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How to elope in New Zealand; the ultimate guide [Updated for 2020/2021]

June 22, 2020

How to elope in New Zealand

This is the ultimate guide to how to elope in New Zealand, along with the best places to elope in New Zealand.

As a New Zealand elopement photographer, I totally appreciate how you may these amazing dreams of eloping in New Zealand but aren’t sure where to start.

In this guide I’ll start with how you can elope in New Zealand, so that you know how to get started with planning your elopement. I’ll then go over all of the most exciting places to elope in New Zealand. These are my personal favourites from all across New Zealand.

After this you’ll find a list of my favourite elopement locations by state.

How do you elope?

I have previously written an article about how to elope from start to finish.

In this article I will detail the specific legal proceedings in order to elope in New Zealand, as well as any customs to observe.

Legal requirements for eloping, that you need to do in your home country

To elope abroad, you need to make sure that the paperwork is done for both countries that you are in. I have previously talked about how to elope in Australia, but it is best to check with your own countries’ requirements first.

Here is an example of where you can find information for your country:

Marrying overseas for Australian citizens
Marrying overseas for United Kingdom citizens
Marrying overseas for United States Of America citizens

Legal requirements for eloping in New Zealand

There are two ways you can get married in New Zealand:

  1. With a personalised ceremony
  2. With a registry ceremony

Regardless of which you do it, you will need a marriage licence. I talk about what these are and how you can easily get one in the next section.

Personalised Ceremonies

Personalised ceremonies are where you’d have a more curated ceremony for yourselves. In New Zealand, to have a personalised ceremony, you require the following:

  1. A venue
  2. A celebrant
  3. A Marriage Licence
  4. 2 Witnesses

Registry Ceremonies

Registry ceremonies are where you both attend a registry office to get the paperwork legally signed. In New Zealand, to have a registry ceremony, you require the following:

  1. A venue
  2. A Marriage Licence
  3. 2 Witnesses

Organising your Marriage Licence

New Zeland law states that you must have a Marriage Licence to be wed. To complete your Marriage Licence, you must do the following:

  1. State where you are going to get married
  2. Have a backup location incase you cannot get married in the location due to poor weather conditions.
  3. Marry within the 3 months of it being active
  4. Arrange it at least 3 days before you are to be wed
  5. Pay the fees for your licence ($150 for Personalised ceremonies, $240 for Registry ceremonies).

You can apply for your marriage licence here.

What is the weather like in New Zealand?

The climate differs greatly between the two islands.

The North Island has a sub-tropical climate. Auckland is the capital of the North Island, and has the following temperatures:

SeasonSummerAutumnWinterSpring
MonthsNovember – FebruaryMarch – MayJune – AugustSeptember – October
High24°C23°C14°C16°C
Low16°C15°C7°C10°C
Perfect for:Tropical elopementTropical elopementTropical elopementTropical elopement

The South Island has a more alpine climate, leading it to fall to -10°C in winter. Queenstown is the capital of the South Island, and has the following temperatures:

SeasonSummerAutumnWinterSpring
MonthsNovember – FebruaryMarch – MayJune – AugustSeptember – October
High22°C19°C8°C13°C
Low9°C7°C-1°C2°C
Perfect for:Alpine elopementAlpine elopementSnow elopementSnow elopement

January and February are the warmest months, and July is the coldest month of the year.

What is the best time of the year to elope in New Zealand?

As New Zealand has two different islands, and different seasons, it really depends on what sort of experience you’d like to have with your elopement. As a New Zealand elopement photographer, I know that many couples have a lot of different tastes, so I like to make sure that I create an adventure that is perfected suited for both of you.

If you want to go and see the gigantic landscapes of New Zealand, and aren’t fussed on whether there is snow or not, then any point of the year would work for you. Typically the North island is a little bit more tropical, with the South island being a bit more alpine.

For snow elopements, snow typically appears during the months of June through to October, although you will find that there are cold snaps throughout these times. Whilst you may get some frost in the North Island, the snow action is definitely in the Southern Alps in the South Islands, and falls heavily in Caterbury and Otago.

What is the difference between eloping in the North island vs. the South island?

The most significant difference is the climate, which leads to a number of differences in the landscapes.

