A happy and historic event on New Year's Eve

The first civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples will take place on New Year’s Eve.

In November, the government announced a change in the law allowing the first opposite-sex civil partnerships to take place. The legal notice period required means that the first civil partnerships can take place from Tuesday 31 December. 

In Brighton & Hove, the first couple to be civil partnered under the new law will be Sarah Donnelly and her partner Pete Ranson.

Sarah is a registrar for Brighton & Hove City Council's register office and has conducted hundreds of ceremonies over the years.


She’s very happy that the law change has finally happened, which will allow her and Pete to legally show their commitment without having to be married.    

Sarah said: “A civil partnership feels right for us. We both love the equality that it represents, which suits how we live our lives. Plus, personally speaking, I still get to say ‘always the registrar, never the Bride!’”

The register office’s superintendent registrar, Dendi Wolffsky-Batson, said: “We have a proud history of championing equal rights in Brighton & Hove. In the past this has been focused on celebrating victories in the hard fight for rights for same-sex couples, both with the introduction of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage.

"The new legislation for civil partnerships is an extension of the existing options and balances what we can offer for all couples.  

“It’s particularly touching for us that one of our own registrars was first on the list and will be having her civil partnership on the first day possible. We look forward to celebrating with many happy couples, for marriages and civil partnerships, in the year ahead.”

Civil partnerships also provide the option of a legally binding commitment with or without a ceremony. 

Find out about booking and the options available.

The photo of Sarah and Pete is by TD'Villas Photography.


Civil partnerships were first introduced in 2005 to provide a legally binding commitment for same sex couples. In 2013, same-sex marriage was introduced. 

While many couples who entered a civil partnership between 2005 and 2013 chose to convert their civil partnership to a marriage, others preferred not to take up the option. 

Civil partnerships have not until now been available for opposite-sex couples. The change in the law follows campaigners calling for equality for opposite-sex couples who want a civil partnership, instead of a marriage, as a way to show their commitment to each other. 

The register office has previously celebrated changes in the law towards marriage equality for same sex couples.  

  • The introduction of civil partnerships: The register office opened at 8am and carried out 20 civil partnerships during the first day on 21 December 2005
  • The introduction of same-sex marriage: The register office organised the first same sex marriage at the Royal Pavilion at midnight on the day the law changed and conducted many others across the city (Historic “I do” and weekend of celebrations)
  • Conversion of civil partnerships to marriage: The register office responded to huge demand for conversions (ten couples at 10am).