The Sunday Telegraph

Nice day for a wild wedding – law to permit outdoor ceremonies

- By Edward Malnick SUNDAY POLITICAL EDITOR

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.

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