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How to plan an elopement in New Zealand

First off what the heck is an elopement? I’m sure you have heard the term before, but you are probably wondering what exactly it is and where to even start with planning.

It can seem a little bit confusing, especially if you are the first person in your family to decide to elope rather than have a big traditional wedding. Well I’m here to break it down and guide you through an amazing elopement experience.

What is an elopement?

An elopement is an intentionally small gathering with the ones you love (or just yourselves). A wedding day that is centered around the two of you, committing yourselves to one another in a way that is meaningful and authentically you, without the performance of a big wedding day.

​It is about creating a space where you can say your vows to each other, cry, laugh and spend the day soaking up all the beautiful things that make you the perfect match for each other.

It can be a day of saying your vows at sunrise or sunset, getting a helicopter up a mountain or hiking into a beautiful waterfall. It can be camping with 15 of your best friends and celebrating around the campfire – anything you dream up!

What do I need to plan?

1. Find a great photographer who specalises in elopements. They can help you with location scouting, building timelines, vendor suggestions and activities in the area.

2. Pick a location. First you need a general area in New Zealand. Have you always wanted to visit Lake Tekapo when the lupins are in flower? Or Wanaka in the summer? Do you want to get married on a mountain? Beside a lake? At a private house with a scenic view?

3. Find out if you need a permit to get married in that location. If you do, then it will need to be applied for and approved before the elopement day. To avoid needing permits you can get married at an Air BnB or on private land!

4. Book your vendors, flights & accommodation. Woohoo, with a location found that hardest part is over! You can now go ahead and make the day as extravagant or as minimal as you would like. Here are a few vendors you could look at booking: hair & make up, photographer, videographer, celebrant, florist, stylist.

Instagram tip for finding vendors in your area:

The best part about searching on Instagram is just how specific your search can be and how quickly you can gage if that vendor has the look/style that you are after.

HASHTAGS: Try typing in the general area you are getting married + type of vendor = #queenstownflorist #wanakamakeupartist #fijiphotographer #invercargillcakemaker etc.…

This helps you to find accounts who are based or service this area and the type of work they do!

TAGGED PHOTOS: Have you picked your dream location but want to see a little more of what you can do with the space/area? Check out the tagged photos of your venue/location. Other accounts who have been here, especially photographers will always tag the venue to show off detail and styling images from weddings/elopements they have photographed there.

SEARCH: In the general search area you can type in what you are looking for. “Queenstown Celebrant” “Wanaka Helicopters” “Dunedin Event Stylist” etc.…

This will bring up a list of accounts that have this wording in their user - name or bio name.

After checking out their Instagram account, be sure to click over to their website and read reviews, look at blog posts and all the relevant information you need. Make a list of your top vendors and reach out via email to see what they can offer and what budgets they work with.

5. Plan your Timeline. Now the fun part starts! Sit down and dream up what your perfect elopement day would look like. Do you want to do a hike? Go on a jeep adventure? Take a helicopter up a mountain? Have a lakeside ceremony with friends and family? A picnic under a waterfall? All the above?? The choices are endless.

Here are some sample timelines:

4 hour elopement in Queenstown – Winter

1.00pm – Getting Ready at your Air BnB

2.00pm – Drive to lake for a first look

2.45pm – Head to helicopter hanger

3.00pm – Helicopter flight to location number 1

3.30pm – Say vows on the mountain

4.00pm – Helicopter to location number 2

4.30pm – Celebrate with a bottle of bubbly

5.00pm – Back at hanger

8 hour elopement in Queenstown - Summer

12.00pm – Getting ready at your Air Bnb

2.00pm – Drive up mountain for first look

3.00pm – Picnic up the mountain together

4.15pm - Drive to Lake

5.00pm – Lakeside Ceremony with friends and family

5.30pm – Family Photos + Bubbles

7.00pm – Intimate dinner with friends and family

8.00pm – First Dance & Partying continues!

6. Get Married!!

The hard work and planning are over – now you can enjoy your epic wedding day!

Finally - a few tips for making your elopement run smoothly:

- Make sure you arrive in your elopement location 2 days beforehand. This gives you time to settle in, so you will feel more relaxed.

- Make a list of things to pack. It can be so easy to forget the little but important things! Vow books, gloves (if it’s winter!), shoes, accessories etc.

- Print off your timeline + important phone numbers for people involved. This way you can get in touch with anyone if you need to make last minute changes!

If you want to know more or would like to get in touch with me to chat about what an elopement could look like for you – feel free to reach out on my contact page here


Want to see some real elopement day’s for inspiration? Check them out here:


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