Tania Ward and Nic Pettit always knew their fathers wanted to walk them down the aisle when they got married. So when they become the first female couple to wed in Brighton on Saturday, both their dads will be right beside them.
Afterwards, they will be joined by 50 friends and family at Brighton Town Hall before heading to what is believed to be Britain’s first same-sex Jewish wedding reception.
The couple, who have been together for six-and-a-half years, say they are “absolutely delighted” to be marrying on the first day that same-sex couples can tie the knot.
“This weekend is an important moment for our country,” David Cameron told the LGBT news website PinkNews. “Put simply, in Britain it will no longer matter whether you are straight or gay – the state will recognise your relationship as equal.”
Pettit and Ward, who met when a friend set them up on a blind-date, have been planning their big day for months. Pettit will wear a dress (she won’t reveal details, to preserve the surprise) while Ward will wear black trousers, a shirt and a cravat. They will have spent the last 24 hours before the ceremony apart. In married life, they will be known as Tania and Nic Pettit-Ward.
Neither wanted to get a civil partnership. Ward, a 28-year-old bakery chef, and Pettit, a 29-year-old nursery manager, felt it “emphasised being different”. Both are from traditional families and wanted to say their vows to the person they love in a wedding ceremony.
“The being different bit causes the problems and misunderstanding,” said Pettit. “It shouldn’t be seen as difference. With this coming in now, eventually we’ll be able to look back on this day and think, ‘What was that all about?’ It’s just a day. Hopefully it will become the norm, exactly as it always should have been.”
Pettit, who is Jewish, always wanted to have a religious ceremony, and is thrilled that a female rabbi from the South London Liberal Synagogue will perform blessings at the reception. As is traditional at Jewish weddings, they will break a glass, light the Havdalah candle and conclude the ceremony with a Kiddush blessing.
This is important for Ward too, even though she is not religious. “Nic’s family have welcomed me and our relationship with open arms. This is about showing I appreciate their faith and thanking them for their warmth and kindness.”
Their rabbi, Janet Darley says she is “privileged” to conduct the blessing. “It says something about how society regards them, placing their love and commitment on par with the love and commitment of a mixed-sex couple. Before it didn’t; it was a second-best thing,” she said.
The couple want their day to be traditional, but have also punctuated the day with personal touches. Both fathers will give a speech, but the best-man speech will be given by a male maid of honour. “He’s my best friend,” said Ward. “We’ve known each other since secondary school and he has always said: ‘When you get married, I want to be your maid of honour’.”
Other things, such as the proposal, did not follow tradition. “I had big plans. We were taking a road trip to the States and I had every intention of doing it on the edge of the Grand Canyon,” said Ward. “But this didn’t go so well. We were in our local pub [before the trip] and I’d had quite a lot to drink and found a bit of confidence.”
The couple hope to have children and are looking forward to sharing their lives. “We’ve been together for a fair few years, so I don’t think it will change our relationship at all,” said Pettit. “It will affirm it.”