Couples will be able to wed remotely via video conferencing platforms like Zoom in the event of a future pandemic under reforms proposed by the Law Commission.
Its review of “outdated” Victorian marriage laws recommended there should be a new power to enable weddings to take place remotely during any future national emergency such as a pandemic.
It cited, as examples, a couple where one might be in a hospital or they had been living apart and were unable to wed in person due to travel restrictions.
“Each person required to be present could log onto an audio-visual call: each couple would give their consent, which the officiant and witness would hear and observe remotely,” the Commission said in a report published today.
It noted the US states of New York and Illinois and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had all allowed remote weddings during the current pandemic.
The Commission’s liberalisation of laws also recommended outdoor weddings be allowed including in parks, private gardens. boats and even on beaches. Couples are currently required to marry in a registered building such as a church or licensed venue for it to be legally recognised.
But it said the laws, originally formed in 1836, were “not fit for purpose” leaving couples who wanted to marry outdoors having to improvise by using bandstands, garden pergolas and beach huts.
Instead, the proposals which are expected to be backed by the Government, would allow couples to have their wedding in any location provided the religious or other official agreed.
“Weddings will be able to take place outdoors, such as in parks, gardens, forests and on beaches, and in private homes and gardens,” said the commission in its report published today (Thur).
Weddings would also be permitted on water including seas around the UK, bays and other coastal waters as well as international waters on cruise ships with a home port in England and Wales.
It would allow civil weddings on Ministry of Defence (MoD) property, which would permit same-sex weddings on military bases.
The shake-up would also simplify marriage and remove red tape to make it easier and fairer for couples.
This would mean for example that couples would be able to complete the initial stage of giving notice of their intended wedding online or by post, rather than having to do so in person.
Non-religious belief organisations (such as Humanists) and independent celebrants would be allowed to conduct legally binding weddings.
Couples would also be able to pick and choose from a wider variety of ceremonies, both religious and non-religious, to mark their weddings.