Eloping in Middle Earth: New Zealand Elopement Guide

Eloping in Middle Earth: New Zealand Elopement Guide

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about planning your New Zealand elopement.

New Zealand is a truly spectacular elopement destination, with epic hiking trails, world-famous wineries, Lord of the Rings filming locations, adventurous activities like bungee jumping and skydiving, and some of the best coffee on the planet. With natural beauty around every turn, this island country in the South Pacific is perfect for couples looking for a whimsical, adventurous, and romantic elopement experience ❤️

↓ Keep reading for the full story + pics ↓

Eloping in New Zealand

New Zealand Elopement Guide

Couple hiking along a trail for their elopement in New Zealand

Best places to elope in New Zealand

Although we love the North Island for its beaches and Hawaii-like weather, in our opinion the best places to elope are on New Zealand’s south island. We can’t get enough of its incredible diversity, with snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes, and dramatic fjords, just to name a few! From the Southern Alps to Fiordland National Park on the wild west coast, it’s the perfect spot for couples hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The picturesque landscapes are also prime for photography – this is where we come in 😜 New Zealand is truly a photographer’s dreamland in any season, with vibrant wildflowers in spring, long daylight hours and warm weather in summer, and fiery foliage in autumn. It’s one of the most magical places we’ve ever visited, and it keeps us coming back year after year!!

Here’s our list of 5 jaw-dropping places to elope in New Zealand:

  1. Glaciers and iceberg lakes
  2. Milford Sound
  3. The Southern Alps
  4. Wildflower meadows
  5. Helicopter tour
New Zealand Elopement at Mt. Cook National Park

Eloping among glaciers and iceberg lakes at Mt. Cook

If you’re hoping for Misty Mountain vibes, Aoraki-Mt. Cook National Park is the place for you!! One of the highlights of the south island, it features some of the awe-inspiring landscapes that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythical world. Hiking across suspension bridges to catch a glimpse of an iceberg lake or backpacking up to an alpine hut perched on a glacier really does feel like embarking on a magical elopement quest 🧙‍♂️ The park is also home to Aoraki, the tallest mountain in New Zealand and an incredibly sacred place for the indigenous Maori tribes. Legend has it this majestic peak serves as the link between the heavens and the earth (and the Maori name translates to “Cloud Piercer” – has there been a more epic name for a mountain?! The answer is no.)

Check out this multiday New Zealand elopement where we spent day 1 at Mt. Cook and day 2 at Milford Sound.

New Zealand Elopement at Milford Sound

Eloping at the 8th wonder of the world: Milford Sound

Home to the iconic Milford Sound, aka the “8th Wonder of the World”, Fiordland National Park is jam-packed with otherworldly beauty. Imagine exchanging your wedding vows surrounded by towering peaks, waterfalls, and fjords reminiscent of Norway, all in one national park. This is a prime spot for water activities, from kayaking with penguins, seals, and dolphins to taking a boat cruise and feeling the spray of a mighty waterfall on your skin. And for Lord of the Rings fans, it also serves as the backdrop for Rivendell (romantic!) and the Dead Marshes (slightly less romantic 😅). On a rainy day, Milford Sound comes alive with thousands of temporary waterfalls flowing down the cliff walls. It’s a rare instance of bad weather being an advantage in this wild and rugged place!

Milford Sound is a pretty remote destination, so we recommend either staying in the park for a while (if you’re driving) or taking a small hopper flight from Queenstown. There is only one hotel inside the park called Milford Lodge and it can be pricey, but it’s worth every penny in our opinion! It also has a campground onsite for anyone traveling on a budget.

New Zealand Elopement in the Wanaka mountains

Eloping on a mountain peak in the Southern Alps

If you’re up for a little (or a lot) of hiking for your elopement, there’s no better place than the majestic Southern Alps. From easy trails along Lake Wakatipu to all-day adventures like the instafamous Roy’s Peak (pictured above), there’s something for everyone! It’s pretty much impossible to find a bad view in these mountains 🤩 And there’s something so special about literally climbing a mountain together on your wedding day – it’s one of the things we love most about adventure elopements! Saying your vows on top of a jagged peak while looking out at the most breathtaking view you’ve ever seen is about as magical as it gets ❤️

We love staying in the city of Queenstown or the nearby town of Wanaka for easy access to all of these amazing trails! Not only is this area prime for hiking, but it’s also famous for extreme sports like bungee jumping, off-roading, skydiving, river rafting, or riding the luge down Queenstown Hill. In the fall, some of the most spectacular colors in the country can be found along the Shotover River. Even if you don’t elope out here, Wanaka and Queenstown are at the top of our list for must-visit places in New Zealand!

