Exciting Law Commission Consultation Released to Update the Centuries Old Wedding Legislation

You should look to put in place a proper policy governing how this data will be collected, used, stored and destroyed. It is also advisable to keep evidence of the collection of such data in case this comes under future scrutiny. If this is the case a well-considered policy will help to demonstrate how you have complied with the new mandatory requirements to keep contact details within the wider data protection framework. This should include training your staff, monitoring and taking action if required.

Current Regime
Some of the laws surrounding marriage date back to the Victorian era.  They include strict requirements, including:

  1. Couples can have either a civil or religious wedding. There is no scope for other beliefs that fall outside of this remit (i.e. Humanists).
  2. With limited exceptions, a legally binding wedding, must be conducted indoors in a place of worship or licenced venue. 
  3. Couples not complying with the strict legal requirements may find that their marriage is void, meaning that it was never legally binding.

Whilst arguments can be made for and against a change in the law surrounding weddings, the simple fact is that the law should reflect the needs of the public. To this end, the law surrounding weddings is in need of a revamp.

Consultation Proposals

The Law Commission’s Consultation Paper was released on 3 September 2020. They are suggesting detailed and exciting reforms for weddings, with the view to modernising the process, including:

  1. Weddings to be allowed outdoors. Beaches, parks and private gardens are all included in this proposal. 
  2. Weddings to be allowed in a wide variety of buildings including private homes.
  3. Simplification of the process by removing lots of the ‘red tape’. This is aimed at making weddings more efficient and easier to follow; 
  4. Giving couples more flexibility in what type of ceremony they use, to still give affect to a legally binding wedding, such as allowing non-religious belief organisations such as Humanists to conduct legally binding weddings.
  5. Ensuring that weddings which are conducted in accordance to religious rites result in a valid marriage recognised by the law; 
  6. Providing the power to conduct weddings remotely during a national emergency. 

Next Steps

The Consultation Paper was originally due to be released in early 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. The consultation will run until 3 December 2020. All of the responses will be analysed and a detailed report will be sent to the government with final recommendations towards the middle of 2021.

After this, the government will review the report and may propose new legislation. It is not a particularly controversial topic so it is likely the parliamentary process will not be delayed. Although it may be some time before we see some positive change, we can be hopeful that it will come.

As family lawyers, we are excited to see changes across this sector of law from ‘no-fault divorces’ to ‘single surrogacy’ to more choice for our weddings. We continue here at ACLF to pioneer for changes to secure equality, fairness and practical law so we rejoice in all the changes that are positive.