“I now declare you partners, soul mates and lovers for life.”
Christine Forster and Virginia Edwards thought it might never happen – but it did, in Sydney on Friday.
And sitting in the front row was Christine’s brother, former prime minister Tony Abbott, who spent years campaigning against same-sex marriage.
Christine and her long-term partner Virginia (who will revert to her maiden name Flitcroft) married on Friday in a cocktail party-style wedding in the centre of Sydney, overlooking the harbour and Botanical Gardens.
The 200-guest wedding was attended by most of the Abbott family, including Tony and wife Margie. Virginia’s two children, Laura and Fraser Edwards, also attended.
Christine and Virginia arrived down a curving staircase draped in flowers as the song “All I Never Knew I Wanted”, composed for the occasion by close friend and Australia’s Got Talent runner-up Greg Gould, played.
“Are you two ready to get married? Shall we just do this?” celebrant Kathryn Breusch asked.
“(This is a) true expression of their love. Their day has finally come because of the big-hearted Australian people.”
“I am forever changed by who you are and what you mean to me,” Christine’s vows read.
“Without you, I can’t be me.”
The vows were traditional in nature for the couple, who have been together for 10 years, before the women included their own personal touch.
“I take you Christine to be my wedded spouse, to have and hold, for better, for worse … to spend all my days at your side supporting you and your causes,” Virginia said.
It was the first high-profile same-sex wedding since marriage equality law was passed in Australian Parliament on December 7 last year.
Tony and Margie Abbott joined in a family photograph after the ceremony was over, smiling for the camera in support of the newlyweds.
“It’s a great family occasion, very happy for Chris and Virginia and I’m looking forward to having a new sister-in-law,” Abbott said on his arrival at the wedding.
Guests included Liberal identities Dean Smith, who brought in Australia’s same-sex marriage bill, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman and Victorian MP Tim Wilson.
In an interview with The Project ahead of the ceremony, Christine admitted she was “a bit nervous” for the big day while Virginia said the pair had “waited too long for this day”.
Asked what the day meant to them, Christine said: “It’s everything”.
“For us to be able to get married here in Sydney with our friends and our family at our sides, and to get married under Australian law, it’s amazing,” she said.
“I’m still in some ways pinching myself about this, because it was such a long time coming and it was a very long and hard fight for marriage equality in this country.”
Christine said her brother (Tony Abbott) had been “fabulous” in the lead-up to the wedding.
“He was the first person to ring us this morning to check everything was going smoothly,” she said.
“He is looking forward to it as well and will be here with his wife Margie. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
There were no official duties for the former prime minister.
“The Abbott family is, fortunately or unfortunately, full of gregarious people who like public speaking, so any number of them could jump up and speak on a whim,” Christine said just prior to the ceremony.
She confirmed to The Project that Mr Abbott’s only role at the wedding would be that of “older brother” and that he was “really looking forward to it”.
Christine and Virginia’s wedding will feature on Australian Story, which airs on the ABC on Monday night.