The Ultimate Guide To Eloping In Australia

/ɪˈləʊp/

verb: to leave home secretly in order to get married without the permission of your parents: She eloped with an Army officer.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, this is the official definition of what it means to elope. With synonyms such as ‘abscond’, ‘escape’ and ‘getaway’, we can’t help but feel that the concept of eloping continues to have a stigma.

There is growing evidence that millennials are shunning traditional weddings in favour of eloping overseas. Forbes even went as far as to say that “eloping might be the best start to a great financial future together”.

We at Avo On Rye love intimate elopements. We’re biased, of course, since (full disclosure) our business model thrives on creating bespoke elopement experiences. But if you’re considering to elope, in this ultimate guide, we are going to shower you with all the necessary information and insights so that you can make a well-informed decision.

What is eloping?

Traditional depictions of eloping and elopements are largely negative. I mean, if we were still stuck in the 1950s where family and patriarchal values reigned supreme, sure. But we’re in 2019!

For us and for a growing number of modern coupes, “eloping completely takes off the pressure of planning the perfect wedding” – quoting Natalie Salmon, social media editor, Harper’s Bazaar.

As a trend, weddings have become less-traditional. Some brides feel comfortable wearing a non-white wedding dress while others let bridesmaids wear white. Overall, modern couples are seeking personalisation and getting married is no longer anchored by old traditions and religious practices.

Eloping is rising above the pomp, pressure and traditions (that are deeply rooted in outdated values), and celebrating the beginning of a lifelong commitment in the most meaningful way possible.

In practice, eloping typically involves exchanging of vows in private. Intimate elopements (or adventurous weddings) involve travelling to a unique ceremony location with a marriage celebrant. Unlike traditional weddings where there can be multiple wedding day events, the elopement day timeline is entirely up to you and how you want to spend the day (and with whom).

There is no need to stress over seating arrangements. Eloping eliminates the need to bicker over who pays for bridesmaid dresses and who gets to be maid of honour. There are no judging eyes – just you and your loved one, speaking from the heart with no spotlight and need to please everyone.

General elopement myths

1. Eloping is cheaper than a traditional wedding. Well, not necessarily. Some traditional weddings can be extremely frugal (less than AUD $3,500) with huge components of DIY and calling in favours from friends and family. And if you’re hoping on a plane, booking accommodation and hire car, and flying in wedding suppliers (e.g., photographer, videographer, makeup artist, celebrant), the bill can add up quickly.

2. Elopements take place in registry offices and are therefore unromantic. Elopements don’t necessarily have to take place at a courthouse or registry office. Our style of adventurous elopement resonates with couples who write their own individual vows. They typically skip the registry office in favour of hiking to a unique destination rather than a quickie. And this level of personalisation is what makes the elopement extra special and meaningful.

3. Elopements are strictly for 2 people. They can be, although, for a legally binding elopement ceremony in Australia, you will need 2 witnesses. Elopements can also be intimate weddings for couples who want a private and meaningful experience but still want their most significant people to share in their special day.

4. Elopements are for shameful and unapproved marriages. Hell no! Couples who choose to elope do so with intention, especially if a big wedding gets in the way of what’s important to them.

Destination wedding vs eloping vs intimate weddings: what’s the difference?

The majority of destination weddings still follow the format of a traditional wedding. The only difference between a destination wedding and a traditional one is that a destination wedding takes place in a location that is outside of your home city.

Whilst a destination wedding trims down the guest list considerably, they still cater for 20+ guests and follow a timeline of a rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and a reception to follow, typically in the evening. In essence, a destination, in our opinion, is still a traditional wedding.

Eloping or an elopement, on the other hand, removes the need to think about guests and family. There is no rehearsal dinner and no reception. It’s just the two of you and perhaps a few guests if you do want some witnesses. In general, the modern elopement consists of a marriage celebrant, the couple, and a team of creative storytellers (photography and/or video). That’s all! And unlike a traditional wedding, an elopement is 100% focused on the wedding ceremony and the lack of structure, formalities, and other things that bog you down.

In our eyes, an intimate wedding is the same as eloping.

Does wanting to elope make us selfish?

Quite the opposite because if you think about it, traditional weddings are far more selfish. You’re telling people months in advance to reserve this one day for you. They have to dress up, find suitable attire (often requiring them to go out and buy new clothes), prepare a gift, then spend an entire day, quite often a weekend, at your special day.

Isn’t that more selfish?

Eloping doesn’t necessarily mean that you are being selfish, but rather, choosing to eliminate all the distracting things to what is core to your marriage – the two of you.

“As terrible as it sounds, we didn’t miss having our friends and family with us as it was private and incredibly personal.” – Florence and her husband Carlo recounts. “We had many special moments with friends and family on our return.”

If it feels right for you, do it!

What are the benefits of eloping?

1. Eloping is romantic AF. In our opinion, intimate weddings are the best weddings. They yield the most incredible of photographs and videos to help you remember your special day and there is minimal fuss.

2. The ability to personalise anything and everything. Want to wear sneakers? Want to wear a denim jacket? Want to skip the whole white wedding dress? You can. Unlike a traditional wedding, you have complete control over every minute detail.

3. Less guests means less stress. Big traditional weddings have their place but they also come with a lot of opinions on how you should behave and act on your special day.

