It was a day Gary Hayward and Andy Stevens had waited decades to experience, finally being recognised as a married couple.
They gathered a small group of friends on Sunday at their picturesque Yackandandah property, given the title of “Gandy’s Forest”, to witness the emotional wedding.
“We kept it very small, we kept it very secret until our wedding day,” Mr Hayward said.
“It was a very special day.”
Eldorado celebrant Roxanne Bodsworth officiated the service and Albury Anglican leader Archdeacon Peter MacLeod-Miller conducted a special hand-clasping ceremony.
Guests then planted a circle of trees at the property, which will grow to be an everlasting reminder of their union and the love and support of those closest to them.
The couple were friends for 15 years and partners for 17 years before they could finally be married as a same-sex couple, following the change in Australian law at the end of last year.
The road has been far from easy for the pair.
Back in 2014, Mr Stevens was verbally abused and harassed by “religious zealots” in the couple’s own Buddha Shop in Yackandandah.
They witnessed a lot of pain in the gay community during the “horrible” plebiscite, but were determined for the law to be changed so they could finally be married and others did not have to suffer through the same pain.
“It means a lot to the next generation because it was so hard-fought,” Mr Hayward said.
“It’s a wonderful feeling of freedom that we are now equal like everyone else.”
Messages of congratulations flowed from across the region when they announced their marriage on Faceook after the ceremony, including from Albury mayor Kevin Mack and Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor.
Now 61 and 67 years old respectively and battling health issues, Mr Hayward and Mr Stevens will not go on a honeymoon, but enjoy the rest of their lives at their newly built “Gandy’s Forest” property, together and in love.
Father MacLeod Miller said he was so pleased for the newly married couple and their union was a symbol of people being treated properly.
“Overcoming prejudice also has a human face and it’s pretty wonderful,” he said.
“It was just an honour and a privilege (to be invited as a witness), I was deeply touched.”