Family and children

Law Commission consultation on weddings – Law Society response

The proposals

On 3 September 2020, the Law Commission launched its consultation paper on weddings, which proposed a comprehensive new legislative scheme to update the law governing each aspect of the process of getting married.

The consultation follows scoping work the Law Commission carried out in 2015.

To modernise and improve wedding law, the Law Commission proposed changes that would:

  • allow weddings to take place outdoors, for example on beaches, in parks, in private gardens and on the grounds of current wedding venues
  • allow weddings to take place in a wider variety of buildings (for example in private homes) and on cruise ships
  • offer couples greater flexibility over the form their wedding ceremonies will take, enabling them, if they desire, to use a variety of ceremonies (religious and non-religious) to mark their weddings
  • simplify the process and remove unnecessary red tape to make it fair to couples, more efficient, and easier to follow. For example, couples will be able to complete the initial stage of giving notice of their intended wedding online or by post, rather than having to do so in person
  • provide a framework that could allow non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) and/or independent celebrants to conduct legally binding weddings

Our view

We welcome this consultation by the Law Commission. The law surrounding marriage and weddings should be simple and accessible to those who wish to get married.

There are questions which do not relate to the work of our members and as such, we chose to respond only to select questions relating to the law and legal matters.

Our response is based on our commitment to equality before the law, and to equality and diversity in society and in the profession. Such an important societal institution as marriage should be equally accessible to all.

We supported a number of the proposals in the consultation document.

We agreed with the proposals for online notice, non-religious weddings and allowing authorised people to officiate ceremonies, subject to proper training and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

On a number of the proposals, we provided feedback and suggestions based on our members’ experiences for the Commission’s consideration.

We suggested to the Commission, as it continues its review of the law around marriage and weddings, that consideration is given to regular public education on:

  • what constitutes a legal marriage
  • the essential requirements of a legal marriage
  • the law and consequences around religious marriages
  • cohabitation and the misconception of the ‘common law marriage’

Next steps

The consultation closed on 4 January.

The results of the consultation are being analysed by the Law Commission. It aims to publish the final report, with recommendations to government, in the second half of 2021.

Read the consultation on the Law Commission website

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