Couples

The complete guide to eloping in Queenstown

Eloping can be the best way for two people to celebrate their love for one another, after all, at its purest, that’s what marriage represents. There are many other reasons why people may choose to elope when saying ‘I do,’ but the fact that their marriage is just about them and their love for one another is the key reason for most. Queenstown is not just a popular choice for throwing a big destination wedding party, it is fast becoming a choice for those who wish to elope. Below is a carefully curated guide to eloping in Queenstown, making your personal elopement experience simple yet special.

What is an elopement?

When elopement is mentioned as an option, most people’s minds head straight to Las Vegas with all the over-the-top glitz and glam that entails. For some, that is their dream, for others, it feels cheap and unromantic. An elopement doesn’t have to mean a quickfire ceremony in a cocktail dress, mascara smudged from the night before – elopement is fast becoming about the adventure – heading to unmatched places of beauty, a holiday with unforgettable meaning, a relaxed affair and a party at home to celebrate (if you wish). Elopement is getting away from it and doing things your way, together.

Why Elope?

I should have eloped with my partner. When we said our ‘I do’s’ we succumbed to the pressure of the big traditional wedding, where it was more about the projection of love then our real love for one another. I remember glancing over at my cousin yawning during the ceremony and then dancing solo as my husband entertained his work buddies. We did celebrate our love for one another, but not in the way I imagined, unfortunately. Elopement saves you from having to invite Uncle Bob you haven’t seen in five years; you can focus more on the two of you and less on the guests. Eloping gives you more of a chance to have an adventure, explore new places together, and create the type of memories you do want to look back on. It is a magical way to gain the freedom to create a wedding done your way; the right way. With this guide to elopement, I am excited to overcome the traditional pressures found in your usual wedding, alongside you. Read on to discover creative ways to keep your elopement simple yet memorable…

How I can help you

Picture this; just the two of you (plus me capturing the magic), a majestic mountain top, the lake spread beneath you, Queenstown shimmering in the backdrop – the two of you a vowing your love for one another with only some cheeky Kea’s (mountain parrots) to provide an audience. You have all the control with no outside opinions to politely navigate, you can tailor-make an elopement package to be as simple or elaborate as you like. You may just want to dip your toes in the lake when you say ‘I do’ or be whisked away to the highest peaks to capture all that glory. The beauty of Queenstown is that wherever you are, the landscape stuns. How does a Lothlorian-esque enchanted forest sound? Lunch served with moss-covered trees in the backdrop, a hike to a secret spot, or a short road trip to a remote location? Eloping is pretty epic, so you want the location to match. I’m here alongside you, putting you in touch with the best vendors, scouting you the location of your dreams or helping you to find that romantic hotel for just the two of you – this day will be as magical as your love story and I will be here to document each moment as your wedding photographer. You can still share this journey with your loved ones at home, but perhaps bring them cake to soften the blow… So, get ready to create a day that (for now) you can only imagine, this dream is ready to become reality!

Location, Location….

Being a local here in Queenstown means I have all the stunning secret spots up my sleeve, perfect for that whimsical, romantic elopement you and your partner are planning for. Let me whisk you away into the mountains for a secluded shoot. Atop mountains where you can shout your love out to the world below, running through stunning vineyards or frolicking in a magical forest, the choices are endless – I will make it easy for you to choose with the selection of locations I have specially hunted out for wedding shoots. Elopement means the opportunity to completely connect with one another and your surroundings, without the distraction of the waiting wedding party. Do some research before you jet off, not enough to kill off the spontaneity, as that’s a big part of eloping – but also keep in mind your not planning a wedding. Look into a few locations you would like to know more about and we can visit them together a day or two before your shoot. This makes for a fantastic opportunity to have a pre-wedding photography session, we can get to know one another and get creative.

 On Top of the World

Helicopter landings are an incredible way to create the most unforgettable wedding ceremony and the photos to remember it by. You are spoilt for choice with locations and the cost is fairly reasonable considering the experience it provides. Enquire with me for a price list. 

Helicopter weddings can be incorporated into your wedding in a few different ways. 

1. You could have a ceremony by the lake and then be flown to the top of a mountain for your photos afterward. This is a great option if you’re planning on having some guests and they won’t all fit in a Heli.

2. You could have your ceremony and photos on the mountain if it’s just the two of you or only a few guests.

3. You can opt for a multiple “landing package” with your ceremony at one helicopter accessed location followed by a short flight to another of New Zealand’s most amazing landing spots for more photos.

