How to get legally married in New Zealand

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In New Zealand you can get married anywhere, at any time, in front of anyone, and in any way you wish. Whether you stand in front of two people or two hundred to make your personal and meaningful promises, your marriage is also a legal commitment, one that is recognised around the world . . . for all time (no pressure when you make your vows!)

New Zealand is also probably the easiest country in the world to get properly and legally married. Births Deaths and Marriages (Department Internal Affairs) is responsible for the issuing of marriage licences. Their website https://www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/getting-married/how-to-get-married-in-nz/ provides all the information you need in a great step-by-step guide.
how to get legally married in new zealand

In summary though this is how it goes . . .

Step 1 – Decision Time

  1. Decide who you are marrying. This is pretty obvious and there are only few limitations on who you can marry, with these limitations based on family relationships and connections.
  2. Decide where you are having your marriage ceremony. You do need to know the exact place you will exchange your marriage vows. If you are getting married by a beach, river or similar natural place, you must provide the nearest street names, map co-ordinates or a very clear description. And if you are having an outside wedding it would more than advisable to provide an address for an alternative venue in case the weather is not going to co-operate on the day. There is a space on the application form to list two options for your ceremony venue.
  3. Decide who will officiate your ceremony. You have three options for this; you can get married by a Registrar in a Registry Office, by an Organisational Celebrant (for example a minister in a church) or, a Registered Marriage Celebrant at a location of your choice. Always confirm with the celebrant you are talking to that they are actually currently registered with Births Deaths and Marriages.
    I am a registered independent (no affiliation to a church or organisation) celebrant.

Step 2 – Action time, applying for a Marriage Licence

Now that you have all your decisions made you can apply for your Marriage Licence, which can now be done on-line. Not only is this easy and time saving but couples based overseas can apply in this way too. If preferred, you can still apply at your local BDM office.

  1. Click on this link and you are ready to get started! https://marriages.services.govt.nz
  2. Fill in all the details you are prompted for and make sure you have filled in your own and your parents’ full names. If you are divorced you will need to know the date of your Dissolution of Marriage (or Civil Union). Likewise if you are widowed you need write in the date of death of your spouse.
  3. You will be prompted to pay the $150 for your Marriage Licence 
  4. You will also be prompted to apply for a Marriage Certificate ($33) which is the offical proof of your marriage. Not only is this useful especially if one of you is changing your name but receiving this in the mail confirms your marriage has been registered.
  5. Once submitted on-line you need to go into your to your local Registrar of Marriages https://www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/getting-married/find-a-registry-office/ and sign the Statutory Declaration that the particulars are true. Only one of you needs go into the office to do this, and you can do this straight away.

Step 3 – Receiving Your Marriage Licence

It takes three working days to process an application, but in the busy season it can take longer so don’t leave it to close to your wedding date to apply. A Marriage Licence is valid for 3 months from the date of issue.

  1. You will be emailed your Marriage Licence and your Particulars of Marriage (two copies), which you can print or email to your celebrant to print for you. The licence allows your celebrant to marry you, and the Particulars of Marriage are what you sign on the day. These MUST be present at the marriage for a legal marriage to occur.

Step 4 – Get Married!

  1. During the ceremony to make the marriage legal you must say “I [name], take you [partner’s name], to be my [wife/husband]” – or something similar, and your full names must be used at least once. That’s the legal wording requirement met, and these words must be clearly said in front of a minimum of two witnesses. The witnesses can be any relation to you and can be any age, but they must understand what is happening.
  2. Signing after you have exchanged your vows involves the two of you, two witnesses and your celebrant. All sign both copies of the Particulars of Marriage. Regardless of whether either of you is going to change your name on marriage you sign the forms in the names on your marriage documents.
  3. The BDM45A is your copy, and is a legal document that proves you are married – and can legally use your spouse’s name (or a combination of your names). Your celebrant will leave this with either you or someone you have designated to safely look after it for you.
  4. The BDM45 is emailed by scan or photo to BDM office by your celebrant so that your marriage is legally registered in New Zealand.

Step 5 – Receiving Your Marriage Certificate

  1. Your official Marriage Certificate should arrive two to four weeks after your marriage.
  2. Never part with your original documents. If proof of your marriage is necessary you should  be able to email a scanned copy to the appropriate agency, or you could get a certified true copy done.

This might see a bit long but it is all pretty easy in reality. However if you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with me.

Wendy