How to legally elope in Australia

Elopement Tips


When you think of eloping, you may think “running off and getting married”. While this is the way it’s been portrayed in history, and in the movies. It’s not necessarily the case any more. Eloping no longer means, “running away”, “getting married in secret”, or “hiding it from your disapproving family”. Gone are the days where elopements are associated with negative connotations. The modern definition of eloping is “a small destination wedding”.

While we like to extend this definition in our own terms, to further be…

“An intentionally intimate and authentic wedding experience, where the focus is entirely on the two of you. They can take place anywhere, with the freedom to do anything you want to do”.

As you can see, eloping is no longer like you’ve seen in the movies, or the history books. They also are not a quick last minute stint at the court house. They require some planning and preparation in the same way a traditional wedding does.

To Legally Marry In Australia, you must…

  • Not be married to anybody else
  • Be older than 18 years of age
  • Have a great understanding of what marriage means and freely consent to marriage
  • Have a signed Notice of Intended Marriage form (NoIM) filled out by each partner, and witnessed by a legal celebrant at least one month prior to marriage
  • A registered celebrant must conduct the ceremony and submit the paperwork on your behalf
  • You need two witnesses over the age of 18, to sign your marriage certificate and witness your ceremony (This can be a family member, friend or a vendor present, such as photographer or videographer)

Types of Legal Ceremonies

There are two ways you can legally elope in Australia. The first way is with a celebrant present on the day of your elopement. If you chose to elope this way, your celebrant will travel with you to your elopement location. And conduct a legal ceremony at the time of saying vows. This is the more traditional route to getting married, and will ensure all the legalities are completed on the day of marriage.

The second way of legally eloping is to have a Symbolic ceremony. This is when your elopement is not on the same day as your legal ceremony. This is most common when eloping overseas, or out of state. Or if you want to have an adventurous elopement, and don’t want to have to worry about taking a celebrant with you. Symbolic ceremonies are no less special. If anything they are more intimate, and allow you a safe space to say your vows, commitments and promises to one another in possibly a more authentic way. All this means, is that you will have two ceremonies. One legal, and one symbolic. You can still celebrate your anniversary on the day you had your true elopement experience, and conducted your symbolic ceremony.

A few ways you could incorporate your two ceremonies could be. To have a legal ceremony with just the two of you, OR with friends and family during either one part of your elopement day or on a separate day entirely. Or if you are travelling, and not eloping in your home state, you would typically head to the court house or your local registry office to conduct your legal ceremony and file the paperwork. While having your true elopement day on a separate day. A symbolic ceremony may not be legal from a law perspective, but they are certainly a beautiful way to commit your lives together. And allow the freedom to elope in anyway you chose.

Steps to Legally Eloping

Depending on whether you will have a traditional legal ceremony or partake in a symbolic ceremony, the steps to eloping may slightly differ. But for the most part they follow the same general rule of thumb.

Step 1: Start by planning your elopement day

Elopements much like a traditional wedding, involve some planning, especially if you are eloping for the experience. It’s important to sit down together and brainstorm, what you both really want out of this day. Whether you are planning your symbolic ceremony, or a legal ceremony conducted on the day. Plan your absolute dream day. You only get married once, and you deserve an adventure of a lifetime.

Things to consider when planning your elopement may be. The time of year/season that you are most comfortable in, or envision in your elopement photos. This will determine your date. A location, that is either significant to you, perfectly fits your desired scenery or strongly represents who you two are (your passions/interests). It’s important to feel your best self, and be somewhere that truly represents the two of you, so you never look back and wish you chose somewhere else.

Once you’ve decided on your date, next you would consider the type of elopement you wish to have (ie. legal with guests, legal with no guests, 2 part elopement day, 3 day elopement experience, etc). Reach out to your desired vendors, consider travel and accommodation, obtain required permits, explore elopement day activities, etc. For more information on planning your elopement day, and the full steps to plan your dream day, check out our “how to plan an elopement” blog post.

Step 2: Find a celebrant or a registry office

To begin your search for a celebrant, you may want to start on the Attorney General’s website. This is where all legal celebrants in Australia are listed and you can refine the search by your state or area. Or alternatively, a great way to find vendors is through instagram or a quick google search. Simple search the location you wish to hold you legal ceremony, followed by celebrant, such as “Melbourne Celebrant”. Immediately, you will be met with a large list of options and you can get to know them right off the bat from their profiles and website! It’s important to find a celebrant that you connect with, is also passionate about elopements and understands your intentions for the day.

Step 3: Complete a Notice of Intended Marriage (NoIM) form

A NoIM form must be filled out at least one month, and no more than 18 months prior to your elopement date. These forms collect all relative information from both partners, and must also be signed by both partners. Your celebrant or local registry office can also assist in the process of completing your NoIM form.

Step 4: Marriage

You’ve planned out your dream day, hired your dream vendors, worked out the type of ceremony you will have and all the logistics of the day. It’s finally your elopement day! Whether you’ve chosen to have a 2 part elopement experience with a symbolic ceremony, or you’ve decided to do it the more traditional way. Either way, it’s time to live out your best day.

