Over the weekend the UK government announced that it was relaxing the rules about solemnising marriages and civil partnerships in “register offices or approved places” in England and Wales by allowing ceremonies to take place outdoors. Current regulations require such ceremonies to take place inside a building. In the case of hotels and other non-register office venues this requires the venue to apply for a license for each room that is used.
Many venues have registered some quite flimsy structures in their grounds to facilitate the demand for outdoor ceremonies whilst keeping to the letter of the regulations. Local register offices have been complicit in this by licensing these structures so that the actual “marriage” can take place in a structure.
The announcement at the weekend was trumpeted as a way of addressing the backlog of weddings caused by the COVID19 pandemic but the reality is nothing of the kind. Whilst allowing outdoor ceremonies is a step forward it does not increase the number of wedding venues significantly. Most venues are relatively small and could not cope with two events taking place at the same time. Not unreasonably no couple wants to be having their wedding overlap with another couple. But this small increase in venue capacity does nothing to solve the problem that in most regions register offices have stopped taking bookings at any venue, inside, outside, at the register office or anywhere else. The bottleneck is primarily with the registrars, not venues.
Taking ceremonies outside does have the positive benefit that it allows for more physical distance between guests and therefore a larger number of guests. This is a good thing. Despite the government previously lifting the restriction on the number of guests at a marriage ceremony the main limitation remains the ability of the venues to accommodate large numbers of guests indoors in a COVID safe manner.
For years now independent celebrants have argued that, to give couples real choice in the form and style of their wedding ceremony, properly trained and authorised celebrants should be allowed to solemnise legal marriage. These highly trained and experienced celebrants stand ready to assist couples whose weddings have been postponed, sometimes many times, or worse still cancelled.
The Law Commission was asked to review current marriage legislation and last year recommended that independent celebrants should be allowed to officiate legal marriages. The Wedding Celebrancy Commission represents independent celebrants from across the United Kingdom. It stands ready, through its member organisations, to facilitate the necessary top-up training to enable celebrants to officiate legal marriages thus removing the bottleneck caused by the lack of capacity in a cash strapped registration service. This model has proved very popular with couples and incredibly cost effective for local and central governments around the world having been pioneered in Australia.
The wedding industry has been dealt a particularly devastating blow by the restrictions of lockdown. Allowing independent celebrants to officiate legal marriages would jump start the industry and allow the many tens of thousands of couples who had to cancel their plans last year to celebrate their love and get married. It would also secure tens of thousands of jobs in the wedding industry and reduce the burden on the treasury.
For further information and comment please contact:
Tel: +44 (0) 800 246 5894
Celebrants will no doubt be aware of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday 23rd June of the further lifting of restrictions in England, both socially and for businesses. This includes a lifting of the restrictions on weddings.
However, as has often been the case, a lack of clarity has led to uncertainty over what is and is not included. The WCC has been trying to find answers to the question as to just what it means for weddings in England, and it seems that places of worship and register offices are awaiting further guidance from central government.
We are keeping our eye on the situation and as soon as there is any factual information that we can give you, we will post it on the WCC website and on the Facebook page.
In the meantime, please proceed with extreme caution about booking any ceremonies just yet - we don’t want to promise anything we later find we cannot deliver!
Your WCC representatives will also let you know the updated information (AOIC, Civil Ceremonies, FOIC, FPC, IPC, UKSoc).
Please note this guidance note applies ONLY to England. Celebrants in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland must adhere to their relevant guidance and timescales.
You’ll be aware of the work of the WCC and the survey that some of you completed earlier this year. A summary of the independent research is now available, and it makes very interesting reading.
Click here to read a summary of the report.
The WCC discussed the findings at our recent meeting and of particular interest are the following points:
HOW CELEBRANTS PRESENT THEIR SERVICES TO CLIENTS
VIEWS ON FORMALISING THE PROFESSION
The full research report is available via the link below –
AN EXPLORATION OF THE WORK OF WEDDING CELEBRANTS: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS, INCLUDING CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
As ever, we welcome your views on any issues relating to wedding celebrancy, and we are continuing to work on your behalf during these challenging and changing times.
The Law Commission review on weddings is progressing and we expect the consultation document to be available in the coming months.
We will, of course, keep you informed.
The Coronavirus , also known as Covid 19, is affecting every wedding celebrant as public gatherings are cancelled and churches and Register Offices close their doors during this phase of Lockdown.
There are things that we can each do. Reach out and contact our couples who have made bookings with us, to see how they are doing and what their wedding plans are.
Will they be rebooking for later in 2020, or holding off until 2021?
As celebrants, we need to be clear on what our policy is on rebooking and also on refunds. It is for each celebrant to make their own business decision, and we would advise that you check your terms and conditions in your booking forms, and be consistent with what you have already put in place.
Many of you are now offering ‘the day that would have been’ style ceremonies via Zoom. This creative approach enables couples to mark the day they will miss in a more positive way than might otherwise have been the case. As far as your business goes, there may be government help available, and full details are on the gov.uk website or from the HMRC website.
Although your work diary may be looking emptier than it did, once the current lockdown restrictions are lifted, this year and next year are going to be incredibly busy for celebrants as couples scramble to get their weddings rebooked. Many will discover celebrants for the very first time as an option for their wedding celebration ceremony. Make sure you are ready!
In the meantime, stay safe, look after your own physical and mental health, seek out support when you need it, and give support where you can.
There has never been a more exciting or challenging time to be a celebrant. The growth in the industry, especially over the last 5 years, has been phenomenal as more and more couples and families look to mark ceremonies in a more personal way. This is especially true for weddings.
Last year the Government announced a review of the current Marriage Laws of England and Wales, and although no date has yet been set, this could lead to a root and branch reform of the way marriage is legalised.
This will have a major impact on celebrants, whatever the outcome.
Recognising this, established training organisations in England and Wales have come together to form the Wedding Celebrancy Commission. This has been set up to enable communication and collaboration on the way ahead for the celebrant profession as it matures and develops, and to promote the highest possible standards.
Over the last few months, the Commission has been listening to concerns expressed by celebrants, and discussing the challenges faced by celebrants as they carry out their role.
The Wedding Celebrancy Commission will represent your collective concerns to government, and will ensure the press and the general public fully understand and appreciate the different dimension that celebrants bring to a wedding ceremony.
Through your training and membership organisations, the Wedding Celebrancy Commission is here to support celebrants, to listen and advise, and to represent your concerns - and of course, celebrate our collective success.
You can read the Commission's Mission Statement and see who is involved and look at the professional standards on the website: