If you’ve chosen to elope, you’re probably trying to avoid the stress, organisation and price tag that comes with a traditional wedding, right? Although eloping in an overseas destination or somewhere a little closer to home can definitely be easier on the day, it still takes a little research, time and planning to make sure all of the formalities are, you know, legit. Don’t know where to begin? We’ve done the hard work for you and sourced some top tips for eloping overseas and in Australia.
Location, location, location
The first and probably most difficult step is deciding where you want to elope. A quick Google search and the snowy mountains in Whistler, the tropical beaches of Bora Bora and the world are at your fingertips. Our advice? Let things like ideal aesthetic, climate and budget influence your decision.
OVERSEAS: For extra information, exact requirements or safety precautions for your overseas trip, contact the consulate of your destination location in Australia. If you’re in a same-sex couple, look up the LGBTI+ rights and marriage laws for your chosen location on the US government travel website.
2. Finding a marriage celebrant
With the power of the internet and social media, you can find the perfect celebrant on Instagram, Facebook or Google in a matter of seconds. Alternatively, ask friends, family, other vendors or check at your local registry office for more options. Wanting to get married in a church or chapel? You’ll have to find a religious celebrant or minister to deliver the official ceremony.
OVERSEAS: If you’re getting married overseas your celebrant must have the authority to carry out a legal wedding in that country – you’ll want to triple check this! Overseas countries may also have a range of other conditions for celebrants delivering legal wedding ceremonies in order for them to be considered valid back in Australia.
If you want to skip all the fuss, consider having a symbolic ceremony overseas and a quick, official one back home (even just to sign the paperwork!).
3. Submitting a Notice of Intended Marriage
Now here’s where the preparation kicks in. Sure, you can have an easy, breezy elopement ceremony on a New Zealand mountaintop, but no matter where your wedding is, you’ll need to submit a Notice of Intended Marriage to your celebrant no less that one month and no more than 18 months before the big day.
You will also need to provide your celebrant with evidence of identity, date and place of birth and termination of any prior marriages in advance. So, get your papers sorted!
For a marriage to be valid in Australia you’ll need two witnesses (as well as your celebrant) to be present at the ceremony and signing of marriage certificates. If you’re after a super-intimate ceremony, consider skipping the tiny guest list and using photographers or videographers as your witnesses.
5. Sign the marriage certificate
You, your new spouse and the witnesses will need to sign three marriage certificates on the day as proof of marriage and validity back in Australia. Some overseas certificates require all parties to be in the country for a specific amount of time or undertake religious ceremonies while overseas. Double check all of the finer details via the destination’s consulate and through our wedding guides tailored to each country.
6. File the marriage certificate
If you elope in Australia, your celebrant must file the marriage certificate within 14 days of the ceremony. No slacking off!
OVERSEAS: If you get married overseas, hold onto your marriage certificate as it is the only proof of marriage you’ll have when you arrive back in Australia. You will also need the original copy of this to change your name and other identification purposes. Your overseas elopement will be legal when you arrive back home if it was recognised as valid in the country that you said ‘I do’ in and if it is recognised as legal and valid in Australia.
See all the official conditions for legal marriage in Australia via government websites.
The Backup Plan
If all else fails, remember that you can have the best of both worlds. In the end it’s your day and you can always have the magical beach ceremony you’ve always dreamt of and make it legal back home either before or after the big day.
Header Photo by Sara Byrne.