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UK News

Proposals to move wedding ceremonies away from churches 'undesirable', C of E says

by Will Maule

Recommendations to broaden the locations in which church-sanctioned weddings can take place have been criticised by the Church of England. 

In its 500-page November report, the Law Commission argued that weddings should no longer be limited to churches, registry offices and other approved locations such as hotels, but should instead be extended to a range of other places such as homes, cruise ships and beaches. 

In a written response to a General Synod member’s question last week, chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, Mark Sheard, called the recommendations "conceptually flawed".

"We commented that, by addressing the law around weddings without considering the question of marriage, the proposals were conceptually flawed," he said. 

“The Commission’s approach led them to conclude that the State should, in effect, support a deregulated market of wedding celebrants and venues. Consequently, the Commission’s stated desire that weddings must be ‘dignified’ would be undermined by its own recommendations." 

Sheard added that the "commercialisation of the wedding ceremony was undesirable" and that "the public nature of marriage necessitated that weddings should not be held behind closed doors". 

He also noted that "the report’s definition of a ‘religious group’ for the purpose of licensing celebrants was inadequate". 

“We suggested that the present ban on all religious content in civil weddings should be eased to permit Christian or other religious references that were, for instance, taken from literature rather than liturgy," Sheard concluded. 

The comments came as it was announced that both the mothers and fathers of a newly married couple will be included on the marriage register for the first time, following reforms to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Act 2019. Amendments to the Marriage Act 1949 were proposed in Parliament last Monday and will come into force on 4th May, subject to approval.

Harry Benson, research director of the Marriage Foundation, told Premier the modernisation is a welcome change. 

"[The marriage certificate] says the 'father of the bride' and 'father of the groom', and their occupations. There's no mention of the mothers. 

"It's essentially a throwback to a time when, [for] the vast majority of people, it was the father who was the working person and the mother would have been at home looking after the kids. And that obviously changed 50 years ago, so this is a long overdue change."

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