The Church of England has refused to bless radical plans for home weddings proposed by the Law Commission.
Last year, the Commission – which advises the Government – recommended that pubs, hot air balloons, rivers and lakes would be suitable locations for weddings to take place, if officiated by a state-recognised individual.
It also said weddings could take place in private homes, and that the proposed changes would allow couples to pick from a wider variety of both religious and non-religious ceremonies.
However, Mark Sheard of the CofE’s Mission and Public Affairs Council said the “commercialisation of the wedding ceremony was undesirable” and that “the public nature of marriage necessitated that weddings should not be held behind closed doors”.
He noted that “the report’s definition of a ‘religious group’ for the purpose of licensing celebrants was inadequate”.
He said: “We suggested that the present ban on all religious content in civil weddings should be eased to permit Christian or other religious references that were, for instance, taken from literature rather than liturgy.”
Sheard added that “by addressing the law around weddings without considering the question of marriage, the proposals were conceptually flawed.
“The Commission’s approach led them to conclude that the State should, in effect, support a deregulated market of wedding celebrants and venues. Consequently, the Commission’s stated desire that weddings must be ‘dignified’ would be undermined by its own recommendations.”
When the proposals were released, The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director Simon Calvert warned: “The experience of the USA shows that ‘anything goes’ wedding ceremonies trivialise the marriage bond.”
The Commission also recommended removing the requirement for certain ‘prescribed’ words to be said, and instead allow couples to say any words that express consent.
Mr Calvert emphasised the importance of the promises stated in wedding vows “to ensure the commitment is genuine and legally valid”.