With the shortest of phrases Andrew Wale and Neil Allard will help to write a new entry in the history books when, at just after midnight tonight in the Music Room of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, they will wed in what could be the first same sex marriage in the country.
In a momentous day for the city, four other same sex couples will also tie the knot tomorrow, the first day the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act comes into effect.
Dramatist Andrew and guesthouse owner Neil won a competition run by Brighton and Hove City Council to have the first same sex marriage and will make double history by being the first couple to marry in the former palace’s Music Room, which was only licensed last year.
The interest in such a historic event in such grand surroundings has captured the world’s attention, with the council being contacted by more than 50 media outlets from the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Russia to cover the event.
National newspapers and leading broadcasters CNN and BSkyB will join The Argus as journalistic interlopers on the special occasion.
Later on Saturday morning at 8am Phil Robathan and James Preston, from Portslade, will become the first same sex couple to be married at Brighton Town Hall.
The Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus will performat the ceremony to add to the celebrations of this landmark day in gay rights.
Paul Charlton, chairman of the group, said: “This is such an exciting occasion for us all.
“We were lucky enough to have performed at one of the first ever civil partnerships back in 2005 and our members are over the moon to be taking part in this historic occasion.”
Next up will be Nikki Pettit and Tanya Ward, from Newmarket Road in Brighton, who will become the first female same sex couple to be married in the city when they walk down the aisle at Brighton Town Hall at 12.45pm.
They will be closely followed by Emma Powell and Sarah Keith, from Clapham, who will tie the knot at the five-star The Claremont guest house in Second Avenue in Hove at 2pm.
Dan Maynard, executive manager of The Claremont, said: “It is great to be involved in their day and lovely they have chosen us.
“It is crazy that it has taken this long to get to this point to be classed as a marriage.
“We have always called them marriages or weddings, for us there’s no difference in the day.
“There has never been a difference in the way we treat the couple or the food we serve whether it is a civil partnership or a marriage.
“I have never counted but it is probably a 50/50 split between those from out of town who come and get married here.
“For gay couples Brighton has a certain affinity and so this could be the place for people from London and all over the South East to get married.”
The fifth, anonymous couple has chosen a low key, private ceremony.
Councillor Leo Littman, lead councillor for city services, offered his “heartfelt congratulations”
to all the same sex couples getting married this weekend.
He said: “Like so many others, they ’ve b e e n waiting for the law to givethem the right to do something which heterosexual couples have always been able to take for granted.
“Now that this right has been extended to same-sex couples, I hope that many more people will choose our city as the place to tie the knot.”
Brighton and Hove City Council’s senior ceremonies registrar Trevor Love will be conducting the ceremony at the Royal Pavilion.
He also conducted the first same sex civil partnership in December 2005.
He said: “This will be a momentous and historic day for the registration service in England and Wales and for all of those couples making their marriage vows together.
“Brighton and Hove is a popular location for ceremonies and we have been busy keeping people up to date with the latest news about the introduction of same sex marriage.
“It is wonderful to see this law change being welcomed so enthusiastically in the city.”
Blind date has led to first female marriage
Childcare worker Nikki Pettit, 29, and bakery chef Tanya Ward, 28, are inseparable – almost literally.
The pair first met more than six years ago through a mutual friend and went on a blind date “that went very
Since that day, the pair say they have not spent more than a couple of days apart.
Being the first female couple to get married in Brighton and Hove has stirred quite a lot of media interest.
This includes from BSkyB and Meridian who will be filming the pair on their big day, Channel 4 who want to
feature the couple on their Our Gay Wedding documentary to be hosted by Stephen Fry, and they have also been invited to appear on Loose Women on Monday.
Tanya joked they “needed a PA”.
Nikki added: “It’s absolutely surreal.
“Obviously it is going to be special to us because it is our wedding day but to have all of these other people wanting to share that and be interested in what we are going to be doing and wanting to speak to us is very surreal.
“Everyone has been so supportive about it.”
The pair had discussed having a civil wedding this month.
Nikki said: “We were going to have a ceremony on March 20 but when we found out March 29 was the first day for
a marriage that made our minds up.
“We rang up but we thought there was no way we would get picked but they said they had space for that day.”
