Civil partnerships: 'Will you NOT marry me?'

Catherine Oakley saw the news break on her phone that mixed-sex couples will soon be able to become civil partners, rather than get married.Her next step was to WhatsApp her boyfriend...Catherine, 32, and Sam, 31, have been together for more than seven years and describe themselves as "socially understated".So, when Catherine saw the news break on Tuesday, she picked up her phone and wrote in an understated way: "Will you not marry me Sam?"
Mixed-sex civil partnerships to go ahead
Why choose civil partnership over marriage?
'Time is running out for us'
"It's not the most romantic or conventional of proposals," she said. "But then, it also reflects the nature of our relationship.
"We'd said that if it was announced we'd go for it and saying, 'will you not marry me' felt like a way to mark our interest in an alternative to marriage."Luckily, Sam - who Catherine describes as "the embodiment of understatement" - answered in kind with: "Yeah, can do".
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Whilst the "proposal" may be in keeping with their played down approach, there are more serious reasons that they want to pursue a civil partnership.
Catherine, a researcher in the museum sector, comes from a traditional Catholic background - surrounded by the "doctrine" around marriage - but she is no longer practising. And Sam, who works for a theatre company, grew up in a loving family with parents who only married after 30 years together. "[Civil partnership] is something we'd talked about during the campaign as an option that would be right for us," said Catherine. "Marriage comes with historical, religious and gendered connotations - this offers a blank canvas."
The connotations and doctrine around marriage don't appeal to Catherine and Sam
There is also the nature of a traditional mixed-sex wedding that plays heavily on them. "I'd like to mark it in some way with family and friends but the 'event' nature of weddings - even when low key - is one of the reasons marriage doesn't feel right for us," said Catherine. "The expense is also a huge deterrent to us either way. "We met on our Masters degree and I've since done a PhD and Sam has gone into an arts job so we have no savings."
'Make it your own'
Now they have agreed to a civil partnership, the couple, who live in York, feel they can determine what it means to them. "It's uncharted territory, so you can make it your own," said Catherine. "It also means that certain social conventions around it haven't fully formed yet."She still has some questions though..."Same-sex couples in civil partnerships may be able to shed more light on this, but I've found myself wondering, for example, what the equivalent of "getting engaged" is when you decide to get a civil partnershipWhile we are not sure if it is a proposal, an engagement or an agreement, we would still like to send an understated congratulations to the couple and wish them the best for the future!
Civil partnerships
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