Will there be a change in the law for weddings?

On 3rd September 2020, the Law Commission launched a consultation on proposals to modernise and improve the law governing weddings. This consultation will run until 3rd December 2020. 

The current position

Currently, the law on weddings dates back to the Marriage Act 1836 which regulates how couples can legally get married. Under this law it is only possible to get legally married in either a civil or religious ceremony. Therefore, other ceremonies such as humanist weddings are not considered legal. 

A religious ceremony must take place in a registered religious building and an authorised person must attend the ceremony and register the marriage. Same-sex couples can only be married in a building registered for the marriage of same-sex couples. 

A civil ceremony must take place at either a register office or a venue that has been approved by the local council and a registrar must carry out, or be present at, the wedding. A civil ceremony can include readings, songs or music, but must not include hymns or readings from religious scriptures. 

The current law means that weddings cannot occur outside, or remotely, which has caused some difficulties with the restrictions placed on weddings due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

By comparison, in Scotland weddings are not limited to location, and marriages can be conducted by any authorised celebrants. 

What is proposed?

The Law Commission are proposing to make the following changes:

  • Allow weddings to take place outdoors and on cruise ships 
  • Offer couples greater flexibility over the form of their wedding ceremonies and enable a variety of ceremonies to mark their marriages, including involving celebrants, and humanist weddings
  • Simplify the process – currently couples wishing to get married have to give notice in person which can be difficult for some couples – therefore it has been proposed that giving notice could occur by post or online.
  • Ensure that fewer weddings conducted according to religious rites result in a marriage that is not legally recognised
  • Provide a power to allow weddings to take place remotely during any future national emergency (such as Covid-19). This should hopefully make a difference as some venues were unable to open due to the restrictions placed on venues. 

This would therefore offer more flexibility to couples getting married and open up a number of possible ceremony options that have previously been unavailable due to the limitations. 

There are some further considerations that couples getting married may like to consider: 

Marriage revokes a Will

Once a couple is married, any Will that has previously been made by either person will be revoked, in other words it is no longer valid. There is an exception to this, which is any Will that is made in contemplation of marriage. Our Private Client department can help you draft a Will. 

Whether a Pre-Nuptial agreement may be necessary

A pre-nuptial agreement is a document that states how the couple should divide their assets in the event that the relationship breaks  down. A pre-nuptial agreement is not strictly binding on the matrimonial court. For further information on pre-nuptial agreements, please see our page “Why get a pre-nuptial before you get married“.

Barrett & Co Solicitors are open and are able to conduct telephone meetings. Our Family Team offers a confidential one-hour fixed fee meeting for one hour for £95 including VAT, if you would like any advice on the above matters discussed. Please contact our Reading office on 0118 958 9711 to book an appointment or alternatively, email [email protected] and we will be happy to assist you.

Further Reading:

Cancelled Weddings due to Covid-19

Does the Villiers’ Divorce ruling lead the way to Divorce Tourism?

Can a charity prop up its trading company?

Get in Touch

If you would like further information, Eleanor Pearson offers an initial one hour fixed fee meeting at a cost of £95 (inc. VAT). During these meeting we can discuss your personal circumstances, options and possible next steps.

Due to the current circumstances, meetings can occur via telephone. We are hoping that meetings at our office in Reading can occur soon. Please call the office on 0118 9589711 or email [email protected] if you would like to book a meeting.

Eleanor is a Family Law solicitor and is a member of Resolution. Eleanor specialises in divorce, financial matters and private children matters.

"barrettandco" and "Barrett & Co" are trading names of Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP, a Limited Liability Partnership incorporated in England and Wales under registration number OC356263, with registered office at Salisbury House, 54 Queens Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4AZ. Barrett & Co Solicitors LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority www.sra.org.uk (SRA Number 549694).

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