It’s not just the trends that are changing this year, but potentially UK wedding laws too.
Age of consent to marry is increasing from 16 to 18
In the UK, it is currently not a criminal offence for those aged 16-17 to get married or enter a civil partnership. But only for 2 more days…
On 26th February 2023, the controversial law permitting the marriage of 16-17-year-olds with parental or judicial consent will become a thing of the past - with the age of consent to marry increasing to 18.
Currently, the only offences when marrying a 16/17-year-old are coercion or incapacity to consent (under the Mental Capacity Act) - broadly referred to as forced marriage - even in cases that are not legally binding (e.g. in community and/or traditional settings).
For years, this law has been debated; with the punch line often reading ‘You can’t even legally drink at your hen/stag do’.
Whilst this may not make massive changes within the wedding industry as we know it, we can hope it will have positive moral and ethical implications.
Things changed during the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, the wedding industry came to a drastic halt for very obvious reasons. However, in 2021 the Government altered UK marriage laws to allow for people to be wed outdoors, so long as the venue has an existing licence. This was great throughout and following the aftermath of the pandemic, as restrictions and protocols were easier to enforce, and people were able to feel safe whilst still celebrating.
But now we’ve had a taste for this life (and we like it), the wedding industry is not convinced the law should return to its previous state - and the UK Law Commission agrees.
The UK Law Commission, who review and recommend law reforms, published a report in 2022 stating further proposed changes to UK marriage law.
Regulation will be of the officiant, not the location
Currently, weddings can only legally take place in a licensed venue, or outdoors in a licensed permanent structure. The recommended reform suggests the law should not restrict the location of the wedding, so long as the officiant deems it ‘safe’ and ‘dignified’. This would widen the choice of venue to include the outdoors, unconnected from a building, community centres and village halls, family homes, and cruise ships (with a home port in England or Wales).
By increasing the scope of possible venues, couples will be given more ‘freedom to celebrate their weddings in accordance with their own beliefs, whilst upholding the important protective elements of the law’ - for example, holding a religious ceremony outside of the Place of Worship, or marrying in a village hall to reduce venue costs.
The implications of this reform could be huge for the UK wedding industry - boosting the requirement for creativity and imagination when proposing venues to couples and making weddings financially more accessible to a greater number of couples.
Online wedding notice
The report also suggests that couples should be able to give notice of their marriage online, nominating their registration district where they will be interviewed face to face. This will increase the convenience of wedding registration and, again, increase accessibility - as upcoming weddings will also be published online following the registration process - whilst bringing the UK wedding process into the 21st century.
Part of my wants to roll my eyes at the fact that this isn't already a thing...
Ceremonies that reflect the beliefs of the couples
Conducting a religious ceremony outside of a Place of Worship isn't the only way couples will be able to further personalise their big day, whilst still paying respect to their beliefs.
There will be greater flexibility in the necessary prescribed words of the ceremony; interfaith ministers could incorporate aspects of both person's belief system, potentially reducing the need for multiple ceremonies; and religious elements could be included in civil ceremonies, so long as the ceremony remains ‘identifiably civil’.
This isn’t to say that all couples will want to combine two separate ceremonies or integrate religious aspects into a civil ceremony, but the prospect of lifting the barrier between religious and civil is monumental - potentially reducing costs, simplifying logistics and increasing overall inclusivity (e.g. allowing for couples to pay homage to their upbringing, heritage, or family member without committing to a religious sacrament).
Inclusivity appears to be a huge theme with this proposed reform, as the projected law will be more of a blanket law, even extending to non-religious belief organisations (e.g. Humanists) having the same rights and responsibilities as the religious organisations. Whilst this is subject Government approval, we can hope that all communities are given the right to express their beliefs whilst holding a legally-binding ceremony.
What this means for the wedding industry
As touched upon, couples will expect more from their wedding planners. As we may no longer be solely relying upon licensed venues, wedding planners will have to become more imaginative with the venues they pitch to clients. By learning a couples’ personalities, likes and dislikes, wedding planners will be able to build a vision of a wedding that is truly personal to them - moreso than ever before.
There will also be a greater expectation from wedding planners when proposing budget weddings. With endless possibilities for venues at much more affordable prices, wedding planners will have to utilise the aforementioned creativity and vision, to be able to see the potential of absolutely anywhere.
Overall, these proposed reforms could be really exciting for the wedding industry - pushing creatives outside of the comfort zone they have been living in for so long.
What are your thoughts on the proposed reforms? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out the UK Law Commissions Summary Report here.
Written by Siobhan Tinnion
Event & Marketing Manager
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