Royal assent was granted to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 on 17th July, 2013 - 10 years ago.
Queen Elizabeth II formally approved the act of legislature, which paved the way for Her Majesty’s Government to announce, on 10th December 2013, that the first same-sex marriages in the UK could take place from 29th March 2014. Within 48 hours of this law passing, 95 same sex weddings took place.
To mark this historically significant milestone, we spoke to two couples who were among the very first couples to have a same sex wedding in the UK, to look back on 10 years since the legislature passed, and explore what it means for LGBTQ+ couples planning weddings today…
Sinclair & Sean
Sean and Sinclair got married at midnight on 29th March, 2014, excitedly telling us that this made them one of the first same-sex married couples in the country.
Scott explained that they’d had something of a whirlwind romance whilst he was on a business trip: “We met in Sinclair’s hometown of Los Angeles in August 2013. [...] We met for drinks at his hotel, which was the same hotel as in ‘Pretty Woman’. We instantly felt a connection.”
The couple met again in Sean’s hometown of London later that year, in December 2013 and things accelerated: “It was love at first sight, and we decided during Christmas 2013 that we wanted to marry.”
When asked if the law change had inspired their discussion, Sean and Sinclair explain that it didn’t: “Our meeting and subsequent decision to get married seemed to perfectly synchronise with the new law change, but was completely unintentional.
“We just did what felt right at the time, and had a vague knowledge that the law had recently changed which would allow us to marry.
“We hadn't met before the law officially changed - but we were both open to the idea of civil partnerships/marriage - but only with Mr Right! Neither of us proposed to the other, it was a mutual discussion that happened organically one night over a cigarette.”
Whilst the couple say they had both been open to the idea of a civil partnership, it’s clear that being able to have a marriage meant a great deal to them both. They explain: “It meant that we could express our love and commitment towards each other in the same way everybody else has been able to do for thousands of years.
“We could show the world that being gay is perfectly normal and that the right to express love and commitment between two consenting adults should be equal to all.”
When asked to reflect on 10 years of marriage, the Sinclair and Scott are happy to share what they’ve learned: “To stay open and allow the love to grow deeper requires strength. People who meet their soulmates and stay together are incredibly strong people and we both have so much respect for people who stay together their whole lives and keep the love alive.
“Our love has grown deeper as each year passes. We are not only lovers but also best friends. There may be messy moments along the way, but the wonder and excitement of being together never fades, not even a little.”
Giving advice to other LGBTQ+ couples who are planning to marry, Scott and Sinclair share: “You're in for the most rewarding journey of your life - just remember to stay open to each other and don't be scared to show your vulnerabilities to your partner. They'll love you even more for it!”
Andrew & Neil
Andrew and Neil got married on 29th March 2014, after seven years together. “We had discussed having a civil partnership before the law changed,” Andrew explained. “Mostly for the legal protections it offered.
“But we decided that it wasn’t true equality, and abandoned the idea.”
When asked what it was that appealed to them about the idea of marriage, they explained: “Marriage gave us true equality under the law - although legislation can’t always change perception. We were very aware of how privileged we were, living in the UK - even though homophobia was, and still is, rife there.”
Reflecting on their 10 year wedding anniversary, and 17 years together, Neil and Andrew explain that they’ve been through some exchanges, including moving abroad: “Our relationship has matured and strengthened. Marriage gave an added sense of security to what was already a very committed relationship.
“During these 10 years, we’ve moved to another country, which has made us rely on each other more. In general, we find it easy to spend our lives together, but marriage has increased the confidence we have in our relationship.”
Andrew and Neil advise that LGBTQ+ couples planning on getting married now understand the flexibility available to them: “Make the ceremony what you want it to be - it can be very flexible. Most of the old traditions are not compulsory, and you can choose to use them, or not. Make the day make sense to you.
“Then, simply carry on the way you were before - loving and caring for each other.”
We also spoke to Emma Lambe, the photographer who captured Andrew and Neil's wedding, about the significance of photographing such a historic occasion: "I'd been working in the wedding industry for several years and it never made sense to me that same sex couples couldn't get married. I'd been advocating for equal marriage rights so when I heard that Andrew and Neil had been selected for the first ever same sex marriage, I immediately contacted them and asked if I could photograph the celebration.
"The whole day was so joyful - Andrew and Neil were so excited, we all were. It was beautiful to see all the people who waited outside the Pavilions to cheer them on, each and every member of the public, press, and all the incredible suppliers were genuinely invested in their right to equal marriage. I'll never forget it and I feel very grateful to have been a part of it."
Discover how you can rework wedding traditions for an LGBTQ+ wedding here.