Step 5: Submit Your Paperwork & Pay Any Fees

The next step is to submit your marriage certificate. This can done by your legal celebrant or through your local courthouse. At your elopement ceremony, your celebrant and 2 witness’ will sign 3 marriage certificates. Within 14 days of your legal ceremony, your celebrant will file your paperwork to the “registry of births, deaths and marriages” on your behalf. It’s important to also consider any fee’s that may be included in your ceremony. Whether you chose to go through the court house or through your own legal celebrant. There are fee’s included in filing the paperwork. These fee’s typically range from $300-$500 AUD.

Other Legal Paperwork You May Need

In order to legally elope, you will be to provide further paperwork, and evidence, such as Identity Documents. Or depending on your prior circumstances, such as previous marriages, children involved, if you are from overseas, etc. You may require to submit supporting documents of your circumstances.

Some further legal paperwork you may need to provide, could be,

  • Identity Documents, including your Birth Certificates and Australian or Overseas passports
  • If you were previously marriage, you will need to provide further evidence such as divorce documents or death certificates.
  • You may also be asked to provide a Statutory Declaration further explaining your situation.

Eloping in Australia from Overseas

If you are planning to travel to Australia for your elopement from overseas, or you are an overseas citizen looking to marry an Australian citizen in Australia. You can legally marry here in Australia. You do not require to be an Australian Citizen or Permanent resident to legally marry within Australia. If you wish to remain in Australia as a married couple, you will have to further look into the visa options of living here with your spouse. But by no means, does being from overseas, prevent you from having your dream elopement here in Australia!

Other Important Information to consider when legally eloping

  • Same sex marriage is now legal is Australia. While I, being from Canada find this hard to comprehend (same sex marriage has been legal there since 2003). Australia finally made it legal in December 2017! Marriage equality is here, and we couldn’t be more pleased!
  • Depending on where you elope in Australia, you will most likely be required to have permits. These permits cover a ceremony on public or state land, as well as media coverage for your photographer and/or videographer. If you are unsure which permits you may need, it’s best to contact the local council in your area, or ask your vendors as they can always help if you need!

Benefits to Eloping

There are many different reasons couples chose to elope, depending on who they are and what they desire. But for the most part, there are a few things they value above all else that lead them to the decision of eloping.

Some of these include…

Intention & Intimacy

Elopements are an intentional way of getting married, that puts the focus back on the two of you. Elopements allow you to intentionally chose all aspects of your wedding day without feeling pressured by societal standards. Some areas of an elopement day that show intention are, guest lists, the overall experience, the activities you partake in, and so on. While elopement days are also intentionally intimate. Intimacy is one of the main factors of an elopement day. The feel of the experience is set around being an intimate experience. Where the focus of the experience is entirely on you.

Less Stress & Expectations

Eloping shifts the focus on your wedding day away from worrying about guest lists, family drama, table settings, decor, food menu’s, etc. and puts it back on who the two of you are as a couple. It also takes away the pressures and exceptions you may feel from your family, friends, media, the wedding industry, etc. Eloping brings back choice, and allows you to shift the focus back on to the only thing marriage is technically about ie. the two of you. This in turn lowers the stress, pressures and exceptions, and allows for a much more seamless experience.

Safe space to be yourself

Not all couples love PDA, or sharing their intimate moments with others. I know this, because we don’t either. Eloping allows you a safe space to be intimate, to be fully present and show up as the real you on your wedding day. You no longer have to feel uncomfortable with 100+ relatives and acquaintances watching you profess your deepest feelings to one another. They allow for a safe space to be authentically you, and feel comfortable throughout the entire process.

Choice, freedom & authenticity

Elopements have no rules. They allow you to take back the reins, and give you full choice on your wedding day. Whether you want to pick and choice the traditions you want to incorporate, or you’d prefer to ditch them all and do things your way. Theres no one here to tell you, you can’t do whatever it is you please! They also allow you to partake in unlimited experiences on your day. Want to go for a scenic helicopter ride, followed by a walk on a glacier? The world is your oyster! Elopements can be as adventurous, intimate and authentically you, as you want them to be! They take back choice, give you freedom and most of all allow for an experience that fully encompasses all that you are.

Final Thoughts

We hope this gave you a better understanding on what eloping really is, and how easy it is to elope legally! Elopements are no longer a quick stint to the court house, but rather an adventure of a lifetime, filled with unlimited possibilities! It’s no wonder couples are ditching the traditions and big guest lists, and instead choosing a celebration that is more authentically them. Not only can you have the ultimate experience of a lifetime, you can do it all while legally marrying too. We don’t believe it gets much better then this!

If you have any questions regarding eloping, or are looking for more information on elopements before diving in deep. Get in touch, or check out our further resources. We would love to help you create your dream day that is intentionally authentically you!