Gay and lesbian couples who married overseas are now recognised as married in England and Wales.

The bulk of same-sex marriage legislation came into effect at midnight, meaning couples who have entered into same-sex marriages overseas are now recognised as married.

Before today, same-sex couples who got married overseas had their marriages treated as a civil partnership in England and Wales, but the Equalities office says from today “they will instead be recognised as being married”.

Unwed couples still have to wait until March 29 before getting married, as new marriages require a 16 day notice period, but they can now declare their intent to marry.

However, couples who have already entered into civil partnerships in the UK have to wait until later this year before they can convert them to marriages.

Christopher and Andrew Bannister Bailey, who married in New York in 2012, are thrilled to have their marriage recognised for what it is.

They said: “We are super happy this evening, and feel under prepared champagne-wise. One of the reasons we married in NYC was the terminology.

“We are actually heading back to New York this week, primarily for work but we also have a weekend to ourselves where I am sure we will be celebrating all over again!”

Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger, who married in Canada in 2003, fought a long battle to get to where they are tonight.

Wilkinson, a social sciences professor at Loughborough University, told the Northern Echo yesterday: “I think for me it is disbelief more than anything else.

“Its kind of suddenly crept up on us from nowhere, only eight years after we lost a court case to declare our marriage legal in this country. But now it will be legal in this country and that’s pretty stunning.”

Kitzinger told Buzzfeed: “It’s like being turned into a pumpkin on the stroke of midnight!”

“We’re going away to a hotel, having a nice meal and then at midnight we’ll be wife and wife again!”

From today, same-sex couples where one or both of the partners is terminally ill can also begin to marry.