Lucky coincidence will see Belfast couple make same-sex marriage history

A couple set to have the first same-sex marriage ceremony in the north of Ireland have revealed the lucky coincidence that has turned them into history makers.

Sharni Edwards, 27, and Robyn Peoples, 26, will get married in Co Antrim next Tuesday.

The day marks their sixth anniversary as a couple and they had booked a civil partnership ceremony for the date months before the landmark law change in the region.

Edwards, from Brighton, and Peoples, from Belfast, have now turned the event into a wedding ceremony.

Peoples described the build-up to the high-profile wedding as an “amazing whirlwind”.

“It’s the biggest coincidence,” she said.

“We didn’t set out to be the first or have all this attention, but we are grateful to be able to set the way for the rest of our community.”

The senior care assistant said she never thought the day would come, due to the reluctance of many local politicians to lift the prohibition.

Same-sex marriage was eventually legalised as a result of a law passed last year by Westminster MPs who stepped in and acted on the controversial issue during the powersharing impasse at Stormont.

Edwards said she did not even know the law was different in the north of Ireland until she moved to Belfast from England.

“Every year you just felt knocked back and knocked back no matter how many marches and protests there were, but finally we are there,” said the waitress.

“Before I met Robyn I didn’t know myself, because obviously it’s legal in the rest of the UK, so I didn’t know myself until I came over and she opened my eyes.

“When I found out, I couldn’t comprehend it, I couldn’t understand why Northern Ireland was so behind.

“Now the bill’s been passed to see history being made it’s just amazing.”

Same-sex marriage legislation
Robyn Peoples (left) and Sharni Edwards are poised to become the first couple to have a same-sex marriage in the north of Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

The couple paid a visit to a Belfast mural dedicated to murdered journalist Lyra McKee as they spoke about their wedding plans on Wednesday.

McKee, who was shot dead by dissident republicans as she observed a riot in Londonderry last April, was a vocal campaigner for same-sex marriage.

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International said the wedding would be a momentous occasion not only for the couple but for the tens of thousands of people who were involved in the campaign for a law change.

“It’s big day for them but it’s also a big day for the campaign for equal marriage in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Campaigners for that right have had to fight longer and harder here in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK and Ireland but we won that campaign and next Tuesday Robyn and Sharni walking down the aisle is the big day, the success day for that campaign when we know we have finally secured those rights for everybody in Northern Ireland.”

The couple are planning an intimate wedding ceremony followed by a big party.

They will catch a flight at 6am the next day for a two-week honeymoon in Cyprus.

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