“To me, an elopement is whatever you make it. In the simplest form it’s a day to reflect on what your love means to you. The coming together of two wild hearts, displaying that raw love to only those that truly matter. It’s being vulnerable with each other, and letting that person know that you simply cannot be without them. It’s epic adventures or low-key Netflix and chills on the couch. It is whatever you want it to be. It is you.“James White
Eloping in NSW could be one of the best decisions you make for you and your partner. But initially, it could also be one of the most confusing ones as well. There is an absolute tonne of information available online regarding planning a wedding. However, when it comes to elopements, especially destination elopements, not so much. So let me help you. I’ve shot elopements all over the world, and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to elopement planning.
In this article I’m going to run through everything about eloping in NSW. This will include some of the most common questions people have. For example, how to legally elope in Australia and how much does it cost to elope in Australia? Heck, at the very end I will even throw in some info on elopement packages in NSW.
#1 The legalities of eloping in NSW
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The legalities are actually quite simple, and they don’t differ at all from that of a traditional wedding. In Australia, a wedding must consist of at least 5 people, including the following:
+ 2 witnesses over the age of 18 years (can’t be either of you, or your celebrant)
+ You both must be over the age of 18 and legally able to marry (not already married)
+ You must have lodged a Notice of Intent to Marry (NOIM) at least 30 days prior through your celebrant
+ The person marrying you must be authorised by law to do so (such as a civil celebrant)
That’s basically it, if you meet those criteria, you are eligible to elope in NSW, or even the wider Australia. If you’re wanting to elope overseas, maybe check out my ultimate guide on how to elope in NZ. If you’re worried about witnesses though, usually my go to is to have me as your photographer be 1 witness. From here you have two choices. Play witness roulette (you find a random essentially), or invite one or two people. These could be your parents for example. They’ll be much easier to convince of your decision if they get to be involved, and now you have witnesses.
#2 Why do you want to elope NSW?
Seems like a bit of a wishy washy point, doesn’t it? But this one is crucial. People often get swept up in what they see online. And one of the things people are being shown a lot, is epic elopements. Imagine caves in Iceland, or cliffs in New Zealand. It looks so awesome, why wouldn’t you want it? A lot of people once they sit down and think about what they have to forgo, realise it isn’t for them.
And that’s ok, elopements aren’t for everyone. If you grew up dreaming of the fairy-tale, fantasy wedding, eloping will be a big disappointment to you. You have to be true to yourself. Elopements don’t allow you any room to hide. So if you aren’t happy with your decision, the camera will pick it up. But, if you are after a more authentic and intimate experience. A more ‘true to life’ way in which to start your lives together. Then elopements are probably worth considering!So why do you want to elope? Is it a budget thing? Maybe you never wanted a wedding in the first place? Or maybe you’re some badass dudes on the run and need to get hitched so you don’t have to testify in court? Whatever the reason, be honest with yourselves. Make sure you are making the right choice before you commit to going down this path.
#3 Do you want any guests?
So notoriously, elopements were done in secret, between two people, no guests. This is no longer the case (if you want more information on elopements & intimate weddings click here), and generally speaking, can include up to 10 additional guests before you’re having more of an intimate wedding. However, this is a personal choice, and something you will want to consider before you begin planning as it will shape how you, and what you plan.
For example, you might want too have both sets of parents and 2 best friends each, for a total of 8 people. Great thing is 2 of these people can be your witneses, but now you need to plan for this. Will they all stand at the ceremony? Or do you hire chairs? Will you have a reception style lunch or a grazing table for guests while you get portraits done? Are you going to have any wedding party? There are a lot of things to contemplate if you want to go beyond a ‘traditional’ 2 person elopement. But trust me, it’s still much easier than planning a full wedding.
#4 Notify people (or better yet, don’t)
This one really is a personal choice. But just know, as soon as you let people know that you will be eloping and they cannot come, be prepared for them to try convince you otherwise, right up until the day. It will likely be unrelenting. Which is why, I usually recommend my couples who want a traditional elopement not mention anything to anyone until the deed is done. At that point people don’t bother getting upset, they just want to see photos and film which you can easily show them! Happy days! But, if you do decide to let people know in advance, be prepared…
#5 Be prepared for the backlash
“Honestly, we knew people would be frustrated, but we didn’t think they would hold a grudge this long. Do we regret it? No, but we really wish we were better prepared for how our friends and family would take it”
Not uncommon sadly, so be ready for it. You will find some people will be totally cool, but being informed by your child, or best friend or sibling that they are going to get married and you cannot be there can be hard to take sometimes. These people generally do not mean to hurt you, but they can take it as a personal attack, and feel it is their right to be there on your wedding day to witness it. Just make sure you have worked out why you’re doing this, because that is going to help you explain it to people. Of course if you don’t care for the person who is pissed off, well fuck them, they’ll get over it, or they won’t.
