The government has finally announced that the first same-sex marriages will be held next March in England and Wales, some time earlier than had been originally expected.

Announcing that the first weddings will take place on Saturday 29 March 2014. Arrangements to hold same-sex weddings in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas will be in place, from June 2014.

The Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller said: “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex.

“This is just another step in the evolution of marriage and I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also commented, saying: “This is the news many couples have been waiting for. After a long and important battle, this is a wonderful step forward for equality. Love is the same, gay or straight, so it’s only right that the civil institution should be the same. Next March will be a real moment for celebration as same sex couples finally get the chance to express their love through marriage.”

Ed Miliband tweeted to say: “Fantastic news that from 29 March next year you will be able to marry the person you love regardless of gender.”

Couples who wish to marry on the first day, must announce their intention by 13 March 2014.

Weddings taking place from March will be the first same-sex unions in the UK to take places within religious organisations.

Liberal and Reform synagogues will solemnise same-sex marriages for the first time next year, as well as Quakers and Unitarian churches have also said they will perform the ceremonies.

PinkNews founder Benjamin Cohen said: “There are many gay couples who have been eagerly awaiting this news and will now be able to plan their wedding. The first marriages will, I hope, herald a new age of equality in our country, where all couples, regardless of their sexuality will be treated equally under the law, and eventually in society.

“We now await news on whether the Government will equalise private pension rights for same-sex couples and publish the process for gay couples to convert from civil partnerships to marriages.”

The equal marriage bill for England and Wales was on 17 July given Royal Assent.

The Queen’s Royal Assent was granted to the bill on Wednesday at 15:06, turning it into the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, after clearing the final stage in Parliament yesterday, following two hours of debate, and the introduction of government amendments.

The bill officially became law once its Royal Assent was announced in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The announcement also noted that the timetable for the conversion from Civil Partnership to marriage will be announced in the next few weeks, and will probably include a minimal fee.

The Government also has an upcoming consultation on pensions, and Conservative MP Mike Freer raised the issue with the Pensions Minister during the equal marriage debate.

The Scottish Parliament last month passed its equal marriage bill through the first stage of debate with a large majority.