What Do You Need to Get Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
Eloping in a tropical paradise is the dream of many couples, but if you’re brave enough to take the leap together, then you’ll find that it’s incredibly easy to do in the Cook Islands. Sure, there is some paperwork to do in order to make your marriage legal and internationally recognisable, but with the help of the abundance of wedding coordinators and resorts, as well as this guide, you’ll see how the process is straightforward enough. We’ll go through the documents, conditions and legal requirements for a wedding in the Cook Islands with this guide to the marriage requirements in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and the Cook Islands!
For more information on marriage in the Cook Islands, see How to Plan a Wedding in the Cook Islands. Plus, for more reasons to choose the Cooks, see 10 Reasons a Wedding in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands is a Must!
Who Can Get Married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
To legally get married in the Cook Islands, there are certain conditions that the bride and groom-to-be must meet. To get married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, you need to:
- Be 21 years old or older on your wedding day (if you are under 21 years old, you’ll also need written consent from both parents)
- Be single, divorced or widowed
- Be of different sex
- Not be related
- Be physically present for the wedding ceremony to give consent.
If you can meet those conditions, then you can start the process of getting married in the Cook Islands!
Documents for a Cook Islands Marriage Licence
Before getting married in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, couples must first obtain a Marriage Licence, also known as the “Notice of Intended Marriage” from the Ministry of Justice (registry office). While this must be done at least three days before your wedding day, it’s best to organise the required documents for this process well in advance with your wedding coordinator or chosen resort in order to make sure all the paperwork is correct and, in turn, things run smoothly when you arrive in the Cook Islands.
Documents Required for the Notice of Intended Marriage
Both parties wishing to marry will either need the original documents or certified copies of the following:
- Birth certificates
- Current passports
- Divorce certificate or decree, if applicable
- Death certificate of a spouse, if applicable.
Note that you will need a deed poll if the name on your passport is different to the name on your birth certificate. If any of your documents are in a language other than English (except for your passport), then you will need an official and certified translation.
Getting Your Marriage License in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
Got the paperwork? Now couples need to obtain a Marriage License (Notice of Intended Marriage), which allows them to legally get married in the Cook Islands.
Once you arrive in the Cook Islands, make sure to leave yourself at least three days prior to your wedding ceremony to give yourself time to visit a registry office and obtain your Marriage Licence in person. Three full working days are also the minimum days required for the registry office to process your application. Applications cost approximately NZ$100. Otherwise, there is a NZ$75 additional fee to get your Marriage License processed at least 24 hours before your wedding day. See the Ministry of Justice’s Birth, Death and Marriages Fees Form to see more fees related to Marriage Licenses.
Where are the Registry Offices in the Cook Islands?
Registry offices are located on the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki. They are open from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Offices are closed on weekends and public holidays.
Rarotonga‘s registry office is the Ministry of Justice building on the corner of the main road (Ara Tapu) and Takuvaine Road, Avarua.
Aitutaki‘s registry office is at the Ministry of Justice office, next to the courthouse and police station in Arutanga.
Signing the Marriage Certificate
The marriage finally becomes legal when the marriage certificate is signed by the correct parties and becomes internationally recognised when sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Immigration to obtain the “Apostille Seal”.
Marriage Celebrant, Church Minister and Witnesses
During your wedding ceremony, you will both sign all copies of your marriage certificate. You will also need either a Marriage Celebrant or a Church Minister and two witnesses to sign the certificate and send the appropriate forms to the Registrar-General within 10 days of solemnisation.
Couples from overseas getting married in the Cook Islands do not need to supply their own celebrant or minister with witnesses. Your preference will be arranged with wedding coordinators in the Cook Islands, such as the ones in the 10 Best Wedding Packages in the Cook Islands.
What Happens Next?
Once the marriage certificate is signed by all required parties, the couple will keep one certificate, while the other is forwarded to a registry office to be registered. Your wedding coordinator will also send your certificate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration to get an Apostille Certification or “Apostille Seal” to legalise your document for other countries that are a part of the Hague Convention. Information on the Apostille Seal can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Note that couples from New Zealand don’t necessarily require the Apostille Certificate, as Cook Islands wedding certificates are legal in New Zealand.
Finally, your wedding coordinator will post your finalised wedding certificate to your chosen address.
More About Marriage Requirements for Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete guide to the marriage requirements for Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. Have more questions about getting married in the Cook Islands? Check out the following guides:
- How to Plan a Wedding in the Cook Islands
- 10 Best Wedding Venues in the Cook Islands
- Cook Islands Wedding & Honeymoon Accommodation: How to Choose
Finally, for a complete guide to planning a couples’ getaway to the Cooks, check out The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to the Cook Islands.