A Christian marriage expert has said couples who still want to get married during the UK coronavirus lockdown should still be legally able to do so, but the government’ isn’t giving them the option to do so.
Registrars, places of worship and event venues have been shut as part of social distancing measures, leaving engaged couples no other choice than to postpone their nuptials.
Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, told Premier Christian News this is an issue he's brought up with the Ministry of Justice.
"The government has inadvertently abolished marriages or stopped people from getting married and I think this is this is not a good thing.
"I'm told from the Ministry of Justice that they say that they haven't actually abolished the legal stuff. But if you're a couple and you're worried about your future, you want to sign the legal document. That's an important part of the whole business of getting married. People want this. There's legal security that gives you rights and responsibilities and protections."
Benson added that couples who still want to legally tie the knot and have their celebration with friends and family after social measures end, still have hope.
He has advised couples to email their MP to lobby on their behalf.
"Say 'although we may not be able to have the party in the celebration, we can at least get the legal ceremony'. It requires five people, it requires a registrar, it requires you as a couple, and it requires two witnesses. You don't even have to know your witnesses.
"I've been to Downing Street about this as well. They know about this problem. So even poor old Boris who's engaged to his fiancé, you know, even if he had a disaster during his recent corona illness, his wife-to-be and their child to be would not have had the legal protections that they would get if they were married."
Benson's advice comes as latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show weddings are declining.
Research showed there were 242,842 weddings in England and Wales in 2017, which is down 2.8 per cent from the year before.
Heterosexual marriages are down a third from 40 years ago, making it the lowest ever on record.
Benson said over time society has made a disconnection between committed love and marriage.
"They want that long term commitment but somehow we've missed a connection in our heads. The paraphernalia of weddings has messed up our thinking and we just see frou frou dresses and sugared almonds and all the other nonsense that sometimes goes with weddings, and that we don't really need. What we want really is secure, stable commitment."
The new statistics also revealed religious wedding ceremonies are continuing to decline. It's down 22 percent, which makes it the lowest on record.
According to The Telegraph, family lawyer Zahra Pabani attributed the decline to the increasing prevalence of inter-faith couples who would rather live together than get married, and the secularisation of some religious communities.
Benson encouraged churches to do what they can to stop this decline.
"Churches can definitely do their bit in keep helping to keep the costs down and encourage weddings, certainly amongst the lowest earners, amongst us who need that commitment."