News story

Greater freedoms for people tying the knot

From Monday (October 1) couples tying the knot will be given greater freedom of choice as outdated time restrictions on ceremonies are removed.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

People wanting to get married or register a civil partnership will be able to do so any time of the day or night under the protection of freedoms act. Couples were previously restricted to between 8am and 6pm.

Mark Harper, home office minister with responsibility for the general register office, said:

‘The public requested that we repeal this law and we listened.

‘Removing these restrictions will give people greater freedom of choice when  planning their big day.’

Measures to allow couples greater freedom when getting hitched bring laws dating back to 1837 into the 21st century. The time restrictions were introduced when the first general register office was established, in a bid to prevent clandestine marriages. The hours were further extended in 1886 and then 1934. Civil partnerships were then introduced in 2005, with the same time restrictions.

This change is permissive in that neither local authorities or religious groups are required to provide services outside the traditional hours. However, removing these unnecessary restrictions will provide the public with greater choice on when they can get married or register a civil partnership.

Sarah Rapson, registrar general for England and Wales, said:

‘These changes are good news to anyone planning a wedding or civil registration ceremony as they will allow couples to make their day much more personal. They can now choose to say their vows at sunrise or even walk down the aisle at midnight.

‘Following months of preparation, the general register office now stands ready to help deliver this new and more flexible service to the public.’

Many local authorities are already planning for this extension of their services and religious groups have been made aware of the changes.

This change is one of a number of measures being introduced as part of the protection of freedoms act, which received royal assent in May this year. It was raised by members of the public through a cross-government survey: ‘your freedom’. People had the chance to suggest ideas on restoring liberties that have been lost, repealing unnecessary laws and stripping away excessive regulation. The Act aims to put traditional British freedoms at the heart of the whitehall agenda.

Notes to editors

1.   The government set up the your freedom website to allow members of the public to suggest unnecessary laws which should be repealed. There was a commitment to take views expressed into account when considering the scope of the protection of freedoms bill. The removal of restrictions on time for civil partnership and marriage ceremonies was considered an appropriate repeal to include within the bill, which received royal assent in May 2012.

2.  Removing the restrictions on the time of marriage and civil partnership ceremonies is a permissive step which will allow the churches, other religious bodies or local authorities to extend the times when they conduct marriages or civil partnerships. There will be no compulsion and couples, as they do now, will discuss their needs with the person who is responsible for conducting the ceremony.

3. There are already no restrictions on time in Northern Ireland or Scotland.

4.  The general register office for England and Wales is responsible, on behalf of the registrar general for overseeing the processes of civil registration in England and Wales. The GRO currently forms part of the identity and passport service (IPS), with Sarah Rapson performing the dual role of chief executive for IPS and also registrar general. The registrar general is a statutory role, appointed by the Crown.

5.  For more information on getting married or forming a civil partnership, go to

6.  For more information, contact the home office press office on 020 7035 3535.

Updates to this page

Published 25 September 2012