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Where can a marriage take place?

In England and Wales, the regulation of marriage is based largely on the building (and in some cases its grounds) in which the relevant marriage takes place. Marriage must usually take place in:

  • a register office;
  • a building that has been approved for the purposes of civil marriage by the local authority of the area in which the building is situated – “approved premises”, including, for example, hotels and stately homes – or, where relevant, in the linked outdoor areas of approved premises;
  • a building of the Church of England or the Church in Wales;
  • a building that has been registered for the purposes of religious marriage other than in the Church of England or Church in Wales; or
  • a naval, military or air force chapel.

There are some exceptions including:

  • due mainly to historical reasons, couples marrying according to the rites and ceremonies of the Jews or Society of Friends (Quakers) may marry anywhere;
  • marriage can sometimes take place at the residence of someone who is housebound, detained or terminally ill.

There are various conditions surrounding the couple’s choice of venue.

Marriage outdoors

Civil marriage

The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (the 2021 Regulations) enabled civil marriage ceremonies to take place in the grounds of approved premises as well as in the indoor structure, for the period from 1 July 2021 to 5 April 2022. At the time these regulations were introduced, the Government said it would consult in autumn 2021 to consider the practical impacts of the new policy in detail and to enable later legislation which was not time limited.

Following a Government consultation launched in December 2021 on whether the change should be made permanent, further regulations made in 2022 now provide that these temporary measures will continue indefinitely.

Religious marriage

Religious marriages conducted in a place of worship cannot be held outdoors at present (although it is already up to the Jewish and Quaker faiths whether their marriages can take place outdoors). Following consultation (PDF), the Government intends, in due course, to put forward a Legislative Review Order to allow for outdoor religious weddings.  

Law Commission project


At present, non-religious belief marriage ceremonies (such as humanist marriage ceremonies) do not have legal force and the parties must have an additional ceremony (for example, at a register office) for the marriage to be legally valid.

In 2014, the Ministry of Justice conducted a public consultation on whether the law should be changed to permit marriage according to the usages of non-religious belief organisations. The majority of respondents to the consultation were in favour of changing the law to allow such marriage ceremonies to take place in unrestricted locations, including outdoors. However, the Coalition Government decided that the legal and technical requirements of marriage ceremonies and registration in England and Wales should be considered more generally before, or at the same time as, making a decision on the issue of permitting legally valid non‑religious belief marriage ceremonies.

In December 2014, the Coalition Government asked the Law Commission to conduct a review of the law governing how and where people can marry in England and Wales. The Law Commission published a scoping paper (PDF) in December 2015 and concluded that the law governing how and where couples in England and Wales can marry “is badly in need of reform”. 

Law Commission recommendations

Following consultation (PDF), in July 2022, the Law Commission published a report (PDF) which set out recommendations to reform weddings law comprehensively. The Law Commission proposed that regulation would be based on the officiant rather than on the building in which the wedding takes place. This would enable weddings to take place at a much greater variety of venues than is currently permitted. However, this would not mean couples would have the right to get married wherever they choose. The officiant would have to agree the location, and belief organisations could have their own rules.

The Government said it would publish a response to the report in due course.


In Scotland, a religious or belief marriage may take place anywhere.  A civil marriage may take place in a registration office or at any place agreed with the registrar. There are rules relating to who may solemnize marriages.

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