In September 2014 the Coalition Government issued a Discussion Paper on the -
awkward to describe - subject of weddings celebrated by 'non-religious belief
organisations'. Three months later, that same Government published a summary of
the responses (largely from humanists) together with its own reaction to them -
which was to ask the Law Commission to undertake a 'broader review of the law
concerning marriage ceremonies'.
Marriage law applies regardless of the
path taken through the preliminary formalities and ceremonies but for the –
temporarily at least - happy couple the choice of pathway seems – paradoxically
- to have become more important as the number of weddings has fallen. Yet it is
surely the case, as with the legal consequences of the outcome, that the law
governing that choice is rarely known or considered by the parties – or indeed
by many other people.
In reviewing the 2014 Discussion Papers, this
article considers those pathways, their history and usage, before suggesting
that the longstanding ‘Anglican v the Rest’ approach is overdue for discarding
and that it be replaced with a choice from ‘religious, other belief, state, and
pretty-much-everything-else’ opportunities, certainly as regards the ceremony.
This might involve couples in giving more thought not merely to their wedding
but to its uniform consequences.