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Outdoor Weddings and Politics
Outdoor Weddings and Politics

18 December 2018

Outdoor weddings and politics make a strange combination, don’t they?

Happy Days

I love being involved in outdoor ceremonies. Of course, they’re a gamble. There’s the weather to take into account. I have conducted namings in baking sunshine and weddings in the rain. I’ve led funerals in snow and ice. The unpredictability is quite exciting, and sometimes bad weather can even enhance proceedings.

I well remember one outdoor wedding in August. The heavens suddenly opened. What was I to do? We were three quarters of the way through the ceremony. Should we stop?

But one bright spark grabbed one of the huge parasols for outside tables, and brought it to the front. He then put it up so that it sheltered the couple. (Though not the celebrant, sadly!!) It put a smile on everyone’s face and will long be remembered.

Less happy days

But I have a gripe.

I normally have minimal interest in politics. I like to think that politicians are basically well-intentioned. So I let them get on with what they’re doing. And hope they’ll allow me to do likewise.

However, I am not sure about this proposal.

According to the last budget, plans are afoot to enlarge the competences of registrars to include outside weddings. Currently, for a wedding to be legal, it needs to be conducted within four solid walls. (Only there is the registrar permitted to say the words that make the ceremony legally binding.)

The current situation

At the moment, if a couple wants an outdoor ceremony, this would be an addition, which is open to a civil celebrant to conduct. (See where this is leading?!)

So you have a couple of choices.

With two witnesses, you can go to the Register Office by appointment (hours or days) before the outdoor ceremony. You get legally married (so that concern is behind you) and then have what is to all intents and purposes your wedding, namely, the (celebrant-led) ceremony of your dreams, in the venue of your dreams.

Alternatively, the registrars can come – at quite a price – to your chosen venue and – inside – conduct the standard ceremony. The party can move outdoors afterwards for the celebrant-led ceremony.

Remember, the registrars cannot include any religious elements or mentions at all. They may offer reciting of vows and exchanging of rings, but these are not compulsory, and a celebrant can do that, tailoring these specifically to your wishes.

The future

If the proposal goes ahead, then a lot of couples will presumably spend the money (we’re currently talking £5-600) on getting the registrars over to the chosen venue. They won’t then want to pay for a civil celebrant on top of that. Even if he does personalise the event for you.

So the registrars get an extra income stream, and the celebrant potentially loses out.

I know I’m biased, but I don’t see that that change is necessary.

Yes, you will gain convenience, although how inconvenient is the current position anyway? And you won’t get a better ceremony, as it won’t be personalised. Nor will you be able to choose your registrar – you’ll get who you’re given. With a civil celebrant, you can meet him in advance and see if you like him – and whether he can present well.

I wonder whether some palms are being greased, as the advantages really are not great (except to the registrars!).

What do you think?

Author:

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe. Telephone me now on +44 (0)7931 538487 or contact me directly by e-mail.

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