New Zealand has been a favourite for eloping couples for a long time. It could be the stunning locations, the ability to get married anywhere you want or simply the excuse for a NZ holiday.  All you need to do to verify this is google eloping in New Zealand and you will find heaps of companies specialising in arranging elopements especially for overseas visitors.  Though, Covid-19 has put a stop to these international visitors it has not put a stop to weddings in New Zealand.  So if you are lucky enough to be in NZ right now you can do what is unthinkable worldwide.  You can get married with hundreds of guests, you can dance, hug your family and no one needs to wear a mask.  But that doesn’t mean you have to.  If you would prefer a more private wedding why not elope?

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View of a bride and groom standing under a tree
Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

1. What does eloping in New Zealand mean

Eloping used to mean running away with your partner in secret to get married.  As once you were married your family would have to accept your partner no matter how inappropriate they are, right?  Now things are slightly different.  Apart of the odd awkward family moment at Christmas no one really cares if your partner is a bogan or a lord.  This doesn’t mean that there is now no reason to elope though.  There are heaps of reasons eloping might be your best option if you are engaged.  Also eloping in the 21st Century can mean pretty much whatever you want it to.  Just so long as you don’t invite everyone you know.  

So the basic idea of an elopement today is you and your partner getting married with very limited guests.  Its that simple!  You could have a couple of guests if you want or you could go it alone.  Also you might runaway in secret or tell everyone you know a year in advance.  The wedding venue could be your local park or a stunning destination.  The choices are wide open with elopements, especially in NZ!    

2. Where to elope in New Zealand

In New Zealand you can legally get married anywhere you like as long as a registered celebrant conducts the ceremony.  So the sky is the limit on where you can elope in New Zealand.  You could get married in your garden  and call it a day or you could pick a destination you love and make an adventure of your wedding.  One of the most exciting aspects of eloping is the freedom you get from not having to worry about guests.  So you can choose a more remote location or somewhere that has to be hiked to.  Your Aunt Jess might have complained but she’s not invited!  Also with only a few people and suppliers to think of you can have a mid-week ceremony which will save you heaps of money.  With this in mind these are our favourite elopement places. 

Northland

If you like sunshine, stunning beaches, history and amazing waterways Northland is probably a good place to elope to.  But as it is a stunning place not far from Auckland you can imagine there is a big elopement market here.  This can make it a touch more expensive and also harder to book.  As such when you know you want a Northland elopement start booking your venue and suppliers quickly.  Some location ideas to get you started are Mangawhai Heads for a beautiful beach vibe, Russell for the joy in telling people you got married in the ‘hell hole of the Pacific’ and because its stunning.

Rotorua

Thermal area in Rotorua - a possible destination when eloping in New Zealand

Only 3 hours from Auckland by car and with its own airport Rotorua is super easy to get to.  It is well known for being the home of Whakarewarewa, a beautiful lake, geysers, hot pools and a slightly stinky atmosphere.  For these reasons Rotorua can make an excellent elopement destination.  There are various lakeside venues like Peppers on the Point which provide luxury accommodation and lovely views.  However, in Rotorua you could also consider eloping in a Redwood forest.

Marlborough

Marlbourgh is a crazy amazing place which offers a bit of everything great about NZ.  So if you are after dramatic scenery and helicopter trips you could fly to Forsyth Island.  Or if you want the dry expanses found in Otago there is Blenheim.  Also the surrounding area of Blenheim is where a lot of great wineries are located.  On the other hand if you prefer a beach destination there is the whole of the Marlborough Sounds to consider. Amazing right?! 

Close up view of a grape vine in a vineyard
Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

Queenstown

Pre-covid Queenstown was the number one destination for international elopements.  It’s not surprising when you consider the dramatically beautiful scenery, luxury accommodation and amazing food.  So now the international visitors have slowed down its a chance for kiwis to take advantage of this area.  With Queenstown being such a wedding hotspot there are lots of wedding planners and suppliers waiting to help you plan your elopement.  As, such this could be your moment to support local and help some businesses that will be struggling due to covid.  If you can’t afford a planner some classic Queenstown elopement options are Coromandel Peak accessible by helicopter, Moke Lake and Coronet Peak.

View of a beach with clear blue water and mountains in the distance. A possible destination when eloping in New Zealand
Photo by Ketan Kumawat from Pexels

3. When to elope in New Zealand

The peak season for eloping in New Zealand is much the same as the regular wedding season.  So the peak season when the weather is best is October to March.  This is also the season when things are more expensive so for a cheaper elopement look at April to September or mid-week in the spring/summer months.  One thing to consider is during the summer months some of the more popular destinations get really busy.  For this reason choosing a more remote location or an off peak date can actually make your day more special.  No one wants a crowd of tourists watching your private elopement ceremony.

4. The legalities of eloping in New Zealand

In New Zealand there are two types of recognised ceremonies.  These are a registry ceremony which has set vows, is held on a weekday and has a standard fee.  Or you could have a personalised ceremony which can be anywhere you choose and can include any vows that you wish.  Whichever option you choose you will need to follow some similar steps.

1. Decide where you will have your wedding ceremony.  This is needed for your marriage license application as well as organising all your other wedding logistics.

2. Choose your celebrant and confirm their availability.

3. Apply for your marriage licence.  You need to do this at least three working days in advance.  This document is super important as it confirms you are able to marry legally.

