Today’s wedding laws in England and Wales date back to 1836. Last year, the Law Commission launched a consultation on proposals to bring wedding laws up to date, citing the current laws as “not fit for purpose” and “unnecessarily restrictive”.
With the Law Commission due to publish its final report containing recommendations for the Government by the end of this year, we take a look at what could change for couples wanting to tie the knot.
What are the current wedding laws in England and Wales?
Couples wanting to get married are only able to choose between a civil or a religious ceremony. There are no other options for those wanting a ceremony to reflect different beliefs.
In order to legally marry, couples must hold their wedding ceremony in a registered building. This can be either a licensed secular venue or a place of worship. It is not possible to marry outdoors.
In addition, the laws surrounding marriage can be complex and some couples find themselves facing the difficult news that their marriage is not legally recognised, as the ceremony did not comply with the laws.
Wedding laws: what could change?
The Law Commission has made a number of proposed changes to wedding laws in England and Wales, in order to enable couples to “have a ceremony that is meaningful to them” and have “simpler, less expensive weddings”.
These proposed changes include:
- Couples would be able to marry outdoors, including on beaches, in private gardens and in parks
- Weddings could take place in other buildings, including private homes
- Couples would have greater flexibility when it comes to the wedding ceremony itself
- The process of getting married would be simplified, including a new option to complete the initial stage of giving notice of a marriage online, rather than doing so in person
The changes would also ensure that fewer weddings which are conducted according to religious rites result in a marriage which is not legally recognised.
The Law Commission has also proposed that there would be a power to enable remote weddings during any future national emergency, such as a pandemic.
Neil Graham, a Partner at Grayfords, comments as follows: “Getting marred or civilly partnered is one of the most pivotal moments in a couple’s lives. It represents official and legal recognition (and also spiritual recognition by some organised religious institutions) of the commitment they have chosen to make to each other. It is important to ensure that a ceremony that takes place in England and Wales fulfils the civil requirements, in addition to any religious requirements, and that any ceremony abroad fulfils the local legal requirements, so as to be recognised in law. If it does not there may be little or no legal remedies available if the relationship breaks down or if one of the parties dies.”
Planning to tie the knot? Our experienced family solicitors can also advise you on pre- and post-nuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements. Get in touch with us to book your free initial consultation with a family lawyer today.