Twelve years on since Merri-May Gill and Fi Claus affirmed their commitment to each other in front of family and friends, the pair were finally able to make their marriage legal in a huge celebration of their love recently.
More than 180 of their friends and family travelled to Moree from near and far to help the pair celebrate their second wedding – what is believed to be Moree’s first official same-sex marriage since the legislation was passed in Australia last December.
Close to six months since the historic law was passed in Federal Parliament to legalise same-sex marriage, the well-known Moree couple were excited and relieved to finally be able to make their union legally binding.
“It’s amazing,” Fi said.
“A wedding really is a massive celebration of those two people as people - you receive well-wishes from your whole community as people, as well as for the love you share,” Merri-May added.
Both were thrilled the Australian public voted yes to changing the marriage laws and said they were overwhelmed by support from the Moree community.
“We’ve only ever had support in Moree,” Merri-May said.
“I was amazed at how passionate people were about it – going out of their way to make the effort to vote yes.
“When it passed, our straight friends were probably more excited than anyone as they knew they had made such a hugely positive impact on our lives. It goes beyond being allowed to have a wedding. It really improves your self-esteem, happiness and feeling of societal appreciation as a person.”
Music brings Merri-May and Fi together
Merri-May (who grew up in Moree) and Fi (originally from Brisbane) have been together since 2003 after meeting through the music industry.
Both musicians – Merri-May has played at folk festivals around Australia and has performed her comedy cabaret throughout the UK, USA and Canada, while Fi is a folk-pop artist who featured heavily on Triple J and toured throughout Australia for 10 years – the talented pair initially met at Woodford Folk Festival in 2003 and then “kept running into each other”.
Three years later, the couple decided not to wait for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and were married in a commitment ceremony at New Farm in Brisbane, followed by a reception at Merthyr Bowls Club with 65 of their closest family and friends.
A wedding is technically the biggest event of your life – we weren’t going to miss out on that.Merri-May Gill
“It’s a statement of seriousness of commitment, it gives more solidity to the whole thing,” Fi said of their decision to get married back then – 11 years before same-sex marriage laws would be introduced.
“It was an inclusion of family and friends, proving we are going to be together forever,” Merri-May added.
“A wedding is technically the biggest event of your life – we weren’t going to miss out on that.
“And now we’ve had two!”
A celebration of love
On Saturday, May 26, 2018, Merri-May and Fi walked down a red carpet aisle, hand-in-hand to ‘Here Come the Brides’ – played by their friends, The Kransky Sisters’ Michele Watt on the tuba and Moree musician Jacqualyn Drenkhahn on the ukulele – in front of about 185 family and friends at Moree Town and Country Club.
With people travelling from all over Australia, from as a far north as Cairns and as far south as Adelaide, Merri-May and Fi wanted everyone to mingle during the celebration and enlisted the help of a welcome team to “induct” guests as they arrived, handing out name tags and ice-breaker questions.
Wearing the same outfits they wore at their first wedding – by Brisbane designer Dogstar – the happy couple sang a song to each other, instead of saying their own vows as they did in 2006, during the ceremony which was conducted by Merri-May’s former housemate Marija.
The cake was then cut as soon as the I dos were exchanged.
“We broke that tradition because Fi wanted to prevent the problem where people don’t have room for cake at weddings because it’s always after the dinner and dessert,” Merri-May said.
Made by Dr Gabi Caswell, the cake’s decorations were sourced from France, with the icing resembling Merri-May and Fi’s favourite colour – a deep blue, which required so much food colouring that everyone’s lips and tongues resembled the hue.
“We could tell who ate the cake and who didn’t,” Merri-May recalled, chuckling.
Since their fathers made a toast at the previous wedding, it was their mothers’ turn this time.
Toby Osmond read telegrams from people who couldn’t be there, while Sascha Estens was the ring-bearer.
The bouquet toss provided unexpected excitement, ending with a number of eligible bachelorettes on the ground; one girl was down “for nearly a minute … but thank goodness she was okay and at least she caught the bouquet!”.
Merri-May and Fi then processed out down the aisle to smiles and cheers while a song from their recent Sunday Heart Parade album played, before making a quick costume change ready for their wedding dance.
While guests were waiting, Michele and Jacqualyn played live elevator music on repeat – “because we’re cover musicians, it’s not the done thing to repeat a song,” Fi said.
“It was a personal joke,” Merri-May added.
Then came the wedding dance – a revamped version of the pair’s Dancing with the Stars performance in 2014.
Pre-recorded applause and attendance by members of The Moree Society of Claqueurs, saw the dance receive extra acclamation.
And, making the celebration more of a highly entertaining performance than a regular wedding, Merri-May and Fi put on their Little Poppy wedding singer wigs and performed one hour-long set of the best of the best dance music, which had everyone up on the dancefloor by 8pm.
“It was good because they had to dance and like it and we got to sing what we wanted,” Merri-May joked.
After that, they “chucked on some CDs” and danced the night away.
“It was a really happy event,” Merri-May said.
“Everyone was so pleased [the same-sex marriage law] was finally passed and done and dusted. It was kind of a double celebration.”
And, while after their first marriage the couple felt “more intensely bound”, this time around they said it was the feeling of community acceptance that made their day.
“It was twice the happiness,” Merri-May said.
“The happiness of celebrating the relationship and happiness of the community celebrating who you are.”