Number of same-sex weddings revealed for the first time

Men exchanging wedding rings Image copyright AFP/Getty

Just over 1,400 same-sex marriages took place in the first three months of the new law, official figures have revealed.

Of these, 56% were female couples and 44% were male.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was introduced in England and Wales on 29 March this year.

The law triggered a rush of couples vying to be the first to tie the knot at midnight, and there were 95 same-sex marriages in the first three days.

'Powerful signal'

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are the first official assessment of the popularity of the law change.

Around 120,000 people in civil partnerships - which were introduced in 2005 - will have the option of converting their union to a marriage from 10 December.

The average age of women marrying was 37 and for men it was 38.6, the ONS said. There were 351 marriages in April, 465 in May and 498 in June.

Richard Lane, of the charity Stonewall, said the significance of the law change went beyond the statistics.

"Equal marriage also sends a powerful signal - regardless of the number of couples who get married - that same-sex relationships are every bit as loving, committed and valued as those between opposite sex couples," he said.

"That's an incredibly important message for people growing up gay in Britain."

Mr Lane said he expected take-up to increase once couples are able to convert their civil partnerships into marriages.

Image copyright Joseph McCormick
Image caption Joseph McCormick (left) and James Hanson have just got married

'We wanted to do it properly'

Journalist Joseph McCormick married his partner, James Hanson, at Kingston Register Office in south-west London, earlier in August.

"I had always assumed I would not be able to get married, as the law would not allow it," the 26-year-old editor of Pink News said.

"If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it properly - I agree with people who say civil partnerships feel like an unequal alternative to marriage."

On the day, he said, it was "very traditional", with both families attending.

"People definitely wanted to be there because they had never been to a same-sex wedding before. Obviously there was an element of intrigue, but in many ways it was just the same as any other wedding."

As for planning the day, he said some products sold on the high street like guest books were still produced with only bride and groom options available, but this was "not the end of the world".

"I think more and more businesses are cottoning on to the fact that it's wedding season and those that offer a bespoke service for same-sex couples are doing well," he added.

'No whirlwind'

The early uptake of same-sex marriage is lower than that of civil partnerships, the ONS said.

It is also below the 1,827 civil partnerships recorded in the first three months of 2012, the most recent year available.

The government had predicted a combined figure of 6,000 same-sex marriages and civil partnerships every year.

The first same-sex ceremonies in Scotland are expected in October. Northern Ireland has no plans to change its current law which does not allow same sex marriages.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Teresa Millward and Helen Brearley in Halifax were among the first to marry
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Peter McGraith and David Cabreza were married at Islington town hall as the law came into force

Mark Rimmer, chairman of the Local Registration Services Association, which represents local authority registrars, said he felt the number of ceremonies had not been as high as some predicted.

Mr Rimmer, who runs the registration service for two councils, Brent and Barnet in London, described the take-up as "small beer".

He added: "It was not gong to be a big thing - it was a good sound bite but safe to say it won't be a whirlwind for local authorities."

Replacing civil partnerships?

The ONS statistics are not broken down across England and Wales.

But separate figures compiled by the BBC show Westminster, previously the most popular place in the country for civil partnerships, hosted 33 same-sex weddings in the first three months, compared to just six civil partnerships.

There were 12 same-sex marriages in Liverpool, 12 in Leicester and 14 in Cardiff but no civil partnerships in Liverpool or Leicester and nine in Cardiff.

The Quakers, who campaigned in favour of same-sex marriage, said they had hosted three same-sex weddings in their meeting houses since the law changed.

Bernadette Chapman, of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, said she had not seen a "huge explosion" since the law change in England and Wales.

"I was not expecting it," she said.

"When the civil partnership law was first passed, everyone got incredibly excited thinking all this money would be thrown at the industry - and of course it was not like that at all."

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