Complain about a marriage or civil union celebrant
If you have a serious problem with a marriage or civil union celebrant not performing their legal duties before, during or after your ceremony, you can make a formal complaint about them.
Raise the issue with your celebrant
If you have a problem with your celebrant, it's a good idea to talk to them first. Your celebrant will likely want to resolve any issues with you directly and use your feedback to improve their performance in future.
If your celebrant is a member of Celebrants Aotearoa
If your celebrant is a member of Celebrants Aotearoa, you can also contact them about your complaint.
If your celebrant is a minister or leader of an approved organisation
If you have a problem with a celebrant who is a minister of a church or approved organisation, you should contact the church or organisation directly about your complaint.
Make a claim with the Disputes Tribunal
If you have spoken with your celebrant and you are still unhappy, you can make a claim with the Disputes Tribunal for up to $30,000 for disputes about goods and services.
You can make a claim if the celebrant:
- did not properly carry out their duties as requested by you
- did not meet your expectations
- charged too much for their service.
Complain about a celebrant to the Registrar-General
Before you make a complaint to the Registrar-General:
- check your complaint meets the criteria, and
- think about what outcome or resolution you would like.
Check your complaint meets the criteria
The Registrar-General can investigate complaints that a marriage or civil union celebrant has not fulfilled their obligations under the Marriage Act 1955, the Civil Union Act 2004, or the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act 1995.
Examples of a valid complaint include:
- the celebrant made a serious legal error during your marriage or civil union ceremony
- the celebrant intentionally failed to send the paperwork to Births, Deaths and Marriages after the ceremony to register your marriage or civil union.
Outcomes and resolutions
Before you make a complaint about a marriage or civil union celebrant, you should think about how you want your complaint resolved.
You can ask for:
- an apology
- a guarantee that the same thing won’t happen again.
Make a complaint
If you are not happy with the resolution offered by your celebrant, church or approved organisation, you can make a complaint to the Registrar-General. Only refer the complaint to the Registrar-General if it meets the above criteria.
To make a celebrant complaint you must provide the following information:
- the full names of the couple involved in the marriage or civil union
- if you are not part of the couple, your full name and your relationship to the couple
- your email address and phone number
- the name of the marriage or civil union celebrant
- the celebrant's contact details, if you have them
- the date and place of the marriage, or when and where it was intended to happen
- information about exactly what happened before, during and after the marriage or civil union
- evidence that supports your complaint, if available
- any actions that you have already taken to resolve the complaint
- the outcome you are seeking.
What happens after you make a complaint
The Registrar-General will make a preliminary assessment to see if it is a valid complaint and within their jurisdiction to investigate.
If the Registrar-General investigates the complaint
If the Registrar-General investigates the complaint, they will get information from the marriage or civil union celebrant and any available witnesses. A decision will be made based on the legislation and information gathered.
The Registrar-General will let you know the next steps in the process. They may also ask you for additional information.
Your complaint will be investigated as promptly as possible. Allow several weeks for a decision.
Complaints about an approved organisation celebrant
If your complaint is about a celebrant who is a minister of a church or other approved organisation, the Registrar-General will contact the church or organisation about the complaint as well as the celebrant.
If the Registrar-General does not investigate the complaint
If the Registrar-General decides it is not a valid complaint, they will let you know about other avenues of dispute resolution.
The Registrar-General will make one of the following decisions:
- No action required or, on further investigation, this is not a complaint the Registrar-General has jurisdiction over. They will let you know about other avenues of dispute resolution.
- No action required: the celebrant is not at fault.
- The celebrant is directed to improve their performance and the complaint is recorded.
- The celebrant is removed from the New Zealand Gazette's list of marriage celebrants.
- An alleged offence has occurred and legal action will be taken.
Your personal information
The Registrar-General will keep any personal information in the complaint private and confidential. Only authorised people will be able to view your information. They will not share your personal information with the celebrant, church or approved organisation unless they have your consent. However, due to the nature of the complaint, the celebrant may work out who made it.