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Will the Law Commission’s reform of the law of weddings tell us where we can get married?

The Law Commission launched a formal consultation period in September 2020 to consider a number of potential changes to simplify and modernise how and where couples can get married.

The consultation will close on the 4th January 2021, by which time decisions will have been reached on whether weddings can be held:

  • Outdoors on beaches, in parks, in gardens or in the grounds of licensed wedding venues
  • In a wider range of buildings (including private homes)
  • On cruise ships

The consultation will also consider whether to offer couples greater flexibility over the type of wedding ceremony they have, most notably whether they would prefer a religious or non-religious service.  The consultation will also focus on the possibility of allowing non-religious belief organisations like Humanists or other independent persons to conduct a legally binding wedding.

Importantly, by extension, the consultation will also address how to reduce the number of marriages conducted involving only religious rites resulting in marriages that are not recognised by law.

In a bid to make the process a little easier, the option of allowing couples to confirm their intention to get married by post rather than in person will also be considered.

Finally, given the current circumstances a way to hold weddings remotely will also be considered in the event we find ourselves in another closely controlled situation like the current pandemic.

Once the consultation period comes to a close the Law Commission will put their recommendations to the government during the second half of 2021.  However, since the Law Commission launched their consultation the government has been forced to place greater rather than fewer restrictions on weddings due to the rise in the coronavirus infection rate.

In his update to the House of Commons on the 22nd September, the Prime Minister said that from 28th September until further notice no more than 15 people could attend a wedding or civil partnership service in England or Wales or no more than 20 in Scotland.

The Prime Minister’s statement also set out a number of additional rules those guests will have to follow which are:

  • Services are to be kept as short as possible
  • No food or drink can be consumed during the event
  • Hands must be washed before and after exchanging wedding rings
  • Singing, shouting or playing music at a volume that makes people raise their voice is to be avoided
  • Speaking during the ceremony should not be done with a raised voice
  • There can be no playing of instruments that need to be blown into
  • Any singing or chanting involved in the ceremony can only be done by one person
  • Venues must do what they can to maintain social distancing and set out a clearly marked ‘one-way’ system for guests

The government’s full guidance on small marriages and civil partnerships can be found here.

While the current rules may seem a little oppressive, given the current climate we can appreciate they are there to keep us safe.

We hope that we will soon bounce back and be able to marry with greater flexibility in line with the Law Commission’s recommendations.

If this blog has raised any questions regarding getting married, please call Andaleeb Khandaker on 020 8866 1820 or email me.