A new law comes into effect today which allows couples to marry in venues other than churches and registry offices for the first time.

These changes follow a sharp increase in the number of civil weddings in the last decade.

People can now apply to get married in a number of places, subject to approval from the authorities. Until now civil wedding ceremonies had to be held in a registry office.

The guidelines state the wedding venue must be open to the public and must take place in a fixed structure - this means that marquees and weddings on private lands as well as beaches and mountain tops are not included.

A change the notification process means that couples must now meet officials in person to apply for a marriage registration form.

A new Register of Solemnisers lists the people who are legally permitted to carry out civil marriages.

Weddings carried out by people not on this list will not be recognised by the State.