Gay couples have begun to marry in ceremonies all over New York state during the first day that same-sex weddings are legal in the state.

Officials in New York City and other cities across the state expect to conduct hundreds of ceremonies for couples who have waited years and in some cases decades to marry one another.

Judges waived the usually mandatory 24-hour waiting period between applying for a licence and exchanging vows, with some couples taking part in ceremonies at midnight including that of activists Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd who married at a ceremony held at Niagara Falls, which was lit up in rainbow colours,

In the last fortnight, 1,728 gay couples in New York City have applied to marry.

“This is long overdue,” Matthew Ryan, mayor of Binghamton told the New York Times. He was due to conduct the weddings of at least two couples in person. “It really is a great day for all of us who believe in inclusiveness and equal rights for everybody.”

The state legalised gay marriage last month.

Five other states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont – and the District of Columbia – currently allow gay couples to marry. However, unlike civil partnerships in the United Kingdom, gay marriage in the United States is not given federal recognition and is not recognised in most states.