From today, all couples have the right to marry in England and Wales, as the first civil partnership conversion ceremonies take place.

When the first same-sex marriages took place on the 29th March 2014, couples who were already in a civil partnership were not allowed to marry.

Now, same-sex couples already in a civil partnership can decide if they wish to remain in this legal status or convert to a marriage. Couples already in civil partnerships may opt for a simple conversion at a register office, or a two-stage process, which includes a ceremony at a venue of their choice.

The latter allows couples to choose a religious venue, hotel or other venue to host their conversion ceremony. A superintendent registrar must be present for the first part of the conversion, and a religious figure may take over to conduct the rest of the ceremony. The legal formation of the marriage is conducted by the registrar, not the religious minister, unlike in a same-sex marriage for a couple not in a partnership.

Writing for PinkNews, Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan and Skills and Equalities Minister Nick Boles Marriage said: “Marriage is a universal institution which should be available to all. It is the bedrock of our society and the most powerful expression of commitment that two people can make. While civil partnerships remain an important part of the journey towards legal equality, it is entirely understandable why so many same-sex couples want to be able to enter into the institution of marriage and express their love in the same way as their peers.”

The first same-sex marriages in Scotland take place on New Year’s Eve. Same-sex marriage will remain illegal in Northern Ireland.