With all the planning, advice and decisions surrounding a wedding, sometimes we forget that there are certain legal requirements for any ceremony. I heard a story recently about a couple living in Australia who planned to marry in New Zealand. They, unfortunately, assumed their Australian celebrant friend could officiate at their wedding, and since this isn’t the case had postpone their ceremony at the last minute and go to a registry office! To help you avoid this scenario, I enlisted the help of our fabulous celebrant Desiree Mason. Whether you’re having a traditional church wedding or getting married on top of a mountain(!), all New Zealand weddings must include the following:

An officiant

In New Zealand, there are two legal ways to get married – through a registered celebrant like Desiree, or through the registry office. Wedding celebrants can be secular or religious (e.g. a pastor), as long as they are registered in New Zealand. Desiree must ensure that her registration is updated regularly.

A marriage license

This must be obtained at least three days before the planned ceremony. If you have a great celebrant like Desiree, they will probably ask you to organise it earlier so they can fill in the details in advance. You can download the application form here. You will need to know some details of the ceremony in order to complete the form, such as the location, date and celebrant. After sending the form off, you will be posted a marriage license and two versions of the “Copy of Particulars of Marriage,” all of which should be sent to your celebrant. According to Desiree, her obligations include: “formally identifying the couple on the marriage licence as the people that I am marrying, sighting the licence before the ceremony to ensure that the details are correct and holding the ceremony at one of the places named on the licence.”

A wedding ceremony

Your ceremony can include almost anything you like, but there are some “must-haves”. Desiree says as a celebrant, “I need to use the couple’s full names at least once in the ceremony and ensure that the couple says ‘I (full name) take you (partner’s name) to be my legal wife/husband’ sometime during the ceremony”. There must be two witnesses to the ceremony who must not be intoxicated and are able to understand what is happening. If the witnesses do not speak English, then an interpreter is required. The interpreter needs to sign a statutory declaration before the ceremony saying that they will interpret what is said accurately.

Signing the wedding registry (not the Honeypot kind!)

This usually happens straight after the ceremony, and involves the couple and witnesses signing the two versions of the “Copy of Particulars” at the ceremony. According to Desiree, the couple must use their pre-wedding signatures. The celebrant will send off one copy to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within 10 days of the ceremony, and the second copy will be given to the couple.

Of course, a good celebrant’s role includes far more than the minimum legal requirements. When we got married, Desiree’s planning advice was invaluable and she works really hard to understand the couple on a personal level. Keep an eye out later in the year when we’ll be profiling Desiree as part of a “Wedding Expert” blog series. Until then, happy wedding planning!