Non-qualifying marriages and the COVID Regulations

 In a guest post, Russell Sandberg looks at 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. 

Non-Qualifying Marriages and the COVID Regulation

The last couple of weeks have seen controversy and confusion as to whether the COVID rules on the maximum number who can attend weddings apply to non-qualifying marriage ceremonies (that is, marriage ceremonies outside the Marriage Act 1949, such as those conducted by humanists and independent celebrants).

This issue has highlighted once again how problematic the conflation of law and guidance has been during the pandemic, both constitutionally and practically. Moreover, it has also underscored the dire need for reform of the law on marriage

The controversy and confusion spread in recent weeks are attributable to the number of weddings that take place which do not comply with the requirements of the Marriage Act 1949 and so are not legally binding. This underscores the fact that English law is no longer in sync with social practice in terms of marriage and the need for reform, as recently articulated by the Law Commission.

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