Open-air weddings could be allowed under overhaul of ‘outdated’ rules

Couples wishing to tie the knot in the open air may soon be able to do so as the Government signalled a major overhaul of the “outdated” rules on marriage ceremonies.

Chancellor Philip Hammond will use the Budget on Monday to announce a review by the Law Commission of the laws governing wedding venues in England and Wales.

Mr Hammond is expected to say he wants to make the system for obtaining a licence to hold weddings simpler and fairer while preserving the dignity of the marriage ceremony.


The move will be presented as a major boost to the hospitality sector, potentially opening the door for many more hotels, restaurants and pubs to hold weddings.

The review will also consider how to accommodate the growing demand for couples in England and Wales for legally binding outdoors ceremonies – as is already permitted in Scotland.

It comes after an earlier “scoping” exercise by the Law Commission in 2015 concluded the laws governing how and where couples can marry – which have remained largely unchanged since 1836 – were in “dire need of reform”.

Under the current rules, obtaining a licence to hold weddings includes a requirement to identify a specific room where the ceremonies take place, and that it must be part of a building rather than in the open air or under a marquee.

The licence holder must also ensure no food or alcoholic drinks are sold or consumed in the specific area one hour before the ceremony and during the proceedings.

Ministers believe the red tape involved deters many small businesses from applying for a a licence, driving up costs for couples and restricting choice.