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The Services and Access team at Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) recently completed customer research and testing to support a new service: registry-style weddings.

Historically, registry office ceremonies have been held in 47 locations across New Zealand. But as of 1 July 2019, only 4 of these locations — Auckland, Manukau, Christchurch and Wellington — have continued to offer them. So what do you do if you want this kind of ceremony in the rest of the country?

The Services and Access team at Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) recently completed customer research and testing to support the solution: registry-style weddings.

This new service means couples can get married nearly anywhere they like — their home, a local park or even at the beach — by celebrants approved to perform these short and affordable registry-style ceremonies.

Identifying customer needs through face-to-face testing and dialogue

In order to design the new registry-style service, we developed a mock-up with our subject matter experts and tested it with celebrants and engaged couples who were planning their weddings.

We encouraged our participants to speak out loud about what they were doing, and to point out anything they found confusing.

Observing participants like this enables our designers to recognise ‘pain-points’ where customers run into difficulties.

Sometimes the difficulties customers encounter will be consistent across a range of people we test with. As patterns emerge, we make recommendations for changes that could improve our customers’ experience.

Clarifying the difference between registry-style and personalised ceremonies

During these testing sessions, we recognised that customers were getting confused between registry-style and personalised ceremonies. For a personalised ceremony, couples can write their own vows and hold the ceremony on any day they like. However, for registry-style ceremonies, couples:

  • pay a set cost
  • read standard vows
  • must hold the wedding on a weekday.

We heard from customers that the replacement service for registry office ceremonies should remain short, affordable and simple. They told us that they would like for DIA to continue to facilitate the ceremonies as much as possible, because, ‘the ceremony itself isn’t important — as long as someone turns up!’

With this in mind, we crafted the role of the celebrant in a registry-style ceremony to mirror that of the judge in a registry office ceremony: the celebrant conducts a short 10-minute ceremony, but at a time and place arranged with the couple beforehand.

To accommodate this shift in the celebrants’ role, we incorporated a list of celebrants approved to perform registry-style weddings into the flow of the online marriage licence application itself.

The insights we gained from these early sessions guided the development of a prototype, which we tested online with the same group of participants. 

Testing changes to the prototype through online remote testing

To ensure that our changes to the prototype aligned with our customers’ needs, we asked them to complete tasks that specifically related to issues raised during face-to-face testing. These tasks included selecting a date for their wedding and choosing a celebrant.

Feedback from remote testing informed the next step in the design process — a fully functioning online application form where in one place customers can:

  • apply for their marriage licence
  • choose their celebrant, and
  • order a marriage certificate.

A second round of face-to-face testing with customers

Once the application form was live, the design team conducted an additional round of in-person testing. We travelled to 2 regions where registry-style ceremonies are held — Hamilton and Hawke’s Bay. We tested the form with 1 celebrant and 10 engaged people who were planning their weddings.

These sessions identified that customers were having difficulty finding their way to the online application itself. To address this, we made a range of changes to help guide people to the form on These changes included:

  • refining the content to make it more succinct
  • removing links that occurred multiple times on the same page
  • splitting the personalised and registry information onto their own pages (so we didn’t have 1 long page trying to do both)
  • moving the apply button further up the page, and
  • reprioritising on-page content so that people would see that which is most relevant.

Once people complete their marriage licence application online, they are invited to fill out a short survey. We monitor this feedback and report on it monthly to identify future improvements.

Including customers in the service design process

Customer testing is common practice for our design team. We talk with real customers through face-to-face and/or online user testing whenever we make changes to our processes or develop new ones.

Some of the other initiatives that we have conducted customer testing for in 2019 include an online application pilot for citizenship, and the creation of a new eligibility flow for passport applicants. While the subject matter might be different, the customer testing methods remain similar and the customer experience is always a priority.

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