Wedding laws set to be overhauled in biggest change in centuries

·2-min read
Photo credit: Kelvin Murray - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kelvin Murray - Getty Images

A government commissioned report has found that the laws on weddings in the UK are in need of a shake up.

Describing the current rules around weddings as "confusing, out-of-date and restrictive", the Law Commission said that an overhaul of the laws would give couples more choice and freedom as to how their big day would look.

Based on its findings, the Law Commission has recommended that the changes – which would be the biggest to take place since the 1800s – include allowing couples to get married at beaches and in private homes. But, critics have said that the changes could trivialise weddings, resulting in the commercialisation of the ceremony.

In response, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the government had "asked the Law Commission to review our current marriage laws to ensure this important institution continues to reflect modern society."

The spokesperson continued, "We will carefully review these recommendations and respond in due course."

Photo credit: Delmaine Donson - Getty Images
Photo credit: Delmaine Donson - Getty Images

What are the current rules on weddings?

Under the currently laws on weddings, couples in England and Wales must choose between a civil or religious ceremony with an officiant and specific wording. At the moment, there is no option for a legally-binding ceremony reflecting other beliefs.

This could well be about to change though, as the Law Commission has asked the government to overhaul the rules, putting forward recommendations that include:

  • Regulation on the officiant performing the ceremony, rather than the venue

  • No legally prescribed form of words, meaning couples have the freedom to choose the content of their ceremony whilst maintaining the ability for religious groups to still apply their own practices and traditions

Importantly, the Law Commission's changes would address concerns that some weddings – including some religious ceremonies – are not registered legally, meaning that couples have no legal protection if they later go on to separate.

In the report, the Law Commission warned that "non-qualifying ceremonies are a growing issue within some Muslim communities", adding that many people taking part in them did not realise their wedding was not legally binding.

"The consequences on the end of the relationship can be devastating," the report pointed out, stressing that: "Those consequences are felt disproportionately by women and by the children of the relationship."

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