'Emotional' affair as Elton and David finally say 'I do'

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The Independent Online

Contrary to the popular joke ahead of the big day - and to the disappointment of many of the hundreds of people gathered outside - Sir Elton John did not choose to marry his long-term boyfriend David Furnish wearing a white wedding dress or even a flamboyantly coloured explosion of lace ruffles. Instead, the duo said "I do" at Windsor's Guildhall wearing sober black dress suits.

Sir Elton, 58, and the Canadian film-maker, 43, were among 700 gay couples to join in civil partnerships yesterday, the first day that same-sex unions became legal in England and Wales. The partnerships allow same-sex couples new rights in areas such as employment, pension and inheritance, although the ceremonies are still not officially classed as "marriages".

When the grooms arrived, just before 11am, the crowd roared with excitement. The ceremony itself was strictly private with just seven guests: Sir Elton's mother Sheila and stepfather Fred; Mr Furnish's parents Gladys and Jack; the British artist Sam Taylor-Wood and her husband, the gallery owner Jay Jopling; and Arthur, Mr Furnish's black and white spaniel.

The hall was decked out with roses, freesia and lilies - the musician's favourite flower - and filled with the sound of gentle harp music. After signing the register to seal their civil partnership, the men exchanged vows in a 20-minute service described by Ms Taylor-Wood as "beautiful" and "very emotional".

"Everyone clapped and, of course, they kissed at the end," added Mr Jopling. "It was just like any other couple getting married."

The newlyweds left the register office arm-in-arm, blowing kisses to well-wishers. Asked how the ceremony went, Sir Elton replied: "Great, thanks."

Two women presented the couple, who refused to kiss for the cameras, with an apple ice-cream cake. Two more fans drove past on a motorised leopard-print sofa but no one batted an eyelid. The stars then left in a black Phantom Rolls-Royce with tinted windows.

Last night, the newlyweds partied with 700 guests - including Liz Hurley, Hugh Grant, Donatella Versace, Victoria Beckham and the Osbournes - at their £12m Berkshire mansion.

Police were relieved that the wedding passed without trouble, as they had feared there could be a large anti-gay protest. In the end, just one man, Lewis Vincent, 31, an out-of-work actor, turned up to voice his dissent.

"I don't agree with gay marriage because it is wrong," he said, fingering rosary beads and a crucifix. "Gay people themselves are not wrong - genetically, that's just the way they are, they can't help it. But they can help getting married to another man."

Judging by the public reaction, however, his views were outnumbered by many hundreds to one. "This is long overdue," said Sheila Malcolm, 46, a music teacher from Washington visiting Windsor with her parents. "Gay people in a long-term relationship should be entitled to all the benefits and rights that [straight] married couples are. I'm pleased to be here in traditional old-English Windsor celebrating a gay marriage."

Abigail Gavin, 20, said: "Why not? They've been together a long time, it's great. But do you reckon they've got a pre-nup agreement?"

'It's a little bit of history being made'

Sir Elton John and David Furnish were one of 700 couples to enter civil partnerships yesterday, dubbed "Pink Wednesday" - the first day of legal same-sex unions in England and Wales.

Another high-profile groom was the actor Sir Anthony Sher, pictured left, with his long-term partner, the theatre director Greg Doran, at Islington Town Hall, north London. "It's wonderful, it's a little bit of history being made," said Sir Anthony, 56. "I feel very proud this is happening in this country and that we can be part of the very first group to have done it."

Three couples simultaneously tied the knot in Brighton, Britain's self-styled gay capital, at 8am as the legislation came into full effect. "I'm really excited," said Gino Meriano, who got hitched to Mike Ullett. "I'm very happy to be one of the first."

In Leeds, Michael Rothwell and Terry George, both businessmen, also signed the register the second the new law came into force, holding a civil partnership ceremony at their own flat.

A vicar from Newcastle, the Rev Christopher Wardale, married Malcolm Macourt, a retired university lecturer, before flouting official church guidelines by having the partnership blessed in a local church.

The Government introduced civil partnerships legislation to provide same-sex couples with equal legal benefits and responsibilities to those of heterosexuals who wed in a register office. Civil partnership ceremonies took place first in Northern Ireland on Monday, then in Scotland on Tuesday.