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Latest News & Views on Wedding Law Reform

Wedding Laws are undergoing changes

Wedding laws in England and Wales are outdated and impractical, some even dating back to 1863! On 3 September 2020 the Law Commission published a paper detailing proposed changes to the law for public consultation.

The focus is to reduce unnecessary red tape and lower the cost of wedding venues for couples.

Image by Griffin Photography at Pengersick Castle

What does this mean for couples planning and booking weddings?

In the short term, there are no changes for couples or their wedding venues. The Law Commission Consultation Paper is just that – some initial ideas and thoughts that they are asking for feedback on from all interested parties.

Changes to legislation take years. To give you an idea, scoping work was done in 2015, following a Government briefing it has taken over 12 months for this paper to be published and the consultation period will last until 3 December 2020.

A further proposal will be drafted after the consultation period has ended and the Law Commission has reviewed this. Finally, it will go before the House of Commons for debate. So, at the earliest, weddings from 2022 may be impacted by these changes, should any part of these proposals make it that far.

If you are planning a wedding we suggest you carry on as before as there is no certainty in terms of what, if any, changes may be implemented, and when that might be.

What changes might couples’ benefit from before the review is complete?

Separately from this, the Government is looking at relaxing existing laws that prevent outdoors ceremonies at licensed wedding venues (without a permanent structure in place e.g. garden pagoda). These changes may be approved prior to the wider review of wedding law.

We hope so!

Porthpean House

What are the aims of the Law Commission Review of the laws around weddings?

The Law Commission Review focuses on your wedding ceremony and legalities of the marriage process only. It does not include other aspects of a wedding that most couples like to consider, including accommodation, getting ready spaces, your wedding meal or your wedding party.

Many of the proposed changes are fair, sensible and welcome, including:

- Giving notice of your wedding online (although you will still need to go in person to the registry office as part of the notice process in the current proposals)

- A wider choice of wedding ceremony locations, in p[articular outdoor settings and boat settings

- Rather than having licensed wedding venues, we would see the introduction of licensed wedding officiants – these would be registrars initially and, if the Government decide, independent celebrants

- More flexibility around the form each individual wedding ceremony takes

- Aligning the many different religious and non-religious forms of the marriage process to provide a simplified framework

There is also a possibility that the Government will allow independent wedding celebrants to become licensed to conduct legal wedding ceremonies at a later point, meaning that couples will have a choice of a religious, registrar or independent celebrant conducted ceremony in the future. More choice has to be a good thing!

Rebecca or RM Celebrants at Fallen Angel by Verity Westcott

Are we likely to see less red tape and cheaper weddings in the future?

That depends on what you are looking for with regards your wedding day and what gets agreed in Parliament in late 2021/2022.

Options like getting married at home in your own back garden can certainly be cheaper than hiring a Castle for the weekend, but the reality is that most of our homes are not large enough, photogenic enough or private enough to offer us the sort of wedding day experience most people we work with are looking for. But this change will suit some, and save them money.

For the majority of couples, we do not foresee changes in overall costs of a wedding. Wedding officiants responsibilities and work will increase and this may increase overall costs for couples. So, in fact, overall costs may rise for some.

In terms of reducing red tape we are not convinced that current proposals achieve this. The proposals suggest couples could give notice online, which we welcome, but it seems they would still need to go into the registry office in person as well. In addition, there would be a requirement for the couple to file their signed wedding schedule with the local registry office within 7 days of their wedding – so actually increasing red tape, complexity and administration for the couples.

Roman Baths, Bath

Will there be lots more choices in terms of where we can married in the future?

If proposals continue to developed in the same vein that they have been proposed, then potentially yes. But then there are many, many choices already available to couples costing from a few hundred pounds to as many thousands of pounds as you wish to spend.

There is a huge assumption behind this review that wedding venues are currently collectively overcharging for their services. This is something we struggle to accept having been working with 17 venues in England for over 5 years offering a range of tailored wedding options with budget from £2000 to £50,000. Yes, there are expensive wedding venues, there are also more affordable wedding venues, as with holidays, cars, houses or any other large purchase.

Perhaps the easiest way to save money on your wedding is to choose a smaller intimate wedding that’s arguably more heartfelt and enjoyable for all parties than a massive wedding costing life changing amounts of money? W would say that though…!

Image by Joey Lamb Photography, Porthcurno

Will some existing wedding venues disappear?

Our view is that this will not be the case as these changes are specifically in connection with the wedding ceremony itself, not the whole wedding experience couples plan that often includes accommodation, spaces for getting ready, parking, a celebration meal, party, breakfast the morning after and so much more.

The venues we work with all offer flexible bespoke packages that can be designed to include as much or as little as you wish, and of course include wedding planning and coordination to make every aspect of your wedding journey enjoyable.

Opening up choice in the location and setting for ceremonies, making ceremonies more meaningful for each couple and attempting to cut down red tape are all great news for the couples we help, our Petite Weddings Venue partners and other great venues across England and Wales offering amazing places to host your wedding and associated celebrations.

Liberty Pearl, Camel Studio

What are the next steps?

You can read the main points of the proposals here.

The purpose of this proposal is to gather opinion from interested parties. We will of course be submitting our views to The Law Commission and would encourage other interested parties to do the same. You can read the full report here and here is a link to the feedback portal to submit your views.

Keep up to date with developments on our blog.

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