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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

03 JUL 2015

Not just the wedding venues: hitchings, humanists and Hells Angels: ‘railroad, steamboat, river or canal’? (£)

Chris Barton

Emeritus Professor

Not just the wedding venues: hitchings, humanists and Hells Angels: ‘railroad, steamboat, river or canal’? (£)
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.

Updated guidance on the approval of premises as venues for civil marriages and civil partnerships is available to view here.
The full version of this article appears in the July 2015 issue of Family Law.

Online subscribers can access the full version of the article here.

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