I recommend a North island elopement if you’re looking for:

  • Landscapes which are more colourful, rather than huge and dramatic
  • A beach elopement with golden sands and interesting coastal locations
  • An elopement that will be in a bit of a warmer climate
  • A deep forest elopement, as found in the Tongariro National Park.

I recommend a South island elopement if you’re looking for:

  • Vast and dramatic landscapes for your elopement, with snow-capped rugged mountains and vast sprawling turquoise lakes
  • A snowy New Zealand elopement, with so much of the snow falling on the South Island
  • More adventurous locations for your elopement
  • Glaciers, and more treks for you to do for your elopement

How much is the New Zealand Dollar worth?

At the time of writing this article in June 2020, the current exchange rate for New Zealand Dollar is:

RateRate to NZ$
1 AUD1.07 NZD
1 USD1.56 NZD
1 GBP1.94 NZD
1 EUR1.75 NZD

For reference, here are the average costs of popular items in New Zealand:

ItemPrice
1 Pint Beer (500ml)$9.05 NZD
1 Night’s stay at a hotel$150 NZD
Mid range restaurant meal for two$65 NZD
1 Coffee $5.10 NZD

What activities are there to do in New Zealand?

When you’re eloping in New Zealand, you’re not just going for your wedding (as amazing as that will be)! This means that you can spend the rest of your time enjoying the activities, sights and sounds that New Zealand has to offer. There is plenty of it.

My personal favourites include the ski resorts, and of course who doesn’t want to explore the Lord Of The Rings movie set.

Activities on the North Island include:

Activities on the South Island include:

What spas / retreats are there?

One of the most enticing activities that New Zealand has to offer for couples who like to indulge, is countless spas and retreats across the country.

North Island New Zealand Spas

Cape South Country Escape & Wellness Retreat – Napier (North Island)
Ocean Spa – Napier (North Island)
Polynesian Spa – Rotorua (North Island)
Wai Ora Lakeside Resort and Spa – Rotorua (North Island)
East Day Spa – Auckland (North Island)
The Lost Spring – Whitianga (North Island)
Hells Gate and Wai Ora Spa – Rotorua (North Island)
Debretts Thermal Spa Resort – Taupo (North Island)
Chuan Spa at Cordis – Auckland (North Island)
Mana Retreat – Coromandel (North Island)
Te Wahi Ora – Auckland (North Island)
Lake Tekapo Springs – Tekapo (South Island)
Earth Energies Sanctuary – Mangatarata (North Island)
Ridge Country Retreat – Waitao (North Island)
Te Hine Ruru Retreat – Russell (North Island)
Solscape – Raglan (North Island)

South Island New Zealand Spas

Anahata Retreat – Takaka (South Island)
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa – Christchurch (South Island)
Split Apple Retreat – Nelson (South Island)
Hapuku Lodge + Tree Houses – Hapuku (South Island)
Aro Hā Wellness Retreat – Queenstown (South Island)
Shunyata Retreat and Day Spa – Christchurch (South Island)
The Resurgence Luxury Eco Lodge – Nelson (South Island)
The Glacier Hot Pools – Franz Josef (South Island)
Matakauri Lodge and Spa – Queenstown (South Island)

What is the cost of eloping to New Zealand?

The great news is that eloping doesn’t cost as much as a traditional wedding, and every dollar is going towards you having an authentic adventure. When working out how to elope in New Zealand, you really can make the whole experience your own.

I’m going to give you an example snowy mountain elopement to give you a breakdown of how you could elope on only roughly $13,000AUD, which is about a quarter of the price for the average Australian wedding.

In this elopement, the plan is:

