Legal Elements: The Basics

What is a Marriage?

A marriage is the formalisation of a relationship between two people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, in accordance with the Marriage Act 1955. The Marriage Act 1955 provides the criteria, rules and processes for two people to have their relationship solemnised as a marriage (by way of a formal ceremony) and officially registered in New Zealand.

Getting Married in New Zealand

Anybody can marry in New Zealand, as long as they are legally free to marry. Under New Zealand law this means that:

  • They are not already married or in a civil union with a person other than the person they will be marrying (or if they have been married, the marriage has been dissolved by a court of law).
  • They are old enough (16 or over, although parental consent is required if either party is 16 or 17 years old).
  • They are not closely related by blood, marriage, civil union or adoption. Details of these “prohibited” marriages appear on the form ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’, which is used to apply for a marriage licence.

Who can get married?

Anybody can marry in New Zealand, as long as they are legally free to marry. Under New Zealand law this means that:

  • They are not already married or in a civil union with a person other than the person they will be marrying (or if they have been married, the marriage has been dissolved by a court of law).
  • They are old enough (16 or over, although parental consent is required if either party is 16 or 17 years old).
  • They are not closely related by blood, marriage, civil union or adoption. Details of these “prohibited” marriages appear on the form ‘Notice of Intended Marriage’, which is used to apply for a marriage licence.

Where and when can you get married?

There are no rules about where you must get married.  However, a permit may be required if the Ceremony is to be in a public place, and some councils will charge a fee depending on the location.  Check with the local council of the venue/location for further information.  The location of your wedding must be stated on your Marriage Licence.

Again, there are no rules about the time or date of your wedding.

Who can be a witness at the Marriage Ceremony?

Anyone able to understand what occurs at the ceremony – and importantly the nature of the ceremony. Children can be witnesses, but must be able to demonstrate a full understanding of the nature of the ceremony in court if later required to do so. (The Marriage Act of 1955 does not stipulate a minimum age for witnesses.)

Are there different kinds of Marriage Ceremonies?

There are 2 types of Ceremonies:

  • Ceremony held by a Registrar of Marriages in a Registry Office
  • Ceremony held by an authorised and registered Marriage Celebrant at a place other than a Registry Office

What is involved in getting a Marriage License?

Application for a Marriage License is made to the Registrar of Marriages (both parties must be over 16 years of age to be issued with a Marriage License)

You’ll need to make a Statutory Declaratin that there is no legal impediment to the marriage.

The Marriage License is issued after 3 days.

The Marriage License is valid for 3 months from the date of issue.

Who has the authority to perform marriages?  How do I know they are authorised?

Registered or authorised Celebrants are those persons appointed by the Registrar-General as Marriage Celebrants.  A list of all Celebrants can be found in the List of Marriage Celebrants in the New Zealand Gazette.

For more information please visit the Department of Internal Affairs.