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Change to marriage laws would allow weddings outdoors

31 December 2021

iStock

CHURCH weddings in England and Wales might be allowed outside for the first time in more than 250 years, under proposed changes to marriage laws being considered by the Government.

A consultation has been launched on the proposed relaxation of the law to allow religious weddings to take place outdoors at a place of worship — for example, in the grounds of a church or chapel.

In medieval times, church weddings were often conducted in the church porch, but the 1753 Clandestine Marriage Act declared that marriages ceremonies must be conducted in a parish church or chapel to be legally binding.

The Ministry of Justice is now proposing to relax the rules on civil ceremonies to allow them to be held in parks, gardens, and forests, and on beaches. The rules were relaxed temporarily for civil ceremonies during the pandemic, and the proposed change would allow them permanently.

Before Covid, civil weddings had to take place at an approved premises in a “permanent structure”.

The Justice Minister, Tom Pursglove, said that it was right to give couples a greater choice on where to get married. “Our proposals would afford them that choice, whether they choose a civil or religious ceremony, and would mark a huge boost for those planning a wedding over the coming years. Crucially, this will also support the wedding sector by ensuring venues can continue to safely meet the demand for larger ceremonies.”

The law change will apply to all religions: about 55,000 church weddings a year would be eligible to take advantage of the expansion to outdoors. But no religious group will have to provide outdoor ceremonies under the proposed change.

The Government said that it was keen to provide couples who were seeking a religious wedding the same choice and flexibility as that offered to couples who want a civil ceremony.

A spokesperson for Church House said that a response would be submitted to the consultation in due course.

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