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Is an elopement legal?

Good news for couples wondering whether to elope: there is absolutely nothing in Australian Marriage Law that says you have to throw a big party, have everyone you know watching the ceremony, or spend the equivalent of a house deposit on a wedding for your marriage to be legal!


Elope in Perth - the legs and feet of a groom in blue Converse sneakers and a bride with black doc marten boots showing under her ivory dress
Running away to elope? You'll want the right shoes

Do we have to run away to elope?


In the past, eloping wasn't something that you did unless you absolutely had to! The word 'elope' was tinged with wrongdoing, as eloping was seen to be a way to escape rules and regulations, disapproving families, social stigma and often, the law.


If you’ve ever read (or watched) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, you might remember the unmitigated disaster of Lydia running off to elope with the villainous Mr Wickham.

 

So it’s no surprise to learn that many people still wonder if it’s illegal to elope. ‘Is an elopement legal?’ is one of the most searched terms about eloping on Google!

 

Thankfully over time, laws have changed, society has changed, and what we think of as ‘an elopement’ has changed. 


These days, ‘to elope’ usually means that couples are running away from a ‘traditional’ wedding rather than doing something dodgy!

 

Getting married in secret

Two brides, Sally Bruce Perth Celebrant and an inquisitive dog at an elopement ceremony
Book a private AirBnb, not a public park, for your elopement - if you want to maintain secrecy

Elopements used to always mean ‘getting married in secret’.

 

Some modern couples still prefer to keep their nuptials secret.

 

Many contemporary elopements still happen on the downlow – with gleeful announcements to loved ones after the event is a done deal.

 

You know your family best, and if this is the best/easiest/kindest choice for you as a couple, then know that you can totally do that.


There is nothing in Australian marriage law that says you have to tell your family before you get married (as long as you’re both over the age of 18).

Does an elopement have to be secret?

A small elopement with less than 10 guests in Fremantle with Sally Bruce Celebrant
This couple had their parents, siblings and best buddies at their elopement

Absolutely not!


Many couples these days have a select few of their best people with them at their elopement. My Elopement Package includes up to 10 guests.


Some couples tell their loved ones about their choice to have the tiniest of elopements - which may or may not include family members - before the day. Explaining your reasons for doing this may help family and friends to understand why they're not invited.


Lately, quite a few couples are choosing a private elopement ceremony followed by a party later to celebrate with all their family and friends. This decision is usually widely shared with everyone who is invited to the party.


It's up to the two of you how you get married and who you have with you as you do so.

Is it legal to elope?

 

Perth Hills elopement with Sally Bruce Celebrant
Elopements are legal if conducted by a Registered Marriage Celebrant

In Australia, elopements are 100% legal marriages - as long as they are conducted correctly under the Marriage Act 1961 legislation.

 

The good news is that you don’t have to know the ins and outs of marriage law; that’s my job as a Registered Marriage Celebrant.

 

I’ll make sure your marriage is legal whether your elopement is signing the paperwork over a coffee at your kitchen table, in a cosy AirBnB by the fire in winter, under your favourite tree in your local park, or at a bar.

 

What do you need to elope in Australia?

Sally Bruce Perth elopement celebrant holds a folder while a groom in a bow tie and suspenders signs a marriage certificate. A bride is holding a toddler who is wearing matching suspenders and bow tie
Legal marriage documents will be prepared by a Registered Marriage Celebrant from information you give to them

First of all, you need to able to be legally married – that is, be over 18 years old, not currently married to anyone else, and not a close relative eg grandparent, parent, child or siblings. For more about this, please see the blog post - Who can get married in Australia?

 

I’ll need some ID documents from you to prepare the paperwork, and we need to get the first document – the Notice of Intended Marriage - sorted and signed at least one month prior to the elopement day.

 

You’ll need to have two legal witnesses at the elopement (Link to post – Who can witness a wedding?) and there are a few words that I need to say, and a few that you need to say – your legal vows.

 

Then we’ll sign three marriage certificates and you’ll be legally wed!

 

All of this needs to happen for your marriage to be legal, whether you’re eloping or having a huge wedding.

 

What does an elopement ceremony look like?

5 guests watch a Perth winery elopement with Sally Bruce
Beautiful, tiny elopement ceremony at a winery

Whatever you want it to look like!

 

I’ll work with you find out what you want your elopement to look like. Elopements can be absolutely beautiful ceremonies. There’s something about the intimacy of only having a few people there that adds to the poignancy and sacredness of the occasion.


For inspo, read about these real-life elopements:


Would you love to elope in Perth? Check out The Elopement Package

 

 

 

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