#6 Find the perfect celebrant
Cannot stress this enough. So many people assume because it is an elopement, the vendors, and particularly the celebrant do not matter. Wrong. They matter so much. You have way more interaction with your vendors with an elopement, because it’s far more personal. So you want someone who can truly personalise this ceremony for you, even if it is just you two hearing it. Not only do they put in the time to learn all about your relationship, the ins and outs of your love, and your story, they will help you write the perfect vows. If you’re eloping in NSW, I can strongly recommend checking out these celebrants; That Altar Guy, Holy Matrimonty & Monty King, thank me later!
#7 Find the perfect vendors
Another personal choice, because, let me be honest with you…you only need one. Your celebrant is the only person you actually need in order to elope in NSW. You don’t need hair and makeup, you don’t need flowers, and you don’t need photos. These are all additional vendors you might (and probably do) want.
Ultimately it is totally up to you. In my experience, the following are the most commonly booked vendors for an elopement:
+ Photographer & Videographer
+ Hair & Makeup
+ Catering/Grazing Tables
Again, it comes down to asking yourself what you really want. Do you want something epic and gorgeous because it’s what you want, or is it because it’s what you think society wants you to do? Do you want all the above because it’ll get you more likes on Insta, or is it actually what will make you happy? These aren’t easy questions, so don’t rush them! If you want to get married in your backyard in your tracks, go for it, but if you want to elevate it to something more epic for you, then the above is a good starting point.
#8 Photography & Videography
For majority of people, capturing these memories is crucial, and one of the almost ‘non negotiable’ things about their day. For one, most people do want to share this day with their friends and family, so having amazing photos and videos will enable that, but also because it’s just a sentimental family heirloom they want, regardless of it being an elopement.
So how do you pick the perfect photographer and videographer for your elopement? It’s a tough one, because its an incredibly personal service, and one that can never be redone if it’s messed up. I have an entire article on 12 questions you need to ask your photographer before booking them, which would be a great read, but let me try summarise below for you:
+ Shooting & Editing style
+ Are they a personality match or clash?
+ Are they experienced? Can you see a full gallery?
+ Pricing & inclusions?
That should get you started. But the best thing to do is create a shortlist of a couple photographers you like, and reach out. Don’t leave it on email, get on the phone, chat to them, get a vibe for who they are and use this to help make your decision.
#9 Pick a location, any location!
I’ve already mentioned this, but there is no set rules in terms of where you have to elope. With a traditional wedding, if you want to get married, there is a 99% chance you need a venue of sorts. But when eloping in NSW you can do it in your home, down the local cafe, at a park or in a cave in Iceland! The sky is the limits, the best thing to do is again, talk to your partner and work out what is important to you. If you don’t give a fuck about adventuring and are all about lazy days in bed, then get married in your home. If you are all about hiking and exploring, then fuck yeah, make a trek out of it.
The bottom line is to make it you. Don’t elope in the Blue Mountains, or on the Sand Dunes if it’s just because you’ve seen those photos and they look cool so you think you should do that. Do it your way, wherever you feel comfortable. PRO TIP for you, if you get married at home you generally can wear pyjamas and don’t need to dress up, so yeah, just a bit of something to look forward to if that is your jam.
#10 Plan a post elopement party (or don’t)
In 2021 this is the plan for a lot of people who cannot have their weddings as they originally planned. The concept is basically, ‘elope now, party later’. It’s basically a way of having your cake and eating it too in other words. You get married in that amazing elopement style that suits you perfectly, but also you get to have a big shindig with your friends and family to celebrate your marriage at a later date. Maybe that is later that evening, maybe its next month, maybe its next year?
Maybe its never! And that is ok too, you don’t have to do this, its just a way to make some people more comfortable with their choice to elope, and also a way to placate some relatives and friends who might be a bit pissed off about your ‘selfish’ decision to elope.
#11 Plan your announcement
Another one you don’t have to do, but a lot of people do opt to. Some people just post on Facebook or Instagram, and then sit back watching the comments roll in. Some people like to send out some nice polished announcements letters. Something that a lot of my couples do, is wait for their photos, use their favourite, and instead of using it to create a ‘save the date’ card, they send a ‘we just eloped’ card instead to their friends and family in the mail.
