You’ve said ‘Yes!’ to that question, you’ve shared the incredible news and now, with your minds racing, you start thinking about your dream wedding.
And one of the first thoughts that cross your mind will undoubtedly be “Where?”. Where should you celebrate one of the biggest days of your life?
The choices seem huge – a beach, a hotel, a barn, a garden, a forest, a home, a special place that means everything to the two of you – until you realise there are lots of old-fashioned rules covering marriage in the UK.
Laws that limit exactly where you can get married.
But those laws may soon be set to see the biggest change since 1836.
The current rules around where you can get married (and what that ceremony looks like) date back to the Victorian era. Some rules from that time have been updated over the last two hundred years, but the details around location have largely remained unchanged. They specify that legal-binding ceremonies can only take place in licensed venues.
They mean that when you want to tie the knot, you can’t just pick a special, meaningful place. You have to find a location that meets the official regulations and has a valid license to hold a ceremony – whether that’s a religious or civil one.
At Heaton House Farm, we’ve had to work hard to make sure couples celebrating with us have as large a choice as possible over where they hold their ceremony. It’s why we have five official licensed areas, including our Oak Beamed Barn, magical night sky and Oak Pagoda.
In fact, we had to construct our Oak Pagoda especially so that our couples could enjoy a rural outdoor ceremony on our farm. The law required a “fixed, permanent structure” in order for an area to be officially licensed!
Thankfully, those rules changed last year.
Following the relaxation of outdoor licensing rules over the COVID lockdowns, in March 2022 the Government made those changes permanent.
It means that couples now have the freedom to hold a ceremony and get married anywhere on the grounds of a licensed wedding venue.
So at Heaton House Farm, where previously you could hold a blessing anywhere on our stunning patios or our gorgeous fields, a licensed ceremony could only take place under our Oak Pagoda.
Now though, you can tie the knot anywhere you like – underneath our iconic sycamore tree for example, or on top of the hill with the tree and rolling countryside as your backdrop. It was a much-welcome change, but it still doesn’t solve the freedom or flexibility couples are looking for with their ceremonies.
There are often small changes to wedding laws, as in February 2023 when the legal minimum age to marry was raised from 16 to 18.
But there could be a big sweeping change on the horizon.
After a multi-year consultation period, in July 2022 the UK’s Law Commission outlined vast new recommendations for wedding law to give couples more say over how they could celebrate their love and get married.
Speaking about the current laws, the Commission said: “The rules and regulations governing weddings are confusing, out-of-date and restrictive. Needless regulation prevents many couples from marrying in a place that is meaningful to them, or having a ceremony reflecting their own wishes and beliefs.”
They propose that we should focus on the regulation of marriage officiants. That way, the legal requirement falls on the person and the wishes of the marrying couple should be adhered to.
The Law Commission recommends changes to the way ceremonies take place to allow them to be even more welcoming to all religions and all types of beliefs – something we very much believe in at Heaton House Farm.
We’re passionate about giving our couples as much freedom and flexibility as possible in how they want to celebrate their big day, and these changes could allow much more personalisation of the ceremony itself, including:
Special emphasis has also been placed on giving non-religious, humanist ceremonies equal recognition in the law. We’ve hosted many humanist blessings at Heaton House Farm, so again, this is definitely a change we look forward to.
It could mean that you only need to have one celebration, one ceremony and one big wedding. Couples won’t need to have a civil ceremony first and a blessing later, or a religious wedding in one place and then a blessing and reception somewhere else.
If the law is updated to reflect these recommendations, it would mean that a venue like Heaton House Farm would have everything you need for a sensational, legally binding wedding, whatever your religion, your beliefs or your personal preferences.
With the same rules applied equally and fairly to all weddings, it will make getting married so much easier. Less time worrying about rules and more time planning your big party! In the meantime – while we wait to see if these recommendations will become law – we will always do everything we can to help you celebrate the wedding of your dreams, whatever that might look like.
Our dedicated wedding coordinators know all the ins and outs of wedding law and we can help you arrange both blessings and/or civil ceremonies here at Heaton House Farm to make sure you can have the ceremony, theme and celebration you want, while also getting legal recognition for your marriage.
Want to see where you could get married with us? Request your brochure here.