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               Couples were looking for a more personal,
               less traditional ceremony that allowed for
               their input, as opposed to a prescribed
               religious format.

            In the Beginning

            In 1976, the New Zealand Marriage Act 1955 was    Couples were looking for a more personal, less
            amended to allow for the appointment of civil     traditional ceremony that allowed for their input, as
            celebrants, or independent celebrants, as they have   opposed to a prescribed religious format.
            been termed by the government since 2005. Thus
            the officiating minister legally became the marriage   Our Australian cousins led the way with the first
            celebrant.                                        appointment of civil marriage celebrants in 1973,
                                                              under Attorney-General Lionel Murphy. They were
            The first marriage celebrants were registered in 1977,   charged with creating ceremonies of “dignity, meaning
            with former CANZ members Barrie Mason and Eddie   and substance” for non-churchgoing couples. This was
            McMenemy being among the first of those appointed.   later extended to funeral celebrants.
            Your author first became a marriage celebrant four
            years later, in 1981.                             Just as in Australia, New Zealanders were also looking
                                                              for less formal funeral ceremonies. Marian Barnes was
                              In a recent trial scheme, under   the first secular funeral celebrant in New Zealand and
                              the Ministry of Justice, registry-  she became a leading authority and mentor to many
                              style weddings have been        celebrants who followed in her footsteps.
                              conducted in some district
                              courts with Justices of the Peace                 Marian Barnes (née Nobes)
                              officiating. But back in 1976,                    pioneered the secular funeral
                              unlike some other western                         in the late 1970s, providing
                              countries, a New Zealand Justice                  an alternative service for the
                              of the Peace had no implied                       increasing number of non-
            Author Sherryl Wilson                                               religious individuals. She also
                              or automatic authority to
                              solemnise marriages.                              wrote a number of books on
                                                                                the subject, including Down to
            The driving force for the 1976 Amendment to the   Marian Barnes     Earth (1993), which became a
            Marriage Act 1955 was the growth of secularism, as the              much-used textbook for funeral
            population demanded an alternative to the religious                 celebrants, with its focus on the
            ceremonies available. A registry-office wedding was   changing funeral needs of society. Marian contributed
            not deemed to be a suitable ceremonial alternative by   so much, to so many. She would be delighted to know
            many of the population.                           that her “work and passion” (as she put it) lives on.
                                                              She passed away peacefully in her sleep, on her 88th
                                                              birthday, 8 April 2017.

       10   CANZ From the Beginning – a history of the Celebrants’ Association of New Zealand
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