Religious weddings will take place outdoors for the first time under plans to be published by ministers today.
Temporary measures that allowed outdoor civil weddings and partnership ceremonies to cope with Covid restrictions in the summer will also be made permanent under the proposals.
Religious ceremonies were not included in the temporary relaxation, which was introduced in order to boost the size of weddings last summer and threw a lifeline to couples whose plans had been thrown into chaos by lockdown restrictions. But the Ministry of Justice will launch a consultation today to extend the relaxed rules to religious weddings, which would affect an estimated 55,000 ceremonies a year.
It would allow them to take place outdoors at places of worship for the first time for most faiths, such as in the grounds of a church or chapel. The ministry said no group would be obliged to provide outdoor ceremonies and existing protections to safeguard religious freedoms would remain.
The aim is to give greater flexibility and to reduce the cost. Before last summer’s temporary changes, civil ceremonies at an approved location such as a hotel had to take place indoors or within a “permanent structure”, such as a bandstand. Tom Pursglove, a justice minister, said: “A wedding is one of the absolute highlights of a person’s life and it is right that couples should have greater choice in how they celebrate their special day.
“Our proposals would afford them that choice whether they choose a civil or religious ceremony, and would mark a huge boost for those planning a wedding over the coming years.
“Crucially, this will also support the wedding sector by ensuring venues can continue to safely meet the demand for larger ceremonies.” The vast majority of religious weddings are Christian ceremonies, with three quarters Anglican, 11 per cent Roman Catholic and another 11 per cent celebrated by other denominations. Only 4 per cent are non-Christian, according to government statistics.
If approved, the changes would be made by amending Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.