"My partner and I met in Auckland while I was there for a one week workshop in June 2010. We immediately connected and, as I was living in Christchurch at the time, had a long distance relationship for six months until I moved to the lovely small coastal community in East Auckland. Given our ages (mid- to late-40s), we wanted to make a commitment to each other almost immediately as we knew we had each found our other half."
THE CIVIL UNION
"At the time, the only available legal means to do this was through a civil union. We were recommended a local Celebrants Association of New Zealand (CANZ) celebrant, Helen, who was warm, engaging and put us both at ease.
"We were a little anxious at first about how we might be accepted within the community, but once we told people what we intended to do, everybody and their dog (literally) wanted to attend the ceremony. It grew from a small handful of friends to a much larger group including neighbours and colleagues. Almost a community event in itself!
"We decided on a garden ceremony at our home on a warm summer's day in January. We wanted an informal and relaxed feel; in fact the wedding invitation said 'shoes optional'. We didn't plan too much for the day, except to make sure there were enough seats and tables, food, drink and music to ensure everyone was having a great time.
"We met with our celebrant who was wonderful in obtaining from us important aspects of our relationship and the reasons why we wanted to make this commitment. She also gave us ideas on how to structure our simple but lovely ceremony, which we very much appreciated. "We wrote our own vows and exchanged rings, and we also had our best friends walk us down the aisle – together with a wonderful dog called Walter, wearing a wedding bandana and carrying a horseshoe. We had both always been quite private about our sexuality and relationship but the civil union brought us literally into the limelight of our small community and we were welcomed with open arms.
"At that time, we felt that a civil union was sufficient for us as a couple, given we had all the legal rights of other married couples, except for the right to legally adopt children together. That was until we followed the debate in Parliament. This brought home just how important it was for same sex couples to have equal marriage rights."
OH HAPPY DAYS!
"It had been a long, hard struggle with great sacrifices by so many people wanting to stand up and be counted. When the Bill to allow same sex marriage was approved, we were very emotional and proud that here, in New Zealand, we were acknowledging the right of people to be joined in marriage, no matter their gender.
"We met our celebrant socially and she jokingly asked whether we would be her first 'upgrade'. We said, yes immediately. As soon as we could, we applied for a marriage license and set a date – the same date as our civil union, so as to avoid getting confused when to celebrate our 'marriage'.
"The day, again, was fabulous. We decided to have a small group of family and whanau join us on a catamaran in the Hauraki Gulf. Our celebrant's husband was the skipper and listed the location coordinates on our copy of particulars as well as giving the ceremony a nautical theme. While we are now deemed legally married, we already felt married and for us, this was really a renewal of the vows we had made to each other three years earlier. In fact we repeated the vows from the civil union and the wedding dresses got another airing.
"Both ceremonies were special to us in different ways. The fact that we could be creative and work closely with someone who could make the ceremony special to us was a wonderful experience and I would always recommend using a celebrant who is a member of the Celebrants Association of New Zealand for their expertise and enthusiasm."