A gay couple in London have announced their intention to marry a minute after the law changes on 29 March 2014, and that they expect to be the first gay couple to marry.

The Government on Tuesday announced that the first same-sex marriages will be held next March in England and Wales, some time earlier than had been originally expected.

John Coffey, 52, a television producer, and Benardo Marti, 47, a brand stylist for a gardening business plan to get married at 12:01am on 29 March.

The Pimlico based couple will be married by Westminster council’s superintendent registrar Alison Cathcard in a double ceremony featuring straight friends.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Mr Coffey said: “We will be their witnesses, and they will be ours. In my mind, that will be a true symbol of equality — a straight wedding and a gay wedding at the same time.

“We inquired if anyone else had asked for the 12.01 slot a few months ago, before we knew the actual date. They said, ‘You’re the first and we’d be happy to do it.’”

He went on to say: “We were thinking of a civil partnership. Then, when the whole thing about gay marriage came in, it meant more.

“Being 52, growing up in London, I still remember the little white stickers on the Tube station saying ‘Are you an isolated homosexual? If so ring …’ To have gone from that to this in my lifetime is, to me, astonishing. Five years ago I would never have believed it.”

Despite saying they expect to be among the first to marriage and acknowledging the significance of that, the couple have said the event will be a private affair.

Some couples already in civil partnerships have expressed their disappointment at having to wait, but the Government has said it is more complicated for couples to convert than it is for new unmarried couples to wed.

Labour MP Chris Bryant today jokingly used a link to a play about gay Conservatives to raise the question of why it is taking the Government possibly up until the end of 2014 to allow conversions from civil partnerships to marriage.

In an announcement earlier this week the DCMS said that it was working on ensuring that couples already in civil partnerships could convert to marriage as soon as possible, and gave a time frame of before the end of 2014.