Bishop & Sewell

It may seem odd, but did you know that as the 1836 Marriage Act currently stands only Jewish and Quaker weddings are permitted to take place outdoors?

However, in proposals put forward by the Law Commission this week private gardens, parks, cruise ships, or even your own home, could all become legal venues for weddings to be held.

If you want to have a wedding in England and Wales, on the beach for example, a separate legal ceremony of marriage has to take place in a church or register office.

Professor Nick Hopkins, Family Law Commissioner at the Law Commission, said: “Our proposals would give couples the freedom to choose the wedding venue they want and a ceremony that is meaningful for them.

“As the experience of couples wanting to get married during the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the laws governing how and where couples can marry are outdated and unnecessarily restrictive.

“Our proposals would give couples the freedom to choose the wedding venue they want and a ceremony that is meaningful for them… We hope to make the laws that govern weddings reflect the wishes and needs of today’s society.”

Not everyone thinks such flexibility is a good idea. As reported on the BBC a spokesman for the Church of England said: “The moments of waiting to walk down the aisle, standing at the steps and exchanging timeless vows that can only be said in a church, and turning to walk out of the church as a newly-married couple, are cherished.”

The Jewish Chronicle explains in a little more detail why Jewish and Quaker weddings in England and Wales are exempt: Until 1753 marriages could take place anywhere but had to be conducted indoors before an ordained Church of England clergyman. This encouraged secret marriages, bypassing parental consent. Bigamy and under-age marriage grew common.

Although Jews and Quakers were exempted from the 1753 Act, it required religious non-conformists and Catholics to be married in Anglican churches, a restriction later removed by the 1836 Act, which also allowed for non-religious civil marriages to be held in newly-created registry offices.

The rules are much more relaxed in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It does seem to me that the 1836 Act should be updated. But good luck to anyone wanting to get married on the beach in England or Wales!

If you’re not yet married you may find this article, written by my colleague Victoria Maxwell, about the lack of legal recognition for cohabiting couples of interest.

Our Family lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have rankings in the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for their expertise.

If you need some advice and support, please get in touch via or call us direct on +44(0)20 7091 2869. We are here for you.

The above is accurate as at 14 September 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

Category: News | Date: 14th Sep 2020

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