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 ❤️
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New Zealand Elopement Guide
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:
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.)
Eloping at the 8th wonder of the world: Milford Sound
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!
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.
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 😉
Your New Zealand elopement photographer is the most important decision
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.
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.
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.
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!