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Proposals to reform wedding law

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The law commission has commenced a consultation to consider provisional proposals to reform the law on where and how couples can marry. This follows the law commission’s comments that the current laws are outdated and unnecessarily restrictive. As such, the consultation aims to modernise the law in this area, providing opportunities for couples to conduct their marriage ceremonies in ways that are personally meaningful for them. 


The proposals for reform are as follows:


  • Allow weddings to take place outdoors, for example on beaches, in parks, in private gardens and on the grounds of current wedding venues.


  • Allow weddings to take place in a wider variety of buildings (for example in private homes) and on cruise ships.


  • Offer couples greater flexibility over the form their wedding ceremonies will take, enabling them, if they desire, to use a variety of ceremonies (religious and non-religious) to mark their weddings.


  • Simplify the process and remove unnecessary red tape to make it fair to couples, more efficient, and easier to follow. For example, couples will be able to complete the initial stage of giving notice of their intended wedding online or by post, rather than having to do so in person.


  • Provide a framework that could allow non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) and/or independent celebrants to conduct legally binding weddings.


  • Ensure that fewer weddings conducted according to religious rites result in a marriage that the law does not recognise at all.


  • Provide a power to allow weddings to take place remotely during any future national emergency, such as another pandemic.


The consultation will continue until the 3rd December 2020. Speaking about the proposals, Professor Nick Hopkins (Family Law Commissioner at the Law Commission) said 


“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.”