Elopements: How To Plan Your Intimate Escape In NZ

October 2021
Wedding Style

Does the idea of standing in front of a hundred guests make you shiver? Are you overwhelmed with the idea of juggling your work and life while planning a catered event? Are half of your family stuck overseas due to Covid and can't even make it to your wedding day? Or maybe you just want to run away on an adventure with your best friend...

To be honest, any reason is a great reason to have one of the most intimate, romantic wedding styles: an elopement!

Elopements create a real sense of adventure and allow the two of you to get completely wrapped up in the intimacy of the day. But is an elopement right for you? How do you even plan an elopement, and what makes it different to a wedding? This article will take you through what an elopement is and how to elope in New Zealand.

What is an elopement?

The term ‘elopement’ has slowly and subtly changed its meaning over time. Originally, couples who eloped were often running away to get married, sometimes even in secret. The idea of an elopement has now become that of an intimate wedding or a destination ceremony. Less of the running away but still the idea of something small, intimate and between two lovers. The part I love most about elopements is that although the meaning has changed over time, there is still the excitement of escaping that comes with the idea.

Aotearoa has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and lends itself to these intimate escapes. You could run away to a beach with a few close family and friends, or tie the knot on a snowy mountaintop.

However you want to do it, there are still some things to plan and organise. Read on to see what’s involved in planning an elopement.

Bride wearing tartan rug over shoulders stands with groom in open countryside

How to elope in New Zealand

So you now have your heart set on saying "I Do" under a beautiful pōhutukawa on a sunny afternoon with a couple of friends. To make sure it's official, you will need to meet the legal requirements for getting married in New Zealand. Here’s how;

  • Lock in your venue ~ You will still need to specify where you are tying the knot on your marriage license. It’s a good idea to pick a plan b spot too, as you can only get married at a location specified on your application.
  • Choose your celebrant ~ Only registered celebrants can perform weddings or civil unions in New Zealand. Find a celebrant who is a local at your getaway spot or is happy to travel.
  • Apply for a marriage licence ~ You must have your marriage licence at least three working days before your ceremony. Best not leave it that late though... right?
  • Organise witnesses ~ You must have two people who can identify you, witness your wedding, and sign your marriage licence.

Take a look at the Government website for all the legal requirements of getting married in New Zealand.

Although you’ve decided not to go for an all-out wedding, keeping a budget is still very important. You are still organising an event and it is important to be conscious of what you are spending. You can easily keep on top of your budget with your free wedding budget as part of your Dream Day account.

Can I invite people to my elopement?

Given the legal requirements, there will be at least 5 people at your ceremony; your celebrant, your witnesses and you two lovebirds. Who else should be a part of the day?

Even though you are having a mini wedding, it is still a day that you will want to look back on and cherish forever. Having a photographer at your elopement to capture these special moments is definitely something to consider, especially if you’re getting married somewhere with an amazing view.

Are you going to invite guests to your little wedding? It is still possible to have the intimate elopement vibe while still sharing the moment with some of your nearest and dearest. Another option is to run off and get married just the two of you and come back to a party afterwards where others can celebrate your love. This could be the same day or later on.

Elopement packages

An elopement that you don’t even need to plan, talk about the ultimate escape!

Some venues will offer elopement packages as an option. This way, you can pick the perfect venue and have them organise your vendors and timings for the day.

If you are getting married in a public space like a national park, there are elopement specialists who can help pull together your perfect little wedding.

Bride and Groom standing on the beach smiling and looking out across the water

What should I wear to my elopement?

Eloping is fun and exciting. Why not plan your outfits to match? If you’re already breaking away from the traditional wedding template, why not carry that through with your outfits.

Running away to the beach? I’m guessing you’re a pretty laid back couple. Maybe you should ditch the formal attire and dress in some flowy, casual clothes to suit? If you’re getting married in the beautiful white snow of the South Island mountain ranges this is a perfect excuse for a glam duo in their luxurious winter coats.

Just remember, if you are having a few of your nearest and dearest join you, they will need to know the dress code too.

How to announce an elopement

Be prepared for reactions from those close to you. If you are eloping without any guests attending, some people may initially feel put out. I’m sure if you explain how this is special, they will come around.

At the end of the day remember it is your love, so celebrate it your way.

Don’t forget all your friends and family who will be so excited to share in your love. If you’re not going to be throwing a celebratory party after your elopement, think about how you would like to tell your wider circle that it’s now official. A social media post might be your thing, or you could make the announcement personal by sending physical cards.

However you do it, consider including a photo or two of you at your wedding. People would love to have a glimpse into the moments you shared on your special day.

Bride stands with arms wide on mountaintop

Are you ready to elope?

All you rule-breakers, thrill-seekers and sightseers are probably itching to elope about now. Go for it!  

Most important of all - do not downplay your elopement!

This is one of the most special days of your lives. You may not be having a massive wedding, but that does not make it any less important.

Celebrate and be proud that you just made a huge commitment to your best friend.