Great Britain

Outdoor civil weddings and partnerships get green light for first time

Civil wedding and partnership ceremonies will be allowed to take place outdoors for the first time in England and Wales from July.

This will allow couples to hold outdoor ceremonies from July until next April and means more guests can attend gatherings that would otherwise have been affected by social distancing restrictions.

It comes as the cap on the number of guests allowed at weddings and civil partnerships gets lifted in England from Monday. More than 30 guests will be allowed again at such events, but venues have been asked to limit numbers based on the space they have and with social distancing measures in place.

In Wales, the number of people who can attend a ceremony and reception is determined by the size of the venue and assessment of Covid risks.

The government will hold a consultation to determine if the change should become permanent. However, it only applies to locations that already have approval to hold civil weddings and partnership registration.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “A couple’s wedding day is one of the most special times in their lives and this change will allow them to celebrate it the way that they want.

“At the same time, this step will support the marriage sector by providing greater choice and helping venues to meet demand for larger ceremonies.”

The government said the change will benefit almost 75 per cent of all non-religious weddings in England and Wales.

Under the current rules, ceremonies being held at approved locations, such as a hotel, must be inside a room or other permanent structure. Prior to that, until 1994, ceremonies could only take place in churches and registry offices in England and Wales.

The Law Commission proposed a series of changes to marriage legislation last year, with the issue of holding ceremonies outdoors being one of them.

The commission said current laws no longer met the needs of many couples and suggested that private gardens, beaches and parks could be designated as potential wedding venues in the future.

But the Ministry of Justice said the location for outdoor ceremonies from next month must be deemed “seemly and dignified” and will have to follow public access and signage requirements.

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