Opposite sex couple prepare to have civil ceremony on New Year's Eve following law change

Up to 170,000 are expected to take advantage of the law change surrounding opposite sex, civil partnerships [Photo: Getty]

As we prepare to raise our glasses to celebrate the new year, one opposite sex couple will, at last, be toasting tying the knot, which they’ve waited years to do.

Ann Chamings and her partner John Eccles have been together for 43 years, but have chosen not to make their relationship official until opposite sex, civil partnerships were officially recognised.

Now that there has been a change in legislation, the couple will be among the very first opposite sex couples in the country to celebrate a civil ceremony.

The pair, from East Sussex, 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.

And with the legislation alteration allowing the first ceremonies to take place from New Year's Eve, the couple don’t plan on wasting any time in getting spliced.

“We seem to have been waiting ages for this to happen, so why wait a day longer than necessary?” Ann Chamings told PA News Agency.

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Ann Chamings and John Eccles will celebrate their civil partnership on New Year's Eve [Photo: PA]

The couple, who run a business together, first met in 1975 and have been together for nearly 44 years and say that marriage didn’t appeal to them in the same way a civil partnership did.

“The institution of marriage, with its antiquated connotations involving chattels and property, has never appealed to us,” Ms Chamings continued.

“Plus the fact that despite all those vows, expensive clothes and receptions, nearly half of those couples end up in divorce courts.

“We wanted a simple contract. We are already business partners and we wanted to be life-partners as well.”

The touching service will take place at the beautiful Grade II listed Hastings Town Hall at midday on December 31, and will be witnessed by their two children, Dr Jessica Eccles and Alexander Eccles.

They will be one of up to 170,000 people expected to tie the knot from New Year’s Eve, the date that civil partnerships are offered to all.

The unions will mark the end of a long fight to change the law on civil partnerships, spearheaded by couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan.

“We signed their petitions, donated money to the cause and demonstrated with them outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London,” Ms Chamings, 70, explained.

“We will be forever grateful to Charles and Rebecca for their perseverance.”

Ann Chamings was among those who took the fight for civil partnerships for opposite sex couples to the Royal Courts of Justice [Photo: PA]

READ MORE: Couple pay for wedding by collecting discarded plastic bottles

Commenting on the law change, Steve Quayle, East Sussex County Council team manager for registration, said: “There are many couples who want to show their commitment to a relationship, but don't feel marriage is right for them.

“This change in legislation means they can celebrate their relationship and benefit from the legal rights without a marriage ceremony.

“For some, this change in the law has been a long time coming and we want to make sure they can mark this milestone by entering into a civil partnership as soon as possible, which is why our registrars will be available from midnight on December 31.”

Unlike a marriage, there are no set words to a civil partnership. Couples can celebrate in any way they choose but must read a legal declaration and sign the civil partnership schedule in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses in a Register Office or licensed venue.