Weddings Law – I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
The Law Commission of England and Wales has published recommendations to reform the law of weddings. The report covers all of the formalities which a couple is required to go through in order to have a legally recognised marriage: the preliminaries (also known as giving notice); rules about the ceremony itself including where it can take place, who must attend and what must be said; and the registration of the marriage.
Weddings in England and Wales are currently governed by the Marriage Act 1949. A complex maze of rules governs different types of ceremonies, dependent on the particular type of building in which the wedding takes place. The central elements of the law date from the
18th and 19th centuries. Outdated rules and regulations have become stuck in time, failing to adapt to how people now want to celebrate their weddings.
The result is that the law does not work for many couples. It is unnecessarily restrictive, limiting how couples are permitted to celebrate their
weddings, for historical rather than current policy reasons. Rather than supporting those who want to get married, the law puts unnecessary barriers in the way.
The Law Commission published provisional proposals for a new scheme to govern weddings law in September 2020 and after 4 months they received more than 1,600 consultation responses. They have now published their final recommendations for reform in their full Report.
6 Key Benefits of the New Recommendations
- Convenience – Couples will be able to give notice of their intended wedding online, and to choose the registration district where they are then interviewed by a registration officer. Anglican preliminaries (for example, banns) will be retained for Anglican weddings.
- Publicity – Notice of upcoming weddings will be published online so that the information is accessible to the wider community.
- Respecting beliefs – Couples will be able to have a wedding ceremony that reflects their values and beliefs, by: having a religious ceremony in a venue other than a place of worship and without having to incorporate prescribed words into the ceremony; having a religious ceremony led by an interfaith minister that contains aspects of each of the couple’s beliefs; having some religious elements, such as hymns and prayers, incorporated into their civil ceremony, as long as the ceremony remains identifiably civil. If permitted by Government to conduct weddings, non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) would be able to do so on the same basis as religious organisations.
- Choice – Couples will be able 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.
- New options – If permitted by Government to conduct weddings, independent officiants (that is, officiants who are not registration officers and are not affiliated to a religious or non-religious belief organisation) will be able to conduct civil weddings.
- Certainty – There will be much greater clarity as to the consequences that follow when a couple has not complied with the required formalities, and fewer weddings conducted according to religious rites will result in a wedding that the law does not recognise at all.
While offering greater freedoms to couples, the reforms are designed to preserve the dignity of weddings, to retain important safeguards, and to protect the longstanding practices and rules of religious groups.
The Law Commission published their final report on 19 July 2022. It is now for the Government to review and consider the recommendations in the final report. An interim response is awaited.
And so for us Family Lawyers, it might not be too long before we start to see some weird and wonderful places appearing on the Marriage Certificates in the not too distant future!
Paradigm Family Law have a team of experienced lawyers to help guide you through the process of divorce, just waiting to hear from you.
If you would like more details on this or want to discuss your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact James, Frank, Evelyn or Paul. Paradigm Family Law offers a free initial consultation and our fixed fee solutions cover financial proceedings from start to finish. You can call us on +44 (0)20 3633 2301 or email us to [email protected].