May promises wedding law reforms to reflect modern Britain

Couples could get married at home, at sea or in the open air under proposals to reform outdated laws around wedding venues.

A two-year review by the Law Commission will begin on Monday to look at making the rules in England and Wales suitable for modern Britain.

Separately, the Government will accelerate plans to allow civil weddings and civil partnerships to be held outdoors.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “As both home secretary and Prime Minister I have been proud to sponsor the legislation that created equal marriage, and to extend civil partnerships to ensure all couples are given the same choices in life.

“The vital institution of marriage is a strong symbol of wider society’s desire to celebrate commitment between partners.

“But we can do more to bring the laws on marriage ceremonies up to date and to support couples in celebrating their commitment.

“This review will look at how we can ensure marriage keeps pace with modern Britain.”

Any new venues would have to meet the existing test of “solemnity and dignity”, Number 10 officials said.

The Law Commission review, first promised in October’s Budget, will review the current laws on how and where marriages can take place – many of which date back to the 19th century.

It will look at removing unnecessary red tape to increase the choice and lower the cost of venues and could open up opportunities for civil ceremonies at sea, in private homes or military sites for service personnel.

The existing marriage laws contain a patchwork of inconsistent and highly technical provisions which have lacked fundamental reform since 1836, according to a previous analysis by the Law Commission.

The Law Commission’s review will explore the issues around where and how marriages take place in England and Wales – Scotland already has less restrictive rules.

The current system is based on buildings, including registered places of worship and approved civil premises.

In most cases, it also requires certain individuals to be present or to formally perform the marriage, and to register it, and sets restrictions on the ceremonial elements and wording that can be included.