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Moonlight marriages get official blessing as night-time ban is lifted

Couples who want to marry in the moonlight will soon get their wish granted as the ban on night-time weddings is lifted.

Historic legislation requiring that ceremonies are held during the day is to be scrapped as part of a drive to remove outdated laws.

Although the move is unlikely to a lead to Las Vegas-style wedding chapels operating 24 hours a day, ministers explained it was not the Government's place to dictate when couples should be allowed to marry. Church weddings originally had to take place between 8am and noon, but the hours were later extended to 3pm and 6pm.

The same hours were adopted for civil ceremonies when they were introduced in 1837, although many registrars work for even shorter periods.

The rules for Church of England weddings are sent down in canon law and cannot be altered by the state.

But the restrictions on civil ceremonies are to be swept away in the new Protection of Freedoms Bill.

James Brokenshire, a Home Office minister, said the move on weddings had been inspired by comments from the public during a consultation on which laws should be abolished.

Neil Tester, a spokesman for Relate, said: "Giving couples more choice and flexibility on when they want to tie the knot is good to see. In fact, it may be of great help to those who are keen to keep the costs of a wedding down."

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said it had no plans to alter the hours during which wedding ceremonies were conducted.

The Bill will also take hundreds of thousands of innocent people off the DNA database in England and Wales. The practice of retaining genetic samples and fingerprints from everyone arrested by police – whether they are charged or not – will be abolished.

Samples of people arrested, but not convicted, over a minor crime will be immediately destroyed, while samples of those questioned over serious crimes without a conviction will be retained for three years.

Mr Brokenshire said the change, which brings England and Wales in line with Scotland, would remove the DNA details of the "vast majority" of the 1.1 million innocent people on the database. An exception would be made over cases where individuals were suspected of involvement with terrorism.

The Government will also legislate to set out a code of practice designed to curb the spread of CCTV cameras and automatic number plate recognition systems.