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Marriages: Frequently Asked Questions

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 a Marriage Celebrant you should discuss with them about where and when you would like the marriage to take place, and the type of ceremony.

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 of NZ$120.00 for a marriage licence, or NZ$170.00 for a Registry Office marriage to be held during normal office hours (Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm)
What if I'm applying for the marriage licence from outside of New Zealand?
If you are applying for the marriage licence from outside of New Zealand, the only difference is in regards to the form you complete and the signing of the declaration. If you are overseas, the declaration must either be signed by a Commonwealth Representative, and then sent (with payment) to the Registry Office in New Zealand closest to where you will be married. Note: only the Notice of Intended Marriage where both parties ordinarily resident outside New Zealand (BDM 58) can be signed by a New Zealand Commonwealth representative. Or, you can complete everything on the form except the declaration, and send it (with payment) to the Registry Office in New Zealand closest to where you will be married. When you arrive in New Zealand, you then need to visit that office, sign the declaration and collect the marriage licence.

Who is a Commonwealth Representative?
'Commonwealth Representative' means any Ambassador, High Commissioner, Commissioner, Minister, Counsellor, Charge d'Affaires, Head of Mission, Consular Officer, Pro-consul, Trade Commissioner, or Tourist Commissioner of a Commonwealth country (including New Zealand); and includes any person lawfully acting for any such officer; and also includes any diplomatic secretary on the staff of any such Ambassador, High Commissioner, Commissioner, Minister, Counsellor, Charge d'Affaires, or Head of Mission.

How long does it take to get a marriage licence?
If approved, the licence will be issued not sooner than three calendar days after it is submitted to a Registrar of Marriages. The licence is valid for three months from the date of issue.

What does 'legally free to marry' mean?
Legally free to marry means that you are not married or in a civil union already (unless you are changing the form of the relationship from a civil union with the same partner), are 16 years of age or over (and have parental consent if aged 16 or 17), are not closely related to each other in certain ways and are of opposite sexes.

How do we know who we cannot marry?
The back of the 'Notice of Intended Marriage' form gives a full list of people you cannot marry. In general, you cannot marry a close relative by blood, marriage or civil union. This includes relatives by adoption and some step relatives. If you are not sure of your situation contact us for further information.

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 will 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.

What are the legal requirements for all marriage ceremonies?
The legal requirements are that:
  • The marriage must be performed in the presence of 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
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.

How do we find a Marriage Celebrant?
All celebrants are listed in the New Zealand Gazette. This is available at Births, Deaths and Marriages offices and agencies, and some public libraries. If you want to marry in a church, or other place of worship, contact the administrative office of that place to find out if a Marriage Celebrant is appointed to perform marriages there. Your local Registrar of Marriages will have a list of independent Marriage Celebrants.

Where is our nearest Registrar of Marriages?
A Registrar of Marriages is located in most cities and towns throughout New Zealand. See
Cheque Payments for a New Zealand Marriage Licence or New Zealand Civil Union Licence to check the locations of the Registry Offices in New Zealand. The contact details for your nearest Registrar of Marriages can be obtained by contacting us or contact the District Court for their addresses.

If we decide to get married by a celebrant, where can we get married?
You can get married at any place 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.

What happens if we are married by a Registrar?
You need to make arrangements with the Registrar about a time and date for the ceremony. This date must be at least three days after you give notice of your intended marriage but not more than three months after the marriage licence is issued. The cost is NZ$170.00, which includes the ceremony and the licence.

What time of the day can we get married?
You can have a Registry Office marriage during normal office hours (Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm). You can have a Marriage Celebrant marry you on any day, and at any time, upon which you and the celebrant agree.

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 consent.

Does my name have to change when I get married?
In New Zealand it has been customary for a woman to assume the man's surname after marriage. In some cases couples are combining their names to create a new family name, or some husbands are assuming their wife's surname on marriage. You may retain your current surname. None of these changes affect your registered birth name.

How do I become a marriage celebrant?
Applications are to be made in writing and sent to Births, Deaths and Marriages. Please see Becoming a Marriage Celebrant. For further information see: Marriage Celebrant: A guide to the role of Marriage Celebrant in New Zealand.

What do I need to do to get married overseas?
If you are getting married overseas it is important that you contact the marriage authorities of the country where you plan to marry and check their marriage laws and requirements. Contact details may be found from the countries Embassy, Consulate or High Commission in New Zealand.

How do I apply for a Certificate of No Impediment or a Certificate of Search?
Certain overseas countries require a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage before allowing you to marry, to prove that you are not already legally married in your country of citizenship or residence. Please see 'Getting Married Overseas' for further information.

Can I register my overseas marriage in New Zealand?
Your marriage should be registered in the country where it took place. Most marriages that take place overseas in accordance with the laws of that country are recognised by New Zealand law. There is no legal obligation to register your overseas marriage in New Zealand. However, you may do this if an authorised New Zealand representative from an overseas New Zealand post witnesses your marriage ceremony. You should contact the nearest New Zealand overseas post to where you plan to marry, to determine whether they are able to provide this service. A fee will be required.

How do I have my marriage dissolved?
The Ministry of Justice processes divorces in New Zealand. Please contact your local Court or a lawyer for further information about how to dissolve a marriage.

How do I get a copy of my divorce papers?
Please contact Ministry of Justice for further information about how to obtain a copy of your divorce papers or dissolution order. If the marriage and divorce both occurred in New Zealand, the details will be added as an endorsement to the marriage entry, and will appear on any subsequent marriage certificate.

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. For then the process begins with a 'Notice of Intended Civil Union, change of relationship from marriage' form. You will be required to provide evidence of your current marriage.

Similarly, where you are in a civil union and are otherwise eligible to marry, you may change the form of your relationship to a marriage without having to formally dissolve your civil union. In this case you would begin by completing a 'Notice of Intended Marriage, change of relationship from civil union' form. You will be required to provide evidence of your current civil union.

Same-sex couples are not permitted to marry in New Zealand.

Further Information
For further information view or print: Getting Married: a guide for couples preparing to marry in New Zealand.

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Last updated: 15/05/2006