elope in a location that holds special meaning for them, such as a scenic spot where they first met, a destination they’ve always wanted to visit, or a place that reflects their shared interests or values. Eloping in a unique location allows the couple to create a truly memorable and meaningful wedding experience.
- Cost: Traditional weddings can be very expensive, with the “average wedding” in New Zealand costing over $30,000. Eloping can be a more affordable option for couples who want to celebrate their love without breaking the bank. By eliminating many of the costs associated with a traditional wedding (many of which are due to guest numbers), couples can use their savings to fund travel, accommodations, or other experiences that enhance their elopement.
- Freedom: Eloping can be a great option for couples who want the freedom to plan their wedding on their own terms. Without the pressure of family or societal expectations, couples can create a wedding experience that reflects their unique personalities, interests, and values.
- Minimal Planning: Planning a traditional wedding can be a stressful and time-consuming process. By contrast, elopements are often more simple and low-key affairs that require minimal planning. This can be a great option for busy couples who don’t have the time or energy to plan a big wedding. You may still wish to consider using a wedding planner book such as our little white book, to help keep track of all the little details, and have a keepsake of your special experience.
Elopements can also be a great option for couples who want to marry in a location that holds special meaning for them, such as a place they’ve traveled together or a spot where they first met.
It’s worth noting that while elopements were traditionally associated with running away to get married without parental consent, today elopements are simply a choice for couples who want a more intimate, personal, and unique wedding experience.
Pick a location for your New Zealand elopement.
New Zealand is a vast country with a variety of landscapes to choose from. From snow-capped mountains to pristine beaches, lush rainforests to rolling hills, the options are endless. Take some time to consider what type of scenery appeals to you and your partner. Do you want to exchange vows in a secluded forest glade or on a windswept cliff overlooking the ocean? Do you dream of saying “I do” in front of a glacier or a sparkling lake? Once you’ve narrowed down your preferences, research specific locations that match your vision.
Some popular locations for elopements in New Zealand (see also Top 10 New Zealand Wedding Venues) include:
- Queenstown and Wanaka: These scenic towns in the South Island offer stunning mountain vistas, crystal-clear lakes, and a range of adventure activities.
- Fiordland National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes, including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
- Abel Tasman National Park: Located in the north of the South Island, Abel Tasman is known for its golden beaches, turquoise waters, and lush coastal forests.
- Coromandel Peninsula: This scenic area on the North Island boasts stunning beaches, rugged coastlines, and picturesque towns.
Set Your Elopement Date
New Zealand’s climate varies widely depending on the region and time of year. The peak tourist season is from December to February, when the weather is warm and sunny. However, this also means that popular destinations can be crowded and prices can be higher. If you prefer a quieter, more affordable experience, consider eloping during the shoulder seasons of spring (September-November) or autumn (March-May). Winter (June-August) can be a magical time to elope in New Zealand, with snow-capped mountains and cosy lodges offering a romantic backdrop.
Once you’ve chosen a time of year, consider any other factors that may affect your date. For example, some locations may be closed or inaccessible during certain seasons, or you may need to book well in advance to secure your preferred date.
Decide on Your (Possibly very small) Guest List
One of the benefits of eloping is that you can keep your wedding guest list as small as you like. Some couples choose to invite only their witnesses (required for legal purposes), while others may invite a few close family members or friends. Remember, eloping is about celebrating your love in an intimate way, so don’t feel pressured to invite anyone who doesn’t enhance that experience.
Hire A few select Wedding Vendors to bring your Elopement Dreams to Life
Depending on your preferences and budget, you may want to hire vendors to help make your elopement special. Here are some vendors to consider:
- Photographer: A professional photographer can capture your special day and create lasting memories. Some photographers advertise as specifically elopement photographers.
- Officiant: You’ll need to find a New Zealand celebrant to legally marry you. Consider hiring someone who resonates with your values and beliefs. In New Zealand, they will have to be a legal officiant, for it to be a legal marriage.
- Florist: Flowers can add a beautiful touch to your elopement. Consider choosing local blooms that are in season.
- Hair and Makeup Artist: Consider hiring a hair and makeup artist who can create a look that matches your vision.
Plan your Elopement Ceremony
Elopements can be as simple or elaborate as you like. Consider the style and format of your ceremony, including any readings, music, or vows. If you’re not sure where to start, think about what is important to you and your partner. Do you want to write your own vows or recite traditional ones? Do you want to include a special ritual or symbolic gesture in your ceremony, such as lighting a unity candle or exchanging rings? Think about what will make your ceremony feel personal and meaningful to you both.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider working with your officiant/celebrant to create a ceremony that reflects your values and personalities. Many officiants are experienced in helping couples create personalized ceremonies that are tailored to their preferences.
Consider the Legal Requirements of Eloping
Before you can get married in New Zealand, you’ll need to obtain a New Zealand marriage license. This process can take up to three days, so be sure to plan ahead. You’ll also need two witnesses over the age of 18 to sign your marriage licence (who must be present at the ceremony).
If you’re not a New Zealand citizen or resident, you may need to provide additional documentation to obtain your marriage license. Check with the Department of Internal Affairs for specific requirements.
Plan the Details of Your Elopement
Once you’ve chosen your location, date, and vendors, it’s time to plan the details of your elopement. Here are some things to consider:
- What to Wear: Choose attire that is comfortable and suits the location and season. Consider the weather and any physical activities you’ll be doing, if you have to get to an obscure location.
- Transportation: Decide how you’ll get to and from your ceremony location. If you’re getting married in a remote area, you may need to hire a car or arrange for a shuttle. In Queenstown, many also hire a helicopter.
- Accommodation: If you’re staying in New Zealand for a few days, you’ll need to book accommodation. Consider staying in a romantic lodge, cabin, or glamping site that matches the style and ambiance of your elopement.
- Celebratory Meal: After your ceremony, consider celebrating with a special meal. Many lodges and restaurants offer romantic dining options, you may be able to find a private dining room for your guests if you wish, such as at Eichardts in Queenstown.
- Activities: Depending on your location, you may want to incorporate activities into your elopement. Consider what activities will enhance your experience and make your day special.
Celebrate Your Elopement
Finally, after all the planning and preparation, it’s time to celebrate your love! Take time to savor the moment and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Take lots of photos to remember your special day, record it in your wedding planner book or buy our marriage journal to record your celebration, and always look back on the unforgettable experience.
Eloping in New Zealand can be an unforgettable experience. With stunning landscapes, a welcoming culture, and plenty of opportunities for adventure, it’s no wonder that so many couples choose to celebrate their love here. By following these steps and planning ahead, you can create a beautiful and memorable elopement that reflects your unique love story.