How to elope in 2023/2024

April 25, 2020

In this article I’m going to walk you through:

  • What eloping is
  • Why you should elope
  • How to plan an elopement wedding
  • How much does it cost to elope
  • Do you need witnesses to elope
  • How do you legally elope
  • How long does it take to plan an elopement
  • How to find the perfect location for your elopement
  • How to announce to friends and family that you want to elope
  • How to find elopement wedding vendors
  • How to plan your elopement timeline, and I’ll be drawing you up an example elopement timeline as well
  • What should you bring on your elopement
  • How to celebrate your elopement
  • How to plan a post elopement party
  • How to cancel a wedding and elope

At the end of this article I’m also going to cut through all the above and provide you 4 easy steps to go from engaged to eloped.


My experience with planning elopements

As an Australian elopement photographer and guide, I spend every other day planning elopements for couples.

As part of what I do, I provide elopement advice, create elopement plans for couples covering all the bases below, from curated location lists depending upon a couple’s taste and desires, right to a detailed timeline of what I recommend for their day. Oh, and the kick-ass images that you can show off to friends and family and remember for the rest of your lives.

I wanted to write this article to provide a one stop shop for couples who want to have a more adventurous, authentic and intimate experience for their marriage.

I’ve heard the biggest concerns and questions from couples looking to elope and documented them here. This list is constantly being updated with new information and queries, so if you have any questions you’d love me to answer, simply swing me an email at howdy@whoshoots.com and I’ll update it. I love providing awesome elopement advice to adventurous couples who are looking to buck the trend and elope instead.


What is eloping?

Eloping isn’t what it used to mean back in your grandmother’s time. It doesn’t mean that you’re forsaking everyone in your life to start something new in a foreign land.

Nowadays Eloping refers to the act of getting married where it is just you two. That means no over-expensive venues, having to spend a house deposit on feeding 200 guests (90% of whom you never usually see anyway), and excessive amounts of ‘things’.

I’ve previously written about what what does elope means, and why eloping will make your whole wedding day a tonne less stressful and more meaningful.

Why should you elope?

Many couples are favouring eloping over having a traditional wedding for several reasons:

  1. Eloping provides a great chance to have an adventure together;
  2. Eloping can save you money;
  3. Eloping can reduce stress;
  4. Elopements are perfect for introverts;
  5. Elopements let you escape family drama;

I’ve written about the top 10 reasons to elope which lays out 5 more reasons and goes into detail of the advantages of eloping.

How to plan an elopement wedding

In the next section I’ll tell you how to elope in simple sections and steps. This elopement advice comes from planning a tonne of elopements.

At the end of this article I’ll provide you with 4 easy steps to go from engaged to eloped, but below I’ll go through each detailed section of what is required when it comes to eloping.

How much does it cost to elope?

One of the big advantages of eloping is that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, unlike the average traditional wedding will (you’re looking at roughly $65,000 as of 2019).

Traditional weddings rack up many bills because you’re purchasing and renting many things that will quickly be forgotten on the day. With elopements, you’re basically investing in having an experience and holiday away where you’re going to create so many memories.

On average an elopement wedding can be anywhere from 6 to 20 times cheaper than the average wedding cost in Australia.

I’ve previously calculated and written about inexpensive elopement packages in Australia and how you can elope for only $2,500AUD, or go nuts and have a complete week away exploring New Zealand and elope for roughly $10,000AUD.

How do you elope from a legal standpoint?

When it comes to legally getting married and eloping in Australia, there are a few key things you need to do:

  • Not be married.
  • Not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister.
  • Be at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where 1 person is 16-18 years old.
  • Understand what marriage means and freely agree to marry.
  • Use specific words during the ceremony.
  • Give a notice of intended marriage form to an authorised marriage celebrant at least 1 month and no more than 18 months before your wedding.
  • Be married by an authorised marriage celebrant.
  • You don’t have to be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia.

You also need to:

It’s that straightforward!

How do you elope abroad?

To legally elope abroad, you have to get a couple of things done first here in Australia.

  1. Get Certificates of No Impediment (CNI) to Marriage through:
    1. Your local state &;
    2. Through DFAT

This certifies that you are both single and free to marry. To get it done you’d need to fill in some paperwork which can be found on the website above, which includes proving your identity, as well as settling the fee of $148AUD for the certificate.

You can read more about getting married overseas as an Australian here.

