What sort of marriage ceremonies are there?

There are two kinds of ceremony. One is a civil ceremony held by a Registrar of Marriages in a Registry Office. The other is a ceremony held by an appointed Marriage Celebrant (including ministers of religion) at any other place (including places of worship). If you decide to be married by me, then part of our discussion will include where and when you would like the marriage to take place.

What are the legal steps we must take to get married?

To get married in New Zealand you must hold a valid marriage licence. Before you apply for the marriage licence you must:

  • Arrange for a Marriage Celebrant or Registrar of Marriages to perform the ceremony
  • Arrange a place for the ceremony. You should also choose an alternative venue in the event, that the weather prevents you from marrying at your primary venue.

One of the parties must:

  • Complete a ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ and go to an office of a Registrar of Marriages, to sign the statutory declaration before a Registrar of Marriages stating you are legally free to marry;
  • Pay the fee for the marriage licence.

How do you apply for a marriage licence (plus, how much does it cost)?

Updates made in November 2018 mean that now most couples can apply for a marriage licence entirely online from anywhere in the world. The easiest, fastest and safest way to apply is at https://marriages.services.govt.nz.

Your marriage licence will be emailed to the address you provide, which could be to yourselves or to me, your celebrant.

The cost of a marriage licence is NZD$150 and a registry ceremony is NZD$240

What are the legal requirements for your marriage ceremony?

The legal requirements are that:

  • The marriage must be performed by a Marriage Celebrant or Registrar of Marriages at the place specified on the marriage licence;
  • The marriage must be performed in the presence of at least two witnesses; and
  • During the ceremony, and before at least two witnesses, each party must say the words “I AB take you CD, to be my legal wife/husband” or words to similar effect.
  • Both parties and witnesses sign the registration forms

Both parties must sign the registration forms using their pre-married signatures according to their names on the Marriage Licence.

Children may act as witnesses if they understand the importance of the part they take in the recording of the marriage and can demonstrate that understanding in court if later required to do so.

What will I as Marriage Celebrant do at your ceremony?

Part of my officiating includes:

  • The formal identification of the parties named on the marriage licence (as celebrant, I need to be satisfied that the persons about to be joined in marriage are in fact those named on the licence);
  • The exchange of the marriage vows;
  • After both copies of the registration papers (Copy of Particulars of Marriage) have been signed and witnessed, I as your Marriage Celebrant must return the Registrars copy to the issuing Registry Office within 10 calendar days, and you as a couple keep the other copy;
  • As your Marriage Celebrant, I must take all reasonable steps to ensure the marriage is registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Other people may be part of your ceremony, such as a singer or reading a poem, but the actual marriage ceremony itself needs to be performed by your celebrant.

If we decide to get married by a celebrant, where can we get married?

You can get married at any place in New Zealand you and the celebrant agree on. The place must be stated on the marriage licence, so it is a good idea to include an alternative place, particularly if you plan to get married outdoors.

How old do we have to be to get married, and do we need parental consent?

Both parties must be 16 years of age or over to be married. Anyone 16 or 17 years of age needs to obtain consent.

Does my name have to change when I get married?

In New Zealand it has been customary for a one party to assume the other party’s surname after marriage. In some cases couples are combining their names to create a new family name. You may retain your current surname. None of these changes affect your registered birth name.

What if either of us has been married or in a civil union before?

If either of you have been married or in a civil union before, and the marriage or civil union has been dissolved, you may be asked to produce evidence of the dissolution (e.g. Divorce/Dissolution Order) when you give notice to the Registrar of Marriages. If your previous spouse or partner has died you do not need to produce evidence of their death, but you will need to give the date of death on the ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’ form.

Can I change my relationship from a marriage to a civil union … or my civil union to a marriage?

Yes, a married couple who wish to continue in a relationship with each other may change the form of that relationship to a civil union without having to formally dissolve their marriage. You will need to complete this form, and provide evidence of your current marriage.

Similarly, where you are in a civil union, you may change the form of your relationship to a marriage without having to formally dissolve your civil union. You will need to complete this form and provide evidence of your current civil union.