What Could The Law Commission's Recommendation to the Government Mean for Weddings?
The review of the Marriage Law Act 1949 has now been published by the Law Commission of England and Wales, after extensive research and consultation, and presented to Government for consideration on 19th July 2022. The report was over 400 pages. Read below to find out what this means to engaged couples who want freedom to choose where and who conducts their weddings in the future.
Here is my brief snapshot on the report:-
Snapshot : Current Discrimination
For all these years the Marriage Act has excluded various faiths, beliefs and non faiths, and dictated what a wedding ceremony should look and feel like. Its excluded couples on lower incomes. For those couples who wanted to have a personal wedding ceremony, have had to have two ceremonies - one to obtain the functional legal marriage certificate in a Church or Registrar and the other to have a personal wedding ceremony that reflects their personalities and their beliefs by an Independent Celebrant or Humanist.
With the recommendations now being posed by this final report, it proposes that EVERY couple have more freedom to choose how they want to be married, and where they want to be married. In other words, a fairer system for everyone.
Currently the law discriminates against Imams and Celebrants to name but a few.
Would this mean the end of Church Weddings?
No traditional legal weddings carried out by Church of England or Catholic Churches are integral to our choices. But the recommendations could mean good news for ALL religious weddings. For example not every religion can legally marry someone. Currently now to have a religious wedding outside of a Catholic or Church of England Church building, then a couple would opt to have a celebrant wedding ceremony, as celebrant can include any religion, beliefs or no-religion but it cant include the legal paperwork. That's the same for an Imam. So the current law discriminates on choice and many religious beliefs.
Would this mean England or Wales Celebrant or a Humanist Could Provide a Legal Wedding?
Possibly yes. It is suggesting that the law is changed to an Officiant to be registered and not a venue, meaning that regardless of faith or beliefs or non religion it would be recognised as a legal wedding, should the Government agree to their recommendations.
This is definitely good news for independent celebrants and humanists which could bring them in line with other parts of the UK country (such as Scotland, Jersey and in Ireland) and in other countries too (such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand), as they too could be recognised as a legal officiant.
But there would need to be a system of further training, administration and regulation for everyone who could become a recognised legal officiant, if the law did change. So whilst the report wants change, it doesnt want to see less dignified marriage ceremonies and the checks still need to take place that a couple can legally be married.
Would this mean the end of Registrars?
No, they are Government employees after all. What it might mean is that Registrars, Religious Ministers, Celebrants, Humanists and other 'bodies' could all (or some) become a legal officiant, giving couples choice who they would prefer to legally marry them.
Would this be the beginning of low cost weddings?
Yes potentially. It would be a positive step forward for couples money wise. Without having to pay for licensed wedding venues, couples could choose from lower cost venues making their wedding more affordable. So if the couple wanted to have a legal wedding ceremony on a beach, park or even their own back garden, this could be achievable.
The proposed changes in law would mean less expense for the couples wanting to have a personal wedding that included the legal aspects.
Would this mean the end of licensed and non licensed Wedding Venues?
Possibly yes. Currently licensed wedding venues charge more because they have had to pay a high price to the Registration Service to have the privilege of a Registrar coming out to perform a legal wedding; those venues have to adhere to many restrictions and criteria and meet them.
Thats why non licensed wedding venues tend to be cheaper to currently book, because they cannot offer a legal wedding service to be conducted on their premises, regardless of inside or outside. But its worth noting that money obtained from licensed venues goes to the Government in essence, so this recommendation the Government would need to consider from an income generation perspective!
Real Stories by Wedding Celebrant Amanda-Louise Knight
A recent wedding the Malaysian Muslim bride had 3 wedding ceremonies : a quick one at the local registrar office to obtain the marriage certificate, a Nikah ceremony conducted by the Imam representing their muslim beliefs and then a Celebrant wedding ceremony to recognise their UK life and groom's heritage and their personalities which was personally written for them. So if these recommendations were accepted, it would potentially mean if couples who want a legal multi-cultural religious wedding, they would be able to choose the location and who they would want to conduct it, and be less cost too.
A recent wedding for couple who did not want any religion, nor did they want a pre-written full ceremony by a Registrar, so opted for a Celebrant to write their wedding ceremony from scratch, including everything their guests expected to see and hear in a wedding, but included their love story, personal vows and other rituals such as celtic handfasting. So this couple had to have 2 wedding ceremonies as they wanted a personal ceremony that reflected their personalities.
So if the changes were agreed in Law, these couples could have saved money, have less stress, less wedding planning to do and have the choice how they want to be legally married and by whom.
In brief, the review is guided by five principles for reform:
- Certainty and simplicity
- Fairness and equality
- Protecting the state’s interest
- Respecting individuals’ wishes and beliefs
- Removing any unnecessary regulation, so as to increase the choice and lower the cost of wedding venues for couples
Before we start to fully celebrate the news, its now with the Government to decide and any changes would take a few years to be established. But for now, its cheery news that England and Wales are one step forward to being inclusive for everyone who want to be married.
So whats the time frame?
The Government have until January 2023 to acknowledge the Law Commission's report I understand. They could then state a period of time they will then consider the recommendations. Then they could consider the options and either take forward some of the recommendations, all of the recommendations or none of them. With the current changes in the Government, my guess is this is not going to be a quick fix for weddings!
Listen to Amanda-Louise Knight on Sunday 24th July 2022 at 7am and 9.10am on BBC Radio Somerset with Broadcaster Vicki Clark's morning show for live discussion as to the launch of the review this week.
Didnt get a chance to listen to the radio programme? Then contact Amanda-Louise direct for her expertise on how to have a personal wedding ceremony now, and what are the hopes for the future.