4. You can elope to anywhere in the world you like. Have you ever dreamt of a mountain-side wedding? Or perhaps exchanging vows at a beach wedding? Now you can with an elopement and do it with ease. The best thing about eloping is that you are not tied to a set building or venue. You can literally choose to elope anywhere in the world.

5. Less obligations means less pressure. No need to search for bridesmaid dresses (if it’s just the 2 of you). No need to decipher vague wedding packages. It’s just you living out your dream.

How much does a traditional small wedding in Australia cost?

Some frugal couples have managed to spend less than AUD $,500 on their wedding day. Others spend in excess of AUD $200,000.

Traditional weddings can be costly if a formal sit-down wedding reception is required. Hiring a venue, catering and entertainment starts from AUD $110 per head with most popular venues charging AUD $160 per pax. Then there’s all the other wedding expenses such as transportation, wedding dress, suits, bridal party expenses, signage, styling, decor, florals etc. And if you value your wedding day memories, wedding photography and video can cost upwards of AUD $10,000 combined.

How much does an elopement in Australia cost?

The cost of eloping in Australia will vary on a number of factors. It really depends what is important to you.

Common expenses include:

  1. Travel + accommodation + car hire fees
  2. Photography
  3. Videography
  4. Florals from a local florist (or you can DIY if that’s your thing)
  5. Wedding attire
  6. National park access fees

Eloping in Australia as an international traveller can be costly. There’s airfares to consider, car hire, and accommodation in general (even an AirBnB) will typically set you back at least AUD $150 per night. But the added benefit to eloping to Australia is that you can make a honeymoon out of it.

For a real wedding – that is, a legally binding wedding ceremony, your elopement ceremony will require an authorised celebrant. Different celebrants have varying fees, especially if your elopement requires significant travel.

Alternatively, you may visit a local registry office to be legally wed. Each Australian state and territory has its individual birth, death and marriages registry. The following fees apply:

  • Sydney, New South Wales: AUD $442
  • Brisbane, Queensland: AUD $350 to $600 (excludes standard marriage certificate)
  • Melbourne, Victoria: AUD $330 to $500
  • Adelaide, South Australia: AUD $327
  • Alice Springs – Darwin, Northern Territories: AUD $350
  • Perth, Western Australia: AUD $300

For a more personalised wedding ceremony, we recommend hiring an authorised celebrant and preparing your own vows, and trekking out to one of our recommended destinations.

We build bespoke elopement packages. It is not uncommon for our quotations to exceed AUD $15,000. At the same time, for the simplest elopement ceremonies, an intimate wedding in Australia can cost less than AUD $2,500. So the range is quite large and depends on your values and priorities.

Are adventurous elopements symbolic or are they real weddings?

For practical reasons, intimate weddings and adventurous elopements can often be symbolic in nature. That is, you and your partner exchange vows and rings (if applicable) but the ceremony is not legally binding.

This is because being legally married has different requirements depending on where you want to get married. For example, under Australian law, you must lodge a Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIN) 30-days prior to legally marrying. There are also witness requirements and specific words that must be said during the ceremony by an authorised celebrant. Refer to the Attorney-General’s website for full details.

Some couples are already legally married in their country of residence but still want an elopement experience. Therefore, they choose to have a symbolic ceremony. In these situations, the wording of the ceremony can be more relaxed and an authorised celebrant does not have to officiate it although you can still hire on for a fuller experience.

Colorado USA is a popular elopement destination because Colorado law allows couples to self solemnise, or perform their own marriage. It also happens to be very picturesque which is always handy when it comes to destination weddings.

Do you need witnesses to elope in Australia?

If you want a real wedding and have an Australian issued marriage certificate, you will need two witnesses who are over the age of 18 present and have an authorised celebrant to officiate the wedding ceremony.

However, for a symbolic wedding ceremony, there is no requirement to have witnesses present. That is, it is a personal preference.

Is there a waiting period before getting married?

Yes there is.

To be legally married in Australia, you must lodge a Notice of Intended Marriage at least 30 calendar days before your wedding day.

Are elopement photographers different to traditional wedding photographers?

Some of the best elopement photographers also photography traditional weddings.

When it comes down to the actual style, there are slight nuances. For example, a photographer who excels at adventurous elopements tend to have really good people skills. That is, they don’t feel awkward and don’t make the people around them feel awkward. This is super important given that you’ll be spending a lot of time with your photographer.

If your elopement plans require extensive hiking, you will need to hire a photographer who is into hiking and can perform whilst hiking.

We vet our wild elopement and intimate wedding photographers to ensure that they are a good fit for your plans.

Do elopement videographers differ to regular wedding videography?

Filming traditional weddings is completely different to filming an elopement and as such, the skills and experience set are different.

We recommend hiring a videographer (or videography team) that is comfortable with filming organically. That is, without tripods and rigging supports. They should be experienced with producing quality work with handheld techniques and be confident in getting the job done with minimal gear.

We vet our adventurous wedding videographers to ensure that they ar ea good fit for your travel plans.

How can you make your intimate elopement experience extra special?

Without a doubt, the best thing you can do is invest some time to write the most beautiful and heart-felt vows to each other.

AND KEEP THEM A SECRET UNTIL THE DAY!

Choose a celebrant that matches your personalities and values (we can help with this).

Choose a vows exchange time that coincides with the best natural light (once again, we can help with this).

Pack snacks 🙂