In a largely symbolic move, Queen Elizabeth officially gave her royal assent on Wednesday to same-sex marriage being legalised in England and Wales.

The approval is a legal formality, but it was the last step in making the legislation law after the bill passed its final vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in a statement. “I am proud that we have made it happen and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer.”

Despite government officials saying that the first gay marriage might only take place in the middle of 2014 due to logistical reasons, LGBT groups are hoping that the law will be implemented more swiftly.

They are instead calling for same-sex couples to be able to marry from the beginning of the year.

“Royal Assent sets the final seal on this modest and decent law which will bring joy to tens of thousands of gay couples and their friends and families,” said Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of LGBT rights group Stonewall.

“We’ll be working closely with officials over the coming months to make sure that the law is implemented without delay and that the first weddings can take place next January.”

Under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales will be able to marry in civil and religious ceremonies.

Although the Church of England is specifically excluded from conducting same-sex marriages, other churches can choose to bless gay and lesbian marriages.

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