As merrymakers around the world put bottles of champagne on ice and drape glitzy streamers ready for New Year’s Eve parties, for one couple the last day of 2019 is years overdue.
Ann “Pee-Wee” Chamings and her partner John Eccles have been together for 43 years and will be among the very first opposite-sex couples in the country to tie the knot in a civil ceremony.
They will celebrate their relationship in a touching service at the beautiful Grade II listed Hastings Town Hall, witnessed by their two children.
The East Sussex pair were among those who took the fight for opposite-sex civil partnerships to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, pushing for a change in the law.
With the legislation change allowing the first ceremonies to take place from New Year’s Eve, 70-year-old Chamings says they are not wasting any time.
Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: “We seem to have been waiting for ages for this to happen, so why to wait a day longer than necessary?”
Julie Thorpe, 61, and Keith Lomax, 70, from near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, have been living together for most of their relationship, have three children, and are having a civil partnership ceremony at a registered office in Halifax.
Thorpe said: “It won’t change our relationship one jot. It will not make any difference to how we behave towards each other when we get up the next day.
“We have had a very successful relationship for 37 years and a bit of paper is not going to make any difference to that whatsoever. It does give us some legal protection within that relationship.”
But what exactly is a civil partnership and how is it different from getting married?
The church, the dress, the exchange of rings in the eyes of God – the “traditional” Christian wedding has long been the staple of unions in the UK, but it’s not for everyone.
Anyone looking for an alternative can choose a civil marriage, without the religious baggage – but still requiring partners to say a prescribed form of words (I, Harry, take you, Sally, etc etc…) in a ceremony of some sort.
Before 2014, gay couples couldn’t get married in either fashion in the UK but did have another option that was introduced by law in 2004 – the civil partnership.