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.