Related: check out some of our favorite hiking elopements from the North Cascades in Washington.

New Zealand Elopement in wildflower meadows

Eloping in a magical wildflower meadow

In the spring months of November and December, riverbeds across the south island burst with color as the perennial lupine flowers reach peak bloom. Stretching as far as the eye can see, these flowers create a rainbow of color that’s spectacular to witness 💐  Believe it or not, these beauties are considered weeds by locals, and are often bulldozed or sprayed with pesticides. As stunning as they are, they are incredibly invasive, choking out other native plants and spreading like wildfire across the landscape. They are even considered a road hazard in the Lake Tekapo area for being too much of a distraction to drivers!!

But despite being controversial, they sure are a gorgeous backdrop for elopement photos 🤤 There’s just something about dancing and twirling through wildflower meadows that feels like a fairytale! Some of our favorite spots to find them are Fiordland National Park (pictured above), Lake Tekapo, and Glenorchy. Unlike the delicate wildflowers growing in some of the US national parks, we feel ok with posing among these pesky plants for a few snaps.

New Zealand Elopement in a helicopter

Eloping on an epic helicopter ride!

If you’re wanting to add some extra thrill-seeking adventure to your elopement day, consider a private ski plane or helicopter ride! Whether you’re exchanging vows on top of a glacier or cruising above braided rivers, there are so many spectacular landscapes in New Zealand that are only accessible by air. We know some incredible tour companies out of Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Mt. Cook that can help put together the most scenic routes and landing spots among the Southern Alps for your elopement. If hiking isn’t your thing, this is a great way to get those top-of-the-world views without breaking a sweat 😉

Looking for more helicopter elopement inspiration? Take a peek at this one from Alaska!

Your New Zealand elopement photographer is the most important decision

New Zealand elopement photographer

We’ve planned and photographed 400+ elopements all over the world and have explored every inch of New Zealand’s north and south island – we are New Zealand elopement photography and planning experts.

You’re likely traveling from the other side of the world to elope in New Zealand. Working with a photographer you can trust to do justice in capturing you in this wildly beautiful landscape is so important! We know all the best elopement spots out here, so you’ll be able to lean on us for our expertise to plan the best possible day.

Couple kissing on a swinging bridge in New Zealand

Everything you need to know for planning your New Zealand elopement

Keep these pro tips in mind when planning out your New Zealand elopement:

What is the best month to elope in New Zealand?

Our favorite months to elope in New Zealand are December-March.

New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, so its seasons are the opposite of the US. This makes December-March the perfect time to travel there for warm summer weather, long daylight hours, and snow-free trails. It’s also so nice to escape the frigid US temperatures for a bit during this time of year! 😉

Bonus for eloping in New Zealand in December – In December, New Zealand’s south island erupts with color as thousands of lupine flowers reach their peak bloom, especially around the Lake Tekapo area. They are so spectacular to see and unlike anywhere else we’ve visited in the world!

Bonus for eloping in New Zealand in March – March is an amazing time to catch some stunning fall colors in Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown before the winter snow settles in. It’s also a bit less touristy than January and February.

Elopement couple in the rainforest at Milford Sound
Elopement couple at an iceberg lake in Mt. Cook National Park New Zealand

How much does it cost to elope in New Zealand?

The average couple spends $10,000 – $20,000 on their New Zealand elopement.

Because New Zealand is such a far distance from the US (15+ hours by air!), flights are the most expensive aspect of the elopement. However, lodging, rental cars, food, and local vendors are usually cheaper than the US due to the currency exchange rate and the US dollar being stronger.

The total cost of the elopement varies greatly based on how elaborate you want it to be and how many guests you’re inviting, but here’s a breakdown of what to expect for a 1-2 week trip (US $):

Photographer: $5,000-10,000 | Hair & Makeup $150-200 | Flowers $200-300 | Celebrant $350-750 | Marriage License $92 | Permit $0-70 | Lodging $700-3,000 | | Rental Car $200-400 | Flights $2,000-3,000

How do you legally get married in New Zealand?

A marriage license is required and some locations may require permits.

