My husband and I got married last year at Pennard House in Somerset. It was a warm and sunny September day and we had our civil ceremony outside in the Garden Pavilion, which was decorated with an abundance of scented flowers. The setting was idyllic, but had the law allowed us to marry in the rose gardens, or even beside the lake, perhaps it could have been even more beautiful…?
Today, the Chancellor announced in his Budget that there is going to be a review of the legislation governing wedding venues in England and Wales. It seems likely that the outdated law which says a legally binding outdoor ceremony must take place in a structure with a solid, permanent roof will be overthrown. As a planner who spends a lot of time visiting venues, I can tell you that these ‘structures’ come in all shapes and sizes, and that some venues have done a better job than others at disguising their frames and creating something befitting a wedding ceremony. Some venues satisfy the roof requirement by allowing couples to take their vows on their front doorstep. Talk about carrying you over the threshold!
So, what could this review mean and why is it exciting?
As things currently stand, couples who don’t want to have their wedding in a licensed venue or structure, have to do the ‘legal bit’ at a registry office and then hire a celebrant to conduct the ceremony. This suits some people perfectly, but for others it can be an annoyance because it inevitably adds to costs and organisation. It can even cause rows with those not invited to the legal ceremony, and not to mention awkward moments when guests realise that the couple are in fact already married. If a change in the law made it possible to get married more or less anywhere, then it would put an end to all this angst.
High costs and red tape put many venues off getting licensed. If it became easier and cheaper for venues to apply for a wedding license, more would be likely to do so. I love helping my clients find their dream venue, so a wider choice of licensed venues - indoor and outdoor - would be fantastic news!
Some venues have created beautiful licensed pergolas and gazebos, and couples shouldn’t necessarily shun them. I - for one - was very grateful for the shade that Pennard’s Garden Pavilion provided on our wedding day! However, for those couples who don’t like the look of the outdoor structure on offer, a change in the law could mean that they would be free to choose another location.
As someone who loves planning and styling al fresco ceremonies, a law change would allow me, and the florists and photographers I work with, to be a lot more creative. We’re always swooning over images from the US of spectacular outdoor ceremonies overlooking the ocean or against beautiful floral backdrops. It would be incredible to be able to do the same over here, especially when it’s sunny!
Whichever way you look at it, relaxing the laws on where couples can get married will give them more choice, ultimately making it easier to plan the day they want. Wedding planning should be a fun and enjoyable process - the fewer legal barriers the better!
Image credit: Helen Lisk Photography