NEWLY engaged gay couples had a chance to prepare for the big day with Swindon’s inaugural gay wedding fayre yesterday.

Following the legalisation of gay marriage, couple Eve Pocock and Anthony Porter, who run photography company Manorwell, took on the task of bringing together an all-inclusive wedding fayre, aimed at the gay community.

Punters could practise their ballroom dancing, have bespoke wedding rings and suits tailored, and had a free photograph courtesy of the organisers.

Eve admitted the journey had been far from smooth, with prejudice turning off many venues and businesses, but said when the event finally arrived at the Mercure Hotel in South Marston it had all been worth it.

“It hasn’t been at all easy,” she said. “The people who have come along have given us such amazing support and really helped us push the event. We have had issues talking to a few venues, and have had some quite harsh comments from certain people.

“The couples who are here today are absolutely stunned, and they have said it has been an amazing job, whether gay or straight they are excited about the selection here and more importantly their big day.

“We have said it is a gay wedding fayre but it is really open to everyone and is very inclusive. It seems to have been a mix of about half and half gay and straight couples, which is fantastic.

“I am very pleased we have got a good atmosphere and a lot of people have come up to say how proud they are that this is the first gay fayre in Swindon, particularly considering how hard it is to get off the ground. I couldn’t get a florist from Swindon to come here, so we got one in from Witney.”

Plans are already being made for the next event in the autumn. “We sat and thought about what we are going to do going forward, and we are already getting bookings to see if we can do an October fayre,” Eve added.

“Our intention is to do at least two inclusive wedding fayres every year, and we will do another one in October. We will endeavour to make sure we do this every year.”

Lee Gledhill, 43, and Jason Dewhurst, 35, from London, got engaged before the ink had dried on the gay marriage bill.

“We got engaged on the day we got royal assent for gay marriage,” said Lee. “Jason just came bounding into the garden with two bottles of champagne and asked me to marry him.

“I did not want a civil ceremony. The words are very important and we wanted to be part of marriage as an institution. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. I came out when I was 18, and at that stage the age of consent was 21, so I was considered a criminal.

“We have seen this movement like equality for black people and disabled people, but we have been one of the last. I think people’s minds and attitudes just needed changing, to let them know we are not a threat. We are quite disappointed some people were uncomfortable about this.”

Jason said: “This is quite impressive, and it is great to chat to people about their various stories. They are not just selling stuff here, they are making it a proper specialist event. We are only getting ideas at the moment, and we have quite a few which are a bit flamboyant.

“We came over from London and I’m not aware of anything like this going on back home.”