wedding ceremony outside

Written by Deborah Lilley CMC

In an ever-changing social landscape, couples in Australia are choosing to Elope in their own backyards. Being married, it turns out, is just as important as the act of Getting Married.

When a global pandemic hits, are weddings still important?

2020 has been a year of rapid change, and the modern world is coping with an unrepresented attack on its social activities not seen since the World Wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

Not since the rationing and blackouts of these wars have our social activities been governed by Government restrictions, and fears for safety, and our health and well-being on a worldwide scale.

For the first time in Australia’s modern history, in 2020 Wedding Ceremonies were banned for short periods of time in both Victoria and South Australia. For almost a whole year now, various restrictions on social gatherings throughout Australia have meant changes to the way Wedding Receptions and parties have been able to happen.

Couples have been forced to cancel, postpone or change their wedding plans, often multiple times, as they rode the ever changing king tide of imposed restrictions.

Elopements and History

To Elope, most literally, means to run away and to not come back to the point of origin.

Historically, the word Elopement was often used to refer to a Marriage conducted in a sudden and secretive fashion. This often involved a hasty departure of the couple to an unknown location, so they could get married without the knowledge of their family.

In 1754 Gretna Green in Scotland became what is probably the most famous of historical Elopement locations. Young English couples would run across the Scottish/English border to Gretna Green to get married, before family could catch them and separate the lovers.

But doesn’t an Elopement mean going overseas?

Thankfully not! Elopements are happening right here in Australia.

In modern terms, the word Elopement is used more loosely to refer to a Wedding Ceremony where there are few, or sometimes no, family and friends at the Ceremony. Not so much as secretive, although that does happen (within the law of course), but often more about avoiding the incredible logistics and astronomical costs that often come along with planning a Wedding Ceremony and Reception.

Legally in Australia a couple must marry in front of two witnesses over the age of eighteen. But they do not need to know these witnesses, and I have often conducted Ceremonies with a Photographer, Videographer or venue owner as the witness.

wedding ceremony in the bush

With a Civil Marriage Celebrant such as myself, and there are over 2000 of us in Australia, you can get legally married anywhere, and on any date.

Unlike most other countries in the world, you can choose the location as a Celebrant is the licence to marry. The only stipulation it that your chosen location must be within the boundaries of the States and Territories of Australia. Incredibly Wedding Ceremonies on Boats, Hot Air Balloons and Planes are all allowed, provided they are within a certain distance of land and provided your witnesses can clearly hear you say your vows.

You can choose the where...

You can choose how many people, if any, you want to watch you marry.

And best of all, you can choose a Celebrant to suit your Ceremony.

What does an Elopement look like in Australia?

What do you want it to look like? The huge draw card of an Elopement is that it is solely about you and your lover.

Its not about feeding a multitude of guests, or what small, but not 'heaven forbid' cheap (looking) gift to send them home with at the end of the night.

Its not about what family members don’t like each other, and how you can work out a seating plan that doesn’t upset anyone.

And its most definitely not about your parents, siblings, children or any other family who think that they should have a say in what YOUR day looks like!

YOU get to do YOU! Well, to be more accurate, you and your lover get to do 'US'
That US that is standing on a cliff overlooking a beach, or in a forest at midnight, or sitting at your kitchen table in your pyjamas, or in my office in your jeans and favourite band t-shirt!

Its unpretentious, unconventional, and unequivocally the best-est way to get married in the middle of a global crisis! And I have a feeling that its going to stick around as a popular idea for 2021 and beyond.

Photo credit to Glenn from

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