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Elton John ties the knot

Stars of the worlds of film, music and sport joined Elton John to celebrate the pop superstar's "wedding" to David Furnish.

music Updated: Dec 22, 2005 13:50 IST

Stars of the worlds of film, music and sport joined Elton John on Wednesday night to celebrate the pop superstar's civil partnership "wedding" to long-time partner David Furnish.

The couple's relationship was legally recognised in a dazzling ceremony in Windsor, west of London, making them among the first of nearly 700 gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot in England and Wales.

John, 58, and his 43-year-old Canadian film director partner exchanged vows in the same 17th century Guildhall venue where Prince Charles wed Camilla Parker Bowles last April.

Fans of the singer - who in the 1980s was married to a female German recording engineer - filled the streets of the well-heeled town, while others followed the action on live television.

But while the ceremony was attended by only a handful of guests, including the couple's parents, stars were out in force Wednesday evening for a reception at the couple's mansion near Windsor.

The guest list included singer Victoria Beckham, actress Helena Bonham Carter and her film director husband Tim Burton, screen legend Michael Caine, plus British tennis ace Greg Rusedski and England cricket captain Michael Vaughan.

Actress Liz Hurley joined the Osbourne family - Ozzy, Sharon, Jack and Kelly - 60s pop star Lulu, former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, Elvis Costello, tennis champion Boris Becker and golfer Nick Faldo.

Also there were former Police frontman Sting, Hollywood actress Sharon Stone, plus supermodel Claudia Schiffer and designer Donatella Versace from the world of fashion.

The scenes outside John's home were chaotic, with cars snaked back almost half-a-mile (0.8 kilometres) waiting to be ushered past the high security at the gates.

Karen Jackson, a local from Windsor stuck in the traffic, joked: "This is probably the best traffic jam I've been stuck in."

Earlier, the slightly rotund John sported a pair of coloured glasses and a salmon-coloured tie as he arrived in a black Roll-Royce limousine with Furnish, smiling and waving to the crowd. Both were dressed in dark morning suits.

"They kissed at the end. It was very, very happy. It was just like any other couple getting married," said art dealer Jay Jopling, who witnessed the pair tie the knot.

"It was beautiful. It was very emotional," added his wife, the artist and photographer Sam Taylor-Wood.

The pair were among nearly 700 same-sex couples across the country who lined up to sign official papers giving them virtually the same rights as heterosexual couples in areas like inheritance and tax.

Among the first to take advantage of new legislation were three couples who simultaneously signed on the dotted line at exactly 8:00 am (0800 GMT).

That was the moment when the register office opened for what would be a busy day in the Bohemian south coast city of Brighton, England's self-styled gay capital.

The civil partnership act came into force on December 5, having provoked little controversy. But since gay couples are also required to mark a statutory waiting period, the first ceremonies could not take place until this week.

Though most hitchings will take place in England and Wales, the first in the United Kingdom as a whole were conducted Monday in Northern Ireland, followed Tuesday in Scotland.

As the government hailed the development as "another step along the road of equality", in northeast England openly homosexual Anglican vicar Christopher Wardale, 59, exchanged vows in Newcastle with retired professor Malcolm Macourt, 58, his partner of 21 years.

In Brighton, wedding planner Gino Meriano and Mike Ullett became among the first to sign the register at the crack of dawn.

In the British capital, one couple booked a capsule on the London Eye - the futuristic ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames - to celebrate the happiest day of their lives with the city literally at their feet.

The wheel was illuminated with pink lights to mark the occasion.

First Published: Dec 22, 2005 13:50 IST