Whichever option you choose, you’ll also have a selection of “ground locations” included either before or after your flight. 

 

What is an elopement wedding day like?

How long might an elopement take? As it isn’t the usual run-of-the-mill wedding, it really is up to you – traditional weddings average 10 hours, but elopements don’t involve quite so many complicated and drawn-out elements. It’s all about keeping things simple and fully experiencing the most important parts of your marriage. 

A Ceremony itself can take anything from 10 to 20 minutes, but when you add in the photos before and after, the champagne and an adventurous drive around some of Queenstown’s most amazing locations, we recommend a half-day. Want some extra photos or to visit multiple locations in a Helicopter? That can be arranged too.

So go wild or keep it tame and simple, an afternoon ceremony with some lakeside photos or a thrilling adventure from dawn till dusk. 

Here are some ideas I’ve put together to inspire you, and I’d highly recommend checking out my timeline blog for some inspiration too.

Morning ritual

Your day together begins with getting yourselves glammed up and ready to say ‘I do,’ while looking and feeling your best. This can include a pampering session, hair and make up session, a beautiful breakfast together at your boutique hotel, this part of the day is all about preparation and makes for a fantastic opportunity to get some beautiful candid shots, satin dressing gowns, relaxed laughter, hair being made up….you may want to consider capturing these moments so loved ones at home can truly come along for the ride when you are ready to share.

First Look

The moment your partner and you first glimpse a look at each other on that special day, before heading to your ceremony location. You may choose the traditional option of not seeing each other at all that morning, or simply get ready separately. You could also meet one another at the ceremony, but usually, in the style of elopements, the couple begin and end the entire day together. A first look can be captured at your hotel or by the lake near your accommodation. It’s all about his reaction to seeing you in your stunning outfit for the first time.

On the Road

Most couples choose to be collected by me as this means we can capture your first look before departing your accommodation, but Queenstown also has a great selection of luxury car rentals to choose from if you’d like to arrive in style. You may even be staying on the grounds of your beautiful venue if that’s the way you’ve planned it, either way, there are great shots to be captured as you make your way to the ceremony.

I Do

Whether we’re driving to a secluded lakeside location or flying you to the top of a mountain for your ceremony, this is where the magic really starts to happen.

The ceremony itself is all about capturing those special moments which herald one of the most important chapters in your life. This small ceremony could be just the two of you or include an intimate number of family and friends, meaning no huge fuss, just your nearest and dearest.

There are many different options when it comes to the unique elements of a ceremony, and your wonderful celebrant will be there to help organise and plan this.

To Close the ceremony

It’s always been a blast to see how each couple chooses to celebrate the conclusion of their wedding ceremony.

Some couples hurl confetti (biodegradable of course) in the air. Some toss flower petals or seeds. Most couples love to pop a bottle of award-winning local champagne to celebrate their marriage. I’ve even seen some couples take a moment in hand to let loose and scream as loud as they can from the top of a mountain or cannonball into an alpine lake.

Adventuring & Couples photos

This is where we take off on an adventure together. It could be as wild as taking a helicopter ride, or if flying isn’t your thing, we can visit a variety of Queenstown’s “ground locations”. Even without a Helicopter, it’s only a short drive up a local mountain to achieve awesome views of this amazing area.

Ap​petite

By the end of the day you’ll be ready for a world-class dinner at any number of Queenstown’s amazing restaurants and eateries – or continue to keep it cosy with just the two of you enjoying a private forest picnic or lakeside feast.

A note about elopement timings on the day

Because you don’t have to worry about other guests, we can plan an elopement day that suits your personal preference for timing. What’s amazing about this is we can plan your ceremony and “couples” photos around the sunrise or sunset, making for the best possible light and therefore the most amazing images. Photographing in the middle of the day is no problem, and I can create flattering images at any time of day, but the light here in New Zealand is very harsh and creates highlights and shadows on faces in the middle of the day, especially during summer. The majority of photos you see in my portfolio and on Instagram are taken at late afternoon to early evening time.

Pro Tip on Eloping in Queenstown

Queenstown is a busy, bustling hub year-round, so make sure to contact your photographer ahead of time, focus your energy on getting your photographer/videographer, and then the rest of the day can fall into place in keeping with your no-fuss vision.