Tanya said: “It is important for us to have the same title as a heterosexual couple.
“The way it was, it just emphasised the difference having a civil partnership.”
Married, not just partners
For Phil Robathan, 40, and James Preston, 27, caring has always been at the centre of their relationship.
The couple from Portslade will be married at Brighton Town Hall at 8am.
They met four years ago when James was living in Manchester and Phil was visiting friends in the city.
James was looking “for a change, a new start and new surroundings”.
Phil was in need of a new carer for his ongoing health problems and James, having grown up surrounded
by relatives in the care profession, decided to take the step and move down to Brighton to live with and care for Phil in 2010.
The pair said from a caring relationship, “one thing led to another” to where they will be tomorrow.
The couple had talked about a civil ceremony before to the same sex marriage Bill received Royal assent in July last year.
Phil said: “I got an email from Stonewall but looked at it once and put it to one side.
“James then read it later and said we could have a proper wedding. We went down to the town hall at
8.30am the next morning.”
James said: “It is an important difference to be able to say we are married.
“Anyone can be in a partnership, two people in a business are partners and in a partnership.
“The list of legal differences is pretty immense too.
“It’s a huge thing, everybody knows the campaigning and suffering that has gone on for years and years just
to be accepted.
“But a same sex marriage really is something more personal to say we are married, it means a lot.”
Celebrating a new life together
Emma Powell and Sarah Keith’s marriage tomorrow will also be a goodbye – to friends, family and
their old life.
The pair are moving to New York next month for a minimum of two years as Sarah, 30, has been relocated to America in her role as a senior account manager for The Financial Times.
Before then they have the small matter of their same-sex marriage at the Claremont Hotel in Second Avenue, Hove, before their reception at Alfresco restaurant on the beach.
The couple live in Clapham and hail from Portsmouth and Brentwood in Essex but Brighton and Hove was
their first choice for their wedding venue.
Emma, 29, said: “We come down to Brighton quite a lot. We just love it here and it is somewhere we can
see ourselves living and bringing up children.
“We feel we have an affinity with Brighton.”
The couple met at the University of Kent in 2002 and were friends at first before their relationship developed nine-and-a-half years ago.
They say that marriage was important to them as a sign of a move towards equality for same-sex couples.
Emma said: “We did want to wait for marriage.
“We are not saying there is anything wrong with a civil partnership but true equality is about having the same treatment as everyone else and there are a number of legal protections with marriage you don’t get with a civil
The pair said they will focus on their special day – and the historic importance will only hit them at a later date.
But they haven’t been able to completely avoid the significance of the day with several media outlets including Grazia, The Times, The Independent, Reuters and Look magazine all taking an interest in their special day and
making them, in their own words, “celesbians”.
But they will not be cooperating with The Sun, which wanted to photograph their wedding and feature them in the paper.
Emma said: “We are big supporters of the No More Page 3 campaign so we told them no.
“We are completely opposed to their morals.”
Neil and Andrew make history
For Andrew Wale and Neil Allard, their life has been turned on its head since they were announced
as the history-making couple last month.
Andrew said the media outlets interested in their story included Daybreak, The One Show, ITV News, CNN, The Guardian, The Observer, The Sun, BskyB, Russian TV Channel 5, German and Swedish journalists and GScene.
He said: “It’s getting a bit stressful now, as the day draws near and the media interest grows even stronger.
“I don’t think we had bargained on quite so much attention – when I entered the competition arranged by
the council, I was attracted by the opportunity to get married in the extraordinary Music Room in the Brighton Pavilion.
“We had planned on a small wedding before we entered the competition, but having the Music Room as our
venue, it was obvious that we had to invite as many friends as possible to enjoy the occasion.
“As far as the media interest goes, it is important for us to use the opportunities to raise awareness of
the fact that, while we are overjoyed at the change in the law which enables us to marry, there are other people in
the world who are not nearly as lucky as us.”
On the plus side of the intense interest in their special day, the historic event has seen local business offering to
chip in with their expertise.
Angel Food Bakery in Meeting House Lane in Brighton are designing and making the cake, barber Jake Berry
will be helping the couple look the part on the night before and The Grand hotel has offered the couple a room on
the wedding night, including a spa treatment for two.