Gay couples in New Hampshire will welcome the new year with champagne toasts and wedding rings.

A gay marriage law approved by lawmakers takes effect on January 1. Gay couples who want to be among the first to marry in the state will be making their wedding vows along with their new year resolutions.

New Hampshire officials began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples on October 3. As of Wednesday, 29 lesbian and 11 gay couples had secured marriage licenses, which expire after 90 days.

Stephen Wurtz, acting director of the state's Division of Vital Records, told On Top Magazine that the state does not impose a waiting period for a marriage license, predicting the number of same-sex weddings on the law's first day would not be possible.

In an email, Wurtz said the state has recognized 809 gay couples in the past 24 months since a civil unions law went into effect. In its first month, January 2008, 174 gay couples tied the knot, but since then the number has steadily decreased, with only 6 civil union licenses issued so far in December.

Couples joined with a civil union can apply for a conversion to marriage or a new marriage license, but all civil unions will automatically convert to marriages on January 1, 2011. The state will no longer issue civil union licenses after December 31, 2009.

Several large gay marriage celebrations are being planned for New Year's Eve.

The New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, the group that lobbied for the gay marriage law, will hold a large celebration ceremony on the steps of the state capitol in Concord on New Year's Eve. Claire Ebel, executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, will serve as justice of the peace. (The group would not comment on how many couples they expect will marry at the event.)

Another reception is being hosted by Events Without Borders at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester. The event – Live Free or Die Single – will blend a traditional New Year's Eve party of champagne toasts with a wedding celebration.

“This event is an affordable way for same-sex couples to legally marry, make history by being amongst the first couples to wed on the first day the law is enacted in New Hampshire, and to start the new year by publicly declaring their love while standing up for their rights at such a legislatively critical time in gay history,” Tim Harrises, event coordinator, said in a statement.

New Hampshire joins Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont in legalizing gay marriage. Lawmakers in the District of Columbia have approved a gay marriage law expected to take effect in February.