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Registry ceremonies

A registry ceremony has standard vows and must take place during business hours on a weekday (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). You cannot hold the ceremony on a public holiday. You must pay $150 for the marriage licence and a set fee of $90 for the ceremony, which you pay to the celebrant in advance. You should contact your celebrant before you apply for a marriage licence to make sure they will be available.

The Celebrants Aotearoa (CANZ) have provided guidelines for couples to understand the criteria for a registry ceremony.

The registry guidelines are available in te reo Māori, English, Samoan, and Chinese.

  1. 1

    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 will be asked to select a location and a celebrant. Select a celebrant who is based within 10 kilometres of the location of your ceremony. 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.

    Virtual weddings

    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.

  2. 2

    Apply for a marriage licence

    You have to get a marriage licence at least 3 working days before the ceremony. It costs $150.

  3. 3

    Arrange witnesses

    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.

  4. 4

    Get married

    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.

Who to contact for more help

If you need more help or have questions about the information or services on this page, contact the following agency.

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