Eleven years after their first commitment ceremony, Margaret River residents Wendy and Nicole Hendry have become the first same sex couple to be officially wed within a church in Western Australia.
In a ceremony conducted at The Berry Farm in Rosa Glen on Saturday, the couple, who are both regular attendees of the Margaret River Uniting Church, took their vows in front of family and friends.
Wendy Hendry, herself an experienced wedding celebrant, said sharing the day with partner Nic and their four children by their sides was very special.
“As a marriage celebrant I feel so lucky to experience the absolute joy in joining two people in marriage,” she said.
“Since the passing of Marriage Equality in Australia it has been so wonderful to officiate beautiful celebrations of love for same sex couples also - they are all now simply 'weddings', all wonderful, and all special.
“On Saturday it was a slightly strange but exciting experience being on the other side of the ceremony!
“Being a Uniting Church marriage ceremony made it feel quite different to the civil ceremonies that I normally write and officiate so that was a nice experience.
“We already know we love each other and are committed to each other, but there is a special meaning for us to be legally married within the rites of the Uniting Church, by a mentor and friend, surrounded by our children, family and friends."
At its national decision making meeting held in July, the Uniting Church in Australia decided to hold two equal and distinct statements of belief on marriage to honour the diversity of Christian belief among Uniting Church members.
Since then, the church has published an additional marriage liturgy that will allow same-gender couples to get married in Uniting Churches, for those congregations that choose to host them.
Mrs Hendry said while the couple did not set out to have a history-making wedding, the symbolism of the day was important.
“We didn't set out to be the first same sex couple in WA to be married under the rites of the Uniting Church, but it has made it an extra special celebration for us, and for so many friends and family who have walked alongside us and others on the difficult path to marriage equality.”
Uniting Church Minister Rev Elenie Poulos conducted the ceremony and said the church should be proud of the progress it has made.
“It is a privilege to be able to celebrate Wendy and Nicole’s wedding,” she said.
“The Uniting Church has a long history of working for justice. Its decision to allow same-sex marriage is one it should be proud of.
“It marks the Church’s commitment to the full inclusion of LGBTIQ people.
“This is a joyous occasion that celebrates God’s love for all people.”
Mrs Hendry said celebrating with their friends and family as well as their church community was all part of the “amazing” experience.
“The Uniting Church has been and continues to be an important part of our life,” she said.
“We have many family and friends who are an active part of the life of this church, and with the recent changes in regards to marriage it reinforces we are part of a faith community that embraces love and equality.
“Having our dear friend Rev Elenie Poulos officiate our marriage was a special moment for us, and we are so thankful that she came all the way from Sydney to share this day with us.
“Thanks to the wonderful staff at The Berry Farm for hosting our ceremony, and for the messages of support and love from people near and far - it's been amazing.”
The first same sex marriages officiated by the Uniting Church were held on September 21, the first day LGBTIQ Christians had the option of a church ceremony in Australia.