The next thing you need to do is to get the legal paperwork sorted in the country that you’re planning to get married in. This can vary from country to country so my strongest advice is to get in contact with a local wedding planner who can assist with paperwork in the country that you want to get married in. Many hotels will be aware of these wedding planners and can help put you in touch with them.

You’ll also need to make sure you find a local celebrant or officiant who will be able to marry you. I talk more about the vendors you’ll want a bit later.

One thing to note is that you may have to lodge an intent to marry in the country. For example, in Ireland, they require a 3-month notice before you wanting to marry.

Do we need to elope in a church or religious institute?

Eloping abroad is not unlike wanting to get married at home in Australia. In Australia, you’re allowed to get married more or less anywhere you’d like, including any public land.

Whilst laws may differ abroad, generally speaking you can choose any location to get married in, so long as the local customs are respected. For example, you could even get married in a Guinness Factory in Ireland, or under a waterfall in Iceland.

Do we need witnesses to elope?

When eloping you’ll need two witnesses to elope. This is so that two people can sign the marriage certificate, saying that they have witnessed the ceremony being a real thing.

What happens when you don’t want to bring two people along with you for your whole elopement? There is a simple solution.

Many elopement vendors on your wedding day will be thrilled to hang around and be a witness for the ceremony. So if you are having your hair or makeup done then your makeup artist can be one of the witnesses. Your elopement photographer can be the other witnesses, thus making your two up.

How old do you have to be to elope?

To elope or legally get married you need to get 18 years old.

How long does it take to plan an elopement?

Elopements can be planned anywhere from a week out, to a year or more.

In my experience couples tend to be two types:

If you’re a couple who wants to get married and want to get all the ceremony stuff out of the way, then you’ll probably spend a couple of weeks planning your elopement.

If you’re a couple who want to get married and have a real adventure somewhere (whether national or international), then you’ll probably spend around 3 – 12 months planning your elopement.

However, the best news of all is that you won’t be spending each weekend working out what flavour of canapés the cousin’s need because one of them hates vegetables, and the other one doesn’t like Asian cuisine. Instead, you’ll be researching which sights and sounds you want to experience when eloping.

How do you find a place to elope?

Looking at all the locations in the world to elope can be a bit daunting. However, you have the freedom to get married wherever you’d like (reasonably)! When it comes to how to plan an elopement, location is an important part of it.

Maybe you love the idea of eloping in a volcano? Why not elope in Kilauea, Hawaii.

Perhaps you’re drawn to the idea of eloping under the northern lights? Check out the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.

Or maybe you really want to find a hidden cave somewhere on a beach near you to say your vows?

I’ve written about how you can find your perfect elopement location in detail.

There really is no limit to what you can do or where you can elope.

I think it may be the most exciting part of eloping, how you can turn that one adventure you’ve always wanted to do together into the moment that celebrates the start of your marriage.

Alternatively, I’ve listed the Best places to elope in Australia.

How do you announce to friends and family you’re going to elope?

One of the advantages of eloping is that you won’t have a lot of family drama on your wedding day to deal with.

However, one big fear that many couples experience is in how their parents will react when they tell them they want to elope.

Unfortunately when you go against the grain of ‘what is expected’, people have a very natural fear and shock response to this. Parents and friends may have envisioned how they think you will get married and have forced that idea into their mind. So, when it comes to you telling them that you want to elope, people will have a reaction.

I believe that dealing with these strong reactions can be solved with good communication, and by standing firm in what you believe. I believe that by getting friends and family involved in the process to strictly help you, and not to direct, can alleviate a lot of the butting of heads.

Here are some tips which I recommend to help convince people who may give you a hard time that you want to elope:

  1. Write down why you want to elope on a sheet of paper. With a kick-ass pen. The reason for doing this is that it is your truth. This statement comes from the heart and is ultimately what you want to do. Nobody should make you budge from this truth of what you want.
  2. This is your elopement and marriage. You don’t need to tell anyone that you’re going to elope. However, you may want to spread the excitement with close friends and family. Bring your sheet of paper and if necessary let them read it. If their reaction is particularly off-putting, let them sit with the knowledge for a few days, or weeks. They may need time to process this.
  3. If you want to get them involved, as them for help when it comes to maybe finding fun things to do in the areas you want to go, or help to find local vendors
  4. Reassure them that before or after eloping, you can throw a nice dinner or party so you can all officially celebrate together.
  5. Most importantly of all; do not budge on your original ideas you had written down on the paper. You can do small things like get people involved, but do not let your elopement be railroaded by others.

