Closed petition Recognise Pagan handfasting as a legal form of marriage in England and Wales

Handfasting has been an ancient form of marriage since before Christianity reached the country. Where it is legal to be handfasted, it is not recognised in England and Wales as a legal form of marriage, such as Christian ceremonies are. In this open and free age it's time to follow Scotland's lead.

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According to the 2011 census, there were almost 53,000 pagans in the UK. This may not seem a lot, but even a small amount deserves the chance to wed in a ceremony appropriate to their beliefs and religion. With the 2021 census this may rise, and as a result it may be time we move to change this countrywide, not just Glastonbury and Scotland. England and Wales deserve the chance to wed in a Pagan religious ceremony. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 10 June 2021

The Law Commission’s review of how and where people legally marry in England and Wales will make recommendations later this year to allow greater choice and respect individuals’ wishes and beliefs.

How and where marriages can take place in England and Wales so that they are legally recognised is tightly regulated. Much of the current law dates from 1836 and has developed piecemeal over many years. It is complex and has never been subjected to systematic reform.

The current legal requirements for marriage differ depending on the type of wedding. At present, couples have to make a choice between a religious or a civil ceremony, with no option for a ceremony reflecting other beliefs. Couples having an Anglican wedding can give notice to the church; all other couples must give notice at the register office. With few exceptions, all couples must have their wedding either in a place of worship or licensed secular venue and cannot marry outdoors or even in the garden of a licensed venue.

In 2019 the Government asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of the law on how and where people legally marry in England and Wales. The review seeks to provide recommendations for a reformed law of weddings that allows for greater choice within a simple, fair and consistent legal structure. A reformed law could better meet the needs of a modern and diverse society. The review will consider all aspects of the formalities which a couple are required to go through in order to have a legally recognised marriage. This includes the preliminaries to the wedding - also known as giving notice - as well as rules about the ceremony itself (where it can take place, who must attend and what must be said, and the registration of the marriage).

The Law Commission consulted on its proposals between September 2020 and January 2021. If implemented, these proposals would permit weddings to take place in a location chosen by the couple, and couples would be able to marry outdoors and in their own homes. If implemented, the law would no longer require religious groups to conduct marriages in a place of worship but would allow them to decide for themselves where their ceremonies could take place, facilitating more religious ceremonies to take place outdoors or in secular venues. There would be no legal requirement for specific words to be spoken, giving couples greater freedom as to the form their wedding takes, enabling the law to recognise the variety of ceremonies that people use to mark their weddings. Subject to complying with the necessary legal preliminaries, it is expected that these proposals would allow couples who wish to have a Pagan wedding ceremony to marry outdoors and to have their own form of ceremony which is legally recognised.

The Law Commission is currently analysing the many responses to its consultation and is expected to publish its report and final recommendations late this year. The Government will give these recommendations careful consideration.

Ministry of Justice