A priest is up in arms over new wedding celebrant charges and a leap in the price of wedding licences, claiming it is a tax on marriage.

The Department of Internal Affairs last month increased a range of wedding-related fees, including upping the price of a registry office wedding from $174 to $240.

Father Brian Prendeville from St John the Evangelist Catholic Parish in Otara, Auckland, said the DIA should value marriage, not hit couples with fees.

"My contention is, in a country that says we want to value marriage a licence should be granted on application for no fee.


"Why should couples have to pay to get married? So the Government can keep a record of who is married, where they are, where they are living? That's in the interest of government to do that not in the interest of a couple getting married.

"So why should they be burdened with a tax?"

The DIA introduced the new fees in May to reflect what they said is the "true cost" of providing marriage products and services.

Since the change, couples have had to fork out $150 to have their marriage solemnised by a celebrant, an almost $30 increase, and $240 if married in the registry office - up from $174.

Independent marriage celebrants have also been hit with a $220 appointment fee, which must be renewed annually for $60. Celebrants appointed by an approved organisation will be expected to pay $150 to register and $30 to have their registration renewed annually.

Although these fees do not apply to Prendeville as a celebrant from a religious body, he said no celebrant should be charged for providing a service to the community.

"Marriage celebrants are doing a service to witness, for the state, that this couple got married, and doing it well.

"I'm surprised marriage celebrants haven't got a head of steam about it because they're offering a service."


A spokesman for the DIA said the cost of providing services associated with births, deaths and marriages had increased.

The new fees will help the DIA manage these costs.

Changes will also allow the DIA to maintain an accurate register and discourage people applying to be a celebrant to perform a one-off ceremony.

The spokesman said the Celebrants Association support the changes and had not received any negative feedback from its almost 800 members.

Independent wedding celebrant Kay Gregory, who does about 20 weddings a year for which she charges, said she doesn't have a problem with the new fee.

"I think the fee is not exorbitant.

What it will mean is people who perhaps have been registered for many years, and over the years have just done fewer and fewer weddings, might start to think 'well actually I'm not going to pay the $60 when I'm only going to do two weddings'.