A registry ceremony has standard vows and must take place on a weekday. You cannot hold the ceremony on a weekend or public holiday. You will need to pay $150 for the marriage licence and a set fee of $90 for the ceremony, which you pay to the celebrant in advance.
The Celebrants Association of New Zealand (CANZ) have provided 'A guide for couples to understand the criteria for a registry ceremony'.
Decide where in NZ
Registry ceremonies are limited to 10 guests. You need to arrange a celebrant and a venue.
When you apply for your marriage licence online, you can select a celebrant based on the location you’d like for your ceremony. The celebrant needs to be within 10 kilometres of your location. Registry offices are no longer available for ceremonies.
If you are unsure about a location, many couples get married in their home or garden, or choose another location like a public park. You may need permission from the local council or park administrators.
It is best to discuss a venue with your celebrant before booking. Some celebrants offer a venue at their own home. Otherwise, they’ll agree on a venue with you when you contact them.
Under the Marriage Act, a marriage can’t occur virtually. That is, you cannot use video conferencing software (for example, Zoom or Skype) and the couple, celebrant and witnesses must be physically present in the same place.
Apply for a marriage licence
You have to get a marriage licence at least 3 working days before the ceremony. It costs $150.
You need to bring 2 witnesses to the ceremony.
Who can be a witness
Your 2 witnesses must understand what’s happening during the ceremony. They must be able to clearly identify both of you and be satisfied you both consent to the marriage.
- don’t need to have known you for any specific length of time and
- can be children of any age, as long as they understand the nature of the ceremony and are able to demonstrate that understanding in court if required.
If the witnesses speak a different language to you, you’ll need an interpreter. The interpreter has to sign a declaration before the ceremony to say they’ll interpret what you say accurately.
Registry marriages follow a script and you must use standard vows:
If you prefer to use your own vows, you may want a personalised ceremony.
In advance of the ceremony you must pay the set fee of $90 to the celebrant.
After the ceremony, your celebrant will give you a “Copy of particulars of marriage”. This is not the same as a marriage certificate.
They’ll use another “Copy of particulars of marriage” to register your marriage with the NZ government.