NEW ZEALAND MARRIAGE LICENSE:

You need a celebrant to marry you and 2 witnesses to sign your marriage license. You must apply for your marriage license at least 3 days before your elopement because there is a 3 day waiting period after the license is issued. The application is ~$92 USD and you can apply online.

DOC PERMIT:

A permit may be required through the DOC (Department of Conservation) to get married in certain outdoor locations like Mt. Cook National Park and Milford Sound. If you need any help or guidance on this, our team is well-versed with the permit application process to help all of our couples each year!

Couple looking at the waterfalls in Fiordland National Park

New Zealand elopement packages and FAQs

How much does it cost to elope in New Zealand?

Including the marriage license, permit, celebrant, lodging, flights, rental car, photographer, and other elopement vendors, couples typically spend $10,000-20,000 USD for their New Zealand elopement.

Can US citizens get married in New Zealand?

To get legally married in New Zealand, you will need a marriage license (~$92 USD), two witnesses, a celebrant, and a permit from the Department of Conservation for certain locations. 

Where can I get eloped in New Zealand?

You can elope anywhere you want in New Zealand! We recommend the south island for its mountains, glaciers, fjords, and waterfalls.

Elopement couple hiking in Mt Cook National Park

See more New Zealand elopements

Here are inside peaks at some of the days we’ve created and photographed with our couples for their New Zealand elopements. This is a great way to get a feel for our New Zealand elopement photography, where to elope in New Zealand, and what full day adventure elopements look like!

Want us to photograph your New Zealand elopement?

Hope you found our tips on eloping in New Zealand helpful! As you can see, we LOVE talking about elopements and the wild, fantastical landscapes New Zealand has to offer. If you’re considering eloping in New Zealand, don’t hesitate to reach out for a free planning call with us!

-Brandon, Gabi, Hannah, and Zoe

The Foxes are Brandon and Gabi Fox, an adventurous husband and wife elopement photography team living and traveling in their DIY renovated 1972 Airstream. They are loosely based in the Pacific Northwest, but travel for work and play throughout the western states and beyond. Their elopement photography is award winning and is described as candid photography that captures couples as they are, where they are, blending images of love and natural beauty in the great outdoors. 

CUSTOM PHOTO ALBUM AGREEMENT

THE FOXES PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC

These Terms and Conditions are a legally binding agreement is between you (“Client”) The Foxes Photography, LLC (“Photographer”) (collectively the “Parties”, or in the singular “Party”), for the purpose of Client purchasing a custom photography album from Photographer. This Agreement shall become effective upon the date you complete the checkout process.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

  1. Fees & Retainer

Client shall commit to a custom album package by signing and returning this Agreement along with the initial payment for album service. Photographer will not begin its custom album services until the Agreement is signed and the album design fee is received. No final album will be printed until the full payment is made. In the event Client fails to remit payment as specified, Photographer shall have the right to immediately terminate this Agreement with no further obligation and retain any monies already paid as liquidated damages. Full payment must be completed by Client within 60 days of this Agreement’s date.

The fees in this Agreement are based on Photographer’s current album pricing at the time of booking. The price list is adjusted periodically, and any changes to custom albums will be charged at the prices in effect at the time.

  1. Album Design Procedure

The following outline indicates the general procedure of a custom album design. Client understands and agrees to this procedure.

  1. Photographer will use photos and album specifications to create their first custom album design.
  2. Photographer will send Client first draft of album design.
  3. Client will approve or send in revisions to album design.
  4. Photographer will make edits to album design. Only two rounds of edits are allowed.
  5. Client will approve final album design.
  6. Photographer will send in album for printing.
  7. Album is printed and shipped.
  8. Client receives final printed album.
  1. Album Spreads

Albums will include 35 spreads and no less. The definition of a “page” is one side of a spread in an album (for example, a 70-page album contains 35 spreads). If Client requests more than 35 spreads, additional spreads are $50.00 each. 

  1. Revision Rounds

The first draft will include photos selected by the photographer and will be sent to Client for approval. Client may request modifications to be made. Photographer shall complete modifications and send the second draft of album design to Client. Client may then accept the design or request one more round of modifications. Photographer will complete this second modification request and send the final draft of album to Client. After these two rounds of revisions to the album design, no further revisions are allowed. Any additional revisions are invoiced at a rate of $75.00 per round. All additional revision rounds must be paid before the revision is made by the Photographer. Photographer requires up to 10 days to complete a revision request. Client has 50 days to send Photographer any and all revision requests. Any revisions requested by Client more than 50 days after this Agreement’s date will not be accepted by Photographer.

