How to plan an awesome Queenstown helicopter wedding & get married like a rock-star!

Queenstown helicopter wedding Cecil Peak The Remarkables mountain winter

The beautiful XiaoTing, Cecil Peak Heli Wedding, Queenstown

Do you fancy getting married on top of a mountain peak, with sweeping panoramas of high mountains and alpine lakes all around you? Or perhaps you are planning a winter wedding and really want to get married on the snow? If so a Queenstown helicopter wedding could be just the ticket.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Queenstown heli wedding;

  1. Increase your chances of pulling off your dream Queenstown heli-wedding: plan your visit to Queenstown so that you have more than one day you can fly. And book your heli-wedding for the first of those days.

That way, if the weather is no good on the day you have booked you can postpone your wedding and hopefully fly the following day or the day after that. Of course, you should liaise with your helicopter company regarding the weather first, but it will be hard even for them to predict the weather more than a week out. For this reason when you book I suggest you book your heli flight, photographer, celebrant, hair, makeup etc for the first day you can do it. Obviously if you end up postponing you will be reliant on your helicopter company still having a machine available, and also your photographer, celebrant etc all still being available. For this reason I suggest you check the availability of all your wedding vendors in the next few days after your planned wedding day.

    1. Have a non-heli option in case the weather doesn’t cooperate and you can’t reschedule (any more).

Talk to your photographer and celebrant and see if they can recommend any other beautiful spots you can get married if you simply can’t fly on any of the days you are in Queenstown.

Consider mountain-top locations you can drive to if snow/a mountain-top wedding is crucial to you.  You might also want to consider adding some extra time pre/post heli flight for photos so you can get a little more variety in your wedding images.  For example it might be nice to have some photos by the edge of Lake Wakatipu after your helicopter flight for some images with a strong water element/possibly some nice reflections etc.  This will also help give a real sense of story and scale to your mountain top wedding.

  1. Before booking any given helicopter company pay attention to how much time on the ground you get with each helicopter operator.

Most Queenstown helicopter operators will give you 45 minutes or an hour on the ground but some may only give you 30 minutes and some will give you a full hour on the ground.

You are spending a lot of money to fly to your mountain top location, once you get there you want to spend as much time there as possible (and more time means better photos). If you only have 30 minutes on the ground you will be lucky to have 15 minutes for photos before your pilot loads you back in the helicopter and whisks you back to Queenstown. An extra 15 or 30 minutes on the mountain-top makes a world of difference.

  1. Consider asking your photographer to give you 5 – 10 minutes to yourselves  during the landing so you can actually take in the views and enjoy your helicopter/mountain top experience.).

If you don’t say otherwise your photographer is likely to shoot the whole time you’re up there and you may not get to actually enjoy the view. One solution is to ask your photographer to shoot candids or landscapes for the last 5 or 10 minutes. (Heli weddings are even faster paced than a normal wedding so your photographer has to work really hard to get all the shots he/she knows you are going to love).

(Note: if your helicopter company only gives you 30 or 45 minutes on the ground any good wedding photographer will want to shoot every second of that.  By the time the ceremony finishes they will have very little time for photos and they will be reluctant to let you go).

  1. Are you planning a winter wedding and you really want to get married on the snow?

In Queenstown the mid-winter snow levels are typically half-way down the mountains, but this can vary a lot depending upon the weather and the temperatures. This means that if you are getting married in winter and you really want to have your ceremony on the snow hiring a chopper and getting as high as you can is your best bet.

If you have the budget to fly higher/further local helicopter companies will almost guarantee you can have your ceremony on the snow but longer flight times = higher costs.

If your heart is set on a ceremony on the snow the best bet is to talk to your helicopter operator and see which locations they recommend and go from there.

  1. Brides, consider wearing your hair up.

If it’s a bit breezy on the mountain top (and it’s usually windier than down in the valley) your hair will look a lot tidier & prettier in the photos. (And remember, as long as you can fly and you’re not freezing a little bit of wind can actually be a good thing. Think of all those dramatic veil/dress making cool shapes in the wind photos you have seen).

  1. Brides, wear sensible shoes (or at least bring them with you in the chopper).

Queenstown helicopter wedding Cecil Peak The Ledge wedding shoesYou will be on a mountain-top (there may even be snow around depending upon the weather/time of year) and photographers being photographers there’s a good chance you will end up standing on top of a rock for that dramatic cliff-edge look.

If your dress is long I would recommend that you put your sensible shoes on before you get in the chopper as you won’t see them in the photos anyway. Bring your fancy wedding shoes with you though so the photographer can get a few close-ups of them on the mountain top and also do some photos with you wearing them where they can actually be seen. If your dress is short I would still recommend wearing your sensible shoes in the chopper and putting your wedding shoes on once you and your celebrant/photographer have pinned down the exact spot on the mountain top where you will have your ceremony.

  1. Bring a warm jacket even if you think it’s going to be warm.

Queenstown is in the mountains and New Zealand is the land of “four seasons in one day”. It can be unseasonably warm here in winter and unseasonably cold in summer, especially if you’re on top of a mountain.

If you’re planning a heli wedding it’s a good idea to find a beautiful throw/wrap that will compliment your wedding dress beautifully. If you plan ahead this throw/wrap might actually add to some of the photos as well as keep you warm. Even if you don’t want your warm layer in any of the photos you can wear it in between shots to keep warm.

Remember, if you don’t need your jacket you can always leave it in the chopper

  1. Brides & bridesmaids, wear your headset upside down to protect your hair.

The pilot will usually ask all passengers to put on a set of headphones with a built-in microphone. They cut out a lot of the rotor noise and make it easier for you can communicate with each other and with the pilot.

  1. Make sure your make-up and preparation includes applying some sunscreen.

New Zealand’s UV is notoriously strong, especially at higher altitudes. You don’t want to look red like a lobster the day after your helicopter wedding!

Post and images by Patrick Fallon of Fallon Photography unless otherwise credited.

Author Details

Patrick Fallon

I am a wedding photographer based in beautiful Queenstown, New Zealand. I have been full-time with the photography thing since 2006 and still can’t believe I get to do what I love for a job! Here are a few words that I think sum me up: I AM…tall and bald, happy, imaginative, constantly hungry, active and friendly. I LOVE…my girl, coffee, photography, fooooooood, my family and friends, riding bikes, being outside, the simple things in life, people… I love my life! I believe that wedding photography can and should be SIMPLE, NATURAL, BEAUTIFUL.

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