UK marriage legislation

A significant number of posts in Law and Religion UK relate to various aspects of marriage, and the provisions within England and Wales are currently the topic of a review by the Law Commission. In addition, the Ecclesiastical Law Society will meet virtually for its Annual Conference on 20 March 2021 when it will consider the issues associated with the solemnization of marriage. This post has been updated to include articles issued up to 29 April 2021*, and provides links to 118 posts which have appeared in L&RUK since 2012. These fall within the following general headings:

This post was last updated on 14 June 2021 at 13:56.


Outdoor weddings in England and Wales. Possible implications for outdoor weddings provisions, (27 June 2021).

Defining “outdoors”. Outdoors in the context of outdoor weddings, (27 June 2021).

Raising the minimum age for marriage. Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill, presented on 16 June 2021. (27 June 2021).

Temporary permission for outdoor weddings in England & Wales, from July, civil weddings and civil partnerships in England and Wales will be permitted to take place outdoors at approved premises

Weddings, wakes and face masks, Relaxation of some Step 2 requirements, (15 June 2021).

Updated marriage law guidance for clergy, Faculty Office update of 7 June. A Third Supplement to the 3rd Edition of “Anglican Marriage in England and Wales: A Guide to the Law for Clergy”, (14 June 2021).

Brexit marriage requirements, England and Wales – 1st July 2021. Earlier this year, the Faculty Office published information on changes to the requirements for EEA Nationals to marry in the UK from 1st July 2021, here and here. Extracts from these documents are reproduced below, (10 May 2021).

COVID-19: latest relaxations for places of worship in Wales, further relaxations brought forward from 17 May to 3 May, when Wales moved to Coronavirus Alert Level 3. (4 May 2021).

Marriage in England and Wales from 4 May Regulations relating to the solemnization of marriage (SI 2021/539), and the keeping of records (SI 2021/538). Links to these and the earlier Regulations on the registration of marriage, (SI 2021/411 and SI 2021/412), and copies of the Explanatory Notes. (29 April 2021).

Some recent developments in weddings law Registration of Marriages Regulations 2021 EEA nationals marrying in the UK from 1 July 2021; But even if they speak it fluently, they can’t make their vows in Cornish…; Marriage legislation in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. (8 March 2021).

When is a wedding not a marriage? Exploring non-legally binding ceremonies. Why might couples in England and Wales today opt for a non-legally binding wedding ceremony in addition to their legally binding one? (12 January 2021).

Marriage (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2020: Effective Monday 1st March 2021. FAQs on changes in new law: time and place of marriage; types of ceremony; celebrant; and notice of marriage (7 December 2020).

Civil law, religion and marriage in the United Kingdom: a long read: the law on the formation of marriage – ‘weddings law’ – rather than matrimonial law more generally (11 November 2020).

Registration of marriage from end-2019 – Faculty Office, Report on the implementation of the provisions regarding the registration of marriage under the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 (8 August 2019).

Church statement on marriage registration changes, Church of Englan statement on the marriage registration changes that were due, at that time, to take place at the end of 2019, with a subsequent clarification on clergy as marriage registrars (2 August 2019).

CofE Treaty with Republic of Italy, permits foreign clergy to apply for a “religious visa” to live in Italy, recognise legally weddings celebrated according to the Anglican rite (16 August 2019).

A Church of England Wedding for £1,000?, a church’s limited offer on a “first come, first served basis” (29 April 2019).

Religious content in civil wedding ceremonies, Professor Rebecca Probert, of Exeter University, and Dr Stephanie Pywell, of the Open University, summarise the findings of their recently-published research on what may and may not be included in a civil wedding ceremony – but sometimes is… (12 December 2018).

Marriage law, civil partnership – and Budget 2018 (30 October 2018).

Royal Wedding – some legal links. Legal issues &c associated with the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle (19 May 2018).

Stornoway, Sabbatarianism and Star Wars, A paper presented by Frank Cranmer at the Law and Religion Scholars’ Network conference at Cardiff Law School on 27 April 2018 (4 May 2018).

CCTV in Churches – windows into men’s souls? Diocesan guidance on CCTV to reflect government Code of Practice (1 March 2018).

Brides who arrive late. Parochial fees, discounts and “extras” (5 January 2018).

Parish Music Guidance: employment issues (12 June 2017).

Celebrity Marriages (and others). New church guidance of relevance to all CofE weddings, (17 April 2017).

