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UK Politics

Marriages on mountaintops: Government considers allowing non-religious to conduct weddings

Scotland already allows humanist and outdoor services

Weddings could be held on mountaintops, beaches or in forests under plans being considered by the Government to allow humanists and other groups to conduct marriages.

A Ministry of Justice consultation paper suggests creating a new category of “belief marriages” so non-religious movements could hold ceremonies outside of churches or civil ceremonies.

This could see weddings carried out by Freemasons, ecological groups, philosophical schools such as existentialists.

However the document suggests rules would need to be drawn up – in a move perhaps designed to prevent weddings by supposed Jedis.

It says as many suitable groups do not have their own buildings, marriage ceremonies could take place “anywhere meaningful to the couple including outdoors”, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Scotland already allows humanist and outdoor wedding services.

A law in England passed in 1753 allows Quakers and Jewish groups to hold weddings outside but is rarely used.

Amber Hunter, senior tutor at the Wedding Planner School, welcomed the consultation paper’s suggestion.

“I think this would be very popular. People want the spiritual element but not necessarily the religious element and this would give people what they want and is probably more in line with the way people see the world today,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the British Humanist Association said allowing humanist weddings would hurt nobody.

“In the context of current marriage law, giving legal recognition to humanist marriages is not controversial, would meet a genuine public desire and would have a negative effect on absolutely no one in society,” she said.

“It would only go on to improve the married lives and happiness of thousands of couples who wish to have a humanist marriage.”

Simon Hughes, the justice minister, said the Government considered marriage to be “one of our most important institutions”.

“As we committed to do during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, we are now consulting on whether the law should be changed to allow non-religious belief organisations to conduct legally valid marriage ceremonies,” he said. “The Government welcomes the views from interested groups and individuals across society.”