  • Fly into Queenstown from Sydney, Australia
  • Stay for 7 days in September, when snow is still present
  • Rent a car to travel around New Zealand’s South Island
  • Have an elopement photographer and guide plan the location and timeline for the day, including 6 hours photography, to get the getting ready process documented, and then the ceremony and couples photos
  • Elope with a celebrant and two witnesses (makeup artist and photographer) at a nearby lake in Queenstown
  • Enjoy a helicopter flight to the top of a mountain for some sunset photos
ItemCost (in AUD)Link
Return flights to Queenstown from Sydney for 2 people$1200 (2ppl x $600)https://bit.ly/311N8AE
7 Nights Accommodation$868 ($124 x 7 nights)https://bit.ly/2V5Moqd
Car Hire for 7 Days$200https://bit.ly/2YVmQxp
Fuel$200
Food and drink$1400 ($200 x 7 days)
Helicopter Flight to top of a mountain$2210 (3pp x $770)https://bit.ly/3fMzXrn
Elopement Photographer and Guide, for 6 hours$5000New Zealand Elopement Packages
Celebrant$450https://bit.ly/2Cug5em
Marriage Licence$150
Makeup and hair artist$175https://bit.ly/3fMAg5v
Wedding Rings$640 ($320 x 2ppl)https://bit.ly/3hQ36DW
Wedding Dress$360https://bit.ly/2V7TQBj
Wedding Suit$230https://bit.ly/2B0AC9Z
Total$13,000AUD (Approx.)

New Zealand elopement packages

New Zealand elopement photographer and guide pricing:

6 hour Elopement Packages and Full-day coverage available:

  • Personalised elopement timeline and location curation – I basically do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to working out how to elope in New Zealand.
  • Tips, tricks, and logistical tools.
  • Personal Printing rights to the fully-edited digital files (roughly 300 – 600 depending on coverage).
  • Secure Online gallery with high-definition image download.
  • All photographer travel fees (yes, that’s right!).
  • 4 Hours: $4,600 | 6 hours: $5400 | Full-day $7500.
  • Fine art album as an additional investment.

If you’d like a more tailored quote, please reach out and let me help design your perfect New Zealand elopement adventure.

The best places to elope in New Zealand

Below is a list of my top 3 places to elope in New Zealand, broken up between different location types. New Zealand is home to some of the most stunning mountains in the world, and suit a variety of couples who are looking for different elopement ideas. 

When working out how to elope in New Zealand, your elopement photographer and guide will be able to help you work out which spots and locations would suit you best, depending on the sort of adventure you want to have.

At the bottom of this article I list all of the other amazing places that you can elope in New Zealand, although the following are my best places to elope in New Zealand.

Mountain elopement locations

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Lake Taupo (North Island)

One of New Zealand’s most notable mountain locations, the area is dotted with emerald lakes, and it’s iconic red crater. If you’re looking for a great mountain New Zealand elopement, look no further, especially with the splashes of colour from the lakes. It can take a while to get there, but it is worth it.

Roys Peak, Otago (South Island)

A Roys Peak elopement is perfect for couples who want to have a ceremony spot with a gigantic view over the New Zealand ranges. Roughly a 5 hour trek, but once you get to top, you’ll be treated with views unlike any other. 

Ben Lomond, Queenstown (South Island)

Ben Lomond may be the perfect elopement spot for you both if you love the idea of an adventurous hike. Another demanding hike, which can last around 8 hours, but one which is incredibly rewarding, treating you with incredible panoramic views.

Forest elopement locations

Tarawera Trail (North Island)

With lakeside views and plenty of lush green vegetation, the Tarawera Trail provides the perfect New Zealand forest elopement spot, for green thumbs. A decent 5-6 hour hike, you’ll be treated with breathtaking views of lake Tarawera, and have plenty of spots for forest based spots.

Hooker Valley track (South Island)

A fantastic short walking trail that provides great valley views, dotted with lots of lush green vegetation, and an eye catching bridge. With a roughly 3 hour return, this is an easy and accessible trek that is the perfect elopement spot for couples who want to enjoy some epic scenery in their elopement.

Whanganui National Park (North Island)

The Whanganui National Park is one of the North Island’s most lush spots, and has a whole host of different tracks and areas to explore. From winding water ways to deep forests, it is the perfect spot for couples who want a much greener elopement. It’s iconic Bridge To Nowhere is also the perfect backdrop for adventurous couples who want to mix a bit of wooden architecture with their forest elopement.

Coastal and beach elopement locations

Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve (Cathederal Cove), (North Island)

Cathedral Cove is another iconic spot from New Zealand, with it’s aptly named arch by the ocean. The Marine Reserve is home to many important marine animals, and provides a stunning backdrop for couples who love the idea of a coastal elopement in New Zealand.