I believe that these five points are so important because I have seen so many couples wanting to elope, only to have their intimate elopement turn into a more traditional affair because people ‘wanted their wedding day to include them’.

I’ve previously written in more detail about how to convince your parents you want to elope.

How do you find wedding vendors who can help you?

It’s best to find local elopement wedding vendors in the area where you want to elope. There are some exceptions, but here are some local and international types of vendors that work best:

Local elopement vendors:

Cake maker

International elopement vendors:

Wedding Dress
Wedding Suit
Wedding Rings
Elopement Photographer and Guide

The reason for this is that typically your local elopement vendors will have either short term perishable goods (think flowers and tasty treats), or not travel for what they do.

International elopement vendors on the other hand will be used to working globally and will be able to ship or work anywhere. For example, as an elopement wedding photographer and guide, I have worked and travelled around the world for couples because they have been unable to find a local photographer that specialises in being able to design and capture an elopement.

For example, if you were going to elope in Ibiza, a small island off Spain, then you’d be able to find elopement vendors through:

  1. Google ‘Florist in Ibiza’
  2. Joining a local Facebook group which specialises in weddings in the area and enquiring there.
  3. Asking local vendors for recommendations of people through word of mouth.

How do you plan your timeline?

Now that you’ve got where you want to elope down, and you’re starting to pick up an idea of what vendors you’d love for your day, planning the timeline is the next big thing.

This is because having a good idea of what you’d like to do on your day will determine how it flows. Having a solid timeline is vital when thinking of how to plan an elopement.

Why timelines are so important

As the great Poet Laureate Eminem once wrote:

“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”

You want to have the most awesome elopement day, and chances are you’ll just be reserving one day for the main event.

One of the biggest factors in turning ‘great photography’ into ‘amazing photography’ is lighting. Lighting can affect everything and especially when out in nature.

For example, you may love the idea of eloping in a really turquoise lake in the mountains. You’ve seen amazing images of it and love the idea of saying your vows in front of it.

You’ve also heard though that sunsets are the best time of day to elope at because of the light looking all cinematic and orange.

So, which one do you choose?

This is a common problem that many couples may not think about when it comes to elopement timeline planning, as whilst sunset is something you definitely shouldn’t miss on, the lake will most likely look as blue as it does because the sun is shining right on it. This means that you’d be looking at Mid Day for a ceremony.

However, the problem with Mid Day is that you will also get a lot of harsh directional light bearing down on you. Meaning it’s going to look incredibly unflattering.

So, what is the solution?

An example elopement timeline considering the above

When designing an elopement timeline, as an elopement photographer I use a whole heap of different scouting and light plotting tools to suggest an optimal timeline for your elopement.

This allows me to look at where the light is falling throughout the day according to the topography of the land, and thus recommend what I think would suit you best.

For the above problem, I’d recommend having a ceremony at about 5pm if we are in Summer, and the sun sets around 8pm.

The reason for this is that you’re not going to get cooked in the midday sun, and you’re still going to get that sun shining through over the mountains to light up the lake.

You’d then have time afterwards to pour some champagne and relax, all in time to have a small walk up to the side of the mountain for some epic sunset photos.

This is one small example, but illustrates how it can make a big difference.

What do we do on the rest of our elopement day?

Many couples wondering how to elope sometimes ask what they can do for the rest of the elopement day if the ceremony is only at one point of it?

Well, the great news is that you can do whatever you’d like! 

That means you can totally have a lie in until 11am, or you could alternatively get up at 5am to do a sunrise hike, and then sleep in during the day, before having a swim in the afternoon and then your ceremony at sunset.

You have total freedom, with no pressure.

Your elopement photographer can plan your elopement timeline

I’ve mentioned above that part of what your elopement photographer can do, is to plan your elopement. A good elopement photographer will be able to recommend perfect timings for you which gets you the best images ever.

Should we hire an elopement photographer?

Your elopement is going to be one of the most amazing adventures you’re going to share together. It marks that moment where you said ‘let’s do this’, and committed to rocking out for the rest of your lives together.

If that isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

The main reason to have an elopement photographer and guide, is so that you’ll have images that will instantly transport you back those emotions and feelings, letting you relive the day.

