Ex-PM Jacinda Ardern ties knot

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — After almost five years of engagement and a postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern married longtime partner Clarke Gayford in a private ceremony Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

Details of the event were closely held by the pair, but the ceremony is reported to have been staged at a luxury vineyard in the scenic Hawke's Bay region, 325 kilometers from New Zealand's capital, Wellington.

It is believed only family, close friends and a few of the 43-year-old Ardern's former lawmaker colleagues were invited, including Ardern's successor and former prime minister Chris Hipkins. Earlier, police met with a small group of protesters who had plastered a wall with dozens of anti-vaccination posters outside the venue. One protester was also seen holding a sign that read, "Lest we forget jab mandates," on the outskirts of the property.

Ardern and Gayford, 47, reportedly began dating in 2014 and were engaged five years later, but due to Ardern's government's Covid-19 restrictions that reduced gatherings to 100 people, the wedding planned for the southern hemisphere summer of 2022 was postponed.

"Such is life," Ardern said at the time of their decision to call off the wedding. "I am no different to, dare I say, thousands of other New Zealanders."

Global icon

Just 37 when she became leader in 2017, Ardern quickly became a global icon of the left. She exemplified a new style of leadership and was praised around the world for her handling of the nation's worst-ever mass shooting and the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018, Ardern became just the second elected world leader to give birth while holding office. Later that year, she brought her infant daughter to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

New Zealand, under Ardern's government, had some of the strictest coronavirus mandates in the world, which prompted several rallies during her final year as prime minister. It also led to a level of vitriol from some that hadn't been experienced by previous New Zealand leaders.

Ardern shocked New Zealanders in January 2023 when she said she was stepping down after five-and-a-half years as prime minister because she no longer had "enough in the tank" to do the job justice in an election year.

Since then, Ardern announced she would temporarily join Harvard University after being appointed to dual fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School. She has also took an unpaid role combating online extremism.

In June, Ardern received one of New Zealand's highest honors for her service leading the country through a mass shooting and pandemic. She was made a Dame Grand Companion, meaning people will now call her Dame Jacinda Ardern.

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