New Zealand is known to be a forward-thinking country with progressive views and the country’s unique landscapes and luxurious honeymoon spots have seen it become a sought-after wedding destination for international visitors.
The same-sex wedding boom prompted the creation of the first ever Gay Wedding Show in 2013, featuring some of New Zealand’s top designers, including Anna Stretton, whose recent showing at New Zealand Fashion Week saw a same-sex couple from Australia marry live on her catwalk.
From the sub-tropical paradise of the Bay of Islands in Northland, to the spectacular alpine regions of the South Island, New Zealand has the majestic or intimate location to match each couple’s special day.
One company looking to the future is Queer Eye Weddings - a gay owned and operated business based in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.
Wellington is known to be a bustling hive of arts, culture, enterprise and creativity so it is appropriate that Queer Eye Weddings has become one of the first wedding companies to solely specialise in gay weddings in New Zealand.
Queer Eye Weddings - the brain-child of partners Francesca and Elisa - was created to eliminate the stress from wedding planning for both local and international same-sex couples.
With past experience in traditional weddings, Queer Eye Weddings offer services that include video, photography and planning for the big day. They promote and use gay operated and friendly services around New Zealand and are reaching out to couples in Australia who are interested in a destination wedding.
This is one of the primary reasons behind the company’s planning service, which couples can tailor to suit their requirements.
"We recognised a gap in the wedding market for the growing need for LGBT couples to come for wedding planning. Somewhere they knew they would not be judged or turned away," Francesca said.
Auckland-based Lavish Events is another wedding service that supports and specialises in same-sex weddings.
Owner Nicky Luis is a wedding and event specialist with 14 years’ experience in the industry who offers a service based on attention to detail and individual needs. Luis also promotes gay-friendly wedding venues, experienced marriage celebrants and photographers.
Luis has planned everything from private weddings for two to extravagant heli-weddings in some of New Zealand’s most sublime destinations.
Bliss in the Bay
The Bay of Islands in sub-tropical Northland is one of New Zealand’s best known seaside holiday destinations - a marine playground of endless beaches, sheltered bays and hundreds of secret off-shore islands.
The extensive Northland coastline and ancient inland native forests provide a tranquil environment in which to experience nature and unique wildlife, rest and relax; the region also has some of the New Zealand’s most picture perfect wedding venues and honeymoon destinations.
Moon Gate Villa - a luxury B&B accommodation near the town of Kerikeri - takes inspiration from the shape of Cupid’s bow. Set within 1.5 acres of lush, secluded gardens with tranquil waterfalls and reflective pools, Moon Gate offers ‘rainbow weddings’ that can be officiated in the grounds.
This romantic and intimate venue is perfect for elegant weddings and honeymoons. The owners work closely with local gay specialists who can produce everything from a wedding cake to makeup and photography.
Aoraki Mt Cook’s exquisite landscape of mountains and deep blue lakes, under the clear night skies of the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve, has natural grandeur and romance in buckets.
The Hermitage Hotel , in Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Village, is one of New Zealand’s most enduring wedding venues - a place where thousands of couples have brought their wedding dreams to life.
The Hermitage offers an array of dazzling wedding packages. These range from intimate heli-weddings - high on a Southern Alps glacier - to waterside gatherings on the shores of turquoise-coloured Lake Pukaki or a customised gala reception where the couple celebrate their vows before family and friends with New Zealand’s highest mountain Aoraki Mt Cook as a silent witness.
"When the law change was first announced, we received the first same-sex wedding booking from an Australian couple within days," Hermitage Sales & Marketing Manager Megan Calder says.
"With extraordinary wedding photographs against a kaleidoscope of snow-capped peaks, tawny tussock, mountain streams and stone clad buildings, Aoraki Mt Cook is an amazing statement for the start of a couple’s life together."
Taking to the skies
Queenstown-based Heliworks, specialists in helicopter tourism in the Southern Alps regions of Southern Lakes, Fiordland and Aoraki Mt Cook, take weddings to a whole new level.
Along with romantic alpine picnics and magic Middle-earth Lord of the Rings flights, Heliworks holds exclusive landing rights at some of the most remote and untouched locations in New Zealand, including Mt Cook National Park - recently named one of the top destinations in the world to marry.
The company works closely with professional wedding photographers, celebrants and planners and offers some of the most memorable wedding experiences in New Zealand.
Weddings on water
Weddings on the water are another popular way to experience the significant big day.
Based at Queenstown, Pacific Jemm is a luxury superyacht offering weddings on Lake Wakatipu - a serene alpine lake framed with majestic mountain ranges that’s a popular year-round destination.
The luxury vessel provides a unique and intimate venue that can cater for up to 42 guests with a chef on hand to cook the wedding feast. Services include arranging celebrant, photographer, florist, and transport - along with on board Hen and Stag parties and an overnight honeymoon in 5-star accommodation.
Pacific Jemm manager/skipper Blair Payne has 15-years’ experience in assisting couples planning for their momentous occasion, and the vessel has already hosted its first same-sex ceremony.
With over one million visitors to the region annually, Queenstown offers everything, from world-class skiing and snowboarding to bungy jumping, jet boating, gourmet food and wines and a gateway to majestic Milford Sound and the untouched splendour of the Fiordland region.
Couples wanting a more traditional wedding in New Zealand can also choose from a variety of churches and celebrants throughout the country - including pretty white-painted small country churches that are now privately owned and available for hire as a wedding venue.
In the ‘garden city’ of Christchurch, St Ninian’s is a beautiful stone-fronted Presbyterian Church with a liberal-progressive Christian perspective. The surrounding Canterbury region is a vast outdoor playground spanning coast to mountains and offering a wide variety of destinations for honeymoon couples - from the romantic little port of Akaroa to the alpine spa of Hanmer Springs.
Wellington’s St Andrews on The Terrace - an historic Presbyterian church in the central city - was declared an ‘inclusive church’ in 1991, and welcomes same-sex weddings.
A wedding in Wellington offers the possibility of a honeymoon in wine country - and a choice of two of New Zealand’s top wine regions, over the hill to Wairarapa or across the water to Marlborough. Wairapapa is renowned for premium red wines, fine food, Kiwi hospitality and outdoor escapes, while Marlborough is home to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and the glistening Marlborough Sounds.
In Auckland, the Unitarian Church is an historic chapel located in the artsy, vibrant suburb of Ponsonby - minutes from the hustle and bustle of Auckland city centre. This progressive faith church was instrumental in promoting the same-sex marriage bill amendment and performed the first same-sex wedding on the day it became legal.
With the splendor of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park on the edge of Auckland’s waterfront and a 30-minute ferry ride to the wine-lovers’ paradise of Waiheke Island, couples have plenty to choose from when it comes to planning the big day.