The pandemic might have a more permanent impact on the future laws around weddings in England and Wales.
Since going into lockdown six months ago, couples have had to cancel, reschedule or massively change plans for their dream weddings. Although social distancing guidelines are of course necessary to help keep everybody safe, the changing rules around weddings have been a financial and an emotional blow for families.
The most recent government guidelines on weddings, which were released on 14 August, state that venues which are able to support social distancing are encouraged to host ceremonies with no more than 30 people in attendance. Small receptions with up to 30 people are also now allowed to go ahead after the ceremony.
It has now been reported by The Guardian that the pandemic might have a more permanent effect on the future of weddings, as new laws around wedding locations and ceremonies are being proposed – and concerns over another lockdown only strengthen these proposals.
Last week, the Law Commission launched a consultation on changing the “unnecessarily restrictive” marriage regulations in England and Wales. It also aims to reduce the cost of ceremonies by allowing couples to marry at home or in more modest community venues.
Currently, you can get married outdoors in England but only as long as it takes place under a licensed fixed structure. These rules date back to the 1836 Marriage Act and do not reflect the social progression since then.
But the proposed changes would mean that couples could soon be free to get married on the beach, in a private garden, parks, out at sea, or even remotely over a video conference link.
“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to get married during the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the laws governing how and where couples can marry are outdated and unnecessarily restrictive,” the Law Commission says.
“We want couples from all walks of life to be able to marry and celebrate their love for each other in a way that is meaningful to them,” adds justice secretary, Robert Buckland.
“That is why we asked the Law Commission to look at the laws around weddings to ensure they better reflect modern society, and we look forward to the outcome of this important consultation.”
The consultation period will run until 3 December 2020. Once the consultation period ends, responses to the consultation will be analysed, which will inform the development of the final recommendations for reform.
The Law Commission is aiming to publish the final report with recommendations to government in the second half of 2021.