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Performing a marriage or civil union ceremony

As a marriage celebrant, you’re responsible for making sure the legal requirements of the ceremony are met.

Before the ceremony

The couple will give you 2 copies of the Copy of Particulars of Marriage’ or Copy of Particulars of Civil Union’. You must see the marriage licence before you can marry them.

Virtual weddings

Under current legislation, a marriage or civil union ceromony cannot occur virtually. That is, you cannot use video conferencing software, for example, Zoom, Skype and so on) and the couple, celebrant and witnesses must be physically present in the same place.

During the ceremony

You need to make sure the couple’s vows meet the requirements for a marriage or civil union.

In a marriage ceremony, couples can write their own vows as long as they say “I [name] take you [partner’s name], to be my legal [wife/husband/partner]”, or something similar, to each other at some point in the ceremony.

In a civil union ceremony, the couple must make a statement to each other that names both people and acknowledges they are freely joining in a civil union with each other.

The couple should say the words to each other rather than answering a question you ask — although the marriage or civil union is still valid if you have asked the couple a question.

You also need to:

  • be an approved celebrant on the day the licence is issued and the day the wedding is held
  • formally identify the people on the marriage or civil union licence as the people you’re marrying
  • use the couple’s full names at least once in the ceremony
  • hold the ceremony at one of the places named on the licence — if the place is changed due to unforeseen circumstances the new location must still be within New Zealand. You do not need to let the Registry Office know. Make sure the new location is accurately described on both copies of the 'Copy of Particulars’
  • make sure there are at least 2 witnesses to the ceremony. They must not be intoxicated and must be able to understand what’s happening. If they:
    • are children, they have to be old enough to understand the ceremony, and be able to explain their understanding in court later if required
    • 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.

Declaration for an interpreter form (PDF 65KB)

Declaration for an interpreter form accessible alternative (TXT 1.96KB)

After the ceremony

You need to:

  • get the couple and the witnesses to sign the 2 copies of the Copy of Particulars’ straight away — the couple must sign the documents using their pre-marriage signatures
  • give the couple 1 copy (BDM45A)
  • email or Freepost the other copy (BDM45) to BDM within 10 days.

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