Belfast Telegraph

Mary Portas's marriage surprise

Mary Portas surprised her civil partner as they became one of the first couples in the UK to convert their civil partnership to a same-sex marriage.

The conversion took place at Westminster City Hall in London at 12.01am today (December 10), one minute after the law came into effect.

Westminster superintendent registrar Alison Cathcart presided over the conversion of Mary and fashion journalist Melanie Rickey's civil partnership, and said she saw it as the "final step in equality for gay marriage" and Westminster City Hall was "very proud to play our part in it".

Fashion entrepreneur and TV star Mary described the occasion as "absolutely magical" and said she had been planning it for about a month.

She said: "We have three children together and there is such a deep rooted commitment to being married, it just felt right.

"Our last ceremony was very different, with a much wider extension of friends and family."

Partner Melanie said: "I thought we were out looking for art galleries but when we started driving up and down the same street a couple of times I started getting a bit suspicious.

"When we turned up outside Westminster City Hall I guessed what was going on.

"I couldn't think of a better surprise."

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act came into effect on March 29 but there was no legal way for couples in civil partnerships to be married until Parliament moved to amend the law.

Couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships will have the choice of a simple process at a register office or a two-stage process, where a registrar can complete the conversion at another venue meaning the couple's family and friends can attend.

The conversion can take place at premises which have been registered for the marriage of same-sex couples - such as hotels, stately homes and religious premises.

For the first year, all couples who formed their civil partnership before March 29 (when same-sex marriage was introduced) will be able to receive a £45 fee reduction.

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