Couples could enjoy much more freedom in where they can tie the knot, as part of a shake-up of the law designed to cut the cost of weddings.
Those who dream of being able to say their wedding vows in the great outdoors (gardens, beaches, or temporary structures such as marquees), or in their local pub, may benefit from the review of marriage law in England and Wales, announced in the autumn Budget.
Relaxing the restrictions would make it cheaper and simpler for couples to get married, potentially encouraging more people to get married in the first place.
And it could allow more hotels, pubs and restaurants to hold weddings – something that could well be music to the ears of the hospitality industry.
So what do the wedding experts in this part of the region make of it all? Francesca Crib, of Bijou Weddings, a family-run company which owns six exclusive use country house wedding venues (including soon to be opened The Harper in Langham near Holt), says: ‘For years, we have seen a competitive wedding industry whereby couples are looking to make their wedding day completely unique. This change in the law could give wedding planners, brides and grooms the freedom they’re looking for, but shouldn’t affect those who are still looking to host their reception in traditional style.’
She adds: ‘Engaged couples will be able to seek incredible, hidden gem locations and marry in never-done-before areas, making their nuptials unique and their celebrations all the more fun.’
Fiona Diamond, of Snettisham-based Oystercatcher Catering, would agree that more and more brides and grooms want their wedding day to stand out from the crowd, but adds: ‘We often find that couples spend more than expected of their budget on their venue, leaving them with less money to spend on other areas of the wedding, such as the florists and caterers.’
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she welcomes the news: ‘This change is particularly exciting for us, as a bespoke, food focused company, as our ideal clients are couples who build their day from various local suppliers to make it unique and just right for them, rather than taking a package option from a venue, and with this new law that will be much more possible.’
Helping couples make the day just right for them is a sentiment echoed by Sarah Softley, Director of Norwich-based Softley Events. She says: ‘We always say to our couples that their wedding day should be about them and reflect their lives as a couple. If there were fewer restrictions as to where ceremonies could take place it would allow couples to marry somewhere that perhaps holds a significance for them.’
But she adds: ‘There will certainly be considerations for places such as pubs and restaurants to take into account if they do wish to offer their establishments for weddings.’ Not least, taking into consideration their regular visitors, particularly if couples request exclusive use of a venue.
Sarah offers this cautionary advice to those in the industry: ‘Couples do want to be looked after on the day of their wedding and having the right staff in place to do this will also be a consideration. Often expectations are understandably higher than normal for such an important day.’
The laws on how and where marriages must take place have remained largely unchanged since 1836. If these plans get the go ahead, then the traditional wedding day is about to get a lot more modern.
Featured in issue 33 – February 2019