Wear

Perhaps you wish to hire your bridal and groom wear locally to save on having to travel with extra weight, or perhaps being spontaneous you decided to elope while on holiday – relax, there are a few options in Queenstown but my pick is Nemo bridal and couture who have you covered. You can hire your wedding dress, all the trimmings and quality suits – because the Queenstown wedding scene is booming, there will always be vendors tailored for weddings to handle that ‘shotgun’ wedding should you become inspired by the magnificence of the natural beauty here enough to marry your loved one off the cuff.

Hair and makeup artists

Beautiful Bridal Hair

Pure Hair

Hair to wed

Charm Beauty

Crew hair and makeup

Food & Drink

The Platter Share

Lavish Grazing

Florals

All our elopement packages come with a bouquet of your choice from our favourite florist. Here are some suggestions if you are looking for something else –

Rosie Flowers

The Flower Room

In the pink

On Top of the World

Helicopter landings are an incredible way to create the most unforgettable wedding ceremony and the photos to remember it by. With many companies operating out of Queenstown, you are spoilt for choice and the cost is fairly reasonable if you are able to work it into your budget. Enquire with me for a price list. You can have your ceremony lakefront and then be whisked away to the mountain tops of windswept grasses for your first photos as husband and wife. Some companies also offer multiple location landings so you can say ‘I do’ on one mountain and then head on over to an alpine crystal lake for photos.

Celebrants & Ceremonies

Some couples choose to have their legal ceremony in their home country and then create another ceremony here in NZ, reading their vows to each other. If you are already legally married, then it’s up to you whether you have a celebrant to help create the feeling of a ceremony or not. You can simply read your vows to one another, but a celebrant definitely makes the whole experience feel more whole (they are just amazing at adding some magic to the occasion).

If you do want to be officially married in NZ you will need a celebrant. They will help you to get a New Zealand wedding license and create a written schedule for your ceremony. And yes, a New Zealand wedding is official all over the world with only a couple of countries requiring some additional information to make it official back home.

Ceremonies are highly personalised with handwritten vows, quotes, or declarations. The style in which you wish to be married, as well as the location, all add up to create your very own unique and memorable experience.

To make things even easier for you, my elopement package is inclusive of a wonderful NZ celebrant ready to marry you to the person of your dreams.

*If you’re already legally married and don’t feel the need for a celebrant then a discount will be applied to your elopement package.

Weather

Every season in Queenstown is perfect for an elopement. 

In Autumn, the nearby historic village of Arrowtown becomes a beautiful display of nature with Autumn trees covering the hillsides and lining the rivers.

 Spring is beautiful everywhere, with blossoms and fresh green fields, the whole of the Queenstown area feels alive and rich with nature. Spring is a great time for snow landings in a helicopter because we generally have snow on the mountains until October, but it’s not as cold as Winter.

  Winter weddings will make you gasp with the crisp, clean cold and snowy peaks as a backdrop. The season is dramatic, and there is an almost guaranteed chance of having snow on the ground at some of your photo locations.

 Summer is all about golden grasses and perfect blue skies. Temperatures can be a pleasant 25-30 degrees celsius in the Summer months and weather is also a bit more predictable.

*Please note that the timing of your wedding day can also be affected quite significantly by the time of year. We have very long days in summer (sunset can be as late as 9.45 pm) and very short days in Winter (the sun tends to disappear behind the mountains at around 4 pm). This is something I’ll inform you of at the time of booking. Location, time of day, season, and weather are all an important part of my planning service.

gay wedding queenstown

Restaurants for celebratory dinner or lunch

If you do decide to celebrate your marriage together with a special meal out at one of Queenstown’s top dining spots, you can be assured that many of Queenstown’s fine dining establishments will go that extra mile to recognise your special day. Queenstown loves to shine and you can expect nothing but the best at any of these world class restaurants:

Botswana Butchery

Right on the lakefront with a view straight up the valley, when punctuated with beautiful light this spot is a popular choice for anyone looking to celebrate in style while being awed by the views, the menu and the service.

Rata

Run by NZ top chef, Joshua Emmet, Rata has a reputation it lives up to – creating stunning meals from locally inspired ingredients, you can expect the best of the best here while feeling a little bit special when Joshua is in house.

Amisfield Vineyard

Specialising in special functions, especially as a popular choice to celebrate marriage, Amisfeild is a little more out of the way but is worth the trip to the edge of Arrowtown, where you will be impressed by the service, the food and especially the vino.

The Bunker

A local gem, tucked away in Cow Lane, up some stairs and you will delight in the intimate surroundings as well as the epic cocktail list. For those who like to party it up a little, The Bunker is sure to impress and bring you a night to never forget.

