Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Parliament can be used as wedding venue

The Houses of Parliament at night
The Chapel of St Mary in Parliament cannot be used

The Houses of Parliament will be available as a wedding venue to members of the public for the first time.

Westminster City Council has granted a licence approving two rooms in the Palace of Westminster to be used for marriages and civil partnerships.

Until now, only MPs, peers, certain parliamentary officials and their families could be married in conventional weddings there.

The rooms have been approved as venues for civil ceremonies until 2013.

The Jubilee Room, which overlooks Cromwell Green, has space for 80 people and the MPs' dining room, with views of the Thames, has space for 150.

Historical settings

But as religious sites cannot be used for civil partnerships or civil marriages, the licence rules out the 14th century Chapel of St Mary in Parliament.

Alison Cathcart, who has been Westminster's Superintendent Registrar for almost 20 years and has married celebrities including Sylvester Stallone, Joan Collins and Barbara Windsor, welcomed the move.

She said: "I'm delighted that this prestigious venue has been granted approval and very much look forward to conducting the first civil ceremony in such famous and historical settings.

"This will add to the rich repertoire of locations Westminster already has available for couples to tie the knot on what is one of the most important days of their lives."

Since 1995, authorities have been able to authorise venues for civil marriages based on the criteria that they "must be satisfied that the approved premises - and its management - will support the dignity of marriage".

In October, Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Commons Speaker John Bercow to allow civil partnerships to be held within Parliament for the first time.

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