Last year, Guides for Brides provided us with a guest blog about the Law Commissions review of marriage laws. The Marriage Laws in England and Wales have been under review by the Law Commission since 2015.
Currently there are strict rules in place which govern whether a marriage is legally binding. In addition to both people needing to be over 18, not already married and not closely related, couples must either have an Anglican marriage by giving notice to a church, or a civil marriage by giving notice to a registry office. Marriages must take place at a place of worship, registry office, or venues given a specific licence to conduct civil ceremonies. It is not possible to have a wedding outdoors, except within the grounds of a venue approved for civil ceremonies in some circumstances.
If the strict conditions are not complied with (which is often the case with some religious ceremonies) the marriage is not recognised as a legal marriage – which is often not discovered or realised until the marriage breaks down or one spouse passes away. This can lead to financial difficulties as cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples, although this is currently under review.
On the 19th of July 2022, the Law Commission published their recommendations for changes needing to be made to these laws that will allow legally binding marriages and civil partnerships to become much more accessible and inclusive for all. The Law Commision wanted to give people greater freedom, including where they get married, the type of ceremony they have and who can officiate the marriage – essentially suggesting that the officiant be licensed to conduct the marriage, rather than the venue holding the licence. This is currently the law in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey.
However, the Church of England has now expressed concerns that to “commercialise” weddings will “undermine the Christian understanding of marriage”. The government’s response to the Law Commission’s recommendations is expected shortly, and it will be very interesting to see if marriage laws are updated.
Talk to us
If you have any concerns about whether a marriage is legally binding, or want advice on your rights as a cohabiting couple, then do not hesitate to get in touch with our highly experienced family law team.
We are dedicated to resolving matters as amicably as possible and every solicitor in our family team are members of Resolution which means we have a duty to reduce conflict wherever possible.