Saturday, August 08, 2009


The Press this morning reports that the Department of Internal Affairs is concerned about unregistered celebrants taking the lead in marriage ceremonies, and that the National Guild of New Zealand Celebrants thinks that this could call the legality of the resulting marriages into question:

Christchurch marriage celebrant and former president of the National Guild of New Zealand Celebrants June Russell said only registered celebrants could solemnise a wedding and that a marriage may not be legal unless officiated by a registered celebrant.

"Some [unregistered] celebrants have just been doing the whole ceremony and getting a [registered] marriage celebrant to just sign the legal papers," Russell said. "They [the couple getting married] are leaving themselves open to that marriage not being legal."

I call bullshit:
22. Marriages not to be void because of defects in procedure

(1) Except as provided in section 15 or in section 21 of this Act, no marriage shall be deemed to be void by reason of any error or defect in the notice, declaration, or licence required before solemnisation, or in the registration of the marriage when solemnised where the identity of the parties is not questioned, or on account of any other infringement of the provisions of this Act...

(The sections in question make clear that prohibited marriages - marrying your children etc and those conducted entirely without a licence and celebrant are void; the Civil Union Act 2004 has a similar provision)

It's an offence for the celebrant to solemnise a marriage contrary to the provisions of the Act, and an offence for someone to solemnise a marriage while falsely pretending to be a celebrant - but that's their problem, not that of the parties. Provided the parties and witnesses thought it was a marriage, and an actual celebrant signed the papers, its difficult to see on what basis a court could declare the resulting marriage void.