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The legalities of Marrying in New Zealand: How to Apply for a Marriage Licence

It’s all very exciting planning your wedding, but without following the legalities of marrying in New Zealand, you’ll end up with a brilliant party but no spouse! NZ’s legal marriage requirements are fairly simple, the key element being to arrange a marriage licence between 3 days and 3 months in advance; and registering the marriage after the ceremony.

If you’re currently still planning your wedding and need a little help, we have the best wedding planner book to do just that, or if you’re already about to walk up the aisle, have a look at our wedding anniversary journals and Celebrate books.

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Who can get married in New Zealand?

Anyone can marry in New Zealand as long as they’re not:

· already married or in a civil union (unless you’re changing your relationship with the same person)
· under 16 (and you need the consent of a Family Court judge if you’re under 18)
· closely related by birth, marriage or adoption.

Of course, same-sex couples also marry in New Zealand, and we provide a wedding destination for lesbian and gay couples who can’t marry at home.

There are two ways to get married in New Zealand, of which you must decide on prior to applying for your marriage certificate. – either getting married at a registry office, or at a specified venue of your choice.
1. Get married at a registry office ($240)
A registry office wedding:
· takes place in normal office hours
· isn’t open to the public – you’ll need to bring 2 witnesses
· uses standard wedding vows – you can not write your own vows

2. Get married by an approved marriage celebrant ($150 + independent celebrant’s fee)
An approved, registered celebrant can marry you:
· at the time and location of your choice, anywhere in New Zealand (this is not the case in many other countries, including the UK)
· with two witnesses present
· using your own vows – although you must say “I [name] take you [name] to be my legal [wife or husband].”

So, because it’s important to specify when and where you are getting married, you can only apply for your marriage licence in New Zealand once you have arranged for a marriage celebrant or chose a registry office to get married in, and organised where you will get married. Note, you can only get married at the venue you write on the marriage licence application form, so you may wish to include a back-up wedding venue.
N.B. If you have been married and divorced previously, you’ll also need a copy of the marriage dissolution order.

Applying for a New Zealand Marriage Licence

There are different ways to apply for your Marriage Licence depending on whether you live in New Zealand or overseas, so follow either a) or b)

a) Get a marriage licence if you live in New Zealand

Important notes:

· You can be legally married without a marriage licence.
· You can apply for your marriage licence online. The requirements remain the same as in person – you can apply between 3 days and 3 months of your wedding. Apply online at – you can get the licence emailed to either yourself or your celebrant, and you can also get it couriered to one of you.

· If you are having a civil union, or if you or your partner is aged 16-17, you must still use a paper form and apply in person – Print & complete a notice of intended marriage application form (linked)

· Only one of you needs to attend to apply – take the notice to your local Registrar of Marriages in person so they can witness you signing the declaration
· If you’ve been married before, bring a copy of your dissolution of marriage order.
· Find your local Registrar of Marriages by calling 0800 22 52 52 (or +64 4 463 9362 from overseas).

The Costs of applying for a Marriage Licence (pay online or when you hand in your form):
· $240 if you’re getting married at a registry office (including the ceremony), or
· $150 if you’re getting married by a celebrant (the celebrant costs extra – you’ll pay them directly).
· $26.50 for a marriage certificate
Your licence will take at least 3 working days to be issued.  It is valid for 3 months. Therefore, you must apply between 3 months and 3 days of your wedding. If your wedding is postponed, you must re-apply.

b) Getting a marriage licence if you both live outside NZ

If you’re coming to NZ to get married, you need to organise a marriage licence before you get here, so apply online or fill out a paper form and apply at least 3 days before your wedding day.

If you would like to fill out a paper form, see below:
1.    Complete a notice of intended marriage where parties are ordinarily resident outside New Zealand form 
2.    Don’t sign the declaration.
3.    Send it, with your payment, to the registry office closest to where you plan to get married. It costs:

· NZ$240 if you’re getting married at a registry office (including the ceremony), or
· NZ$150 if you’re getting married by a celebrant (the celebrant costs extra – you’ll pay them directly).

4.    When you arrive in NZ, visit the office to sign the declaration and pick up your marriage licence.
OR: You can also take your completed form to a commonwealth representative in your country (eg a high commissioner or ambassador) and sign the declaration in front of them before you post it. New Zealand representatives overseas 

Receiving your Marriage Licence and getting married in New Zealand

Your marriage licence will be issued after 3 days, and you will be sent the licence and two copies of the Copy of Particulars, all of which are to be given to your celebrant. If for any reason you change your venue before the wedding, you must tell the registry office at which you got the marriage licence.

Following the Wedding: register your marriage

After the ceremony, your celebrant will get you to sign two copies of a form – one for you to keep and one which they will send to Births, Deaths and Marriages to register your marriage.

Civil Union

The process for getting a civil union is the same as for getting married, but the forms are different and you cannot apply online. You’ll still need to:
· go to a registry office or find a celebrant
· get a licence
· have your civil union registered by your celebrant.
Civil union forms and information
Change your civil union to a marriage or your marriage to a civil union
If you’re already in a civil union (that’s recognised in New Zealand) and would like to change it to a marriage, or vice versa, you need to follow all the steps above – but you’ll complete a different form when you apply for your licence. You’ll also need to provide evidence of your current relationship. The usual marriage and civil union fees and processes will apply.
·Change a civil union to a marriage form (PDF 266kb) 
·Change a marriage to a civil union form (PDF 228kb) 

Changing your name after your wedding:

In New Zealand, once you are legally married, you can also legally use the name of your spouse. You don’t have to do anything particular to register your new married name, but you are likely to need a copy of your Marriage Certificate to change your name at banks and government agencies. Be careful when booking your honeymoon and any future international travel, because though your legal name will be both your maiden, and married name, you can only travel on the name recorded in your passport.
To change your name to your married name on your drivers licence or passport, you will have to apply for a new licence or new passport with the marriage certificate.

Head to  wedding planning for more advice and inspiration!

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