A new wedding law proposed by the Law Commission to the government could allow couples to have weddings and get legally married anywhere they like – from a public beach to their own house – from as soon as 2023.
The Law Commission of England and Wales has published a reformed weddings law to the government, proposing a system that gives couples more choice over where and how their wedding takes place.
Publishing their final report on 19 July 2022, the new law could allow couples to get married in a much wider variety of locations, including:
- outside, in a place unconnected with any building, such as in a forest, on a beach, or in a local park;
- in affordable local venues, such as community centres and village halls, as well as in their own homes;
- in international waters on cruise ships that are registered in the UK.
The law will also allow couples to be able to have a wedding ceremony that reflects their values and beliefs, such as Humanists. Currently, no religious or spiritual elements are allowed in a civil ceremony, and processes are strict for both religious and civil ceremonies. The new law would allow couples to:
- have a religious ceremony in a venue other than a place of worship and without having to incorporate prescribed words into the ceremony;
- have a religious ceremony led by an interfaith minister that contains aspects of each of the couple’s beliefs;
- have some religious elements, such as hymns and prayers, incorporated into their civil ceremony, as long as the ceremony remains identifiably civil.
If permitted by the government to conduct weddings, non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) would also be able to do so on the same basis as religious organisations.
At the moment, how and where marriages can take place is tightly regulated, and differs depending on the type of wedding. Couples have to make a choice between a religious or a civil ceremony, with no option for a ceremony reflecting other beliefs.
With few exceptions, all couples must have their wedding in a place of worship, a register office or a venue approved for civil weddings. Nor can they generally marry outdoors except in the grounds of approved premises.
If a couple does not comply with the legal requirements, which may happen with some religious ceremonies, their marriage may not be legally recognised. People often only discover their lack of legal status when their relationship ends, on death or by separation. This means the parties have no legal status or protection and are not counted as married.
There is no set date but if the law is passed, rumours are it could come into play as early as 2023. Fingers crossed!
The full report can be read here lawcom.gov.uk/weddings.