Gay weddings: 'We want a conventional wedding, just the same as everyone else'

At Britain's biggest trade fair for gay nuptials, Ben Bostock pops the question and finds enthusiastic support for same-sex marriage

Opponents claim that there is little appetite for gay marriage. That wasn't the case in Cardiff yesterday, as the Gay Wedding Show opened its doors to a crowd extremely enthusiastic for Downing Street to introduce same-sex marriage, as it has promised.

Wendy Evans and her partner, Kate Riseborough, both 36, said that they would prefer to marry rather than have a civil partnership, as is currently allowed under English law. "We just want the same rights as everyone else and part of that is the right to a conventional wedding," said Ms Evans.

Duncan Shrewsbury, 26, and his partner, Maciek Krezolek, 30, from Birmingham, were at the show to look for something "out of the ordinary". "We want our civil partnership ceremony to be some time in 2014 and if there is the option of a wedding at a later date it would be a good excuse for another party," said Mr Shrewsbury.

For many, the specialised nature of the show comes as a relief. Natasha Huxtable and her partner, Chloe Napier-Jones, who are due to enter into a civil partnership next September, were browsing for rings. The atmosphere at the wedding show was more relaxed, they said, because "questions do not need to be asked". "This show is much better for us. Because everyone knows you're a couple it's not awkward and there is no bias," said Ms Napier-Jones. "At other wedding shows people get taken aback because most assume that one of us is a bridesmaid and the other is the bride."

Gino Meriano, who founded the show, said: "In the gay community we just want to have all the options opened up to us. There are also people who believe it's all or nothing and if we can't have gay weddings they don't want anything at all. Basically, we want to have our cake and eat it." He added: "Part of my job is to promote gay rights but more recently in the gay community it has been a case of fighting for the straight community in the battle to allow them civil partnership rights."

The show sheds light on the businesses that are springing up to cater for same-sex unions, from gay ceremony ring specialists to the wedding venue Over the Rainbow, a Georgian mansion in Pembrokeshire.

Angharad Griffin of The Griffin and the Faerie women's wedding tailors in Cardiff, said there was a gap in the market with same-sex ceremonies for women: "Not every girl wants to wear a wedding dress and neither do they want to wear a man's suit. My outfits are tailored for each individual couple because everyone is different."

The Government is currently consulting on proposals for civil marriages for same-sex couples in England and Wales, with legislation promised before the next general election in 2015. Independent Voices is campaigning for equal civil marriage and religious institutions to be free to marry gay couples. A petition has been launched at Independentvoices.com.

"We have been running the show for nine years and we have seen a change in attitudes, but there is still a long way to go," added Mr Meriano.

"In previous years when we had the show in Cardiff City Hall, we could not display any banners outside the building for fear of a negative reaction and putting people off turning up."

Last year, 6,795 civil partnerships were formed between gay couples in the UK, which indicates a rise of 6 per cent on the figure from 2010, according to official figures. The total number of couples who have entered into civil partnerships since the bill was passed in 2005 is currently 106,834.

There have been warnings of revolt within the Conservative Party if David Cameron pushes forward with legalising gay marriage. Consultation on a Marriage Bill is expected to go ahead by April and the proposed legislation would only apply to England and Wales as the Scottish Parliament pushes ahead with its own White Paper.

The next Gay Wedding Show is slated for the same time next year at Jolyon's Hotel in Cardiff, by which time the landscape of equal rights for gay couples in England and Wales could look very different.

Altar egos: planning the big day

"We're being judged either way and don't want to push against tradition too much"

Ruth Mark and her partner, Emma Parton, are due to have a civil partnership ceremony on 15 February 2012 and agreed that matrimony would not make a great deal of difference to them. "We are being judged either way and we do not want to push against tradition too much," said Ms Mark. However, they could not agree on the issue of whether they would want a wedding in a church.

"We want a 2014 ceremony but a later wedding is an excuse for another party"

Duncan Shrewsbury, 26, and his partner, Maciek Krezolek, 30, from Birmingham came to look for something "out of the ordinary". "We want our civil partnership ceremony to be some time in 2014 and if there is the option of a wedding at a later date it would be a good excuse for another party," Mr Shrewsbury said.

"We're looking forward to being civil partners"

John Jones and Kris Bell from Newbridge, South Wales, said they wanted purple kilts for their ceremony in May 2014. "We are looking forward to being civil partners and we've decided to have the ceremony right here at the Pack House Club."

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