Exciting Marriage Developments

Sep 7, 2020

The law doesn’t usually excite me, I confess. However, what does very much interest me, and, perhaps, you, is something that has just been published.

The Law Commission has launched a public consultation intending to reform the law governing marriage in England and Wales.

To summarise brutally, there are half a dozen areas where change is proposed. If approved:

  1. You’ll be able to give notice of an intended wedding remotely. There will be free choice of registration district. Notice will be published online. Presently, you can’t pick and choose in which district a wedding may be held.
  2. Weddings could be conducted by humanists and independent celebrants. At the moment, couples have to choose between a civil or religious ceremony.
  3. The couple will be able to choose their wedding location. This includes outdoors or in their home. At present, almost all weddings need to be in a place of worship or in a licensed secular venue.
  4. There will be no prescribed words, so the structure of the ceremony will be open to choice. Currently, legal weddings must include prescribed words (and these may not be religious).
  5. Civil weddings may contain religious songs, readings and hymns. Presently, a civil wedding cannot include religious elements.

If passed, these changes will broaden the type of wedding available. Not only will this ensure that the law will recognise more marriages but this will offer much greater freedom of choice at weddings.

As a civil celebrant, I offer choice already, but my ceremony is not legal – it is a kind of add-on to the Register Office legal wedding. If independent celebrants are authorised to conduct weddings legally, (obviously, there will be training required), then two ceremonies will no longer be required. This will save many couples money.

So, although these changes are not cut and dried, they are most encouraging moves!