  1. Final Approval

Photographer will not place an album order with the album Manufacturer until Client approves the design draft, and the balance is paid on any upgrades or additional spreads. Client agrees to check the final album design very carefully before giving final approval. Once final approval is given, Photographer is not responsible for typos, image defects, duplicate images, or other errors that may have been missed. 

  1. Parent/Duplicate Albums

Parent/duplicate albums cannot be altered from the original designs. All parent/duplicate albums shall be ordered at the time of final approval of the original album design and will be invoiced and must be paid prior to Photographer sending in album for printing. No parent/duplicate albums are available after the original album ordering phase is complete.

  1. Album Delivery

Client understands and agrees that Photographer’s album manufacturer (“Manufacturer”) generally takes 6-8 weeks to print and manufacture the album. While every possible precaution is taken and Manufacturer has been selected by Photographer for its superb quality, Photographer assumes no liability for the loss or damage of album while in possession of Manufacturer. 

  1. Ordering Date

Client shall agree to final album design within 60 days of this Agreement’s date. Any delay by Client in approving final album design will result in termination of this Agreement and no further obligation by Photographer.

  1. Retouching and Edits

Photographer will use the final edited images delivered to Client to make the album design. Photographer will not re-edit or retouch any images.

  1. Returns

Client understands and agrees that once final approval of album design has been given to Photographer, no returns or refunds are allowed whatsoever. In the event Client receives the printed album and sees any manufacturer defects or dislikes the album quality, Photographer will work with Manufacturer to the best of their ability to remedy the situation. Client is responsible for any additional fees associated with returning or reprinting the album.

  1. Album Archiving

Photographer shall keep a copy of final approved album design for 90 days but does not permanently archive the final album design. Client understands that after 90 days the album design will not be available to order additional copies and a new agreement must be signed to start the process over.

  1. Photographer Copyright

The final album design by The Foxes Photography, LLC is their property, will remain their property, and are protected by United States Copyright Laws (USC Title 17). Client hereby waives any claims for ownership, income, editorial control, and use of the images and album design. Violations of this federal law will be subject to its civil and criminal penalties.

  1. Reproduction

Client and Client’s agents agree to acquire the album design and product directly from Photographer through their professional album company. Client and Client’s agents agree not to scan, copy or reproduce the album design in any manner without written permission, including using the custom album design to create other albums. Photographer may seek damages for any illegal reproduction. Client and Client’s agents further agree not to supply the album to any third-parties.

  1. Communication

Photographer’s office hours are 9:00am – 5:00pm PST Monday through Friday. Photographer’s primary source of communication is through their email [email protected]. Photographer will respond to Client’s emails within those office hours.

  1. Indemnification

Client shall indemnify, release, discharge and hold harmless Photographer, its heirs, legal representatives, assigns, employees, contractors, or any persons or corporations acting under permission or authority of the Photographer from and against any and all losses, damages, liabilities, and expenses and costs, including reasonable legal expenses and attorneys’ fees, to which Photographer may become subject as a result of any claim, demand, action or other legal proceeding by any third-party to the extent such losses arise directly or indirectly out of activities performed by Photographer pursuant to this Agreement, except to the extent such losses result from the gross negligence, willful misconduct, or intentional acts of Photographer.

  1. Maximum Damages

The sole remedy for any actions or claims by Client shall be limited to a refund, the maximum amount not to exceed the total monies paid by Client under this Agreement.

  1. Limitation of Liability

If, during the production and/or before the album(s) are delivered to Client, the media has been lost, stolen, or is unusable because of defect, damage, equipment/platform malfunction, processing, or other technical error caused by Photographer or by forces outside the control of Photographer, Client agrees to relieve and hold Photographer harmless and will not impose any additional liability.

In no event shall Photographer be liable under this Agreement to Client or any other third-party for consequential, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, punitive, or enhanced damages, arising out of, relating to, or in connection with any breach of this Agreement, regardless of (a) whether such damages were foreseeable, (b) whether or not Client was advised of such damages, and (c) the legal or equitable theory (contract, tort, or otherwise) upon which the claim is based.

