Proposed Changes to The Marriage Laws in the UK

6th June 2022
Wedding couple on the driveway of The Great Barn

Who can marry you and Where?

Currently in the UK if you want to be legally married your choices are limited to either a Church wedding or civil ceremony involving a registrar and licensed premises. The current marriage laws largely date back to 1836 and are generally considered to be out of date.  In 2018 the Law Commission announced that it would be carrying out a two year review of the existing laws focussed on looking at how to modernise marriage law, including widening the locations where people can get married and whether more types of weddings should be legalised.

This is a separate review from some changes we have seen as a result of the pandemic during which time civil weddings and partnerships were temporarily allowed to take place outdoors. (Until then, the legal aspects of all wedding and civil partnership ceremonies had to take place in a licenced venue, room or permanent structure).  From April 2022, these temporary measures were made permanent. A further change to the way marriages in England and Wales are registered came into force from May 2021 with the introduction of an electronic marriage schedule rather than the register itself.

So where has The Law Commission Review got to now?

The Law Commission were asked to investigate and make recommendations on law changes that could see Registrars able to carry out more personalised ceremonies, Celebrants licensed to legally marry and the rules on where you are allowed to be married to be relaxed. This review was set to last 2 years and in January 2021 this initial phase was completed.

We then entered a further 2 year period of consultation following which new legislation will then be drafted and will have to pass through both Parliament and the House of Lords.

What happens next?

The expected time scale will not see the end of consultation for 2 years following which new legislation will have to be passed through parliament. The time frame for this very much depends on the political will at the time and by what other political issues are happening at that time, so nobody can put an exact date or time line on the proposals passing in to law.  However the general advice is likely to be 2023/2024.

Are the proposed Marriage law changes now effective?

Unfortunately no. The UK Law commission has however completed its research and presented its recommendations for public consultation.

How long will the public consultation on the marriage law take?

The consultation period is planned to last two years following which draft legislation will be created for discussion in parliament which could take considerably longer.

Will the Marriage law definitely change?

Again there is some uncertainty around this, however to date there has been little political resistance to the changes and almost everyone involved in the law change discussion understands and supports the need for change. So hopefully the answer will be YES!

Should we wait until the marriage law changes?

Only you as a couple can answer this.  However do consider that you may potentially be holding off your marriage plans for anything up to another 2+ years following which there is no guarantee that the changes you are waiting for will be part of the law changes.