Law Commission final report on reforming weddings law in England & Wales

The Law Commission has published its final recommendations on the reform of weddings law in England and Wales. In Celebrating Marriage: A New Weddings Law, it recommends a wholesale reform of the current law. The principle behind the Commission’s proposals is that, under the proposed reforms, regulation of weddings would be switched from buildings to officiants (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where weddings are conducted by registered celebrants). Every wedding would be overseen by an authorised officiant who would have legal responsibility for the wedding. There would also be universal rules for all weddings: with very few exceptions, the same rules would apply, meaning that the different laws for different religious groups and for civil weddings would no longer persist.

Under the Commission’s proposals:

  • All couples, as well as all religious groups and (if enabled by Government to conduct weddings) non-religious belief groups, will have the freedom to decide where and how their weddings will take place.
  • Couples will be able to give notice of their intended wedding online and choose the registration district where they are to be interviewed by a registration officer. Anglican preliminaries (for example, banns) will be retained for Anglican weddings.
  • Notice of upcoming weddings will be published online to make the information accessible to the wider community.
  • Couples will be able to have a wedding ceremony that reflects their values and beliefs:
    • by having a religious ceremony in a venue other than a place of worship and without having to incorporate prescribed words into the ceremony;
    • by having a religious ceremony led by an interfaith minister that contains aspects of each of the couple’s beliefs;
    • by having some religious elements, such as hymns and prayers, incorporated into their civil ceremony, so long as the ceremony remains identifiably civil.
  • If permitted by Government to conduct weddings, non-religious belief organisations such as Humanists will be able to do so on the same basis as religious organisations.
  • If permitted by Government to conduct weddings, independent officiants (that is, officiants who are not registration officers and are not affiliated to any religious or non-religious belief organisation) will be able to conduct civil weddings.
  • Couples will be able to get married in a much wider variety of locations, including beaches and parks, community centres and village halls or in their own homes.

There is a short summary of the Report here.

What happens next is for the UK Government to decide.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Law Commission final report on reforming weddings law in England & Wales" in Law & Religion UK, 19 July 2022, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2022/07/19/law-commission-final-report-on-reforming-weddings-law-in-england-wales/

2 thoughts on “Law Commission final report on reforming weddings law in England & Wales

  1. Pingback: Law Commission final report on reforming weddings law in England & Wales – Law & Religion UK | Fulcrum Anglican

  2. A wider range of unlicensed venue locations will lead in some cases to a noise/nuisance/disturbance problem in some local neighbourhoods. For example my neighbour has a large property in extensive grounds, accommodating approximately 25 persons, at the end of a very quiet, narrow and short cul-de-sac. The property is currently let for large family celebrations and hen parties which hitherto have not been problematic. However, the property clearly has the potential to host small weddings on a regular and frequent basis generating more traffic with the high risk of loud evening discos and/or live music. Some form of licensing of Venues is still clearly needed to mitigate the potential adverse impact on local communities/neighbourhoods.

    Outdoor venues will need some form of contingency in case of inclement weather and provide a discrete, dry and sheltered facility for interviewing the parties, particularly as in most cases, the Bride does not like to be seen before the ceremony.

    As a Registrar responsible for registering Authorised Person and Anglican Clergy marriages, Authorised Persons and Clergy without exception do not complete the Marriage Document/Schedule correctly despite formal training sessions, one-to-one sessions and ongoing reminders. With the introduction of a wider range of Independent Officiants this problem will be exacerbated.

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