As merrymakers around the world put bottles of champagne on ice and drape glitzy streamers ready for New Year's Eve parties, for one couple the last day of 2019 is years overdue. Ann "Pee-Wee" Chamings and her partner John Eccles have been together for 43 years and will be among the very first opposite sex couples in the country to tie the knot in a civil ceremony.

They will celebrate their relationship in a touching service at the beautiful Grade II listed Hastings Town Hall, witnessed by their two children.

The East Sussex pair were among those who took the fight for opposite sex civil partnerships to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, pushing for a change in the law.

With the legislation change allowing the first ceremonies to take place from New Year's Eve, 70-year-old Ms Chamings says they are not wasting any time.

She said: "We seem to have been waiting ages for this to happen, so why wait a day longer than necessary?"

She and Mr Eccles - who run a business together - first met in 1975 and have been together for nearly 44 years.

Ms Chamings said: "The institution of marriage, with its antiquated connotations involving chattels and property, has never appealed to us.

"Plus the fact that despite all those vows, expensive clothes and receptions, nearly half of those couples end up in divorce courts.

"We wanted a simple contract. We are already business partners and we wanted to be life-partners as well."

Former journalist Ms Chamings and Mr Eccles will have a small ceremony at Hastings Town Hall at midday on December 31, witnessed by their two children - Dr Jessica Eccles and Alexander Eccles.

The touching service will help mark the end of a long fight to change the law on civil partnerships, spearheaded by couple Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan.

Ms Chamings said: "We signed their petitions, donated money to the cause and demonstrated with them outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

"We will be forever grateful to Charles and Rebecca for their perseverance."

Asked if having the ceremony on New Year's Eve will make it extra special, she replied: "Probably means we will never forget the date".

Steve Quayle, East Sussex County Council team manager for registration, said: "There are many couples who want to show their commitment to a relationship, but don't feel marriage is right for them.

"This change in legislation means they can celebrate their relationship and benefit from the legal rights without a marriage ceremony.

"For some, this change in the law has been a long time coming and we want to make sure they can mark this milestone by entering into a civil partnership as soon as possible, which is why our registrars will be available from midnight on December 31."

Unlike a marriage, there are no set words to a civil partnership. Couples can celebrate in any way they choose but must read a legal declaration and sign the civil partnership schedule in the presence of a registrar and two witnesses in a Register Office or licensed venue.

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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