I love this idea, and something fun you could do, is include a QR code on the card, which once they scan takes them to your gallery or to your elopement video, allowing them to see all the beautiful images and videos before even speaking to you. Do this and expect people to be so overwhelmed with love and how happy they are for you that they won’t even bother complaining or being upset.
#12 Eloping in NSW from home
Some hints and tips for eloping from home for you, because this one is becoming more and more popular. Firstly, make it you. For example, if you’re both big cooks and love being in the kitchen, plan a big meal, your favourite to cook together and do that after you officially become a married couple. I will photograph it, and you can just have fun, get messy, enjoy yourselves.
Secondly, go as big or as little as you want. If you don’t want to wear a dress/suit then don’t, wear pyjamas or trackies. If you want your hair and makeup done, do it, but if not, thats ok too. Third and final, you can actually hire a stylist, and do an epic setup in the home or in the yard to create something special. For example, if you always wanted something magical and mystical, but never wanted the actual wedding, you could set up an arbour, fairy lights, Persian rugs and candles in the backyard, or living room. If you hire a professional stylist, you will be surprised what they can do, even if you think there is nothing you can do for your space!
#13 Eloping NSW – courthouse elopement
I love this one, personally it has a really vintage vibe to it. A traditional elopement was you and your partner, running off to the courthouse in secrecy and eloping there. There was no mountainside, no caves, no epic locations. So this is as traditional and cool as it gets for me. But does the fact that it is a courthouse mean it has to be boring and plain?
No! Again, you can’t do much for styling the actual ceremony, but the beforehand and afterwards you certainly can. I did a courthouse elopement recently where the couple were really big on hiking and climbing. So I met with them beforehand, captured them prepping for a hike, getting hair and makeup done. We then went to the courthouse, did the deed, and then hit the hiking trail which led us to a spot they wanted to do some portraits (where he popped the question). It was super personal to them, and also, super cheap! With the courthouse, you need to get in touch and see when their next availability is. Usually its 4 weeks. Book a time, and get in and get it done.
But don’t let society say you can’t personalise it, make it yours, get dressed up (or don’t), get your hair and makeup done (or don’t), have epic plans for portraits afterwards (or don’t).
#14 How much does it cost to elope in Australia
If you want information about eloping in NSW and elopement packages that go with it, you can check them out here. Elopements are not like weddings, remember that. Weddings fit into categories, and hence usually a few packages will suit 99.9% of weddings. However, with elopements, due to their incredibly varied nature and individualised setup, packages do not really work. For me I try to personalise each quote, because each elopement is so unique. So take the pricing you see as a starting point, and we can go from there.
FAQ’s about eloping in NSW
Does it cost money to elope?
Yes, it costs money to elope in NSW, or Australia. Depending on the day of the week you want to get married, it should cost between $360 – $470 to book in your ceremony at the courthouse and get your marriage certificate. Anything you spend above this is additional, but an average elopement is approximately $8k – $10k, whereas a traditional wedding can be on average, in excess of $35,000.
How much does it cost to elope in Australia?
$360 – $470 for the ceremony at the courthouse and the marriage certificate. It totally depends on the day you choose though.
What is the difference between getting married and eloping?
The difference is basically in the size and details of the event. An elopement is much more stripped back, traditionally just 2 people plus 2 witnesses. There are often no vendors involved, and the day is simply a ceremony. Other times the elopement can be epic but still less than 10 people. Over 10 people is a wedding, and it usually entails more planning. There are more vendors involved, it is more traditional in nature, and notoriously costs a lot more.
Is it easy eloping in NSW
Yes! It is so easy, you literally need 30 days notice to lodge your notice of intent to marry, and then you can do it. The more epic an event you want to plan, the more time you will need, but with very few moving parts, they are the easiest way to get married!
Do you need a witness to elope?
Yes, if you’re eloping in NSW you will need two witnesses, over the age of 18. Your celebrant cannot be a witness, but your photographer can. If you’re feeling game you can try just get a random to be your witness as they are walking by, or you can have a select few guests.
Are you legally married if you elope NSW?
Yes, short answer, you are married. So long as you lodge a Notice of intent to marry 30 days before the elopement, and someone who is authorised by law conducts the ceremony, you will be as legally married as someone who has a traditional wedding.
How many guests can I have at my NSW elopement?
Traditionally speaking an elopement is you and your partner only, but these days, vendors will consider it an elopement if you have less than 10 guests all up.