The Sunday Telegraph
Nice day for a wild wedding – law to permit outdoor ceremonies
COUPLES will be able to hold civil weddings outdoors for the first time from next month, as part of a move to allow more ceremonies to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, is to amend the current regulations to allow outdoor civil wedding and partnership ceremonies to take place at venues such as hotels and stately homes that are already allowed to hold civil ceremonies. While the law currently requires the ceremony to be held in an approved room, from July 1, couples will be able to wed in any outdoor areas at the same venue.
Due to social distancing rules, many venues have had to significantly reduce the number of guests allowed at ceremonies. The planned change in regulations could allow more guests to attend ceremonies at approved venues. Covid19 transmission is significantly lower outdoors than indoors.
Mr 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.”
Ministers plan to rush through the change by laying a statutory instrument in Parliament on June 30, which would amend the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 with effect from July 1.
Under separate changes to Covid-19 restrictions on June 21, the number of attendees at weddings will no longer be limited to 30. Instead it will be determined by individual risk assessments for each venue setting out how many people can be “safely accommodated” with social distancing measures in place.
In 2019, ministers pledged to sweep away red tape that limits weddings to “immovable and permanent” buildings after the Law Commission found such was the demand for open-air ceremonies that licensed venues were exploiting loopholes to “offer what are already effectively outdoor weddings”.
A Law Commission review, launched before the emergence of Covid-19, is examining the possibility of allowing ceremonies to be held in a broader range of locations, including beaches, forests, public gardens and even remotely via videoconferencing software.
The commission is expected to issue a report later this year. Officials have said the review could open up opportunities for civil ceremonies at sea, in private homes or military sites for service personnel. It could also see more hotels and pubs given approval.
At present, councils can only grant licences to established immovable structures comprising at least a room, or a vessel that is permanently moored.