Couples in England and Wales could soon get married “the Jewish way” after the Law Commission suggested relaxing rules on where a marriage can take place.
As the law stands currently, only Jewish and Quaker weddings are permitted to take place outdoors, but that could soon be extended to all faiths and none, as policy chiefs look to update the 1836 Marriage Act.
Weddings on the beach, in private gardens or even at sea may all be possible under the changes, as the Law Commission said it wanted to help couples marry without having to pay the often crippling costs charged by indoor wedding venues.
“As the experience of couples wanting to get married during the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the laws governing how and where couples can marry are outdated and unnecessarily restrictive,” the Commission said.
Prof Nick Hopkins, who oversees family law at the Commission, said the current 19th Century laws were “not fit for purpose and stop many couples having a wedding that is meaningful and personal to them”.
He added: “Our proposals would give couples the freedom to choose the wedding venue they want and a ceremony that is meaningful for them… We hope to make the laws that govern weddings reflect the wishes and needs of today’s society.”
Until 1753 marriages could take place anywhere but had to be conducted indoors before an ordained Church of England clergyman. This encouraged secret marriages, bypassing parental consent. Bigamy and under-age marriage grew common.
Although Jews and Quakers were exempted from the 1753 Act, it required religious non-conformists and Catholics to be married in Anglican churches, a restriction later removed by the 1836 Act, which also allowed for non-religious civil marriages to be held in newly-created registry offices.