Hannah Yellop, solicitor in our family team, discusses the news that Philip Hammond has called for a review of wedding restrictions.

For almost 200 years civil ceremonies taking place in England and Wales have had to take place in solid, permanent structures in order to be legally recognised; so that’s a no for that beautiful marquee or any open air plans.

MP Philip Hammond has called for a review of these restrictions, which are in need of modernisation and will help make weddings more affordable for many.

As of 1 September 2014, couples can marry anywhere they choose in Scotland so long as there is a registered minister or celebrant present. Northern Ireland’s rules are similar. However, England and Wales are behind on the trend for the more al fresco Humanist ceremonies.

Under the present rules licences are provided only to specific rooms within buildings, with no food or alcohol being served before or during the ceremony. The licence must be displayed for the minimum of 1 hour before and throughout the ceremony, and be accessible to the public. The room(s) on the licence must be seemly and dignified, and part of the structure of the building. Therefore for those wanting an al fresco ceremony the closest you can currently get is a garden gazebo, pavilion, or arbour, which have permanent roofs.

With weddings now often costing couples upwards of £20,000, and the growing trend for cheaper and smaller weddings the rules on the location need to be relaxed enough to enable smaller venues to afford the licence; and pass that saving on to the couple.

There are restrictions for indoor civil ceremonies too, so that still isn’t the easy option for couples. Any current or recently religious venue i.e. chapels inside stately homes, are not licensed for civil ceremonies.

Changes in the laws could enable couples to marry in hotels, restaurants and pubs.

In England and Wales the laws on who can marry has evolved significantly in recent years. It’s the day couples celebrate their love and commitment to each other; let’s make the rules on where they can marry a little more romantic too.


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