Four same-sex couples got hitched in Croydon last Wednesday, the first day gay men and women could form civil partnerships in England.

Among the couples that had been preparing for the big day since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on December 5 were Roger Burg and Ross Burgess, who tied the knot at Addington Palace.

The pair, who campaigned in support of the legislation for months before the new law was passed, wrote their own vows for the ceremony.

They also surprised guests with a performance from the Brighton Gay Men's Chorus, who sang Can't Help Lovin' That Man for the newlyweds.

Mr Burgess, 61, said: "The ceremony went extremely well. We had a very nice ceremony and two registrars, which was a surprise. I think that was because the new paperwork is quite complicated."

Five other same-sex couples held their own ceremonies the day after and Croydon Council said registrars had more than 20 other couples who had registered an intention to get wed in the following weeks.

Superintendent registrar Ian Forbes said staff at Croydon's Mint Walk register office would be happy to help same-sex couples wishing to have their relationship formally recognised.

He said: "There is no legal requirement for a couple to say particular words in order to form a civil partnership.

"However, we recognised many couples would like a ceremony in celebration of their commitment to each other.

"We have drafted a civil commitment ceremony with various wordings and readings to take place around the signing of the partnership. But these are not set in stone.

"Couples can make it more personal and design it to suit their own tastes.

"When a couple give notice of their partnership, staff will be happy to talk them through their options."

The Civil Partnership Act means same-sex partners will be treated equally to married couples in almost every respect.

The legislation contains provisions for providing maintenance for civil partners and any children of the family, the ability to apply for parental responsibility for a partner's children and protection against domestic violence.

The act also allows for recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.

Cabinet member for equalities and community partnerships, Councillor Mark Watson, said he and the council welcomed the new legislation by raising a rainbow flag outside the Town Hall on December 5 the day the Civil Partnership Act came into force.

He said: "Croydon Council has been proactive in welcoming the change in legislation.

"The right for all people to have their relationship recognised by society and the law, with the benefits it brings, is one we whole-heartedly support."

To make an appointment to give notice of a civil partnership call 020 8726 6300.