First of all, congratulations! Marriage is awesome and, despite what Hollywood may have told you, weddings can actually be heaps of fun. I mean sure, the paperwork bit isn't that much fun, but don't be scared off! It's really not a biggie at all, and part of the celebrant's job is to help you get from legally single to legally married without breaking a sweat.
So whoever you choose as your celebrant, here's a bit of an overview of how this whole shebang works, a.k.a. Five Easy Steps To Marital Bliss:
1. FIND SOMEONE THAT YOU WANT MARRY
This is one of the more important bits. Also, double-check that they definitely want to marry you too.
2. WEDDING PLANS!
There are a million and one different ways to have a wedding, and if anyone starts telling you about the rules of what you should and shouldn't do, I suggest that you politely nod and smile and then ignore them and do your own thing. The only 'rules' that are truly important are the legal ones - see #4 below for more on that.
That said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do something the old-fashioned or traditional way either - after all, often traditions have stuck around for so long because they're actually really effective. Whatever you choose, just be sure you're doing it because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
3. GET A MARRIAGE LICENCE
Okay brace yourself, here comes the paperwork... Actually relax, it's really pretty simple. The whole process can be done online, from the comfort of your armchair - go here to begin the online Marriage Licence application process, easy! There's a fee of $150.00 to get a Marriage Licence, which you can pay online while you're at it. You can also apply and pay for a Marriage Certificate ($33.00) at the same time, so there's one less thing to worry about later.
(Note that the Marriage Certificate is optional, although recommended. It’s especially helpful if you need proof of a change of name, for making changes to a bank account for instance.)
Once you’ve completeed the online process, you’ll receive your Marriage Licence paperwork in PDF format via email no less than three working days later. (And if you forward the email onto me as your celebrant, I'll be happy to get it printed out for you.)
(Alternatively, if you're a bit of a luddite, you can also apply for a Marriage Licence via old-fashioned paper forms. For that you just need to get yourself a Notice of Intended Marriage form (or BDM60 for short), which is available online to print yourself here. Fill in the form, sign it, then hand it in at your nearest Births, Deaths & Marriages (BDM) office.)
In theory you could apply for the Licence a week before the wedding, but I really wouldn't advise it. Best to get it sorted 1-2 months prior, for your own peace-of-mind - the licence is valid for three months from the date of issue, so that should give you a bit of wiggle room in case plans change.
In addition to the Marriage Licence, BDM will also provide you with two copies of a form called Copy of the Particulars of Marriage - this is the 'register' that gets signed at the ceremony. I recommend that you get all of this paperwork to your celebrant sometime before the wedding day, so that it becomes their responsibility to look after it (and one less thing for you to worry about!).
4. HAVE A WEDDING
The day has arrived! In theory, all your awesome wedding plans (see #2) have come to fruition, so no need to go over that again - you'll probably be experts by this point. We already know the ceremony's going to be amazing and memorable for all involved, so let's just focus on the legal stuff.
You might be surprised by how few legal requirements a NZ wedding has. Still, the few there are are very important ones. At its most basic, you're gonna need the following:
a valid Marriage Licence, and get married in the place specified on the licence
two witnesses (who speak English, and are of sound mind capable of verifying that the knot got tied)
a registered celebrant to officiate (in case it wasn't already clear, I'm one of these!)
your full names must be stated at some point in the ceremony
you each must make a 'declaration of intent' - this means saying some words along the lines of "I AB take you CD to be my wife/husband/partner"
the couple, two witnesses, and the celebrant must all sign both copies of the Copy of Particulars of Marriage form
And that's it! Everything else you choose to include (e.g. readings, vows, etc.) is non-essential - still, all of those extra bits contribute in a big way to making the ceremony feel that much more like a special occasion.
BDM have some handy info on their website for more about the legal ins-and-outs of getting married; check it out here.
5. BE MARRIED
This bit's entirely up to you, I'm afraid. Now I'm no marriage counsellor, but here's 2c worth to get you started: love each other unconditionally; surround yourself with friends and family who will support you; but most of all, never stop talking to one another.
Okay, I'll quit with the advice now, apart from one final thought - your wedding shouldn't be one fantasy day detached from the rest of your life. Instead, I reckon it should be a celebration of who you both truly are, and who you want to be in the years ahead. Let your wedding day show off the best possible versions of yourselves, so that when you're in a rough patch sometime in the future, you'll be able to look back and be reminded of what it's really all about.
(Photo credit for up top there: Emma Brittenden)