By Naomi Tajitsu
WELLINGTON | Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:03am EDT
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - When Trent Kandler and Paul McCarthy decided to get engaged, they knew they would probably have to tie the knot outside their native Australia, where same-sex unions are not yet legal.
Two years later, wearing matching three-piece suits and pink ties, the couple marched down the isle at Wellington's Te Papa national museum, 2,200 km (1,370 miles) from home, as a law to legalize gay marriage in New Zealand went into force on Monday.
"Our relationship is validated in front of our family and friends," McCarthy told Radio New Zealand after the ceremony. "I'm a very proud man."
Kandler and McCarthy were in the spotlight after winning a contest by the tourism board to invite a gay Australian couple to wed in New Zealand, the 13th country to allow homosexuals to marry. More than 300 Australian couples applied.
New Zealanders Lynley Bendall and Ally Wanikau were among about 30 same-sex couples to say "I do" on Monday, exchanging vows on board an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland from the ski resort town of Queenstown on the country's South Island.
"To be married at 30,000 feet beneath strings of fairy lights with our children, friends and family as witnesses makes an already memorable day that much more special," Bendall said after an in-flight ceremony with a choir serenading the newlyweds with a traditional Maori love song.
New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs said late last week that roughly 1,000 marriage applications were downloaded in the week since same-sex applications became available, around three times the average number.