Churches to hold outdoor weddings in major loosening of marriage laws


Religious weddings will be allowed outside for the first time in more than 250 years as part of a major liberalization of marriage law planned by the government.

Ministers are to allow churches to hold weddings outside their grounds, performed by a priest, the biggest change since the Marriage Act of 1753 sealed religious ceremonies.

The Justice Department is also relaxing the rules for civil ceremonies permanently, so that they can continue to take place outdoors in parks, gardens, forests and on beaches, as was temporarily the case. during the pandemic.

Guests love ‘romantic’ outdoor weddings

“A wedding is one of the absolute highlights in a person’s life and it is right that couples have more choice in how they celebrate their special day,” said Tom Pursglove, a Minister of Justice. Justice.

“Our proposals would offer them that choice, whether they choose a civil or religious ceremony, and would be a huge boost for those planning a wedding in the years to come.

Importantly, it will also support the wedding industry by ensuring that the venues can continue to safely meet the demand for larger ceremonies. ”

The change in law will apply to all religions, with around 55,000 religious marriages per year eligible to take advantage of the outward expansion – of which 96% are Christians.

No religious group will be compelled to hold outdoor ceremonies, and existing protections to safeguard religious freedoms will remain in place.

The change takes the clock back to medieval times, when it was common for weddings to take place outside of a church – the reason many of this period have a protruding porch.

Ministers will also consult on whether a relaxation of previous regulations that require civil ceremonies to take place indoors or in a structure, such as a bandstand, may continue after the pandemic beyond April. 2022, when they are due to expire.

George Buchanan, of Hodsock Priory in Nottinghamshire, is among those who embraced outdoor weddings after converting a former tennis court to a licensed venue for civil ceremonies in November 2020.

“The first ceremony took place in June 2021 and it is immediately the most popular choice for our brides as a location of their choice on the spot to say ‘yes’,” he said.

“The outdoor ceremonies will continue through the winter – the fall colors are spectacular for this weekend’s weddings. Customers love it because it’s romantic and Covid safe so I would say it’s a positive experience and a plus for our place.

More reforms could be made to marriage laws

The ministers also called on the Law Commission to consider further marriage reforms, including whether ceremonies could take place in a wider range of locations – even outside of church grounds.

The Commission will also examine the question of who can solemnize a marriage, how marriage by humanist and other non-religious organizations could be incorporated and how arrangements could be made for the use of independent officiants to officiate at ceremonies. .

The Law Commission is due to submit its report by summer 2022. The consultation on the other changes will last six weeks. If approved, any outdoor venue will require a license to host a wedding.

The commission helped frame the current relaxation of civil regulations with a report in September 2020, which also recommended that couples be able to marry remotely via video conferencing platforms like Zoom in the event of future pandemics.

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