Sham marriage, the church and the law. The prosecution of a vicar who conducted a “conveyor belt” operation for sham marriages at the Inner London Crown Court; HHJ Madge threw out the case after ruling there had been “bad faith” and “serious misconduct” on the part of the investigating immigration officers. (15 September 2015).

Marriage and burial obligations of the Church of England. In Re All Saints Heathfield [2013] Chichester Const Ct, Mark Hill Ch, a faculty was sought for the reservation of a grave space. (10 December 2013).

Copyright and religion: an idiot’s guide. (31 October 2013).

Might the Church of Scotland stop conducting “civil” marriages? The Church of Scotland questioned whether it could continue to offer marriages if the advent of same-sex marriage legislation under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill were to lead to applications for judicial review (12 September 2013).

“Religious” content of civil marriage ceremonies. (5 July 2013).

Wedding dance flash-mob, viral vicars and the law. The issues resulting from “a wedding ceremony attended by people unaccustomed to church or religion was suddenly punctuated by a surprise flash-mob. [The vicar – the Reverend Kate Bottley] and the couple unexpectedly broke into a choreographed dance, followed by more of more members of the congregation” (27 June 2013).

Hiring Church Premises – Some further thoughts (3 October 2012).

Can a religious group discriminate when hiring its premises? Considerations on the cancellation of a booking for yoga classes in a church hall on the grounds that yoga was a Hindu religious activity (29 September 2012).

24/7 Marriage in UK: Ecclesiastical and statutory legislation governing the house of during which marriage may take place (30 July 2012).

Gretna Green revisited? (30 June 2012).

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Capacity to marry: NB v MI, . In NB v MI [2021] EWHC 224 (Fam), Mostyn J set out a series of propositions on the legal nature of marriage in England & Wales (26 March 2021).

Registration of Marriages – GRO Advice for Clergy Further information on new procedures for registration of marriage issued by the General Register Office (GRO) in its Clergy Newslettersextracts from Issue 10, February 2021 and Issue 11, March 2021 (18 March 2021).

Registration of Marriages – latest GRO advice for Authorised Persons. GRO latest newsletter – No. 14 – for people authorised to register marriages: Digital presentations and FAQs (18 March 2021).  

Some recent developments in weddings law Registration of Marriages Regulations 2021; EEA nationals marrying in the UK from 1 July 2021; Marriage vows in Cornish: and Marriage legislation in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, (1 March 2021).

Divorce post-Brexit, House of Commons Library issued The effect of Brexit on getting divorced, an update of an earlier version relating to the position in England and Wales in the event of a “no‑deal Brexit”, (22 January 2021).

Humanist weddings and the Marriage (Approved Organisations) Bill, On 9 January 2020, Baroness Meacher introduced the Marriage (Approved Organisations) Bill in the House of Lords (14 January 2020).

Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020, as amended, A note from Churches together in Wales on the latest Coronavirus Regulations for Wales (2 June 2020).

Love in a COVID-19 climate, Professor Rebecca Probert looks at some of the complexities around weddings and wedding law in England & Wales during the COVID-19 lockdown (5 May 2020).

Coronavirus COVID-19: Marriage Law Update, Legal advice published by the Faculty Office (23 March 2020).

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Law Commission Review

Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law #1. Guest post from Professor Rebecca Probert, intended as the first in a series of blogs explaining the Law Commission’s provisional proposals for reforming weddings law (11 October 2020).

Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law #2. A further guest post from the Weddings Team at the Law Commission on the proposals for the reform of weddings law in England & Wales (21 October 2020).

Law Commission review of wedding law in England & Wales: Terms of Reference. (1 July 2019).

Law Commission to review wedding ceremonies in England and Wales. On 28 June, the Lord Chancellor and the Prime Minister announced a two-year project by the Law Commission to review the current laws on how and where marriages can take place – many of which date back to the 19th Century (28 June 2019).

The Government on reform of wedding law in England & Wales. House of Lords question from Baroness Cox following question Islamic Ceremony: Civil Marriage Registration (1 March 2019)

Law Commission to conduct a full review of wedding law in England & Wales (1 November 2018).

Marriage law reform for England & Wales put on hold. Dominic Raab, the Minister of State for Justice, wrote to the Commissioner in charge of the project, Professor Nick Hopkins, to say that the Government was not taking the project forward because priority was being given to reforms to address the increase in public and private family law cases currently putting pressure on the justice system (26 October 2017).

Law Commission on reform of marri1age law in England & Wales. Publication of Getting Married: A Scoping Paper by the Law Commission for England & Wales in response to Government request in December 214 for a review of the law governing how and where people can marry in England and Wales (17 December 2015).

