Whether it is getting married outdoors or wanting a blended ceremony, couples in our modern age struggle when contending with wedding laws in England and Wales. However, this may all be about to change.

The Law Commission have today published their Getting Married consultation on wedding laws in England and Wales with a call for couples to share their experiences to modernise laws and improve our currently outdated system. A summary of the consultation paper can be found here. While the consultation has been planned for some time, the pandemic has most definitely highlighted the restrictions that unnecessarily apply to our weddings. 

Proposals under the consultation include giving couples greater freedom over where they can hold their wedding – including outdoor spaces, boats and private homes. It would also allow couples to have a greater degree of control over the ceremony itself. It also considers the fiscal effect of a wedding on couples, with associated costs the ceremony, notices and registration needing to be reduced.

It is no secret that couples can regularly face challenges when planning a wedding. In our firm, a member of the team had difficulties representing the couple’s religious and non-religious backgrounds in the same ceremony because of the ‘one-or-the-other’ approach. Other couples have opted for a wedding overseas to enjoy the alfresco setting that is legally inaccessible in England and Wales.

Other key proposals are around the “administrative” parts of the marriage such as moving the initial requirement of giving notice online or by postal notice instead of an in-person interview.

The process for getting married is complicated and the effects can be devastating when not correctly followed. As discussed in our blog ‘Is your marriage a legal sham?’, a failure in legal recognition will have devastating knock on effects should the relationship come into difficulty or upon death.

Professor Nick Hopkins, Family Law Commissioner at the Law Commission, said:

“A couple’s wedding day is one of the most important events in their lives, yet the 19th century laws are not fit for purpose and stop many couples having a wedding that is meaningful and personal to them.

“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.”

If you want to see a change in the law, here is your opportunity to have your say. You have until 3 December 2020 to respond to the consultation about your wedding experience. Once the consultation period closes, the Law Commission will analyse the responses, and use them to help develop recommendations. Recommendations will follow in the later part of 2021.

Written submissions to the consultation can be sent to the Law Commission using the online response form. Where possible, it would be helpful if this form was used. Alternatively, comments may be sent:

•             by email to weddings@lawcommission.gov.uk; or

•             by post to Weddings Team, Law Commission, 1st Floor, 52 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AG.