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Couples can now wed in the open air

25 March 2022

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WEDDING ceremonies will now be able to take place outdoors at a variety of licensed venues, following the abolition of a law requiring them to be held indoors or within a permanent outdoor structure.

The move follows the relaxation of the rule during the pandemic, when outdoor gatherings were permissible, or encouraged in preference to indoor ones, and many weddings had to be postponed repeatedly. The regulations apply to only “approved premises” under the Marriages and Civil Partnerships Regulations Act of 2005.

Ninety-six per cent of respondents to a Ministry of Justice consultation in December last year supported making the change permanent (News, 31 December). The Justice Minister, Tom Pursglove, said at the launch of the consultation: “A wedding is one of the absolute highlights of a person’s life, and it is right that couples should have greater choice in how they celebrate their special day.

“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.”

But even though all the churches and chapels in which Church of England or Church in Wales weddings are held — together with all places of worship registered under the Marriage Act of 1949 — would be deemed automatically to include the outdoor areas within the property boundary, it will take a new Act of Parliament to allow church weddings to take place outdoors.

A C of E spokesperson said: “Outdoor weddings within the curtilage of the church were once common in medieval times, and raise no doctrinal questions for the Church. However, it will be some time before separate new legislation is introduced by the Government that would enable churches to use suitable exterior spaces for weddings.

“The Church of England will continue to offer weddings which combine dignity and celebration, including those on a limited budget.”

A Law Commission review on further marriage reforms is due to report back later in the year. Options being explored include a broader range of permissible locations; who can solemnise a marriage; how marriage by humanist and other non-religious belief organisations could be incorporated; and provision for independent celebrants.

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