How To Elope in Australia
So you’re interested in getting eloped instead of having a huge, expensive wedding? That’s amazing!
Finances aside, we truly believe that elopements can be more romantic and intimate than a big wedding ever could be. It allows you to get married in incredible spots and take beautiful wedding photos – just the two of you.
There are a few things you need to know before eloping though. Here’s our comprehensive guide on how to elope in Australia.
Table of Contents
1. Discuss with your partnerThe first step is discussing with your partner what you both expect from the elopement. This is important so that you are on the same page. You do not want regrets later on in life because people were left out of your wedding, or because deep down you wanted a bigger wedding. While we are big supporters of elopements they aren’t for every couple. Make sure you’re both communicating what you want! The other thing to discuss is what your budget is for everything. Even if you’re on a shoestring budget and just want to have a celebrant, that’s fine, but you do need to have a general budget prepared. Also consider other costs like what you’re going to wear, accommodation, dinner after the celebration, etc. You want to make sure you’re on the same page around what your elopement will cost. If you both need somewhere to keep track of everything, consider using this cute wedding planner book! It’s a great way to plan everything and is a lovely keepsake.
2. Decide if you’re having a legal wedding or symbolic celebration
Having an elopement doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a celebrant to get legally married. You can also just get dressed and take wedding photos in a nice setting. Many people do this because they weren’t happy with their photos, or they got married at town hall or abroad. Having a symbolic celebration is a beautiful way to celebrate your marriage but is not legally binding.
That being said, the majority of couples we deal with have a legal wedding which requires a celebrant, planning, and paperwork. We can help with either option.
3. Pick a date
Once you’ve discussed things with your partner and decided what type of elopement you want, the next step is picking a date. This can be tricky as elopements are often spur-of-the-moment things, but it’s important to have a general idea of when you want to elope.
All states require a Notice of Intended Marriage before you get married, which means you need to look at least one month in the future. We cover all of that in the legal section below.
We highly recommend considering a weekday to have your elopement. Weekday elopements are often more affordable than the weekend. Many vendors are now booked for years ahead of time due to COVID, so you’ll have a harder time finding vendors to help on the weekend. If they are available on the weekend there is usually an extra fee as well.
Also, places are far less crowded during the weekdays! That means you can get photos in incredible places with nobody around. For example, if you’re set on taking photos in front of the Sydney Opera House there’s no chance of making that happen on the weekend.
Most of our couples take a day or two off during the week and have a few romantic days to celebrate. It’s an awesome way to break up your week!
4. Find an elopement company or celebrant
If you’re having a legal marriage and have decided on a general date, your next step will be to find an elopement company or celebrant.
Picking a celebrant means that you will be organizing everything yourself, including permits and other vendors. This is a good way to go if you want to take on the job! If you’re taking this path, research celebrants in your area and get in touch with them.
If you’d like to take the hands-off approach, an elopement planning company like Eloped (us) can help. We’ll match you with an amazing celebrant, help you pick a location, and get you any other vendors you need (photographer, hair & makeup, etc.). We’ll also help with things like elopement permits, legal paperwork, and anything else you need help with.
We make everything super simple for you. All you need to do is choose an elopement package and we’ll take care of the rest!
5. Consider the regulations of marriage in Australia
If you hope to be legally married, there are laws and paperwork that must be filed. Each state is almost identical in how elopements are handled, and the process is similar across all of them.
Please keep in mind that your celebrant will be able to help with most of these requirements. You just need to be aware of the rules for planning purposes (like picking the date).
These general rules apply across all of the states:
- You must submit your Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) at least 1 month (and no more than 18 months) before your wedding day.
- You must be at least 18 years old (one person can be between 16-18 with their parent’s consent).
- You must not be married to anyone else.
- You must not be marrying a close relative.
- There must be two witnesses over the age of 18 present.
- You must prove your identity, birth date, and place of birth to your celebrant.
- As of 2017 same-sex marriages are legal around the country (and we love doing LGBTQIA+ marriages!)
If you want to read about the specific laws and paperwork required, click on which state you’re planning on getting married in:
- Rules for eloping in New South Wales
- Rules for eloping in Victoria
- Rules for eloping in Queensland
- Rules for eloping in South Australia
- Rules for eloping in Western Australia
- Rules for eloping in Northern Territory
- Rules for eloping in Tasmania
6. Pick your location
Okay so you have a celebrant, a date and you’re all legal. Now’s the fun part of picking the location of your elopement. Having an elopement, instead of a big wedding, gives you so much more flexibility in terms of where the ceremony can take place.
You can pick somewhere that’s sentimental to you both as a couple, instead of just picking the first venue that’s available in the next three years. Did you take a hike somewhere memorable on a date? Do you have an amazing couple’s photo that you want to recreate? You can most likely elope there!
We truly believe that Australia is the best place in the world to elope. There are so many stunning public locations that are romantic and photogenic. The majority of parks and beaches around the country can be used for a small wedding. Just make sure that you apply for a permit if you need one.
There are endless elopement locations in Australia, but here are some of our favourites:
- The Blue Mountains, NSW – Elope in the stunning wilderness with a view of the Three Sisters and canyons. Not to mention the beautiful waterfalls in the area.
