A COUPLE who became the first gay partners to wed in a Sunderland church are today marking one year of “blissful happiness”.
Jeffrey Rodgers and Paul Langley fought to find a church which would allow them to exchange vows in front of friends and family.
Despite being turned down by 50 churches, the couple finally were granted permission to marry at St George’s United Reform Church in Stockton Road.
One year on, the couple have spoken about their happiness and their determination to go on fighting prejudice.
Jeffrey, 59, said: “It was important to us both that we got married in a church. We did try a lot of places then Reverend Peter Jordan said he would perform the service.
“I have worked as a wedding planner in the past and I used to see all these brides walking down the aisle but I never thought that one day I would be doing that. But thanks to Rev Jordan, I was. My dream came true.”
In fact, Jeffrey’s dream was witnessed by 150 family and friends who packed into the church on a cold January day to watch the couple exchange vows.
The pair then enjoyed a reception at the Sea Hotel in South Shields with 300 guests
In keeping with civil partnership regulations, the couple also signed the marriage register at Sunderland Civic Centre.
Since marrying the couple have moved from Roker, where Jeffrey spent 34 years, to County Durham where he and Paul, 56, have settled into married life in a new bungalow. “We both had a few health problems. I had a quadruple bypass not long before we married. But as far as happiness is concerned, this has been the best year of our lives, we are blissfully happy,” added Jeffrey.
Later today, the pair were planning to jet off to Gran Canaria to celebrate their first year together.
Jeffrey had planned to take Paul, 56, a civil servant in Sunderland, for a meal back at the Sea Hotel. “Instead, I said to him, ‘how do you fancy celebrating in Gran Canaria?’”
Looking back on the big day, Jeffrey says he just remembers his joy as he walked down the aisle to Julie Rogers’ The Wedding.
“The words were just so appropriate,” said Jeffrey. “‘I’m on the way to say, I do, my secret dream has all come true’.”