New Chums Beach, Coromandel (North Island)

A sweeping bay that runs for 1.5km, New Chums Beach has many vantage points for the perfect lookout. The main beach provides the perfect sheltered spot for you to enjoy a beach elopement, filled with great views of the turquoise waters of the ocean.

Piha Beach, Auckland (North Island)

Renown for it’s black sands, Piha Beach is the perfect New Zealand elopement location for couples who want a coastal elopement with a twist. A wide beach surrounded by a large rock outcrop on the left, and massive cliffs on the right, it provides a really cinematic view of the ocean.

Waterfall elopement locations

Bridal Veil Falls, Hamilton (North Island)

An epic waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation, Bridal Veil Falls is a fantastic elopement spot for couples who are obsessed with waterfalls, and want an elopement without too much trekking. You can easily access to the top and bottom of the waterfall, which provides some great views.

The Devils Punchbowl Waterfall, Arthur’s Pass (South Island)

Passing through lush, dark forests, The Devils Punchbowl Walking track leads you to another one of New Zealand’s incredible waterfalls. With an easy walk of around 1 hour, The Devils Punchbowl Waterfall is perfect for couples who love the idea of finding a great waterfall with easy access, and some added lush greenery to spice up their elopement.

Whangarei Falls (North Island)

With an easy 10 minute walk to reach the waterfalls, this is the perfect New Zealand elopement location for couples who want to have an accessible elopement spot, but still retain some epic landscapes. Don’t forget to have some awesome couples photos across the bridge, providing an incredible view for you both!

Snow elopement locations

Snow falls on the South Island from around June to October. Please bear this in mind for the below locations, which will be much better for a New Zealand elopement in the snow.

Mount Fyffe, Canterbury (South Island)

If you’re looking for epic scenery for your New Zealand elopement, and want to have some snow involved, Mount Fyffe provides the perfect place for you both. With tracks which go as long as 3 days, it may seem like a long trek, but you can access as much of the mountain as you feel comfortable with. You won’t find many better snowy elopement locations in New Zealand!

Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook (South Island)

Another one of New Zealand’s iconic mountains, Mount Cook is covered in snow pretty much all year around, because of how high it is, providing an excellent location for any couple who love the idea of eloping on snow encrusted mountains. It is also the highest mountain in all of New Zeland! There are a tonne of different walks around Mount Cook, which can suit all different levels of hikers, so when it comes to designing your elopement, chat with your elopement photographer and guide as to which would suit you guys best!

Lake Tekapo also is noteworthy, with the whole of the area laying in a blanket of white snow, with Mount Cook in the background. The piercing blue lake really stands out against the white of the snow, and will catch your eye if you want a bit of colour in your New Zealand elopement!

Central Otago (South Island)

If you’re wanting to elope in the snow but don’t want to climb a mountain, then Central Otago is a region that would suit you both best. Central Otage is a stunning wine region in the South Island of New Zealand and provides gently sloped lands, which epic views and incredible sunsets to boost!

Why should I elope?

I’ve written before about the many amazing reasons there are to eloping.

Briefly, the main reasons for eloping are:

  • It provides a more authentic and intimate experience together
  • They are suited to couples who value experiences over things
  • They are suited to couples who don’t want the stress of families
  • They are suited to couples who are more introverted and prefer to have a more private ceremony

Why hiring a New Zealand elopement photographer and guide will make your elopement a breeze

When it comes to planning one of the biggest and most exciting journeys of your life, you want someone to capture the experience for you so that you can live in the moment, instead of taking your phone out every two minutes.

An experienced elopement photographer will:

  • Plan a timeline of your day from start to finish.
  • Provide all details of what should be required for you to elope, country specific.
  • Location scout and provide a set of recommended elopement locations based upon what you are both drawn to in terms of landscape and climate. This will mean that you will get a curated list of the best places to elope in New Zealand for yourselves.
  • Be there to capture and immortalise your day and experience in real artwork that you will look back and relive for the rest of your days.
  • Be able to create and design an archival wedding album for you to read and relive.
  • Delivery all final images within 4-6 weeks.

If you want to learn more about the elopement packages I can create for you, please click here to have a chat with me about your dream New Zealand elopement!