The other thing that you want to look out for is to make sure that they are an elopement photographer and guide. What this means is that they should be adept at planning your elopement from start to finish.

That includes:

  • Taking the time to listen and understand what you want from your elopement adventure
  • Recommending which areas globally may suit you
  • Planning a timeline of your day
  • Recommending travel logistics

Having an elopement photographer will also enable your friends and family to experience your elopement through gorgeous and authentic images.

When searching for an elopement photographer, I’ve written a blog which goes into detail about what you should expect from them.


What gear should you bring with you for your elopement?

Depending on what you’re doing and where you’re going, you may need different clothing and items specifically for your adventure.

However, when it comes to your elopement day, you want to pack the following for your elopement:

  1. The rings (lord, do not forget these);
  2. Your wedding outfits (hint; don’t feel like you have to wear anything traditional);
  3. Your vows (get analogue and put a pen to paper with these);
  4. Flowers (not essential, but always add a nice touch);
  5. A good rucksack (these are amazing for storing rings, champagne, and even flowers);
  6. Champagne or celebratory drinks;

How to celebrate your elopement?

Once you’ve eloped and have had a beautiful and intimate ceremony, the time has come for you to kick back and celebrate in style!

The best thing about elopements is that once you’ve had your elopement ceremony, you’re free to start your adventure abroad or wherever you may be!

Chances are when it comes to research, you’ll find a heap of amazing activities to do locally. So, the day after your elopement you could rent a camper van and drive all around the countryside, before spending a few days at a spa resort somewhere lush.

I recommend looking at Trip Advisor for great suggestions of local activities in your areas, or Alltrails for great local hiking spots!

How to announce your elopement?

Once you’ve eloped, I’m sure you’ll want to know how to announce you’ve eloped.

If you feel like letting people know, your elopement photographer should be more than happy to get at least 1 final image ready for you so that you can announce it on social media in style!

How to plan a post elopement celebration and party

Now that you’ve eloped, you’ll be wanting to get your post-elopement party sorted so that your friends and family and celebrate with you in style.

So, here are my top pieces of advice when it comes to planning a post elopement celebration and party:

  • Many couples have found that throwing a simple house party, or renting out a local bar can be a really fun thing to do.
  • When sending out invitations, be sure to tell people explicitly that it is a party and not any sort of wedding ceremony.
  • If it’s a surprise party or secret, then make sure that you announce that you’ve eloped along with the invitation, to make them feel welcome that you want them there.
  • Don’t feel pressure to have the party immediately as soon as you get back. Many couples prefer to elope to save financially, so if you want to make your party some time in the future, that is totally fine.
  • Enter with a bit of a bang. When you do arrive at your party, feel free to make a bit of an entrance! It is about celebrating your elopement and marriage and people love a bit of flair!

How to cancel a wedding and elope

Many couples get a point with traditional wedding planning and realise that they’re ending up with a wedding that doesn’t reflect them at all. This happens much more than you might think.

The first point to make is that if you feel that your wedding planning is getting out of hand and you’re suddenly doing things that you wouldn’t usually want at your wedding, it’s time to stop and think about everything.

I’m not talking about whether you want to get married, but how you want to get married.

In 2020 when COVID-19 started out in Australia, many couples realised that their huge wedding couldn’t legally be a reality, so instead went to elope. I worked with many couples who had this experience, and they ended up saying at the end that the whole process was actually a lot simpler and less stressful.

So, how do you cancel your wedding and elope?

  1. Sit down and agree together that eloping is what you both want. Write down your reasons on a pen and paper (using the method I detailed when writing down your truth above).
  2. Give notice to all of your current wedding vendors that you want to go ahead and cancel. Unfortunately chances are you will lose deposits because wedding vendors typically will turn other couples away for your date. However, this is a small price to pay to have the wedding you truly want.
  3. Start having a think about what you want to do to elope using the steps outlined above, or instead get in touch with an elopement photographer and guide like me, and we can get you sorted out and help you out with the process.

How to go from engaged to eloped in 4 steps

  1. Check the law. Have a look and research what the laws for foreigners to wed in the country that you think you’d love to elope in;
  2. Research where you want to go. Alternatively and/or get in contact with an elopement photographer and guide who can help design your dream elopement with you;
  3. Have your timeline planned out. Think about what time of day you’d love to elope at, and what you’d enjoy doing for your big day;
  4. Book your travel, and elope!

Let’s chat about designing your dream elopement!

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