Outdoor civil ceremonies to be legalised for good in England and Wales

Getting hitched alfresco is here to stay...

Updated on 15 March 2022 • Written By Lawrence Calman-Grimsdale

Outdoor civil ceremonies to be legalised for good in England and Wales

The government has announced that from April outdoor wedding ceremonies will be legalised in England and Wales.

Before summer last year, all non-religious ceremonies were legally required to take place in a permanent structure. Due to the pandemic, however, these rules were relaxed to allow small outdoor ceremonies to go ahead while still following social distancing rules.

The government has now announced that from April 1, these relaxed rules will become permanent for civil weddings and partnerships. This decision was made with “overwhelming support” from the public. 

96% of those asked in a government consultation were in favour of the relaxed rules being made permanent, while 93% said the same should be extended to religious ceremonies. The Ministry of Justice has said the same will follow for religious ceremonies in due course.

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Justice minister Tom Pursglove said: “A wedding is one of the most important days in a person's life and it is right that couples should have greater choice in how they celebrate their special occasion.”

"These reforms will allow couples to hold more personalised ceremonies and provide a welcome boost for the wedding sector."

This doesn’t, however, mean you can get married anywhere - the venue will still need a licence. To qualify for a licence, there are various requirements the venue must meet, including fire regulations. The venue must also be regularly available to the public, which is why, for example, you can’t get married at home.

Until 1994, marriage ceremonies were only allowed to take place in churches and registry offices. This was later amended to include landmarks, stately homes and dedicated wedding venues, although they must be approved by the local council, and a registrar must be present to record the ceremony.

Interestingly, the law actually already allowed outdoor ceremonies for Jewish and Quaker ceremonies.

This news comes just as the weather is starting to warm, be sure to check out our 10 best outdoor wedding venues in London.