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Outdoor civil weddings and associations become permanent

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Outdoor weddings are here to stay (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Outdoor civil weddings and civil unions are becoming permanently legal in England and Wales, the government said.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the change, which will be permanent from April 6, received “overwhelming support” from the public, religious groups and the wedding industry.

Before the summer of 2021, non-religious ceremonies were required to be held indoors or in a permanent outdoor structure, such as a bandstand.

These rules have been relaxed to accommodate social distancing during the pandemic.

Now, the temporary measures will continue indefinitely, giving couples more flexibility and choice in how and where they choose to celebrate their big day.

A government consultation found that 96 percent of those surveyed were in favor of making the changes permanent, and 93 percent supported extending them to religious ceremonies.

However, outdoor ceremonies will still have to be held on the grounds of licensed venues.

The Justice Ministry said reforms to religious ceremonies would be made “in due course after the consultation found that all major religious groups supported the measure.”

Justice Minister Tom Pursglove said: “A wedding is one of the most important days in a person’s life and it is right that couples have more options to celebrate their special occasion.

“These reforms will allow couples to hold more personalized ceremonies and provide a welcome boost to the wedding industry.”

The news comes as the Law Commission is to publish a report on marriage law in July that explores how to “modernize and improve marriage law.”

The analysis follows new research from the University of Warwick and Exeter which said marriage laws in England and Wales were “outdated and restricted”.

The study states that existing laws do not reflect the diversity of religions and beliefs in contemporary society.

Ash Patel of the Nuffield Foundation, which funded the research, said: “It’s [the report] it makes a clear case for urgent reform of marriage law so that it better reflects the cultural and social diversity and richness of the people and communities that make up the population of England and Wales.”

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