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Same-sex marriage and civil partnerships

Recognition of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland: Re XNorthern Ireland Court of Appeal judgment in Re X [2020] NICA 21 (20 April 2020).

Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland: the appeal in Sickles & Anor. On 7 April 2020, the Court of Appeal handed down judgment on their appeal against O’Hara J’s judgment Close & Ors, Re Judicial Review [2017] NIQB 79 v infra (7 April 2020).

Northern Ireland: same-sex religious marriage and converting marriage/civil partnership. Consultation on same-sex religious marriage and the appropriate protections, and marriage and civil partnership conversion entitlements (21 January 2020).

Marriage (Same-sex Couples) and Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) (NI) Regulations 2019. Regulations made (3 January 2020).

Civil partnerships, marriage registration, stillbirths – update (7 November 2019).

Abortion law, same sex marriage and opposite sex civil partnership in Northern Ireland: update (5 November 2019).

Religion and Civil Partnerships: The Next Steps in a Turbulent Saga. The Government has “next steps” policy paper on implementing equal civil partnership (16 July 2019).

Religious marriage of same-sex couples. Universities of York and Leeds report “Religious marriage of same-sex couples: A report on places of worship in England and Wales registered for the solemnization of same-sex marriage” (3 January 2018).

Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland again: Close. O’Hara J dismissed a challenge to Article 6 of the Marriage (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 by two same-sex couples who had entered into civil partnerships in 2005 (27 December 2017).

SEC approval of same-sex marriage; reaction in Anglican churches. Results of the vote approving same-sex marriage in the Scottish Episcopal Church; reactions of GAFCON, Anglican Communion and Church of England (8 June 2017).

Church of Scotland votes on same-sex marriage: updated and corrected. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland agreed in principle to the report of its Theological Forum, An Approach to the Theology of Same-Sex Marriage (26 May 2017).

Same-sex marriage and the Church of Scotland. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland approved proposals to allow ministers and deacons in same-sex marriages to continue in ministry; however, the Kirk will not solemnise same-sex weddings in its churches (21 May 2016).

Military Chapels and same sex marriage. Parliamentary debate (23 December 2015).

Readers, pastoral guidance and canon law. Revocation of Reader’s PTO on change the status from civil partnership to marriage (18 August 2015).

“Gay wedding row” in Market Bosworth. The planned service of blessing in St Peter’s, Market Bosworth, to celebrate the civil partnership of the Team Rector of the Market Bosworth Benefice, Revd Dominic McClean, and his partner (18 September 2014).

United Reformed Church moves towards same-sex marriage (6 July 2014).

House of Bishops’ Statement on Same-sex Marriage. The Statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage issued by the House of Bishops of the Church of England on 15 February 2014, following its meeting after the February General Synod (18 February 2014).

Same-Sex Marriage from 29th March 2014?. Department of Culture, Media and Sport Press Release announcement (11 December 2013).

Mothers, Fathers and Parents. The issues associated with a request by a same-sex couple for both of them to be identified as “mother” on a certificate of baptism (7 September 2013).

Sikh Council caution on ending civil marriage ceremonies. Issues associated with possible legal challenges for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings (19 July 2013).

More on same-sex marriage in England and Wales: the Equality (Marriage) (Amendment) Bill. On 29 January, Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con) was given leave by the Commons under the Ten-minute Rule to bring in a Bill “to amend the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 to include a person’s conscientious beliefs about the definition of marriage; and for connected purposes” (30 January 2013).

Same-sex marriage and civil partnerships. A guest post by Scot Peterson, of the Department of Politics at Oxford University, on the likely fallout from the Government’s recent announcement on same-sex marriage (19 December 2012).

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Sharia marriage

Farewell, ‘Flexible’ Fudge: The position of unregistered religious marriages returns to square one. In Her Majesty’s Attorney General v Akhter & Anor [2020] EWCA Civ 122 the Court of Appeal agreed, putting Williams J’s approach in n Akhter v Khan [2018] EWFC 54 back in its box. “It is now clear that an intention to follow up a ceremony outside the Marriage Acts with a ceremony that complies with the Acts does not constitute a void marriage. The Court of Appeal has insisted that there needs to be a ceremony under the Marriage Act which suffers from a defect in order for there to be a void marriage” (25 February 2020).

The House of Lords on marriages and sharia law. The issue of unregistered religious marriages has come up once again in the House of Lords. Question from Baroness Cox (24 October 2019).

The Council of Europe and sharia: an unsatisfactory Resolution, latest Resolution on sharia by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, (29 January 2019).

