As Connor Ovenden stepped up the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens rotunda staircase to meet his husband-to-be, Ben Shaw, he was making history.
Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird played as the two young men met each other’s eyes and prepared to become among the first same-sex couples to marry in Australia.
South-west celebrant Emmalee Bell married the couple on Tuesday, January 9 – the first day they were able to after same-sex marriage was legalised late last year.
Ms Bell performed the service for the pair, who met online more than three years ago, free of charge due to the event’s significance.
“While this is a momentous day for me, and for Australian society, most importantly it is a momentous day for Connor and Ben,” she said.
“They have come so far together to be here today, overcoming the challenges of a long-distance relationship, the emotional scars of the past and an unjust law.
“Connor and Ben see their marriage as an opportunity to look forward and let go of the negativity of the past.
“They want to celebrate their love, which is now seen as equal in the eyes of the law, and make their lifelong commitment to each other surrounded by all their favourite people.”
As dozens of teary family members and friends watched on, touching details emerged about the relationship between the two young men – now both officially Mr Ovenden-Shaw.
Connor and Ben were said to have quite different, but complementary, personalities.
They met in Wodonga after Connor took “the longest bus ride of his life” to get there, and among other things, they bonded over movies and their love of murder mystery novels.
Connor thanked Ben for reigning his free spirit in, and Ben thanked Connor for pushing him to try things he would normally be afraid of, like going on the Scooby Doo ride at Movieworld.
The struggle and prejudice the couple faced as a same-sex couple was not absent during the ceremony. A poem Connor penned to Ben, describing his love, made reference to being afraid to hold hands in public.
As the official proceedings drew to a close, Ms Bell said she had never been happier to declare a couple officially married.
“You may now kiss your husband,” she said.