Since the stroke of midnight on Monday morning, same-sex marriages are legally recognized in Ireland, the final step in the months’ long process to implement the “yes” vote from May’s same-sex marriage referendum.

Until the early hours of this week, same-sex spouses Orla Howard and Dr Grainne Courtney’s two-year marriage had not been recognized by law in their country.

The pair met in Dublin 13 years ago and Howard and Holland married in New York in May 2013. They now live in Dublin with their two grown-up daughters.

Speaking to the BBC about this life-changing moment, Holland said, "We'll most definitely have a glass of champagne at midnight on Sunday night to celebrate the fact that we're properly married in Ireland."

"It's going to be absolutely fantastic. We've been campaigning for years and years, so it's a terrific moment."

The couple and their daughters took part in the campaign for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ireland before the referendum on May 22, which saw Ireland become the first country to approve civil marriage for same-sex couples by way of popular vote.

In the final result, 62 percent of the turnout voted in favor of the move, just 22 years after homosexual acts were decriminalized in the country.

With Orla Howard and Grainne Courtney, celebrating together recognition of our marriages in Ireland! #YesEquality

— Katherine Zappone (@SenatorKZappone) November 16, 2015

Howard, 50, has been open about since her sexuality since she she was in her 20s but admits that it was a different Ireland when she first made the decision to come out.

"When I was coming out it was a very closed country,” she said.

"It was difficult to be who you are because society wasn't really interested or accepting of people who were gay or lesbian and so much has changed. Life has changed enormously."

She is also surprised that the change came about so quickly, especially when you take into account that homosexual acts were still illegal in Ireland during her lifetime.

"I didn't expect it to happen as quickly as it has done, or as emphatically and as happily as it has done. This year has been incredible for Ireland,” she told the BBC.

"Post-referendum, there's a huge sense that Ireland has done something incredibly good.

"It is fair and it is the right thing to do and we're a better country for it. There's most definitely that feeling and sense from people."

The Marriage Bill 2015 was passed in the Seanad (Irish senate) to a round of applause on October 22, giving effect to the historic “Yes” vote.

@IrishTimesVideo: History made as #MarRef passes all stages in the Oireachtas. Full story:

— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) October 22, 2015

After months of campaigning, the bill took a short time to pass through Leinster House, first entering the Dáil (parliament) just a month earlier and spending only two days in the Seanad.

The bill was then signed into law by a representative of Irish President Michael D. Higgins on October 29, giving the bill legislative effect and becoming the Marriage Act 2015, before Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald signed the commencement order last week.

The Howard and Holland family’s need for their civil marriage to be recognized can be understood in their concerns for their two daughters, who stood unprotected under civil partnership legislation should anything happen to their parents.

"It's a big issue for us, but it's even more important for people who have small children and children under 18... to know that they have the same rights and constitutional protection as straight families do. This is going to be enormous," Howard said.

Such is the case with Cork woman Dolores Murphy who will now finally be able to have legal rights over the two-year-old son she is raising with her civil partner Mabel Stoop-Murphy. The pair entered a civil partnership in April 2011 once it was legalized in Ireland and plan to marry today.

As with opposite-sex couples, same-sex couple seeking to marry are required to give three months notice, although the first marriages are expected to take place today as those who had registered for a civil partnership will be given the option to marry instead.

As their New York marriage is now recognized, Holland and Howard will not need to have another ceremony, although it is not completely off the cards.

"My partner doesn't like big events," said Howard.

"I made a promise to her that I'd never make her marry me again.

"Now I'm kind of living to regret that, because I'd love to have another party.

"We're in negotiations about that."