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Wedding Venue Law Reform

Updated: Jun 15

Current Status: Timing under review due to COVID-19


Update as of 14 June 2020: The ABWB have been in communication with the Law Commission about potential changes to allow outdoor weddings at approved premises. We will soon be connecting with the Ministry of Justice who will be making the decision. Stay tuned for updates.



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The Government has asked the Law Commission to review wedding legalities, including where weddings may take place, and who is allowed to conduct the ceremony. Changes to these laws will affect wedding venues around the country. See the Law Commission website: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/weddings/

In October 2019, the Law Commission gathered for a pre-consultation meeting with selected industry representative in attendance, including Hamish Shephard from Bridebook who has been appointed to the Law Commission committee.


In advance of the October 2019 meeting, Bridebook surveyed hundreds of wedding venues to gather feedback and present the report findings at the pre-consultation. See the report: UK Wedding Industry Law Review Report (Oct 2019)


Following, the meeting, Bridebook shared the following update, and will continue to keep the venue community abreast of any new developments related to this wedding law reform.



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Sent to Bridebook's wedding venues on 1 Nov 2019, from Hamish Shephard:


Good afternoon,


Last week I asked venues owners and managers across the UK to share their views on theLawCommission's proposal on WeddingLaw reform. Hundreds of you spoke up and as a result, Beth Wright and I were able to share representative opinions at the pre-consultation meeting on Monday.


Here's what YOU had to say, and everything you need to know about Monday night's meeting...


Your opinions on the proposed Wedding Law changes:




This report, along with other Bridebook couple and industry insights have been shared with the Law Commission for their use during this project.


See an Executive Summary below and the full UK Wedding Industry Law Review report here.


Wedding Venue Business Impacts

  • UK wedding venues employ 50+ employees and work with 20+ local businesses on average.

  • Almost two-thirds of venues could not stay in business without weddings.

  • Half of the responding venues have not experienced any growth in the last 3 years due to economy, competition and couple preferences.


Venues’ Current Experience with Ceremonies

  • Ceremony space: The majority of venues host weddings ceremonies as well as receptions, and two thirds do not have an outdoor approved premise. Many express frustration related to not being able to host weddings outdoors, especially when planning permission prevents them from erecting an approved structure.

  • Regulations: While a third feel costs are too high and regulations too much, most are satisfied with current costs and regulations. They do mention that some regulations feel antiquated (e.g. room licenses) and sometimes restrictions limit business growth.

  • Registrar experience: While most report a good experience with registrars, many venues mention difficulty for couples to book registrar and overly strict registrar rules which can limit business growth.

  • Fees: Fees are inconsistent across venue and council and can range from +£100 to over £1,000.


Venue Preferences for Future

  • Location: Venues feel that approved premises should still be regulated, but that rules should be relaxed with regard to outdoor space and different room options at approved premises.

  • Celebrant: Venues feel that approved celebrants should be able to administer weddings, but that these celebrants should be regulated (e.g. not friends of the couple).


Other Ceremony Requirements:

Venues are happy with regulations across many aspects of civil wedding ceremonies, and find that the current set of regulations are suitable for the formality and sanctity of marriage. However they do feel that some ceremony requirements could be relaxed.


What happened at the pre-consultation meeting on the Government Reform to WeddingLaw.


What the Law Commission is doing:

TheLaw Commission is focused solely on reviewing the law governing how and where people can marry in England and Wales.


Who are the Law Commission?

The Law Commission are funded by the government but work independently in order to provide potential Law reform for the government. On average, 2/3 of the projects put forward by the Law Commission will be enacted and law will be amended.


The Facts:

  1. The current laws date back from 1836 so are very dated in some places and not representative of today's market and modern couple's needs.

  2. Based on government research 42.8% of legal marriages take place in hotels.

  3. Jewish and Quakers wedding ceremonies can currently take place anywhere.

  4. Currently:

  • There are different ways to give notice for different types of weddings.

  • Almost all wedding must take place in certain buildings

  • A wedding must be either civil or religious

  • The law is not clear as to the status of a wedding that was not celebrated in one of the legally authorised ways and some religious ceremonies have not been recognised

  • The law is complex and contains different rules about where a wedding can take place, depending on the type of ceremony.


Who attended the Commission meeting?

12 wedding venue professionals with differing backgrounds in the industry including local authority representatives, registrars, London wedding venue owners and managers, outdoor wedding company owners and industry community representatives.


What the Law Commission & Government reform will consider:

  1. Whether everyone getting married should have to give notice to the register office.

  2. Where couples should be able to marry such as: outside, in a private home, on board a ship, on trains - or even in Tescos!

  3. Opinions for couples to express their commitment in a way that is more personal to them.

  4. How the law might allow non-religious belief organisations and independent celebrants to conduct weddings.

  5. What should be the minimum requirements for marriage to be recognised by law, such as: giving notice, the consent of each member of the couple, signing the paperwork etc.

  6. How to eliminate unnecessary red tape.


What was discussed?

  • Venues' experience with the approved premises regulations, including:

- the costs and how they affect venues and couples;

- problems that arise during the approval process, or during ceremonies; and

- hosting religious weddings on approved premises;

  • Where couples want to get married;

  • Experiences of working with registrars, religious or belief celebrants, or independent celebrants;

  • Where civil weddings should be able to take place;

  • What rules or guidelines there should be about civil weddings venues; and

  • How a more permissive system might work.


Main discussion points and opinions raised:

  • Everyone agreed that the dignity and sanctity of marriage needs to be kept in mind.

  • There were many frustrations regarding the limitations the law has on allowing outdoor ceremonies and also ceremonies in specific rooms: why is it that only 4 out of the 5 rooms in my venue can host ceremonies? It is not clear."

  • It was agreed that there is a higher demand in today's couple market for a wider variety of wedding ceremony location options. Wedding venues can satisfy this demand by the Law allowing more flexibility in terms of outdoor and building regulations for weddings.

  • It was posed that hosting Religious ceremonies/blessings is one of the highest heard requests from couples and that there is confusion as to why it is not possible to have such religious blessings held at approved venues.

  • Safety regulations both in terms of the security that venues provide and the implications of safety on couples and guests in outdoor / at home weddings has to be taken into consideration.

  • The local authorities' 'free reign' on approved premises regulations and on costs are seemingly subjective and can be restrictive for smaller venues. More clarity needed on the reasons why different authorities have such differing costs and regulations.

  • Registrar restrictions on conducting ceremonies based on ceremony timings, the weather and location impacts couples preferences and venue flexibility massively. Standardisation and clarity is necessary.

  • There were mixed opinions on who should be able to conduct a legal ceremony. Many agreed that celebrants should have legal rights however there are concerns regarding friends or family of couples.

  • It was also noted that no one in the room has ever seen or experienced a disruption during a wedding yet, if public access is granted to wedding ceremonies this could become more of an issue.


What's next?

A public consultation will take place in Spring 2020. This is the industry's opportunity to have their say on the proposed changes. Based on this consultation, the Law Commission will make their detailed recommendation to the Government, with any legal changes being implemented in 2021.


Bridebook will be continuing to work with the Law Commission and I will continue to share any updates I receive with our Venue Community. If you have any further thoughts or feedback please do not hesitate to get in touch.



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The Association of British Wedding Businesses is an industry association that aims to support members of the British wedding industry. Our mission is to support our industry with insights and advice, advocate for growth, and serve as liaison between the industry and government. 

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