We got married! In Queenstown, New Zealand, no less.
When we posted photos on Facebook, some of my friends have been messaging me non-stop to not only congratulate me, but mostly to ask how we got married in New Zealand.
This post is for all partners – man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, for all nationalities.
My legally-wedded partner (that’s how we chose to call each other) and I have been to New Zealand in 2018 and because we can’t get married in our country, we did somewhere else.
HOW TO ENTER NEW ZEALAND:
Check their website if you need an e-visa or NZeTA, because they’re not the same. For Philippine passport holders like us, we had to secure an e-visa, meaning we applied online, and here are the steps. For other nationalities, only an NZeTA is required, which is actually a new requirement, implemented only in October 2019.
You could indicate in your visa application that you’re getting married, or not. In our case, we did not, because at the time of the visa application, we have not completed our application for a marriage license yet. But I strongly suggest you do, as it may help your application get approved. Also, if you’re applying together, do it as a family application. Mary’s visa was approved earlier than mine and I was so nervous mine wouldn’t get approved in time. We were stuck in Melbourne for 6 days before finally getting my visa. It was a good thing that we had multiple-entry visas to Australia so we still flew there to wait for our NZ visa.
FLIGHT OPTIONS TO NEW ZEALAND:
New Zealand is at the bottom of the earth and usually far from anywhere except Australia. From the Philippines, there are a lot of options, but the cheapest is flying from Manila to Melbourne or Sydney via Cebu Pacific (especially if there’s a seat sale), and then fly via Jetstar or Virgin from Australia to any part of New Zealand.
However, that entails a lot of moving luggage, transfers, visas and headache.
A simpler way to fly is either take a direct flight or connecting flights with the same airline, albeit more expensive. Trust me, we’ve flown to New Zealand twice using the first option and while it was a lot cheaper, we swore to fly direct (11 hours) /connecting (about 13-22 hours) next time.
Direct flights from Manila to Auckland are available via Philippine Airlines or connect via China Airlines, China Southern, Qantas, among others.
All other flights stop over Australian airports like Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or Gold Coast.
From the US mainland, connecting flights are available via major airlines.
Nationality and Gender
New Zealand’s marriage is legal for all – you don’t have to be a resident or citizen, and again it is afforded to same sex couples and heterosexual partners just the same.
The first thing I did was to search for a celebrant – someone who can perform the legal ceremony via the official list of the NZ government website. Everything you need to know is on this link.
Most people apply for the marriage license right away and look for a celebrant during that process. As for our wedding, I wanted to choose someone who we would feel comfortable with, since we were entering a same-sex marriage and not everyone may be supportive of it, or would want to conduct it.
We emailed a few celebrants and decided to choose Anne to be our celebrant. She is very patient in explaining the requirements to us, her fee did not burn our pocket and her home, which we didn’t know yet at the time, offered intimate indoor and outdoor options for small and simple ceremonies like ours.
Type of Ceremony
I thought that same sex couples can only get a civil union, but Anne explained that it’s legal in New Zealand to marry us. The difference mainly lies on the name, as both can be afforded to heterosexual and same sex couple and both can be dissolved by a divorce. Based on what I have read, the difference was also a political move because some conservatives wanted to preserve “marriage” for man and wife but 21st century New Zealand would not hear of it.
Anyway, so there are two types of ceremonies – personalized (such as ours) and registry. There’s a minor difference in that personalized can be in any location as long as the celebrant agrees to perform the ceremony there. It could be in your home, hotel, in the mountains, or their home/office. A registry ceremony will happen in the office, on weekdays and within office hours.
A personalized ceremony appealed to us, and proved to be beneficial because of the visa delays we faced. We arrived in New Zealand on a Friday afternoon and had to leave on Monday morning at the latest. Anne accommodated the last minute change from Friday to Saturday because she understood the ordeal we went through.
You need to have at least 2 witnesses as a legal requirement. They don’t necessarily have to know you as a couple, but must be of age. In our case, my best friend flew to New Zealand and we asked Anne to help us get one more witness (who happens to be her husband).
After deciding which part of New Zealand you want to get married in, find a celebrant here. You can either call or email them first, or you can just choose them from the list and move to the next step.
If you’re getting a registry ceremony, then there’s no need to find a celebrant as one will be assigned to you by the office. You skip this part and go to the application of marriage license right away.
Remember that you have to apply for a license 3 working days before your intended day of marriage, and it will be valid within 3 months. So in our case, if we had not been granted a visa in time, we would have reapplied for a license because we couldn’t immediately go back to New Zealand.
Fee is 240NZD (150 for the license and 90 for the celebrant)
When filling out the form, you need to know your partner’s details and at least one of your parents’. Relatives cannot marry, as well as if you’re under 16.
If you’re getting married at an office, they will get your marriage license and during the ceremony, you will get one copy with all the live signatures of the couple, the two witnesses and the celebrant.
For a personalized ceremony, the celebrant will receive the license and will be prepared before your wedding date.
Rings and Vows
Rings are not required in a personalized ceremony, as well as vows. There are some “vows” you are legally required to say but if you want to have one for each other, you’re free to add.
Signing the Certificate
The document isn’t nearly legal even if the ceremony happened, without all the required signatures. So don’t leave without checking your copies. Once done, the celebrant will file it to Births, Deaths and Marriages.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
Well, if you’re not going to live in countries where same sex marriages are legal, there’s nothing much then. That’s why for us, the mid-term goal is still to relocate to New Zealand or any other country that honors our marriage. Without it, I would not even qualify as a next of kin to Mary and we can’t file taxes jointly, buy properties as a couple – the works.
If you’re interested, here are the list of countries that perform and recognize same-sex marriages.
There is no Sweet Escape or Snappr yet in Queenstown, but we found https://www.snapt.co.nz/ and Ryan, its founder, shot our post-nup photos in Queenstown Gardens.
So there, we hope you could have your dream wedding in New Zealand as well, just like we did. Otherwise, a vacation there is also a winner. You can also check out our Hobbiton and Auckland experience here.