Open-air marriages: ‘I don’t want a Humanist wedding, but I still want to get married outdoors in England’.

First of all, take a look at our previous post on getting married outside, which highlights how you can legally get married outdoors with a Humanist ceremony in certain parts of the UK, such as Scotland.

If you are looking to get married elsewhere in the UK, then we may have some good news for you!

Certain local authorities, such as Cheshire East Council, have instructed their registrars to permit certain parts of their civil ceremonies to be held outdoors. The legal elements of the civil ceremony must still be performed indoors, in an appropriately-licensed venue, but other parts of the ceremony, such as the vows, the ring-exchange and kiss can be held in the good old outdoors.

This is ideal for venues such as Combermere Abbey, in Cheshire, which has a marriage licence for their large greenhouse. Many couples have been getting legally married here (with the 360-degree views out of the windows meaning that they are practically getting married outside anyway), then proceeding to carry out the more sentimental parts of the wedding ceremony outdoors.


What are the advantages of doing it this way?

This essentially means you can have your guests, their seating and your procession up the aisle outside, allowing for a highly individual and personalised event. Just watch out for the Great British Weather!

Where else in England or Wales can I carry out this kind of ceremony?

Another local authority that has been readily permitting this style of outdoor wedding is Darlington Borough Council in County Durham.

Many councils have also granted marriage licences to large and permanent outdoor structures such as bandstands, pavilions and large marquees. Check each individual council’s website for more information.

What else can I do outside?

Of course, receptions are fine to be held outside in many areas, but the last hope (albeit tenuous) of actually getting married outside would be to hold a religious (or Humanist) blessing outdoors. This can be held either before or after the legal ceremony. Certain clergymen can be found through a church if you enquire or check their website. The only disadvantage to this is that a lot of the blessing procedure details will be down to the individual clergyman’s discretion (the number of guests allowed to attend, the location and what you have to do, etc).

What about the future?

There are rumours circulating that the laws on marriage in the UK will in time be relaxed, thanks to pressure by many of those involved in the wedding services industry. Many find the present legislation to be archaic and pointless in this day and age, so watch this space!

Unfortunately, getting married outdoors in the UK still isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Certain councils have relaxed their bye-laws and allowed their registrars to perform certain elements of the ceremony outside. Fundamentally, however, until the law changes, we are currently not entitled to carry out all parts of our wedding ceremonies outdoors in England and Wales. But it’s not all doom and gloom; the many compromises outlined in this post should have you well on your way!

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