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Marriage Laws Reformed

Recommendations to reform laws surrounding governing weddings have been published by The Law Commission of England and Wales. They have proposed a new system that allows couples more options over where their wedding takes place and how.

Marriage and weddings are currently governed by laws dating back to 1836 which are not in keeping with modern life.

Currently, couples have a choice only between a religious ceremony, or a civil ceremony. The wedding must take place in a place of worship, a Register Office or an approved venue for civil weddings. If the strict rules are not adhered to, the marriage may not be legally recognised.

The Law Commission report recommends a new law that gives couples a greater choice to decide how and where their wedding can take place. The recommendations propose that couples give notice of their intended wedding online, and notice of upcoming weddings should also be online. Couples should have the freedom to have a ceremony that reflects their values and beliefs, for example a religious ceremony conducted in a venue other than a place of worship. There should also be a much wider choice of location for weddings, to include outside locations, in places unconnected to a building, such as in parks, forests or on the beach.

Linda Hunter, Head of Family Law at Rowlinsons Solicitors comments, “the Law Commission report makes for interesting reading and the proposed changes would give much greater freedom for couples to choose how they want to celebrate their special day. The current laws are outdated and don’t reflect the desires that most modern couples have for their wedding day. Bringing them more up to date, allowing notice online, choice of venue and type of celebration will enable couples to have a wedding more reflective of their personal beliefs”.

The report also recommends that there should be much greater clarity as to the consequences for not complying with the required formalities, for example those undertaking a non-qualifying religious ceremony. The issues affecting cohabiting couples are also highlighted within the report, with recommendations for remedies to be found outside of marriage laws.

Linda adds, “The reference to those couples who, for whatever reason, are not legally married and the potential consequences of that, is important. It highlights the lack of legal protection, particularly for cohabiting couples, many of whom are unaware that the law does not afford them the same rights as married couples. This is an issue that has been discussed now for some time, and proposed reforms to allow greater protection for the most vulnerable needs to be progressed.”.

For more information about the recommendations on wedding reform, the Law Commission of England and Wales report can be found here: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/weddings/

For more information about getting married, for advice if you are an unmarried couple, or to book an initial free 30 minute consultation, please contact Linda Hunter at Rowlinsons Solicitors on 01928 736679 or email linda.hunter@rowlinsons.co.uk.

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