Marriage in New Zealand: Guide For Foreigners

Some people move to New Zealand, fall in love, and get married, while others travel here for their wedding celebration or honeymoon. One certainly holds true – New Zealand is a fantastic place to get married! However, if you plan to make it official in New Zealand, you must follow all required legalities.

The process of getting married is easy for New Zealanders. The main requirement is to have a celebrant and venue. But foreigners coming from abroad have to go through a few additional steps to make it official. They must get a marriage licence up to 3 months before the wedding date and register the marriage.

If you are a foreigner getting married in New Zealand, you need to be aware of all legalities and requirements so the best day of your life doesn’t turn into the worst one. Read this article to be well-prepared beforehand for your special day.

Can foreigners get married in New Zealand?

Foreigners can marry in New Zealand. Anyone can get married in New Zealand, be it a heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple, both are allowed to get married. 

In fact, foreigners often travel to New Zealand just to get married, and why not? It’s a beautiful destination.

The good news is that being a resident of New Zealand is not compulsory for getting married in the country. So, no matter if you are planning to move to NZ or just traveling here, you can get married or have a civil union. But firstly, you have to identify whether you are eligible for marriage or not.

Eligibility criteria for marriage in New Zealand 

Anyone can get married in New Zealand, assuming:

  • You are not already married to someone unless you are giving a divorce to your previous partner. Also, you cannot get married if you are already in a civil union.
  • You are above 16 years of age. If you are 16-18 years old, you will have to take permission from a family court (parental consent).
  • You and your partner are related by anything, such as marriage, adoption, or birth. You can know who you can’t get married at the back side of the license form.

Note, you are allowed to get married to the same sex.

Requirements for getting married in New Zealand 

Generally, weddings in New Zealand must be registered with a marriage celebrant and have a chosen venue. Here are the main requirements you should follow to get married in New Zealand:

How do you legalize your marriage? 

Firstly, make sure how would you want to get your marriage legalized. There are two main ways of getting married in New Zealand: through a registry ceremony or a personalised ceremony. Both of them have their pros and cons.

Registry ceremony

For the registry ceremony, you pay $150 for the marriage licence and $90 as a set fee for the ceremony. The vows are standardized. Registry ceremonies need to be held at a venue agreed to with your celebrant. You are responsible for arranging and paying for the location. Your celebrant should be within 10 kilometers of the chosen location.

There are specific rules for the registry ceremony, e.g., it cannot be held in a wedding or function centre, hotel, or restaurant. It must be held between 8.30 am and 5 pm on weekdays. Besides, you can have only 20 guests maximum. The ceremony is up to 30 minutes in duration.

The biggest disadvantage is that you cannot hire any parties other than the celebrant. This means no wedding planners, MCs, photographers, and even no bridesmaids or groomsmen.

Conclusion: the registry ceremony is great if you want a low-cost wedding. Registry wedding is simple and the easiest way to marry.

Personalised ceremony

If you choose a personalised ceremony, celebrants don’t have a set fee, which will be significantly more expensive. However, as the name says, personalised ceremony can be customized to your taste. You will write your own vows, and you can marry on any day of the week.

The fee is $150 for the marriage licence, and everything else will depend on the celebrant fee, your wedding setting, etc.

Both ceremonies must include a declaration of marriage, the exchange of vows, and the signing of the marriage certificate.

Now you have to decide when and where you want to marry – with personalised ceremonies, it’s allowed to marry almost anywhere. You have the option of writing your wedding vows. Select if you want a religious or independent celebrant (different and same-sex marriages).

1) Intended Marriage Notice 

If you are planning to marry in New Zealand, you must fill out a Notice of Intended Marriage. You can get it from the Department of Internal Affairs or a registered marriage celebrant.

At this stage, you also need to pay the charges. Now, your marriage date should be at least 3 days and a maximum of 3 months from the completion of the Notice of Intended Marriage.

2) Identification

You must provide evidence of your identity; it can be a passport or birth certificate. You also need to show proof of any previous marriage or civil union dissolution.

3) Marriage Celebrant

You will need to find a registered marriage celebrant for your wedding. It’s a requirement in New Zealand. All registered celebrants are in the Department of Internal Affairs database. You can also search for a celebrant on this website.

4) Witnesses

For the wedding ceremony, 2 witnesses are required. Children also can be witnesses, but they must be old enough to understand what’s going on. Also, if your witnesses speak a different language to you, you will need to get an interpreter. The interpreter will have to sign a declaration before the ceremony, saying they will interpret everything accurately.

5) Signing registration forms

During the wedding, You, your partner, and the witnesses must sign registration forms.

6) Marriage License 

Now comes the most essential requirement – arranging, submitting, and getting a marriage license. A marriage license has to be arranged at least 3 working days before the wedding day. This license is valid for 3 months, so if you are a foreigner or live abroad, plan for this procedure accordingly; the earlier, the better. You can apply for your license online.

