Dozens of gay and lesbian couples arrived at register offices across the West Midlands yesterday to be among the first to book their "gay marriages" for a fortnight's time.
The move followed a change in the law which now allows same-sex couples many of the rights enjoyed by married couples.
A total of 17 couples turned up at Birmingham Register Office to give the legally required 14-day notice of their intent to register a civil partnership on December 21.
In Shropshire, 35 couples turned up to make enquiries and book appointments for notices of intent.
On registering a civil partnership, a couple will be entitled to rights involving employment and pension benefits and recognition under intestacy rules.
James-Morgan Tudor, aged 26, and Brynn-Dafydd Tudor, 37, were one of the first couples to register their intent at Birmingham Register Office and will be one of 12 couples forming a civil partnership on December 21.
"We have been together for four years, bought our own house, share a bank account, and to all intents and purposes are a married couple," James said.
"In 2004 we had a blessing ceremony, which was a wonderful day but lacked legality.
When we heard that we could legally sign to confirm our relationship we made plans to have our civil ceremony on the morning of December 21 and then a Tudor-themed service at Aston Hall complete with maids in Tudor costume."
In Shropshire, register office staff had expected no more than 24 couples to turn up. In the event, 35 couples made enquiries, with seven ceremonies booked for December 21.
Geoff Hardy, aged 55, coowner of the Natural Health Centre in Shrewsbury, and solicitor Peter Roscoe, aged 53, have campaigned for gay civil rights since the early 1970s.
"After 25 years together we already know we love each other and we're in it for life," Geoff said. "For us personally it is important because we've put our lives into this campaign. Apart from the nitty gritty it is important we can leave our pensions to each other and be involved if one of us goes into hospital as their next of kin.
He added: "Civil partnership is an indication by society of integration and value we haven't had before.
"It's almost overwhelming to think these changes will come about within our lives. To be one of the first couples across the country registering a moment of change in history feels tremendous."
Karen Burton, business manager for Shropshire register service, said the day had been a happy and rewarding one for register office staff.
"It has been a lovely thing to be involved in because it is a huge moment in this country's social history.
The Civil Partnership Act, which won Royal Assent last November, allows same-sex couples to sign an official document in front of the registrar and two witnesses.
Registration will only be available to homosexuals and not as an alternative to heterosexual marriage.
The Act does not use the term "gay marriage" and, in order to dissolve the agreement, partners will have to undergo a form of "divorce".