AT least three gay "weddings" have been held in Scotland every day since new laws allowing homosexual couples to legally register their relationships came into force less than two months ago.
A survey of every local authority in the country by Scotland on Sunday has revealed an astonishing demand for the civil partnership ceremonies and registrations, with 173 taking place in the past 53 days.
Another 385 homosexual couples have booked registrations to take place over the next three months.
Gay rights campaigners expressed welcome surprise at the rush for registrations, but critics of the new legislation say civil registrations are eroding the sanctity of marriage.
Edinburgh boasts the most, with 67 civil partnerships registered and another 178 booked. At the other end of the M8, there were 44 carried out in Glasgow and another 81 booked. But the figures are still dwarfed by traditional marriages, with each city holding 300 a month.
Further analysis of the figures for Edinburgh also suggest its higher number of homosexual registrations may be fuelled by couples from outside the city seeking to take advantage of its gay friendly environment. Around 30% of the registrations in Edinburgh were by couples living elsewhere.
According to the figures, more than twice as many male couples have so far sought to enshrine their relationships in law than female couples since the first civil partnerships on December 20 last year.
Rather than the garish, flamboyant affairs displayed in celebrity unions such as Elton John's partnership with David Furnish, most ceremonies in Scotland have been quiet and discreet.
Gretna, a favourite destination for heterosexual marriages, saw four immaculately turned out gay couples dressed in morning suits and highland outfits on the steps of its famous registry office. Staff also reported receiving more than 50 enquiries from couples interested in having a ceremony conducted.
Jane Chandler, senior registrar at Gretna, said: "All the couples we have had wanted low key and discreet ceremonies with a few friends and family around them.
"There is nothing to tell them apart from the other marriages we conduct except the couples are the same sex.
"The first couple we had been together for 29 years, so it was an emotional moment for them."
The figures also reveal an intriguing east-west split in the proportion of ceremonies being carried out.
East coast council areas have seen a higher uptake of the legislation, with eight all male registrations in Fife and another 16 booked. Aberdeen and East Lothian have both held six registrations.
In comparison East Ayrshire has carried out none so far, but has five booked for the future in Kilmarnock. South Lanarkshire has had one lesbian "wedding".
Professor Lynn Jamieson, a sociologist from Edinburgh University, said: "In rural areas it will be difficult for couples to have a ceremony without everyone finding out, so if they are looking to have a discreet registration they may look to go somewhere they are not known."
Only two areas have experienced no demand for civil partnerships, Midlothian and the Western Isles. In December Scotland on Sunday revealed the Western Isles as the only place in the UK to ban homosexual ceremonies.
Four council areas, Stirling, Moray, Highlands, Scottish Borders and Argyll and Bute, refused to respond to requests for the figures.
John Murray, 27, and Chris Kolm, 27, both from Glasgow, are one couple now planning to take advantage of the new law by having a registration ceremony in April after being together for five years.
Murray said: "We can see ourselves being together for quite some time and a civil partnership does bring benefits for more practical, legal reasons, but we wanted to do it for more romantic reasons.
"Both our families are going to be there to help us celebrate our relationship."
Calum Irving, director of gay rights group Stonewall, said he hoped the number of couples registering would help encourage a culture change in the way homosexual relationships are viewed. He said: "It proves there was pent up demand for legal recognition for same sex relationships."
But senior figures in the Catholic Church in Scotland have attacked the legislation. Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said:
"This new law has created a fiction of marriage by implicitly basing such publicly recognised partnerships on a sexual engagement. This can only diminish the special status of marriage."