A couple who tied the knot in Northern Ireland’s first same sex marriage said they are living the dream.
Robyn Peoples, 26, and Sharni Edwards, 27, became history makers at a ceremony in a hotel in Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, on Tuesday afternoon.
Their marriage came after a landmark law change in the region.
Fresh from their civil marriage ceremony at the Loughshore hotel, the Edwards-Peoples, both wearing white bridal gowns, described the “surreal” feeling of making headlines around the world.
“For Northern Ireland we need to be the face of the people to show everyone it’s OK,” said Robyn Edwards-Peoples, a senior care worker from Belfast.
“We fought so long and hard for this opportunity to be seen as equal and now we are here and it’s just amazing.”
She added: “It’s just to show that we are equal to a man and a woman, our love is just the same, it’s no different.
“Sometimes people might try to say it’s not. Our love is the exact same, and this means everything to us.
“Now we are married and we have this opportunity – this is my wife, I can finally say she is my wife and we have had our marriage.”
The day marks their sixth anniversary as a couple and they had booked a civil partnership ceremony at the hotel months before Westminster MPs passed the legislation last summer.
When it became clear the first same sex weddings could take place in Northern Ireland this week, they changed their ceremony to a civil marriage.
“We didn’t expect to be the first couple, it’s coincidental,” said Sharni Edwards-Peoples, a waitress from Brighton.
“Today is our six-year anniversary so we wanted to go ahead with a civil partnership but when the bill was passed it was perfect timing and it was a complete coincidence, a happy coincidence, we couldn’t be more grateful.”
As the couple posed for a bank of press photographers and TV cameras during a short break from the post-ceremony celebrations, she added: “It’s completely surreal.
“We are literally living the dream, it’s incredible.”
After a long and high-profile campaign for reform, same-sex marriage was eventually legalised at Westminster by MPs who stepped in and acted on the controversial issue during the powersharing impasse at Stormont.
Robyn Edwards-Peoples, who blamed the opposition of local politicians for delaying changes to marriage legislation, thanked those who had lobbied for change.
Her wife echoed her words of gratitude, saying: “If it wasn’t for them guys we wouldn’t be sat here right now, we just want to say thank you to everyone… everyone who has marched and signed petitions, everyone who has helped us get to this stage, we just want to say thank you.”
The couple opted for Over And Over Again by Nathan Sykes and Ariana Grande for their first dance.
After the wedding party they were set for an early morning flight to Cyprus for a two-week honeymoon.
While the ceremony took place in Co Antrim, at Westminster campaigners were preparing for a celebratory reception to thank those MPs who acted on the issue.
Sara Canning, the partner of murdered author and LGBTQ activist Lyra McKee, who was shot dead by dissident republicans in Londonderry last April, was there to attend the event organised by Amnesty International and the Love Equality campaign.
She told the PA news agency that adding her voice to those calling for the law change had been “massively helpful” to the grieving process.
“It has been massively helpful to channel my feelings into this, because the alternative was lying down under it, or allowing the anger to be used in a way that isn’t constructive,” said Ms Canning, who had planned to marry Ms McKee.
“At least, speaking out about these things, it’s something that can be changed.
“And the platform was huge, because it was such an awful tragedy.
“So I felt the need was there to speak about something, that maybe a difference could be made.
“And we could see something that Lyra and I were passionate about coming to fruition.”