Everything you need to know about marriage in New Zealand

28 Mar 2023·19 min to read
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Over 15,000 marriages are held every year in New Zealand between Kiwis and other foreign nationals. New Zealand is a culturally diverse country with people from various ethnicities and parts of the world. The indigenous Polynesian population of New Zealand is referred to as Maori. 

The Mori culture has been predominant in New Zealand, with arts and traditions that have been passed down from the rich heritage of ancient times and are still being practiced now. Most marriages in the country are either civil or religious. Most of the citizens of New Zealand are atheists or irreligious; however, Christianity is the most predominant religion in the country, and Anglicanism is the largest denomination in the country.

Most marriages in New Zealand are traditional. Couples usually have a civil ceremony first and then have a traditional or religious ceremony after. Civil and traditional marriages are the most popular types of marriages in New Zealand. Civil marriages are either held in the registry by an authorized member of the Celebrants Association of New Zealand (CANZ) or an approved marriage celebrant. Religious marriages are held in the church or the respective place of worship of either or both of the couple and officiated by a registered officiant in the church. Both civil and religious marriages are recognized and protected by law in New Zealand. Let’s go straight to the other sections of this article, where you will find out more details about marriages in New Zealand.

Civil Marriages

In New Zealand, civil marriages are legally binding and are often performed in two major ways. There are certain conditions that must be met by spouses before they are allowed to get married. A spouse who is still in a marriage or civil union with another person is not allowed to get married unless the previous marriage is lawfully terminated. Couples must be of legal age before getting married in the country. 

Under special circumstances, spouses aged 16 or 17 may be allowed to marry in the country if they have parental consent and court approval. Foreign partners must ensure they are permitted to marry in their own country if they plan on requesting authorization from the court. If a spouse is prohibited or ineligible to marry in their country, then they may not marry in New Zealand too.
Marriages between siblings or close relatives are strictly promoted in New Zealand, and civil marriages are legalized either by getting married by an authorized marriage celebrant or in a registry wedding ceremony by a validated member of CANZ. Couples have the freedom to choose their preferred public location for their marriage ceremony and may also be allowed to write their own vows.
To get married in New Zealand, there are certain documents that are required of both spouses, which are stated below.

Documents for Civil Marriage in New Zealand

  • A valid ID or passport. This must be a current means of identification that includes all the important information about each respective spouse.
  • Birth Certificate. This document must include the names of the partner’s parents, date of birth, and other necessary information. If a foreign spouse requests this from their home country or the embassy of their country in New Zealand, they must ensure it is in English. Documents in other languages must be apostille-certified and translated into English.
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage. This is a document to prove that a spouse is facing no current issues that may prevent them from lawfully getting married in New Zealand. The certificate must prove the single status of a spouse and show they are mentally fit and healthy enough to get married. Of course, both spouses must have given their free consent to marrying each other.
  • Proof of residency A document to show that one has been a resident of New Zealand and still currently lives in the country must be provided by the spouses.
  • Both spouses must provide two witnesses. These witnesses must be within their legal rights to take up this position.
  • Divorce or death certificates. This documentation is required for spouses who have a deceased or separated former spouse.

Religious and traditional marriages

Religious marriages in New Zealand are performed by registered celebrants in the couple's place of worship. Most religious ceremonies in the country follow the practices of the Anglican Church since the majority of the Christians in the country are of the Anglican faith. These ceremonies involve the normal church procession and exchange of vows and rings between the two couples. Church weddings in this setting usually go on for less than two to three hours. After this is concluded, the newlyweds, their friends and family, and various other guests proceed to another venue where the wedding reception will be held.

Traditional marriages in New Zealand were often arranged in Mori society. It took no ceremony for spouses to get married in ancient times, and they only shared gifts between themselves and their respective families. However, this changed in 1950, when it became compulsory that for children to inherit the properties of their parents, their parents must be officially married in the Pakeha way. It was customary for the bride's family to pay for the marriage ceremony; however, in modern New Zealand, couples now take up the responsibility of marriage themselves.

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Marriage Traditions in New Zealand


In ancient times, marriages used to be arranged in the native Mori society, where multiple suitors often asked for the hand of a mature woman in marriage from her parents. Couples who were in love had to go to the houses of their respective families to seek their blessings. However, most pre-wedding traditions now involve the engagement ceremony, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and the planning of the wedding ceremony and the reception. It is a tradition for both families to be actively involved in the marriage process.


This is the actual wedding ceremony that is mostly held in two parts, with the first one being a religious or traditional ceremony while the second one is often a reception held in a different venue. The custom is for the couple to meet in the church, and the father of the bride is the one who will officially give her away for marriage.


This includes all the ceremonial rites that are celebrated by the newlyweds, family, friends, and other guests. The wedding reception is usually filled with happiness because enough drinks and food are available to go around. The couples have a first dance with cheers from the crowd, and it is customary for the maid of honor and the best man to give speeches and make a toast to the newly married couple. The couple is usually presented with various gift items from the guests.

Same-sex Marriage 

Marriage between two people of the same sex is legal in New Zealand. This type of marriage became legal in 2013, and the law also recognizes and protects civil unions between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Most of the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that apply to marriages between people of the opposite sex are also enjoyed by same-sex marriages.
Since the country largely accepts same-sex marriages, a lot of Christian same-sex couples have been getting married in the church. However, there are still some religious bodies that may frown on this act. Religions like the Islamic faith, which is guided by sharia law, do not recognize marriage between two people of the same sex.