Akhter: legal consequences of an unregistered nikah ceremony. (3 August 2018).

Integration: seeing the bigger picture. In a guest post, Professor Rebecca Probert of Exeter Law School and Dr Rajnaara Akhtar, Senior Lecturer at Leicester De Montfort Law School, highlight some of the pitfalls in the Government’s Green Paper on integration. (21 March 2018).

A Fear of Sharia: why the Independent Rep is a wasted opportunity, Russell Sandberg, Head of Law and Reader in the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff, is fairly unimpressed with the report of the Independent Review into the Application of Sharia Law in England and Wales. (7 February 2018).

Why the constitutional treatment of religion in Great Britain matters in religious disputes. Javier García Oliva looks at the wider constitutional implications of two recent cases involving children and religion (27 September 2017).

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Humanist marriage

Breaking news: Article 9 challenge to lack of provision for humanist weddings in England & Wales dismissed. In R (Harrison & Ors) v Secretary of State for Justice [2020] EWHC 2096 (Admin), the Claimants were humanists who complained that the legal recognition of different forms of religious wedding ceremonies under English law did not extend to weddings carried out in accordance with their humanist beliefs (31 July 2020)

Humanist marriages go to court, Russell Sandberg looks at the forthcoming litigation over the non-recognition of “belief” wedding ceremonies (2 July 2020).

House of Lords debate on humanist wedding ceremonies. A short debate, initiated by Lord Harrison (Lab), on the absence of provision for humanist wedding ceremonies in England and Wales (23 November 2018).

Humanist weddings in Northern Ireland: Smyth. In Smyth, Re Judicial Review [2017] NIQB 55, Colton J had quashed the General Register Office’s decision to refuse an application for authorisation for a humanist marriage in Northern Ireland on the grounds that the refusal breached the applicant’s ECHR rights (29 June 2018).

Humanist weddings – the procrastination continues. Parliamentary exchange, [2 Jun 2015: Vol 762(6) Col 289], (4 June 2015).

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Royal marriage

Law and religion round-up, 14 March 2021. Links to piece by Rajnaara C Akhtar and Rebecca Probert in The ConversationWhy Meghan and Harry and many others choose to have two wedding ceremonies (“If you are reading this and wondering why the system for marrying is so complex, you are certainly not alone.”) and Paul Thomas, All Things Lawful And Honest: A Nuptial Mess, (who “asks important questions about our legal and theological understanding of Christian marriage raised by recent reports”).

Royal Wedding – some legal links. Legal issues &c associated with Royal Wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Meghan Markle, from announcement of engagement to marriage ceremony. 19 May 2018

Presiding Bishop Curry to give address at Royal Wedding. Kensington Palace announcement on wedding of Prince Henry of Wales and Meghan Markle. 12 May 2018.

Royal Marriage: Prince Henry of Wales & Meghan Markle. Announcement of engagement. 27 November 2017.

Royal Marriages. Including marriage after divorce, use of Special Licence. 19 May 2017.

Celebrity Marriages (and others). Including royalty and marriage of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, to Camilla Parker Bowles. 17 April 2017.

A prenup for Harry and Meghan?. Post by Dr Sharon Thompson, Senior Lecturer in Law at Cardiff University, 29 November 2017.

The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 has landed. Overview from Bob Morris of the Constitution Unit at UCL, 15 May 2015.

Prenuptial agreements, the Church and the Law. Law report on matrimonial property, needs and agreements, 24 February 2014.

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COVID-related issues

Our post, COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance, provides a summary of the legislation, guidance and advice relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Weddings, wakes and face masks, Relaxation of some Step 2 requirements, (15 June 2021).

Weddings in England: “Step 2” relaxation of lockdown, Statement by UK Weddings Taskforce, (19 March 2021).

COVID-19: MHCLG update on singing and weddings, (20 March 2021).

Worship, funerals and weddings under the Second English Lockdown. Russell Sandberg looks at the legislation on worship, funerals and weddings under the Second English Lockdown (5 November 2020).

Non-qualifying marriages and the COVID Regulations. The dichotomy under the latest COVID-19 Regulations between what is permitted at a (legally-binding) wedding ceremony in England and (separately) in Wales, and what is permitted at other celebrations of marriage (13 October 2020).

Funerals and weddings in Northern Ireland: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 SR 2020/187. The Regulations came into force at 5.45 pm on 25 August 202o (26 August 2020).

Face covering during weddings and other services. Interim guidance from the Church of England issued on the use of face-covering during services (5 August 2020).

