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First Same-Sex Marriage In Northern Ireland Makes History And Dreams Come True

First Same-Sex Marriage In Northern Ireland Makes History And Dreams Come True
PA Wire/PA Images - Liam McBurney

A Belfast 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.

Robyn Edwards-Peoples said:

"For Northern Ireland we need to be the face of the people to show everyone it's OK."
"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 Loughshore hotel months before Westminster MPs passed the legislation last summer.

When it became clear the first marriages could take place in Northern Ireland this week, they changed their ceremony to a wedding.

"We didn't expect to be the first couple, it's coincidental," said Sharni Edwards-Peoples.

"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 legalized at Westminster by MPs who stepped in and acted on the controversial issue during the powersharing impasse at Stormont.

Ahead of the ceremony, Ms Peoples said the pair were sending a message to the world that “we are equal".

“Our love is personal, but the law which said we couldn't marry was political."
“We are delighted that with our wedding, we can now say that those days are over."
“While this campaign ends with Sharni and I saying 'I do', it started with people saying 'No' to inequality. By standing together, we've made history."

Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards celebrate at the Loughshore Hotel in CarrickfergusPA Wire/PA Images - Liam McBurney

Ms Edwards, who did not even know the law was different in Northern Ireland until she moved to Belfast from England, added:

“We feel humbled that our wedding is a landmark moment for equal rights in Northern Ireland. We didn't set out to make history – we just fell in love."
“We are so grateful to the thousands of people who marched for our freedoms, to the Love Equality campaign who led the way, and the politicians who voted to change the law."
“Without you, our wedding wouldn't have been possible. We will be forever thankful."

Liam McBurney/PA

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 wedding 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 Lyra McKee, who was shot dead by dissident republicans in Londonderry last April, is attending the event organized by Amnesty International and the Love Equality campaign.

Lyra McKee book launchSara Canning travelled to Westminster to mark the occasion (Liam McBurney/PA)PA Archive/PA Images - Liam McBurney

She said:

“What a wonderful moment in our history."
“This really means so much and has brought me some much-needed light in what has been a dark year."
“I know Lyra would have been so overjoyed to see this day. She was a strong advocate for equal marriage and we both took part in the marches organized by the Love Equality campaign."
“Of course, this historic moment is a little bitter-sweet. It had been our dream too."
“Lyra and I should have been an engaged couple now, planning our own wedding day."
“But I am so happy for Robyn and Sharni, the first couple to marry under the new law. We've been in touch in recent days and I'm delighted for them and for all the other couples who will follow."