Polygamy in New Zealand

The marriage between a partner and two or more spouses is illegal in New Zealand, regardless of their sexes. If a person who is still married enters a relationship with another spouse, such a marriage is invalid and is also considered an offense under the laws of the country. This offense is called bigamy and can attract jail terms as well as fines. A previous marriage must be lawfully terminated with government-issued evidence before entering a new marriage.

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Marriage Laws and Rights, Costs and Duties


New Zealand's marriage laws are fairly straightforward and simple; all you need to do before tying the knot is carefully follow all of the requirements, and you'll have a fantastic ceremony.
According to the law, the legal age of marriage in New Zealand is 18 years old, and minors who are 16 years old must have the consent of their parents before getting married. Marriage between people of the same ancestral blood is prohibited; people who are related through adoption are also prohibited from marrying one another. Both parties must be in a stable state of mind to consent willingly to the marriage; forced marriage is not acceptable under the law. A marriage license that confirms your legal status to get married must be obtained before getting married. It must contain information about both parties. 

An application for this license must be filed at least 3 days before the ceremony, and this license expires within the 3 months within which you can have your ceremony. According to the law, if one or both parties are still in a legally binding marriage, they are not permitted to get married; both parties have to be single or provide proof that the previous marriage is nonexistent. Couples are permitted by law to marry only one spouse; polygamy is illegal in New Zealand. Marriage can be contracted in two ways: either at the registry by a member of CANZ or by an authorized marriage celebrant, in the event that spouses want a non-civil wedding. Spouses must use certain words while exchanging vows at the ceremony. Couples must ensure that two witnesses are present at the civil wedding, as stated by the law. 

Copies of your marriage documents must be sent to the marriage celebrant before the wedding day, and both parties as well as the celebrant are expected to bring the copies along to the ceremony. A caveat can be lodged if a third party has a legitimate reason to stop the marriage. Virtual weddings are not accepted by the law; both parties have to be present before the marriage celebrant.


In New Zealand, couples have equal access to various rights under the law. Both parties have the right to choose who they wish to marry and the type of ceremony they want, unlike in the past when marriages were often arranged. Both parties have the right to own personal property and assets acquired before marriage separately. Spouses have the right to jointly decide on matters that affect the family in any aspect by giving room for mutual agreement and respecting each other's opinions. Both the husband and wife have the right to free will; they can decide which occupation best suits their career path without having to seek the permission of one another. Couples have the right to decide on the domiciliary residence of the family. 

The right to have or adopt children and raise them according to one's beliefs is available to married couples in New Zealand. The husband and wife have the right to inherit their spouse's property in the case of death. Couples have the right to decide the socioeconomic and moral inclinations of the family. If one of the couples is a foreigner, he or she has the right to file for permanent residence after three years of marriage. Spouses have the right to participate in political and socioeconomic activities outside the home. Couples have the right to report cases of domestic violence to appropriate authorities and to file for the dissolution of their marriage.


A wedding is one of the most expensive events in one's life; a proper budget is needed to make sure the event goes as planned. A couple planning to get married in New Zealand would have to cough up an average of about $35,000. However, your wedding can only be as expensive as how much you're willing to spend on it; there are weddings that don't cost as much as $35,000 but are still very memorable. In New Zealand, the parents of the couple and the couple themselves are responsible for the cost of the ceremony. Prior to the ceremony, a fee of $150 would be paid to the local registry to obtain a marriage license. 

A total of $1,990 or thereabouts would be spent to hold a civil ceremony, and this would conveniently cover the venue, fees of the celebrant, attire, flowers, photography, and food at the ceremony. For a normal backyard wedding of about 40 guests, couples would spend approximately $2,500, including costs of the attire, decorations, chairs and tables, food, etc. 

The average cost of an outdoor wedding at an event center is approximately $10,000–$30,000; it covers the accommodation of guests, catering, music, attire, decorations, etc. In essence, one can easily run into debt while trying to have the perfect wedding; it is advisable to opt for an event that would be memorable and would still keep your account in one piece.


By virtue of marriage, couples are bound by law to perform certain duties to each other and to the family. Couples in New Zealand are obligated to support and be faithful to one another. The duty to provide for the maintenance of the family falls on the shoulders of both spouses; they should both be responsible for the provision of basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing, and other household needs. 

The husband and wife must be jointly responsible for the upbringing of the children and the effective running of the household. The husband and wife have a responsibility to protect one another and their children from any harm that may come their way. They are obligated to welcome ideas from one another and respect each other's opinions on the running of the family. Couples are responsible for the provision of a conducive environment for the development and education of the children. No one is seen as a subordinate to the other, therefore the duties and obligations in the home are equally divided, regardless of gender roles.

Final Thoughts 

Getting married in New Zealand is easy when compared to many other countries in the world. Anyone can get married in the country as long as all the requirements of marriage are met by both parties. There are not many restrictions on what type of marriage can be held or with whom it can be performed get married in the country as long as all the requirements of marriage are met by both parties. 

There are not many restrictions on what type of marriage can be held or with whom it can be performed. Marriages are allowed between same-sex couples, and civil unions are also recognized and protected by law in the country. Couples may be given permission to draw up their own personalized vows by the approved officiant, and they may also choose their most preferred venue for the ceremony with the officiant's approval.

There are two ways to apply for a marriage license in New Zealand, and couples can either apply for the license in person or online. However, there is a rule that spouses must apply within three months of the wedding ceremony. Both New Zealand nationals and foreigners are expected to submit all the documents that are required before they are permitted to marry in the country. We hope this article has provided you with all you need to know about marriage in New Zealand.