Historic day arrives for same-sex couples

AMY MAAS
Last updated 13:36 19/08/2013
SEAN WILLIS/Fairfax NZ

Auckland couple Tash Vitali and Melissa Ray became one of the first same-sex couples to tie the knot as the Marriage Amendment Act came into effect.

Same-sex weddings
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ Zoom
This ceremony in Wellington united Australian couple Paul McCarty and Trent Kandler. The celebrant was former mayor Kerry Prendegast.

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In what is a historic day for New Zealand, Auckland couple Tash Vitali and Melissa Ray became one of the first same-sex couples to tie the knot today as the Marriage Amendment Act came into effect.

The pair, who won an all-expenses-paid wedding in a radio competition, walked down the aisle at 8.30am at the Auckland Unitarian Church, Ponsonby.

The couple were not legally allowed to say their vows until their marriage licence, which only became available from the Registry Office at 8.30am, was in the church and signed by all parties. It arrived at 8.38am.

About 100 guests watched the pair exchange vows just before 9am.

During the light-hearted ceremony, Reverend Matt Tittle said the couple's union "changed the social fabric of communities" not only in New Zealand, but around the world.

He said less than 15 per cent of countries allowed gay couples to marry.

"The world is still a dangerous and even deadly place for gay, bisexual and transgender people," he said.

"We thank God that's not true in New Zealand.

"All love is holy."

MP Louisa Wall, who took the Marriage Amendment Bill to Parliament, said it was a privilege to share the couple's big day, before reading the Maya Angelou poem Touched by an Angel.

Vitali and Ray were also serenaded by The Voice Australia winner Harrison Craig before they exchanged vows and left the wedding venue in a horse-drawn carriage.

Rotorua Museum hosted the nuptials of the two couples, Richard Rawstorn and Richard Andrew and Rachel Briscoe and Jess Ives.

Richard Andrew said it was an event he never thought he would be able to participate in.

''New Zealand is a small country but this puts it on the map,'' he said.

The two couples had won a competition run by a radio station to win an all expenses paid wedding and spent more than a week in Rotorua seeing the sights and holding their respective Stag and Hen parties.

Thirty-one couples are expected to get married today - 15 in Auckland, six in Wellington, six in Christchurch and four in Rotorua will walk down the aisle.

The number of marriage forms downloaded from the Department of Internal Affairs website has tripled in the past week as gay couples across the country rush to tie the knot.

Jeff Montgomery, registrar-general births, deaths and marriages said 977 marriage forms had been downloaded from the department's website in the past week.

Of those, 31 licences would be issued today.

"All couples intending to get married must have a marriage licence," he said.

"Marriage licences will be available from Registry Offices.

"There has clearly been interest from same-sex couples in New Zealand and also from overseas to get married."

At least 125 couples had applied to change their civil union into a marriage.

Of the forms downloaded, 696 couples are resident in New Zealand and 156 were applying from overseas ahead of marrying in the country.

Another couple hoping to make the rush from registry office to altar were Kim Earney, 38, and her fiancee, Vicky, 24 who wanted to be one of the first couples to marry in Christchurch, and had planned an 8.30am ceremony at Del Mar in Ferrymead.

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