Launch of the consultation on outdoor weddings and civil partnerships

  • Temporary measures introduced in summer could become permanent
  • Religious weddings would also be allowed outdoors as part of plans
  • Will provide more flexibility and choice for couples and the wedding industry
  • The place of the ceremony must be valued to be worthy

It follows temporary legislation introduced in July, which for the first time allowed open-air civil marriage and partnership ceremonies.

A consultation launched today is seeking advice on how to make this change permanent. It will also examine the extension to religious weddings so that these can take place outdoors in places of worship for the first time for most denominations, such as within the grounds of a church or chapel. . About 55,000 weddings per year would be affected by this change – in 2017, 96% of them were Christian ceremonies. No religious group would be compelled to hold outdoor ceremonies, and existing protections to safeguard religious freedoms would remain in place.

Prior to last summer’s legislation, civil ceremonies in an approved venue such as a hotel had to take place indoors or otherwise in a permanent structure, such as a bandstand.

Couples can now hold the entire ceremony outside on the grounds of such a venue, providing greater flexibility, especially during the pandemic, when there are important public health considerations to take into account.

Justice Minister Tom Pursglove said:

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.

Our proposals would give them that choice of choosing a civil or religious ceremony, and would mark 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.

George Buchanan, from Hodsock Priory in Nottinghamshire, said:

We converted a former tennis court to an approved 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 favorite spot on site to say ” Yes “.

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

The proposed changes actually reflect medieval weddings, when it was common for ceremonies to take place outside the facade of the church. This is why many churches of this era have a projecting porch.

The ministers would like to hear from professionals, religious organizations and couples who have used the current provisions or who would consider using the provisions in the future, in order to understand how they have worked or might work in practice and whether they should stay. in force beyond April 2022.

A review by the Law Commission will separately present the government with options for further marriage reforms. Items under consideration include:

  • how ceremonies could take place in a wider range of places;
  • who can perform a marriage;
  • how marriage by humanist and other non-religious organizations could be incorporated; and
  • how to plan for the use of independent celebrants.

The Law Commission is due to submit its report by summer 2022.

Notes to Editors:

  • The consultation will last six weeks.
  • As with the original changes that came into effect on July 1, 2021, we propose that the new legislation for civil ceremonies also be introduced through amendments to the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Local Approved) Regulations 2005 for allow open-air civil marriages and civil partnership registrations. take place within approved premises.
  • The Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Approved Local) Regulations 2021 (Amendment) entered into force on July 1, 2021. These were time-limited changes to the Regulations of 2005 and will expire on April 5, 2022.
  • Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the details of the proposal are essentially the same as the changes made in July, but with the addition of proposals to extend the policy for authorizing outdoor ceremonies to religious organizations and couples. seeking a religious marriage.
  • As the approved premises proposal is subject to this consultation and to ordinary SI procedures, the Government cannot guarantee that another SI would be in effect by April 6, 2022. However, this is the proposal and the intention of the Government, and the Government will make every effort to ensure a transparent transition from the current rules to the replacement rules.
  • We intend that the proposed changes regarding religious ceremonies will be made through a law reform decree under the Law and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.
  • All churches and chapels in which Church of England or Church of Wales weddings are held and all current registrations of places of worship certified as buildings for the celebration of weddings under the Marriage Act 1949 would automatically be deemed to include the outdoor areas of the property. frontier. It would be for religious bodies to determine whether such marriages can or should take place and, if so, where and / or under what circumstances.
  • In 2017, 54,346 marriages were celebrated according to religious rites. The majority of them (74%) were Anglican marriages. The second most popular form was Roman Catholic weddings, accounting for 11% of religious weddings, with an additional 11% performed by other Christian denominations. Only 4% were conducted according to non-Christian religious rites.
  • In order to conduct outdoor civil weddings and civil partnership registrations, a venue would need to be approved or must be approved under the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Approved Local) Regulations 2005, as amended.
  • Previously, premises that applied for approval had to include a permanent built structure (or permanently moored ship) with at least one room that had to be approved for civil marriages and civil partnership registration. Under the amended regulations expected in the summer, these premises, if approved, could also use all outdoor spaces linked to the same venue to hold these ceremonies without having to reapply for approval, subject to certain conditions. The consultation proposes to continue this policy.
  • It is proposed that civil ceremonies continue to be able to take place entirely outdoors or under a partially covered structure if it has at least 50% open space. The requirements for public access and signage must also be met.

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