Government officials have backed off plans to delete the terms "bride" and "bridegroom" from marriage certificates if Parliament votes tomorrow to legalise gay marriage.
Internal Affairs spokesman Michael Mead said the department had reconsidered an early draft which would have used only the gender-neutral heading "Particulars of parties to marriage" on the marriage certificate, and now intended to provide several options.
Labour MP Ruth Dyson, who chaired the select committee on the gay marriage bill, has also written to Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain, after the Weekend Herald reported that the words "bride" and "bridegroom" might disappear from the forms, to say the committee wanted terms such as bride, groom, wife and husband to be "maintained wherever possible and appropriate".
The potential deletion of the terms was signalled in a departmental briefing to Ms Dyson's committee which asked for a delayed implementation date in the bill to allow for amending marriage forms and certificates.
"This includes, for example, changing the headings on the notice of intended marriage form to allow for parties of the same-sex (i.e., removing headings of bride and bridegroom)," the department said.
A draft of the actual marriage certificate, also provided to the committee, simply deleted the headings "Bride" and "Bridegroom" which appear under the main heading of "Particulars of parties to marriage".
But Mr Mead said the department's plans had changed. "The department has since relooked at the removal of the terms 'bride' and 'bridegroom' from marriage forms," he said. "Our emphasis is on identifying suitable options to expand people's choices, not replacing 'bride' and 'groom'."
He said the additional options would have to be implemented through a new regulation signed by the Cabinet and published in the Gazette 28 days before the bill became law. If the bill passes tomorrow and is signed by the Governor-General in the next few days, it will become law in August.
Mr Tremain said he also intended that the terms bride and bridegroom "will remain as an option".
Ms Dyson said her committee instructed parliamentary counsel to replace words such as "husband" and "wife" with gender-neutral terms only "where it was absolutely necessary to make the legislation comprehensible".
The bill defines marriage as "the union of two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity", and replaces the words "husband" and "wife" in 14 other acts with gender-neutral terms including "spouse", "married couple" and "any two people (of any sex) who are married".
However, it retains a clause in the Marriage Act that requires each party to "say to the other, 'I, AB, take you, CD, to be my legal wife or husband', or words to similar effect".
Ms Dyson said some countries had removed such terms completely but her committee decided there was no need to change them.