Today could mark the start of some exciting changes to where couples can get married in the future in England and Wales. I’m looking forward to hearing about changes in marriage laws today when Chancellor, Philip Hammond, announces the Budget later. He is expected to announce relaxed rules around wedding venues.
the cost of weddings is rising
One of my first marketing jobs was working for a firm of accountants and around budget time we’d need to update all the marketing material that concerned tax rates etc. So since then, I’ve always kept a bit of an eye on the budget. But my ears pricked up more for this annual budget (the last one before Brexit negotiations in November) as there has been lots of talk around the government trying to help couples getting married to keep wedding costs down with a view to the end of austerity.
current marriage laws
Not wishing to get too political, it is interesting that this proposed change could help with the rising costs of weddings and marriage laws could change to bring England and Wales more in line with modern living and other countries.
Currently, the Marriage Act that is primarily in use is the Marriage Act 1949, with some amendments. This requires that a marriage must take place ‘either in a register office, approved premises or in a place of religious worship that has been officially registered for marriages by the Registrar General for England and Wales’.
Therefore, the general rule is that it is the place not the person that is licensed to perform a legal ceremony and it must take place under a solid structure (with a permanent roof). Plus the register must be signed indoors.
changes in where you can legally get married
Many laws surrounding marriage remain unchanged since 1836. The last big change around wedding venues was the Marriage Act 1994 which allowed legal marriages to take place in certain “approved premises”. (Before this amendment, marriage ceremonies could only be conducted in churches and register offices.)
The government is set to propose that the Law Commission reviews the legislation on wedding venues. This could mean that couples could get married outdoors, on beaches, at home and under temporary structures such as marquees. It may also open things up for smaller hotels, restaurants and pubs to boost this part of the hospitality sector.
marriage laws around the world
This proposed change has been discussed before in 2013 but didn’t come to fruition at the time. This proposal (pardon the pun!) is already the case in Scotland where ceremonies can be legally held outdoors, not just by a religious leader or registrants but also for humanists to conduct legally binding ceremonies.
In the US, you can be married by anyone who has been authorised by that state to perform weddings. Couples do not need to have a separate civil and religious wedding ceremony.
Likewise, in Australia a civil ceremony can take place in any location. They are conducted by a registered celebrant and both religious and civil ceremonies are legally binding.
So it could mean that the general rule is that it is the person not the place that is licensed to perform a legal ceremony going forwards.
Meanwhile I wonder if people will put a Brexit 50p in their wedding shoes instead of a silver sixpence in the future too?!
marriage law changes over the years
Here are some other significant changes in marriage laws that have shaped how, where and when couples can get married in England and Wales:
- Until the middle of the 18th century, marriages could take place anywhere provided they were conducted before an ordained clergyman of the Church of England.
- In 1753, the Marriage Act declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding.
- The Marriage Act 1836 allows marriages to be legally registered in buildings belonging to other religious groups if a Registrar and two witnesses were present. It was prohibited to get married during the evenings and at night.
- The Marriage Act 1949 requires that a marriage must take place either in a register office, approved premises or in a place of religious worship that has been officially registered for marriages by the Registrar General for England and Wales. Hours of marriages increased to take place between the hours of six in the evening and eight in the morning.
- The Marriage Act 1994 allows marriages to be legally binding in certain “approved premises”. Prior to the act, marriage ceremonies could only be conducted in churches and register offices.
- The Civil Partnership Act 2004, granted civil partnerships to same-sex couples in the United Kingdom with rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage.
- In 2013, Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which introduced civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales which same the first same sex marriages in March 2014.
- In April 2019, all couples in England and Wales will be able to choose to have a civil partnership rather than get married.