4. Sort out your witnesses.  You will need two.

5. Get married!  Afterwards your celebrant will give you a Copy of Particulars on Marriage which they will also use to register your marriage with the NZ government.  This Copy of Particulars on Marriage document is not a marriage certificate.

As far as covid-19 goes all you need is to ask your guests to use the tracer app.  This won’t be hard when there might just be you and your partner present. 

If you need anymore information on getting married in NZ check out the governments website.

5. Your elopement celebrant

Unlike other countries where weddings are still mostly held in registered venues, celebrants in NZ are registered with the government.  This makes them very easy to find on the Department of Internal Affairs website. Also it means that all celebrants are required to meet certain standards including the training they complete and the good character they have.  So the process of finding a celebrant and having confidence in them should be easier, if not always perfect.  

Choosing the right celebrant for you is also important.  With only you, your partner, two witnesses and maybe a photographer present the people you have at your ceremony become even more important.  To make sure you choose the right person you and your partner will need to discuss what kind of ceremony you want and what kind of person you will feel most comfortable with.  This could mean you would like someone older performing a traditional ceremony or someone younger going  a bit more off the cuff.  Whatever you choose you should be able to find a good celebrant because there are so many available.  So whatever you choose will be great!

6. What your elopement day will be like

Not to be too much of a broken record but your elopement day can look like anything you want.  You might go to work and get married on your lunch break.  Or you might stay in a hotel and get pampered all day with a ceremony at 4 and a fancy dinner at 7.  With this in mind there are some things to consider on your elopement day.  

– If you are having hair and make-up done you will need to allow at least an hour for this.

– You may need to pick up items from suppliers like your flowers, a cake or anything else special you have ordered.  Make sure you leave contingency time in your schedule for this .

– The light is at its harshest at midday so try and aim for a early morning wedding if you are game or a late afternoon wedding.  This will get you the best light for your photos.

– Decide beforehand how many photos you want.  Will you do a first look, getting ready photos, pre and post ceremony photos?  Also will you take photos in multiple locations?  Make sure you schedule all this into your day.

– Are you planning any special meals like an afternoon tea or dinner.  Book these in with your suppliers and factor in enough time to enjoy it.  

View of a bride and groom standing facing each other with mountains in the distance.
Photo by Pham Hoang Kha from Pexels

Are you overwhelmed yet?  Eloping in New Zealand might sound relaxed but it can still involve some logistics.  Often if you book an elopement package this will all be sorted out for you but if you are making your own schedule start with this basic template and make it your own.

10am – Breakfast

11am – Make-up and hair 

12am – photographer arrives for getting ready images

12.30 – 1.30 – lunch

2pm – make up touch ups 

3pm – Ceremony and sign marriage licence

3.30 – 5pm – Photographs 

5pm – 6pm – Champagne

6pm – Dinner  

7. Your eloping in New Zealand wedding dress

Choosing what to wear when you elope can be the really exciting.  The options are wide open!  Depending on the type of elopement you are planning, your style and budget you can really wear anything you like.  So if a full bridal gown is not your style you are in luck.  Elopements can mean a  casual dress from the high street, your dream designer dress you would normally not buy or shorts and a strappy top if you want it to. The low key nature of an elopement can definitely lend itself to less extravagant wedding dresses which can be great for your budget!  But if you are dreaming of a bridal gown go for it.  It is your wedding and the great thing about eloping in New Zealand is that the scenery is so dramatic your wedding dress will look amazing.  

8. The grooms outfit

Like the bride an eloping groom can really wear whatever he wants!  So this could mean a traditional wedding suit hired from Frank Casey Suit Hire, the Barkers suit he wears to work or shorts and T-shirt.  It really depends on the vibe of the wedding and what you have planned.  Just whatever you do discuss your plans with your future wife.  As you might not need to know exactly what you will each be wearing but it would be pretty awkward if the groom turned up in a flash suit when the bride is wearing denim shorts and a crop top! 

9. Essential elopement suppliers

Although eloping definitely involves a lot less arranging of suppliers than a full wedding, there are still some people you might consider including in your plans.  The main ones are a photographer, a florist and catering.  Although you might think your elopement is low key and does not warrant these expenses it can definitely be worth paying a photographer to capture your day.  After all, you will still want to share your day with your friends and family even if they are not invited on the day.  

Catering can also play a part in making your elopement special.  Also catering for an elopement doesn’t mean paying an expensive catering company.  It could just mean booking a restaurant or preparing your own afternoon tea in advance.  

Finally having flowers at an elopement is definitely not required but it can make photos look extra special and if you go with dried flowers or faux flowers you can keep your bouquet long after eloping in New Zealand. 

10. Keeping it Eco

Keeping your elopement eco might not be a requirement of eloping but its always good to consider.  Especially as just choosing to elope instead of having a big wedding makes your plans instantly more environmentally friendly!  As you will not have guests travelling all over the country to attend, you will not have to buy wedding favours and you will not be creating as much food or general waste.  However, there is always more that can be done so why not consider hiring your outfits instead of buying them to cut down on one use fashions.  Also with New Zealand being so stunning everywhere why not consider a more local venue.  We bet you no matter where you are in NZ there is an extra special and beautiful destination waiting for you to say I do!

Image of a bride and groom kissing. They are eloping in New Zealand
Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

Are going to elope in New Zealand?  Let us know what else you need to know!

Modern Rustic Weddings uses affiliate links.  This means that sometimes if you click through to a website and register or purchase something, we get a commission from that sale at no extra cost to you.  All opinions and reviews are our own.


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