Eloping in New Zealand by Island 

This is a list of my best places to elope in New Zealand. It is broken up by island, and then by the environment. This list is always being updated for the new years and after I’ve done more scouting for the best places to elope.

Click here to see my New Zealand elopement packages.

Best places to elope on the North Island

Waterfalls

Huka Falls
Bridal Veil Falls
Marokopa Falls
Kitekite Falls
Whangarei Falls
Owharoa Falls
Taranaki Falls
Rere Falls
Rere Rockslides
Tawhai Falls (Gollums Pool)
Mount Damper Falls
Wairere Falls

Mountains

Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Mount Maunganui
Motutere / Castle Rock
The Pinnacles
Wairere Boulders Nature Reserve and Campsite
Putangirua Pinnacles
Mount Te Aroha Summit & Broadcast Tower
Rainbow Mountain Scenic Reserve
Karioi Summit Track
Bell Rock

Coastal / Water Areas

Emerald Lakes
Lake Taupo
Lake Rotorua
Lake Waikaremoana
Kai Iwi Lakes
Lake Rotopounamu
Cape Reinga
East Cape Lighthouse
Cape Egmont Lighthouse
Pencarrow Head Lighthouse
Takapuna Beach
Mine Bay Maori Rock Carvings
Hamurana Springs Nature Reserve
Waikawau Tunnel Beach
Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve
Hole in the Rock
Cape Kidnappers
Lion Rock
Poor Knights Islands
Blue Spring Putaruru
Te Whara Track
Mission Bay
Medlands Beach Camping Area
Onetangi Beach
Piha Beach
Hot Water Beach
Ngarunui Beach
Waimarama Beach
Matai Bay
Ohope Beach
Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday Park
Wainui Beach
Bridge to Nowhere
New Chums Beach
Bream Bay

Forests

Tarawera Trail
Kauri Walk, Puketi Forest
Waipoua Forest
Trounson Kauri Park
Hakarimata Scenic Reserve
Redwoods – Whakarewarewa Forest
Otari-Wilton’s Bush
Eastwoodhill Arboretum
Maungakawa Scenic Reserve Loop Walk
Yarndley’s Bush
Remutaka Forest Park Catchpool Valley
Mount Stewart Reserve
Akatarawa Forest
Pakuratahi Forest
Friends of Le Roys Bush
Whanganui National Park

Best places to elope on the South Island

Waterfall

Devils Punchbowl Falls
Humboldt Falls
Purakaunui Falls Walk
Bowen Falls
Thunder Creek Falls
Sutherland Falls
McLean Falls walkway

Mountain

Aoraki Mount Cook Village
Franz Josef Glacier
Clay Cliffs
Key Summit
Routeburn Falls Hut
Ben Lomond
Gertrude Saddle
Mount Robert
Mount Fyffe
Avalanche Peak
Bealey Spur Track
Isthmus Peak Track Parking
Rocky Mountain Lake Wanaka viewpoint
Roys Peak
Ari / Mount Alfred
Mueller Hut Route
Routeburn Track
Rob Roy Glacier Track

Coastal / Water Areas

Lake Quill
Lake Matheson
Lake Tekapo
Blue Lake
Lake Mapourika
Lake Wanaka
Lake Wakatipu
Lake Hawea
Lake Rotoiti
Lake Pukaki
Lake Alexandrina
Lake Hauroko
Lake Te Anau
Lake Brunner
Waipapa Point Lighthouse
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Matiu/Somes Island
Cape Campbell
Katiki Point
Cape Palliser Lighthouse
Split Apple Rock
Punakaiki
Haast Pass
Moeraki Boulders Beach
Te Waikoropupu Springs
Basalt Columns
Archway Islands
Shag Rock
Abel Tasman Coast Track
Lake Marian
Awaroa Inlet
Sandfly Bay
Torrent Bay
Bark Bay
Okiwi Bay
Dead Man Beach
Bathing Beach
Wharariki Beach
Oparara Basin Arches

Forest

Pororari River Track
Robert’s point track
Start Alex Knob Trail
Lake Matheson Walk
Mt Crichton Loop Track
Hooker Valley track
Heaphy Track
Lodestone
The Riwaka Resurgence
Governors Bush Walk

Let’s chat about designing your dream New Zealand elopement!

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