On 9th December 2017 it became law in Australia that two people could marry regardless of gender. Love and equality finally prevailed.
On Friday 15th of December something truly beautiful and poignant happened; two people fulfilled a wish of a long time. A community of strangers; family, friends, photographer, celebrant, magistrate, clerks and registrar pulled together to make this marriage happen in time. It would not be the first same sex ceremony I or others had witnessed in Australia, but possibly the first I had seen recognised by Australian law. It was an emotional moment when I read out the words of the new act; a privilege, an honour, and about time. A sacred moment on a sacred day.
Two words had changed in the Marriage Act, substituting “man a woman”, for “two people”, and for Jo and Jill that changed everything.
The first I knew of their love was a phone call on Thursday from Cittamani palliative care telling me a tale of Jo, a woman with a rare cancer, who wished to finally legally marry her beloved Jill. It was Jo’s persistence that had kept the idea alive. Jill was unsure how it could be achieved. She had read about the one month waiting period. But how could it happen in their own home at short notice? Cittamani nurses decided to ring me and pose the question. As a celebrant I am aware that under exceptional circumstances a shortening of time can be granted by the Registrar.
I met with Jill Thursday afternoon at the courthouse. She had tried to get all the paperwork sorted, signed, witnessed and lodged with the Magistrate. It just wasn’t possible that afternoon, we needed Jo’s signature, and it was 4.30pm.
I met Jo Thursday evening. Evenings are good for her. She had energy. And her bright blue eyes and delightful smile told me all I needed to know about their resolve to be married. Witnessing Jill and Jo together was a love story, quite convincingly profound. I was taken with the dozens of photos on the wall from their 2013 commitment ceremony – a day of promise, filled with family and friends. A true wedding day. I realised I had met two amazingly beautiful women, with a deep connection and strong commitment to each other.
Jill was firm in her wish that the marriage happen, but was feeling torn. Going back to the courthouse the next day was tricky. She wanted to stay and care for Jo. This marriage was important. So I offered to go instead. At 8.30 am the next day, Friday, I was outside the Nambour Courthouse at opening time. The local magistrate understood immediately and faxed the application direct to Brisbane, following it up with a phone call to convey the urgency.
On the other end, the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages recognised the importance of this request, and sped through the process.
Within the half hour, the stamped approval came back. I could prepare the marriage papers right away: new formats, fresh from the Attorney General, and those important new words, “two people”. I was ecstatic. Jo and Jill were going to be married that afternoon! They were ecstatic.
Several more emails arrived from Births, Deaths and Marriages. They wished to offer a free registered marriage certificate and what’s more they would do it immediately. This is a process that usually takes weeks. I was so delighted by their care and understanding that I offered to hand deliver the papers to the Brisbane office first thing Monday morning, to help out the process. They made a better suggestion, and we made a plan.
I phoned a colleague and asked if she’d be willing to be photographer at this special event in a couple of hours. I knew she’d say yes. Thanks to Marion Jonkers for the professional photos of this auspicious day.
A garden lovingly created by Jo and Jill as a shared passion, provided the perfect setting for a wedding; beds of herbs, flowers, rock seats and wooden doorways. Jo’s namesake rose was in bloom. The herbs were fragrant. Everything looked divine for their wedding.
Jo’s friend cancelled all her clients, and turned up with her hair and makeup skills. “Do what you can!” said Jo, always in good humour. Jo’s Mum and husband were there. Jill’s sister too. They had come at a moment’s notice.
We sat in the cool of the garden. I read from Leunig, and spoke of ceremony, love and choosing. With profound tears in my eyes I proudly read the new marriage statement. They reiterated their vows from years ago, adding the sentence from the new marriage act. They exchanged wedding rings, held hands and gaze. Their broad smiles were all that was needed to express a deep and sincere joy at finally being married, wife and wife. “Hey Mrs”.
We embrace ceremony and ritual when something truly profound is happening in our lives. We do this because we need to make a space, in time and place, to honour the unseen world that we carry within us. Ceremony takes a moment away from the usual hum of life, to contemplate and warmly acknowledge an emotional world. Inner feelings become front and centre for the day. A marriage acknowledges this. It is always a special ceremony. This wedding was extremely special and sacred.
After the vows, I enacted the plan to deliver the certificates immediately. Births Deaths and Marriages Queensland wished to honour this special occasion by delivering the registered marriage certificate that very day. The Principal Project Officer drove north from the Brisbane office. And I drove south from the northern beaches. We met at a roadside station, sat at a truckies’ table and exchanged the precious paperwork.
I then drove back to join the reception and hand deliver their certificate. Jo and Jill had been approved, married and registered within one day!
When Jill was asked how long have you and Jo been together she responded, “a lifetime; and yet not long enough.”
Jo’s Mum told me, “Today is the happiest day of my life. On the day I married my own true love, I thought that was the happiest day of my life, and I thought I couldn’t get any happier. But actually today, I am happier, witnessing my daughter able to fulfil her wish to marry her own beloved.”
Jo’s touching speech recognised a day of love and compassion from a community made up of people she had just met, or had never met, and may never get to meet at all. The day was made possible by the goodwill of a community of all kinds of people with different roles and different commitments and different lives, wanting these two to be married in time.
Endings depend on where one leaves the story. The tale always continues. We rest here with the newly weds, Jill and Jo, for marriage according to the law of Australia is the full commitment or union of two people.
Friday 15th December 2017
(with editing assistance by Glenda and Jessi)
Photos by Marion Jonkers Photographer
Thanks to Cittamani Hospice, Nambour Courthouse, Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages, Russell, Marion, Tracey and Emily.
with Kari – theme dressed, Sunshine Coast wedding celebrant
Congratulations to Anna and Bryn, who chose a 60’s beach theme for their wedding day.