Besides, if you are traveling to New Zealand just to get married, you need to organise a marriage licence before arrival, so, apply online.

When getting married through a celebrant, you will need to provide the following at the time of applying:

  • The celebrant name
  • Exact wedding location
  • Approximate wedding date

Legally, you are required to state two locations according to weather (wet and fine weather). The process is exactly the same if you live abroad as well. You can submit your application online and opt to have your license emailed straight to your celebrant. 

Be careful with the location; the wedding can only happen in the venue you stated in the marriage license application form.

In case of a personalized ceremony, after 3 days from the application, you will be sent your marriage licence and two copies of the Copy of Particulars, which you should give to your celebrant before the wedding. They will use it to register your marriage with the NZ government.

After a registry ceremony, your celebrant will be sent the licence, and 2 copies of the “Copy of Particulars of Marriage.” You will get all your documents after the ceremony.

Meanwhile, you will be asked if you want a certificate mailed to you after the wedding. It is strongly advised to obtain that certificate, especially if you are not a New Zealand citizen.

This certificate will serve as formal documentation of your marriage registration in New Zealand. You can also request this certificate after the wedding, and it will be mailed to you within a few weeks following the ceremony. 

The marriage license fee is NZ$150, and the certificate fee is NZ$33, both of which are paid online at the time of application directly. The celebrants also have a separate fee, so consult your celebrant beforehand.

Getting married on a visitor visa in New Zealand 

Let’s talk about The Marriage Visitor Visa. This allows you to travel to New Zealand and marry a resident of New Zealand in a traditional arranged marriage, or you can simply live with them after getting married abroad. A marriage visa also allows you to study in New Zealand for up to 3 months.

The eligibility requirements for a Marriage Visitor Visa:

There are a few requirements to qualify for a Marriage Visitor Visa, including the following:

  • Your marriage should follow a cultural tradition and be arranged by a matchmaker or family member instead of you and your partner.
  • Your wedding ceremony should take place within three months of your arrival in New Zealand.
  • The marriage must be planned to be maintained on a long-term basis.
  • If you get married outside of New Zealand, you must apply for a visa within three months of your marriage.
  • You must be in good physical condition.
  • You must have a decent personality.
  • You must adhere to the terms of your visa.
  • There must be no legal barriers to your marriage.
  • Your partnership must fulfill the conditions for a partnership.
  • Your partner must be a New Zealand citizen or resident.
  • Your companion must be a nice person.
  • Your application must be supported by your partner.
  • Your partner must be qualified to support a future partnership-based residency application.
  • You must have enough money or a sponsor to cover the cost of your full stay in New Zealand.
  • You must have a ticket to depart New Zealand or have enough money to purchase one from a sponsor.

Required documents for a New Zealand Marriage Visitor Visa:

To apply for a New Zealand Marriage Visitor Visa, you must gather the following set of documents:

  • Valid passport 
  • A photo, showing your shoulders and head 
  • An x-ray of the chest or a medical report 
  • A police certification from the place where you live 
  • Proof that marriage is an identified cultural tradition 
  • Proof of your partner’s immigration history 
  • Proof that your partner is of solid moral character 
  • A partnership support form for Residence/temporary entry 
  • Proof of adequate monetary means or sponsorship

Same-sex marriages in New Zealand 

New Zealand is the 13th country that legalized same-sex marriages. We made it official in August 2013. Since then, homosexual people have the same marriage rights as heterosexual people.

You should keep in mind one thing if you are planning to have a same-sex marriage in New Zealand: if you reside in a country where same-sex marriage is illegal, your partner won’t be able to live in your own country legally.

Marriage traditions and customs in New Zealand

When planning your wedding in New Zealand, the first decision you must make is whether you want a registry or a personalised ceremony. Both options require you to apply for a marriage license at least 3 business days before the wedding.

For all forms of weddings, the name of the celebrant, as well as the date and location of your wedding, must be included on the application. If either of you has previously been married, a copy of your divorce decree will be necessary to prove you are divorced. If your previous spouse died, you must provide the date of their death on your license application.

Virtual weddings and changing surname

A virtual wedding is not permitted in New Zealand, in fact, it’s illegal.

Changing your last name isn’t required in New Zealand. It’s up to you. But if you decide to change it, you will need to update the main documents, such as an ID, driver’s license, and bank account. Your marriage certificate is considered a document for proof of this change.

Don’t forget to notify all important contacts about your name change, including your employer, insurance company, and electoral roll.

New Zealand celebrants

Celebrants in NZ might be autonomous or affiliated with a certain faith. The Department of Internal Affairs has a complete list of celebrants.

Only celebrants approved as Marriage and/or Civil Union Celebrants by the Registrar-General and included on the officially provided celebrants list have the right to solemnize weddings and civil unions in New Zealand.

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