This week, New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region, and the 14th in the world, to legalize same-sex marriage, after the country's parliament passed a bill in April amending its 1955 marriage act. The law came into effect on Monday, and the BBC noted that 31 same-sex couples had been due to marry on Monday, according to the Department of Internal Affairs.
According to local news source TVNZ, the international community is already interested in destination weddings. Tourism New Zealand has reportedly seen a rise in the number of Australians interested in visiting since the law was passed. "We get about 40,000 couples a year come here for their honeymoon," said chief executive Kevin Bowler, noting that overseas couples spend $160 million in New Zealand. "If we can grow that, it's great for New Zealand."
The Department of Internal Affairs said that roughly 1,000 marriage applications were downloaded in the week since same-sex applications became available, around three times the average number. Around 170 were from overseas, mainly from Australia but also from Hong Kong, Russia and the United States.
But one of the first Kiwi same-sex weddings did not even take place in New Zealand…exactly. It took place in the air between two cities: Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau, who have been together almost 14 years, tied the knot onboard a special Air New Zealand flight from Queenstown to Auckland.
The ladies made their vows in front of friends and family in an in-flight ceremony that was witnessed by Modern Family star and marriage equality campaigner Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who recently married his long-term partner Justin Mikita. (See more pictures from the ceremony here.)
Following the in-flight ceremony a pop-up choir surprised the couple and their guests, performing the Maori love song Pokarekare Ana which was sung in the New Zealand Parliament following the legalization of same sex marriage in April.