British Marine welcomes new recommendations from the Law Commission to hold weddings on board

Published on: 21 July 2022

Weddings 07072022

The Law Commission has published its final report, Celebrating Marriage: A New Weddings Law. 

The report provides recommendations to the government following a public consultation in September 2020, seeking views on the current law related to marriage.

Recommendations for an entirely new scheme to govern weddings, replacing the outdated, overly restrictive current law, much of which dates from 1836, have been put forward covering each aspect of the law governing how and where couples can get married in England and Wales.

As part of our role to represent the interests of passenger boat businesses operating on both inland and coastal waters, British Marine responded to this consultation and took part in a number of roundtable meetings with the Law Commission.

British Marine’s response focused on the locations where weddings should be permitted to take place.

British Marine is delighted that our views were taken into consideration and that as a result of our discussions, the Law Commission has recommended that the existing restrictions on where a wedding can take place should be abolished and that all weddings should be legally permitted to take place in any location. In particular, the Law Commission recommends that civil wedding locations should not have to be publicly accessible or regularly available to the public for the solemnisation of civil marriages.

This means that, if made law by the government, wedding ceremonies will be able to take place, for the first time, on passenger vessels operating on either inland or coastal waters.

The Consultation summary states that:

“In Chapter 6, we outline our general recommendations about where weddings will be permitted to take place under our scheme. We recommend that the existing rules should be abolished, and that all weddings should be legally permitted to take place in any location. Whether a wedding could take place in any specific location would be a decision of the officiant, who would be responsible for considering the location’s safety and dignity.

Following these general rules, weddings under our general scheme will therefore be able to take place in inland waters, such as lakes and rivers, a point we discuss in Chapter 6.

In the Consultation Paper, we suggested that the general rule should extend to the territorial sea and other coastal waters adjacent to England and Wales.  We thought that weddings in these waters would be a meaningful option for some couples, so permitting them would be consistent with the principles of allowing for greater choice and respecting individuals’ wishes and beliefs. Given that our proposed scheme did not prohibit weddings in remote locations, together with the large body of law regulating sea-going vessels, we could see no justifiable reason to preclude the possibility of weddings in the territorial sea or coastal waters.

We therefore provisionally proposed that weddings should be able to take place in the territorial sea, and in bays and other coastal waters, adjacent to England and Wales”

Following the publication of the report, it is now for government to consider and respond to the Law Commission’s recommendations. Under the Protocol between the Lord Chancellor (on behalf of Government) and the Law Commission, the responsible Minister will respond to the recommendations as soon as possible, and in any event with an interim response within six months of publication of the report and a full response within a year.

If government accepts the Law Commission’s recommendations, it will be necessary for a bill to be drafted to give effect to them. That bill can then be introduced into Parliament in order to become law.

British Marine will continue to represent the interests of our members during this process.

Alongside the report, available here, the Law Commission published a shorter summary document, here, and an at-a-glance overview, here.

For more information on how British Marine represent the interests of the leisure marine industry, please contact Brian Clark, head of public affairs, member relations and research


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