Epocha has made history, by hosting Victoria’s first same-sex wedding.

“We’re thrilled,” co-owner of the Mediterranean restaurant Guy Holder told Neos Kosmos.

“It’s really personal for all of us, we’ve been following this whole legislation going through, and to be a part of that opening phase of same-sex marriage is really important to us.”

The Melbourne couple, Amy and Elise McDonald, had planned a commitment ceremony with close family and friends to take place at the eatery co-owned by Angie Giannakodakis some nine months ago, but with the recent amendments to the Marriage Act the couple went the next step to make it official in a surprise wedding at Carlton Gardens on Saturday.

All couples planning to marry in Victoria are required to lodge a Notice of Intent to Marry giving four weeks’ notice of their wedding date. With the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 coming into effect so recently, the earliest date a same-sex couple could be married is 9 January. Given the timing of the event, the McDonalds tried their luck and applied for an exemption from Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria seeking early approval on financial grounds citing that the wedding arrangements were already in place and their families had travelled long distances to attend the event – Amy’s parents flew in from Vietnam and her siblings from the United Arab Emirates.

The celebrant Maria Aguilera and the happy couple were only granted permission 24 hours prior at 11.00 am on Friday, and when the team at Epocha were informed of the news they were over the moon.

“We got the call in the morning from Amy herself. I must admit it wasn’t even on my radar that something was going to be possible this weekend. So we were all on a high for the rest of the day,” said Guy, who described the atmosphere as “electric”.

“They wandered over from the gardens and most of the guests had arrived beforehand and then Amy and Elise arrived and made a grand entrance – everyone was elated,” he said.
“They managed to pull everyone together who was important to them on that day, and to have that underwriting as being an official wedding for them was an incredible lift to the occasion. It couldn’t have happened to nicer people; Amy and Elise are just an incredible couple.”