At 7am yesterday morning, Ohauiti celebrant Wendy Barton officiated at one of the first same-sex marriages in the country.

Same-sex marriage was officially legalised in New Zealand yesterday and wedding bells were ringing all around the country as gay and lesbian couples lined up to make history.

Ms Barton officiated at a dawn ceremony in Rotorua between a lesbian Rotorua couple Karen and Yvonne Harvey-Griggs who have been together many years.

She said she felt privileged to be one of the first celebrants in the country to marry a same-sex couple.


"They wanted their ceremony to be very private and intimate, they are a more mature couple who have come through from the '70s gay rights movement when you were basically abused for your choices, so it was a huge day for them."

Ms Barton described the ceremony as "absolutely gorgeous".

She said someone had needed to go off during the ceremony to get a licence.

"It was a real Champagne breakfast at 7.15am. One wore pants, the other wore a purple dress as it is the international gay colour.

"One son was unable to travel from Australia but he was Skyped through the whole ceremony which was quite nice. I could see him crying."

Ms Barton has been performing civil unions in Tauranga for a number of years and said it was a privilege to now be able to marry same-sex couples.

"I never thought when I was a teenager at school that we could have same-sex marriage so it's an incredible privilege to think that in New Zealand, like all the other forward-thinking countries, our Government has stepped up to acknowledge that and being a part of that absolute dawn of the change is such a privilege."

Ms Barton said she did not expect legalising same-sex marriage would change people's beliefs but hoped it would become more accepted.

"Everyone expects a boy and a girl to go out and get married. If a boy and girl get married, even if they are only 17 it's more acceptable to people.

"For a same-sex couple to go out and have a public ceremony or civil union is quite courageous."

She said she has had inquiries from Australia and thought Tauranga and Mount Maunganui were becoming destination venues for weddings.

Karen Harvey-Griggs said it was a joyous day and it was amazing to be able to finally say they were married.

The majority of guests at the ceremony were heterosexual people, many in their 50s and 60s.

Mrs Harvey-Griggs said reaching out to these people made the day that much more special for them.

"I've been showing it off on Facebook all day, I even posted a photo of our marriage certificate to show everyone this is what we have been working for all this time.

"The ceremony was brilliant, Yvonne and I are both of Scottish decent so we had a lot of Scottish elements in the ceremony."

Mrs Harvey-Griggs said having the ceremony at sunrise was a potent symbol.

"It was a joyous sunrise, it was a whole new beginning not just for us but for everybody marrying [yesterday]."

Although they were already in a civil union, Mrs Harvey-Griggs said it was not the same as a marriage and they had only done it in case the number of people entering into civil union relationships would help encourage authorities to look favourably on same-sex marriage.