The Law Commission’s review of wedding ceremonies proposes wide-ranging changes to the rules and regulations governing weddings in England and Wales.

Among the principle changes proposed is to allow religious organisations other than the Church of England and the Church in Wales to nominate officiants who can legally conduct ceremonies. The Evangelical Alliance sees the shift from the venue being registered for weddings, to the officiant from an authorising body, as one which will benefit a wide range of churches, particularly those who do not have their own building and currently cannot hold wedding ceremonies.

Aspects of the process for churches (and other religious groups) to nominate officiants will require greater clarity. We will want to see reassurance that measures are in place that prevent people from being registered as an officiant with multiple groups – religious or otherwise – and the challenge this could pose to the integrity of beliefs around marriage.

Throughout the consultation document the Law Commission are keen to ensure that the dignity and solemnity’ of ceremonies and beliefs about marriage are maintained. This phrase is not defined and is both something we would want to affirm and also challenge. We firmly believe it is vital that a biblical view of marriage is treated with a high level of seriousness and dignity. We believe that it affords such treatment because it is rooted in scriptural teaching and Christian tradition. Where we want to challenge the complexity of the Law Commission’s text is that what for one person undermines dignity and solemnity is the expression of it for someone else. In particular, we have in mind wedding ceremonies from different cultures and traditions that are especially exuberant.

We recognise the concern that has been expressed about the lapsing of restrictions on location leading to weddings taking place in contexts that do not afford dignity and solemnity. No doubt if these proposals are introduced there will be headline-grabbing weddings in bizarre locations, however the dignity and solemnity of marriage is not granted by the location where the vows are taken but by the commitment of the couple and the foundation of their relationship. We consider that the benefits to diverse Christian traditions outweigh concerns about removing restrictions on location.

In addition, there is the benefit that the proposals would allow religious material to be used in civil wedding ceremonies. This was a restriction initially introduced to ensure clarity between religious and civil weddings, however, in practice it has led to challenges and couples going to lengths to circumvent the rules.

How to respond to the consultation

The easiest way is to respond is via email to weddings@​lawcommission.​gov.​uk The deadline for submissions has been extended to 3 January 2021.

The key issues and relevant questions are below