News story

New measures allow couples to tie the knot at any time

Archaic rules that stopped couples getting married or registering a civil partnership in England and Wales outside daytime hours will come to an end this autumn.

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

Anyone wishing to marry or register a civil partnership outside the hours of 8am to 6pm will be able to do so from 1 October 2012, thanks to measures in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Couples intending to say their vows at sunrise or walk down the aisle at midnight can start making plans for three months’ time, when the provisions allowing marriages and civil partnerships to be registered at any time of day will be commenced.

Marriage and civil partnerships

Registrar General for England & Wales, Sarah Rapson said:’Marriage and civil partnerships are something very personal to every couple that chooses to undertake them and this change will allow people to make their day unique to them.

‘Preparations to bring this change into effect are well underway within the General Register Office, which marks its 175th anniversary this year, and I’m very pleased that we will be able to help deliver an even more flexible service to our customers.’

Marriage laws

Laws that impose time limits on marriage solemnization date back to 1837 - the year the General Register Office was established and that civil marriages were introduced. The restrictions were introduced in order to prevent clandestine marriages, which were deemed to be a particular problem in society at the time.

The legislation passed in that year restricted marriage ceremonies to between the hours of 8am in the morning and midday. In 1886, the permitted hours were extended to 3pm and then in 1934 to 6pm. The same time restrictions apply to civil partnerships, which were introduced in 2005.

The change was brought in following a cross-government survey, Your Freedom, which gave the public the chance to suggest which unnecessary laws should be repealed.

Published 2 July 2012