Wedding Law Reforms Update Web header

Proposed Wedding Reforms

Proposed Changes to our Outdated Wedding Laws

September 23 update

Responses to the Law Commission’s report of the 19th July 2022 were expected from HM Gov in July this year, however, as far as we know there has been no response so far.

July 19 22 Update

In July 2022 the Law Commission published its long-awaited final report into wedding law reform in England and Wales.

Its recommendations to government focus on moving to an officiant-based system, whereby the officiant (e.g. celebrant, registrar, minister) would be licensed to carry out the marriage rather than the venue. This is similar to the system in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.

It is a wide-ranging and exciting report which will bring about so much more flexibility and choice should the proposals become law.

The Law Commission awaits an interim response from HMGov.

March 15 2022 Update from HMG:

Prior to last summer, civil ceremonies at a licensed wedding venue had to take place indoors or within a permanent outdoor structure, such as a bandstand.

Couples can now have the whole ceremony outside in the venue’s grounds – providing them with greater flexibility and choice, as well as boosting the recovery of the wedding sector which saw many ceremonies postponed during the pandemic.

A Law Commission review will separately present options for further marriage reforms to the Government. Things under consideration include:

  • how ceremonies could take place in a broader range of locations;
  • who can solemnise a marriage;
  • how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated; and
  • how provision could be made for the use of independent celebrants.

The Law Commission is due to report back by summer 2022.

The Law Commission is the independent body which recommends reforms to statutory law in England and Wales and it is now consulting on proposals to modernise existing wedding laws which date back to 1836. The consultation runs from 3rd September 2020 to 3rd December 2020.

Currently a legally binding wedding ceremony in England and Wales can only take place in a registered building eg; a place of worship or a licensed venue such as a registry office, hotel, stately home etc. Outdoor weddings aren’t even allowed in the garden of a licensed venue so getting married on a beach, a cruise ship or in your own garden would become possible under proposed changes to the existing wedding laws in England and Wales. The Law Commission is also recommending that the government should have the power to allow virtual weddings “during any future national emergency, such as another pandemic”.

The Law Commission says of the proposed changes: “A couple’s wedding day is one of the most important events in their lives, yet the 19th century laws are not fit for purpose and stop many couples having a wedding that is meaningful and personal to them.”

“Our proposals would give couples the freedom to choose the wedding venue they want and a ceremony that is meaningful for them. By doing so, we hope to make the laws that govern weddings reflect the wishes and needs of today’s society.”
Clearly, if these proposals become law it will mean many changes, challenges and opportunities for happy couples and wedding suppliers alike.
It is fair to say that the consultation is lengthy but it does have a save and have another bash later facility which makes it easier to complete. The answers to the questions are mainly “agree or don’t agree” radio buttons but your opinion via a comment box is sought at various points along the way. The online response form is here.
A detailed outline of the consultation is here.
A brief summary of the consultation is here.
The consultation closes on 3rd December 2020.

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