More than 30 same-sex couples will say “I do” today when New Zealand becomes the first Asia-Pacific country and the 14th in the world to legalize gay marriage.
The move has sparked a raft of competitions to set wedding firsts, but unease among the religious community.
US actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, from the hit comedy Modern Family, will be the guest of honor when Air New Zealand hosts a same-sex marriage on an early flight from Auckland to Queenstown.
Two radio stations are also vying to host the first same-sex wedding, with the ceremonies broadcast live during their breakfast programs.
The first Australian couple to wed will be Paul McCarthy and Trent Kandler from New South Wales State, who beat 300 other pairs to win a Tourism New Zealand competition.
Their wedding will not be legally recognized in Australia, but McCarthy said it was “both historically significant and an important step in our personal lives.”
About 1,000 same-sex couples in Australia have indicated that they plan to travel to New Zealand to marry, according to the Australian Marriage Equality lobby group.
The Australian Department of Internal Affairs yesterday said that same-sex couples had flocked to registry offices in recent weeks to pick up marriage licenses and 31 couples had indicated they would be getting married today, despite Mondays usually being the least popular day for weddings.
“They were really excited, congratulating each other and themselves that the law change had come into effect so they were able to marry,” registrar-general of marriages Jeff Montgomery told reporters.
There has also been overseas interest from Russia, the US, Hong Kong, Britain, Singapore, Malaysia, Guyana and Belgium.
However, Christian churches were uneasy about the new law, with Roman Catholics opposed outright while Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists were split.
The Anglican Church asked its ministers to refrain from conducting same-sex weddings pending a report to its general synod next year.
Meanwhile, a new group has been formed calling for legalized multi-partner marriages.
A statement on the “Support legalized Polyamory in NZ” Facebook page said it wanted legal recognition of “responsible, adult, committed non-monogamy [plural marriage of any gender] marriage or union.”