I share concerns about the current marriage laws and agree that meaningful change needs to take place. You may be interested to know that when the Government held a consultation on this in 2014, the majority of respondents were in favour of changing the law to allow legally valid non-religious belief ceremonies in unrestricted locations.
What is also clear, however, is the importance of not embarking upon piecemeal reform, which may lead to inconsistencies between groups – for example non-religious belief organisations and religious belief organisations. I know that the Government wants to reform marriage ceremonies to make sure that there is a simple, fair and consistent legal framework, so that people can have a wedding that is meaningful to them.
That is why the Government asked the Law Commission in October 2018 to come up with options to make our marriage system simple, fair and consistent offering more choice for modern couples. As part of the project, the Law Commission will consider how a scheme could include weddings conducted by non-religious belief organisations and independent celebrants and where weddings should be able to take place.
I understand that the Law Commission will now begin its work on the project and prepare questions and provisional proposals for reform for a public consultation. The detailed review including a final report is expected to last two years.
I believe that the requirement for venues to be seemly and dignified should be maintained. However, I do welcome the fact that alongside the Law Commission review, Ministers are exploring the extent to which regulations governing approved premises could be reformed to allow outdoor locations for civil weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.