Romantic places to stay in Queenstown

You are once again absolutely spoiled for choices when it comes to luxury accommodation in Queenstown. It really is up to you and your budget as to how much you can indulge, but I have put together a list of ideas which accommodate a range of budgets for those who wish to keep it more simple:

Moke Lake Glamping

Local businesses have been popping up providing the stunning option of enjoying the natural wonders on offer in the region by setting you and your loved up with a luxury glamping experience among the mountains. Obviously Winter would be a bit harder to see yourself glamping in Queenstown, but the experts still have that covered with super cosy bell tents available, if you’re up for it, it would make a pretty amazing tale to tell the Grandkids!

A Cute Air BnB

There are many options when it comes to securing an AirBnB in the resort town, but you should book well in advance. Again there are a range of options to suit many budgets but you can expect most Air BnB’s to wow you with their luxury.

The Sherwood

Queenstown’s top sustainable, conscious community hub, The Sherwood features are beautifully curated hotel, restaurant and workshop space. There is a Wellbeing studio with Yoga and massage on offer as well as a ethos of growing the food you will see on your plate, growing the community that The Sherwood is a part off and generally just making a beautiful difference in the world of hospitality. The Sherwood is a unique experience and you will be treated to all you could want in one place. There are often diverse gigs and events on offer, this is the place you will want to be if you are a more social couple.

Blanket Bay Lodge

Exclusivity and luxury at the top of the lake. Not far from Queenstown is Blanket Bay, tucked into the edge of Lake Wakatipu, this beautifully built Lodge boasts the classic central Otago stacked stone look, with a feel of comfort and opulence. Blanket Bay Lodge has been in the top ten resorts of the world and you may find yourselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of Penelope Cruz, Tom Cruise and other elite movie stars. The late Robin Williams also enjoyed staying there with his family. If you have the budget and wish to truly be spoilt, no where in New Zealand can beat Blanket Bay Lodge.

Millbrook

Another luxury option near to Arrowtown, Millbrook boosts a top golf course, two restaurants/cafes, a wellness centre – including a heated swimming pool and outdoor spas – everything you could want to enjoy your special time together is all on site. The grounds are stunning with romantic nooks tucked away all over – get lost at Millbrook, you will never want to leave!

 Other adventurous and unique local experiences you could add to your elopement day

Queenstown offers adventures like no other. It’s not called the ‘Adventure Capital’ for nothing – so make the very most of it, you can go high paced with adrenaline pumping activities which are world famous, or take it down a notch with a sunrise hot air balloon ride…see below for more ideas:

Hot Air Ballooning

Start your day in the most magical way as you float through the mountainsides – dreamy!

Bungee Jumping

Say ‘I do’ as you leap off one of the world’s highest bungee’s – making the day even more unforgettable – it’s an incredible experience to have together.

Onsen Hot Pools

A romantic soak above a winding river, as the stars come out to sparkle, you will feellike a King and a Queen at Onsen, with their romance packages that can tailor make the experience.

Sunrise Hike

There are so many stunning trails in and around Queenstown, if you are into hiking why not start your day off with a hike to your ceremony spot, or to just connect with your natural surroundings before becoming husband and wife, setting the tone for the day to unfold naturally.

Sky Diving

You could dive right into married life by strapping yourselves together and jumping out of a plane – definitely a story loved ones will enjoy hearing back home, wild!

Wine tasting

Take full advantage of the regions best vineyards and do a tour, a pleasant way to enjoy a relaxed afternoon with world class vino and award winning cheese, delicious!

Rainbow Friendly!

A special note to all the wonderful LGBT folks out there – Queenstown is an incredibly inclusive, friendly township which is also home to the infamous Gay Pride Week during the Winter season. If there was ever a time and a place to tie the knot then this is it. There is also an initiative whereby local businesses place a rainbow sticker on their doors or windows to show support, solidarity, and to welcome those in the LGBT community.

 

Find out more!

Let's Elope!

Elopement can be the most beautiful experience for a couple embarking on their life of marriage to one another. Capturing that experience is my passion, and I feel that to do your day justice, a certain amount of time, care, and planning is involved. I don’t take bookings for 1-hour photoshoots just to “get some pics” after your ceremony, I’m committed to providing a full service for your Queenstown elopement with packages starting from 4-hours.

 I can be there by your side, capturing your love story on the day, as naturally as it unfolds. This is your day – it deserves attention and value, as this will be a day to remember for the rest of your lives. I cannot wait to be a part of it!

 

 

Let's Do This!