- Yarra Valley, VIC – Did someone say wine country elopement? The Yarra Valley is the perfect place if you’re looking for amazing food, incredible views, and of course – wine.
- Burleigh Heads National Park, QLD – A bit of a hidden gem, this park offers stunning coastline views as well as rainforest walks.
- Cradle Mountain, TAS – If you’re eloping in Tasmania, Cradle Mountain should be at the top of your list. With soaring mountains, alpine lakes, and wild forests, it’s the perfect spot for an elopement.
- Byron Bay, NSW – If you’re looking for a bohemian elopement by the beach, look no further than Byron Bay.
7. Get the permit for your location
Make sure you check whether or not you need a permit to have your elopement in the chosen location. Some places, like parks or beaches, will require a permit for elopements. This is generally pretty easy to obtain, but it’s best to check in advance so there are no surprises on the day.
Permitting is generally done by the local council of the region. Here’s a sample application form for Woollahra council in Sydney: https://www.woollahra.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/118693/FORM_Wedding_ceremonies_and_bridal_photography_park_hire.pdf
Also, be sure that you don’t need a separate ceremony and photography permit. Most will include both but it’s best to ask beforehand.
If you’re eloping on private property (ex. AirBnB), make sure to get permission from the owner first. A quick message or call can clear up any potential headaches before they happen.
8. Book a photographer
If you’ve chosen to work with an elopement planning company (like us) you don’t need to worry about this step. We’ll take care of matching you with the best photographer on your date, at your location.
If you’re planning all of this yourself, this is the time to book your photographer. Keep in mind that wedding photographers are in very high demand due to the backlog of COVID weddings.
It’s best to book your elopement photographer well in advance, at least 6-12 months. If you’re eloping on a weekday, or during an off-peak season, you may be able to find a photographer with shorter notice. But don’t count on it!
Keep in mind that you do not need a photographer to have a legal wedding. You can just have a celebrant and keep it intimate without having a photoshoot. That being said, most people want pictures to look back on and share with family and friends.
What to expect from your elopement photographer: generally speaking you can expect an hour of photography time and around 50-100 photos. If you need more time there is usually an extra hourly rate. Make sure to tell them before the wedding day!
9. Book other vendors
If you eloping with just a photographer and celebrant, then you don’t need to worry about this step. However, if you’re eloping with a larger team (florist, hair, makeup, etc.) this is the time to start booking those vendors. If you’re using an elopement planner (like Eloped), we’ll take care of all of that for you.
Having flowers elevates the elopement experience. Even a small bouquet can make a big impact. We recommend working with a local florist who can source seasonal blooms for your elopement. This ensures that your flowers will be fresh and beautiful on the day.
Several other vendors can help out on your big day as well. Hiring a videographer is one of the best uses of your budget. Since not many people can attend an elopement, having a video to share with loved ones can be priceless. It’s lovely to send out to everybody who couldn’t attend.
You can make it as elaborate as you’d like. While you probably don’t need a limo since it’ll just be a handful of people, a lot of our clients like having a fancy car take them to their elopement. This might be your once chance to take a ride in a Bentley!
10. Choose your invitees
Keep in mind that having an elopement means a very small invite list. The largest elopements we run are 20 people. If you have a large family or want to include a lot of friends, eloping might not be the best option for you.
Of course, you can always elope now and then have a big reception or engagement party later. This can take some pressure off of the event and let you focus on what’s truly important: getting married!
We usually recommend keeping the invite list to immediate relatives and maybe a couple of friends. This will keep the event intimate and special.
11. Notify everybody that needs to know
That’s not limited to people who are invited! Tell everybody who will want to know your wedding date. The best way to let people know is by sending out an elopement announcement. This can include all of the details about your elopement as well as a photo or two. Everybody in your social circles will want to know that you’re getting married.
You can also send an update to everybody afterward. This is where it’s great to have a video to share, but sharing photos and a write-up of the day also works well.
12. Decide on your attire
If you two want to wear a suit and wedding dress that’s amazing – but it’s your decision – you don’t have to be traditional. Lots of eloping couples choose to wear outfits that are unique and reflect their personalities. This could be anything from cool jeans and a T-shirt to a romantic dress or even just a nice shirt and pants.
Sometimes people think they need to underdress because an elopement is more casual than a wedding. That’s not necessarily true. It’s whatever you want it to be! Most of our clients do get decked out in beautiful wedding dresses and suits. It could be the one time in your life you wear a wedding dress. If that’s important to you… go get a wedding dress fitted!
What we want to get across here is that it’s fully your choice as a couple. Do whatever feels right for your elopement.
One thing to keep in mind is the weather. If you’re eloping during the winter, you’ll want to dress warmly, especially if you’re outdoors for the ceremony.
Now it’s just time to have the best day of your life. Relax and enjoy every minute! You’ve planned everything out, now it’s time to let things happen.
We hope this elopement guide gave you some helpful tips and ideas. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Even if you’re not looking for an elopement planner, we can help out if you’re in an elopement pickle.
Want help planning your elopement? 👆 Let’s get started!