  1. Force Majeure 

No Party shall be liable or responsible to the other Party, nor be deemed to have defaulted under or breached this Agreement, for any failure or delay in fulfilling or performing any term of this Agreement (except for any obligations to make payments to the other Party hereunder), when and to the extent such failure or delay is caused by or results from acts beyond the impacted party’s (“Impacted Party”) control that are unforeseen and unpredictable at the time of contracting, including, but not limited to, the following force majeure 

events (“Force Majeure Events”): (a) acts of God; (b) a natural disaster (fires, explosions, earthquakes, hurricane, flooding, storms, explosions, infestations), epidemic, or pandemic; (c) war, invasion, hostilities (whether war is declared or not), terrorist threats or acts, riot or other civil unrest; (d) government order or law; (e) actions, embargoes or blockades in effect on or after the date of this Agreement; (f) action by any governmental authority; (g) national or regional emergency; (h) strikes, labor stoppages or slowdowns or other industrial disturbances; and (i) shortage of adequate power or transportation facilities. The Impacted Party shall give Notice (as defined in Section 27) within 10 days of the Force Majeure Event to the other Party, stating the period of time the occurrence is expected to continue. The Impacted Party shall use diligent efforts to end the failure or delay and ensure the effects of such Force Majeure Event are minimized. The Impacted Party shall resume the performance of its obligations as soon as reasonably practicable after the removal of the cause. In the event that the Impacted Party’s failure or delay remains uncured for a period of 15 days following Notice given by it, the other Party may thereafter terminate this Agreement upon Notice. The Retainer and all other payments made by Client up to the date of Notice of a Force Majeure Event are non-refundable.

  1. Cancellation of Album Services by Photographer

In the event Photographer determines, in its sole discretion, that it cannot or will not perform its obligations under this Agreement due to circumstances including, but not limited to, injury, illness, death of family member, pregnancy, military orders, religious obligations, other personal emergencies, or total breakdown of communication with Client, it will:

  1. Immediately give notice to Client;
  2. Issue a refund or credit based on a reasonably accurate percentage of custom album services rendered; and
  3. Excuse Client of any further performance and/or payment obligations under this Agreement.
  1. Sales Tax

Should any sale and/or use tax be imposed on any part of this Agreement, such tax shall be collected from Client and remitted by Photographer. All sales tax will be included on invoices.

  1. Entire Agreement

This is a binding Agreement that incorporates the entire understanding of the Parties, supersedes any other written or oral agreements between the Parties, and any modifications must be in writing, signed by all Parties, and physically attached to the original agreement.


22. Venue and Jurisdiction

This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Washington including all matters of construction, validity, performance, and enforcement and without giving effect to the principles of conflict of laws. The Parties agree that any dispute or lawsuit arising out of, or concerning, this Agreement that is not first resolved by arbitration shall be resolved exclusively in a court of competent jurisdiction located in Whatcom County, Washington. The Parties assume responsibility for their own collection costs and legal fees incurred should enforcement of this Agreement become necessary.

  1. Arbitration

Any and all disputes or disagreements rising between the Parties out of this Agreement upon which an amicable understanding cannot be reached, shall be decided by arbitration in accordance with the procedural rules of the American Arbitration Association. The Parties agree to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator(s). The arbitration proceeding shall take place in Whatcom County, Washington, unless another location is mutually agreed to by the Parties. The cost and expenses of the arbitrators shall be shared equally by the Parties. Each Party shall be responsible for its own costs and expenses in presenting the dispute for arbitration.

  1. Severability & No Waiver

In the event that any part of this Agreement is found to be invalid or unenforceable, the remainder of this Agreement shall remain valid and enforceable. Any failure by one or both Parties to enforce a provision of this Agreement shall not constitute a waiver of any other portion or provision of this Agreement.

  1. Transfer

This Agreement cannot be transferred or assigned to any third-party by either the Photographer or Client without written consent of all Parties. 

  1. Headings

Headings and titles are provided in this Agreement for convenience only and will not be construed as part of this Agreement.

  1. Notice

Parties shall provide effective notice (“Notice”) to each other via email at the date and time which the Notice is sent: Photographer’s Email: [email protected]

  1. Counterparts; Facsimile Signatures 

The Parties agree that a facsimile copy (electronic copy) of this Agreement, which contains the Parties’ signatures, may be used as the original.

Signatures

By checking the box on this order form and upon completion of purchase, you confirm that you have read, understood, and agree to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.