Gay couples will now be given greater freedom of choice as outdated time restrictions on civil partnership ceremonies are removed by the government.

The changes are part of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which also seeks to quash historic convictions for consensual gay sex.  

Same-sex couples applying for civil partnerships and heterosexual couples wanting to marry were previously restricted to between 8am and 6pm.

The time periods were introduced when the first General Register Office was established in the 17th century, 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.

Neither local authorities nor religious groups are required to provide services outside of the new hours.

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.”

Sarah Rapson, Registrar General for England and Wales, added: “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”.