This article is written by Sue Havenhand, Independent Celebrant.
You may have noticed the media reporting about weddings after 19th July. In particular they’ve reported on the laws around weddings becoming more relaxed. As always, we see the tip of the iceberg mentioned with 99% of the juicy stuff left out.
Let me fill in the gaps for you. If you are thinking of getting married in the future then these new wedding rules are extremely relevant to you.
On the 19th July 2022 the Law Commission published its long-awaited final report into wedding law reform in England and Wales. It recommended the government move to an officiant-based system. This means the officiant — such as a celebrant, registrar, or minister — would be licensed to carry out the marriage rather than the venue. This is much like the system in place in Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Canada.
At the moment, couples have limitations about where they can marry and by whom.
Of course religious weddings occur in churches and chapels, officiated by a priest or vicar. Non-religious weddings take place in register offices or in premises like here at The Gamekeeper’s Inn, which is licensed to hold legal marriages. The registrar, in these cases, comes to the venue to officiate. There can be no reference to religion in the wording used.
If the proposals go through Parliament with few hiccups, we can expect new wedding rules in England and Wales to be officiant-based. This means that the officiant holds the authority to have the wedding take place with no location restriction.
As an independent celebrant, of course I am excited about this.
Yes, we write and deliver beautiful wedding ceremonies but we cannot do the “legal” part. Our couples go to the register office for a quick 2 plus 2 marriage, then have their dream ceremony with a celebrant in the venue, and with their content, of choice.
If they would like a reference to religion, we can do this.
In fact, we can do and say just about anything they wish. This is because the ceremony, though rightly important to couples, has no actual legal significance.
Thankfully for us celebrants, thousands of couples can enjoy the benefits that freedom of choice through a celebrant-led wedding offers after July 19th.
They see the register office appointment as a necessary means to their perfect end goal of the perfect wedding.
For many couples, the opportunity to have a legal marriage ceremony in the same place as their reception is a huge factor in their decision-making. These new wedding rules in the UK open up the concept of legal marriages by celebrants and can only be a good thing for couples. Especially in post-COVID times, people can struggle to find a registrar and their perfect venue with matching availability.
Well, the report is with the government, who have 6 months to respond.
They could decide to put it through parliament as it is, right now. They could make changes to it. They could delay it as, let’s face it, we face unprecedented challenges in these uncertain times. Wedding law reform may not be on top of the list of priorities.
We simply don’t know. If you are not planning a wedding, or working within the wedding industry, it probably will not even make it into your head space.
But if this is something that you would like to see happen then get involved.
Email your MP with a quick message about how important it is to you. The laws surrounding weddings are hopelessly out of date and at last there is some chance of new rules for weddings on the horizon.
We will wait and see.
Until then, why not have your dream wedding in the Yorkshire Dales?Weddings at the Gamekeeper's Inn