RINGING THE CHANGES; from Las Vegas-Style Weddings Held at Night to Gay Ceremonies in Church, the Rules regarding Marriage Are Getting Ever More Relaxed. SUSAN GRIFFIN Reports on the New Wave of Weddings

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IF YOU VE always fancied marrying in the moonlight or declaring your vows as the dawn rises, it's time to pop the champagne.

Archaic restrictions relating to when weddings can take place are expected to be lifted later this year.

As it stands, a 175-year-old law dating back to the Marriage Act of 1836 prevents weddings taking place outside the hours of 8am and 6pm - but the Government says it's determined to return power to the people.

The changes affecting civil ceremonies will come about thanks to the Your Freedom website, created to find out which laws and regulations the public wants to see abolished. The result is the Protection Of Freedoms Bill, expected to gain Royal Assent by late 2011 or early 2012.

"The laws regarding wedding times are old-fashioned and date back to the time before artificial lighting," says Paul Stacey of My OK! Wedding, an iPhone planning app.

"They were put in place to ensure vicars could identify the bride and groom! It's about time they were brought up to date."

Considering that romance has historically been well served by night, the change could allow lovers' imaginations to run wild.

Hotel chains are already predicting an increase in evening weddings, both indoors and out, when guests could toast the couple in a candlelight ceremony or perhaps against a backdrop of fireworks. 1

And considering how the British love their long summer evenings, it seems likely it won't take long for invitations to state 'from dark till dawn'.

But spontaneous lovers, drunk on love and looking for a Las Vegas-style wedding, should take heed. Twentyfour hour walk-in chapels of love sadly aren't yet on the cards. At least 15 days' advance notice will still be required.

THE LAST significant change relating to weddings was in 2002, when rules were altered in order to widen the choice of venue. And for many people an extension of the permitted hours can't come soon enough.

According to wedding specialist Nicola Stoddart, the introduction of a more flexible approach will do more than just change the lighting, it could have a profound effect on wedding planning. …