Marriages and civil partnerships in Wales.  Extracts from the guidance issued by the Welsh Government, Guidance to local authorities and places of worship on marriages and civil partnerships: coronavirus (10 July 2020).

Delayed marriages in England and Wales 24 June 2020.

Outdoor weddings in Northern Ireland. Graveside funerals are presently permitted, provided they meet the restrictions on “gatherings” and the advised “social distancing” is observed. In a new development, The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Amendment No. 5) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 SR 2020/96 provide for conducting marriage and civil partnership ceremonies outdoors (9 June 2020).

Is the coronavirus ban on weddings lawful? In a guest post, Neil Addison questions the legality of the current ban on weddings. (11 May 2020).

Coronavirus COVID-19: Further marriage law update, Updated advice from the Faculty Office (20 April 2020)

Wales coronavirus circuit break: legislation and guidance, (21 October 2020).

Coronavirus-related legislation: Cytûn’s briefing for churches in Wales (15 August 2020).

Coronavirus and ecclesiastical law – I. This review considers aspects of ecclesiastical law and related provisions which have arisen, directly or indirectly, as a consequence the restrictions imposed by coronavirus-related legislation (27 July 2020).

Scotland: Government guidance on safe reopening of places of worship (14 July 2020).

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020: revised post (7 July 2020).

Closure of churches is ‘guidance, not instruction’ – Archbishop. Christian Today, (13 April 2020).

Coronavirus COVID-19: Closure of all Church of England buildings (24 March 2020).

Coronavirus: Archbishops’ and Bishops’ Statement (23 March 2020).

Coronavirus COVID-19: Marriage Law Update (23 March 2020).

Churches in Northern Ireland: Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance. “steps should be taken to ensure that numbers attending funeral services and weddings are kept as low as possible.” (18 March 2020)

Church in Wales: Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance. Pastoral Declaration of the Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales (17 March).

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The State and Marriage II: How would things look after the Cutting of the Connection? (5 July 2018).

The State and Marriage: Cut the Connection. Daniel Hill makes a radical contribution to the debate about marriage law. (21 June 2018).

Banns of marriage – their development and future (8 December 2018, First posted 23 February 2017)

Synod rejects ban on banns, (14 February 2017).

The end of banns in England? The Revd Stephen Trott’s Private Member’s Motion at General Synod (25 November 2015).

Calling the banns in Scotland? – on reflection, maybe not (16 January 2015).

The Marriage Pledge – further developments (28 November 2014).

The Marriage Pledge – Its relevance in Europe (24 November 2014).

The Marriage Pledge – Reaction within the US. The publication of The Marriage Pledge on the First Things website is attracting comment within the United States and elsewhere. Two Anglican and Episcopal pastors are seeking to encourage priests and ministers to refuse to perform civil marriages as a response to their concerns regarding the changing governmental definition of marriage (22 November 2014).

Exclusively-secular marriage for England and Wales? – unlikely, but the law needs reform. Simon Hughes, Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, had told the Liberal Democrat spring conference that England and Wales should move towards the separation of civil and religious marriage with a secular, state-regulated ceremony following which the couple could exchange religious vows if they so wished (11 March 2014).

Calling the banns in Scotland: a curiosity for canon law anoraks (14 August 2012).

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Parochial Fees

Church of England Parochial Fees 2021. The Church of England’s Table of Parochial Fees from 1 January 2021 (“the Table”), prepared by the Archbishops’ Council, is now available on the C of E website as an A3 table, an A4 table, and as a short A4 summary (25 November 2020).

Church of England Parochial Fees 2020. The Church of England’s Table of Parochial Fees from 1 January 2020 (“the Table”), prepared by the Archbishops’ Council, is available on the C of E website as an A3 table, an A4 table and as a short A4 summary (5 November 2019).

New advice on “extras” for weddings and funerals. On Thursday 21 February, the General Synod of the Church of England approved a new scheme for parochial fees which will be applicable for the years 2020 to 2024 inclusive. Earlier in February, the General Synod Legal Advisory Commission issued the advice Weddings and Funerals: Additional Charges. This post reviews the main points of this recent updating/collation of advice and guidance (5 March 2019).

Increased fee for issue of Marriage Certificate (19 February 2019).

Clergy discipline, former clergy and parochial fees – I. Consideration by the ecclesiastical courts (29 January 2015).

Clergy discipline, former clergy and parochial fees – II, Further consideration of Hawthorne by the secular courts (3 July 2019).

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David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer

Cite this post as: David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer, “UK marriage legislation” in Law & Religion UK, 27 November 2020,

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