Wedding Reform: developments in Northern Ireland and lessons for elsewhere?

In a guest post, Professor Russell Sandberg looks at the issues surrounding the new consultation paper on marriage law reform in Northern Ireland.

Reform of the law on getting married continues to be very topical. A private Member’s bill in the Commons this Friday (the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill) seeks to increase the minimum age at which you can enter into a marriage or civil partnership to 18 and amend the criminal offence of forced marriage to cover child marriage, including religious or other unregistered marriages. Meanwhile, a consultation on whether to make permanent the post-COVID recognition of outdoor marriages in approved places is awaited as is the final report of the Law Commission’s final report on wedding law, which if it follows their previous consultation paper is likely to propose comprehensive reform shifting from regulating buildings to recognising officiants. In Scotland, the Law Commission is re-evaluating their law on cohabitation rights on separation and, not to be left out, the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland has just published a consultation paper on limited marriage law reform.

The consultation paper explores two possible piecemeal reforms: the first concerns the recognition of ‘belief marriage’, an issue also being explored by the Law Commission in England and Wales; the second concerns raising the minimum age to enter marriages or civil partnerships, which is the subject of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill in England and Wales. Continue reading