20th November 2023
Have you dreamed of getting married in your parents’ beautiful garden? Or on your favourite moonlit beach? Wedding laws could soon be up for the biggest overhaul since the 19th century, making it possible for couples to declare their love almost anywhere.
The Government legalised outdoor weddings during the pandemic, and it has been confirmed that they are here to stay.
Now, the Law Commission – which advises the Government on law reform – has said that existing wedding law is stuck in time and doesn’t work for most couples.
Usually, couples have to decide between a civil or religious ceremony and can only marry inside a licensed building.
Although they can now marry outdoors, the ceremony needs to be on approved premises and under a fixed structure like a gazebo or pavilion in the grounds.
The Law Commission is proposing that couples should be allowed to marry anywhere the presiding official considers ‘safe and dignified’, whether that is in a garden, park, family home, village hall or cruise ship.
This would reduce the cost of weddings dramatically for those choosing to marry at home or on a beach instead of at an expensive venue.
The Law Commission is also calling for ceremonies to reflect the wishes and beliefs of the couple, with greater freedom on the ceremony itself, prescribed words scrapped, and civil ceremonies able to include religious elements like hymns and readings.
The proposed reforms would also allow any official celebrant to marry a couple, and not just a registrar or religious minister.
Family law commissioner Prof Nick Hopkins said current wedding laws were not working for many couples, with thousands each year denied a wedding that is meaningful to them.
Same sex couples can marry in a civil ceremony, but it can only be religious if the organisation agrees. They cannot currently marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales.
Couples aged 16 or 17 will need the permission of either their parents or any legal guardian, or they can apply to a court for permission.
A transgender person with a full gender recognition certificate can get a new birth certificate that reflects their acquired gender, and will then be able to marry someone of the opposite or same gender.
Although adopted children cannot marry their adoptive parents, they are able to marry their adoptive brother or sister.
Some couples may decide to draw up a pre-nuptial agreement, which outlines how they wish to divide their money and property if they divorce. These can be legally binding, unless they are considered unfair by the court.