Getting married in New Zealand

Marriage in New Zealand
Updated 2023-02-12 11:09

There's no denying New Zealand is a fantastic place to get married. Whether you want a dream destination wedding on one of New Zealand's world-famous beaches or you're a resident planning to get married at home, here is what you need to know about marriage and weddings in New Zealand.  

Conditions for getting married in New Zealand

Both heterosexual and homosexual couples are allowed to get married in New Zealand.

And you don't need to be a citizen to marry in New Zealand. So whether you're moving to New Zealand or just traveling to New Zealand, you can marry or have a civil union, as well as short or long-term residents.

The restrictions on who can and can't get married in New Zealand are minimal.

In New Zealand, you can marry if:

  • You are not already married or in a civil union of any kind.
  • You are at least 16 years old and have parental consent. If you're under 18, you will need a complete a parental consent form.
  • You are not a close relative to the person you intend to wed by birth, marriage or adoption.

Celebrating a wedding in New Zealand

When planning your wedding in New Zealand, the first thing you will need to decide is whether you want to have a registry ceremony or a personalized ceremony. Both options involve applying for a marriage license at least three working days before your wedding.

The application for both types of weddings requires the name of the celebrant and the date and location of your wedding. If either of you has been married before, you will need a copy of the marriage dissolution to prove that you are divorced. If your previous spouse passed away, you need to include the date of their death on your license application.

Registry marriage in New Zealand

If you opt for a registry ceremony, be aware that you will be required to use the standard vows script, and your wedding must take place on a weekday and last for no longer than 30 minutes. A registry marriage is usually much simpler and more affordable than a personalized ceremony, as you are not paying for venue hire, catering, photographers, decor and all of the other associated costs of a wedding.

In New Zealand, it costs NZ$150 for the marriage license, and there is a fixed fee of $90 for the ceremony, which can be either paid in advance or given to the celebrant on the day – making the total cost of a registry wedding NZ$240.

The Celebrants Association of New Zealand (CANZ) has published a thorough guide that unpacks exactly what a registry wedding consists of compared with a personalized ceremony.

Though much less complex than a personalized ceremony, a registry office wedding still requires some planning. Applying for a marriage license for a registry ceremony can be easily done online. The form leads you through the necessary steps, which include:

  • Location. As of 2020, registry marriages can no longer occur at government offices. Courthouse weddings are a thing of the past in New Zealand, and a couple seeking a registry wedding has to choose a location for their wedding and select a nearby celebrant. The location can be at their own home, a park, or a restaurant – but wherever it is must be a location easily accessible to the celebrant. It is best to discuss the location with your celebrant first. You may need to seek permission in advance if considering a park or restaurant as your location.
  • Celebrant. When registering for a marriage license online, you will select a celebrant from among a list of celebrants available in your chosen region. Some celebrants may offer their own homes as a location for your wedding.
  • Witnesses and guests. Registry ceremonies are limited to a maximum of 20 guests. You must have at least two guests who can witness the marriage and sign the wedding certificate.

Personalized marriage ceremony in New Zealand

A personalized ceremony allows couples the freedom to write their own vows, get married on any day of the week, invite as many guests as they wish, decide when and where the ceremony will occur, and generally control exactly what happens during the ceremony.

  • Decide where in New Zealand you will get married. For a personalized wedding, the options for where you will be getting married are much more varied. Whether you want to get married on a boat, at home, or hire a lavish winery, venue choice is the biggest decision couples will make regarding their ceremony.
  • Select a celebrant. As with a registry wedding, you must input your celebrant's name into the marriage certificate application form, though you are not limited to those celebrants available in your location. Generally, couples will have determined a celebrant in advance, whether it be someone associated with their church or a trusted friend who is registered as a celebrant. Though a celebrant costs NZ$90 for a registry wedding, the costs of a celebrant for a personalized ceremony can be much more, depending on the services they provide and how far they have to travel to attend the wedding.

The marriage license in New Zealand

Whether you are having a personalized ceremony or a registry wedding, you must apply for your marriage license at least three days and more than three months prior to your intended wedding date. When filling out the form, you can choose from either a personalized ceremony or a registry office, and the form will walk you through the different requirements.

Once the application is submitted, it takes three days to be processed.

If you're having a personalized ceremony, you will be sent the license and two copies of the “Copy of Particulars of Marriage” — which contains all the details of the people getting married. You must give all three of these documents to your celebrant before your wedding.

If you're having a registry ceremony, the celebrant will be sent the license, as well as two copies of the “Copy of Particulars of Marriage”. Once this is complete, you do not need to do anything else until the ceremony.

If you don't have the three days in New Zealand (if you are coming in from overseas only a day or two before your wedding), there is a different form for you to fill in. This is the ‘Notice of intended marriage or civil union where parties are ordinarily residents outside New Zealand' form. You will need to send this to the Births, Deaths and Marriages office and include an international bank draft in NZ dollars to pay the fee. Once you have arrived in New Zealand, you will need to go to a registry office and sign the declaration. A list of registry office addresses is included on the application form.

The marriage certificate in New Zealand

After the ceremony, your celebrant (who is responsible for all of the legal requirements are met) will ensure the couple and witnesses sign both copies of the “Copy of Particulars” form – which you will have given to your celebrant if having a personalized wedding, or which will have been sent directly to the celebrant if you are having a registry ceremony. The celebrant is responsible for filing this paperwork with Births, Deaths and Marriages.

After your ceremony, whether personalized or registered, you are able to order a marriage certificate, which is New Zealand's official record of your marriage. It costs NZ$33 to get a marriage certificate sent, and it usually takes one to two weeks to arrive. This certificate can be used as evidence of your marriage.

Marriage vs. civil union in New Zealand

A civil union is very similar to a marriage. The process for getting a civil union is the same as for getting married, but the forms are different, and you cannot apply online. New Zealand introduced civil unions as a substitute for marriage for same-sex couples who were not legally able to marry before 2013. A civil union allowed them the same legal rights as married couples. Though same-sex marriage in New Zealand has been legal since 19 August 2013, some people may still choose to get a civil union for personal or political reasons.

For same-sex couples who wish to change their previous civil union to a marriage, they do not need to dissolve their civil union but can convert it into marriage by filling in a form and holding another ceremony.

Celebrants in New Zealand

In New Zealand, celebrants can be “independent” or be associated with a particular religion. A full list of celebrants is available through the Department of Internal Affairs. Only those appointed by the Registrar-General as Marriage and/or Civil Union Celebrants and who appear in the official list of celebrants have the authority to confirm marriages and/or civil unions in New Zealand.

If you are considering becoming a celebrant or asking a friend to become a celebrant for your wedding, then be aware that applicants need to be New Zealand citizens and permanently live in New Zealand. To become a celebrant, you must pay a fee of NZ$240, and registration must be renewed each year.

Things to know when getting married in New Zealand

Changing your name

When it comes to changing your last name in New Zealand, you don't have to do anything complicated. You can immediately begin using your new last name, and if you want to change your name at the bank or on your driver's license, your marriage certificate is considered evidence of this change. After you get married, the electoral roll will also send you a form that you can use to update your electoral details.

Changing your name on your passport is a different process. If you want to travel overseas and have not updated your passport to your new, married name, make sure to book tickets using your old name until you have completed this process.

Virtual weddings

Under the Marriage Act, a marriage cannot occur virtually. You are unable to use video conferencing tools, and the couple, celebrant and witnesses must all be physically present in the same place, although guests are able to attend in this manner.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.