Whenever I met up with Anna and Bryn, they seemed to have just come from some amazing fitness activity. I was impressed by their approach to organising their wedding, too. Casual, down to earth, and real.
Married at the Beach
They did wish to marry at the beach, Point Cartwright in fact. They chose this particular headland for the memories of their first date there. But also for the connection to place, for the intimacy that we felt gathered in a group, looking out over a beautiful and vast ocean, looking far into the distance. And I guess it is a perfect metaphor for marriage. We are also looking into the far distance, the distant future of two peoples lives, a life chosen to spend together, with a shared vision of future.
When I first met Anna and Bryn, they both described the other as fun but strong willed. They also described the adventurous spirit they both share. They love to seek new experiences. On this, their wedding day, they chose a theme to help everyone have fun, and get into the spirit.
Surfboard Signing Table
When they talked about their wedding theme, beach 60’s, I immediately asked if they had considered a surfboard for a signing table. They instantly took this idea on board. (!!!).
I appreciated their choice of ceremony reading, The Desiderata. Reading it now one would never believe it was written in 1927, by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
This is what they said;
Kari is a truly special person and made our ceremony very special too. Her choice of words, and affinity with nature and the ocean are unique and was exactly what we were looking for. Working with Kari pre-ceremony was a lovely experience. She is thorough and competent but relaxed with never a stressful moment. We cannot recommend Kari enough. Many of our guests came up and specially complimented us on Kari’s service asking for her details. We feel extremely lucky than we found Kari – she is just brilliant.
Anna and Bryn
And who brings the rings?
There is that moment in a wedding when the marriage celebrant looks up and asks who brings the wedding rings.
Sometimes its grandma. Occasionally a favourite pet or a child with a cushion.
Generally it is the moment for the Best Man to pat every pocket in his suit and pretend he has forgotten the rings. It gets a little laugh, and then he breaks out in a smile and fishes a ring box from his pocket.
I encourage this little game to lighten the mood at a wedding ceremony. The best man has his moment of fame, and everyone is relieved that nothing is going to go wrong. “Just joking”, his smile says!
From the beginning
Jason and April’s wedding began like expected. Jason waited patiently for his bride, accompanied by his groomsmen. As the marriage celebrant I waited with the guys, calming them about late brides & would she arrive.
Held on the shores of Lake Baroon in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, at Secrets On the Lake, we all enjoyed being outside in the warm sun with rainforest all around.
The girls soon arrived, to oohs and aahs, and the wedding ceremony got underway.
It was, so far, what the guests expected; a little emotional, some laughs, a sweet and funny love story.
The ceremony approached the moment to exchange rings.
What if he doesn’t?
But what happens when the best man looks genuinely worried, and gives a meaningful but slight shake to his head, looking back at the celebrant with a “Don’t ask me!” expression on his face.
I continued the charade and asked him to check all his pockets. Fortunately Matt was a good sport, and didn’t mind when we all looked at him expectantly. He just continued to shake his head and look at me, the celebrant, with expectation. Perhaps he might have guessed something was up. Note the groom looking away…..
Enter an eagle
Suddenly everyone felt the air above their heads move, as Soren the eagle swooped down almost touching the hairdos of the entire guestlist.
There were many audible gasps as the wind from his wings lifted spirits in surprise, startled us all and brought an emotional tear even to my eye. At that moment I felt the awe of nature, of the power in one creature, the wonder in life around us. This huge bird swooped over us all, and landed on the arm of Jason, the Groom who by this stage had donned a leather glove for protection.
Soren, the eagle, is specially trained to carry wedding rings. They hang from his tresses on his ankles. Paul, his trainer keeps a nature refuge, a training and conservation centre for wounded animals. Soren is a star of Broadwings Events.
Paul very kindly allowed me to hold Soren for a photo after the ceremony and photos were over. I can assure you there is nothing like holding a powerful bird on your arm, and experiencing a wild creature so close.
Allowing nature in
Many say that the presence of water blesses a marriage like no other. There is plenty of water at Secrets on the Lake, one of the most beautiful wedding venues on the Sunshine Coast. The lake over which the tree houses look is actually the drinking water for this area. It is special water, clean water, and was a very special blessing for this couple. To honour the place and the water, April and Jason chose a finale ritual for their wedding.
The pebble toss…
Guests were invited to participate in a Celtic wedding tradition, that of the Pebble Toss. Stones were handed to each guest at the conclusion of the ceremony. Behind this tradition is the notion that natural things can anchor a thought. It is important that water is involved in the pebble toss. Water is the element that represents emotion and spirit. In a wedding it is about wishing prosperity and flow. The stone is the carrier of wishes and prayers, happy hopes and cheeky thoughts for April and Jason’s future.
Holding their pebble for a moment, each guest waited by the shores of the lake. Imbued with warm thoughts and story the stones were tossed into the water, sending wishes into the ether to come true for April and Jason.
Thanks to Malin from Love Is A Place Photography for the images.
This is what the couple said:
Kari was one of the vital pieces of our wedding that we couldn’t have done without. We are so glad to have chosen her as our celebrant after a lot of careful searching. We were quite lost as what we wanted, but she listened carefully and crafted for us an amazing ceremony which both we and our guests loved. She also helped us keep our “ring delivery” secret a huge surprise from everyone (rings flown in via wedge-tailed eagle). Kari is a fantastic celebrant and also a truly talented lady. I hope many other couples get to experience the same joy she brings to their ceremonies too. April & Jason
See this wedding story in pictures by Malin from Love Is A Place Photography :
Read about another unusual ring bearer: