eloping in new zealand


The Complete Guide to Eloping in Queenstown

Eloping is the perfect way for two people to celebrate their love for one another. After all, at its purest, that’s what marriage represents. 

There are many reasons why people choose to elope when saying ‘I do.’ For most, it’s the fact that their marriage is purely about the love they have for one another and their intention to experience each other fully as they make their vows.

Queenstown is not just a popular choice for big destination wedding parties, it’s fast becoming a favourite for those who wish to elope and make the most of the magical mountains of Queenstown. Below is a carefully curated guide to Queenstown elopements, helping to make your experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.

What is an elopement?

When the word elopement is mentioned as an option, most people’s thoughts are of Las Vegas, with all the over-the-top glitz and glam that’s involved. An elopement doesn’t have to mean a quickfire ceremony in a cocktail dress, mascara smudged from the night before. An Elopement is fast becoming about the adventure of heading to unique, unrivalled places of beauty to celebrate your love for one another. It’s a holiday with unforgettable meaning, a relaxed yet exciting experience, and a party upon your return home to celebrate (if you wish), with family and friends. 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 than 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’s a magical way to gain the freedom to create a wedding done your way. With this guide to elopement, I am excited to help you overcome the traditional pressures found in your typical wedding. Read on to discover creative ways to keep your elopement simple yet memorable…

 Of course, eloping doesn’t always mean that you have to go it alone, well together alone – you can also invite your closest loved ones, you can truly create the wedding of your dreams and this way your Mother will still speak to you! (If you choose to have her by your side!) Have a read of this blog for more on eloping with your family and friends along for the ride.

How I can help you

Picture this, just the two of you (plus me capturing the magic), standing on top of a majestic mountain top with some of New Zealand’s largest lakes beneath you, vowing your love for one another with only a few 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 the simplicity of a lakeside location or be whisked away to the highest peaks where we can take in the magnificent beauty of the Southern Alps. 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 the location of your dreams or helping you to find that romantic hotel for just the two of you. In essence, this day will be as magical as your love story, and I will be here to document each moment as your guide and photographer.

You can still share this journey with your loved ones at home, but perhaps bring them a cake to soften the blow…

 So, get ready to create the day of your dreams, and turn it into a reality!

Location, Location, Location….

Being a local here in Queenstown means I know all the most stunning secret spots, perfect for that whimsical, romantic elopement you and your partner are planning. 

Let me whisk you away into the mountains for a secluded photo session. Stand atop towering peaks where you can shout your love out to the world below, walk through vineyards, or frolic in a magical forest, the choices are endless. In essence, I will make it easy for you to choose a location with a selection of breathtaking secret spots. 

Elopement is the opportunity to ultimately 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 the spontaneity, as that’s a big part of eloping. Look into a few locations you would like to know more about and perhaps even book a pre-wedding photography session where we can get to know one another and gather inspiration about your special day.

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. Picture yourselves soaring high above the most incredible mountain range in New Zealand, the Southern Alps – the majestic Remarkable Range is named as such for a reason! You will feel like a rockstar as you are flown to your dream destinations in a helicopter made for two (well three including the very important pilot!)  Enquire with me for a price list, you will be amazed at how possible this fantasy actually is! 

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 afterwards. 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 (under 30)

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.


For more on incorporating your fantasy flight, check out my ‘helicopter weddings’ blog.

Whichever option you choose, you can also have a selection of “ground locations” included either before or after your flight. See the ‘Adventuring’ section below within “Timelines.”

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 sample timelines for some inspiration too. 

A wonderful component of Elopement Weddings is being able to be in complete control of your day and creating whichever timeline suits you both. There are no annoying wedding party members to consider when it comes to eloping, so meals do not need to be timed according to Uncle Edwards diabetic needs or hungry small children. Guests are not left waiting while you take your time with your photography either, and you can hold your ceremony at any time during the day – or night! 

Below follows a more traditional timeline of how your Elopement may unfold. 

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 makeup, and a beautiful breakfast at your boutique hotel maybe. This part of the day is all about preparation and makes for a fantastic opportunity to get some beautiful candid shots if you’d like to include “getting ready” photos. 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 begins 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.

Closing 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. There are also so many stunning ‘ground’ locations in the area. With picturesque locations on either side of Queenstown, in quaint historic Arrowtown, which is stunning in Autumn or the beautiful spot at the head of the lake, Glenorchy, I am able to drive you to different stunning locations in my 4WD vehicle. If you have extra wedding party guests you wish to bring along, it is as easy as hiring an extra vehicle for half a day. There are also options where you can hire a driver and vehicle. Your wish is my command! For more on ‘on-ground’ wedding photography options in and around Queenstown, follow this link.

Back to the helicopter option, which is incredibly popular in a place famed for its mountain peaks – you can read all about this in my blog which details some of the incredible remote locations only able to be reached by helicopter. Because when you have your very own helicopter, you have more places you can go to within the area, the sky’s the limit! 


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 in the 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.


Perhaps you wish to hire your bridal and groom to 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 & Couture who have you covered. 

You can hire your wedding dress, all the trimmings and quality suits. The Queenstown wedding scene is booming, there will always be vendors ready to handle that ‘shotgun’ wedding should you become inspired by the magnificence of the natural beauty of Queenstown and want to tie the knot in a moment of romantic spontaneity! 

Makeup artists

Charm Beauty

Kirsty Penetito

Georgie Henderson


Beautiful Bridal Hair

Hair to Wed 

Crew Stylists  

Food & Drink

The Plattershare 

Lavish Grazing


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.


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 the weather is also a bit more predictable.

Pro Tip: 

*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. You must also factor in daylight savings which is very easy to forget about in the excitement of getting engaged.

gay wedding queenstown

Restaurants for celebratory dinner or lunch

If you do decide to round off the day with a special meal out at one of our 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 incredible views and some of the best service around, when punctuated with beautiful light this spot is a popular choice for anyone looking to celebrate in style while being awed by the views, menu, and service.



Run by top New Zealand 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

Amisfield 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, incredible food and exceptional 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 want to indulge, but I have put together a list of ideas that accommodate a range of budgets for those who wish to keep it more simple:

Moke Lake Glamping

Take the adventure experience even further with this stunning outdoor option. Enjoy the natural wonders of this region by setting you and your loved one 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! 

Cute Air BnB

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

The Sherwood

Queenstown’s top sustainable, conscious community hub. The Sherwood features a beautifully curated hotel, restaurant, and workshop space. There is a Wellbeing studio with Yoga and massage on offer as well as an ethos of holistic living. The Sherwood is a unique experience and you will be treated to all you could want in one place. There are often diverse music events and events on offer and this is the place you will want to be if you’re 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 spoiled, nowhere in New Zealand can beat Blanket Bay Lodge. 


Another luxury option near Arrowtown, Millbrook boasts 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! 

Kamana Lakehouse

Described as a high-altitude inspiring place of luxury, the Kamana Lakehouse will truly make you feel like a Snow Queen and King. They also provide a wedding venue and services, so you can do it all right where you stay – a top-class restaurant and spa are also available. The complete package! 

The Hilton Resort & Spa

You know what you are getting when you book in at the Hilton, as the worldwide hotel chain has certainly cemented a reputation as a luxury accommodation option and the Queenstown Hilton Resort & Spa lives up to that expectation. The resort is close to the Frankton Airport and boasts one of the very best dining options in the area. 


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

They don’t call this place 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 between the mountains – dreamy!

Bungee Jumping

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

Onsen Hot Pools 

With a romantic soak above a winding river, as the stars come out to sparkle, you will feel like a King and a Queen at the Onsen. You can also opt for 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 just connect with your natural surroundings before becoming husband and wife, setting the tone for the day to unfold naturally.

Sky Diving

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 region’s best vineyards with a wine tour. This is 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 that 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, and solidarity and to welcome those in the LGBT community.


Elopement timelines>>

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. Instead of taking bookings for a 1-hour photo shoot just to “get some pics’ ‘ after your ceremony, I’m committed to providing a full service for your Queenstown elopement with packages starting from 3-hours minimum and suited to all budgets. I am able to craft your elopement experience in a way that is stress-free and smooth sailing, so you can focus on what is most important – one another and your marriage. From arranging your celebrant to providing champagne, you can hand over the hassle to me and know you are in safe hands.

With my expert knowledge of the Queenstown wedding vendor scene and spectacular secret shoot locations, I have got your dream elopement experience wrapped up in a perfect package. You can head to this page for more details on these and to book your elopement with Kate Craig-Brown Photography.  

If you still feel you need more reasons why Elopement is a great idea that may suit you and your loved one, hop on over to my blog which has the top 5 reasons to elope – which is also ideal to share if your loved one has a shorter attention span!  

I can’t wait to be there on the day by your side, capturing your love story 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. If you have made it this far through the Complete Guide to Elopement, and you are wanting to get to know this New Zealand Wedding photographer  – please check out my bio here. 


I look forward to meeting you! 

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