Solicitor Brigitta-Lizel Danso, in our Family Law team, discusses the legalisation of outdoor weddings and civil partnerships.
Prior to 1 July 2021, a legal wedding or civil partnership ceremony had to take place within an approved room or permanent structure. Couples wishing to have an outdoor wedding/civil ceremony were required to be standing in a structure with a solid roof such as a gazebo. Despite its very similar nature, a marquee would not have been sufficient purely because it is a temporary structure.
Partner Claire Dyer, head of our Family Law team, recalls finding this concept peculiar whilst planning her own wedding. Claire was only able to have her ceremony outside within an open fronted ‘faux Greek temple’ style structure. Had she stepped outside of the structure, the marriage would not have been legal.
In July 2021, the legislation was temporarily amended to allow weddings and civil ceremonies to take place outdoors. This was the Government’s attempt to boost the wedding sector following lockdown, which gave couples greater flexibility when planning their wedding/civil ceremony as a result.
The amendments were set to be in place until April 2022, with a consultation scheduled in autumn 2021 to consider the practical implications of the revised policy and assess whether it should be a permanent change.
The Government recently confirmed that the temporary measures will now continue indefinitely as of 6 April 2022 following the overwhelming support from the public and wedding industry. A Government consultation found that 96% of respondents backed making the change permanent, with 93% supporting extending it to religious weddings.
This change gives couples more creativity, freedom and flexibility when planning their wedding/civil ceremony, and will likely reduce the overall cost.
The regulations only apply to ‘Approved Premises’ which meet the statutory criteria, so you cannot host a legal wedding/civil ceremony in your back garden. However suitable venues can make an application to become an Approved Premises under the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.
With the exception of Jewish and Quaker weddings, which for historical reasons can already take place outdoors, all other religious weddings currently must take place indoors in certified places of worship which are registered for marriage, churches, or chapels. Changes to the legislation which will allow marriages to take place in the grounds of religious buildings, such as outside of churches, are on the horizon.
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This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.