A former Christchurch Anglican minister has escaped conviction for charges relating to an unlawful wedding.

Maurice Manawaroa Gray, 54, was charged last year with making a false declaration on the document relating to the wedding of Philip Ellis, of Riccarton, and Jeanette Hardey, of Kaiapoi, which took place in 2006.

Geoffrey Robert Topham Hall, a 56-year-old funeral director from Kaiapoi, was convicted of the false declaration charge, and of falsely pretending to be a marriage celebrant.

The Department of Internal Affairs prosecuted the pair, saying that Gray had not been present at the ceremony where he needed to supervise the unregistered celebrant Hall.

Hall conducted the ceremony, going ahead with it even after he learnt that Gray - who was meant to be supervising - was called away urgently and could not be there.

At Christchurch District Court today, Gray was discharged without conviction however he was ordered to pay $3,500 to Mr Ellis for emotional harm and $750 for the cost of the prosecution against him.

Mr Hall was convicted and fined $1000. He also has to pay $3500 for emotional harm to Mr Ellis and another $2000 to offset the expenses of the wedding ceremony and $750 towards the cost of prosecution.

Judge Farish said Hall should have signalled the problem.

She told him: "It was very much your ego and self-gratification that got in the way. You liked being the centre of attention. You liked people looking at you on such a happy occasion."

Judge Jane Farish said she had discharged Gray as the effects of the conviction on him would deny the wider community his abilities. His numerous contracts with government agencies would be under threat should he have a conviction on his record.

Defence counsel James Rapley said Hall was a generous, friendly man who was highly regarded in the community and active in charitable organisations.

Gray had resigned as the Anglican priest for the Tuahiwi parish, near Christchurch, and his resignation had been accepted by the bishop, he said.

Gray was a dedicated and hard-working man of the people. "It has been his life's work to be part of this church. It has been something he has cherished and loved."

He handed up "glowing" references for both men. He said they had been affected by intense media interest in the unusual case.

Seven reporters were in court for the sentencing and camera crews were waiting outside the courthouse.

Crown prosecutor Sara Jamieson argued against a discharge without conviction for Gray.

"There is a message that needs to be sent generally that this type of offending is completely unacceptable."

The judge was given a report from the Anglican church in which the bishop apologised to the couple involved and said the actions of Gray and Hall had breached the standards of the church, brought it into disrepute, and created a feeling of distrust in the church.

She noted that a conviction could stop Gray getting more work when he was reliant on Government and local government contacts.

A conviction also had serious consequences in the Maori community for someone like Gray who was appointed upoko - the spiritual and cultural repository of knowledge, handpicked from birth.

She granted the discharge without conviction.

Asked about Mr Gray escaping conviction outside court today, Mr Ellis said: "That's life. But I hope he learns his lesson.

"I have got a grudge but I have to get over that."

Mr Ellis said it had been a very difficult time since the wedding and the death of his bride, who died about a year after the ceremnony.